Friday, 21 November 2008

Pop Goes the Traveller

It was easy to get excited in London earlier this year, as I stood on the Bermondsey street known as Shad Thames.

It's an interesting piece of roadway in itself, running between old warehouses connected above street level by walkways. But I was fascinated by its link with Doctor Who.

Yes, way back in 1984 the cast and crew of the famous BBC science fiction TV series visited Shad Thames. The dockside street was one location in the story Resurrection of the Daleks.

It hosted some marvellously atmospheric scenes in its rain-dampened confines. They included a mass prisoner breakout at the start of the story, and a Dalek exploding upon its surface after being pushed from an upper window.

It was quite delightful seeing the street - now thoroughly gentrified - in person, though probably I was the only onlooker making the connection with a popular TV show from my younger days. And it reminded me how often I've enjoyed similar intersections between pop culture and real life when travelling.

Here are a few random pop culture travel memories:
  • Standing in the open space in front of the ancient Treasury building in Petra, Jordan, and recalling on the scenes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) which were filmed there. In fact, we'd rewatched the movie at a backpackers' hostel in nearby Wadi Musa just the night before.
  • Visiting Portmeirion, North Wales, where the amazing 1967 British TV series The Prisoner was shot. The series depicted a nameless spy, Number 6, who'd been imprisoned in a seemingly charming seaside village after resigning. In reality, it looks startlingly like it did in the series, because it's an 'artificial' village which was pieced together with architectural fragments from far and wide.
  • Experiencing flashbacks to every Cold War TV series and movie of my youth, when wandering around the cities of formerly communist Central Europe. Warsaw is particularly good for this, but I remember a mid-90s visit to a business hotel in GdaƄsk which looked precisely the sort of place you'd meet your East German spymaster.
  • A literary favourite is Sherlock Holmes, and on my first London visit I got a buzz out of visiting Baker Street and imagining myself following in the footsteps of the master detective. Using a guide produced by the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, I was able to replicate journeys taken within the short stories.
  • A few years ago I had some fun writing a story on Sydney movie locations for Virgin Blue's inflight magazine. In the course of the research I visited locations major and minor, including places that had appeared in The Matrix, Muriel's Wedding, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Mission Impossible II, among others.
  • And of course, every day I walk past locations in Melbourne's city centre that feature in The Opposite of Life, a fantasy novel by my wife, Narrelle M Harris. Prominent landmarks referenced in the book include Chinatown, the 24-hour Greek restaurant Stalactites, the Forum Theatre, cool alleyway bars The Croft Institute and MOO, the grand State Library, and the shiny new apartments of Docklands.
What about you? Which of your travel experiences have taken on extra meaning because of their pop culture connections?