Doctor Who’s travels through space and time at Surrey filming locations
- Credit: Location photos courtesy of Chuck Foster (doctorwholoctaions.net) / Doctor Who photos courtesy of the BBC
It’s Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary this year, but did you know that many of the Time Lord’s adventures were filmed here in Surrey? Hop on board The Tardis as Crispin Andrews takes us on a journey...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine December 2013
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, cult TV show Doctor Who is the longest running science-fiction series in the world.
Originally created by the BBC as an educational family show to fit between the football results and evening entertainment programmes, when the first Doctor, William Hartnell, wanted to leave after three years, the idea of renewing their leading man was born.
Today, the series is watched by an estimated 80 million viewers in 206 countries – but few areas can lay claim to as many connections to the show as our own county, where numerous episodes have been filmed...
Inside the Matrix, a high-tech system that turns a person’s thoughts and dreams into virtual reality, Tom Baker’s Doctor must overcome a series of challenges to defeat his arch-enemy, the Master, and prove that it wasn’t he who shot and killed the President of the Time Lords. In one scene, the Doctor is trapped on a railway line whilst a steam train chugs towards him, and this scene was shot at the old Brockham Limeworks.
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Built in the 19th century to mine the North Downs for chalk, the lime works were serviced by a private narrow gauge railway. After the lime works closed in 1936, the area was preserved by Brockham Museum, and today it is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The engines meanwhile became part of the collection at Amberley Museum in 1982. The locomotive used in the Doctor Who scene was one of only two surviving diesels built by Ransome and Rapier of Ipswich.
The BBC also filmed another scene from this story at nearby Engine Pond in Gatton Park.
• The Deadly Assassin, 1976
When Jon Pertwee’s Doctor and companion, Sarah Jane Smith, arrive in a park in London, they fail to notice items strewn all over the grass, as if people had left suddenly, in a hurry. This scene was shot in Kingston’s Victorian park, Canbury Gardens. When the confused time-travellers find the surrounding streets deserted too, they try to use a phone (opposite Woodside Road) and wait at a bus stop (Lower Ham Road).
The police station, filmed at the old Ashdown Road post office sorting station, is deserted, too, although the Doctor and Sarah do see a van speeding along Palmer Crescent. Later, troops shoot at looters (by the old Kingston meat market on Kent Road) and the Doctor tracks a mysterious signal (around South Lane and Parkfields Lane).
As it turns out, an unhinged ecological group want to bring about a new Earth – one where people live closer to nature – and to force governments to acquiesce, they’ve used a time scoop to bring ferocious dinosaurs to London to chase people out of the capital.
On another point of interest, Sarah, one of the Doctor’s most popular companions, also lived in Croydon.
• Invasion of the Dinosaurs, 1974
Scientists find a strange pod in the Antarctic permafrost. Eccentric millionaire botanist, Harrison Chase, gets his hands on it, but the pod turns out to be an alien parasite called a krynoid. The pod releases spores that turn one of Chase’s staff into a carnivorous plant that can move and grow as large as a block of flats.
The BBC couldn’t afford to jet down to Antarctica for the shoot, so they settled on Buckland Quarry near Reigate. They also used the quarry for several other scenes too.
Originally a family-run business, the quarry was taken over by Amalgamated Roadstone in 1978 and then by Hanson in 1990. The original quarry, north of the A25, is now a private nature reserve. Hanson still continues to extract sand and silica for providing specialist glass sand to customers throughout the UK.
• The Seeds of Doom, 1975
The BBC find themselves in need of some wild moor-like terrain but can’t afford to take the outside broadcast unit up to Scotland; much easier just to travel a few miles down the road to Frensham Common.
Located between Hindhead and Camberley, Frensham Common has heathland vegetation and two small lakes – everything the BBC needed to get Patrick Troughton’s Doctor involved in the Battle of Culloden.
Two years earlier, William Hartnell’s Doctor had been down to Frensham to get involved in the Trojan wars. For this storyline, BBC designers took an ancient Trojan scene painted on see-through glass to the pond and put it in front of the camera during filming.
• The Myth Makers, 1965; The Highlanders, 1966/7
The Doctor’s deadliest enemies have turned up in Surrey more than once.
In Planet of the Daleks in 1973, Beachfields Quarry, just south of Mercer’s Country Park near Merstham, becomes Skaro, the Daleks’ home planet. During the previous adventure, Frontier in Space, Jon Pertwee’s Doctor went to the quarry to film a visit to the home planet of an ape-like race called the Ogrons. Daleks used Ogrons as security guards back then. Four years later, Beachfields was the setting for a Sontaran invasion of the Doctor’s home planet, Gallifrey.
Once owned by Fullers Earth Union Ltd, today the upper part of the quarry is now a landfill site.
Elsewhere, when Tom Baker’s Doctor returned to Skaro in 1975, with strict instructions from the Time Lords to destroy the Daleks forever, Betchworth Quarry hosted the Daleks’ home planet. The following year, Baker visited Betchworth again to film part of The Deadly Assassin.
• Frontier in Space, 1973; Planet of the Daleks, 1973; Genesis of the Daleks, 1975; The Deadly Assassin, 1976; Invasion of Time, 1978
A few other Doctor Who locations in Surrey
• The Savages, 1966: William Hartnell’s Doctor arrives on an alien planet inhabited by an advanced civilisation and bands of savages at Callow Hill sandpit.
• The Mind Robber, 1968: Patrick Troughton’s Doctor finds himself in a fantasy world at Kenley Aerodrome near Caterham.
• Spearhead from Space, 1970: Jon Pertwee’s Doctor tackles the Nestenes and their sinister plastic servants, the Autons, at RHS Garden Wisley near Woking and Hatchford Park near Cobham.
• The Silurians, 1970: Pertwee confronts prehistoric humanoid reptiles at Hankley Common, the Hog’s Back transmitter station, Guildford and Sheephatch Farm in Tilford.
• Invasion of Time, 1978: Sontarans, militaristic clone warriors, invade Gallifrey, the Time Lords’ home planet, which included scenes at St Anne’s Hospital in Redhill.
How it all started…
Where were you on Saturday November 23, 1963, at 5.15pm? If you were in front of your TV screen, watching the BBC, you’d have seen the beginning of a British television legend. Here’s how it all started...
Two London secondary school teachers decide to follow their super intelligent but strange new pupil, Susan, back home. Ian and Barbara are worried about Susan’s home life, but don’t expect to see her disappear into a battered old police box outside a scrapyard. They soon discover that the police box is, in fact, a disguised space and time machine, called The Tardis. They also meet Susan’s grandfather, a tetchy white-haired old man called the Doctor. Before long, the four of them are off to Stone Age Britain for the first Doctor Who adventure.
Over the next 50 years, the Doctor, and a whole host of different companions, would travel all over the universe, encountering monsters and aliens that would send children, and a fair few adults, scurrying behind the sofa for safety.