Three major TV dramas that filmed in Bristol with support from the city’s Film Office are set to premiere this festive season. Upcoming Doctor Who Christmas Special The Church on Ruby Road (BBC One), Arthurian legend The Winter King (ITVX) and thriller TrueLove (Channel 4) are among the shows filmed in Bristol to look out for in your Christmas and New Year TV listings.
Laura Aviles, head of film, Bristol City Council, says: “As we near the end of a year that has been challenging for many that work behind the scenes in film and TV production, it’s fantastic to see three major titles filmed in Bristol landing on screen this festive season. Whether it was The Fifteenth Doctor Ncuti Gatwa and his new companion Millie Gibson causing a stir on the streets of Clifton, the beautiful Blaise Castle Estate hosting the medieval village of Avalon for The Winter King, or our city locations providing the backdrop for life-or-death drama TrueLove, these shows illustrate the vital role that Bristol plays as a filming destination for primetime UK television. Now that the US writers and actors strikes are behind us, the industry is looking ahead to a busier 2024 where production activity is expected to return to the high levels seen previously. We look forward to supporting many more major productions at The Bottle Yard Studios and Bristol Film Office.”
Doctor Who: The Church on Ruby Road
5.55pm, Christmas Day, BBC One & BBC iPlayer
Bristolian fans of The Doctor may still be buzzing from watching Bristol provide the backdrop for action scenes in 60th Anniversary special The Giggle earlier this month. Hot on the heels of that explosive episode comes the 2023 Christmas special, The Church on Ruby Road, which was also filmed extensively in the city last year with support from Bristol Film Office.
As the Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) takes over the TARDIS for his first epic adventure he will be joined by Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) making her debut as the Doctor’s companion. Joining the cast are Davina McCall playing herself alongside Michelle Greenidge as Ruby’s mum Carla, Angela Wynter as Ruby’s grandmother Cherry and Anita Dobson as Mrs Flood.
Filming took place in Clifton earlier this year when the iconic TARDIS was stationed on the corner of Frederick Place and Wetherell Place. These streets and nearby Bruton Place and Park Place were dressed to double as a festive Notting Hill setting. Christmas decorations adorned the pavements and railings, and street signs for ‘Minto Road’ and ‘Forebridge Street’ in ‘W11, the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’ were added to street corners. A Routemaster bus, London bus stops and black cabs were also part of the set dressing, as well as bins and post boxes marked as belonging to the London Borough.
In The Church on Ruby Road, the Doctor comes face-to-face with the mythical and mysterious goblins as his life collides with Ruby Sunday. Little is known about Ruby as she was abandoned on Christmas Eve as a baby. Now living with her mum, Carla and grandmother Cherry, her world is about to be turned upside down when she encounters the Doctor and the two set off on their first adventure together.
The Church on Ruby Road is written by Russell T Davies, produced by Chris May and directed by Mark Tonderai. It is produced by Bad Wolf with BBC Studios and Disney Branded Television.
Head to Bristol Film Office’s Doctor Who in Bristol Movie Map to view more Bristol locations featured in the world’s longest running sci-fi series over the past 60 years.
The Winter King
Episodes 1-5 stream on ITVX from Thursday 21st December; episodes 6-10 will be added on Wednesday 27th December
And go behind the scenes with Journey to the Winter King, streaming from 21 December
A bold and revisionist take on the well-loved Arthurian Legends, The Winter King was filmed across Wales and the South West of England last year. Bristol Film Office assisted the production team to build the highly significant location of ‘Avalon’ at Blaise Castle Estate near Henbury last year.
A large section of the Echo Gate area of parkland on the Grade II listed Estate was transformed into a medieval village set, comprising a large central tower and authentic period thatched dwellings constructed from wood, wattle and daub. Set building and site preparations began at Blaise Castle Estate in August 2022, with filming taking place there between September and December. Bristol Film Office also assisted The Winter King’s production team to film in Redcliffe Caves in October 2022.
Speaking about filming across Wales and the West Country, Julie Gardener (executive producer, Bad Wolf) said: “It was always an ambition for Bad Wolf to have the piece film in this part of the world. We’re a Cardiff-based company and always want to work locally and in the surrounding area. We were based out of Bristol for the first season, with great access to the West Country and Wales.
Producer Catrin Lewis Defis added: “I’m excited for people to see the beauty of the Welsh coast and the South West and areas around Bristol. The Quantock Hills. Cheddar Gorge. We’ve found all these wonderfully beautiful locations that haven’t been touched because they’re quite remote and I’m looking forward to people seeing the beauty of where we’ve been.”
The 10-part drama follows Arthur Pendragon, played by Iain De Caestecker (The Control Room, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as he evolves from outcast to legendary warrior and leader. Set in the 5th century long before Britain was united, The Winter King explores a land of warring factions and tribes when the world was brutal and lives were often fleeting.
Other cast includes Stuart Campbell (SAS Rogue Heroes, Clique) as Derfel, Ellie James (Giri/Haji, I May Destroy You) as Nimue, Eddie Marsan (The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe, Deceit) as Uther, High King of Dumnonia, Nathaniel Martello-White (Small Axe, I Hate Suzie) as Merlin, Daniel Ings (I Hate Suzie, The Crown) as Owain, Valene Kane (The Fall, Gangs Of London) as Morgan, Simon Merrells (Good Omens, Knightfall) as Gundleus, King of rival kingdom Siluria.
Commissioned for ITVX by ITV’s head of drama, Polly Hill, The Winter King is produced by Sony Pictures Television-owned Bad Wolf. Otto Bathurst (Peaky Blinders, His Dark Materials) serves as lead director and executive producer, alongside Toby Leslie. Kate Brooke (Bancroft, A Discovery of Witches) and Ed Whitmore (Silent Witness, Manhunt) adapted Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles and also act as executive producers. Julie Gardner (Doctor Who, I Hate Suzie), Lachlan MacKinnon (Industry, A Discovery of Witches) and Jane Tranter (His Dark Materials, Succession) serve as executive producers with Sherry Marsh (Pose, Vikings). Shelley Browning and Kenneth L. Browning are also executive producers and the drama is produced by Catrin Lewis Defis for Bad Wolf, in association with One Big Picture.
Begins 9pm, Wednesday 3rd January, Channel 4
Truelove is Channel 4’s thriller with a twist, produced by Clerkenwell Films, the team behind BAFTA award-winning series The End of the F***ing World. Production for the six-part drama was based at The Bottle Yard Studios whilst filming took place on location in Bristol and the South West region.
Bristol Film Office assisted with filming at locations across the city, including Redland (Woodstock Road), Clifton (Richmond Hill Avenue, Berkeley Square, Alma Vale Road, Brandon Hill Park, garage premises on Wetherell Place), Westbury on Trym (Canford Park and Crematorium) and Blaise Castle Estate in Henbury. Locations in the surrounding regions included Clevedon Pier, Burnham on Sea, Berrow and Brean in Somerset.
Andy Baker, executive producer, says: “Bristol was the perfect place for us to film and set our series, Truelove, for Channel 4. The city offered an amazing variety of locations, both within its urban areas and the surrounding countryside. Our show also required coastal locations, and we were able to access stunning seaside locations in about an hour from our production base. More than anything, it was a lovely city to live and work in for the duration of our shoot, with brilliant crew available locally or just over the bridge in Wales. We would definitely like to film there again.”
Lindsay Duncan (Birdman, About Time) stars as Phil, an ex-police chief enjoying a comfortable if boring retirement, and Clarke Peters (The Wire, Da 5 Bloods) is Ken, a divorcee and ex-special forces vet who feels similarly at sea. Phil and Ken were teenage sweethearts and despite life having moved on, they have never quite managed to forget each other. Their fellow friends are played by Sue Johnston (The Royle Family) as Marion, Karl Johnson (Mum) as Tom, Peter Egan (Downton Abbey) as David. This gang of old friends make a drunken pact: rather than let each other suffer a slow and dreadful decline, they will step in and engineer a dignified death. In short, they will help each other die when the time is right. Because that, they all agree, is a sign of Truelove. But what starts out as a fanciful idea soon morphs into a shocking reality.
Kiran Sonia Sawar (Murdered by My Father) plays Ayesha, a young police officer who senses there is more to these friends than meets the eye. Further cast also includes Phil Davis (Trying) as Nigel and Fiona Button (The Split) as Kate. With a core cast in their 70s, Truelove breaks the rules for older characters on screen, flipping ageist tropes on their head in a series which promises thrilling twists and turns, irreverent humour and passionate romance.
Truelove is produced by Clerkenwell Films for Channel 4 and has been commissioned by Channel 4’s head of drama, Caroline Hollick and commissioning editor, Rebecca Holdsworth. Executive producers at Clerkenwell Films are Emily Harrison, Andy Baker, Petra Fried and Charlie Langdell. Charlie Covell and Iain Weatherby also executive produce. Chloë Wicks (The Flatshare, On the Edge: Cradled) and Carl Tibbetts (The Tunnel, Black Mirror) direct and Alex Walsh-Taylor (Cheaters, Lovesick) is producer. BBC Studios, which wholly owns Clerkenwell Films, is distributing the series internationally.
Tipping Point Lucky Stars Festive Special
5.45pm, 26th December, ITVX
Ben Shephard hosts a special seasonal edition of Tipping Point: Lucky Stars, the quiz in which three celebrities take on a magnificent machine in the hope of winning £20,000 for charity. Comedian Julian Clary, the legendary actress Stephanie Beacham and reality TV favourite Jamie Laing, all eager to land their charities a Christmas gift to remember. Tipping Point and Tipping Point Lucky Stars is filmed at The Bottle Yard Studios.
Antiques Roadshow: At Christmas
7pm, Christmas Eve, BBC One & BBC iPlayer
In this festive special, Fiona Bruce and the roadshow team look back on some of the most memorable, intriguing and moving stories to have appeared in recent years to find out: ‘what happened next?’ The episode will include a segment filmed in Bristol Museum’s ceramics gallery about the ‘Topeing Jack’ Plaque, which first featured on the Antiques Roadshow in March 2022 when it was identified by expert Marc Allum as an item of ‘national importance’ and an extremely valuable piece of English Delft dating back to the second half of the 18th Century. Amber Turner (Curator, Applied Arts, Bristol Culture) will discuss the significance of the terracotta plaque, which features the musical notation and lyrics of a Henry Purcell ‘catch’. Found in a pub in Stokes Croft, Bristol, it is now on loan to the Museum.