This November marked the 60th birthday of everyone’s favourite Time Lord, The Doctor.
The protagonist of legendary BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who first crashed onto screens in 1963, helping the show become a stalwart of British television viewing until the final series in 1989.
When the show was revived in 2005, it was decided that the Welsh capital, Cardiff, would be the new home for Doctor Who, with all subsequent series being produced here – including the special trio of episodes marking the show’s 60th anniversary that will air this winter.
As a result, there is now a strong connection between Doctor Who and Wales, permeating everything from the production of the show to key plot points in the series.
For starters, the man at the centre of the decision to bring the show back to television screens, Russell T Davies is a proud Welshman. Davies served as the – much lauded – showrunner of the series between 2005 and 2010 (a role he returned to this year), and was a key influence in the decision to move Doctor Who to its Welsh setting.
Most of the show is filmed within Cardiff’s state-of-the-art Bad Wolf studios. The studio’s name is itself a reference to Doctor Who, with the “Bad Wolf” a recurring motif in the first series of the rebooted version of the show.
But the Welsh connection is evident in front of the camera too. Within the world the Doctor inhabits, Cardiff Bay is said to be the site of a giant wormhole (the other half of which is floating through space), which explains why all sorts of weird and wonderful alien creatures keep washing up in the Welsh capital.
Furthermore, in the Doctor Who spin-off series, Torchwood, the Torchwood base is also located in Cardiff Bay, directly under Roald Dahl Plass. For this reason, the open square has become a major visitor attraction for fans, often paired with a stop at the nearby shrine to Ianto, a character from the series whose tragic death and LGBTQ+ storyline continues to resonate with viewers.
Of course there are many other Welsh settings that feature in the series too, from the stately, 17th-century Tredegar House in Newport to the golden sands of Dunraven Bay – memorable for being the site where the Tenth Doctor (David Tenant) bids a teary farewell to his companion, Rose Tyler (Billie Piper).
In an interview with Wales Online, Russell T Davies talked about his joy at bringing the series to Cardiff, and its sustained connection with Wales, ‘Although I'm Welsh, I was living in Manchester and they asked us to come and do [Doctor Who] here, and I was absolutely delighted and really passionate about Wales and proud about Wales and proud of the staff you can get here.’
So Happy Birthday to Doctor Who! Here’s to many more being celebrated in the Welsh capital. Hopefully no daleks will show up to crash the party...
See more of the filming locations featured in the last series of Doctor Who, starring Jodie Whittaker.