Marking the final part of the Time Lord Victorious jigsaw, Time Fracture – the Doctor Who immersive experience from Immersive Everywhere, opened at the end of May. A few nights ago, I was among the crowd of UNIT recruits hand-selected by the Doctor to venture into the Time Fracture.
It’s a complete story with plenty of Easter eggs, reveals and surprise appearances. The last thing I want is to take anything away from the experience so this post is spoiler-free. However, if (like me) this is your first time with an “immersive experience” then you may have some questions. I won’t give away any surprises but I will give you a better idea of what to expect.
How do I get there?
It’s a little tucked away but straightforward to find. If you’re arriving on the Tube, get off at Bond Street (Jubilee or Central lines). Depending on your exit, you’ll either be on Oxford Street at the corner of Davies Street or already on it. Head down it, keeping right at the fork. Right now there are Crossrail works blocking the road but, on foot, you can easily slip along the pavement beside it. The first left is Davies Mews where you’ll spot the UNIT insignia painted along the walls.
If you arrive within 15 minutes of your start time, there will already be a queue and a UNIT soldier on patrol, easily identified by his snazzy red beret.
What happens when I arrive?
I’d recommend arriving 15 minutes before the start time since, as you might expect, there are COVID guidelines to follow. There’s a contactless temperature check and you’ll need to scan the NHS QR code to check into the location. After a bag check, the UNIT soldier will take your name so you won’t need to show any tickets.
TIP: Face-masks are mandatory and worn at all times. The cast members don’t wear them (well, some do but spoilers) so take care and keep them on so they can feel safe at their jobs.
This show is HOT! I mean that figuratively and literally. It was a balmy 21°C on the day I went but even on a colder day it’s going to be warm in there. Wear thin clothes if you can (god help you if you cosplay) and if they say you can take in a bottle of water, do it! There are two free cloakrooms for checking in bags and coats at the start and I highly advise taking advantage.
TIP: Worth noting that there are no bathrooms in the entrance hall and no easily-identifiable loos for the duration of the first half (roughly 75 minutes). Go before you get in the queue. (I imagine you can ask a cast member and they’ll direct you to some loos during the show but I wasn’t able to verify this)
When the doors open, you’re filed into a small room (with the cloakrooms) where you’ll get a briefing for the mission ahead. When you arrive you’ll be in a cohort of about 15-20 people. But if you think that’s a lot of new people to be in close proximity to so soon after lockdown, just wait until you get inside.
TIP: Even with the best will in the world, it is impossible to maintain social distancing during the show. Be prepared for a lot of proximity and keep your face-mask on.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
After one of the UNIT scientists has got you suitably hyped, you’ll be led into the UNIT research base built around the Time Fracture – presumably the same one that’s been the source of the problems in other Time Lord Victorious media though I’m not entirely clear on that.
This is where things get a little chaotic. Your group gets passed between UNIT scientists with in-joke names seemingly at random as more groups get shown into the base. Eventually you end up with a huge crowd (upwards of 50 people at a guess) milling about somewhat aimlessly. Meanwhile, UNIT scientists are shouting over each other and trying to be heard as they interact with audience members. Granted I have mild hearing difficulties, but even those without found the first ten minutes an almost incomprehensible sensory overload. The proximity of such a large crowd in a very warm space, with face-masks on, made it difficult to be immersed in anything but my own sweat.
Luckily, the plot kicked in. And here’s where I get extremely vague to avoid spoilers.
TIP: You’ll encounter several staircases throughout the show. If you have accessibility needs, it’s definitely worth letting them know ahead of time if you can.
As you’re moved through the space, different cast members will come along and draw you away from the crowds into their own storylines. In the chaos of the UNIT base, I’d become separated from the rest of my group. I spotted this character gesturing me over and became part of her team along with a handful of other audience members. This is how you experience many (though not all) of the different settings of the show with the character leading you around on side missions across time and space. Though with so many groups moving around, it’s easy to get mixed up in other crowds on completely different stories and there’s still a problem with not being able to hear the characters sometimes.
The cast are an absolute credit to their profession, since you can assume there’s a lot of improvisation going on. There was nothing they weren’t ready for with the audience interactions (one person on my team certainly tested them). Storylines collided with each other in ways that didn’t seem entirely planned, so it was impressive to see cast members stay completely in-character and get back on track with no hesitation.
When I met up with my group later on, it turned out we’d all been separated and gone on different adventures. From six different accounts, we were able to piece together a rough idea of the plot but I’ve since learnt there were still rooms none of us went into and monsters none of us saw. Your experience seems to be based largely on luck of the draw.
Is there an interval?
Yes, there is. At about the 75 minute mark, something plot-related happens and everyone is moved into a new area – the bar! Well, it’s something slightly different in the story but for all intents and purposes it’s the interval bar. It sells alcoholic cocktails and soft drinks and accepts cards, all the stuff you’d expect. Though you’re still technically in the story so the bar staff and entertainment are all characters. Which is why it’s a bit irritating when you’re waiting to order a desperately needed drink (again, it’s warm!) and they keep being distracted by a plot-related thing that happens periodically.
But here’s where I can talk about one of the highlights of the whole show: the interval entertainment. A blue alien named Celeste and a Silurian whose name I didn’t catch are singing live and are absolutely phenomenal. Why Immersive Everywhere haven’t featured them heavily in the promotion of Time Fracture is beyond me. I would genuinely be happy if they opened up just the bar on its own so you could have a cocktail and listen to a Silurian belting out Katy Perry songs.
TIP: There are toilets here but they’re a little hard to spot. As you walk in, look for the door directly opposite the right-hand side of the bar and follow the signs.
The interval lasts about 30 minutes and the bar staff can tell you how long is left.
the final act
Once the interval is over, another plot thing happens and you’re led into the final act. And it’s one big set piece with minimal audience interaction. Though if you’re attending with children they might get roped in. This is more of a “show” than the rest of it has been, though cast members are encouraging you to call out and chant with the story.
This is also possibly the most lore-heavy section of the story and casual fans might have trouble following. That said, there was one surprise appearance that caused a visible frisson around the room and a string of fan-pleasing moments brings it all together in a very satisfying conclusion. Then you’re taken back through the UNIT base and into the gift shop.
The total running time is approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, including the interval.
TIP: When we were leaving, there was a clear flow to the exit but one of the cast members told us we were allowed to explore the UNIT base if we wanted. Which is where we got the chance to take photos. So don’t assume you have to leave right away. We even discovered a hidden room in the process.
so it’s good?
Yes, absolutely. While I have some criticisms around people management at the start, it is incredibly fun. The whirlwind of constant movement is highly effective for immersing you in the plot if you’re willing to roll with whatever comes along. I found myself getting really invested in the stakes of the story I’d been lured into and it feels more personalized since everyone I went with had a different experience. The cast are engaged and seem to be having a lot of fun in what must be taxing performances. If you’re patient and let yourself get swept up, you’ll have a great time!