Friday, 9 November 2012

#dwsr - Castell Coch

One of the reasons I like set reporting so much (other than the whole 'seeing Doctor Who being filmed' bit) is seeing places that I would always plan to visit but otherwise never get around to. For instance: Castell Coch, a 19th Century castle located north of Cardiff.

After a bit of a stop-start morning, the boyfriend and myself drove out to the castle, buoyed by somewhat unsubstantiated rumours of Cybermen. Half-excited, half-too-hopeful-to-fully-believe we parked up and made our way to where there was obviously some kind of filming. Filming for a "BBC science fiction show" we were told upon arrival. Despite the neon green "DV" signs leading up to the castle, this was clearly no 'Da Vinci's Demons.' We owe massive thanks to @swanseajack2001 for giving us enough information to get us that far!

First drawn image of the new
Cybermen. It's a little wide
but a good representation.
Out in front of us? Cybermen. Many, many cybermen. At least seven, perhaps as many as ten (though some were drinking coffee, helmets off, rather than rehearsing.) They were standing in the entrance to the castle. Here comes the rather bizarre moment where you find yourself walking past an iconic alien, getting accidentally nabbed in the boob by his gun, just to try and get a ticket to enter a local attraction. We found out entrance was free due to the disruption caused by filming, although they were far more keen we actually looked around the castle than stood, enthralled, watching over the balcony at the action below. Sadly we were very strictly forbidden from taking photos, so this blog post will be less picture-heavy than usual. Gareth has drawn some very accurate pictures though.

This is very accurate.
What was happening? Well sadly we were shooed along before we could see too much, but from what I could make out Clara (played by Jenna Louise Coleman) stands in an alcove with a motley crew of miltary figures (they are hardly UNIT, they are different body shapes, genders, races, each one completely alternate to the next) as the Cybermen approach through the entrance, smoke blowing around them. "Left, right, left, right" the choreographer calls as they march, with far less of a heavy tread than before. A large, overweight man dives out, firing at the leading Cyberman with his gun before ducking behind an iron maiden for cover. The lead Cyberman is hit, and moves strangely: he slows down, body moving stiffly in an awkward fashion. Still the Cybermen come, and Clara is forced to try to defend herself and the military crew with a mace. She swings it, but it's not very effective. She has to duck and weave between the Cybermen to escape.

How was the set dressed? As a theme park, perhaps a somewhat derelict one although inside the castle things seem to be in reasonable repair. There was a big sign outside declaring Castell Coch is in actual fact (in the world of Doctor Who) Natty Longshoe's Castle. A map by the side of the pathway (a large, brightly coloured, cartoon-y map with lights, like many you see at theme parks) suggests that the castle is only one of the attractions in "Hedgewicks World." Outside the castle were standing lights with purple poles and lit glass orbs on top, a typical medieval-esque tent (think the little jousting tents you often see in 'Merlin') in dull red colours. There were various signs, one for "The Giant's Cauldron" and another telling you the minimum height you needed to be to venture onto the ride. Bins also bore the "Hedgewicks World" logo. There was a large cannon, and a large amount of silver-coloured piping with wires splaying out the end of it, which reminded us of the Cybermen.

Bowie Base One logo.
As the logo appears
on the uplighters.

There was a general theme of purple - with all the items relating to theme park having been sprayed the same garish colour. Of particular note were some uplighters that had the "Bowie Base One" logo from the 'Waters of Mars' cut into them. Most likely they're old props that have just been spray painted over and reused, but possibly it's worth noting it.

Inside they spread dried autumn leaves on the stone floor. There were various set dressings - an iron maiden, a set of stocks, barrels, military painted containers, mannequins dressed in gaudy clothes reminiscent of the royal court (fair maidens in pretty dresses, courtiers, jesters, monarchs, that kind of thing - think 'Sims Medieval'!), many banners and shields that again made it feel like it was a theme park dressed to be like a fantasy medieval castle.

Jenna Louise Coleman was wearing a tight-fitting dark coloured jacket, possibly leather although it lacked the sheen of leather - it was all very matte. Under that she had a dull-red dress with a large collar, it had a large black flower pattern all over it. She looked reasonably 'modern day.' She also carried a bag - identical to her red one except in colour, it was a turquoise-green. We've now regularly seen her wearing some kind of badge - possibly military in style. She's worn it around her neck during the filming at Beatty Avenue, and wore it as a badge on her jacket today. Again, Gareth has sketched a picture.

The military operatives had on a grey-green shiny jumpsuit with silvery-grey protective items over the top: body protectors, oversized knee protectors, helmets. They carried large, grey, plastic-looking guns.

The Cybermen are a completely new design. They are leaner, curvier, more in keeping with the Classic series. Their faces are especially different: they still have the handlebars and teardrops but the face is now simply curved rather than hewn. The material they are wearing seemed lighter and much shinier (my boyfriend remarked "silver rather than steel" - it's exactly like that) - more like the armour the Sontarans wear. Their armor is no longer shaped like pants, but is closer to a leotard type shape over their lower bodies - and of course they no longer have the Cybus Industries insignia but a simple circular, bladed, shutter - much like you'd see on a camera shutter.

This filming was for Neil Gaiman's episode 'The Last Cyberman.' Details can be found from the BBC here. You can also view the title page of the script here, as it was found left in the back of a taxi! (It has now been returned to the BBC, I believe.)

Many thanks to Ryan for the additional remembered details.


  1. So, have the cybermen ditched their "suits of armour" for a more traditional body suit??

  2. It's a far more fitted shape, more lots of little interlocking plates around their bodies than proper beefy armour. They look more human-shaped, less robot.

  3. Cheers, thank bog they did a re-design on them :) Rather interested now as it seems Moff and Gaiman are taking them back to basics :)

  4. I'm very excited for this episode - the Cybermen look amazing and the guest stars are great names. Plus of course: Gaiman!!

  5. Oh lordy yes! I've been a Gaiman fan since Sandman and adored what he did with his Who debut. I am not one to wish my life away but....I so cannot wait!!!!!!!

    And this being the penultimate episode I think The Moff might have something even more special for the finale :) Good times to be a Whovian, methinks :)