Fans excited by Doctor Who centre

A major new Doctor Who tourist attraction has opened in south Wales.

The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay offers fans of the hit sci-fi show the chance to take a ride in a life-size Tardis as well as to come face to face with some of the Time Lord's enemies.

It is packed with dozens of rare artefacts and props from throughout the show's 49-year history and is on the doorstep of the new studios where the show is filmed.

Bosses hope the building, which resembles a "blue Tardis" giant slug, will become a pilgrimage for fans and one of the country's top tourist attractions. Tickets for Friday's grand opening sold out in minutes, with some fans arriving more than two hours early.

Philip Murphy, managing director of live events for BBC Worldwide, said there has been a high level of interest in Dr Who across the globe since its relaunch in 2005.

He said: "We have run Dr Who events in Newcastle, Cornwall and most recently in Olympia, London. But the long term has always been to set up a venue in Cardiff - given that the city has been used prominently in recent seasons of the show.

"We're hoping to attract 250,000 people a year and we've had lots of interest from not just across Wales and the UK but also from as far afield as Canada, the USA and Australia. Our aim is to become one of the top 10 tourist attractions in Wales and I think we offer an experience like no other."

Those going on the Dr Who Experience get to take part in a specially created interactive episode of the show, featuring video footage from actor Matt Smith. And as well as offering people the chance to see the controls of a life-size Tardis, they also watch a special 3D episode and get up close with costumes and props.

Mr Murphy added: "The great thing is that, with the studios just over the road, we can constantly update and bring in new items. Two-thirds of the experience is about the modern show while the other third focuses on its legacy."

The multimillion-pound attraction is currently on a five-year lease and employs around 50 people. Tourist officials anticipate it will boost Cardiff's economy further as die-hard fans flock to the Welsh capital to take in the Dr Who Experience as well as tour the city for film locations.