Reeltime Pictures (studio)
50 min (length)
18 April 2022 (released)
This informative documentary about the Museum of Classic Sci-Fi, housed in the quaint village of Allendale, Northumberland, is presented by former Dr. Who assistant Sophie Aldred and well, she has many interesting facts in store for us.
We’re starting at Shepherd's Bush Green and moving on to White City with presenter Sophie Aldred (still probably best known as 'Ace' - assistant to the 7th Dr. Who Sylvester McCoy) who gives us something of a potted history of the BBC's association with that particular area of London. The old Shepherds Bush Empire is still there on the Green though sadly, the nearby Lime Grove studios where such classics as Rudolph Cartier's 1954 production of Orwell's 1984 was made is now a council housing estate (oh, for the march of progress). As Sophie informs us, White City (the headquarters of BBC TV since the early 50's) was once part of the actual site of the magnificent Franco-British Exhibition of 1908, a breath-taking complex designed mainly by John Belcher with most of the architectural gems painted in white (hence: White City). At one time, many Dr. Who exhibitions were to be seen in this area (no doubt with crowd control presided over by a Dalek) - which is still the home of BBC-TV. With so many closures such pleasures all but grinded to a halt. Despair not, for 2018 provided a worthy panacea when entrepreneur and artist Neil Cole opened his ‘Museum of Classic Sci-Fi’ in the sleepy village of Allendale, Northumbria. Admittedly it is just a little off the beaten track for many of us but after you've read this review you may find the temptation of a visit a little difficult to resist.
The commendable Neil Cole (he's a musician as well) acquired premises next to a pub in Allendale in 2015. Despite it being a dilapidated Georgian ruin (named 'Osbourne House') the fact that is located next to a pub was obviously a good sign. It was Neil's dream to convert this place (or the basement, rather) into the aforementioned museum - a risk that eventually paid off very well. Honestly, the amount of work that Neil put into this estimable project near beggar's belief. Neil soon got to work by acquiring, creating and renovating some 200 artefacts - many from old Dr. Who episodes (most of which were in a pretty bad state of disrepair after many years of neglect). The word painstaking is only too relevant when it comes to the herculean task involved but Neil soldiered on in order to achieve his dream and the eventually the museum opened in 2018 despite some initial teething troubles with the local council due to the placement of a Dalek outside Osbourne House (one simply cannot think why). Differences, however, were eventually ironed out. Grand opening day saw the arrival of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart's right hand man, the stalwart Sergeant Benton (John Levene) - surely there never was anything quite like it in Allendale's history. Up until then the most spectacular and annual event was 'The Tar Barrel Festival' - a custom no doubt going back to ancient history. What must the villagers have thought of the sudden appearance of Davros, the Cybermen, the Ice Warriors, Chewbacca (from ' Star Trek') and a number of other famous and not so famous immortal creatures and creations from the past. After a promising start disaster struck with the arrival of the dreaded COVID virus and the museum was forced to close like so many other businesses. However, Neil’s spirit was not to be quashed and he was determined that his museum would survive no matter what! Well, it has and as we can see in this docu not only has it re-opened a few months ago but is going stronger than ever!
In the Bonus Feature, Neil reveals the time-consuming process involved in repairing a number of the creations and costumes which he managed to acquire for the museum. This won't mean much to those who aren't fans of what was once one of the best TV-series of all time. We see Neil restoring a Mestow, a Terrileptal, a Cheetah person and a Tetraps (some feat this...we'll, they all were really). So treat yourself to a little trip to the Pennines - well worth a look for the scenery alone. Then spend an hour or two in Neil's museum, followed by a bite to eat and a drink in the pub next before a country stroll. What more do you want?