What to watch if you’re missing Cambridge

The best TV shows and films shot in Cambridge


I hated Cambridge during my first term, and couldn’t wait for the Christmas vacation to get away from it and cuddle up with my giant bunny on my own sofa at home. However, when the time finally came, and I left Cambridge, something had changed. The further I got from the Bubble, the more I missed it. For self-help therapy, I binge-watched all the available seasons of Grantchester. Then I repeated them again with all the family members around me, who could barely handle my enthusiasm towards the random little streets and Victorian towers.

“Look, this is where I used to cycle! Oh, and there, and there!”, I burst out every ten seconds just to give frequent reason to my relatives for a discrete facepalm. Four years have since passed, and I have had time to fall in love with Cambridge even more. Now, lonely and far away in lockdown, I put together a list of shows and movies set in Cambridge which have helped to ease my uni-homesickness. Watch them if you also badly miss the beautiful town.

Shows

Grantchester

In the plot, a confusingly handsome clergyman helps a troubled police investigator to solve crimes in post-war Cambridge. In the first seasons, there are only a few Cambridge shots, mostly of the King’s Parade and Trinity Lane, but as the popularity of the show grew, more and more heartwarming landscapes were filmed. Watching the show recalls great memories of soothing Grantchester Meadows walks.

Agatha Christie: Poirot – The Case of the Missing Will

In this story, everyone’s favourite stubby detective gets his grey matter to solve the case of a lost will. The clues lead to Cambridge, and we can recline upon the benches of the interwar Cambridge Union to listen to some elitist and anti-feminist debates of the era.

Poirot

A scene from the episode. Source: Screenshot.

Kingdom: 1.4

In this episode of Kingdom, Cambridge alumnus Stephen Fry plays a solicitor, Peter Kingdom, who helps out with a case of discrimination when a girl is refused a place at Cambridge.

Silent Witness: Long Days, Short Nights: Part 1

In this episode of the 90s crime series, the clues of an occult murder intersect in Cambridge. Be ready for some thrilling scenes.

Punting scene. Screenshot from the episode.

Midsomer Murders: The Killings at Badger’s Drift

In the very first episode of this legendary crimes show investigating the most British murders in a painfully countryside-slow setting, you can catch shots of Trinity Lane and the ADC Theatre.

The Inspector Lynley Mysteries: For the Sake of Elena (1.4)

On a more saucy note, when the daughter of a Cambridge professor is found brutally murdered while jogging, Investigator Lynley finds she has lived a rather a promiscuous lifestyle.

Lynley

Opening credits of the episode. Source: screenshot, BBC.

Cambridge Spies

This mini-series is based on the true story of a group of Cantabs who were recruited to spy for the Soviet Union in the early 1930s.

Cheat

This recent show follows a dangerous relationship between two women, a university professor and her student. Things escalate between the two leading to fatal consequences. The fictional St. Helen’s College was filmed in picturesque Cambridge colleges, such as Caius.

Cambridge scene in Cheat. Source: Screenshot, ITV.

Doctor Who: ‘Shada’

A Doctor Who fan told me the interesting story of the never released cultic episode, Shada. It was supposed to be an episode of classic Doctor Who set in Cambridge and written by Douglas Adams. They filmed gorgeous locations in Cambridge but couldn’t complete the episode because a strike disrupted the studio filming. Finally, they released it as a film in 2017 with studio bits and animation. The film features King’s backs, Clare College, Garrett Hostel Lane Bridge, Granchester and the meadows, Trumpington Street, and Emma. The animation also adds Catz. Even the actual John’s choir also makes an appearance, so it is a rare treat.

Punting in Shada. Source: Screenshot.

Films

The Man Who Knew Infinity

There were a few biographical films made about famous alumni, such as pioneer Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan. This film followers his career and friendship with his mentor, Professor G.H. Hardy. If you don’t watch it for Johns, do it for Dev Patel.

Infinity

Trinity College. Source: Screenshot from the film;Warner Bros.

The Theory of Everything

Since Stephan Hawking is my role model, I always walked watchfully on the Cambridge streets with the hope that I could catch him for a second. Unfortunately, since his death, we can watch him crossing Cambridge street only via Eddie Redmayne’s striking performance in The Theory of Everything. The film also features an epic May Ball scene, in case you want to attend one from your couch.

May Ball scene. Source: Screenshot.

May Ball scene. Source: Screenshot. Universal Pictures.

X+Y

The film is about a maths prodigy and has some beautiful shots of St. Johns College.

X+Y Johns

Jonh’s stairs. Source: Screenshot, Origin Pictures.

Stuart: A Life Backwards

Playing a writer, Benedict Cumberbatch takes a retrospective look at the life of his alcoholic friend Stuart, played by Tom Hardy.

The History Boys

A bunch of boys are pushed to get accepted into Oxbridge (no pressure), and their history teacher uses some eccentric methods to coach them. Unfortunately, the university scenes are mostly from the Other Place, but you can catch a few Cam moments.

Dimensions

A not-too-good sci-fi about a young Cambridge scientist in the 1920’s who desperately wants to time travel. In case you are still desperate for a glance at bustling Cambridge life.

Cover: The Theory of Everything May Ball scene. Source: Screenshot.