November 2013 is a landmark month for Doctor Who fans. It is the shows’ 50th Anniversary and to mark this milestone BBC Wales are re-opening the doors to their TARDIS set in Cardiff Bay. You’ve got to realise that this is not a “stuffed-and-mounted” TARDIS set in an exhibition being lorried round the country but the “actual” TARDIS, in use for filming, right now, or until they blow this one up – eyes towards 50th Anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor” perhaps! (NOT a spoiler, I haven’t seen it and if they do destroy it don’t come crying to me it won’t be your photos that are out of date). While we’re on photos, take a look at my TARDIS Set Virtual Tour.
Thursday 14th November was the day Laura and I took the tour; starting at the Doctor Who Experience – also well worth a look – if for no other reason than The Doctor/Matt Smith’s running gag during the experience regarding bald guys and chickens, unbelievable! Our guide issued each (12) of us with official BBC security passes and we headed out on foot towards the big and boxy BBC Wales studios, just 500 yards away. As we approached our guide reminded us that we were prohibited from taking any photos as we passed through the studios until we arrived at Studio 4, the current home of the on-screen TARDIS. I cannot praise the BBC highly enough for allowing us to visit AND photograph the live set. I wouldn’t have been surprised or disappointed if they’d have asked for all cameras on the way in (a la the Warner Brothers studio tour in Burbank). Again, plug, plug take a look at my pix … please. Walking down the “yellow brick road” between the studios, nick-named during construction. I asked our guy what else was currently in production. Casualty (continuously shoots here), a Welsh daily Soap the name of which for the life of me I can’t remember and Russell T. Davis latest, Wizards V Aliens among others.
Moving inside Studio 4, we are not worthy – for the record, you’re immediately faced with a large circular-ish wooden construction which of course is why it’s bigger on the inside 🙂 or that’s the science I’m using. Split into a smaller group of just 6 we climbed the stairs to the entrance platform. You can see from my photo that it’s completely surrounded with boarded green-screen to allow for seemless CG’d fore/backgrounds. A few pix outside and then the big reveal (don’t lean on the doors either btw), walking through those police box doors onto one of science-fictions’ most iconic, erm well … icons! First impressions, it’s complete, you can walk around it. Sounds odd but there are no missing walls or cutaways; except the roof black-curtain/canvas which can be made transaparent as lighting is shone through onto the set. It is ready to shoot. Cameras are just in there with them. It is on 3 levels with walk-ways around each level and steps between. Again see pix, saves me wasting virtual ink! It is highly detailled; LED’s have been used to good effect wherever possible. Sadly (no, not really) we couldn’t see the ceiling sections rotate our guide informed us as that chews through around 30,000 KiloWatts and next years’s Doctor Who Experience budget.
We never felt rushed, there was plenty of time for photo ops as we moved from the middle (entrance) level down to the lower level and the heart of the TARDIS. The top level being cordoned-off. You aren’t able to touch stuff which is sensible precaution and only a small and understandable inconvenience. I banged-off as many shots as I could from multiple whacky angles as we went though, the guide (and I apologise for not noting his name as he was superb) pointed out a couple I’d have missed otherwise too. We left at the lowest level (nice green corridor shot) and outside via a slightly less glamourous wooden portal and slope (also pictured). Around the corner from which stood a solitary Dalek with it’s own accessibility ramp that those nice people at BBC Wales had constructed!
Back outside. Wow! A buzz! While the other group went inside we chatted with our guide and his counterpart Andy (again apologies if I got that wrong but that’s who I’m going to call him!). Spurred on by noticing my “choose your weapons” poly-dice T-shirt Andy (told you) and my daughter then had quite the nerd-fest comparing RPG’s and LARP’s they’ve played and yes, Firefly LARP IS cool and you can mention other ahem franchieses while on BBC premises and not be immediately exterminated (Whew! had wondered how I’d shamelessly get that in?) We were shown out through BBC Wales main reception where their security, already tight was augmented by a full sized Dalek, I kid you not.
Afterthought. Studio 4 was divided in two by a large black curtainy-thing and we weren’t allowed around that, there being a jovial but insistent BBC employee protecting the entrance. Now I’m guessing here and am probably way off but … It is possible to apply for tickets to a champage reception after the 3D screening in Cardiff Bay on Saturday 23rd November 2013, after which it will be possible, among other things, to visit the 50th Anniversary set. Where else could you hide another TARDIS set? I’m just saying!