Why you should care
Because this is the only shop in London dedicated solely to the cult sci-fi show.
British children first fell under the Doctor’s spell in the mid-1960s … and they cried like babies when it went off the air in 1989. Luckily for them and my Who -crazed daughter, two devotees in London dedicated a shop and museum to the show five years before the program’s short-lived demise, offering Whovians an outlet for their obsession any wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey.
The Who Shop in Upton Park, London, saw fans through those dark years to the revival of the series in 2006 and beyond. What makes it special? It’s the only physical shop in the British capital dedicated solely to the cult sci-fi hit, making it a pilgrimage for fanatics and the mildly curious alike. Co-owner Alexandra Looseley prides herself on “letting people see the exhibits … without putting a ridiculous price” on access. For the past 32 years, she and her husband, Kevan, have given fans a chance to get up close with props, costumes and memorabilia. I arranged a visit to the Who Shop for my daughter’s 10th birthday, and she looked as though she’d stumbled upon Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. After spotting a blue Tardis in the corner, she couldn’t wait to get inside the Doctor’s time machine.
The modest blue shop is staffed by aficionados and carries everything from duvet covers, costumes and action figures to key chains and board games.
The modest blue shop is staffed by aficionados and carries everything from duvet covers, costumes and action figures to key chains and board games. My daughter’s jaw dropped, and she began grabbing everything she “needed” to have — a Tardis costume, poster and mug — with a Weeping Angel’s speed. An American man, similarly gobsmacked and reaching for everything in sight, including the fourth Doctor’s striped scarf, asked, “Do they sell sonic screwdrivers?” We ended our shopping spree by booking a “ride” on the Tardis (a former theater prop, which the Looseleys snapped up at an auction) to visit the museum. Adults pay $4, children $2.50 — proceeds go to charity — before stepping through the door … and into the shop’s back room stuffed with set pieces, Daleks, costumes and more. It took some doing to get my kid to leave.
This is a low-tech, East London version: Nothing fancy, and nothing but fun for fans. Many items have been given to the Looseleys by actors, or snapped up at auction. Alexandra’s prized possessions? A Tardis used in the 1960s Peter Cushing films, and costumes worn on the show by characters Vincent van Gogh and Rory Williams. The museum is a modest offering compared with the only other U.K.-based Doctor Who exhibition, the BBC’s Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, Wales, which, in addition to props, Daleks and a shop, offers fans a chance to peek inside a “real” Tardis and embark on a treasure-hunt-like adventure to save the planet.
Still, the Who Shop also has a variety of items from the series, a few Daleks and a couple of “time machines.” The prices are sadly not stuck in the ’60s — the scarf alone rings up at $88 — but it’s a quirky, fan-dedicated place that’s easily accessible by the Tube, and for Doctor Who fans in the Big Smoke, it’s the closest permanent exhibit offering a fine Time Lord adventure.