Outpost Gallifrey tonight has an exclusive, detailed set report from the Monmouth filming location from last evening (21 September) into early this morning, along with a large collection of pictures from behind-the-scenes. The report is by Roger Anderson of the Cuttings Archive, photos by Anderson and Harrison Jase. Click each photo for a larger version; click on the spoiler tag to read the set report (which does have spoilers in it!) (Thanks to Roger Anderson, Harrison Jase)
Set Report - Doctor Who Filming in Monmouth, Wales between 6pm 21st September and 2am 22nd September 2004
Filming in Monmouth took place on Tuesday night and the early hours of Wednesday morning in Beaufort Arms Court in the centre of the town. There was also a small sequence due to be shot just around the corner outside the Punch House bar in Agincourt Square.
The story in question, part of the second block of filming, is set at Christmas 1869 and, as we all may know, includes the distinguished actor and Dickens expert Simon Callow in the cast as Dickens himself.
I arrived at around 8pm to find the crew well established in the car park directly behind the location shoot. The area of the shoot was cordoned off and many props, such as barrels, braziers and rather a lot of fake snow already in place. A giant crane towered above the scene, in place to shower the location with even more fake snow once filming had commenced. There were rumours of sightings of Billie Piper in makeup but sadly there was no sign of Billie whilst I was there.
Shortly after our arrival the final work was being done on dressing the area, with 20th Century telephone boxes camouflaged under sacking and a large horse trough with a fake water pump carried out into Beaufort Arms Court.
It was noticeable that the crew and security people were quite jumpy about flash photography and they became more so as camera rehearsals commenced. This may well be the result of their reportedly having to re-mount/re-shoot scenes in Swansea during the preceding night shoots as a result of press cameras being used with large flash guns. Certainly one of the production staff later told me that one of the main differences between this and any other production sheÆs worked on was the number of ôpaparazziö and the intrusive interest of the press wherever they go. I hasten to add that almost all the footage I took was on a video camera with stills being grabbed from this so no need for flash photography on my part. I would urge any other fans visiting the set to do the same or risk being jumped on by security and also ruining the shooting of scenes.
There were two vantage points where filming could be glimpsed, although with difficulty; one being our initial location at the far end of Agincourt Square. From here I could see through a large door into Beaufort Arms Court itself but the site of the actual shoot was, I discovered, pretty much obscured. This was even more the case when the crew cleared onlookers away from the side of the Punch House and strung up black material to hide the road and any passing traffic.
The area I then moved to was at the other end of Beaufort Arms Court where I could see various prop carts and much of the crew and camera equipment but again little of what was going on. However, it was here that I stayed for the rest of the night and later managed to get some good shots of one of the scenes and Eccleston and Callow waiting together in the wings for their scenes.
The first scene that was filmed involved an old woman, dressed in black who uttered a blood curdling moan further down the Court, where the action was out of view, then advanced on the camera as it pulled back and then stared straight into a close-up shot. The woman was, we guessed, probably possessed by some alien æmonsterÆ, rumoured to be creatures called the Geith (sp?) who inhabit gas, and was wearing a set of contact lenses that made her eyes look white and dead. The scene looked quite chilling despite the fact I could see all the accoutrements of filming and TV production.
In comparison to my earlier visit to Cardiff in July to see shooting on block one there seemed to be fewer takes and the pace of filming appeared far quicker. Why this is I cannot speculate.
During the course of filming this scene two of the stars of the story arrived in costume; Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor) and Simon Callow (Charles Dickens). Callow looked particularly distinguished in his period clothes and cape and this was a good chance to see the actors close up. Eccleston seemed very relaxed and happy to chat and joke with Callow and the crew, even winking at the odd onlooker. At one point he beamed and waved at someone further up Beaufort Arms Court.
I saw nothing of the next scene but it seemed to involve Callow and Eccleston and, judging by the sound of a door knocker, someone knocking on the door of the house at the far end of the Court. I later discovered that this was dressed as ôSneed and Company, Undertakers of 7 Temperance Court Llandaffö. Interestingly, a quick trawl of the internet reveals that Llandaff (now a suburb of Cardiff) was host to some early experiments with gas in 1767 when the bishop of the diocese conveyed generated gas in tubes, made coke, and purified gas for burning. Whether this has any bearing on the story can only, at this point, be speculated on. Certainly by the time the story is set gas lighting had been installed in the area for some years but was still a æmodernÆ wonder of the time.
At one point I spotted Callow in costume, and deep in thought, striding up the back road behind me, and followed at a safe distance until he disappeared in to the cordoned area outside the Punch House.
By this point most people, including the remaining press photographers had left and the few spectators left were given a ænod and a winkÆ and allowed to stand inside the cordoned off area at the far end of Beaufort Arms Court. Here I had the privilege of watching camera rehearsals for the next scene which involved Simon Callow (Dickens) breathlessly opening the door of the Undertakers, slamming it behind him and running, seemingly for his life. It was fascinating to see the actor work himself into the scene as rehearsals went on and then faultlessly act the scene for the final take. His look of terror and superlative acting was something to behold!
The scene was also accompanied by verbal directions from an assistant director which proved very interesting indeed and perhaps can give us an insight into the nature of the scene. If my memory serves me correctly his words were: ôTheyÆre rising in the house, doing something to the door knocker, now theyÆre roaringö, the latter phrase being repeated a number of times. Certainly something so horrified Dickens, presumably the Geith or perhaps the possessed bodies of the dead, that he runs from the property in sheer terror.
Once this scene was æin the canÆ the crew took a break for ælunchÆ and the cameras and technical equipment were moved over to the area outside the Punch House. Given that it was by now very late indeed I prepared to go, but before leaving I had a chance to walk round the now silent set and take a few close up photos of the set, including an apparently genuine Victorian hearse parked near the entrance to Sneed and Company.
This ended a fascinating night watching the filming of what looks like a stunning and eerie new Doctor Who story and one I certainly look forward to viewing next year