On the trail of Doctor Who in London

Huw Fullerton is taken behind the scenes of the BBC’s biggest show on a Time Lord-themed walking tour


It’s pretty common knowledge that since Doctor Who’s revival in 2005, London is no longer the home of the UK’s best-known sci-fi import. While many a story is still set there, the hub of its production is based in South Wales, and the majority of filming is just Cardiff dressed up with a few tube signs now and then.


With all this in mind, I was curious to discover what a Doctor Who tour based in London (run by Brit Movie Tours) could still offer in a time when the Tardis barely lands in the city any more. Was there enough of the Time Lord in the capital to maintain interest for an entire tour?

As it turns out, there was. Picked up by a sonic screwdriver-wielding guide called Michael, our group was taken on a winding tour of (mostly central) London, spotting the backgrounds to iconic scenes and learning interesting facts along the way.

For example, we learned of the Yellowface criticisms leveled at Asian-themed Tom Baker episode The Talons of Weng-Chang, the re-use of footage from fellow BBC show the Apprentice to allow Daleks to fly around Canary Wharf in 2006 finale Doomsday, and the logistical difficulties that forced some Dalek operators to urinate down drains in Trafalgar Square. Not quite the image they project during their regular invasions of Earth.

Off in search of a bathroom?

And other moments in the tour brought us bang up to date as we visited the original settings for Coal Hill School, the longtime Doctor Who setting now getting its own spin-off in BBC3-exclusive drama Class.

So overall this was an interesting and painstakingly accurate tour, right down to when we were looking at a real Matt Smith or a robot version in any given scene (it’s a long story) – but it might not be for everyone.

In reasons not entirely unrelated to the recent lack of filming in London, the tour largely focuses on the classic series, which won’t please everybody. When polled, the NuWho fans vastly outnumbered the classic aficionados in our group so it wasn’t hard to detect a certain restlessness among some of the party.

Perhaps for some, a trip to Cardiff might be in order after all (such a tour is offered by the same company), lest they miss out on the behind-the-scenes details they’re really interested in.

To find out more about the Doctor Who walking tour of London and book tickets, visit: britmovietours.com

Radio Times Travel offers:

Game of Thrones Westeros and Winterfell tours. A must-do experience for fans of Fantasy series Game of Thrones, these two tours of Northern Ireland’s filming locations for the fictional regions of Westeros and Winterfell couldn’t be better. Read more and book.

Countryfile Live package. Hosted in the spectacular grounds of Blenheim Palace, BBC Countryfile Live is a major, new live event, hosted by the show’s star presenters, that will allow visitors to explore every aspect of life in the British countryside. Don’t miss your chance to join us for Britain’s biggest day out in the country. Read more and book.

Emmerdale the Tour package. Don’t miss your opportunity to enjoy Emmerdale The Tour, including a guided walking tour of the outdoor filming set of ITV’s hugely popular TV series Emmerdale. Read more and book.


Call the Midwife tour package. Visit the outdoor filming locations used in ‘Call the Midwife’, and enjoy a guided tour of the Historic Dockyard, Chatham, from your very own ‘midwife’. You’ll also take a trip to the ancient city of Canterbury, a world-famous UNESCO Heritage Site that has been welcoming pilgrims and other visitors since 1170. Read more and book.

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