Rainbow over Bristol.
Today began with extreme frustration on my part. After waking up very early (read: before 7am) and making my way to Paddington Station, I found out that my train to Cardiff had been cancelled. Cancelled? Yup. The tracks were flooded and it wouldn’t go. Could I take the next train with the same ticket? Probably. But they weren’t sure it was going to go either. Thankfully it was able to run, albeit on a diverted route that added an extra 30-45 minutes to the running time.
It was in that moment that I was incredibly grateful for my planning style. My planning style that allowed me to arrive in Cardiff more than an hour after I planned to be there and still be on time for my booked timeslot at the Doctor Who Experience. But I’ll come back to that.
The 7:45am train left Paddington station without a problem and I was amazed at how quickly we were outside the city and into the countryside. I’m not sure what the difference is exactly, but you look at it and you know that you’re in Great Britain. I actually watched the sun rise over London as the train pulled away. A stunning sight I wish I’d been able to capture with my camera. When we stopped in Bristol there was a beautiful rainbow.
Side note: I’ve become very aware of my accent. I almost never have reason to talk since I’m mostly travelling alone, but I’m now finding the sound of my own voice rather harsh.
In the wind outside Wales Millenium Center
It was a very windy morning in Cardiff Bay. I don’t know if you can tell in the picture on the right, but my hair is blowing sideways. And of course this was the one day I didn’t wear a scarf! You see my hand on my chest: I was physically holding my jacket closed to try to keep warm. Of course, it gets windy when you’re right on the water.
I had read online that the Doctor Who Experience was hard to find, but as soon as I reached the bay I saw way-finding signs with “Doctor Who” on them in big letters. I followed them down the boardwalk to the MASSIVE warehouse that houses the Doctor Who Experience. When I entered the lobby area I was the only one there and began to feel a bit ridiculous. I was reminded of the time that I went to the Harry Potter Exhibit in Toronto with Brittney and we were pretty much the only ones there. But I felt less ridiculous then because I had someone to laugh with and take photos with.
Eventually a few others showed up: three teenage girls, a couple in their early thirties, and a single man in his late 40’s from Australia. The teenage girls seemed to be having the most fun, but they were together and goofing around like Brittney and I did at the Harry Potter.
The experience is in two parts. The first part is a walkthrough with videos, artifacts, and a “story.” Now “story” is in quotation marks because I think my biggest problem with the whole thing was how poorly it was written. It made no sense. I understand that the “story” only existed as a reason for people to keep moving through the experience, but I know there are ways to do that better. It felt a little bit like site specific theatre: that they had the idea of the space first and then built the story to go with it, but didn’t know how to do that since they’re used to having the story come first. The other problem was that it is designed for 50 people or more to go through at a time, not seven. So with such a small group we didn’t take as long and some of the dialogue didn’t really work. Telling us to all “hurry up and gather” once we’re already in place doesn’t work. However, one thing that it did really well was the audience herding. Or at least, it would be great for a large group including children. Every time we had to move to another room there was clear instruction: “Come on! Hurry up! Don’t touch the knobs: you’ve already landed the TARDIS they won’t do anything now!” etc. Another thing they did really well was their use of scrims to make things appear and disappear as we went, to the point that even I (with my carefully trained eyes) wasn’t sure how some of the things were working….for the first few minutes.
The front of the current TARDIS
Once the walkthrough ends, you enter a sort of museum/exhibition of Doctor Who memorabilia: costumes, props, set pieces, sound effects, video effects from the show in their original, refurbished or sometimes reconstructed forms. The first floor of this contains the entire interior of the TARDIS from the eighth and ninth doctors reign. I asked the Australian gentleman to snap a photo of me with it, but as he tried, my battery died. It had said full strength when I left this morning, but it was dead dead. I was pretty upset that I would have no photos, so he offered to take a couple and email them to me. My fingers are crossed that they get here before too long, since they are of me with the interior and exterior of the TARDS from eight and nine. I did, however, figure out that I could take some photos with my iPad, although they are not nearly as good of quality as they would have been if they were on my real camera.
One of my favourite parts of the exhibition was in a small corner right before the exit. On a small table were some of the original white card models for various sets. My pictures of them turned out terribly, but it was really cool to see how those theatrical tools are also used for Doctor Who. There was a model of the TARDIS interior that was especially cool.
The Torchwood/Ianto Jones Memorial in Cardiff Bay.
After buying some postcards to send to my Whovian friends and feeling a little sad that the gift shop didn’t have any Christmas ornaments, I headed back along the pier in search of a hot beverage. Had I been smart I would have gone in search of lunch, but I wasn’t hungry and I was cold. As I walked along the pier I saw what appeared to be a huge bulletin board covered in posters and notices, but when I got closer I discovered that it was a Torchwood memorial to one of the characters that had been officially recognized by the management of the shopping centre now on the location where some of the show was filmed. Now I like some TV shows a lot, but I have not ever built a memorial to a dead character.
I made my way back to the train station and checked that my train back to London was running on time: according to the video screens it was, so I decided to head into Cardiff proper for a bit of browsing. I found a huge, expensive mall that smelled exactly like every mall I’ve ever walked into. How do they do that? When I returned to the train station, I discovered that my train back to London had, in fact, been cancelled after all and I would have to wait another half hour before I could catch one. And again I thanked myself for scheduling the day in such a way that one late train would not screw up my plans for the evening (other than preventing me from having time for dinner). I slept almost the whole train ride back to the city, which felt great. I was starting to feel exhausted. Just outside of Slough Station I noticed a huge fireworks display. A little it of research after I got home told me that today was Slough’s Christmas Lights Switch On and the the fireworks were the big end to that celebration. It was pretty cool to see.
Side note: There is NOTHING I have experienced that is like Paddington Station on a rainy day, at rush hour, when a number of trains are cancelled or delayed. It was a madhouse in there.
Bad Lois snuck a photo inside a theatre.
No time for a break – I had tickets to a 7:30 performance of The Effect by Lucy Prebble at the National Theatre, so I jumped on the tube and made it there with 15 minutes to spare. Woo! The Cottseloe Theatre at the National is one of the most unique spaces I have ever been in. It was the only space we didn’t get to see on our backstage tour a couple of days ago so I had no idea what to expect, and I certainly didn’t expect what I got. The seating was on three floors, completely in the “round” or rather rectangle. For this production the lowest floor seating was designed to be a part of the set. I have no idea if this is what it is always like, but it’s very cool. My seat was up on the top floor and I found myself with my arms on the railing in front of me, leaning in until my hands went tingly throughout the show.
Things I’m falling in love with about British Theatre:
1. Being able to buy the script at the theatre for a reasonable price at the time you attend the show. (I bought tonight’s script so that I could look up an exchange that jumped out at me).
2. No preshow announements
3. No cell phones going off
4. Ice cream at intermission
5. Wednesday AND Thursday matinees.
Things I’m not falling in love with about British Theatre:
1. Inconsistent start times. Of note, I have not seen a show with an 8pm start time while I’ve been here.
Yeah…I can’t really think of anything. They know what they’re doing over here when it comes to theatre.