Powis Castle, Welshpool

Warriors' Gate: photography taken 1 September 1980

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Warriors' Gate: Powis Castle

Clip taken from Doctor Who: Warriors' Gate (1981) featuring John Leeson as the voice of K9, Lalla Ward as Romana and David Weston as Biroc.

Warriors' Gate

Original BBC One broadcast: Saturday 3 January to Saturday 24 January 1981
Director: Paul Joyce
Starring: Tom Baker as the Doctor

"I had a notion that when they got to this particular place beyond the Gateway, it would look something like Powis Castle," recalled director Paul Joyce in In.Vision, "I thought that a way of playing with this idea of everything being real but unreal would be to have people in full colour moving through a black and white environment."

Warriors' Gate was a strange tale - even by Doctor Who standards - and employed a number of different production techniques to bring the narrative of time-sensitive slaves crossing between universes at a dimensionally unstable galactic zero point to the screen. For several sequences set in the grounds of a surreal ruined gateway during the serial, the ornate terraced gardens of Powis Castle were seen.

The castle was originally constructed on a rocky as a fortress around 1200AD, and passed into the hands of Sir Edward Herbert in 1578. The Herbert family then undertook extensive refurbishments over the centuries, most notably the baroque gardens of the 18th century, laid out by a French designer and drawing upon the terraced gardens of 16th century Italy for inspiration. The property was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1952, and remains open to visitors in the summer months.

The budget allocated to Warriors' Gate did not extend to location filming for the garden sequences, so Paul Joyce opted to achieve these exteriors - seen in Parts Three and Four - in a highly stylised manner.

A stills photographer was despatched to the castle in Welshpool in September 1980 to take monochrome shots of the gardens. Then during studio recording at Television Centre in the coming weeks, these photographs were placed behind the cast who acted out short sequences against the surreal backgrounds.

The finished sequences depicted the Doctor - played by Tom Baker - finding himself behind the strange mirrors and following a Tharil called Biroc through the gardens, while later scenes showed the Doctor's companion Romana with another Tharil, Lazlo, and the story concluded with Romana and Biroc walking off through the monochrome gardens to adventures new.

Episode synopsis: Warriors' Gate

As the Doctor and Romana search for a way back out of E-Space to return to their own universe, the TARDIS is hijacked by a strange alien humanoid called Biroc and piloted to a white void. Along with Adric and K9, the Time Lords encounter cruel slavers in a crashed cargo vessel, dusty robotic guardians, and a decaying gateway housing some bizarre mirrors.

Return to the Doctor Who in Wales map.

  • Region : Mid Wales

How to get here

By bus: take the D71 Oswestry-Welshpool, or the X75 Shrewsbury-Llanidloes.

By car: The castle is one mile south of Welshpool. The vehicle route is signposted from the main road to Newtown (A483).

On foot: there is a one-mile walk from Park Lane in Welshpool.

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