“ Cardiff Bay / Wales „
My sons are big fans of Dr Who and were really excited about the exhibition. getting to it is easy as there are many buses pass it and there is also parking, getting in however is a different story - it is not very well sign posted, it is a huge building with a little entrance which seemed to be tucked away, Im not sure if that is because of the building work going on around it or if it always like that. Once inside the red Dragon Centre which is a small but bright centre with restaraunts , bowling arcade and a cafe, it is easy to spot the Dr Who exhibition. It is £20 for a family of four which before entering I thought was reasonable. Once inside though I think it is a bit steep. the tour takes about 15 minutes (if you walk slowly!!) there is some pretty impressive pieces including the daleks and I managed to get some great photos but the kids were dissappointed, they were expecting something much more exciting. The shop was equally dissappointing as it had sold out of everything we wanted to buy. I am glad we visited to say we have been but wont go again.
The Dr. Who Expo in Cardiff is located in a unit in the Red Dragon centre that is about the same size as a very small McDonalds. Exhibits are disappointing and some misplaced (info for one exhibit stands mistakenly by another). There is little interaction other than the green screen effect at the start which is probably the best bit.
We parked in the Red Dragon Centre, went to the loo, went round the exhibit, and got back to the car within 25 minutes so we didn't have to pay for parking. The highlight of our trip...
Had I have paid £3 I might've been appeased as there were some cool costumes to look at (Daleks, Kylie's maid frock etc), but £6 is far too much. Probably around 50p a minute...
I didn't spot anything in the shop that you couldn't get cheaper in Tesco.
FYI, if you still choose to go then be aware you'll need to use the toilets in Hollywood Bowl as there are none in the exhibition and no public toilets in the Red Dragon Centre.
It is perhaps unsurprising that the most popular attraction in Cardiff at the moment seems to be the new "Doctor Who - Up Close" Exhibition; the city has been doing very well by capitalising on its association with the show and its spin-off series "Torchwood". And Who (as it were) can blame it? Cardiff has provided a memorable backdrop to one of the most successful TV shows of recent years*, and as a result, fans of the show have been flocking to the city to visit the locations for themselves. Those viewers that watch "Torchwood" get even more excited, given that virtually the entirety of the programme is set in Cardiff. "Torchwood" shows off the wonderfully regenerated bay area particularly well (even now that Captain Jack has given up posing on building rooftops during moments of contemplation), but the combination of photogenic actors, fast-paced action sequences and appropriately witty one-liners have helped give Cardiff bay a whole new image. I do enjoy the new "Doctor Who" - and "Torchwood", although to a lesser extent - but I only became aware of this exhibition when Other Half (being a committed Whovian of twenty years standing) mentioned it as possible day trip for his forthcoming birthday after finding out about it on a fan website. Cardiff just happens to be less than an hour and a half away by train from where we live in Cheltenham, and was somewhere that I hadn't visited in quite a few years, so we decided to risk the possibility of there being rift activity that weekend and take a trip to see the exhibition for ourselves.
The "Up Close" exhibition is located in the Red Dragon Centre, a newly built entertainment complex in the bay area, gratifyingly near the mythical location of the "Torchwood" hub. It is pretty easy to get to - there are yellow AA signs to the "Doctor Who Exhibition" on major roads through the city from the M4 and the centre has a substantial free car park. It is also easily accessible on public transport via the "bay car" bendy bus, which runs between the city centre, central train station and bay area around every ten minutes (it cost £1 each one way from the train station to the bay, and the bus stop is well signposted from the platforms). The Red Dragon Centre has a bowling alley, cinema, bars and restaurants (but apparently no public toilets) as well as the exhibition, which can be found near the back, next to the Odeon. Entrance to the associated shop is free (how kind!), but if you want to go around the exhibition, then be prepared to shell out a hefty £5 each for adults and £3.50 for children and concessions (or £14 for a family ticket). The exhibition is open from 11am to 7pm daily, and will be in the Centre for the foreseeable future (and judging from how many visitors there were when we went, that will be for quite a while yet).
The exhibition occupies a fairly small space, so things tend to feel a bit crowded inside, especially when it is busy; if you go on a Saturday, expect to have hordes of overexcited small children pushing past you during your visit! The experience starts with a series of information panels telling you a bit about each of the Doctors; a nice trick here is that the information has been put on semi-transparent panels, so when you press the big red interactive button, lights behind the panel go up to reveal a hidden monster behind each one (including an original cyberman, which scared the hell out of me when I was little). The rest of the exhibition is made up of a selection of costumes, props, artefacts, models and images from the first three series of the new "Doctor Who", most of which are on open display, so you can get pretty close to them and take photographs easily. The order of the displays seems a bit haphazard, and I think that is a result of the organisers trying to fit as many things in as possible into a small space, and then adding new items from series three after the exhibition had already opened. Highlights for me were seeing the costumes that the main characters wore (including Kylie's outfit from the 2007 Christmas special), and seeing a dalek (which are bigger than I imagined them to be). Other Half was especially pleased with the Tardis and the model stone angel used from the episode "blink".
The tour was great fun - families can take free quiz around with them if they want to and claim a window sticker at the shop for completing it - but took only about half an hour to go around. To be fair, the organisers had crammed in as much as they could to the exhibition, but I had expected it to be much bigger, especially given the cost of visiting. I would have expected such an attraction to occupy a larger site (I certainly got that impression from their website), but maybe the chance to be so close to the prime location of the bay was too good to miss. The other major disadvantage I noted was the lack of toilets in the exhibition; this, coupled with the absence of public toilets in the venue (if they were there, then they were very well hidden) means spending even more money in one of the eateries if you want to use a bathroom during your visit. I was less than impressed with this situation given it was a family attraction. The exhibition content should be suitable to most visitors, although very young and/or sensitive children may find it a bit scary or overwhelming. Most children I saw during my visit were thoroughly enjoying themselves, but a couple did seem to find it a bit too much; mind you, the scarecrow model from episode "the family" would have been quite enough to scare me if I had met it close up at that age! The exhibition appeared to be fully accessible to visitors in wheelchairs or with pushchairs.
At the end of the exhibition, you emerge through a one-way door into the well-stocked (and no doubt highly profitable) "sci fi shop". The shop stocks just about anything that has ever had a "Doctor Who" or "Torchwood" logo slapped on it: toys, mugs, posters, models, t-shirts, books, inflatable daleks, you name it. Of more interest to us, however, was the selection of signed pictures and Royal Mail first day covers, as they were unique to the exhibition (and a great birthday present for any sci fi loving dads who just happened to have birthdays coming up). Prices for the toys and books seemed comparable to what you would pay for the same items in high street shops, with the autographed pieces varying in price between about £15 and £65 depending on who had signed them (or which Who had signed them for that matter!). The shop was busy and a bit chaotic, but it had something to appeal to most visitors if you were prepared to fight your way through the crowds to have a look at things - I actually found it quite refreshing that the organisers weren't just trying to flog things at the captive audience of excited kids (although that was going on as well, of course).
In summary, I think it is a good place to visit as long as you are enough of a fan of "Doctor Who" to not mind spending £5 on seeing a small and quite random selection of items from the show. The opportunity to have your photo taken with some of the more famous items was brilliant, and we both enjoyed browsing around the shop, but I did have the nagging sense that the entrance price was just too much for what we saw. Other Half - as a seriously dedicated fan - loved it and couldn't stop grinning for the rest of the day. He thought it was well worth the £5. I suppose value for money comes down to how much of a fan you are in the end!
Shop website: www.scificollector.co.uk
*It really says something about the UK that our favourite recent TV show is a children's programme filmed on a shoestring budget in Wales.
A phenomenal exhibition showcasing Doctor Who props, costumes and monsters at the Red Dragon Centre, Cardiff Bay.