Doctor Who: The Idiot's Lantern On Location
by Tim Farr
The Idiot's Lantern is a euphemism for television. This episode is written by Mark Gatiss and directed by Euros Lynn (pronounced ay-ross) who wrote and directed 2005's The Unquiet Dead. It is set during the coronation in 1953 and features the Doctor and Rose travelling around on a contemporary form of transport.
I received a number of texts on Thursday, 16th February telling me that pick up shots for The Idiot's Lantern were being filmed at the end of Florentia Street in Cathays. David Tennant and Billie Piper had apparently been and gone. I had a good hour to spare when I got back to my house elsewhere in Cathays before I had to be on a train to Pontypridd for a TIMELESS meeting, so I thought I would have a quick look around. It was dark, but not so cold as the previous week's shoot for the same episode. The presence of a large crane light shining down into the street alongside the supermarket gave away the exact location.
In many of the earlier Florentia Street location photographs there can be seen a large board with a pale blue background depicting a textless illustration of children playing in bright colours. It's an advertisement for Spangles, a popular confection last century. This wall is part of a street that forms a T junction with the southern end of Florentia Street. This was where the day's filming was taking place. The Spangles ad had been removed. The camera was near the back wall of the western arm of the T-junction, pointing east. A large dark green period lorry with words something like B D Casey & Sons was parked at an angle across most of the eastern arm of the junction, obscuring from camera view some twenty-first century cars and the traffic roaring back and fore along the busy Crwys Road further off. The road markings were covered with straw. An abandoned wooden handcart containg tall metal milk churns and other period produce containers stood to one side. This street is mostly anonymous brick walls, although there is an anonymous metal gated yard along the wall of the western arm of the T-junction. This yard had been lit from within, light spilling into camera view.
When I arrived at about 6.40pm, there were very few bystanders. A couple with a few small children and there was an old man who mumbled occasionally in a barely intelligible manner. David Tennant was stood on his own just a few meters away and had I had something appropriate to hand, I could have got an autograph quite easily. With so few onlookers present and no still cameras in evidence, the crew were very relaxed. When they were ready to resume recording, a very simple shot was rehearsed and then recorded. Not far from the handcart, a member of the crew held the dark blue Vespa scooter steady from behind. David Tennant in the tenth Doctor's pin stripe suit and wearing a pale crash helmet sat astride the scooter and the engine was started. The crew member pushed the scooter forward and moved quickly out of camera view. The scooter glided slowly towards the camera and Tennant stopped it only a very few feet from the camera lens. Although his stunt double was also prsent in a matching costume, it had to be the man himself for this shot as it plainly ends on a close up of his face.I left at 7.00pm between the first and second takes of this shot. A TIMELESS meeting and a curry were waiting for me in Pontypridd!
© Timothy Farr, 2006
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