In ‘The Day Of The Doctor’ we are introduced to a secret location beneath the London National Gallery, the Under Gallery. The cover story is that it where Elizabeth the 1st stored all art deemed too dangerous for public consumption.
Later we learn that the primary purpose was to house the 3D paintings that contained the zygons and the ‘Fall of Arcadia’. We know that there are plenty of other pieces of art as well, including statues and a painting depicting cybermen.
This building serves as as another stockpile of potential adventures. The artwork, gathered over the centuries, depicted events from different eras for the player characters to investigate and some of the art might still be dangerous, as the zygons showed.
We only know that the criteria for an piece of art to placed in the Under Gallery was that it was ‘dangerous’ but the above examples show that they fall into two categories; that the art is dangerous in itself or that it depicts things that the public shouldn’t know about (like cybermen).
PCs sent to collect a piece of art might not know initially which category it falls into. Is that just a painting of a demonic alien or is it a prison for that entity? Is that surrealist landscape or a weapon to drive those who view it mad?
Certain aliens would blend in well within the museum. The Weeping Angels are the obvious example (particularly as I thought it was going to be them that had escaped the paintings when I watched the episode the first time) but so would the Silence (was Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ an attempt to depict them).
We know that the Under Gallery is looked after by the Curator (who may very well be a future incarnation of the Doctor) but what is the history of the building?
The National Gallery was founded in 1824 but they didn’t move to the current site until 1834 with construction being completed by 1838, so it was either built over the hidden Under Gallery, or like its counter part it was moved there from a previous location.
In contrast to similar museums in Europe the National Gallery wasn’t making existing Royal collections of art. Instead the British government purchased art specifically to be shown in the Gallery. While this made their collection much smaller it allowed them to draw from a wider range of artists.
It is unusual then that the Under Gallery began as a Royal collection and that it is now merged (or shares the same space) as art purchased by the government. This suggests that there has always been those within the government that have been privy to the on going agenda of the Royal family.
The National Gallery was already being criticised for having little room, since workhouses and barracks behind the building prevented it from expanding too far. They were also sharing the building with the Royal Academy until 1868 so fitting in another, hidden section, doesn’t seem feasible.
Much more likely then that the Under Gallery was a later addition. It would be much easier to explain the purchase and storage of paintings if this was done using the cover of the National Gallery. Presumably they used they sought out these art works from across the world.
The question of course is where was the Under Gallery for over two hundred years before the National Gallery? The most likely answer is that they were kept in secure locations owned by the Royal family.
We know that the Gallery contained more than just the Zygon pictures but did it grow before or after its move to the National Gallery? This allows the possibility of PCs encountering art collectors from the Under Gallery from the 16th century onwards.
Following the events of ‘Tooth and Claw’ was the Under Gallery affected by Queen Victoria’s dislike of the 10th Doctor and the formation of Torchwood. She couldn’t fail to notice the Doctor’s presence in the picture with Queen Elizabeth I.
There could have been a behind the scenes power struggle as Torchwood tried to gain access to the wealth of information the Under Gallery held about the Doctor and other aliens. They could have tried to take control and maybe they did, only relinquishing it when the organisation was all but shut down following the Battle of Canary Wharf.
During World War II paintings were evacuated from the National Gallery and taken to various locations in Wales. Unless the Under Gallery was very secure it is likely that they were similarly taken to other places.
Not only does this make them vulnerable to theft or damage during transport but there is an increased chance that members of the public could be exposed to them. This could happen by accident or when someone takes this opportunity to steal art from the Gallery and gets more than they planned for.
Churchill opposed the suggestion of taking them abroad (Canada was suggested) and they were appropriately (for Doctor Who) stored in a quarry. Since the Under Gallery could be outside of the authority of the Prime Minister (who might not have known of its existence) these dangerous pieces of art could find themselves smuggled to regions not affected by the conflict. Given Churchill’s knowledge of the Doctor it could be that he was all to aware of the Under Gallery and its importance, which could have affected his decision.
An unexpected advancement for the National Gallery was that the Keeper, Martin Davies, had the time to compile a catalogue of the works collected (since they weren’t on display and so he could easily reference them all).
A similar situation could occur with the Under Gallery. Until then it acted more as a prison, locking the art away. For the first time someone might actually be studying them and recording exactly what they have gathered.
This would be a very exciting time for the PCs to be around. Terrible secrets could be uncovered and great discoveries made. There is also the potential that will lower security and with all the pieces of art in close proximity something could be unleashed.
Amongst the long history of the Under Gallery we have the biggest mystery of all. Just where did the Curator find the ‘Fall of Arcadia’?
That is a story for another time.