SFX Blogger Will Salmon goes on a tourist excursion round the Doctor Who delights of South Wales
Cardiff and Doctor Who . They go together like egg and chips. Steed and Peel. John and Edward. The show has left its mark everywhere in the city, from the mouldering old exhibition, to a hidden wall on a council estate. And now Brit Movie Tours has launched a new four-hour guided tour so that fans can see the sights for themselves. When the opportunity came for SFX (in the form of myself and reviews overlord Ian) to take the tour, we jumped at the chance.
First on the agenda was a stroll around the city centre, taking in locations such as the shopping centre from “Rose” and a poke around the church where Donna didn’t get married. After checking out Howell’s department store, we hopped back on the bus and set off for the Powell Estate circa 1987 – or rather the Cardiff's Butetown.
Parking up on the very spot where the TARDIS landed in “Father’s Day”, we shed a tear for poor Pete Tyler and then dashed across a playing field to stare at a crumbling wall where ghostly traces of the words “Bad Wolf” can still be seen. Quite what the locals made of us is anyone’s guess, but in my mind I could hear the voice of that old lady from Torchwood season two: “Bloody fanboys!”
Next up, the heartland of New Who locations: the Cardiff Millennium Centre. Used in “Dalek”, “The Sound Of Drums” and, of course, as the exterior of the Torchwood Hub, it’s a beautiful building. We ducked inside to see the stairs where John Simm made his taunting, “What this country really needs, right now, is a Doctor,” speech, and posed for photos on the spot of Ianto’s invisible lift.
Ah, Ianto. There’s an elephant in the room when it comes to discussing Doctor Who locations in Cardiff. Take a stroll down to the bay and you may well stumble across a wall plastered with photographs, drawings and tributes to everyone’s favourite deceased tea-boy. The Ianto shrine.
Now, I’m an open-minded guy. Fandom is a haven of boundless creative energy, and the Ianto shrine is just another iteration of that. But it’s also the single maddest thing I have witnessed. And it’s enormous! The photo I took couldn’t fit it all in! Tourists were stopping in horror, trying to work out what terrible human tragedy had taken place. To make matters worse, I accidentally set my camera to black and white, giving the photo I took all the harrowing air of a BBC4 war-time documentary.
We ticked off a few more inner-city locations – Captain Jack’s childhood home on the Boeshane Peninsula; Bannerman Road; a from-a-distance peak at the new BBC Drama Village – and hopped back on the bus to begin the journey to the ’Diff's outer reaches...
First up was St Fagans, where best-ever Who story “Human Nature” was filmed. Even without the Gallifreyan connection, it’s a lovely place to visit and wander around, featuring sheep, trees and amazing reconstructed Celtic houses. There’s even a little shop.
From there we ventured further out to Llandaff, better known these days as Amy's sleepy village of Leadworth. There is no duck pond. One fan got to play the Doctor in a re-enactment of a scene from “The Eleventh Hour”, and everyone took a moment to stare at the sky and imagine the Atraxi ships baring down on us. Yes, we really did. After the obligatory photos had been taken, we boarded the bus and headed back to Cardiff, our four-hour journey almost complete. Only a traffic jam and a curtailed visit to the Temple Of Peace awaited us.
So, a fun day – but the best bit had nothing to do with the locations. Tour guide Helen had brought a gift with her: gingerbread versions of each of the Doctors. Ian went for Patrick Troughton, and being a child of the New Adventures, I chose McCoy – who appeared to be sporting a comb-over. As an added treat we were both given bonus naked Colin Bakers. Now that's a sentence I never thought I would ever type.
You can book tickets for the very enjoyable Doctor Who tour at http://britmovietours.com/bookings/doctor-who-tour-of-locations .
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