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50 years of Dr Who: remembering Dorset's links with the cult hero
The county’s association with Dr Who started in 1966, when the second Doctor – Patrick Troughton – came to Winspit Quarry, Worth Matravers.
The quarry stood in for a volcanic island above Atlantis in the serial The Underwater Menace.
The ARC Sandpit at Gallows Hill became the planet Exxilon in 1973, where the Daleks did battle with the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee. The Daleks had to be pushed along rails by the cast – causing problems when Pertwee pushed too hard and three of them hurtled off the rails at 30mph.
Athelhampton House near Dorchester was invaded by a giant plant monster in 1975 for the story The Seeds Of Doom, starring the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker.
And the fourth Doctor took his turn in Dorset’s quarries – at Binnegar Heath in Wareham and at Winspit – in Destiny Of The Daleks in 1979.
Several locations around Wimborne and Martin in the New Forest were used for The Awakening, starring fifth Doctor Peter Davison in 1983. He was also at Gallows Hill for his last adventure, The Caves of Androzani, in 1984.
The seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, visited Warmwell Quarry for The Greatest Show In The Galaxy in 1989, while Stanton Court in Greenhill, Weymouth, featured briefly as a haunted house in his adventure Ghostlight. And McCoy was back at Warmwell for the story Survival, also in 1989, in which he delivered the last lines of the show’s 26-year run: “Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, and somewhere else the tea’s getting cold. Come on, Ace. We’ve got work to do.”
When the show returned after a lengthy break in 2005, with Christopher Ecclestone in the lead role, it no longer had any need to use the quarries of Dorset.
But the programme still had links with Dorset. Poole fans Nick Wade and Leighton Haberfield got work as extras and were pictured shocking the locals in Bournemouth by taking Nick’s life-size Dalek for a stroll on the prom.
Bournemouth-raised Julian Bleach, a former student at Poole College’s Jellicoe Theatre, was the latest actor to play Davros, creator of the Daleks, opposite David Tennant in 2008.
After 50 years of time travel, the Doctor seems healthier than ever.
B Jones is one of the organisers of the annual SF Ball in Bournemouth, which has welcomed Doctor Who stars such as Colin Baker (the sixth Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Nicola Bryant (Perri) and the late Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith).
She says Doctor Who guests are always a big draw.
“It’s bigger than ever,” she said. “We can’t get enough Doctor Who.”
Fans are keen to meet writers and special effects artists from the show as well as the actors, she said.
Why has the show weathered 50 years of change so well?
“I think it’s been successful because it’s managed to re-invent itself,” says B.
“It’s used the technology, the new CGI effects, giving it much more scope and giving you a science fiction film every week in just an hour – and giving you a whole story so you’re not waiting for the next part.”
Roy Harvey runs Roy’s Toys in Alder Road, Branksome – which, by coincidence, celebrates its second anniversary today with a charity open day.
He says his Doctor Who toys and collectibles are second only to Star Wars in popularity.
“It’s always more popular when it’s on the telly again. You know when it’s coming back– it’s back in everybody’s mind. Every time it’s been on TV I always start to sell more,” he said.
Why is it so popular? “I think the special effects in it are very good compared to what they used to be but then in our day that was the charm of it, that the Daleks were tripping into the sets and stuff,” he said.
Roy sells mainly pocket money-priced toys, but there are plenty of Doctor Who collectibles going for eye-watering sums “All the old 1960s Daleks, they’re quite popular. They fetched a few bob,” says Roy.
“Any of the early 1960s Doctor Who items, they command quite reasonable prices.”
Stunt man and fight arranger Stuart Fell, pictured left, from Barton-on-Sea, is a veteran of those days when the Doctor did battle with aliens in sandpits.
During his time opposite Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, he played several Cybermen, a Sea Devil, Morbius, Alpha Centauri and more.
Stuart, 71, visits conventions as a guest and is impressed by how well fans remember the shows he was in.
“They take it very seriously and they watch these episodes again and again,” he says.
“Many of the things I’ve been involved in, I’ve forgotten I’ve been in them. I was probably away shooting something else when that particular episode went out.”
He added: “The people that tend to be Doctor Who fans, they were children when Doctor Who went out and it’s left an impression on them.”
n Roy’s Toys holds an open day today, raising money for Julia’s House, with support in fancy dress from the Dorset Troopers. Anyone arriving in fancy dress receives a 10 per cent discount in the shop.
The next SF Ball is in February 2014. Marina Sirtis of Star Trek: The Next Generation and author Robert Rankin are the headline names, but there are sure to be some Doctor Who guests.