My exhibition of the year so far? The Doctor Who Experience at London’s Olympia, naturally – and if you have not yet seen it, may I urge you to go before it closes.
Art exhibitions are certainly put into perspective by the responses this multisensory extravaganza gets from visitors. I mean, people paid a lot of attention to Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings at the National Gallery, but how many actually dressed up as Leonardo? And how many teenaged David Hockneys did you see going around A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy?
At the Doctor Who Experience, ordinary visitors rub shoulders with super fans who have spent hours on clothes and makeup to look like Matt Smith, David Tennant, or Karen Gillan. They are very impressive, as are the whirring Tardis control room where children can help pilot the Doctor’s ship, the tunnel haunted by Weeping Angels, and the thrill of being held prisoner by the Daleks.
I would much rather parents took their children to this exhibition than to displays of the latest contemporary art. Doctor Who is imaginative and demands attention; it has a way of enriching rather than simplifying the experience of people young and old. It ramifies. This is why it works so engagingly as an exhibition – in the 1970s and now. And if you’re not in the family-fun business … go anyway. Just don’t hog the Tardis controls.