Materialising in Sussex

Peter Davison at Bodiam Castle

With its proximity to Television Centre in Shepherd’s Bush, it’s not surprising that producers of the classic Doctor Who era looked to nearby Sussex to film on location. So, take a trip back in time and find some space in your diary to fit in a visit to the locations that the TARDIS has visited, over the years.

Doctor Who first visited Sussex for the First Doctor (William Hartnell) story The Chase, with a Dalek chasing our hero across Camber Sands, doubling for the aptly named Aridius in the story. 

The show would return to the area for the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) story, the epic The Trial of a Time Lord. Stranded in the Matrix, the repository of all Time Lord knowledge and memories, the Doctor encounters the Valeyard and finds himself grabbed by a sea of hands that see him being pulled into a sandy death. Later in the adventure, the Doctor and Glitz would stagger into the Master’s TARDIS, the famous black shed at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. 

An earlier section of the story (sometimes known as Mindwarp) saw Telscombe Cliffs double up for the shoreline and cave entrance to a hi-tech base on the bright pink alien world of Thoros Beta. Computer trickery turned the planet the right hue. 

Climping Beach near Littlehampton is where the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) landed the TARIDS. A trip that would see him encounter his doppelgänger in The Enemy of the World. Troughton would return to Sussex for his final adventure, another epic called The War Games. In the story the War Lords have taken different troops from different battles on Earth out of time  to fight for their amusement. A hillside on the west bank of the River Cuckmere doubled as the Roman Zone, where the Doctor and co. encounter a chariot carrying rampaging Romans. 

Sheepcote Valley Tip in Brighton was used for scenes set in the trenches (previously used for the film Oh, What A Lovely War! and the roads around Eastdean and Westdean were used for scenes of our protagonists traveling between zones. 

The Doctor returned to Climping Beach for an early scene of Terror of the Zygons where a man is washed up on a beach off the North Sea. The exterior of The Fox Goes Free pub in Charlton doubled for the Fox Inn of the story. Various roads in the village were also used. The common at South Ambersham and Furnace Pond were used for the scenes set on Tulloch Moor, while the landing area for the  Zygon shapeshifter’s spaceship was filmed at Hall Aggregates Quarry in Storrington. The roads through Ammersham Common also featured. 

The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) landed on Brighton Beach in the story The Leisure Hive. Indeed, we see quite a lot of the beach as the story opens with a long panning shot of it! Unfortunately, the Doctor took his eye of the ball, quite literally, with a beachball landing in the sea and his trusted K9 companion going after it and almost ending up in a watery grave.

In the story Castrovalva, the crew filmed on the private part of Buckhurst Park. This was predominantly for  the scenes where companions Nyssa and Tegan carry a newly regenerated Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) in a makeshift zero cabinet by use of a wheelchair from the TARDIS. Like many a supermarket trolley, it proved difficult to steer on the grass, and it fizzed into the lake. The then Police Training Centre in Crowborough was used for scenes of the police chasing the TARDIS crew and apprehending Adric. 

The TARDIS landed in Buckhurst Park again for the story Black Orchid, a homage to the detective fiction of Agatha Christie and others. The Fifth Doctor went on to impress during a cricket match filmed at the Withyham ground and, as a result, he and his three companions were invited to Lord Cranleigh’s masked ball (filmed at Buckhurst House) where they found murder was soon afoot. 

Both the Peter Davison story The King’s Demons and the Peter Capaldi story Robots of Sherwood used Bodiam Castle for its trips to the past. With the Fifth Doctor taking part in jousting scenes and the Twelfth Doctor refused to believe the hooded man before him was the real McCoy. 

In Revelation of the Daleks, the Sixth Doctor and his companion Peri landed on the showy wasteland of Necros, a planet where the creator of the Daleks, Davros is posing as the Great Healer in order to harvest those placed in suspended animation to create a new breed of Dalek. It was rumoured that Sir Laurence Olivier was offered the part of the mutant that featured in these scenes. The Goodwood Estate was used for the scene where Peri gives the Doctor a bunk up over a wall to get to Tranquil Repose. The action later shifts to Tangmere Aerodrome where the Doctor gets a shock. Not only does he see a huge statue of his bonce, it also falls on top of him.

Doctor Who marked its 25th Anniversary with a story featuring Windsor Castle, Silver Nemesis. Sadly, the Palace wouldn’t approve the use of the Queen’s residence, so the production team chose Arundel Castle, instead. Perhaps in retaliation, the finished programme featured a cameo from her majesty, herself (impersonator Mary Reynolds) with the Seventh Doctor struggling to recall where he recognised her from!

Streets in Arundel itself were used for the scenes where Lady Peinforte meets some skinheads, and a house in Goring-By-Sea was also for scenes set in South America. The house used for the scenes set in the past where Lady Peinforte is taking archery lessons from her squire Richard and when the Doctor returns him to his own time were filmed at St Mary’s House and Gardens, Bramber. It was that kind of story! Being all Timey-Wimey before the phrase was invented! 

Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred would film in Sussex again in the World War II set adventure The Curse of Fenric. In the story the Doctor and Ace discovered a secret British army base – Crowborough Training Camp – and nearly found themselves killed by firing squad. Cue the diddly-dums. 

Visit the Doctor Who Locations website for more information about all the stories.

All of the classic Doctor Who stories mentioned can be found on the BritBox streaming service and Robots of Sherwood can be viewed on BBC iPlayer.