“Science Fiction: to the Edge of Imagination” at the Science Museum – 29/05/23

I’m actually kinda reviewing not one but two exhibitions today. But I only physically went to one of them, which was the one in the title of this post – “Science Fiction: to the Edge of Imagination” . I mean, that’s long enough as blog post titles go so if I’d tried to fit in “The Fans Strike Back®: A Star Wars Fan Exhibition” then I think the URL would have been so long that I might have broken the internet. And no one wants that at the start of half term, do they?

I’ll explain a bit – it was the Star Wars thing that first caught my eye as a possible family outing for Bank Holiday Monday. Nathan and I are both working over half term so I really wanted to get some forced family bonding in while we could. But Eva isn’t a Star Wars fan and so wasn’t up for it. That’s why I started looking for alternatives nearby. I considered Dopamine Land but that was closed on Mondays. What I eventually landed on was the new immersive space travel exhibition for me and Eva while the boys went to see Star Wars. Of course, the space travel would have been ideal for the boys as well but maybe they’ll go back another day.

I’ve had something of a transport curse all weekend so I made the family leave Highams Park a full hour before we needed to, *just in case*. Not only did it all work smoothly but we were also treated to a top-quality dog-sighting in the form of a corgi in a backpack. I never normally take photos of strangers or strangers’ dogs but given that this is mostly Reuben’s shoulder and all you can see is a pair of dog ears sticking out, I think that’s OK.

Of course, all this luck meant that we were hanging around South Kensington with time to spare before our time slots. So we went to buy ice creams at Snowflake and perched on the pedestrianised bit of Exhibition Road to eat them.

At least, I thought it was pedestrianised until two cars passed by close enough to have taken our flakes out should we have had them. Turns out that bit of road is a road, even though it looks for all the world like a lovely plaza. The other side has cafe tables out and bollards at the end but the bit outside Oriental Canteen is a through road, according to Google Maps. Well luckily I was having raspberry sorbet and I would never put a flake in that, so we were OK. Also, didn’t lose our legs in the process.

From there, we split into our two groups and Eva and I headed to the Science Museum. We booked free tickets for entry between 15:30 and 16:00, with our exhibition tickets at 16:15. Again, I’d built in time for delays (queues, bag checks etc) and again there were none so we had a bit of time to fill in.

The exhibition was on the first floor, near the stairs at the front of the building – just follow the orange and yellow lines:

Next to it was something that hadn’t been there last time we’d visited  – I think it’s called “Technicians”. So we hung around there for a bit, as well as visiting the sci-fi gift shop so that Eva could buy Reuben a birthday present.

There was actually much in the way of fun to be had. Eva did the quiz on the screens which selected some technical careers that might be suitable for her – she got “Games Designer”, which made her very happy:

She also got to try her hand at CAD for wind turbine blades, which did not go well, and lighting design, which did. This the set that you can design the lighting for:

I didn’t see where it was from but, given that the post-production activities in the same room were from Black Panther, I’m guessing it might have been Shuri’s lab? It was fun choosing the right colours and levels and “Ed”, the virtual lighting director commended Eva on her choices.

Then it was time to go to the thing we’d actually planned to go to. We had to wait outside a large pair of ominous-looking grey doors until we were called forward and taken on a flight to an alien spaceship:

We then walked through several different decks, which were all full of memorabilia from sci-fi movies and TV shows. There was a solid plot device reason for why an alien civilisation had a costume from Star Trek in a glass box but I can’t quite remember what that plot device was.

You’ll see what I mean when I say the boys should have come with us. The first thing I saw was a suit from “Sunshine”, which Nathan rewatched just two days ago. But Eva is quite space-savvy too and only bemoaned the fact that there was no travel poster for her “favourite planet”, Kepler-186f. I think this is what she’s referring to but there were some very close substitutes, such as the one for Kepler-16b:

I don’t want to include too many spoilers as it’s something that should be explored first-hand really. But it was a slightly odd mix of movie museum and space-LARP. It worked though. There were bits of narration from the ship’s computer (not Norman Lovett…boo!) as we went through and some interactive screens which told us stuff like Eva was pretty much a cyborg already so might as well get some bionic legs. They would have come in handy if those cars really had come much closer earlier on.

Both of us thought the best bit was exploring ice caves on an alien planet, which was pretty much safe. Eva claimed the atmosphere made her cough but I think she might have been method acting.

The whole thing probably took us around 40 minutes to get through. It might have been longer if we’d looked at everything more carefully and also, there were some activities that were occupied and Eva didn’t want to wait for them to come free. So we may well have spent longer in there in different circumstances.

It was good timing though, cause the boys had just finished at Star Wars and had walked up to meet us, booking their free entry tickets on the way. We spotted them from above and thoroughly confused them before by calling down to them. It was Roo who figured it out first.

I think they had a good time at their exhibition. Again, it had taken less time than the website had suggested and I think they walked through twice. But then they didn’t go for the added extras like the VR experience. They did get some good photos though, which I’m going to share with you without much context cause…yknow…I wasn’t there.

Once we were reunited, we wandered through the very familiar ground-floor Space room and up to “Who Am I?” on the first floor. There, Reuben made sure to leave his mark:

Eva and I hung out at Pattern Pod for a bit, which she is definitely too old for but it was gone 5PM by this point and there weren’t too many toddlers for her to step on. Besides, this disco cave never gets old:

Then it was time for some Five Guys fries (where else?) and a long tube journey home. But it was a fun afternoon out. As Eva said of the exhibition – “Cool. 10/10. Would visit again”

Can’t ask for more than that, right?

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