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On Location: 30 Years in the TARDIS

By Jon Preddle

One of my more interesting experiences during my holiday in Britain in late 1993 came about completely by chance, although those I told about it refused to believe that I hadn't known about it beforehand!

On Sunday 17 October I went to Tower Bridge and Butler's Wharf, where Resurrection of the Daleks was filmed almost ten years ago to the day. Imagine my surprise when, on stepping onto the wharf I found myself facing the TARDIS! I had, in complete ignorance, stumbled upon the recording of a scene from the BBC's anniversary documentary, 30 Years in the TARDIS!

The documentary features interviews and rare clips as well as re-created moments from the show's history including the Cybermen at St Paul's Cathedral, the Daleks on Westminster Bridge, and the awakening of the Autons.

At Butler's Wharf they were filming a sequence with the TARDIS as well as re-enacting a short scene from The Web of Fear. The director, Kevin Davies (who made the excellent Making of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy video), agreed that I could 'hang around' and take photos as long as I didn't get in the way. So for seven hours I watched the BBC at work.

The documentary features a framing sequence of a small boy, played by actor Josh Maguire. Part of this sequence has Josh entering the police box and finding himself inside the TARDIS console room. This was Davies' 'dream shot'. He wanted to be the first to show someone stepping into the police box and entering the console room in one continuous movement. To achieve this, a computer-controlled camera was used to sync the exterior shot with the yet to be recorded studio TARDIS console room scene. Josh had to come up to the police box doors and step in while the camera was slowly moving forward on a set of tracks. At the last second Josh had to duck beneath the camera lens otherwise it would have hit him! Several takes were made to get the timing right.

During a break in recording, I took the opportunity to speak with Josh, who is a big Doctor Who fan. He had been acting for a few years and was one of many boys who auditioned for the part.

This particular location was also used for interviews with special effects designers Mat Irvine and Mike Tucker, who were also helping out on the production. Irvine had brought along K9, and with the computer-controlled camera out of the way, a couple of shots of K9 moving up to the TARDIS were filmed. Davies was annoyed that the mechanical mutt couldn't fit over the doorstep because it was too high off the ground! Once Davies was satisfied with a final shot, the TARDIS was dismantled and stowed away in a truck, and the crew moved around the corner to film the first recreation. As it turned out K9 was cut from the broadcast version of the special.

The Dark Dimension writer Adrian Rigelsford (who told me that his script was 'far from dead'!), was dressed in an old coat and cap for his role as a newspaper vendor, and then covered from head to foot in a stringy cobweb-like substance from aerosol cans, applied by Mat Irvine and Mike Tucker with great delight! It took quite a while for them to set this up because the wind was very strong and tended to blow the newspapers away. The scene features a dead news vendor, his headline board declaring 'Londoners Flee - Menace Spreads' in an exact copy of a scene from The Web of Fear Episode 1. He was filmed from ground level. As Josh ran past him, an out-of-shot Davies tapped Rigelsford's foot. This was a signal for Adrian to keel over. In the broadcast version this is inter-cut with the same scene from the original 1968 episode.

Once that was in the can the crew set up for the last shots of the day, which were the interviews with Irvine and Tucker. Framed against an abstract sculpture on the wharf Irvine spoke about his early days working for the BBC special effects department, including his first assignment - making the TARDIS light flash in The Curse of Peladon - plus the difficulties in getting K9 to move across rough surfaces. Mike Tucker, who is now an effects designer on Red Dwarf, told of how he had seen Irvine on television giving an effects demonstration which inspired him to write to the BBC asking if there was a job available. They replied, telling him to get qualifications first, which he did. Tucker was once Irvine's assistant, and ironically their roles are now reserved! Neither interview made it into the broadcast documentary; hopefully they will be reinstated for the video release. [An abridged version of Mat Irvine's interview made it to the video, but Mike Tucker was omitted.]

By 6 PM the light was fading fast. The production team managed to get the last shots for the two interviewees in on time before they packed up. This was the first day of filming so there was still a lot more work to do. The following Sunday saw further location recording at St Paul's Cathedral with the Cybermen, with Nicola Bryant and Colin Baker. Regrettably for me, this coincided with the Space Mountain convention, so I couldn't attend the filming.

During the day I bumped into two familiar 'names' from Doctor Who Magazine: assistant editor Marcus Hearn, and Archives writer Andrew Pixley (who was serving as the documentary's official researcher). I was delighted to learn that Andrew sometimes uses TSV as a source of information for the Archives (my article on the original script for Attack of the Cybermen in TSV 32 was apparently invaluable in researching the recent Archive on that story!) Marcus Hearn expressed an interest in publishing some of the multitude of photos I'd taken during the Butler's Wharf shoot. Doctor Who Magazine indeed used two - one of Josh and one of a web-enshrouded Adrian, both of which appear in DWM 207.


All photographs (c) Jon Preddle

[Picture 1]

The computer-controlled camera is prepared for the recording of the TARDIS scene.

[Picture 2]

Mat Irvine is interviewed for the documentary with K9.

[Picture 3]

Irvine makes some adjustments to K9's innards.

[Picture 4]

Adrian Rigelsford waits to be covered in cobweb for his role as the dead newspaper vendor.

[Picture 5]

Director Kevin Davies talks Josh Maguire through a rehearsal for the newspaper vendor scene. Note the spray cans of fake cobweb tucked in behind the vendor's box.

[Picture 6]

Adrian Rigelsford as he appeared in the finished documentary, covered in cobweb. This was one of the two photos printed in Doctor Who Magazine.

This item appeared in TSV 37 (January 1994).