Doctor Who: Worlds of Wonder Exhibition

Doctor Who: Worlds of Wonder
Location: National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh
Duration: runs until 1st May 2023

Doctor Who Worlds Of Wonder Exhibition 01

Having grown up in an era where childhood summer holidays on the Lancashire coastline always included a visit to the famous Doctor Who Exhibition on Blackpool’s Golden Mile, I was delighted to learn that the National Museum of Scotland would be hosting a Doctor Who exhibition right on my doorstep in the heart of Edinburgh. It opened just before Christmas, and I took myself along for a visit just before going back to work after the New Year break, as a little treat to myself. No jelly babies were harmed in the making of this report…

You can buy tickets at the desk on the day, but you can also book in advance, with a time slot (this is also slightly cheaper, and given how popular the museum is with locals and tourists – of which Edinburgh has a great many! – I’d advise booking so you know you are sorted). I had booked a mid-afternoon slot, midweek, which was still actually pretty busy (although to be fair the schools hadn’t gone back after the festive break at this point), and all I had to do was show my e-ticket on my phone, wrap my long scarf around my neck securely, and stroll in through a familiar set of beckoning blue doors.

One of the first sights to greet you on entering is the original 1960s style TARDIS console, although from the look of it, I suspect this is the one which was recreated for use in some of the more recent episodes of the show. It’s still a lovely, retro piece though – all sliding levers, knobs and big, analogue dials, no monitor screen with BBC Model B graphics here! And yes, I do like later iterations of the console, but I really do have a soft spot for this older design. Ah, the good, old Type 40… The sight of this also brought back memories of those summer childhoods getting to explore the long-running Blackpool exhibition, which had the console room at the heart of it – you can imagine to an eight year old how magical that was, the sound effects playing, the lights, the Time Rotor moving; it was very easy to lose your young self in it and imagine for a wonderful moment that it was all real.

Doctor Who Worlds Of Wonder Exhibition 02

VID_20230104_143027213

Mark Gatiss, another life-long fan of the show, not to mention one who has appeared and contributed to it over the years, introduces the exhibition on a screen near the console, and there are many screens throughout the various rooms of the exhibition. Many are like that one, pre-recorded “talking heads”, such as scientists discussing physics and the possibility or otherwise of time travel and other elements of the series. There’s a strong educational theme woven into this, looking at the science fiction and trying to relate real-world science to some of it, which seems most appropriate, given that Who, like Star Trek, while fantastical science fiction, has encouraged more than a few young fans to grow up and take on the mantle of real-world scientific research and development.

Other screens, including some designed like coffee tables to stand around, are also educational, but far more interactive, allowing the visitors to examine lifeforms from our own world’s ecosphere, then relate them to imaginary species seen in the show over the years, showing that, although those aliens and others are works of imagination, that imagination is often inspired by real, terrestrial lifeforms, or to see how they would approach attempting to terraform Mars, among other activities to try. While most of this I only looked briefly at as it was clearly aimed at the younger visitors, I strongly approved of them – apart from hands-on activities for youngsters, it’s also no bad thing to be using SF to implant an interest in real science in their young minds. On a related note, if you’ve never been before, the hall between the original Victorian part of the NMS and the modern extension is filled with hands-on items from technology and history that actively encourages young minds to explore, making it a terrific place for family outings (and that part is free!).

Of course it is the items from the show that I imagine many of us will be most interested in, and these range from the large – such as the console or a life-size TARDIS (perfect for taking selfies in front of!) – to the small, such as an array of different Sonic Screwdrivers, arranged chronologically by incarnation, or Captain Jack’s Vortex Manipulator wrist device, from models (including one re-created from original designs from the famously unfinished “Shada” story in the Tom Baker era) to costumes, to full-sized Daleks. One space is the Monster Room because, as Gatiss notes in his introductory video at the very beginning of the exhibition, what is Doctor Who without the monsters? And he’s right, we love them, even when they scared us into hiding behind the sofa and watching with one eye closed, we loved them.

Doctor Who Worlds Of Wonder Exhibition 09

Doctor Who Worlds Of Wonder Exhibition 07

Doctor Who Worlds Of Wonder Exhibition 013

The Monster Room boasted some wonderful creations from the show, including a full-sized Dalek and the Dalek’s twisted creator, Davros (one nearby video, I noticed showed a clip from that first story appearance of Davros, Genesis of the Daleks, with Tom Baker’s Doctor holding up two ignition wires for an explosive and asking if he had the right to wipe out a whole species, even one so evil, a moral dilemma that impressed itself into my young brain back on the original screening in the mid 70s, where it still remains). We also had Silurians and Sea Devils, Cybermats, Weeping Angels, Ice Warriors, Sontarans, Cybermen, and a nice array of Cyber Heads from the different designs of those iconic villains from across the six decades of the show’s existence.

There were even some other Time Lords in the mix, although of the more villainous stripe, including Omega, the engineer who basically allowed Time Lord culture to exist, and good, old “chop suey” himself, The Brain of Morbius. Also included was a “half Dalek” – those of you of a certain vintage (including myself and our redoubtable editor, John Freeman), will doubtless recall that often tucked away in old amusement arcades in the 1960s and 70s were half-Daleks, essentially a replica but with much of the back of the casing missing, to allow you to get in and sit inside, working the exterminator and sucker arms while screeching “EXTERMINATE!”, which when you are a young child is simply fabulous. Well yes, they had a version of one of those too (oh, the nostalgia!). No, I didn’t have a go, as there were too many younger visitors eager to try being a Dalek, and I got to do that when I was their age so I wasn’t going to hold them up from their shot at it now.

Doctor Who Worlds Of Wonder Exhibition 019

Doctor Who Worlds Of Wonder Exhibition 022

Doctor Who Worlds Of Wonder Exhibition 023

Doctor Who Worlds Of Wonder Exhibition 029

I must also tip my hat to whoever penned the text accompanying many of the exhibits, which, while doing what they are meant to do, be informative about the item before you, also had a delightful playfulness to them, which I appreciated. The text on the Weeping Angel, for example, explains what they are, how they work, and then concludes with “I hope you didn’t blink while reading this description”. A nearby Cybermat simply has “please do not feed the Cybermat” attached to it, which made me giggle.

I would have liked to see more items from the original era of the series, but I can also understand that many of those items are lost, or too rare and fragile for a travelling exhibition now, and items from the resurrected show are simply more accessible (and also probably more familiar to many visiting, who aren’t even old enough to have gone through their first regeneration yet, unlike us oldies!). The exhibition has its own gift shop stuffed with merchandise from the series, and also some pertaining particularly to the exhibition itself, separate from the regular museum shop. Photography is allowed, as long as you take care not to have any flash activated, understandably, as it can damage delicate exhibits (one a related note, I apologise for some pics not being super-sharp here, but shooting inside an exhibition space with no flash means some pics just don’t come out!).

Doctor Who Worlds Of Wonder Exhibition 025

Doctor Who Worlds Of Wonder Exhibition 031

Doctor Who Worlds Of Wonder Exhibition 032

Doctor Who Worlds Of Wonder Exhibition 033

Doctor Who Worlds Of Wonder Exhibition 036

The Doctor Who: Worlds of Wonder exhibition runs until the 1st of May, 2023, at the National Museum of Scotland; details and booking information are all on the website here. If making your first visit to the museum, in addition to some of their other excellent exhibits (including a floor by floor tour through Scottish history that takes you from Pictish standing stones to full-sized steam engines), may I also suggest taking the elevator to the Roof Terrace Garden. This is free and offers quite remarkable views across the heart of Edinburgh, to nearby historic Greyfriars kirkyard to the Castle and the roofscape of the Old Town and the mighty Firth of Forth, the volcanic peaks of Arthur’s Seat and the Pentland Hills – it’s one of the finest vantage points to take in the city.

Doctor Who Worlds Of Wonder Exhibition 040

This piece was originally penned for Down The Tubes.

I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside

Very windy but sunny and warm day off, met with chum and his old hound, off down to Portobello for a stroll. Despite being a weekday it was still quite busy, when among the folks on the beach, something caught my eye – a woman in a totally white costume, with a white inflatable ring with an animal head around her waist, trotting down the beach, then joined by a man, also in a white costume and clutching an inflatable palm tree.

I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside 02

I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside 03

I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside 04

The pair of them then ran down towards the shoreline, where they were joined by another chap with a camera, so I imagine it was some sort of photoshoot, although I have no idea what for. Still, it was a wonderfully odd thing to just come across and grab some pics of – hope their photos for whatever it was come out too.

I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside 05

I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside 06

I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside 07

A little further long the beach we spotted something else that was rather delightful: someone had created a wee sculpture of the TARDIS and a Dalek, mounting them on the post of the wooden groynes that run along the beach periodically, to help stabilise the sands. I do love when artists create something like this, then leave it somewhere public so anyone who spots it can enjoy it – certainly made us smile!

Even Time Lords Love Porty Beach 01

Even Time Lords Love Porty Beach 02

(as ever click on the pics to see the larger versions on my Flickr stream)

Doing the right thing…

I do what I do because it’s right. Because it’s decent. And above all, it’s kind. Just that. Just kind.”

Peter Capaldi’s Doctor articulating a damned fine philosophy in Capaldi’s season finale of Doctor Who. I hope those words sink into many of the younger viewers of Doctor Who and stay with them. Fictional heroes and their examples can be as important to our development as the real world heroes, and it’s clear with this line that Steven Moffat understands this and is trying to make sure we got the hero we needed. Perhaps one day when they are older one of those former child fans will be faced with a difficult choice and they will think back on those lines, and they will know where they need to steer their moral compass.

Neil Gaiman at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

(Neil Gaiman and Audrey Niffenegger just before their event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival yesterday afternoon, all pics from my Flickr)

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of seeing two excellent authors of both prose and comics works in conversation at the Edinburgh International Book Festival as Neil Gaiman chatted to Audrey Niffenegger. It was, as Neil commented, a kind of continuing chat between the pair which has been going on and off for several years on different continents at different book events and here they were chatting to one another again “while we just had to watch and listen”. Of course we were quite happy to watch and listen…

Edinburgh International Book Festival - Neil Gaiman 04

Edinburgh International Book Festival - Neil Gaiman 09

The hour-long talk to a packed audience (the event sold out within a few hours of the EIBF box office going live this summer) covered a number of writing topics, from folklore and myth to children’s books, novels, comics and screenwriting, starting off with a look at myth and fairy tale – Audrey asked Neil what he thought the difference was between them and after thinking about it he offered the thought that perhaps myths decay into fairy tales and folklore over the centuries, often starting out as sacred mysteries people were initiated into, which over time degraded into mythology, which slowly degraded into fairy tales, but that the same stories and archetypes remained and repeated (and given his quite excellent use of folklore over the years I’d guess Neil is the perfect writer to ask on that score).

Of course comics came up and it was nice to note Neil yet again commenting on the debt he owes to his friend Alan Moore for his help and advice on writing for the comics medium, and in a (somewhat long and rambling) question from an audience member later he was asked if he found being able to use parts of the DC Universe in the Sandman (especially early tales) a help in setting up that world. He explained that while he could have essentially created a pretty similar set up with only original characters he was still quite happy at getting to play with some of DC’s established characters in his own way, with a special fondness for Cain and Abel.

Look: it’s the new life-sized Neil Gaiman action figure – fully poseable!!! –

Edinburgh International Book Festival - Neil Gaiman 01

On the books front one of the topics that pricked up my ears was Neil talking about a sequel to the brilliant American Gods novel, with the possibility of a third book much further down the line. Naturally the subject of screenwriting came up and especially being asked to pen an episode of Doctor Who. I knew Neil was thrilled to write for the show – like many of us in the UK he grew up with the original show, so having the chance to be a part of the cracking revived version today had to be pretty exciting. He told us all how it began with Steven Moffat dropping him a line to say thanks for the kind things he had said many times on his popular blog about the new Doctor Who and that next time he was in London he’d buy him a drink. As it happened he was in town the next week, he and Moffat meet up for dinner and drinks; at this point Neil had heard Russell T was due to leave the show and Moffat would be taking over, but it was still, as he put it, ‘a state secret’ (a real state secret, not like MOD secrets to be left on a laptop on the train), so they found themselves talking ‘hypothetically’ about the possibility of pitching ideas for the show, before Moffat came out and said you obviously know and I know you know I’m taking over when RTD leaves, so do you want to write for Who?

Well obviously he did and we loved the result. The story was originally going to be called Bigger On the Inside, as Neil had originally thought of an idea which involved a Nasty invading the normally safe environs of the TARDIS and pursuing the Doctor through the ship, but then he thought as the Doctor knows the TARDIS so well that wouldn’t be much of a fight, so then the idea of an entity possessing the TARDIS came to him, which suggested he had to move the TARDIS’ persona somewhere else, and the idea of putting the TARDIS mind into a human body came along. He tells Moffat who delightedly cries “TARDIS woman!” A little later, with the episode put back to the next season due to budget constraints (which worked to their advantage, he added – they got their Blue Peter competition running for kids to design the junkyard TARDIS console and he also now had Rory to add into the mix which he enjoyed), Moffat tells him he prefers another title – The Doctor’s Wife. Nice, but, Neil points out to him, that would be a good title for at least half a dozen other possible Who stories that they would do themselves out of. Ah, but Moffat points out to the other ideas, good thought they might be none would ever be really the Doctor’s ‘wife’ in the way the TARDIS is, she’s everything to him and always will be; companions come and go but the Doctor and the TARDIS are together forever, “a boy and his box exploring the universe” as Neil put it. He also went on to say that working with the Who team was one of the most pleasing experiences in collaboration he’d ever had and it was clear he was still on a roll from the enjoyment of being involved with the show and how well it all turned out, how much love and imagination the Who team add in alongside that of the writer to make that show what we love.

As ever there was a signing session afterwards and with Neil that of course means a very, very long line, inside the signing tent, snaking outside and out into the square – I even spotted a number of comics folks who had lugged along the not inconsiderable bulk of their Sandman and Death Absolute Editions to be signed. Brilliant event – thanks again to the lovely folks of the Edinburgh Book Fest for letting me attend and to Neil for kindly letting me stooge around the press tent to snap a couple of pics of him and Audrey before the show began.

The 5th Doctor

Just been released, new version of Peter Davison’s 5th Doctor along with the same era’s Master incarnation (as played so well by the late Anthony Ainley). I really want these for my desk to go next to my Tom Baker figure; Baker then Davison were the main two Doctors when I was growing up, so they’re always going to be ‘my’ Docs.

And at the same time there’s a new figure of Davison’s Doctor as he first appeared right after the regeneration scene at the end of Baker’s swansong in Logopolis/start of Davison’s first story, Castrovalva (since the former lead directly into the latter), the Doctor now regenerated into his new form but still clad in the previous incarnation’s clothes (Baker’s later period costume of the long, burgundy coat and matching scarf):

The Doctor is in…

Brian Rimmer presents a time-travelling musical slide through more than forty years of theme music and opening sequences to the world’s longest running science fiction show, Doctor Who. I confess my favourite remains the Tom Baker era ‘time tunnel opening (the main Who era for me growing up), with the same ‘slit-scan’ technique used in the stargate sequence for 2001, but it’s fun to see them all back to back like this, from the early Hartnell era of 1963 (and the logo that looks like ‘Doctor Oho’ for a second before becoming ‘Who’) through to 2010’s revamped opening and music for Matt Smith’s Doctor. And through it all that immortal, iconic bass line, duh duh duh duh, duh duh duh duh, that’s been reworked endlessly across the decades by various arrangers for the show and by other musicians like Orbital and Pink Floyd; those bass lines were the signal to generations of kids that it was Saturday, tea-time and that meant marvellous adventures and scary monsters (and jelly babies). How lovely that it still means exactly that to a new generation of kids watching the new show and still loving it. (via BoingBoing)

Doctor Who – the End of Time figures

Just announced new Doctor Who action figures based on the final two part tale that saw the end of David Tennant’s tenure as the Doctor, there’s a set of End of Time figures coming soon, with the injured Tennant Doctor, the blonde Master, Timothy Dalton’s impessive, be-robed Time Lord and – wait for it! – the first Matt Smith Doctor Who action figure, with him right after the regeneration, still in the previous incarnation’s clothes.

And on the fun side there’s also a new Time Squad set of Doctor Who figures coming, with the collection coming together to assemble a Master figure. Funky!