When my plane touched down at Heathrow, my adventures were just beginning. I took the Tube to Paddington Station, had breakfast and a typically British walk in the rain, then caught a train to Cardiff, Wales. In search of the Doctor.

Who? That British television character who travels through time and space in a blue police box… and lives in Wales. Sort of.

BBC cymru wales

Doctor Who has been a soaring success since its return to the airwaves in 2005. Not only is the show produced by BBC Wales, but Cardiff figures prominently in the plot of several episodes. And that’s how I ended up in Cardiff Bay.

[youtube_sc url=”http://youtu.be/Crlao2pfhoA”]

As you can see, the Doctor Who Experience is the ultimate playground for dedicated Whovians (like me). And what better time to experience the Experience than in the show’s 50th anniversary year (it debuted the day after President Kennedy’s assassination)?

Upon entering, visitors embark on a 3D adventure with the Doctor himself, Matt Smith, complete with Daleks, Cybermen, and a chance to take the controls of the TARDIS. Cheesy, yes, but I appreciated the knowing winks to the audience: when the Doctor first appeared, he was disappointed that instead of his usual companions, all he got was a bunch of “shoppers.”

For old school fans like me (I spent many a night watching the earlier incarnation of the show on US public television in the ’80s), the real treat comes next. A veritable Museum of All Things Doctor Who, sprawling across two floors of the hangar-like building.

[Click on the pix to see the full-size images.]

Here’s something that struck me as I exited (through the gift shop, of course): back in 1997, I visited BBC Television Centre in London, dutifully took the tour, and exited through the gift shop. And there was almost nothing related to Doctor Who available. Longtime fans will recall the Dark Years, in which the BBC abandoned the show and tried to sweep it under the carpet like it never existed.

Now, of course, the scene is a bit different.

I mean, you can buy a Tom Baker scarf bathrobe! Which I considered, but there’s no room for it in my luggage. After all, I still have two weeks of vacation ahead of me. If only I could climb into a little blue spaceship for the trip- who knows, I might even arrive before I left.

Happy anniversary, Doctor.

Tom Baker's bathrobe