When I wrote about the use of the tube in Doctor Who a while back, one of the stations which came up was Queen’s Arcade, seen in the 2005 season premiere Rose. This was mocked up on a Cardiff street – but rather than an attempt to replicate an existing station it was an unashamed fiction, with a made up name and a look not derived from any existing station (although it appears to be, like Fulham Broadway, a station the entrance for which is contained within a shopping centre).
Fictional tube stations aren’t uncommon in films and television set in the capital. So here in alphabetical order are ten of our favourites.
Shaun of the Dead, the Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg zombie comedy briefly features signage for a Crouch End Underground station. There isn’t one. There was a Crouch End station, between 1867 and 1954, on British Rail: it was between Highgate and (the now also closed) Stroud Green. They were both part of the planned extension of the Northern Line/Edgware, Highgate and London Railway out into suburbs such as Bushey Green and even some places that don’t share two names with characters in Shakespeare’s Richard II.
1979’s Hanover Street is a not very good wartime romance film starring Lesley Anne Down and Harrison Ford, one of the half-dozen films Ford made at Elstree between the late seventies and mid-eighties, which led to him spending so much time in the area that he nicknamed the nearest suburb “Boring Wood”.
Directed by Peter ‘2010’ Hyams from his own script, much of the story’s action is set in and around the titular Hanover Street, near the the American Embassy and just off Regent Street. This area was mocked up on the studio backlot, not terribly accurately, and given a tube station of the same name. This is shown to be a Piccadilly Line station, although it looks like a High Barnet Branch Northern Line one. Quite what a Piccadilly Line station is doing on Hanover Street is anyone’s guess. If it’d been the Central Line, they’d have gotten away with it.
LWT’s Agatha Christie’s Poirot (1989-2013) was largely set in the 1930s (although the books on which it’s based are set between 1916 and 1972). The 1995 adaptation of Hickory Dickory Dock, a story that centres on the fictional station of Hickory Road, filmed several scenes at the period-appropriate Morden Station, in the process expanding the story’s climax to feature the location more heavily .
Hobs’ Lane and Hobbs End
The 1958 BBC SF horror serial Quatermass and the Pit makes brief mention of a Hobs’ Lane station. (It is set in part on a street of that name.) When the serial came to be remade in colour in 1967 by Hammer Films, a renamed Hobs’ End station became one of the story’s major settings. Excavations for a new tube station of that name lead to the uncovering of an ancient spaceship which contains terrible truths about the history of the human race.
Quatermass writer/creator Nigel Kneale’s original story had been in part a reaction to the 1950s Notting Hill riots in West London which makes the film’s presentation of the Hobbs End as part of the then ongoing Central Line extension programme spot on. Hob (or Hobb) is a folkloric name for a spirit, generally used far north of London, and the variable spelling and punctuation of these locations, indicating singular or plural possessive, or no possession at all, are relevant to the story.
The film, possibly the best thing ever made by Hammer, is frequently on Talking Pictures TV (Freeview 081) and the TV series is available for free on the BBC iPlayer. Both are very much worth your time.
Sherlock’s fictional Sumatra Road features in 2014’s The Empty Hearse, and is shown to be on the District Line between St James’s Park and Westminster. It’s named in reference to a joke in the canonical Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire, but there’s a real Sumatra Road (although not a Sumatra Road station) running parallel to the Thameslink track between West Hampstead and Cricklewood, and it's to that part of the capital that we need to look for the fictional station’s real inspiration: the never opened North End station, beneath Hampstead Heath.
Planned as part of an extension of what is now the Edgware branch of the Northern Line at the very beginning of the last century, a successful campaign by local NIMBYs against the housing estate the station was meant to serve meant that it was abandoned unopened in 1906, although it had been largely built. Much later, its depth meant that it was a designated Cold War control centre, a place from where tube tunnels could be closed to prevent water flooding into the system from the river, should any of part of it that passed under the Thames be breached by a bomb.
These days, it’s an emergency exit from the tube and easy to visit the outside – although never the inside – of, just by the Bull and Bush pub and the intersection of North End Road and Hampstead Way.
Union Street is a setting for the quite stupid 2008 film The Escapist, about a man who leads a prison escape of unlikely suspects so he can visit his terminally ill daughter.
Scenes at the wholly fictional Union Street were shot at Aldwych (née Strand) Station which closed for the final time in 1994, and is now a listed building. Surrounded by buildings owned by the Strand Polytechnic, otherwise known as King’s College London, its platforms and corridors are the most frequently used by films and television series needing to set scenes in or around a tube station, real or otherwise.
One platform still presents a post outlining the benefits of Britain joining the EEC. Don’t everyone burst into tears at once.
The fortieth anniversary James Bond film, Die Another Day (2002) was Pierce Brosnan’s final appearance as 007. As part of the character’s traditional mission briefings with both M (Judi Dench) and Q (played here for the only time by John Cleese), we see Bond access the secret, and fictional, Vauxhall Cross Station via a public doorway on the south side of Westminster Bridge, just underneath old County Hall.
You would, of course, expect Vauxhall Cross to be in Vauxhall rather than Westminster. But that’s only the beginning of the oddities. The fictional station is on the Piccadilly Line, according to its signage, and at one point we can see from a map behind Q that it’s the next station after Hyde Park Corner, where the line also terminates. Which would make Vauxhall Cross part of a fictional spur off the line, like Mill Hill East off the Northern Line, and one that goes almost in a loop in order to reach a point off the Thames almost entirely unrelated to its name. This somehow manages to be an even less plausible Picadilly Line station than Hanover Street. Well done everyone.
Walfords East and West
The Borough of Walford has two tube stations, Walford West, which has never been seen but is occasionally mentioned in dialogue, and Walford East. East was once, like West, spoken of but never seen. But the mid 1990s expansion of the soap’s exterior set at Elstree studios allowed the station to be built, with London Underground cooperating with the BBC to provide genuine items such as ticket barriers to serve as set dressing.
Signage on the exterior set indicates that the station is a single branch station on the District Line, and close examination of the map and timetables mocked up for it shows that Walford East sits in position on the tube map that Bromley-by-Bow does in reality. The set itself is a superb evocation of a Leslie Green designed station, although that’s technically wrong: Green’s work is seen only the Bakerloo, Piccadilly and (some of) the Northern Line, the lines that were part the pre-nationalisation Underground Electric Railways Company.
The set has no platforms and therefore no trains, and on the rare occasions when platform based scenes have been needed they’ve been shot on location at the Northern Line station East Finchley, which is a good match for Walford East’s brickwork, and a not inconvenient distance from Elstree.
In more recent years, the increasing cheapness of CGI has allowed special effects to put trains through the station. This is something that links Walford East nicely to Queen’s Arcade, philosophically if not geographically. The first time a train was seen passing through Walford was on Children in Need night 1993 as part of a baffling skit called Dimensions in Time, which combined EastEnders sets and characters with appearances by the five then living former Doctors Who and loads of their assistants.
The circle line may not be a circle anymore, but everything loops back to Doctor Who in the end.