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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > DWM Special 44 - On Location > STRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND

STRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND

Daleks, Cybermen and Yeti are abroad in its cities. Krynoids, Axons and Dæmons roam all points north, east, west and south. Doctor Who country is another country – an England stranger than our own.
This Westminster Bridge shot from The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964) is one of Doctor Who’s best-known images.

Think of a photograph: one single image to sum up the whole of Doctor Who, from 1963 to the present day. Just one photograph, that refers equally to the seriesin its teatime serial infancy and to the global entertainment brand of now. One single undoctored photograph – un-Doctored, even, because to show any one of the actors who played the lead character would rule out too much of the series. T hink of a photograph: one single image to sum up the whole of Doctor Who, from 1963 to the present day. Just one photograph, that refers equally to the series.

A picture of a police box in some incongruous, barren setting, perhaps? That would simply be a picture of a police box in some incongruous, barren setting. It wouldn’t tell you anything about the series; it wouldn’t tell you it was science-fiction, for example. On the other hand, a picture of a girl being menaced by an alien monster would only say science-fiction, and not Doctor Who specifically.

Edward Gorey illustrated the cover of this 1960 edition of HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds.

It’s the shot of four Daleks crossing Westminster Bridge, with the Houses of Parliament behind them – a photograph taken early in the morning on Sunday 23 August 1964 to publicise The Dalek Invasion of Earth. It’s not technically perfect: the horizon line is clearly off, ‘Big Ben’ unbalances the composition, the rearmost two Daleks could be better aligned and the photographer’s own shadow is cast over the pavement at bottom right. Forgive him, for he was under immense pressure – the streets couldn’t be cleared, and the film unit, having started out at Trafalgar Square at 6.00 am, still had to get to the Royal Albert Hall before London awoke. He got the picture though, which was more than the film crew proper did – for they were situated on the Albert Embankment below, not on the bridge itself. And so: in the finished episode, Day of Reckoning, the Daleks’ procession across the bridge is instead seen from the point of view of the fugitives Barbara (Jacqueline Hill), Jenny (Ann Davies) and Dortmun (Alan Judd), watching from hiding. On screen, the Clock Tower (ie, ‘Big Ben’) is seen only in a subsequent scene, in which a Dalek following the fugitives’ trail is halted by the steps leading up to the bridge (the original ‘Daleks can’t climb stairs’ joke).

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About Doctor Who Magazine

In its early days, Doctor Who was recorded on cumbersome cameras tethered to claustrophobic and often inadequate studios. The show rarely escaped these confines in the 1960s, but as technology improved, producers and directors became more adventurous. Location shooting has helped to create some of the most memorable episodes in the series’ long history. In this unique publication, new features, exclusive interviews and rare images tell the story of those episodes and the people who made them happen.
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