With the announcement that Scifi Wales is coming to Llandudno in 2015, people have been asking us… What has Wales ever contributed to sci-fi? Well to be honest quite a bit after we did some research! When you first put the words sci-fi and Wales together, two more words pop in to your head, and those words are Doctor Who. Doctor Who is the world’s longest-running sci-fi show and has been filming in Wales since 1967, but did you know that Wales has been the setting of many more sci-fi shows and films throughout the years?
From Snowdonia in North Wales to Cardiff in South Wales, the sci-fi phenomenon that is Doctor Who has been using Wales as the back-drop to many of its episodes since 1967 where Nant Ffrancon Pass near Llyn Ogwen lake and the town of Bethesda in northern Snowdonia were passed off as the barren Himalayan foothills of Tibet in The Abominable Snowman. The episode sees the TARDIS arriving in Tibet where the Doctor and his companions visit the remote Detsen monastery to return a sacred bell and ultimately ending with an expedition to track down the legendary Abominable Snowmen.
In more recent times, the Doctor Who production team, now based in Cardiff, South Wales has been filming many of the recent series’ in Cardiff, South Wales and the surrounding area. For those interested in seeing exactly where Doctor Who has filmed in and around Wales, the BBC has kindly created an interactive map which can be accessed here.
The Doctor Who spin-off series Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures have also been filmed in and around Wales.
First broadcast in the UK in 1968, The Prisoner series follows the life of a former British secret agent who is abducted and held prisoner in an unknown coastal town where he is subject to interrogation by his captors in order to unlock any secrets he may be hiding. The exteriors for most of the series were actually filmed in Portmeirion village near Porthmadog, North Wales, and indeed the location itself partially inspired the show. At the request of Portmeirion's architect Clough Williams-Ellis, the main location for the series in Wales was not disclosed until the opening credits of the very last episode.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
The amazing sci-fi series created by Douglas Adams, the story follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, a hapless Englishman, but also follows the adventure of other major characters such as Ford Prefect; an alien from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse and a researcher for the eponymous guidebook; Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford's semi-cousin and the Galactic President; the depressed robot Marvin the Paranoid Android; and Trillian, formerly known as Tricia McMillan, a woman Arthur once met at a party in Islington and the only other human survivor of Earth's destruction. Some of the scenes for the film were shot on location at Trefil Quarry, Tredegar, South Wales.
Stardust begins in the English village of Wall, a countryside town which borders a magical kingdom called Stormhold. One night a young man makes a promise to his beloved that he will retrieve a fallen star in return for her hand in marriage. This magical sci-fi/fantasy film contains a scene filmed in the Brecon Beacons, a mountain range in South Wales. In the film, Yvaine and Tristan walk through the National Park above Llyn y Fan Fach (Welsh meaning Lake of the small beacon-hill).
Filmed in 2010 and directed by Ridley Scott, the story follows Robin Longstride (played by Russell Crowe) who is a common archer in the army of King Richard the Lionheart. A veteran of Richard's crusade, he now takes part in the siege of Chalus Castle. When invited to give an honest view of the war, Robin and his comrades find themselves thrown in to the stocks. The beach-based fight scenes during the film were recorded over two months at Freshwater West, in Pembrokeshire, Wales (a seemingly popular destination for many sci-fi productions in Wales).
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Parts 1 & 2)
Harry Potter chronicles the adventures of a young wizard, Harry Potter, and his friends Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In the final film instalments of J.k. Rowling's fantasy epic, our wizards are transported to a beach from Malfoy Manor which was filmed on location again at Freshwater West, in Pembrokeshire, Wales.
Snow White and the Huntsman
This dark fantasy film is based on the German fairy tale Snow White. In a twist to the Brothers Grimm rendition, the Huntsman is ordered by Ravennna, the Evil Queen and powerful sorceress to take Snow White into the woods and kill her. The Huntsman however becomes Snow White's protector and they begin a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen. The battle scenes for the movie were filmed at Marloes Sands, in Pembrokeshire, Wales.
Independent Sci-Fi Productions
Not only has Wales been chosen by the major film studios as the filming location of choice for major worldwide blockbusters, Wales has also been chosen as a location by many smaller, independent films such as The Machine by Red & Black. The Machine is an award-winning sci-fi film, set in an impoverished world that has been plunged into a Cold War with a new enemy. Britain’s Ministry of Defence is on the brink of developing a game-changing weapon and their lead scientist Vincent McCarthy (Toby Stephens) provides the answer with his creation "The Machine". Other independent sci-fi films such as Dreck by TSquared Films have also been filmed in Wales.
As we have seen, Wales isn't just a place where people visit for seaside getaways or to watch a great Rugby match. Wales is a rich and vibrant country with deep links in to the world of sci-fi, fantasy and cult entertainment. With even more productions such as The Dark Knight Rises, Tomb Raider, Merlin and Sherlock having filming locations in Wales, the country should be at the top of every sci-fi fans list if they want to immerse themselves in the television and films they adore so much. Sci-fi and Wales go together like Star and Wars, like Cheese and Pickle and like Doctor and Who; Wales truly can be called a country of sci-fi.