Margam Country Park, Port Talbot

Filming schedule

The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky: filmed 23-26 October 2007
The Beast Below: filmed 22 September 2009
The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang: filmed 22 September 2009, 1, 3-5 February 2010

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The Sontaran Stratagem: Margam Park

Clip taken from The Sontaran Stratagem starring David Tennant as The Doctor in scenes filmed at Margam Country Park, Port Talbot.

The Sontaran Strategem/The Poison Sky

Original BBC One broadcast: Saturday 26 April/Saturday 3 May 2008
Director: Douglas Mackinnon
Starring: David Tennant as the Doctor

The Beast Below

Original BBC One broadcast: Saturday 10 April 2010
Director: Andrew Gunn
Starring: Matt Smith as the Doctor

The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang

Original BBC One broadcast: Saturday 12/Saturday 19 June 2010
Director: Toby Haynes
Starring: Matt Smith as the Doctor

An 850 acre estate on the slopes of Mynydd Margam, Port Talbot, Margam Country Park is a venue open to the public with its attractions of narrow gauge railway, farm trail, ornamental gardens and magnificent orangery.

It had already featured in episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood in 2007 before the arrival of the Doctor Who team who felt that the Tudor-style mansion house - in fact built in the Victorian era - would be perfect for the mysterious establishment of the Rattigan Academy in the Doctor's two-part skirmish with the Sontarans: The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky.

The first four days of recording found director Douglas Mackinnon at this estate for various sequences across both instalments of the tale.

Tuesday 23 October 2007 saw interior recording for the scenes in Luke's own private area where the Doctor - played by David Tennant - questioned the young genius about ATMOS and the Sontaran General Staal returned to his ship. Freema Agyeman and Catherine Tate joined the team as Martha Jones and Donna Noble the next day, with the former making her first return to Doctor Who in months.

This time work began outdoors, with plate shots looking out across the south of the estate captured so that The Mill could add the skyline of London and the threat of the deadly alien gas in post-production. Any Effects also employed smoke generators to simulate the noxious vapours in shot with the actors before the team moved inside for more scenes in Luke's room when the natural light of autumn faded.

By Thursday 25, word that Doctor Who was visiting Margam had spread, with the stars sparing time to meet younger fans between takes on the afternoon and evening shoot. The focus of the day was the departure of the Doctor and UNIT Private Ross Jenkins from the west side of the house in The Sontaran Stratagem, while that evening journalist Jo Nakashima's fateful journey away from the establishment under the guidance of ATMOS was recorded.

The last day at Margam then saw the recording of the laboratory scenes at Rattigan Academy taped on an upper floor, and scenes of Luke alone in his room in the first episode wrapped up work that night.

When the Doctor next visited Margam, he had a different face. A night shoot in the Orangery was scheduled for Matt Smith on Tuesday 22 October 2009 where the building formed the interior of Buckingham Palace, the residence of Liz 10, aboard Starship UK.

Sophie Okonedo guest starred as the sometimes masked investigator of the strange events aboard her kingdom and one of the key scenes were her apprehension by the Winders and the revelation that they were also the grotesque Smilers.

Also recorded in advance was half of the scene for The Pandorica Opens in which Liz 10 found River Song stealing a painting - with Sophie performing all her lines as the monarch.

Months later, the extensive grounds of the estate were perfect for the BBC crew under director Toby Haynes to erect 'Foamhenge' - their own lightweight replica of the world famous stone circle Stonehenge - to record various sequences for the episode The Pandorica Opens.

The first day, Monday 1 February 2010, saw the Doctor and Amy arriving by TARDIS to gaze upon the Roman encampment, after which actors Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Alex Kingston took their places on horse saddles mounted on the back of a jeep so that close-ups of the Doctor, Amy and River Song could be recorded as if riding on horseback.

"That's possibly one of the strangest things I've ever done. It's a little bit undignified," commented Karen.

Recording at the real Stonehenge in Wiltshire was conducted the following night, and with these establishing shots safely in the can it was back to Foamhenge for the rest of the week.

The Doctor's rock star-style address to the alien spaceships was taped on Wednesday 3, while Amy's demise at the hands (or rather hand) of the Auton Rory was performed on the rain-lashed night of Thursday 4. The final scenes at Stonehenge with the return of the fez-wearing Doctor were captured on Friday 5 - along with the other half of the Liz 10/River Song confrontation, this time recorded in the Orangery with Alex Kingston.

Episode synopses: The Sontaran Strategem/The Poison Sky

A phone call from Martha Jones brings the Doctor and Donna Noble back to present day England where Martha - now working as a medical officer for UNIT - explains about an investigation of mysterious deaths linked to the Rattigan Academy. Both this and the factory where ATMOS vehicle anti-pollution devices are manufactured are implicated in a plan hatched by General Staal of the Tenth Sontaran Battle Fleet.

Episode synopsis: The Beast Below

During her first trip in the TARDIS, Amy Pond sees Starship UK, a vast colony ship in which the inhabitants of the United Kingdom have lived to survive the solar flares of the future. When a little girl in a busy street is left crying, the Doctor decides to investigate, encountering a mysterious masked lady and the sinister figures of the Smilers.

Episode synopses: The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang

A message from the start of time carved into a mountainside on Planet One is translated by the Doctor, and brings him to a Roman encampment near Stonehenge in 102 AD. Here, River Song shows him a warning: a painting by Vincent van Gogh showing the TARDIS exploding, with the title The Pandorica Opens.

Return to the Doctor Who in Wales map.

  • Region : South east Wales

How to get here

By car: if travelling from the south or west Wales take the M4 motorway, exit at junction 38 and follow the signs to Margam Country Park. Take the M5/M4 from the West Country, and the M6/M5/M50/M4 from the Midlands and the North.

By Bus: there are bus stops at the main road entrance, a five minute walk to the Margam Park reception area. From Swansea, Bridgend, Pyle and Port Talbot bus and train station take the First Cymru X1. From Neath take the First Cymru 226 or 227 to Port Talbot bus station, then the X1.

By train: the nearest train station is Port Talbot.

For more information visit the Margam Country Park section on the Neath Port Talbot county website.

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