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BBC Quarry

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"What a desolate place this is."

"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 (1981) 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. As a bonus, since shooting in a quarry means you're below the surrounding ground level, anachronistic structures/features aren't readily visible and don't require expensive sets or more expensive post-production work to conceal. The abundance of different levels and flat rocks to stand on means there's plenty of places to set up cameras for additional angles, too.

So common was the quarry usage by these series that according to Gareth Thomas, who played Blake in Blake's 7, 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.

The direct American equivalent is Bronson Canyon and Caves. See also Kirk's Rock and California Doubling.


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    Fan Works 
  • The fanfic Power Rangers Take Flight adapts a pre-Power Rangers Sentai series, Choujin Sentai Jetman, which used a lot of quarry scenes; so it has many too. Here it also has a large ravine thanks to the Hawkzord crashing there at the start of the series. Lampshaded when one of the villains remarks "Here we are again... the quarry. Not the most creative choice, but it'll do."
  • 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.
  • In Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space, the government is questioning "why we spend billions of credits exploring a galaxy that consists mostly of gravel pits?" This becomes a Brick Joke when a hostile alien threatens to turn Earth into a heap of gravel. "After all, why should Earth look different from other worlds?"

    Films — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 

In General:

  • Japanese Toku action series — including every Super Sentai series, and Power Rangers by extension — set many of their more pyrotechnic fights in a quarry, more specifically, Mount Iwafune in Tochigi.
    • 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 a couple of times, such as with this exchange in Power Rangers Ninja Storm:
      Cam/Green Samurai Ranger: The quarry? What, is it like a monster-con over there?
      Shane/Red Wind Ranger: Not another rock quarry!
    • And also...:
      Dr. Kat Manx: The quarry is under attack.
      Linkara: It's a fricking quarry. It has rocks in it! Is he attacking the rocks?!
    • Power Rangers Ninja Steel has an instance of the Rangers looking for the Monster of the Week, and Brody suggests the quarry. "Monsters always hang out at the 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 he kicks all their asses. 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.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid offers a justification: Thanks to the show's overarching theme of Video Games, the Transformation Trinkets have the ability to perform a "stage select", which lets the Riders move the battle to another location. While the bog-standard quarry hasn't appeared in early episodes, similar locales like a scrapyard, an Abandoned Warehouse and a vacant beach have shown up. (The quarry did turn up eventually.)
    • The final battle of Kamen Rider Build takes place in a dimensional fault, located in space, that absorbs all energy around and within it and was created by the process of two parallel Earths smashing into each other. Sounds like prime Amazing Technicolor Battlefield material, right? Nope. Once the action gets there, it turns out inside of the singularity is just a very familiar quarry. They do spice it up a bit with CG (the place starts literally falling apart at the climax of the battle) but it's still pretty funny to watch.
    • The year 2068 in Kamen Rider Zi-O consists of just an orange-tinted quarry. Justified, as the world has become a war-blasted wasteland by that time.
  • 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...


  • Interestingly, this spills over into Toei's non-tokusatsu shows as well. For example, the quarry also appears multiple times for chase sequences in Tokusou Saizensen.
  • Here is a list of Blake's 7 locations; note several different quarries. Scowles (ancient iron ore quarries) provided a more visibly interesting version of the trope, as they also had caves and greenery. Sometimes there are In-Universe justifications such as the atmosphere is too thin to support much vegetation, or the planet has been mined out by the Federation or devastated by nuclear or biological warfare.
    • Radio sketch show The Burkiss Way has 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".
  • Too many alien planets to count in Doctor Who. That said, the official number of alien planets that look like Earth quarries is 29. It's a trope very commonly associated with the series in the popular imagination.
    • Straight uses:
      • The outside of the tomb on Telos in "The Tomb of the Cybermen" is a clear example. It cuts to a studio shot as soon as they reach the entrance.
      • Particularly jarring when used for Gallifrey, as when Susan described it early in the series she gave a beautiful description about it having red grass and silver trees (the description quoted word-for-word by the Tenth Doctor in "Gridlock"). Yet when the Fourth Doctor actually goes there in "The Deadly Assassin" and "The Invasion of Time", it's shown to be a complete dump (literally). The revival series did a bit of a Fix Fic on this by showing it as breathtakingly gorgeous, though the area where the Doctor grew up has fallen victim to desertification.
      • 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.
      • Wookey Hole, a fascinating cave system in Somerset, is used for both the caves in the Fourth Doctor serial "Revenge of the Cybermen" and the Tenth Doctor serial "The End of Time".
      • 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".
      • Despite its rarity in the new series, the Minisode "Rain Gods" is an alien planet shot in a non-CGI-enhanced quarry thanks to the limited budget of Minisodes compared to usual episodes.
    • Justified and/or stories in literal quarries:
      • "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", the first Doctor Who story to have significant amounts of location filming, used a quarry for scenes set in an actual quarry. Albeit one on future Earth run by the Daleks.
      • Justified in "The Dominators", as most of the action is set on an island used as a nuclear testing site, which had been too radioactive to clean up until recently.
      • Justified in "Colony in Space" as the setting actually is a quarry on an alien world — the colonists are suspicious of the Doctor as they believe he was trying to steal their rocks.
      • "The Green Death", "Terror of the Zygons", "The Seeds of Doom" and "The Hand of Fear" feature contemporary-Earth scenes set in actual quarries. "The Hand of Fear" used it as a subversion of the trope by beginning with the Doctor and Sarah Jane walking out not knowing where they are and suddenly getting into a scrape involving yellow diggers who then inadvertently unearth the eponymous Hand of Fear from the quarry. The Series 5 episode "The Hungry Earth" is also set in a literal quarry in Wales.
      • Justified for Skaro in "Genesis of the Daleks", as the planet is a war-blasted wasteland when the Doctor and his companions arrive.
    • Lampshade Hanging:
      • 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.
      • 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."
      • Spoofed in the Doctor Who parody The Curse of Fatal Death:
        The 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.
      • "The Ballad of Russell and Julie" has a lyric where Julie announces, of her plans to revive Doctor Who, "We'll film in every quarry from here to Caerphilly!"
      • The Time Trips novella Into the Nowhere has a wasteland planet which is, from the dialogue and description, clearly supposed to look like one of these, even having loose gravel everywhere. The Eleventh Doctor, who is used to much better looking planets by this point, is profoundly unimpressed: "Ugh! I hate this planet, it’s rubbish. Look at all these rocks! Rubbish!"
      • Also lampshaded in the Time Trips novella Keeping Up With the Joneses when the Doctor enters a dimension inside his own TARDIS and asks one of the inhabitants where it is. She says it's Wales:
        "Yes," he said. "Of course. In all the universe, space and time, it turns out however far you go there's mostly Wales."
      • An elegant Leaning on the Fourth Wall lampshading occurs in the Past Doctor Adventures book Drift:
        Fourth Doctor: You know, usually in any investigation I try to leave no stone unturned.
        Captain Shaw: That's a commendable work ethic, Doc. Shows dedication.
        Fourth Doctor: Yes, but it's also very time-consuming when you find yourself in a quarry as often as I do.
      • In Tom Baker's novel Doctor Who Meets Scratchman, the Doctor thinks the hell dimension looks like a quarry, and calls Uxarieus a "chalk-pit of a world".
    • The new series has also added some variety (or possibly an aversion) to the quarry game: the quarry-like lunar setting in "Kill the Moon" was actually Timanfaya National Park, near a volcano on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.
    • Defictionalization: The European Space Agency is now testing its Mars lander in, yes, quarries in southern England...
    • Another reasonably common setting is a refinery, a set especially common during the Earthbound setting of the Jon Pertwee era. About a third of his stories included refinery settings doubling for research facilities or mining operations.
    • In the Philip Hinchcliffe era, the Doctor was very prone to landing his TARDIS in the woods.
  • 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.
  • Magrathea in the TV version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981) was a quarry in Cornwall that 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.
  • Whenever MythBusters require a lot of explosions they rent a nearby rock quarry and a bombing expert for a day.
  • The German SF series Raumpatrouille (Space Patrol) used a colliery spoil tip as most of its alien planets.
  • 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". The asteroid that Starbug crashes on in "Psirens" also falls within this trope.
    • 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 Premieres, using the same props (just flipping the order they're interacted with). In another episode, they used a dam that was the back drop for a pivotal episode in The X-Files.
  • Stargate SG-1's all-purpose valley, forest, and village. Lampshaded in at least one episode. If a desert location was required, they were all filmed in the same sand storage lot, the Richmond Sand Dunes (which was eventually emptied and turned into warehouses, until they were gone entirely by 2007). Said sand lot also served as New Caprica in Battlestar Galactica (2003)
    • 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?


  • Big Finish Doctor Who: During the events of "The One Doctor", the Doctor still manages to land in one, where a Weakest Link parody is playing.
  • Spoofed as far back as the original The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978) 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 Doctor 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.
  • 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.
  • The Burkiss Ways parody of Blake's 7 was called Blake's Set In Old Gravel Pit

    Tabletop Games 
  • UNISON, the Freedom City knockoff of UNIT, dealt with alien invaders operating from a base they had constructed in a gravel quarry in central England in 1969.
  • Warhammer 40,000 rulebooks normally have a section or subsection covering battlefield terrain and how to set it up on one's table; the fourth edition's rulebook advises that such terrain can be "as simple as a number of hills with rubble-strewn slopes, reminiscent of the quarries so beloved of low budget science fiction film-makers" (emphasis added). In-universe, certain planets are literally classified as Quarry Worlds as these worlds have substantial amounts of Blackstone and other supernaturally valuable resources and are thus the subject of extensive excavation.
    • Games Workshop sells a variety of thick, textured paints to allow modellers to get a specific effect for their bases without much effort. These include cracked badlands, deep mud, snow, the sands of Mars...and grey gravel. Some modellers combine this with other materials, such as cork or plasticard, to give the impression that it's urban debris, or add Valhallan Blizzard to make it look like it's snowing, or add patches of static grass or even just green paint to give it the impression of plant growth or moss...others don't have the patience or time and will just slap on a layer of Astrogranite for a quick, easy base that positions the model in some kind of grey, rocky wasteland, which to be fair the 41st millennium has no shortage of.

    Video Games 
  • In-Universe: Attack Of The Friday Monsters is set in an area of Tokyo used as one for filming sentai shows.
  • In-universe: In one of the stage commentaries for Piranha Pit in Splatoon, the Squid Sisters mention that the quarry is often used as a set for filming sci-fi and fantasy movies, much like the real-life BBC Quarry.
  • In-universe: When Travis fights Midori Midorikawa in No More Heroes III, the two do the old toku trend of jumping to take them to another location...but instead of the rooftop of the haunted school the two were in, Midori accidentally took them to a rock quarry. Travis doesn't seem to mind, since it's similar to where Toei films Kamen Rider Zi-O (which has an example in Live-Action TV)

    Web Comics 


Video Example(s):


Oh look! Rocks!

The BBC isn't above making fun of the constant usage of quarries.

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Main / BBCQuarry

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