Doctor Who In London

Doctor Who In London

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In the next of our Literary Footprints 2017 posts, Robin Rowles talks about some of the London locations used in Doctor Who.

London and Doctor Who go hand in hand. The Tardis can travel through all time and space, yet any earth-based stories both in the classic and new series have tended to be set in, around or near London.

doctor who invasionsViewers with long memories, or access to BBC VHS/DVD releases know that Doctor Who started in London. The inaugural episode of ‘An Unearthly Child’, took place in Shoreditch in 1963, just before First Doctor William Hartnell sent the Tardis swirling back in time to the stone age. Over the next three episodes the Doctor and his companions save a local tribe from cold by showing them how to make fire, so humanity has reason to be grateful to the grumpy Gallifreyan.

The Doctor’s next adventure in London came in the 22nd century, those pesky Daleks have invaded earth, or at least the Home Counties, and plan to mine out the earth’s core, starting at Bedford! The ‘Dalek Invasion of Earth’ offers a tourist’s eye view of sixties London with tracking shots of the Albert Hall and memorial, the River Thames, Battersea power station, and even the chimes of Big Ben.

The Doctor returned to London in 1966, in ‘The War Machines’. A super computer called WOTAN, located in the Post Office tower, has decided that mankind is inefficient and surplus to requirements. Lethal, computer controlled, War Machines are constructed and cause havoc around the Tottenham Court Road and Covent Garden. And the idea of a world computer declaring war on humanity anticipated the Terminator franchise by eighteen years.

The Second Doctor Patrick Troughton had a memorable adventure set under London. The recently rediscovered serial ‘The Web of Fear’ pitted the Yeti against the Doctor and the army. London is paralysed by a mysterious web-like fungus and a small group of soldiers and scientists are fighting a rear-guard battle against the menace.

Most of the action takes place on the London Underground with many familiar tube stations featured; except it was filmed in studio. The BBC couldn’t film on the tube, so the set designers worked miracles and produced miles of track, station platforms, stairs and corridors. The finished product was so realistic the BBC received a complaint from London Transport, accusing them of illegally filming! ‘The Web of Fear’ also features the introduction of Colonel Lethbridge-Stuart, played by Nicholas Courtney.

Alien invasions of London was now a popular theme in Doctor Who. An epic eight -part serial broadcast in 1968 saw the return of the Cybermen in ‘The Invasion’. Action took place above and below ground, and to maximise the impact of the monster, the Cybermen weren’t seen until halfway through the story.

‘The Invasion’ looks back to the ideas of ‘War Machines’, but now it’s the Cybermen, aided by mysterious industrialist Tobias Vaughan trying to take over the world. However, the serial also looks forward to Third Doctor Jon Pertwee’s era in the early 1970s. Lethbridge-Stuart, now promoted to Brigadier, heads UNIT, a team of crack soldiers tasked with stopping alien invasions. With a little help from the Doctor and his companions, of course…

Further extracts from the Doctor’s 500 year diary will be released on Sunday 1 October!

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