A Time Lord and a sleuth: the per­fect team for tourism

Im­mer­sive at­trac­tions and in­ter­ac­tive games are the lat­est big draw

The Observer - - News - Vanessa Thorpe Arts and Me­dia Cor­re­spon­dent

Two of Bri­tain’s most famous fic­tional ex­ports, Sher­lock Holmes and

Doctor Who, are at the heart of a new gen­er­a­tion of “live” im­mer­sive at­trac­tions de­signed to draw for­eign tourists this win­ter.

Yes­ter­day a Sher­lock-themed in­ter­ac­tive game, fea­tur­ing Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch and other cast members of the tele­vi­sion show, opened to its first pay­ing cus­tomers in west Lon­don, while next month a new “es­cape room” ex­pe­ri­ence based on Doctor Who is to open in Bris­tol be­fore rolling out across five other English cities. Cardiff, cre­ative home of Doctor Who since its 2005 re­boot, will also see some of this spin-off ac­tion in the new year.

The city coun­cil con­firmed this week­end that it is work­ing with BBC Stu­dios, the cor­po­ra­tion’s com­mer­cial arm, to set up an ex­pe­ri­ence for Doctor Who fans to be housed in Cardiff’s Nor­man cas­tle. Called Doctor Who Film Tours and Ex­hi­bi­tion, it will share the space with an­other at­trac­tion, the Black Tower Tales, and is thought likely to go up in­side the Vic­to­rian wing of the cas­tle.

“The plans have been ap­proved and we are ex­pect­ing it will open in the sum­mer,” a spokesman said.

The writ­ers be­hind both BBC shows have been in­volved in de­vel­op­ing the ex­pe­ri­ences. Mark Gatiss worked with Steven Mof­fat on the phe­nom­e­nally pop­u­lar Sher­lock, as well as play­ing Holmes’s brother My­croft in the se­ries.

They also cre­ated the con­tent of the new in­ter­ac­tive game in west Lon­don. “It was re­ally im­por­tant to us that it

felt like the se­ries,” Gatiss said. “It has an ur­ban, mod­ern look that fans will recog­nise, but you will still be able to solve some of the puz­zles with­out know­ing the show.”

De­vel­oped with the mak­ers of the Time Run live ad­ven­ture games, Sher­lock: The Game is Now, lasts about 90 min­utes, costs £54 and be­gins in a re­cre­ation of the draw­ing room at 221B, as seen in the tele­vi­sion se­ries. It re­volves around the idea of par­tic­i­pants join­ing The Net­work, Holmes’s or­gan­i­sa­tion of am­a­teur sleuths. “Fans across the world now seem to want to be in­volved rather just watch­ing tele­vi­sion,” said Time Run’s Si­mon Oliveira.

For those who have tick­ets the first chal­lenge will be to find the venue. Next to a Lidl su­per­mar­ket in a rather tired Shep­herd’s Bush shop­ping cen­tre, a new op­ti­cian’s store has re­cently ap­peared. Called Doyle’s, like Holmes’s cre­ator, it was ap­par­ently founded in 1859, the year of Sir Arthur Co­nan Doyle’s birth. There could be more to it than meets the eye.

Plans for the new Cardiff Doctor Who ven­ture came to light in the min­utes of a coun­cil cabi­net meeting last month. The scheme is part of an at­tempt to fill a hole in coun­cil cof­fers and to meet the £23m cost of main­tain­ing the city’s his­toric prop­er­ties.

In Septem­ber 2017 the Doctor Who Ex­pe­ri­ence, built on land in Cardiff Bay leased from the Welsh gov­ern­ment, closed, leav­ing tax­pay­ers with a £1.1m bill. In­come from this at­trac­tion, which dis­played many of the props from the 55-year-old sci­ence fic­tion se­ries – Jodie Whit­taker plays the cur­rent Doctor – had fallen be­low sus­tain­able lev­els.

But there is new faith in the ap­peal of both es­cape rooms and im­mer­sive the­atre. To tap into this thirst for live ex­pe­ri­ences, the com­pany be­hind Es­cape Hunt games is launch­ing Doctor Who: Worlds Col­lide in Bris­tol in mid-Jan­uary. The next game will open the fol­low­ing week in Leeds, with sites in Ox­ford and Manch­ester open­ing in Fe­bru­ary, and Read­ing and Birm­ing­ham in March. They are billed as 60-minute, live op­por­tu­ni­ties to help the Doctor mend “a tear in space and time” be­fore the Cy­ber­men break through.

LEFT Sher­lock: The Game Is Now lets fans join Holmes’s or­gan­i­sa­tion of am­a­teur sleuths – for £54 a pop.

BE­LOW Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch fea­tures in a re­con­struc­tion of Holmes’s Baker Street ad­dress.


Jodie Whit­taker is the Doctor’s lat­est in­car­na­tion.

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