It’s the end of the universe – so of course Doctor Who – Time Fracture is utterly chaotic. It is also rather good fun.
“The gateway is active”
Time Fracture isn’t the first time Doctor Who has ventured into the world of immersive theatre. Punchdrunk’s The Crash of the Elysium was a triumph a decade ago so it’s about time (and relative dimension in space) that we got another and fresh from the success of their Gatsby experience, Immersive Everywhere have launched this huge new immersive endeavour. A time bomb has been dropped in 1940s London but its cataclysmic explosion is only due in the near future. Only us – a team of volunteers recruited by the Doctor – can save the day – sonic screwdrivers at the ready.
The need for #spoilers means that I can’t give too much away but the show takes full advantage of the cracks in time caused by the bomb falling to offer up vignettes that involve major historical figures, explore far-future technological innovation and nod to the rich and varied legacy of Doctor Who and its iconic characters. I can safely say I had two properly wish-I-could-hide-behind-the-sofa moments – one of which is ingeniously staged late on – and two hairs-on-end moments, one of which reconfirming just how brilliant Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is.
As with many an immersive show in which you’re finding your own way, albeit assisted by any number of Time Lord Guides, you kinda need to make peace with the individual nature of that journey. A number of finely stocked bars help to grease the wheels, especially the one with the Silurian cabaret singer, but there’s always going to be elements of the show that you miss out on and I’m not quite sure that the fairly leisurely pace of the whole thing would bear the return visits needed to explore each storyline.
Given the nature of the main storyline, Time Fracture’s innate chaos does feel appropriate, especially when allied with the tense atmosphere of the opening segment. It’s a bit of a shame that that intensity doesn’t always follow through to the rest of the show which is ultimately more amiable than arresting. Logistically, the interval might be needed but dramatically, it saps energy and results in a final sequence that feels a little too padded out and awkwardly defined (I’m still not 100% sure how I ended up on the side of the **** *****!) despite its awesome cameos and iconic costume recreation.
The level of world-building here though is sensational. Rebecca Brower’s production design is an absolute treasure trove of visual cues and tributes to the full breadth of Doctor Who’s storied history. And director Tom Maller has instilled a marvellous sense of enthusiasm into his cast from Ood to Omega as they gamely encourage our participation with the occasional note of peril chiming like the Cloister Bell. Because, you know, the universe is ending, once you’ve finished your cocktail that is.