London is a fantastically exciting and atmospheric city and it is little wonder that many films and TV shows use it as a backdrop when filming. There are many locations across the country where you can find great scenery for filming. Dr Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures have made great use of Cardiff and other UK towns and cities. But if you want real iconography, if you want Big Ben, Tower Bridge and the Houses of Parliament, then there really is only one place to go… London!
Dr Who filming is largely kept under wraps and the producers will go to great lengths to keep locations secret and ensure that spoilers are kept to an absolute minimum. But for avid sci-fi fans it can be great fun to visit locations you have seen in the series. There is even an Unofficial Dr Who Tour of London, during which you can visit key locations from both the classic series as well as the new ones, learning new facts and trivia along the way.
While the indoor scenes for Rose Tyler`s flat were shot in Cardiff, if you want to see the estate where Rose lived, then don’t look for the fictional Powell Estate… Instead, head to the Brandon Estate in Kennington. A fair bit of filming was done there, including the Christmas Invasion with the spinning Christmas trees and Aliens of London, where the less than attractive and rather flatulent Slitheen were seen hell bent on taking over Downing Street!
Westminster and the Houses of Parliament feature heavily in Dr Who, Torchwood and also the spin-off for the younger generation, the Sarah Jane Adventures. Filming for Invasion of the Bane and The Sound of Drums took place in College Green, Westminster. However, you may not be too surprised to learn that Aliens of London was not filmed in or outside Downing Street. If you want to see the famous door that was used to depict No. 10 then you need to take a trip to John Adam Street, Westminster.
For lovers of the classic series and Daleks, a trip to the Embankment is a must. The Albert Embankment, which runs along the east side of the Thames from Westminster Bridge to Vauxhall Bridge, is where filming took place for The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Daleks seem to have quite a penchant for London and have featured in various well-known locations throughout the city, including Battersea Power Station and Shad Thames in south-east London.
On a side-note, south-east London was also popular with the 1998 sci-fi show Ultraviolet, the vampire show that gave us Idris Elba. Fans of this series will find a lot of memories in Southwark, particularly on a night visit to Southwark Bridge.
A lot of filming is done in London and a visit to many of the main London sights will bring back memories of scenes from any number of hit sci-fi shows. Buckingham Palace only narrowly missed being destroyed by the spaceship Titanic in the Dr Who Christmas special Voyage of the Damned. Big Ben is where Rose Tyler, wearing a Union Jack T-shirt and in one of her more precarious situations, dangled out of the TARDIS in The Empty Child, only to be rescued by one Captain Jack Harkness. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was where the Dr Who Episode The Shakespeare Code was filmed.
A lot of filming, particularly for high-profile shows, is never publicised but word soon gets out, especially in city locations where it is hard to keep secret. So it is worth keeping your eyes peeled and checking for breaking London news for your chance to get a look at some sci-fi heroes in action.