Jodie Whittaker’s second Doctor Who episode The Ghost Monument introduces an intriguing new alien planet called Desolation – but if you’re already racking your brains about how they managed to shoot its massive sand dunes in South Wales, we have some information that might clear up the mystery.


You see, unlike the bulk of the series (which usually films in Cardiff), outdoor scenes of Desolation were shot in South Africa in January 2018, in what turned out to be a pretty severe drought.

According to the cast the drought meant they were limited to two-minute showers, while the warm weather led to star Tosin Cole developing heatstroke.

“Other than the water crisis, we had a really good time out there,” he joked to Doctor Who Magazine.

“When we were in the UK and it was cold there were times when I was like, “why? Why us? Why are we on this rooftop?” he said later.

“So when we went to South Africa I wasn’t going to complain.”

And apparently, the scope of filming offered by the South African landscape (and brought to life by director Mark Tonderai and a local crew) more than made up for any issues anyway.

“The Doctor Who shoot was three weeks,” Whittaker said. “It was warm, so that was good.

“The ambition was huge and the landscapes there – you couldn’t have got that here. But it required a lot of focus because we knew we had a lot to do in three weeks.

“We were working with a really great South African crew. They recommended things for us to do on our days off!”

Art Malik, Ilin, Doctor Who (BBC, KB)
Art Malik, Ilin, Doctor Who (BBC)

Not everything in the episode was shot in South Africa, however, with some interior scenes – including those involving Art Malik’s character Ilin – instead filmed in Cardiff’s Roath Lock Studios.

“I never went to South Africa, sadly,” Malik told

“But yes, [the episode] is set in that sort of landscape, which they went and shot in.”

And if you enjoy the South African locations in tonight’s Doctor Who, then you’re in luck – next week’s episode, a Rosa Parks-themed story was also filmed there, though in that case the country was standing in for 1955 America, not an alien world.

Doctor Who continues on BBC1 on Sundays


This article was originally published on 14 October 2018