Wednesday, August 10

Doctor Who’s treasure in the basement of a Northumberland town | Museums

TOAt first glance, the Northumberland village of Allendale, with its pub, post office and random parking lot, is like hundreds of quiet and charming villages across the UK. It is the Dalek who suggests something out of the ordinary.

Behind the Dalek is a four-story Georgian house. In the basement of the house is a remarkable and unlikely collection of over 200 costumes, accessories, and artwork that tell classic sci-fi stories from Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Star Trek, Flash Gordon, Marvel, and many more.

Together they form the collection of one of Britain’s most eccentric small museums, one of many that will be forced into hibernation due to the pandemic.

Most are run with very little money. Not all will reopen. But Neil Cole, teacher and creator of the Classic science fiction museum, is cheerfully optimistic about the future.

“The closure has allowed me to restructure the museum and create more space,” he says. “In a way it has been useful because it has given me time that I normally don’t have.

“I have done the best that I can. I don’t have a lot of money but I have a lot of energy and I do everything myself ”.

Neil Cole posing at the Museum of Classical Science Fiction
Neil Cole, creator and owner of the Museum of Classical Science Fiction. Photograph: Mark Pinder / The Guardian

Cole’s determination to create a museum in his home dates back to childhood. “I remember I was five years old and I went to Blackpool and there was a Tardis out there,” he said. “It was the official BBC exhibition.”

Inside were the monsters that he had seen on television and it was fabulous. “It was like a confusion between reality and fiction. From then on, he just wanted to do something like that. That was the kickoff and it never went away. “

Like many, Cole’s entry into science fiction was watching Doctor Who. For him it was Jon Pertwee (solo) and Tom Baker. Some of his earliest memories are “sitting at tea time on Saturday, waiting for the Tribune titles to finish. Then there was Basil Brush, who was great, but it was Doctor Who I was waiting for. “

He learned to read Marvel comics, he said, and searched local paper television charts for old science fiction movies in the dead of night. “My dad was very good with it, he let me stay awake.”

It took Cole about five years to turn a rotting, flooded basement into a suitable museum space.

Every costume, accessory or piece of keepsake that you have collected over the years has its own story. What looks like a drab chiffon dress and nothing like it is actually wildly exciting and meaningful, Cole insisted, because it’s a costume from the 1976 Doctor Who story. Morbius’s brain.

It was worn by one of the main characters, Ohica, and it was the first costume Cole ever bought. “I had a motorcycle that I went to college with and I sold it to get it. I finished [up] having to take the bus but it was worth it … for me this was a bit of history, it has a bit of magic “.

He has many benefactors and supporters, pointing to the head of a robot mummy from the 1975 Doctor Who series. Pyramids of mars, which in the highly specialized world of Doctor Who collecting is something of a zinger. It is the only surviving head and it was donated to him because he would display it and not sell it. “I got it from the milkman’s son who gave it to him when the BBC threw it in a boat in the 1970s.”

A Dalek and more on display at the Museum of Classical Science Fiction.
A Dalek and more on display at the Museum of Classical Science Fiction. Photograph: Mark Pinder / The Guardian

Each object comes with detailed information that geeky visitors tend to appreciate. A Star Trek: Deep Space Nine season four costume for him Ambassador Rasiinian Runepp It was designed by a fan as a competition prize.

“They made their design and the fan ended up on set wearing their own costume,” Cole said. “How cool is that?”

The museum has been integrated into town life and has survived a clash with county council planners who, in 2019, objected to Cole’s homemade Dalek standing proudly in front of the museum.

The dispute came after Cole thought he had won everyone. He had restored a ramshackle building and was creating something different. “I said, ‘Look, I know it sounds crazy but you’re going to get new tourists. You have your walkers, you have your main history buffs, you have your cyclists. Now you’ll get your moviegoers, your comic book readers. ‘

The story went around the world and the council fell back.

The museum recently had a grand reopening whose guests included Sophie Aldred, who played Doctor Ace’s sidekick in the 1980s, and is filming a documentary about the museum. The whole weekend was a great occasion, Cole said. “The museum has contributed a lot to the people. We had [the Daleks’ fictional creator] Davros at the cooperative. “

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