Monday 19 July 2010

The Tour Of Doom

This is one of my delayed entires.

I should have posted this at least a week back, but due to my vertigo attack, I was unable to finish writing it. Here it is at last.
Here is the list of my week:
So, it was the 24th of June, and day two of my week of who events. this time taking me on a guided tour of the Cardiff locations used in the new series.

The tour is organized by Brit Movie Tours, who also do a number of Harry Potter, James Bond, Da Vinci Code and Notting Hill events too.

Today’s tour kicked off nice and early at 8.30am, meeting at the police box on Earls Court Road, just outside Earls Court station (see right).
We all needed to be there 15 minutes before the tour started, and since I was coming across London, I set out nice and early, aiming to get there for 8am.
All went to plan and I was there on schedule.

I wasn’t sure about how many would be on the tour - the last thing I wanted was to be the only one - on a spacious taxi ride to wales!
The tour guide, Celia, arrived just before 8.15am and I found there was a good dozen booked on, so that was a relief.

The tour bus was due to meet us at 8.30am just round the corner, however the driver seemed to be running a bit late.
Celia made her appologies and we stood sound chatting while we waited, and waited, and waited.
I did find out a bit more about the other tours they run, and how they hope to expand their repotoir in future.

Eventually, just before 9am the bus arrived (see left). We pilled on board and we were off.

The coach was comfortable and had onboard DVD, so are a quick vote we chose to watch Army Of Ghosts.

We heading out onto the M4 and saw some of the traffic heading in the other direction that had delayed the coach for it’s pick up.

The first location we saw was Donna Nobel’s house on the corner of Nant-Fawr Road and Pendraw Place.  We stopped briefly to get a picture or two, but as it was a private house, we didn’t stick around too long out of respect to the owners.

It looked pretty much exactly as it was seen on screen, though a hedge had been removed from the font since filming.

From there we went to Magpie’s Electricals, which is a small shopmon then corner of Blenheim Road and Kimberely Road.

It looked very different from how it looked on screen, as it had been painted black, whereas it is actually white.

The street had been chosen for its red-brick houses to fit the location manager's brief to match Muswell Hill in London.

We then drove onto the Glamorgan Building which had been used in Victory Of The Daleks as the exterior of Whitehall where a Dalek is tested on the roof.

Further down the same road was the Temple Of Peace which had been used as the temple in Fires Of Pompeii; Platform One in The End Of The World; it also was the council building in Boom Town; in Gridlock it was the Senate Building of New New York. It has also been used in series five and Sarah Jane Adventures Series three.

Since we were now 45 minutes behind schedule (due to our late start) we didn’t get the chance to get out and take a closer look, which was a pity since so many episodes were covered.

Driving on we passed the Millennium Stadium, used so numerously in Doctor Who it’s not funny! Again, no time to stop.

Stopping off in central Cardiff, we went to see the Howells department store, where Rose worked when it was redressed as Henrik’s. It popped up again in The Runaway Bride, and the street it is on, St Mary’s Street, appeared in Planet Of The Dead, as well as a number of Torchwood episodes.

A short walk from there is St John’s Church on St John Street.. This was where Donna Noble was about to marry Lance before she was spirited away to The Doctor's TARDIS at the beginning of The Runaway Bride.

Apparently the church weren't too happy at the end if the filming. They felt they weren't paid enough and the BBC did some damage to some of the flagstones in the church. As a result we had to be a bit quick – just in and out – in case we were spotted as Doctor Who fans!

We then drove on to Cardiff bay to see a variety of locations, all one after the other. First was the building used in The Runaway Bride where Donna works as a temp. The Atradius building doubled for the Clements offices and it is possible to see from street level the stair case that Donaa chases Lance down.

As we walked to the next location, we passed the Waterguard Pub (see right).

Our guide walked straight past it, but I held back as I recognized the outside as a location used in the Torchwood episode Adam, where it appeared as the exterior of Captain Jack’s family home as seen in the flashbacks (see below). I recall seeing behind the scenes footage of it being shot, and the crew explaining how they had barely a single wall, from which they created a whole environment using CGI – and how it was just the outside wall of a pub!

I asked if she knew if I was right, but she was not sure, but volunteered that the interior had appeared in The Runaway Bride.
I was a bit disappointed that I had to challenge the guide as to if this was a location, especially since we walked right by it. Anyway.

It’s then a short walk to the Senedd building, the lobby of which was used as the Lazarus Institute in The Lazaras Experiment. It’s striking wooden canopy also pops up in the background of scenes in Torchwood: Children Of Earth.

Walking down to the harbour side, we then saw where the entrance to Torchwood Cardiff is located. I say see, but it was near impossible as the entire wall had been turned into a shrine to Ianto Jones, a character who dies during The Children Of Earth story in 2009.

I secretly became a little annoyed our guide, as she had a real downer on Ianto, repeatedly say he was “just the butler”. She totally dismissed his contribution to the dynamic of the series, and the place that many had for him in their hearts, explicit proof of which adorned the wall we were stand besides.

All manner of tributes were coveting every square inch of space. One I noticed was from Beans On Toast, the French Doctor Who fan club (see above, top left), some of whom I will be meeting in less than 72 hours time.......

We then broke for lunch and went to the Bosphorus Turkish Restaurant on the Barbour front (see right). It had been seen in Boom Town, where The Doctor, Rose, Mickey and Captain Jack have a meal, before discovering that Margaret (the Slitheen) is back in town.

We had a large table for twelve across the back window, a few feet from where the TARDIS crew had eaten theirs (see left).

Our tour guide recommended a starter of fill pastry parcels with a feta cheese and dill filling, which most of us had and throughly enjoyed. I had a main with lamb, which too was good.

We were told that the restaurant also appeared later in the episode where The Doctor takes Margaret for her last supper. I have later found that this is wrong, and it was in fact Bistro 10 (now Bellinis) on Mermaid Quay.

After lunch, we further explored Cardiff Bay, en route pointing out a very expensive hotel on the other side of the bay (see below) where the series guest stars stay when they are in town, just next to a block of flats where I gather Russell T Davies used to live, as well as David Tennant.

We passed Ba Orient, the outside of which is briefly seen in Boom Town during the earthquake scenes, but the inside of which is more totable for being in New Earth.
This was where Chip goes back in time to see his Lady Cassandra before he extensive plastic surgery.

Walking on we arrived at the Millennium Centre, the outside wall of which is instantly recognisable to viewers of Torchwood, as it is often seen in the background.
The wording on the front is a curious mix of Welsh and English. It reads: CREU GWIR FEL GWYDR O FFWRNAIS AWEN / IN THESE STONES HORIZONS SING. The Welsh is not a straight translation of the English, instead it means: Creating truth like glass from inspiration’s furnace.

The main Plass was a bit disappointing on the day, as the stainless steel obelisk (see left), usually seen streaming with water, was totally dry and covered in colourful strawberry decals publicising a local event.

Also the main square was being prepared for the centrepiece event of Armed Forces Day, which was due to be held a couple of days later. This meant we were dodging the crew setting up the equipment so we could get close to the locations.

Looking at screen grabs from the episodes, the ground around the obelisk has changed a fair bit since filming, with some wooden decking no longer there and the famous step which is the secret entrance to The Hub no looking as tall as it did on screen.

The outside of the Millennium Centre (see right, top) also briefly features in Vincent And The Doctor, when it doubled for the exterior (abet heavily reworked with CGI) of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris (see right, bottom).

We then had the chance to go around the permanent Cardiff Doctor Who Close-up Exhibition.

It’s not that big a exhibition, around the size of the Manchester or Land’s End ones I have been too. I recognised a lot of display items from the Earl’s Court exhibition from a few years back.
You can see all the pictures I took of this, and some of the other exhibitions I have attended, by clicking on the links below.

Once we had all had a good chance to look around the exhibition, we regrouped and returned to the bus to head on to the next location, which was Canel Park in Butetown.

This was seen in a number of episodes, including The Parting Of The Ways where Rose sees the Bad Wolf graffiti (see below, the now faded graffiti and the as seen); Army Of Ghosts, where The Doctor captures a ghost in the playground (see left, top); New Earth, where Mickey & Jackie see Rose off on her travels (see left, bottom); in the Torchwood episode Adam, where Adam follows Captain Jack; and in Children Of Earth, where Gwen has a secret meeting on a park bench.

Just next to the Park, is a small housing estate with a couple of tower blocks. Although the Brandon estate in Kennington was the main location, this was used a lot for scenes on Rose’s estate.

It was here on the corner of the road where Pete Tyler was knocked down and killed (or saved by his future daughter, depending on your time-line) in Father’s Day (see right, top); a small community centre was re-dressed as a fish and chip shop in The Parting Of The Ways (see right, centre); and in the same episode, it is here that the TARDIS is sent to die before Rose rips the console open with Mickey’s help (see right, bottom).

I have to say I was pleased to looking around as part of a pack, and back on the bus before too long. There were a number of youths hanging around and I felt a bit out of place!

Our next location was the Parish of St Paul’s on Paget Street, Grangetown.
This was the main church location for Father’s Day, and the tour organisers had sought special permission for us to go inside as the church is usually locked.
When we arrived the church warden was waiting for us and we were taken straight in to look around.

We saw the main knave; the vestry where a couple of scenes were shot; and the pulpit, from where the Doctor addresses everyone to keep their sprits up.

(I’ll add some photos of this soon).

We then headed out to see the village of Llandaff, which had been used as Leadworth, the sleepy home village of Amy Pond in The Eleventh Hour.
As well as being notable for being Leadworth, the village had actually appeared several times before in two part story Human Nature and The Family Of Blood. The cathedral was used as the school dormitory; John and Joan get married at the cathedral; and the cathedral green was used for the war memorial service.

We walked down the steep path to the cathedral, where the Doctor tries to keep up with a bitter and twisted Amy Pond . . . .

We had lots of time to wander round and see many of the locations used for the story.

This brought the tour to a conclusion, and we were back on the bus and heading home. En route we watched the first ever episode from 1963, An Unearthly Child.
Then we all took part in a quiz. Prizes were on offer, and since I apparently had been gaining a bit of reputation during the day, I could hardly not make a good effort to answer the questions. Some of them were quite cryptic, others more straightforward.
It was an obvious result, but I breezed through to take first prize, a miniature die cast TARDIS and Dalek Sec.

When we set out first thing in the morning, we were told we should be back at Earl‘s Court by 6.30 or 7pm. With all the delays and hold ups during the day, it was closer to 9pm before we saw the welcoming sight of the Earl’s Court Police Box . . . .  I so wished I could just nip inside and dematerialise to get home quicker, but it wasn’t to be!


  1. I didn't know about Brit Movie Tours. Thanks to your precious info, I booked the Cardiff tour and I took it (4 weeks ago)! This year the tour was a little bit different from the one you described (and they all start from Cardiff, not from London)... Anyway, it was brilliant! Me and my friends had a lot of fun!

  2. OMG! The centre picture of some of the Ianto shines (R.I.P Ianto one) is the one I made! this made me soo happy to see it here! Thanks for taking a photo of it :)
    Kat x


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