Hello and welcome back to Project Indigo! Today we are travelling back in time to New Year’s Eve 2015 – not to Wales this time but Cambridgeshire. We are vising Classic Doctor Who filming location Grantchester where The Fourth Doctor and Romana 2 materialised the TARDIS in the episode Shada (1979, released 1992). You may have noticed that there is quite a few years between the filming and the release. That is because there was a big BBC Union strike when Shada was being filmed which left many scenes of the episode unfinished. It was eventually released on video in 1992 with Tom Baker narrating what was going on in the gaps!
Grantchester is a village just outside Cambridge and is said to have one of the highest concentration per person of Nobel Prize Winners! This is due to the number of residents who went to or worked at Cambridge University. In Shada, the Doctor and Romana were at Cambridge University to visit Professor Chronotis, a retired Time Lord. Whilst they were there Skagra called upon Professor Chronotis to interrogate him and find the whereabouts of the lost planet of Shada. It was in Grantchester Meadows that Skagra concealed his 100m long invisible spaceship and captured Romana, K9 and a student, Chris Parsons.
No sign of anyone dressed for a disco!
I can’t see the red carpet. How will I find the spaceship?
What if the TARDIS is lost in time?
It may not have been sunny when the Doctor and Romana were there, but it was surprisingly sunny when I visited, however it was quite cold. It was the middle of winter and very early in the morning. The village was like a ghost town, I expect everyone was still in bed saving their energy to make it to midnight and see in 2016. Sadly I didn’t see anyone dressed like Skagra – in a white and silver whatever that is! He was definitely dressed for a disco. On the High Street I saw The Green Man pub and its neighbour The Red Lion which Skagra drove past. I explored the village and the meadows which are just behind the village on the banks of the River Cam. This area was the inspiration for the Pink Floyd song Grantchester Meadows on the album Ummagumma. I have just had a listen and it is very calm and soothing, and can double up as a lullaby.
Did you see a man drive past in a silver costume?
I’m sure Skagra passed here!
Skagra must be here somewhere. Where did he go?
Grantchester is also the filming location for the ITV Series Grantchester. This is based on the books The Grantchester Mysteries by James Runcie featuring Sidney Chambers, a vicar who is also a detective. James Norton plays Sidney, Robson Green plays Geordie and Morven Christie plays Amanda. Two of the main stars have also been in Doctor Who – both in underwater episodes. Isn’t that a coincidence? James Norton played Onegin a Russian Soldier on the submarine The Firebird in the episode Cold War (2013) and Morvern Christie played O’Donnell in Under the Lake (2015) set on The Drum, an underwater mining base.
Thank you very much to Doctor Who The Locations Guide for helping me to find this filming location. I hope you have enjoyed reading about Grantchester. This summer I will be taking my TARDIS to Kent and seeing what the Doctor has got up to there. If there are any places you would like me to visit please leave a comment and let me know.
Ciao! Welcome to Fifteenth Century Italy – otherwise known as Portmeirion in July 2015! We are travelling back in time to last summer to visit North Wales for the filming location of the Tom Baker Doctor Who episode The Masque of Mandragora (1976).
In this classic episode, The Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane materialise the TARDIS in an orange grove on Earth in the 15th Century, which the Doctor describes as
‘not a pleasant time’.
They are in San Martino, Italy in 1492 and have brought a piece of energy from the Mandragora Helix with them by accident! This story is a historical drama which was rare for Doctor Who at that time.
Portmeirion is located in area of Wales called Gwynedd and is near Porthmadog. It was designed and built by the architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the style of an Italian village, and it is now a tourist village. Work started in 1925 and it took 50 years for him to build this village but it was finished just before he died. He built it to show how you can develop a naturally beautiful site without ruining it. If you would like to find out more about the history of Portmeirion please check out this excellent blog post A Very Brief History of Portmeirion Village.
I’m glad he’s holding that up! This is Hercules.
Outside the Unicorn House! Where are the rainbows?
Proof it was sunny when I was there!
Another view of the Unicorn House
Apart from Doctor Who, Portmeirion has served as the location for many films and television shows, and is very well known as the filming location for the 1960s television show The Prisoner. It is also famous for pottery – in fact my own plates are made by Portmeirion Pottery from the Botanic Garden range .
The Prisoner was filmed in Portmeirion
The house of Number 6 in The Prisoner
I visited Portmeirion during my Welsh road-trip of 2015 and it was my first Northern Wales stop – the weather was very sunny which showed off the colours of Portmeirion and it looked very cheerful.
This doesn’t look like Wales – where am I?
Well this view is even better!
In The Masque of Mandragora DVD extra ‘Secret of the Labyrinth’ (the original name for this episode) the episode Producer Philip Hinchcliffe said that he had been to Portmeirion many years before and that the writer Louis Marks had studied Renaissance Italy at Oxford. They couldn’t go abroad to film this episode but Portmeirion stepped up!
Production Manager Chris D’Oyly-John thought it was good news that they had a location but a lot of time and money was spent travelling back and forth between London and North Wales. With travelling the shoot would take 5 or 6 days and there were no motorways. It was hard to get horses, props, costumes and make-up vans there.
To keep it looking like 15th Century Italy the Director Rodney Bennett did very selective shooting and not many panoramic movements. He used the Italianate backgrounds and covered up bits that didn’t look right for the period. A fake catacomb entrance was made to link the studio scenes with Portmeirion.
There is also a DVD extra, produced by Richard Bignell, called Now and Then. It says that in a memo, written on 03.01.76, Philip Hinchcliffe said:
‘The only suitable location for exterior location filming is Portmeirion in North Wales’.
Filming started on the 3rd of May 1976 and lasted three days. In three months it will be the 40th Anniversary!
The DVD extra shows us a map the places that were used for filming. I didn’t get to visit the woods but I visited everywhere else in the village.
The Bridge House. You are welcome to enter Portmeirion.
Outside the Pantheon
The first stop was the Bridge House which was used as the City Gate when Count Federico returns to San Martino. He also passes the Pantheon.
The Doctor fled the soldiers in the market here
Look out for the soldiers!
The Bell Tower above Battery Square
Where’s my lunch?
Battery Square was used for the market scene when the Doctor was on the run from the soldiers. Hangings were used to hide the bits that didn’t look suitable. There was no market when I was there, it was all set.
Who just ran past here?
The Loggia with the hidden Buddha
Hello Mr Buddha, do you know your way around here?
Have you seen the Doctor anywhere?
The Doctor passes The Loggia which houses a big Golden Buddha.
This is on the way to The Temple of Demnos
The Bristol Colonnade
Enjoying the sun in front of the Bristol Colonnade
The Doctor, Sarah Jane and Giuliano scurry along the Bristol Colonnade on their way to the Temple Ruins.
No executions today!
A side view of the Gloriette
See, it was all a façade! The back of the Gloriette.
In the Piazza there is a gloriette facing the ornamental pond. The Doctor is brought there to be executed but luckily tricked the executor to get away. It’s not a real building, it is just a façade. Rugs covered the iron work in the same way the hangings were used.
The Doctor jumped over the balustrade
Did you see the Doctor on horseback?
Outside Hercules Hall
Inside Hercules Hall – you can get married here!
Where is the Doctor’s horse? This is the road to Hercules Hall
The Doctor rode a horse past the Hercules Hall and jumps the balustrade and steps on his way to the woodlands.
Between Neptune and Trinity Cottages, the Doctor is chased, past the Watchhouse and Belltower down towards the beach.
Clough Williams-Ellis liked the look of the ruins Temple of Demnos and asked the BBC to leave them. Sadly they were made of polystyrene!
‘…..we know it’s Portmeirion, but actually when you are watching it I don’t think that distracts, I don’t think it gets in the way at all. I’m absolutely convinced they went to Italy as far as I’m concerned’
which proves that Portmeirion was the most convincing place to film The Masque of Mandragora!
Portmeirion is a calm, tranquil and cool place to visit and is worth the travel. My favourite part was paddling in the pool in the Piazza – I was lucky that it was sunny that day because it is Wales which is a very rainy country. I hope that it will be bright for you too if you go.
In other news, I am VERY peeved about the latest Doctor Who news – Steven Moffat is quitting and there will be no new series to watch in 2016! I guess I will just have to watch some old episodes instead – there are lots for me to watch still so at least I have that to look forward to. What do you think of this news? Please leave a comment and let me know.
Thank you for reading my post, I have another classic location to tell you about next.
My FAVOURITEway to spend a sunny day outside is go to places where they have filmed Doctor Who of course! So on a beautiful sunny bank holiday weekend I went to Athelhampton House and Gardens, location of The Seeds of Doom (1976).
The Seeds of Doom features The Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane and Athelhampton is used as the house of eccentric millionaire Harrison Chase. He has a seed pod found in the arctic permafrost which contains a Krynoid…. OF DOOM. The Doctor and his companion must stop Harrison and the carnivorous Krynoid from destroying the world.
In the 8 years of my life, this is only the second time I have visited Athelhampton. I used the chameleon circuit to disguise my TARDIS as a car and parked in the car park which was very busy because there was a plant sale. It is lucky there were no Krynoid pods for sale so I didn’t have to worry about fighting plants! First I explored the surprising gardens, one called The Great Court had pyramid shaped yew trees! There were spitting fountains and a huge pond – I couldn’t see any fish but I did see pond weed and pond snails. I took a walk along the River Piddle and was very glad it was made of water! I then entered the whiffy Dovecote which was quite dark, cool and a bit smelly because it was full of doves.
Next I visited the house which was built in the 15th century – you can’t look in every room because people live there. It was quite dark inside and I had to be patient on the stairs as there were a lot of other visitors. Everything was very old but I felt very welcome there. On the top floor there were paintings made by Marevna who was an artist who once lived at Athelhampton. My favourite was one with a man and a goat – look out for it if you go there.
I left via the gift shop where you can buy Doctor Who stuff and all that jazz and I bought the book The Seeds of Doom and The Deadly Assassin. The receptionist was very kind and said that I should read John Challis’ autobiography if I want to find out more about the filming at Athelhampton as he played Scorby in the episode.
Athelhampton was also the location for ‘From Time to Time’ (2009) and ‘Sleuth’ (1972). I hope you keep enjoying the locations in this blog – which location do you think I should do next? Have you been anywhere that Doctor Who has been filmed? Please leave a comment with your answer to these questions, I would love to hear from you.