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Our timeless links with Dr Who ; GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY: Memories ofmany scenes filmed for iconic series

November 15, 2013


TUNBRIDGE Wells' longtime connections with Dr Who stars Tom Baker and Louise Jameson have given the town a link with two of the most memorable characters from the most successful TV sci-fi series in the world.

The former doctor lived in the town for many years, and his erstwhile assistant, Leela, still lives in Rusthall.

But as leading players from its 50-year history gather to celebrate its golden anniversary this month, it's not just the largerthan-life fourth Time Lord or his glamorous leather-clad assistant who will bring a local dimension to the party.

For threading through five decades of spine-tingling adventure are many scenes which were filmed in this area.

Back in the summer of 1968, the cast and crew descended on Bowles Outdoor Centre in Eridge Green to film The Mind Robber, a fantasy tale in which the cast meet a unicorn in the woods, then climb a sheer rock face to escape evil white robots.

Original By now in its sixth season, with Patrick Troughton replacing William Hartnell, the original Time Lord, the series had taken hold of the public imagination and was pulling in more than seven million viewers for top episodes. In 1980, the action returned to Eridge for scenes on Harrison's Rocks with the fifth Dr Who, Peter Davison, in charge for his first series. This complex tale of shifting reality, in which the doctor famously unravels his famous long knitted scarf and declares that celery is a symbol of civilisation, shows Dr Who's assistants climbing a rocky cliff and eventually escaping from their enemies in the Tardis, cleverly disguised as a fireplace.

The following autumn, cast and crew returned to the area to shoot more scenes for the series, filming at the atmospheric wartime telegraph station at Duddleswell, near Crowborough, then being used by Sussex Police as a training centre.

Dr Who's ever-inventive writing team came up with a quite different story, set in an English country house in the 1920s, in spring 1982.

Black Orchid was a rare purely historical adventure, with no scifi elements apart from the Tardis, and Earl de la Warr's splendid Buckhurst Park near Withyham was the perfect setting for a fancy dress ball made complicated by mistaken identity, mysterious figures emerging from hidden passages and a library full of precious books. Scenes for this series were also filmed at Withyham Cricket Club.

That Christmas, Bodiam Castle, near Robertsbridge in Sussex, provided another classic English setting for The King's Demons. The story, set in 1215, unfolds in the home of Sir Ranulph Fitzwilliam, where King John and his court are visiting.

A spectacular jousting tournament between opposing forces in the grounds of the moated castle is taking place when Dr Who's Tardis appear, this time disguised as an Iron Maiden, a medieval torture device.

Tunnels Crowborough Training Camp, on Ministry of Defence land in Crowborough Warren, was the setting for the Curse of Fenric, a complicated story shown in 1989 and set in the Second World War.

After filming on the military base, the action moved to Hawkhurst, with scenes featuring tunnels beneath the old Lillesden Girls' School, later Bedgebury School, St Lawrence's Church and Roses Farm in Gills Green.

The story also involves scenes at Yew Tree Farm in Cranbrook.

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