Doctor Who Series 12: new details from the production designer

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In the second part of an interview with SFX magazine, production designer Dafydd Shurmer revealed new details about set building and location filming on Doctor Who Series 12.

Shurmer revealed he designed the interior sets for Orphan 55’s Tranquility Spa to reflect the curved exterior of the Auditorio de Tenerife, an actual filming location in Tenerife used for the exterior of the Tranquility Spa hotel.

The facade of the Auditorio de Tenerife featured small, white ceramic mosaic tiles in a crackle pattern. Shurmer featured the same crackle pattern on various set surfaces with a circular ceiling light projecting the sames pattern on the floor of the bar.

The Judoon guns were updated for Fugitive of the Judoon. Shurmer had concept artist Louis Knight come up with a less cumbersome design featuring the similar sweeping shapes.

Gat’s gun (which we first see with the Fugitive Doctor) in Fugitive of the Judoon was originally going to be of Gallifreyan design but Chris Chibnall told Shurmer and Knight not to make the origin obvious to prevent any premature revelations.

The alien undersea base in Praxeus was built under a trash gyre, a swirling eddy of garbage, in the Indian ocean. The tunnel set leading to Suki Cheng’s spaceship was made from translucent plastic sheeting and expanding plastic. The set was lit from the outside with water projections to give the illusion of being under the ocean.

The Haunting of Villa Diodati was filmed in two Wales locations, the drawing room in Merthyr Mawr Estate and the staircase at Coedarhydyglyn, Culverhouse Cross, which was used in many other Doctor Who episodes, including Rise of the Cybermen.

The upstairs hall and rooms of Villa Diodati were set builds at Roath Lock Studios.


The Human survivors colony in Ascension of the Cybermen was filmed at an abandoned boys camp, the Old Boy’s Village on Aberthaw, Wales. Much care was taken to paint over some of the ruder graffiti put there by vandals. The paint was water-based, however, because the film crew were told to leave the location as they found it, vandalism included.

The Gravraft was fashioned after a cobbled-together life raft. The spinning part of the set was battery-powered. A set for the entrance to the Gravraft was built on location in Aberthaw.

The Matrix Chamber in Ascension of the Cybermen is a room just off the Panopticon on Gallifrey. Destroyed elements of the Panopticon are meant to be seen through a doorway of the Matrix Chamber.

The shape of the Time Lord costume with the large, arching collar was incorporated into much of the Gallifrey set design.

The June 2020 SFX Magazine is available on newsstands now and contains photos of the sets and other production design details.