A Time Lord and a sleuth: the perfect team for tourism
Immersive attractions and interactive games are the latest big draw
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.