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Calling for The Doctor

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WATCHING Doctor Who, it's easy to forget that incredible alien worlds, scenes of Victorian London, and even centuries old Venetian palaces are in fact landmarks and places in South Wales.

But the location manager for the hit BBC show hails from Llanrug, near Caernarfon, and he'd like to bring Doctor Who to North Wales.

With the current media frenzy surrounding the question of who is going to takeover as the next Doctor, then perhaps a quiet few days in North Wales would do the cast and crew some good.

Iwan Roberts is the man tasked with finding locations for Doctor Who to be filmed, and the 39-year-old has tens of thousands of pictures of places in Wales on a database on his laptop.

Those who live in Caerphilly might be aware that the town's castle has been used in numerous episodes of Doctor Who, while various residential houses in Cardiff have been used as homes of characters.

But for Iwan, none of those places quite top the magical setting of Snowdonia, where he would like to film an episode. "I'd love to take Doctor Who up to North Wales because I'm a North Wales boy, it'd be great to do an episode on Snowdon," says Iwan.

But Iwan, who has lived in Cardiff since 1996, says the capital is actually a perfect place to film, citing proximity to scenic countryside and epic coastlines. Still he thinks the cast and crew would like a trip north. "It"s a beautiful place, and I think the cast and crew would really enjoy it actually, it would be something different."

So what does being a location manager for one of the most popular TV series of all time entail on a day to day basis? "It's about experience really," says Iwan, who is searching for a perfect location for a top secret project when I speak to him.

"I have a huge database of pictures on my laptop, from parks and woods to residential houses. And you use that as your library, so you look at a Doctor Who script when you get sent it, and think to yourself 'I've got that location', 'I know a great place for this scene'.

"Some scripts, though, you need to do a lot of leg work. The Doctor Who Christmas special in 2011, we had to find a wood or a forest, and it took us so long to find the right woods for that episode."

Roberts cites Wales as one of the best countries in the world for a location manager to work, citing the show's HQ in Cardiff as making life particularly easy for him. "We're bang in the middle of a city, but within 10 minutes you have beautiful countryside or coastline."

In fact, the only difficulty the crew ever have to deal with is the army of fans who follow the cast and crew around. "Sometimes they seem to know where we're filming before we do," jokes Iwan. "But they're great, so dedicated. I remember we were filming a night scene in Penarth, we were there all night and the fans were there until 5am."

NORTHERN EXPOSURE IF the TARDIS was to travel to North Wales for filming, it certainly wouldn't be its first visit. The BBC has filmed in the area three times before during the original run of the series.

1967 Second Doctor Patrick Troughton filmed a story called The Abominable Snowmen in the Nant Ffrancon Pass in Snowdonia, which doubled for the Himalayas and featured the monstrous Yeti 1976 Fourth Doctor Tom Baker filmed The Masque Of Mandragora at Portmeirion, near Porthmadog, which doubled for Renaissance Italy. 1983 The Doctor's third visit was for the programme's 20th anniversary special, The Five Doctors. Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and Peter Davison filmed at Plas Brondanw, Llanfrothen, and Cwt y Bugail Quarry near Blaenau Ffestiniog, which doubled for the Time Lord's home planet of Gallifrey.

Doctor's previous time travel trips up north Nicholas Courtney and Troughton Tom Baker in Portmeirion Patrick Troughton and Fraser Hines on Nant Ffrancon Pass

GRAPHIC: Look Who's coming: Could The Doctor be motoring to Snowdonia?

Spelling correction: Frazer Hines

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  • APA 6th ed.: Beech, Richard (2013-07-19). Calling for The Doctor. Daily Post p. 3.
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