Guest contributor Ryan Fleetwood takes us on a Whovian tour of London.
(with a few comments by your truly who has been 4 times now).
As the next series of Doctor Who begins to not feel quite so far away, how should a Whovian pass the summer waiting for it? What better than a trip to the city that has been so involved in Doctor Who through the years, London? In this article I’ll provide a quick run-through of most of the parts of London that have played their part in the last half decade of Who, but also suggest that, so steeped in Who-ology as the city is, perhaps our heroic Time Lord should start venturing further afield more often.
In fact a city in its own right, Westminster lies at the heart of London and is home to many of its most iconic landmarks. In it can be found much of the infrastructure of the British government, and it was here that the Slitheen ship crashed into the Thames in Aliens of London, not before colliding with what is now called the Elizabeth Tower of the Houses of Parliament (strictly speaking, ‘Big Ben’ is the nickname of the bell in the tower, and not the tower itself). The two parter also sees the Ninth Doctor and Rose trapped in 10 Downing Street, before fulfilling many people’s dreams by organising the launching of a missile at it. Judging by the glimpses of it in Rose, it was also where the two first met, with Rose seen lunching with Mickey at Trafalgar Square and apparently getting off the bus for work at Piccadilly Circus.
Buckingham Palace is situated in St James’s Park here as well, home of Queen Elizabeth II who not only tolerates the Doctor parking his TARDIS in the grounds but also owes the survival of the palace to him after it narrowly avoided destruction-by-Titanic in Voyage of the Damned. The Cabinet War Rooms lie just off Whitehall, used by Churchill during the Blitz and where the Daleks once did some temp work, as seen in Victory of the Daleks. At the top of Whitehall is Trafalgar Square, where the Twelfth Doctor landed his TARDIS to find the city, and indeed the planet, covered by forest in In the Forest of the Night.
At the north end of the square is the National Gallery, which was revealed in Day of the Doctor to have a secret annexe, the ‘Under-Gallery’, which includes in its collection 3D pictures and ‘Gallifrey Falls No More’. Just across the river (though technically therefore outside Westminster) is the London Eye, once used by the Nestene Consciousness as a transmitter for the activation and control of the Autons, in Rose. Further south stands Millbank Tower, the site of the World Energy Conference in Terror of the Zygons that saw the Skarasen, implied to be the Loch Ness Monster, swim up the Thames to it.
1/10 of all London Underground stations lie within the City of Westminster, and the transport system (of which only 45% is actually underground) was the site of battles between UNIT and robot Yeti in The Web of Fear.
City of London
The actual City of London itself covers just 1 square mile and has a population of just 7,000, though this soars by about 300,000 during weekdays when grumpy commuters journey in to work. As such, any Londoners not living in Westminster or the City of London (that’s approximately 97% of Greater London’s population) are not technically living in a city. Home to the financial centre of the capital, it also houses St Pauls Cathedral, the favourite spot for the Cybermen when they try to invade and where Missy based herself in Dark Water/Death in Heaven. Tucked behind the cathedral is where Paternoster Row once stood before being devastated in the Blitz, which in the Victorian era was home to a crime fighting ‘gang’. This area of London was also wrecked by the eponymous Great Fire in 1666, following the Doctor’s encounter with Terileptils in The Visitation. The starting point of the fire at Pudding Lane is commemorated nearby by a monument, known imaginatively as ‘The Monument’.
Underneath the city runs the River Fleet, which, along with its connected sewers, could be accessed in The Talons of Weng Chiang from underneath the Palace Theatre and was home to some giant rats, left over from the experiments of Magnus Greel.
Found this 1 block behind St. Pauls…
Paddington Station, your gateway to Cardiff
The BT Tower, originally opening as the Post Office Tower and formerly the tallest building in the UK, stands just over the boundary from Westminster in Camden, and was where the super-computer WOTAN was based. WOTAN caused headaches for pernickety fans everywhere after famously seeking someone called “Doctor Who” in The War Machines. Further north into Haringey is Alexandra Palace, where during the coronation of Elizabeth II in The Idiot’s Lantern the Wire attempted to use the antenna tower to restore itself with electromagnetic energy from television viewers.
Immediately south of the Thames from the City is Southwark, one of few locations in the UK to have a cathedral but not city status. Southwark Cathedral itself is where Professor Lazarus ultimately met his demise, courtesy of the Doctor’s organ-playing skills in The Lazarus Experiment. Nearby is the Shard, the largest building in the EU that was used as a headquarters for Miss Kizlet in The Bells of St John, and also serves as a good spot for some anti-gravity motorcycling. Still in Southwark is the Globe Theatre, though this is a reconstructed version of the one that saw an attempted Carrionite invasion in The Shakespeare Code. In a parallel universe in The Age of Steel, and further west along the Thames, Battersea Power Station was used as a Cyber-conversion centre and the base for John Lumic, both human and upgraded, as he began his plans to upgrade ‘Pete’s World’.
Doctor Who took off from the East End, with curious teachers Ian and Barbara first discovering the Doctor and the TARDIS in a junkyard in Shoreditch right at the beginning of it all in An Unearthly Child. As such, this area has been returned to several times over the years, as the location of Coal Hill School and the burial of the Hand of Omega and a battle in the Dalek Civil War in Remembrance of the Daleks.
Two important institutions have had their bases in East London, with UNIT based in the Tower of London in the revival era, and Torchwood having previously operated from 1 Canada Square, known as Canary Wharf and at that time the tallest building in the country. As a result, the former docklands were the focal point of the conflict between the Daleks and Cybermen in Doomsday. A Torchwood laboratory underneath the Thames Barrier was the scene of the confrontation between the Doctor and the Racnoss, culminating in the draining of the river in The Runaway Bride. In the alternate timeline in Turn Left, this is where the Doctor is killed. The Olympic Games were held across the city in 2012, with the main stadium in Stratford, where the opening ceremony narrowly escaped being seriously scuppered by having its entire capacity turned into a drawing in a residential street nearby in Fear Her. The Chula ambulance also landed in Limehouse during the Blitz, leading to a gas mask zombie outbreak centred around the (fictional) Albion Hospital.
From Tower Bridge — Tower of London UNIT HQ
West London seems to be popular with companions, with Donna Noble hailing from Chiswick, Ace from Perivale, and Sarah Jane Smith taking up residence in Ealing. Heathrow Airport can be found here, 14 miles from Central London and the centre of concern when a Concorde vanishes en route to the airport, in fact travelling back 140 million years, in Time-Flight. In Chelsea is the cheerfully named World’s End Estate (no, genuinely), where the TARDIS will eventually land in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, that also sees several of the parts of London mentioned in the article deserted and in ruin.
One of my favorite places, The British Museum of Natural History.
It’s undoubtedly the case that London has been a recurring and prominent part of Doctor Who over the years, and it’s shown off much of the city’s sights and history. However, much as I love the city, with the whole of space and time at his fingertips, perhaps the Doctor should begin venturing further afield. There are many other cities with fascinating histories and sights to be explored, and many more non-city locations as well. Thus, I hope this article achieved two things. The first, to quite simply provide a guide to London and Doctor Who, perhaps stoke an interest in visiting, or provide new sights to see, and to chuck the odd pub quiz fact at you. But second, to start you thinking about where you may want the Doctor to explore, either near you or somewhere you like or find interesting. As Doctor Who goes from strength to strength, and grows internationally, perhaps this should be reflected more in his travels. Of course, he could still come back every now and then…
Canterbury Cathedral. It will blow your mind…