Thanks to some urging for my lovely readers I decided to go ahead and book a ticket for The Crash of The Elysium. The Manchester International Festival collaboration between the BBC and theatrical experience producers Punch Drunk, penned gloriously by series writer Tom MacRae. I took the train, alone, from London which took about three and a half hours. The ticket was about £25. It had been described as a 'Live Doctor Who Adventure for children aged 6-12' and some adult performances had been added due to popular demand. It was going to be just one hour in duration. I was so unsure about this whole venture, but I couldn't miss a Doctor Who event. And was it worth it? Boy, was it!!
(If you are planning to attend the Crash of The Elysium, please don't read on. Spoilers!)
There were 17 of us. We gave in our tickets and signed a sort of disclaimer. The staff kept calling it an exhibition. I really wasn't expecting much at all. We were walked to a near-by building and taken into a very normal, boring room with some artifacts from a real ship called the Elysium. A stuffy looking curator showed us some slides about the ship and Valentini's circus which had pitched near the ship. It was going to be an exhibition and nothing to do with Doctor Who. I thought it was going to be terrible. Here are some of the pictures the man showed us:
Then we heard a large explosion or crash and two soldiers showed up, made us line up and run along the riverside, until we reached a small porta cabin. Inside the soldiers introduced themselves as Captain T Solomon and Corporal Albright and made us suit up in white sterile body suits and surgical masks.
|The Crash site.|
They were going to take us on a mission. We were given the name Alpha team, taught some basic hand signals and given numbers from 1-17. Throughout they frequently made us sound-off to make sure everyone was present and correct. Then the soldiers broke us in to three groups. Tech team, Data team and Patrol team. I was in the patrol team. The Captain gave us a rousing speech and we did some call and response (Are you ready? Yes. I said, are you ready? YES!) all to some awesome Doctor Who music.
We ran through some spherical tented tunnels (very E.T) and entered a large white surgical tent. We were faced with the hull of a huge crashed spaceship called the Elysium. The soldiers produced an envelope containing a DVD and showed us a short message left by the Doctor.
They told us he was believed dead. In the message he warned us about some escaped 'art' aboard the ship and shockingly ordered us to find the TARDIS aboard the Elysium and destroy it. He also tried to give us some advice should we come face to face with the escaped art, "Whatever you do, don't bl...." and the message cut out. We were then informed that we would be the first humans aboard the crashed ship.
Corporal Albright hacked the door with an electric saw and we entered the Elysium. We ran through many corridors, until we came a cross a Weeping Angel. None of us blinked and we managed to survive.
We then entered a room which a large square mark on the floor where the TARDIS had clearly been. We then had to hunt around the room for clues and attach some wires in a specific pattern to activate another message from the Doctor. He told us that the TARDIS had disappeared because something bad had tried to get in. The TARDIS had gone to a friend of his for safe keeping. Also in the soldiers envelope was a scrap of paper with a picture of a girl and a message, "Dolly - accidentally the first woman on the moon 1888. Love, The Doctor" and also the TARDIS key.
We ran through some more corridors and faced another Weeping Angel. Which actually moved towards us as the lights flickered on and off. We ran on and it got very dark. We huddled together, the walls seemed to disappear and we found ourselves in Valentini's Circus 1988. We had traveled in time.
The girl from the picture: Dolly, appeared and told us the story of when she first met the Doctor. How he had taken her to the moon for her 21st birthday. She also told us that he had made a promise to him. That one day the TARDIS would appear to her and she should take care of it. She asked for the key and got two of us to hold it up to the light. She said that alone the key was nothing special, but that we were time travellers now and infused with artron energy. We all had to touch the two key holders or someone touching them and link together to power the key. Dolly then told us that we were not going to destroy the TARDIS but send it to save the Doctor.
On we ran again to find the TARDIS. This time through a hall of mirrors until we reached a round room with many alcoves shrouded by red curtains. We found the TARDIS behind a red curtain and one of our group put the key into the lock. The curtain closed. A few seconds later the curtain was opened to reveal that the TARDIS had disappeared. Sitting on the floor where it had been was a fez with a note and a vortex manipulator.
We ran on and found ourselves back in our time aboard the Elysium. We received a video thank you message from the Doctor for saving him and now he had to save us from the Angels who were coming for us. We were trapped and the Angels were outside the door trying to break it down. Again we used our artron energy and all joined hands around the central column of the ship. Together all at once we touched the column filling it with the energy causing the angels to be sucked into the walls. We had done it. The Captain told us that we had saved the Doctor and the world and although the world didn't know us, or even know our names, he did and so did the Doctor and none them would ever forget us. The two soldiers congratulated us as we ran out past the in-walled and now harmless Angels. Back outside in another porta cabin we de-suited and were each given a personalised letter from the Doctor, himself. One hour? It felt like four. And I didn't want it to be over.
|A letter from the Doctor. I can't wait for my birthday.|
So, was it worth it? Uh, YES! It was awesome and so worth the trip. I was excited, scared, exhilarated, surprised, moved, and thrilled. The small team of actors were great. It somehow never managed to feel stupid or forced and everyone really went for it. The music which underscored large parts of the experience was so good. The actor's were expertly well timed and it just took the whole thing to an even greater level of excitement.
|The three actors in rehearsal.|
The only time I was pulled out of it a little was in one of the Doctor's messages he said something about, 'only a human child could achieve... something.' And Dolly kept calling us the 'children of earth." That aside it was great. There were lots of running and scares. Any concerns I had that it wouldn't work so well for adults totally evaporated. What a great experience it was. It's certainly the closest thing you could ever get to being in an episode of Doctor Who. Crash of The Elysium runs at Media City, in Manchester until 17th July. If you can get there and get a ticket I couldn't recommend it more highly. I sincerely hope that it goes elsewhere or that Punch Drunk and the BBC work on similar experiences in time to come...