Russell T Davies’ Doctor Who is filming once again! After a 13-year wait, almost to the day, many of his old production team and cast are back at it and now working for his own Bad Wolf company rather than the BBC. So what exactly has he been filming? Well, the firmest piece of evidence we have is this announcement:
“They’re back! David Tennant and Catherine Tate return to Doctor Who.
One of the most loved pairings in Doctor Who’s history have reunited and are filming scenes that are due to air in 2023 to coincide with the show’s 60th anniversary celebrations.”
‘Scenes airing in 2023’ (which is the anniversary year) does not mean ‘60th anniversary special episode’, and other information would suggest that there’s more at play than just a single episode. This week we’ve already had two days of filming in Camden Market, primarily using an alley outside the Cyberdog shop during daytime, and then a second location in the market at night.
The first day of filming featured Tennant and Tate, the former noticeably in a different coloured coat and waistcoat to the ones he wore when he was playing the Tenth Doctor in the 2000s, and also the appearance of a wheelchair-bound Bernard Cribbins who can only reasonably be expected (there’s no official confirmation yet) to be playing Donna’s grandpa Wilfred Mott again as he was wheeled into the TARDIS. And not any old TARDIS, but the exterior shell used during the Thirteenth Doctor era. On-the-ground reports though suggested it would be the Tenth Doctor’s interior that would be appearing within the box when scenes from both were stitched together.
It wasn’t just cast favourites who were returning either, as also spotted was special effects supremo Danny Hargreaves and director Rachel Talalay, the latter whose work in Doctor Who only began during the Twelfth Doctor era. And when fans bombarded Talalay with online questioning about her involvement in the Camden shoot, she tweeted:
‘No cap’ is slang for not lying, but given Talalay’s involvement with the era of the show when Peter Capaldi played the Doctor, and his own name often being shortened to ‘PCap’ online, it’s fair to think that Talalay was not directing when there was no Cap, and she would be directing when there was a ‘Cap’ present.
The Doctor Who Companion headed down to day two of filming to see if we could learn any more.
Filming began at 3pm and finished in the evening, with a second shoot taking place at night and finishing in the early hours of the next day’s morning. For the day shoot, the TARDIS prop was situated halfway down the alley, and we spotted almost immediately by it was Talalay. But with no clapperboards visible from the edge of the set, it was difficult to determine who the day’s director truly was. But it was rather telling that she did not have an earpiece in or a radio when many others on set did for the coordination of takes.
Alongside her at the TARDIS were Yasmin Finney and Jacqueline King, marking the very first sighting of newly announced character Rose and the return of Donna’s mother Sylvia. The subsequent filming featured those two, Tennant, Tate, Karl Collins as Donna’s husband Shaun Temple, and a taxi at the end of the alley which they got out of and which was the centerpoint of some shots. Collins appeared to be at the wheel of the taxi in some fan-taken photos. A handful of extras were also called upon to appear on set multiple times through the day, some in winter clothing and others in simple t-shirts and trousers.
The openness of the Bad Wolf crew, who along with their security team frequently came over to the watching crowds to say they could watch on during the filmed takes if they promised to keep quiet, meant quite a lot was able to be picked up from the afternoon’s scenes.
In several shots, the Doctor strolled over to the TARDIS with the Temple-Noble clan (and Rose) and then spoke to them for some time, with one of Rose’s markers being to step forward as if to join him, but then step back into the embrace of Shaun Temple and Sylvia Noble. As some of her dialogue that was picked up seemed to suggest a parental relationship with Donna, particularly in a shot where wind machines were used to simulate the TARDIS’s dematerialisation once the Doctor and Donna were inside and the others were left behind, fans quickly came to the assumption that she was Donna and Shaun’s daughter.
The casting call for Lily, who we now know is actually Rose, required commitment for several weeks of full-time filming over the next two months, but on set in Camden we saw her seemingly being left behind by the TARDIS as she waves it off (sometimes in a distressed way). So do we potentially have two months of domestic filming and even more action with the Doctor and Donna elsewhere?
Prior to the night shoot, Talalay then seemingly confirmed herself as director using the same social media technique deployed by the other major hires of Russell T Davies’ new era so far with the below tweet:
She also took photos with and of the crowds from the edge of the set – they returned the attention with some loving chants about her – and not long after Russell T Davies appeared on set too. During this time there was what can only be described as interim filming, with Tennant talking direct to camera while seemingly out of character, and also a lengthy to-camera piece from a Louis Theroux lookalike who frequently gestured back to the film set action around him while delivering his lines. Some speculated it meant the return of Doctor Who Confidential. Well, we can only wish…
The night shoot was more secretive than the day action, and it was considerably easier to keep certain things out of sight given the darkness. Bad Wolf had deployed black stand-up barriers to place in the way of scenes they didn’t want spotted in the daytime, and went further with their efforts to keep things under wraps at night. The DWC had left the action by this point, but on a short walk from the set on the way home, we did bump into London resident, and the Twelfth Doctor himself, Peter Capaldi. It didn’t seem appropriate to take several minutes of his time with questioning on the street, and definitely not then follow where he was walking, but it was another intriguing and curiously timed moment that unfortunately then got parodied online to the point where it was unclear if any of the other sightings of the actor had indeed taken place.
It looks like there will be even more filming taking place in Camden this month, and it’s almost certain that Russell T Davies will be pushing out more viral announcements if that is the case, so it’s time to hold tight, keep refreshing Twitter for the ‘#dwsr’ set report hastag, and follow the Doctor Who action as it plays out in front of our own eyes.
And if you want to see more, here’s a smorgasbord of exclusive photos from filming…
All images and video property of Ida Wood (@wood_ida_)/ The Doctor Who Companion.