Maybe the scarf was a mistake. I happen to own a long stripy number that is uncannily close in style and colour to that worn by Tom Baker during his time playing the lead in the BBC’s long-running science fiction TV series, Doctor Who. How appropriate it would be, I thought, to wear something referencing the show’s history. After all, Doctor Who fans love dressing up, don’t they? And Time Fracture’s website encourages audience members to come as their favourite Doctor or indeed monster.
In the event, I only noticed one other person clad in anything that could be regarded as costume: a question mark patterned tank-top as modelled by Sylvester McCoy during the final days of the show’s original TV run. I felt a little like I was wearing a target, or waving a red rag at a bull, as the actors zoomed in on me whenever in need of someone to interact with. Nice to be involved, but I realised early on that I was going to be immersed more than most in this experience.
What sort of experience is it? The audience are given a group role as volunteers who have been selected by the Doctor to “step up and save the universe”. No pressure, then. The show starts with a lengthy briefing at UNIT headquarters where we’re told – amid panicky power failures and “time spikes” – that the cosmos is about to be erased by a Time Fracture caused by a device that fell on London in 1942 during the Blitz. Only we can prevent the ultimate cataclysm.
The UNIT base is festooned with screens through which this backstory and mission are relayed to us by pre-recorded video of Jodie Whittaker’s current Doctor, David Bradley’s original Timelord, and UNIT stalwart Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave). It’s supplemented by actors in the room playing frightened scientists trying desperately to activate the means by which we are to be despatched back in time to save the day(s).
It’s here that this lively show’s chief flaw comes to light: it’s simply too busy and overcrowded to be able to follow what’s going on. I estimated an audience of about 100 being shouted at by four different actors at the same time, as sound effects blared around us, and it was impossible to hear the information we needed. This problem persisted throughout the experience as diverse ‘scenes’ took place next to each other; separate groups crowding around individual actors straining to catch a clue as to how we were supposed to be taking part.
That said, there are many highly enjoyable elements in the experience. Depending on who you choose to follow, there are multiple different storylines to be involved with. My companion and I were chosen (after I was interrogated about my scarf: was I cold?) to deliver a vital message to a Kerblam robot. We then met a duplicitous Ood called Brian, rushed past Queen Elizabeth selecting a husband (not sure why) before a Cyberman burst in and ‘deleted’ a character foolish enough not to be afraid of him.
After a dramatic stand-off between two female Timelords (the acting highlight for me) and a very effective encounter with some Weeping Angels, we reached the final scene, for which the audience were gathered together once more. This turned out to be a lengthy Timelord ritual at which some pantomime interaction was required, but when it eventually arrived, the climax of the show felt genuinely momentous and oddly emotional in that way peculiarly special to Doctor Who.
I must mention that there’s an ‘interval’ along the way – a good thing, as saving the universe is wearing on the feet – set in a bar with two amazing lounge singers. Dressed in gorgeous sparkly blue outfits, this pair performed stripped-back versions of some great tracks, including a version of Radiohead’s Creep that could be worth the price of admission alone. (Checks ticket price… I did say “could be”).
If you’re alive to read this, it means I succeeded in my mission to save the universe. You’re welcome. I had fun doing it, even if I didn’t always know quite how I was accomplishing this vital feat. Time Fracture’s actors are nothing if not enthusiastic, and a lot of love and attention to detail has gone into creating a show for Doctor Who fans to immerse themselves in. As I left the production’s Mayfair location and stepped into the freezing December night, I was glad I’d worn my scarf after all.
Written: Daniel Dingsdale
Directed by: Tom Maller
Produced by: Immersive Everywhere
Doctor Who: Time Fracture is currently taking bookings until 17 April 2022. Further information and booking via the below link.