Hidden away near London’s Earl’s Court there’s a black vortex leading to other worlds. On entering it, you are sucked into a crack in time, before being flung into a living alien spacecraft and tasked with rescuing a man in tweed.
No, we haven’t been down the pub at lunchtime. Instead we caught up with Sarner creative director Michael Bennett to talk through the consultancy’s latest exhibition-come-theatrical spectacular, The Doctor Who Experience, which opened this week.
Appointed by BBC Worldwide in February last year, Sarner was tasked with creating an environment that combined exhibitions about the long-running series with the opportunity to step into the Doctor’s shoes.
It was no small task, especially with eyes of millions of Whovians [Doctor Who fans] scrutinizing the consultancy’s every move.
Bennett says, ‘With the programme having such a fanatical fan base there were a lot of things we had to get spot on. The Tardis had to be just right, because [the fans] will pick up on everything.’
Luckily Bennett and other members of his team were enthusiasts themselves, and worked closely with BBC Worldwide and the show’s production team in Cardiff to make sure the look and feel was as true to the programme as possible.
The thinking behind the experience is that visitors can immerse themselves into an episode. After going through the vortex, fans watch a film before a crack appears in the screen and then they are flung into Doctor Who episode The Beast Below.
The Doctor sets visitors a challenge and they must rescue him by driving the Tardis and battling off some of the scariest monsters from the series, created using state of the art set design, CGI, 3D rear projection technology, a computer controlled hydraulic motion floor and the latest audio-visual technology, says Bennett.
If fans survive the excitement, they can then progress into the second part of the experience: an exhibition-based section featuring iconic Doctor Who props, such as David Tennant’s Tardis interiors and examples of the evolution of evil overlords the Darleks.
Bennett says, ’This has been one of the most exciting projects I’ve been privileged to work on and it’s so rewarding to see my drawings and ideas come to life to entertain others.’
The Doctor Who Experience is at London Olympia Two (2ndFloor), Hammersmith Road, London W14.