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BBC Quarry

"I've been to many planets in the solar system, and you'd be surprised how many of them look like quarries in Wales."

The ISO Standard alien planet set, as used endlessly in Blake's 7, Doctor Who and even The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy TV series. It was a disused or rented quarry, full of interestingly dull rocks and fascinatingly monotonous scenery, the perfect alien-landscape-on-a-budget — the British equivalent of Kirk's Rock. So common was the quarry usage by these series that according to Gareth Thomas, who played Blake in Blake's Seven, there was one occasion when they heard noises at the other side of the quarry, and discovered Doctor Who was filming there at the same time (though evidence of filming dates shows this may be apocryphal).

The quarries were usually not owned by The BBC, but rented for filming from businesses like Lime Works.

Many of the quarries are no longer quarries. Its legacy lives on, however, in Smallville, Battlestar Galactica and other shows, except now it is bigger, full of trees, and in British Columbia.

The direct American equivalent is Bronson Canyon. See also Kirk's Rock, Here There Be Lions and California Doubling.

Examples

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    Fan Works 
  • Rather than drive 1500 km into the Australian outback to find a desert wasteland, the creators of the Fan Film Star Wars Downunder decided to just copy Doctor Who and film in a gravel quarry outside Ipswich, Queensland. Some background shots for the bluescreen were eventually filmed in Sturt Stony Desert.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The movie version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy used the BBC Quarry during the Vogsphere sequence as a Mythology Gag.
  • The climax of the B-Movie The Curse Of King Tut's Tomb was set in the "Egyptian Underworld": recreated by a marble quarry with a CGI stormy red sky.
  • The second Mortal Kombat movie visited the sinister Outworld that the Big Bad called home. It was filmed in the dark, and the ground was suspiciously gravelly.
  • Galaxy Quest. Note: This quarry is in fact Utah's Goblin Valley, whose unusual rock formations truly look like something you'd find on an alien planet.

    Live Action TV 
  • Betchworth Quarry, near Reigate
  • Wookey Hole was a bunch of caves the BBC also liked to use. Parodied in "Stump Hole Caverns" in a one-shot sketch on The League of Gentlemen:
    Tour Guide: Back then you couldn't move down here for Cybermen. In fact, I remember one incident where Tom Baker sprained his ankle on that rock there. Which just goes to show how easily accidents happen...
  • A list of Blake's 7 locations — note several different quarries: http://www.hermit.org/Blakes7/whatswhat/Locations.html
    • Radio sketch show The Burkiss Way had a Blake's 7 parody entitled "Blake's Film Shot in Old Gravel Pits".
    • The Blake's 7 radio play "The Sevenfold Crown" contains a line where a disgusted sounding Tarrant complains that the planet they've just teleported down to "looks like a quarry".
    • One fan explanation is that the planets concerned have been strip-mined by the Federation, who needless to say can't be bothered cleaning up after them.
  • Too many alien planets to count in Doctor Who.
    • Justified for Skaro in Genesis of the Daleks, as the planet is a war-blasted wasteland when the Doctor and his companions arrive.
    • Subverted humorously in the stories "Terror of the Zygons", "The Seeds of Doom", and "The Hand of Fear", all of which feature contemporary-Earth scenes set in actual quarries.
    • Lampshaded in the Doctor Who Missing Adventures novel The Shadow of Weng-Chiang: the Doctor is taken to a quarry, and compares it to the landscapes of Gallifrey and Skaro.
    • In the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Return of the Living Dad, the Doctor comments that Earth is special because he has been to countless other planets, and most of them look like gravel pits.
    • The BBC Quarry is rare in the new series, which especially in its first three series has more of an emphasis on Earthbound stories (and when they do appear, it's accentuated by CGI backgrounds). It shows up for the first time in the Series 2 episode "The Impossible Planet" and prominently again in the Series 3 episode "Utopia".
    • The Series 5 episode "The Hungry Earth" is also set around a quarry in Wales, and the village nearby.
    • Spoofed in the Doctor Who parody The Curse of Fatal Death:
      Doctor: But now I have grown weary of all the evil in the cosmos. All the suffering. All the torment. All those endless gravel quarries...
    • Tom Baker's lampshading on "Destiny of the Daleks" provides (one of the) page quotes.
    • In The Sarah Jane Adventures story "Death of the Doctor", the Doctor is trapped on a planet that was also filmed in a rock quarry.
    • Defictionalization: The European Space Agency is now testing its Mars lander in, yes, quarries in southern England...
    • The official number of alien planets that look like Earth quarries is 29.
    • Lampshaded in the 50th Anniversary Book "The Roots of Evil", when the Fourth Doctor is trying to get the Villain of the Week to say where he knows him from - "Does your planet look like a gravel pit? You'll be surprised how many planets look like gravel pits."
  • Stargate SG-1's all-purpose valley, forest, and village. Lampshaded in at least one episode.
    • From a behind-the-scenes preview:
      Tony Amendola (Bra'Tac): I think we've shot in every pit in Vancouver; Stokes pit, [Jackson] pit...
    • Similarly, the endless forest planets of Stargate Atlantis. (It may well be the same forest.) With 90% of the episode set in the same identical middle ages backwater set.
      McKay: Couldn't we have met these people on a tropical beach planet populated by tall blonde women?
  • Japanese Toku action series — including every Super Sentai series, and Power Rangers by extension — set many of their more pyrotechnic fights in a quarry.
    • Due to the blending of Super Sentai footage and original footage, Power Rangers actually has three such quarries: the Sentai quarry, an American quarry (from seasons one through ten), and a New Zealand quarry (season eleven and onward, after the move to NZ.) Other Saban productions in the same vein also had many a battle taking place in these quarries (most notably VR Troopers, in which all battles are taken back to the Virtual World at some point, in an area that is always the quarry.) In Power Rangers Ninja Storm, it was common for bad guys to call the Rangers out by going to this quarry and waiting. They were always quickly detected, as if the Rangers realized its popularity with villains and kept it monitored.
    • Japan has many areas of land unsuitable for development because they actually are naturally that rocky, infertile, and/or geologically unstable. Often these are found right at the bases of mountains, so when the scenes are shot with the mountain behind them it gives the illusion that they're actually below ground-level as you would expect from a rock quarry. And as they aren't owned, it's easy to cordon them off for shooting, especially for enormous battle scenes.
    • Lampshaded in at least one episode:
      Shane / Red Ranger: Not another rock quarry!
    • In a rare instance of the BBC Quarry actually mattering, one is the site of the Rider War depicted in the opening of Kamen Rider Decade, where every Kamen Rider from 2000-2008 tries to take down Decade all at once - and loses. It was All Just a Dream that female lead Natsumi was having. So you can imagine the "Oh Crap" moment she had when, in the final episode, she realized that they were in that very same quarry. The Rider War starts about two minutes later.
  • Red Dwarf filmed a scene on a deserted planet in a quarry for "Thanks for the Memory". The fact they filmed it at night made it slightly less obvious.
    • A quarry also pops up as the planetoid Kryten and Rimmer play golf on in a flashback scene in "Blue". And as the deserted planet that becomes "Rimmerworld".
    • In one of Red Dwarf's tie-in books, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor talk about how when they were trying to get the show off the ground, they were informed one of the reasons people who commisioned TV shows at the time hated sci-fi was that "you always end up chasing people wrapped in foil through a quarry, pretending it's the planet Qxxyzzzyx."
  • Smallville used the same forest setting in two Season Premiers. With the same props (they flipped the order said props were interacted with.). In another episode, they used a dam that was the back drop for a pivotal episode in The X-Files.
  • Magrathea in the TV version of The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy was one of these. Said quarry in Cornwall is particularly noteworthy, as it is now home to The Eden Project a collection of artificial biomes housed in the world's largest sealed greenhouse. Rather apt, since Magrathea was home to a species of world-builders.
  • This trope is still in use today, though CGI enhancement makes it more subtle. Quarry in Northern Ireland + CGI = The Wall from Game of Thrones.
    • All the desert scenes in the second season of Game of Thrones were also filmed in a quarry, this time in Croatia.

    Radio 
  • Referenced in BBC Radio 4's sci-fi comedy Nebulous:
    Nebulous: The Withered Zone itself poses no threat, sir. It is merely a sterile wasteland. To the untrained eye, it might as well be a quarry.
  • Spoofed as far back as the original The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series, when the characters arrive on the surface of Magrathea for the first time; it's obviously difficult to tell in an audio drama, but it certainly sounds like Douglas Adams -who was a scriptwriter for Dr Who before hitting the big time with this show- had this sort of location in mind. And apart from Arthur, for whom the novelty of walking on an alien world has not yet worn off, none of them are terribly impressed.

    Tabletop Games 
  • UNISON, the Freedom City Expy of UNIT, dealt with alien invaders operating from a base they had constructed in a gravel quarry in central England in 1969.

    Web Comics 


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