. An exclusive look at the filming of new Doctor Who By reporter Paul Mount

He’s back – and this time he’s in 19th Century Cardiff! The huge juggernaut which is production of the new series of DOCTOR WHO rolls on with a night of lavish and atmospheric location filming in and around a square of Victorian-style streets nestling close to the Marina area in Swansea. With Cardiff have already doubled up as London for sequences in the first block of episodes recorded, it’s time for Swansea to pass itself off as Cardiff at the tail end of the 19th Century. Confused? Well, this is DOCTOR WHO.

Story details are understandably (and thankfully) still quite scarce but what we do know is that the episode lensing in Swansea is written by Mark Gatiss (LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN) and is rumoured to be the fourth episode to be transmitted when the series screens from March 2005. In the space of a few hours in the afternoon of 20th September 2004 a block of streets and buildings in Swansea were spectacularly transformed into something out of a Christmas card – a layer of snow on the ground, theatre posters pasted to walls, carts and burning braziers on street corners, horse-drawn carriages clattering over cobbles – and Charles Dickens striding purposefully in the direction of a brightly-illuminated theatre, the Taliesin Lodge in Cardiff where he is due to recite his many and sundry works on Christmas Eve 1869. This is noted Shakespearean actor Simon Callow in full Charles Dickens regalia, hanging around the windy streets of Swansea in the company of literally dozens of baffled extras in full Victorian garb; they’re all here, from jolly Jack sailors on shore leave looking for a bit of – ahem – fun with fully made-up ladies of the night, well-to-do toffs out for a stroll in the snow, cheeky street urchins, newspaper vendors, baked potato sellers (hmmmm…baked potatoes) and any number of immaculately-reproduced horse-drawn carriages – complete with horses drawing them. Callow’s casting is a real coup for a series already groaning under the weight of some heavyweight guest-stars; he’s already described Gatiss’s script as fantastic and it’s clear that lterally no expense has been spared in bringing the script to life. For now though it’s just a quick shot of Dickens marching through the street (with wind machines creating a minor blizzard for added effect) cheerily greeting passers-by as he makes his way to the theatre.

Much excitement later on as our heroes – the Doctor and his feisty young assistant Rose Tyler arrive on the scene. Chris Eccleston and Billie Piper look to be in fine form, laughing and joking and clearly having the time of their lives. The rapport between the two of a joy to observe. Despite the period nature of the story Eccleston is still wearing his controversial costume – leather jacket, black jeans, T-shirt and DMs. Ms Piper, however, looks resplendent in a marvellous black and velvet Victorian gown – she’s positively glowing, I tell you. One of their first scenes involved them strolling arm-in-arm (No hanky panky in the TARDIS!) along the road, pausing at a junction as a horse-and-carriage drives by. The Doctor hares off to buy a newssheet from a ragged-looking vendor at the kerb, Rose hitching up her skirts and rushing after him. The scene is recorded several times – interrupted once by some naughty students from the nearby (camouflaged) halls of residence setting off the fire alarm for the Hell of it. Well, most of them have probably never heard of DOCTOR WHO.

The crew broke for lunch at around 11.30 pm (bearing in mind that work didn’t really start much before 8pm) and was due to resume after 1 a.m. Sadly your exhausted reporter had to make his weary way back to Cardiff and was unable to stay to witness scenes of mass panic as theatre-goers flee the Taliesyn Lodge, Rose is bundled into a hearse and Charles Dickens talks of hobgoblins. Didn’t see the carol singers either. Boo. DOCTOR WHO continues filming until February 2005. May be worth a look!

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