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Last Updated: Monday, 12 April, 2004, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Blackpool rocks as Who goes there

by Smyth Harper
BBC News Online, Blackpool

Cyberman in Blackpool
Gold kills Cybermen, so the Golden Mile is no home from home
He's possibly the world's best-known time traveller and he's coming back to the BBC - whether or not Michael Grade is chairman.

But fans hungry to get a Doctor Who fix before the series starts next year do not need to wait.

A new exhibition has opened in Blackpool dedicated to the time lord.

It is not the first time Doctor Who has been at the seaside resort. An exhibition ran there from 1974 to 1985.

Enemy attack

The Doctor was also supposed to star in an adventure at the resort, called The Nightmare Fair, in 1985.

Take a whistlestop tour round the Doctor Who exhibition

However, his most deadly enemy put paid to that - but more of that later.

The exhibition itself has just started and is suffering from one or two teething problems.

A Dalek seemed to have developed a stammer when your BBC News Online reporter was walking past.

"You... you... you... you...," it said.

As I escaped up a flight of stairs to safety, it finally finished its sentence.

"...will be exterminated."

Too late, pal.

Monster hall

Some of the buttons on the displays did not work when pressed and the whole thing was just a little rickety.

In other words; the exhibition is just like we all remember the series.

But it is good.

A Dalek you can sit in
Sit inside a Dalek? You've got to be having a laugh
There is a host of memorabilia - from the old Doctor's costumes to the frankly terrifying Sea Devil outfits.

And one of the highlights is the Hall of Monsters, which has a creepy array of the Doctor's foes from a Sontaran to Omega, surrounding the Third Doctor's yellow car, Bessie.

There is also a great Dalek display which, stuttering aside, has you looking nervously around for the nearest sofa to hide behind.

"I know it is going to be a great success," said the man behind the show, Blackpool businessman David Boyle.

"I've spent five years running the Alien UFO Exhibition here in Blackpool, and know what people want here.

"This is the place for it."

'Nostalgia trip'

Fan Brian Mattocks had travelled from Wigan to be there on the opening day.

Sporting a long Tom Baker-style scarf, the 33-year-old said Doctor Who had an enduring appeal.

"Most of us grew up with the show," he said.

Images from the Doctor Who exhibition
The exhibition is a trip down memory lane
"It's just nostalgic to be here - a trip down memory lane."

It is a lovely exhibition, very BBC, very British and very Blackpool.

It's easy to see why the Doctor Who producers wanted to set an adventure in the resort.

But those plans were abandoned after the Doctor's most deadly enemy struck him a blow from which he never really recovered, until now.

Was it the Master? The Daleks? Cybermen?

Grade the Destroyer

No, step forward The Controller.

The BBC One controller to be precise. At the time it was Michael Grade, who hated the show, and wasn't too keen on Colin Baker, the Doctor's incarnation at the time.

Ratings had slumped and the series was on the brink of introducing Bonnie Langford as an assistant.

It had reached a low ebb.

It is believed Grade initially wanted to cancel the show, but bowed to pressure and instead cancelled a season and took the programme off air for 18 months.

Doctor Who was then put up against Coronation Street and the series' fate was sealed.

Some monsters queue up for tickets to the Doctor Who exhibition
Doctor Who fans are a diverse bunch of life forms
But its popularity has endured, and the Blackpool exhibition is not the first.

There have been exhibitions in Longleat and at Llangollen, north Wales.

With filming due to begin on the new series - penned by acclaimed writer Russell T Davies and starring Christopher Eccleston - which it is hoped will appeal to a new generation of fans, the exhibition is set to get even bigger.

So can Doctor Who survive in the 21st Century?

Time will tell.



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