Park the Tardis in Hamilton Gardens

PAUL BARLOW
Last updated 15:26 11/08/2014
Doctor Who
BBC
REGENERATED: Peter Capaldi as the 'new' Doctor with Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald.

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OPINION: For over 50 years now, The Doctor has been running through time and space saving planets and Great Britain from monsters, aliens, robots and much more - and if we play our cards right, he could possibly even save Hamilton as well.

It's been something that you may have heard about - that people behind the scenes have been trying to find a way to get an episode or two of the longest running sci-fi show in the world to film down here, in the second country in the world to originally watch it.

All this stemmed from an interview done by the Waikato Times with then Doctor, Matt Smith. Not long afterwards uber-fanboy Sir Peter Jackson said he'd jump at the chance to direct the episodes here, New Zealand-based Doctor Who scribe Neil Cross said he'd love to write an episode or two set here, and show runner Stephen Moffatt said they're keen, and he's spoken to Sir Peter and if it happens, then it would need to be after The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies is finished.

What this sets up is a very highly anticipated episode, of one of the most watched television shows in the world. There will be press coverage, publicity, and the eyes of the world will be firmly pointed towards the location. And that's where Hamilton can come in.

Hamilton city already has something called Film Friendly Status, a honorarium presented by Film New Zealand to councils which have promised to look at ways to support incoming productions to their regions. I pitched it to the council as a twofold idea - "it would be great for the creative sector", and "think of the money". But in the time since then, Hamilton has never gone and promoted itself as a viable film location. It's been lucky that some productions have swung through here, The Hobbit, The Emperor, that mystery one with Michael Fassbender a few months back - but we still don't sell ourselves to potential film markets. Knowing that there's a very specific project - an episode or two of Doctor Who - we can pitch for could be the impetus we need to start getting out there more.

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Naturally it helps that the Waikato has some stunning resources already, places like Bridal Veil Falls, Mt Pirongia, Karapiro and Arapuni Dams, the occasional industrial dairy factory and the odd quarry - all staples of Whovian production - but we also have places like Mystery Creek and Claudelands Events Centre for internal production spaces and let's face it, some of our city councillors would get on great with the hate-fuelled emotionless Daleks.

Of course, this all seems like a bit of fun fantasy on paper, a pipe dream - and maybe that's what it is. But it could be more. It could be the test subject we need to prove the viability of promoting the region to film-makers.

When Taranaki landed the Tom Cruise film The Last Samurai, Venture Taranaki put in a lot of effort to find out exactly what a production that size brought to their region. The economic impact of that film saw economic stimulus to the region to the tune of $170 million, with almost 60 per cent of the film's budget spent there. Of course a TV show's budget will be far less - making it a great microcosm to study. And then, like The Hobbit before it, there's the added tourism spin.

Hobbiton in Matamata was recently touted by Tourism New Zealand as the main reason tourist numbers to our shores have increased. Imagine how we could grow those again with the help of rackety old Tardis parked in Hamilton Gardens. Some estimates have the worldwide audience for the show at 110 million people. To find an audience of that magnitude is a coup for anyone wanting to be noticed and Cardiff - the usual home to filming - has made the most of it with museums, location tours and sometimes even the show itself being seen on the streets.

It seems like a far-fetched idea on paper - that little old Hamilton could play host to something as iconic as Doctor Who - but Hamiltonians are surprisingly good at far-fetched ideas. At one stage the idea of a statue of Richard O'Brien seemed strange, or that anyone would want to visit a swamp to look at tractors and farm equipment, or build an empire out of electric fences. If we never followed far-fetched ideas, where would Hamilton be now?

- Waikato Times

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