It was ten years ago today that director Keith Boak
first called "Action!"
to commence filming on a new series for a long-running, award-winning television programme that hadn't been in front of cameras in the United Kingdom for almost fifteen years. With Doctor Who
having been confined for many years within literature, audio and online adventures - and one US-based TV movie pilot that had failed to lead to anything further - it wasn't difficult for many fans to feel that the show would never return to full production, even with the assurances from the BBC since 2003 that it would indeed be coming back to television soon - seeing would be believing...
Considering the intense media coverage of the casting of the new Doctor and his companion, filming itself started with minimal fanfare. Its new star Christopher Eccleston
was hidden away in the depths of the Cardiff Royal Infirmary out of sight of public scrutiny; however, fandom ensured that even such an inauspicious beginning would be marked, and reports were soon appearing on Doctor Who News
(in its earlier, "Outpost Gallifrey"
incarnation!) documenting anything and everything to be witnessed from "Day One" ...
After looking at the streets listed as this week's locations on the news page, I popped in to the Cardiff Visitor Centre, in Working Street. I figured there was no harm in asking whether or not they could confirm that Doctor Who was going to be filmed outside their premises and, sure enough, not only are the crew using the street, they're using the visitor centre itself as a location, together with the pub next door (Toad @ the Exhibition).
The two premises are part of the same building - the old city library - and are being used as a police station. I went into the Toad for lunch (not bad and reasonably priced!) and got chatting to the girls behind the bar. They're getting ready to let the Doctor Who crew use half the pub on Tuesday night from 7pm (the rest will be open to the public) and are quite excited about the prospect.
From there I walked out to the old Cardiff Royal Infirmary, which is a wonderfully ramshackle example of gothic decay - a great location! In the area at the front of the building was a group of about eight or ten extras, dressed as soldiers - camouflage gear, red berets and heavy rifles - together with one man dressed in a smart military uniform, with a cap (from the military police vehicle I spotted later, I would guess they might be 'Redcaps' but I didn't recognise the insignia on the berets, which was sort-of T-shaped metal badge - perhaps a figure with arms outstretched?).
There were various film crew types wandering about and an awful lot of lighting/equipment vans and other lorries. Circling the site, there were lots of temporary 'BBC Wales' signs and I asked one of the chaps what was going on (I'm sure my pretence of 'not being all that interested' didn't fool him for a moment!) and he said: "It's the first day of filming on the new series of Doctor Who."
Back round at the front of the building, some set dressing was going on at the hospital gates - a big 'metal' arch, painted black, with 'ALBION HOSPITAL' in gold letters, which were being dirtied down. From the safety of the other side of the road I watched for a while (I was desperate not to run the slightest risk of getting in the way or annoying anyone and it's a very public place, so what the hey?) then went off to the cinema for a couple of hours.
When the film was over I couldn't resist popping back for another look! By this time (around 4pm) there were a handful of police vehicles (basic markings - stripes and lettering, blank insignia - so not a specific force, apart from one that had 'MILITARY POLICE' on its bonnet. Maybe extra decals will be added later?) and the armoured car. Round the back of the infirmary were four extras, dressed as police wearing tactical gear (black combat stuff).
Photos by Dave Shuttleworth
I managed to position myself surreptitiously near the main gates to the Hospital (renamed Albion Hospital) where a scene with a reporter was being rehearsed/filmed. I saw the material being played back on DV Playback equipment (thus ending the film/DV argument, I guess) and it consisted of the reporter uttering dialogue indicating that "Nobody is confirming if the body is alive or dead. Whitehall are saying nothing. The body has been brought here to Albion Hospital, the nearest hospital to the river. The roads are closed, the hospital has been evacuated." There was some reference to a General Asquith, the body being human or alien and then the roads were closed again as a scene of a military police car and an ambulance driving through the gates was recorded. The general area was 'decorated' with London-style bus stops, one of which, I noticed as I walked right past it, was bearing a London street map the familiar red circle-style London Underground symbol.
The area was literally packed with people - technicians, production crew etc, presumably Keith Boak directing from the concourse area inside the gates. There were loads of black-clad police officers brandishing machine guns, the tank had been moved nearer the gates and there were quite a few other vehicles and extras in military uniform. I caught a quick glimpse of the script in the hands of one technician and while I couldn't get close enough to have a good look I could clearly see dialogue and reference to one character speaking - Jackie.
Photos by Rob Stradling
The scenes above were ultimately for Aliens of London
, but a couple of days later the media finally caught up on events with widespread coverage of filming outside Howell's Department Store and Queen's Arcade in the town centre for Rose
, including BBC News coverage live from outside the store, and more fans gathering to catch a glimpse of "their" show coming back to life for the 21st Century ...
The Autons are back! After reading the tip-offs on Outpost Gallifrey (thanks), I travelled the 150 miles to Cardiff yesterday (Tues 20th July) with my 6-year-old daughter, Emma, in the hope of experiencing a bit of the magic of Dr Who's return. We found the Working Street/St. John Street location quite easily, and wandered past the production team vans at 5.30pm. Emma was delighted to spot a familiar group of shop-dummy props in the back of one of the trucks, clearly indicating the return of the Autons! The street was then dressed to resemble 1950s(?) London; props were positioned: a red telephone box, Underground sign, red post box, London bus stop, gaslamps, two industrial metal dustbins and an Evening Standard headline display announcing "Proper rigmarole" (a la Web Of Fear). The sign of the "Sneakers" sports shoe shop was removed and replaced with a fictional "Classic Bride" pink shopfront. Wedding gowns arrived for the dummies as well as "C.B." logo stickers for the shop windows. We were excited to realise that it would be the scene of an Auton breakout, as glaziers arrived to fit temporary glass windows! The exterior of the Toad @ The Exhibition pub was transformed into a police station, with new signs, an information board and a blue "police" lamp. We had followed two traditional 1950s-style London buses from the motorway into Cardiff earlier in the afternoon and were amazed to see them turn up in the Dr. Who street. In fact there was a range of vehicles: fire engine, Royal Mail lorry, Evening Standard van, two black London taxis and the two buses. We tried to keep out of the way and were allowed to wander up and down the street until after 8pm. A few of the workers spoke to us in a friendly manner, and no-one asked us to move away. As darkness fell, the area was closed off by the Police with "do not cross" tape, and some extras dressed as firemen arrived. We heard a few rehearsals and shouts of "Quiet please!" as some minor scenes were filmed. Since it was now 9.30 pm and it seemed likely that the main filming would not take place until the middle of the night, we left. We returned at 5am this morning, however, as dawn was breaking to find the clear-up in full swing. Significantly, there was shattered glass all over the pavement in front of the "Classic Bride" shop, and we watched as the props were systematically removed (all the vehicles had already gone). The Auton shop dummies were piled up in the street and then all props were put back into the trucks. Emma had a fantastic time - Dr Who is definitely back!
Photos by Gareth Price
Just got back from Cardiff city centre. I stayed for about half an hour from 10 pm on. ... When I was there, they were filming outside the entrance to Queen's Arcade using it as the entrance to a shopping centre. Again, it had been dressed to look like London, with an Underground sign by the entrance. It had also been prettified a bit with a couple of new, small iron lamp posts, but otherwise they didn't seem to have changed any of the shop fronts... There were assorted vehicles about the area, including two red London buses (the Routemaster type - one was route 74 to Putney Heath for those who really like their details), a couple of black cabs, an Evening Standard van, post van, and what seemed to be a small fire engine. Plus a massive crane to light the scene. RTD was in attendance and they were filming a couple of scenes with a female actress, who was wearing blue trackie bottoms with what looked like Adidas stripes, a pink top/jumper and a blue denim jacket. She was also carrying a blue, sequined denim handbag, a mobile phone and a white A4 piece of paper/envelope. The scene consisted of the actress (likely NOT Billie Piper) walking across the road talking on her mobile, while a couple of the vehicles drove past and the best part of a dozen normally dressed extras carrying shopping bags milled about. I could hear most of the dialogue, and following a line about where are you, she was talking to somebody she referred to as darling (boyfriend). As best I can remember the dialogue it was "I can't hear you, the signal's breaking up. I'm just going to do some late night shopping." Gripping, huh? A second scene was quickly rehearsed where the same actress ran back out of the shopping centre followed by a tightly packed group of the same extras marching oddly. I have a suspicion that this might have been put on for the benefit of the audience though as the crew then broke for a meal without filming it. Hope that keeps your appetites whetted.
Ten years on, and as filming continues apace on Peter Capaldi
's first series there has been no diminishing of fan and media interest in the development of the show, and modern social media services such as Twitter now provide a rich source of both fan and public experiences of the Doctor Who
production out and about. The new Doctor's willingness to pose for photos with the public between takes has led to widespread interest whenever they are on the streets - yesterday being no exception when the TARDIS and its usual occupants were spotted on Queen Street, Cardiff during the morning (and duly featured by the Daily Mail
). With the expectation of London featuring prominently for filming next week, the popularity of production will no doubt continue unabated (filming last took place in the capital for the 50th Anniversary special, The Day of The Doctor
, and Trafalgar Square was 'besieged' by spectators!).