Blog : Posts tagged with 'Neverwhere'

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The labyrinthine depths

In which we think about secret tunnels and the literature surrounding them


There are plenty of stories in literature about the nameless horrors that lurk deep within the bowels of the London Underground. It’s popped up in TV, too – on both Quatermass and Doctor Who in the 1960s – and in film. In books, the first example that comes to the top of my head is a short story by Jeremy Dyson, but there are certainly many more. There are stories of secret tunnels and secret trains, lines disappearing into disused stations and abandoned passages.

Indeed, there are plenty of abandoned stations underneath London. There’s Down Street, for example, which was used as a set in Neverwhere.* There’s an entire disused railway, the Post Office Railway, running from Paddington to Whitechapel.** Not much is visible, though. The Post Office Railway was never open to the public, and disused parts of the Underground are generally very hard to see from passing trains. The occasional void, or brick wall, but that’s all.***

Paris, though. Paris is different. The Paris metro is full of secret passages. Every few hundred metres, there will be a mysterious junction. Lines will branch off into side tunnels, or delve between the other tracks, or disappear behind mysterious roller shutters in the tunnel walls. There are walkways and passageways, tracks that your train will never use, sidings deep under the city centre. In London the only place you’ll see trains parked underground is Triangle Sidings, between Earls Court and Gloucester Road; and that started out as an above-ground depot which disappeared under buildings in the 1960s. In Paris, there are trains parked all over the network, in single sidings, between stations. There’s so much to see if you look out of the window.

But does the Paris Metro have similar literature to the London Underground? Are there stories of monsters hiding in the Metro’s depths, or ghost trains rattling off down secret tracks, or secret government laboratories behind the roller-shuttered sidings? London has the literature, but Paris has the labyrinth visible from the train window.

* The “Down Street” in Neverwhere isn’t the real Down Street – but the real Down Street was also used for filming. If you’ve seen it: the dinner with Serpentine was shot on the remains of its station platforms, during normal service, with trains passing in the background.

** Which was also used as a filming location for Neverwhere, and also crops up in the dire Bruce Willis comedy Hudson Hawk.

*** During the war most of the disused stations were converted into government offices – including the platforms, several of which had the platforms removed and brick walls built to partition the usable space off from the running lines. So if you’re deep under London and suddenly see a brick wall by your carriage window for a few seconds, it’s probably a disused station.

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Oh, and another thing…

In which we barely recognise someone


…about Neverwhere: it features Tamsin Greig, star of a lot of the best sort of telly, in one of her very first roles – according to IMDB, the first in which they managed to spell her name right in the credits. She plays the reason why your fear of goths* is justified, and I barely recognised her, until she started speaking.

* should you have one, of course.

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Richard Richard Mayhew Dick

In which we’re both impressed and disappointed by the BBC


Classic mid-90s fantasy series Neverwhere has recently been released on DVD. As I hadn’t seen it since it was first shown, of course, I had to buy a copy.

I’ve read the book a few times since, most recently last summer, so I was familiar with the plot, the characters, the occasional slight fantasy cliché in the writing.* What I’d forgotten, though, was just what a ten-year-old BBC drama series looked like. I’d forgotten all about the shot-on-video look and the slightly strange sets.** It didn’t detract from the story at all – and, in many ways, it was a very innovative series – but, as a nostalgia trip, it just goes to prove how much TV production has changed in the past ten years, compared to the thirty before that.

* Such as the fantasy character not understanding real-world idioms, particularly someone introducing themselves with both their full name and a nickname, the fantasy character thinking that this is their full literal name. As in the title of this post.

** In particular, Neverwhere has one startling yet absolutely typical BBC studio-production set. The entrance room in the Portico family house: a bare white space, so that no walls are visible, just white background, with pictures of the other rooms of the house suspended at random positions and angles. As a set, it is as close to “typical BBC fantasy” as you can get; you can imagine it being created at any time in the past fifty years.

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Old standby

In which we still know what you’re looking for


As I haven’t done it for a while – stop sniggering at the back there – it’s time for Recent Search Requests.

neverwhere – look here, or possibly here.
have you tried turning it off and on again poster – if you give me ten minutes I’m sure I could knock one up
symptoms of hypoxia in dog – I’d imagine they’re fairly similar to the symptoms in humans – irritability, aggression, light-headedness, inability to concentrate, and eventually fainting.
movie shoot on millennium bridge – I took a photo, but beyond that I know nothing
public domain sailing ship images – sorry, none of those here.
british railways sign font – you’re probably after Gill Sans.
bagpiping sexual practise – I really have no idea. Does it involve horrible screechy noises, and men in skirts? Or is it related to teabagging? The mind boggles.
angel london underground strawberry beer – see, despite staying near The Angel recently, I still don’t know any pubs round there that sell it. Better do some fieldwork, I think.
Takin’ Over The Asylum was the classic BBC Scotland drama series starring Ken Stott and David Tennant, back before he was famous. It really was very good indeed, and I wish I could see it again some time.
naked norfolk girl – that’s definitely enough search requests for today, I think.

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