TARDIS hunting in Glasgow

This Scottish city has been on my ‘to visit’ for a while and when my fiancé and I were discussing a simple getaway after our July wedding it seemed perfect. We enjoy a city break and loved that we could just jump on the train and be there in a just few hours. Also there was the added attraction of no less than six in-situ police boxes dotted across the city – a wonderful opportunity to see a TARDIS in the wild!

I do love a big blue box – one of the first things I planned for my wedding was having a full size TARDIS. Fortunately I happened to know someone who had one and who would very kindly dismantle and build it at the venue (and bring along a couple of Daleks as well!). Doctor Who has been a presence in mine and my husband’s life since childhood and it was wonderful to include that on our wedding day.

So when people asked where we were going on honeymoon I was only semi joking when I replied that we were going ‘TARDIS hunting’. I’d found this fantastic resource online https://www.greatestglasgow.com/best-glasgow-police-boxes/ (check out the bouncy boxes on the map) and we headed out into the city the day we arrived clutching a print out and map. We managed to bag four the first afternoon and the remaining two the next day. It turned out to be a really good way to explore the city, with a few in the main retail area and a couple at tourist sites like the cathedral and botanical gardens. You could easily do them in a day if you wished or were short on time.

Below are the 6 in the order we visited them;

Buchanan Street – saw this one in the afternoon and were horrified to see it covered up in CBD advertisements from floor to ceiling. Fortunately we discovered when we went past in the evening that they’re only stuck on by Velcro – which is unsightly but thankfully not permanent.

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Sauchiehall Street I– aka ‘the red one’. More adverts covering it as again it’s a CBD kiosk by day.

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Sauchiehall Street II – near the Mackintosh at the Willow tea room. I’m certain this is the one that used to be on Wilson Street. I compared it with the website mentioned before and checked on Google maps – there was a box in Wilson Street in May 2018 but I think was moved later that year https://reglasgow.com/police-box-coffee-kiosk-can-open-in-sauchiehall-street/. It is currently being repainted and is covered in pigeons as it seems to be a perfect roost for them amongst the trees.

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Botanic Gardens – still in its original location apparently, partly enclosed by railings near the main entrance.

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Cathedral Square – the most pristine. It obviously pays to be located where it is – paint work and condition immaculate. Has a de-fibulator inside which is a great use for it.

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London Road – this is the most battered of the lot but has more charm because of it. Has a bit of a graffiti and damage, probably the least touristy area of the city.

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Bonus TARDIS – there is a huge wall mural which featured amongst other things the TARDIS, 1960’s Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert and the character ‘Malpha’ from lost 1965 Doctor Who episode ‘Mission to the Unknown’. I didn’t realise that Verity’s written archive is held at Strathclyde University and the mural is attached to one on the campus buildings. The ‘Mission to Unknown’ lost episode is fresh in my mind as I was fortunate to be able to see some of it being filmed at UCLan at the start of the year and see the finished work in a private screening.

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NB I hadn’t quite realised how much Glasgow has been used in films and TV – I watched World War Z when we got back as it doubled as Philadelphia in the opening scenes. We were also impressed to see a whisky bar we’d stopped in appear in the new ‘Fast and Furious; Hobbs and Shaw’ when the city was used as a double for London.

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When in Sheffield

I got to bag my first of the 13th Doctor filming locations! While in Sheffield to attend the SF Weekender at the O2 Academy in March it was only right and proper that I made a geek pilgrimage to the home of new Who companion, Yaz, who’s family live in the rather trendy – Park Hill Estate.

Now I’ve some interest in urban planning and architecture – I’m not ashamed to admit that I quite like a bit of practical, yet artfully arranged concrete. The Park Hill estate was saved from demolition by the creative folk at Urban Splash who have done the near miraculous with redundant and unloved buildings. https://www.urbansplash.co.uk/regeneration/projects/park-hill

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It looks rather handsome now after the refurbishment of a large section, the part closest to the city centre. The dominant position overlooks the city centre and bright colours against the concrete make it quite prominent on the skyline.

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Obviously, the Doctor Who location scouts thought it would be the perfect place to film outside of the usual Cardiff area, and some of the earliest shots of the filming came from there if I remember rightly. The TARDIS was placed outside the main entrance and well, it’s not that easy to disguise a big blue box. There was also some filming on the tram bridge which passes below the estate. That was were the first sighting of the Doctor’s fashion crime of wearing of wearing a bum bag was recorded – nothing so heinous has been seen on the show since Colin Baker’s technicolour wardrobe!

I like Sheffield and don’t know it half as well as I’d like to, having only visited a handful of times. These include a failed job interview at Museums Sheffield, and a memorable visit back in 2010 when I went to see Doctor Who alumni John Simm as Hamlet at the Crucible Theatre.

The city does actually have its own genuine police box which of course I’ve visited. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1405185 Dating from 1928 it’s located by the Town Hall on Surrey Street – but it’s green and the windows are wrong. But it’s a TARDIS in my eyes.

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Save the date – the Doctor is back!

Sunday 7th October 2018

Doctor Who returns next month after being off our screens since Christmas. Not long at all if you’re old enough to remember the ‘hiatus’ from 1989 to 2005. I have vague memories of catching a few moments of the Sylvester McCoy era when I was little, but I really fell in love with the show through finding the Target novelisations when I was at primary school. Later I devoured the Virgin & BBC range of books in the absence of actual programme. As much as I adore the show I’m sort of glad that I discovered the adventures of the Doctor and his companions on paper. I realised later when watching the original series on video or DVD that my imagination far surpassed any BBC budget!

With the new Doctor being a she – it seems to have shaken up fandom a little, and there’s the sense of anticipation for the new season that reminds me of when the show returned 13 years ago. When Jodie Whitaker was announced as the new Doctor I had friends who cried that their show was now ruined and they’d never watch it again! I am curious to see if they do tune in and watch it now they’ve had time to calm down a little. To me the Doctor has always been rather fatherly and asexual, and I’m curious to see how, or even if, anything really changes with a woman in the role. I’m going to watch the new Doctor with a completely open mind – I have no doubt Jodie will be brilliant, but to me it will all come down to the writing – Chibnall, I’m counting on you!

There’s been some photos appearing in the press and on the web of the new series being filmed on location in Sheffield and further afield in South Africa. I would love to see the show actually being filmed one day – I came very close once! I visited Cardiff in October 2016 when they were making the 10th Doctor story ‘The Lazarus Experiment’ and it just happened to be the day (and night) they weren’t actually filming. The location was the rather stunning Senedd building in Cardiff Bay, which is home to the National Assembly for Wales. The very large machine that was central to the story was covered up and looked rather intriguing. I liked that there was a very polite notice stuck to the barrier explaining what was going on.

“BBC Wales is filming an episode of the next series of Dr Who in the Senedd. You will be able to watch the episode next year. Thank you for your cooperation”

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I have friends who live and work in Cardiff and have accidently stumbled upon filming on their lunch breaks a couple of times! I used to follow fan sites such as Outpost Gallifrey religiously, following the latest filming spotted and pouring over grainy photographs looking for clues to what the story might be. I’ve not been so zealous in recent years, but I confess to having seen the leaked photo of the new console room which angered the BBC rather a lot…

The first episode of the new season airs on BBC1 on a Sunday rather than Saturday which I think will be great – it won’t be up against the big Saturday shows on ITV, and more people are likely to be at home to watch it. I won’t be able to watch it as it goes out ‘live’ as I will literally be time travelling myself. I’ll be crossing an ocean and time zones as I’ll hopefully be on a flight between New York JFK and Manchester Airport. I’m sure the first thing we’ll do when we get home at a ridiculous time of night will be to put the kettle on and sit down to watch “The woman who fell to Earth”. See you soon Doctor!

A brief adventure in London – how to bag a Star Wars location without even trying.

Or … I went to London Film & Comic Con and found myself on Scarif Imperial base.

The last weekend in July saw the mass annual pilgrimage of geeks to London Film & Comic Con at Olympia. With neither the stamina nor finances to manage the full three days we opted for just the Saturday and travelled in via tube after parking at Canary Wharf. For a Doctor fan it was rather thrilling to drive through security and go into the underground car park – the building is also known as Torchwood Tower

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I’ve been meaning to stop at Canary Wharf Underground Station for ages but have normally been just passing through on the Jubilee Line. Canary Wharf tube station was used as part of the imperial base on Scarif in the Star Wars film Rogue One. In the trailer we saw a glimpse of our heroes running through the station which didn’t actually appear in the final cut of the film (as with much of the trailer…) Check out this article with a link to the trailer; https://londonist.com/2016/04/what-the-heck-is-canary-whaf-tube-station-doing-in-new-star-wars-film-rogue-one

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I remember seeing the photos that made the newspapers during the filming there – a great picture of stormtroopers coming down the escalator en-masse. I just imagined a worried crew member guiding them off the bottom with haste so that there wasn’t an undignified pile up of bodies at the bottom. This site has some great behind the scenes pictures and background to the filming; https://www.buzzfeed.com/scottybryan/yes-star-wars-rogue-one-was-filmed-on-the-lond?utm_term=.gheLA4kko#.ojQvwlEEg

It’s easy to see why the location was used, it is still very new and shiny looking having opened in 1999. With some clever set dressing and covering of TFL signage it does look like a very functional imperial base, only those who regularly take the tube would immediately recognise it as a tube station. Shame it’s not on screen longer.

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Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs has its own film office – given how frequently is appears on film and television  I didn’t realise but it comes in a 14 of the 20 most used film locations in the world https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/film-tv-locations-mostused-top-20-central-park-new-york-city-a8214281.html

Another highlight of the day was seeing these awesome Rogue One costumers right as we walked into the show floor at London Film & Comic Con. Stunning work everyone!

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Bonus TARDIS at Earls Court as well! 

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On the way to Olympia we stopped at Earls Court tube to get some breakfast and joined almost a queue of fellow geeks grabbing a quick picture with the TARDIS just outside. Now this I have visited on previous trips but it was lovely to see that the police box has been repainted recently and looked particularly striking in the early morning sunshine. Check out the police box on Google maps, there’s a brilliant not so secret Easter egg – if you search for the location and then go on the street view – you can actually enter the TARDIS and see a 360 view of Matt Smith era the console room.

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LFCC was fun as usual and I got to catch up with friends, my boyfriend got his picture with Peter Capaldi and I was very impressed with the number of 13th Doctor cosplayers! 

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