It started with the strange lights in the sky...
Actually no - it started at the local railway station, which is just down the hill from where I live. At the back of the regular station is the headquarters of the Steam Railway Society, which has a large collection of locomotives and other vintage equipment. I was crossing the bridge to the station proper one morning when I noticed there was building work going on. A fence had been erected part of the way across the track and some of the old cranes had been moved down close to it. Plus there was a large, mysterious looking hump, under a tarpaulin. The fence was puzzling. Placed as it was, it didn't seem substantial enough to keep out intruders. It looked a bit like -- well something from a film set.
I didn't think any more of it until I was coming home from work a few nights later. The bus turned on to the Island, under the bridge, and the whole world seemed to be lit up. There were enormous lights towering over - you've guessed it - the railway station.
It didn't take the locals long to find out that the filming that was going on was for the TV series Doctor Who, or that the whole set was to be blown up on the following Wednesday. This was the first series of the new Doctor Who, starring Christopher Eccleston, a lot of which was filmed in and around Cardiff.
The filming went on for almost a week of very cold February nights and it was light enough to read in the garden at 2 a.m. Neighbours at the bottom of the hill had a grandstand view. I had to go and stand at the end of the street to watch murky shapes creeping about the eerie looking station. It didn't make a lot of sense and it was too darn cold to hang around for long, but it added a little excitement to life and I was quite sad when Wednesday arrived. There was no window shattering explosion but the lights were gone the following evening.
Then there was a long wait until ‘our’ episode was screened. We knew by then that it was the double part one set in World War Two - The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. The station had been transformed …..
Many of the scenes take place on the bridge that users of the station cross every day. And the hump under the tarpaulin was the alien space craft. The rather ropey looking fence was changed on the screen to something solid and sinister.
The power of illusion ….
As a foot note to this - the current Doctor Who is, of course, David Tennant, an actor whose career I've followed since his early days at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford on Avon. He’s back there this year, playing Hamlet, with another favourite, Patrick Stewart, aka Jean Luc Picard, as Claudius – rumours that swords are to be replaced in this production with light sabres have yet to be confirmed …
Yes, I do have my tickets, but I’m waiting until November when I can also see Mr Tennant in Loves Labours Lost as well as Hamlet. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about it then …