As you may know, Doctor Who – the 21st century series – is produced by BBC Wales. My wife Tara and I thought it would be fun to draw up a list of some of the South Wales locations that the series has used and pay them a visit – have ourselves a Doctor Who holiday, the centrepiece of which would be a trip to the Up Close exhibition that’s currently running in Cardiff Bay’s Red Dragon Centre. So that’s what we did.
Armed with a wad of printed-out screenshots and a weekly bus/train pass, we set out from base camp each morning with two or three targets in mind, grabbing photos and video footage along the way that I’ll turn into a film when I’ve got some time going spare.
From shopping arcades and empty marketplaces to churches and coastal landscapes, we saw everything that we set out to (with the exception of the interior of Cardiff’s Temple of Peace, which was shut when we got there) – and enjoyed a few Cornettos along the way.
If you removed the cosmetic trappings of 2006, such as rubbish bins and parked cars, and covered the modern road surface in snow (as it was in the show), there’d be very little to give away that you weren’t, in fact, in Victorian Britain. Yet if you swing around 180 degrees, there’s a busy main road.
Dyffryn Gardens, on the outskirts of Cardiff, was well worth a visit too. This location, an Edwardian house in a lush green garden, was used in The Girl In The Fireplace, Steven Moffat’s story from the current series. With no one around except for a few gardeners, we tried recreating a few of my screenshots, with me standing in for the Doctor.
The best one is pictured, along with its on-screen counterpart. Suffice to say, I’m the guy at the bottom with the sunburnt and balding head.
The Doctor Who exhibition, which we visited on Tuesday, is smaller than last year’s Brighton Pier show in terms of floor space, but it’s carried across most of the exhibits and added a few new ones, including the 10th Doctor’s suit, dressing gown and pyjamas, the Sycorax leader from The Christmas Invasion, K-9 and a few more characters from The End Of The World.
Cassandra and the Face of Boe are there too (when we visited Brighton last summer, they were off display, presumably filming for series two), but the latter’s appearance is rather undignified – instead of floating in his tank, he’s stuck to a wall. Despite this little ‘humph’, and the Slitheen not farting like they did in Brighton – in fact, not farting at all – it was my favourite two hours of the week.
The danger of going to see a Doctor Who exhibition part-way through a series is that you’ll miss some goodies that aren’t on display yet. There are signs promising/warning that the Cybermen are on their way, and of course I’d like to see them.
The exhibition is reportedly on the move at the end of September. Destination: Merseyside’s Spaceport Centre. I feel that a combined Doctor Who / Beatles pilgrimage could be on the cards this autumn…