For the final part of this epic trek (I’d walked over 17 miles by the end of it), I decided to take to the river. It was a nice day to get a little bit of boat-breeze, and I’d prepped finally to try and pick up some of the tangle of locations around St. Katherine’s Dock. Using the river to do so meant I’d be able to trace the voyage of a couple of Aussie crooks we’ve recently met, and pick up a couple of POV shots from the water to boot. So, off to Embankment Pier and onto the – apparently now Uber-owned – river taxi.
Episode Context – S2E10, “Trojan Bus”
Col and Ray – remember them? Yeah, flash monkeys… Well, their getaway plan involved using a tour boat they’d ‘borrowed’ from Chertsey Marina to escape down the Thames; presumably they figured the Met boys would never think to look for them anywhere but ‘on land’. To familiarise themselves with the river and the escape route, they use the boat to masquerade as legit tour operators, and actually take a bunch of paying tourists up and down the river – delivering some uniquely ‘colourful’ Aussie-style commentary as they go. Never ones for the simple smash and grab when they can rub the law’s nose in it with their brashness, this pair. We get a couple of very recognisable tourist views from the water along the way, to establish their location: Somerset House (1) and St. Paul’s Cathedral (2).
As you’d expect, most of the ‘historic’ buildings along this part of the river are still there (and cleaner), but in and around them all pretty much everything is new. I took the St. Paul’s shot from a bit further down-river, to give the context of the ‘new’ Millennium Bridge. Hard to believe, but Regan and Carter had never even heard of the Millennium Falcon at this point, let alone something called ‘why too Kay’.
After the job has gone down and Col and Ray are on the river ‘for real’ with the stakes raised and The Squad now on their tail, they are forced to pull over towards Tower Bridge Pier and head for St. Katharine’s Dock because their fuel tank is nearly empty. Having established that they’re in a stolen boat, and quizzed the marina master as to how much fuel they’d have on board, Regan and co. learn that the Aussie Pair aren’t going to make it any further than that – so race to intercept them in the docks. We get a POV shot from Col and Ray’s boat of the iconic bridge; why wouldn’t you, I suppose? I almost felt it not worth taking a ‘now’ view as there can’t be many people other than those living under rocks in the forests of Borneo who don’t know what it looks like – but I could, so I did.
(Why wouldn’t I, I suppose? I haven’t bothered putting a map pin in for this one, though.)
After disembarking the river taxi and stepping back onto dry land, I fought my way through the throngs of tourists in and around The Tower of London and surrounding grounds, and headed into St. Katharine’s Dock. And here’s where things get probably the trickiest of all, in terms of re-tracing the old 70s footsteps of Jack, George and co. If anywhere in London personifies the utter transformation from crumbling old industrial decay to modern, expensive swank – the London Docklands is surely it. There’s just been so much regeneration – land reclaimed, old piers and warehouses torn down, new buildings put up that radically alter or completely block former views – that it’s almost impossible, a few key landmarks aside, to really be sure that you’re in the right spot for any of the shots that were filmed in and around here. But, we’ll do our best eh.
For this particular foray into London’s former working waterfront, we’ll be bouncing between 2 episodes again – the exploits of Col and Ray, whom we’ve just followed down The Thames, and the case of Vic Labbett and his ‘Poppy’ – the stolen 400 Grand he’s back in the country to retrieve.
Episode Context – S2E10, “Trojan Bus”
It’s MacGruder and Stackpole we’ll deal with first; as mentioned, they pull their boat into St. Katharine’s Dock as they’ve run out of fuel and their seafaring days are looking decidedly numbered. I haven’t dropped a pin specifically on the entrance to the dock on the map above; however, there’s only one way in from and out to The Thames in any case. First off there’s an outer lock gate; then immediately beyond that a road bridge above the innter gate that raises to let taller vessels through; they’re the thinner and thicker white lines respectively that you can see crossing the dock entrance on the map:
Heading a little further into the marina – and backing up the story a little – we’d actually been here earlier in the episode; it’s where Col sets up the terms of the deal for the Goya with Goldman, on board the latter’s boat (1). I won’t pass judgment here on the fact that said boat was ‘decorated’ – in a very of-the-era manner – by a girlfriend played by then Penthouse and Page 3 model, Gillian Duxbury. Presumably it was partly to give us the nod that Goldman is someone whose shady antics afforded him the high-life, and partly to give Col a bit of character-colouring distraction. Either way – it is what it was:
(One difficulty I had getting quite as close to like-for-like perspectives – besides the fact that you can’t go down onto the pontoons without they keys granted to berth-holders – was that the tide was significantly out on my visit compared to the episode. Had it been higher, the boat on the right would have filled more than just the very bottom of the frame, for example.)
Wandering round St. Katharine’s Dock a little more, we pick back up with the ‘final chase’ part of the episode; The Squad have piled into the docks, and are hunting down Col and Ray who are now shorn of a lot of their swagger and are trying to find somewhere either to hide and evade capture, or hole up for a final gunfight. This is where a lot of the ‘loveable rogue’ veneer of their character is suddenly stripped away, and we see them for what they really are – and what Regan knew all along that they were: violent criminals who would stop at nothing and spare nobody.
There’s a great final shootout in some gloriously derelict, weedy, rubble-strewn ground that I haven’t much of a hope in hell of pinpointing now – it’s all been built on. I feel there may be a series of side-articles here, though at some point: ‘Ones That Got Away’: places that I loved seeing in the episodes that are now lost to the wrecking ball and the cement mixer.
Getting back to the bits we can see: on reflection, I’m annoyed at myself that I didn’t do a better job of checking and adjusting some of these last Ep. 10 shots here – you can clearly see they’re the same locations, but I could get them a lot closer. I may have to revisit this location at some point, but for now here’s The Squad dashing round SKD trying to pin down the errant Aussies:
Particularly annoyed about the last one – would have been so easy to ‘get that right’ had I done a better job of source-checking whilst in that location. I take an iPad with me with all the episode shots on to compare to; but it was a baking hot day and my focus was waning a little – and I don’t think I got it out of the bag at that point. (Maybe that’s a lesson that the epic full-day quests should be broken down into smaller chunks – or else left for days when I’m not likely to melt!) Anyway – moving on.
Episode Context – S2E08, “Poppy”
It’s hard to imagine there was a time when the derelict docks were of interest only to weeds and wildlife (and criminals); the idea that you could stash something below the water line of a crumbling old warehouse pier and it’d still be there several years later seems bonkers now – knowing as we do that if there’s an inch of spare ground anywhere in London today it’ll have flats and offices on it tomorrow. But we’re looking back at very different times, when a case of stolen bonds was indeed the only kind of ‘investment’ you’d find along the Thames’ old industrial wastelands. VIc’s ‘Poppy’, wrapped in several layers of plastic and then shoved inside a briefcase which was chained to a pier support and lowered into the water, has been waiting for his return; once the deal with the insurers and the bank is made, he makes his way amongst the ruined warehouses to retrieve it and meet up with Vane to do the deal.
We get an establishing shot, looking across the water back towards (what is now) ‘The Tower’ hotel and Tower Bridge (2):
With the ‘now’ shot above I had to make a bit of a judgment call. The map pin is dropped roughly from where I took the shot; however, if you look at the episode shot, it must actually have been taken from much further to the East – along a section of a different dock that is now filled in. (We’ll come to this in a bit.) I could have gone round to approximately that location – but all you’d have seen is the new flats and other buildings (a pub, amongst other things) in the way. Instead, I chose to take as representative a shot I could of the hotel and one of the towers of Tower Bridge (which, keen observers will note, is the ‘far’ tower rather than the near one seen in the episode, due to the slightly different angle).
The establishing shot pans right, giving us a lovely sweep of the old warehouses and walls – again, the episode shot is taken from the now-reclaimed dock area, but you can see the corner of ‘The Tower Hotel’ in both images:
At this point the camera switches perspective and shows Vic driving down to the pier where the bonds are hidden; that whole area had some amazing sequences in and out of the industrial decay. As I said – maybe I’ll put those in a separate series of posts, and maybe I’ll be back here some time to get some extra shots (can’t remember if SKD shows up in S3 or S4!) But let’s leave the docks to it, for now.
Episode Context – S2E10, “Trojan Bus”
Prior to the closing scenes in the docks, we got a number of establishing location shots of The Squad on their way to apprehend Col and Ray; I kind of ‘worked backwards’ through a couple of these towards the end of the day – so the narrative flow of this blog entry feels a little disjointed. Up on the menu bar, under ‘Sweenealogy’ I also put pages for each episode for which I’ve visited locations – and in those I put the pictures in ‘episode order’, rather than ‘visited order’ as I do for blog entries.
Here’s a POV from inside the iconic brown Ford Consul, as it heads along E. Smithfield to the entrance of St. Katharine’s Dock (3):
Walking further along E. Smithfield, we get to another area that is now largely unrecognisable from its 70s self – and we bounce back yet again to Vic Labbett and his stolen bonds.
Episode Context – S2E08, “Poppy”
As Vic is meeting Vane in a disused warehouse, The Squad rush to nab them in the act of swapping the bonds for the stones. At the last minute, Vic spies The Flying Squad piling in on their location and believes – wrongly – that Vane has tipped them off in order to walk away with both the stones and the money. That little bit of paranoia costs Vane a bullet in the gut – and his life.
A POV shot from the Squad car as it homes in on the warehouse location is given as Virginia Street (4); hard to be sure as so much has been changed – including road layouts. Here are the closest pair I can match together, but – as with so much of Docklands – it’s getting to be largely guesswork a lot of the time:
The street in the episode turns right when it hits the end wall; in ‘real life’ you actually turn left at the bottom of Virginia St. now. I’ve been up and down the street – and all the ones nearby – from every angle, and nothing really tallies – so I can only imagine that it’s under the heading of ‘changed beyond any reasonable recognition’ now. The road sign you can see in the middle of the episode shot is too blurry to read as we track POV from inside the car, so that’s no help in determining the location.
Walking down onto Pennington Street, which is listed as the location of the warehouse where Vic meets Vane to do the deal, we’re again confronted by an area that has changed extensively (5). On both shots below (we’re looking North) you can see a tower block looming in the distance – a lot further away, seemingly, in the perspective of the phone-photo:
The warehouses on the right hand picture – now converted to fancy dwellings, of course – are actually the ones you can see in the middle-distance on the episode shot, beyond the lower-rise units with the glass skylights that run across the middle of the frame. That means the warehouse in which Vic was holed up is South of those lower-rise ones (the ones that run along Pennington Street directly – and which are ‘behind my back’ on the second photo). Vic’s warehouse and those adjacent to it have since been demolished; it would have been fairly difficult to get into the area where they once stood (I’ll explain why in just a sec) – and even had I done so, all you’d have seen is the back of the Pennington Street warehouses. So here, again, I went for ‘as close a view that gives you something recognisable to latch onto as possible’.
A little further detective work bears out my assumptions above: if you look on Google Maps ‘satellite view’ of where Victoria Street hits Pennington Street, you’ll see that right below those lower warehouses along the southern edge of the latter is a mass of currently razed ground – ‘Merino Gardens’, where new development is taking place. The warehouses in which Vic meets Vane, to which The Sweeney rush, can actually be seen in this old side-by-side map view; hovering your cursor over them on the left puts the right-hand cursor in what is now the new development site:
In the image below, I’ve put an X on the ‘right hand’ warehouse from the episode shot above – the one into which we see George and co running, from Vic’s POV from an upper-floor window. The corresponding X over on the right is a new tower block, and to its right you can see the area of razed ground where further building is taking place:
You can see in the ‘old’ map above that there are access roads in and around the warehouses that no longer exist; it’s possible that some of the in-car POV shots were taken from these. (I’ve highlighted where Victoria Street runs into Pennington Street in yellow.) You can also see on the left-hand side – dominating most of that frame – ‘DOCK’; that is all now filled in and reclaimed land. In the episode, the final chase scenes where The Squad hunt Vic in an out of the old derelict buildings and piers took place here. The pier where the loot is hidden is directly along the northern edge of ‘DOCK’, and you can see some walkways on the right-hand part of the old map that connect the warehouses to the dockside buildings. There’s some good sequences of The Squad running across these.
OK, so I’ve indulged in a little “ones that got away” already. May do more of this in future. Let’s head now towards what was the final location for this particular set of Sweeney shenanigans.
Still working ‘backwards’ through this climactic part of S2E08, we have a shot of the squad car approaching Tower Bridge (6) as it heads to the warehouses on Pennington Street:
Looks very different with the lack of trees and dour 70s rainy grime 🙂 With that, it’s time to leave Vic and his Poppy and head – nowhere, we’re staying right here – for what was finally, the last action of the day.
Episode Context – S2E10, “Trojan Bus”
Another set of villains hiding in the docks; another establishing sequence of The Squad racing in their Ford Consuls towards Tower Bridge to intercept (7). We’re back after Col and Ray – this is just prior to the shots from the car as it pulls into St. Katharine’s Dock via the ‘elephant gates’ earlier in the post:
I did my best here, but short of climbing a tree or standing in the middle of traffic, I couldn’t get quite like-for-like angles 🙂
So there we have it; my biggest quest yet – and all on a burning hot August day. By this time I was pretty much cooked, and – though I’d prepped for heading North towards some other locations – I decided to head to Tower Hill tube and back to Waterloo for a train home. But not before a quick – and though I say it myself, well-earned – bit of liquid refreshment. Cheers!