EXACTLY 45 years ago during May and June of 1971 millions of homes were invaded by ‘The Daemons’ in a five-part BBC TV serial that, a couple of decades later, was deemed to be the absolute cream of the crop – top of the docs – by avid followers of Doctor Who.

The White Witch of Devil’s End remembered it like this: “The script called for a pretty village with a church, a village green and a pub with, in the vicinity, a long barrow and an airstrip. And suddenly, out of the blue, the producers came upon this village which might have been built to suit the specifications they were looking for.”

Exactly 45 years ago during May and June of 1971 millions of homes were invaded by ‘The Daemons’ in a five-part BBC TV serial that, a couple of decades later, was deemed to be the absolute cream of the crop – top of the docs – by avid followers of Doctor Who.

The intriguing, unusual and strangely haunting storyline of one of the Time Lord’s most enduring adventures threw witchcraft, the supernatural, the occult, mythology, folklore, black magic, science fiction and of a kind of pseudo science fact – he always strove to solve man-kind-threatening issues with science – into a heady mix.

The Three 'M's of English shire tradition – Morris dancing, The Maypole and Mummery – also found their way into the plot, adding a subtle yet sinister edge to a storyline that saw a Powerful Force seeking to wreak havoc in the heart of Rural England.

Whether glued to their black‘n’white tellies or the new-fangled coloured variety, it was gripping stuff for viewers… and it all happened just 20 minutes down the road from Swindon in an Archetypal English Village.

Aldbourne folk who witnessed the filming of The Daemons – or indeed, became extras as many did – will well recall the fortnight when The Man Who Dandified The Doctor, Jon Pertwee, descended on their quaint, sleepy enclave complete with BBC cast and crew in April of 1971.

Like many-a-good-yarn it all begins – and ends – at the village pub. The Blue Boar certainly put in a decent shift as The Cloven Hoof while Aldbourne itself doubled as the ancient, olde world backwater of Devil’s End.

Shooting also took place at a collection of 4,000 year-old burial mounds in adjoining fields that acquired the moniker Devil’s Hump for the programme, with further filming at nearby Membury airfield.

The local fire brigade did their bit, aiming their hoses high into the air, causing the water to plunge in mighty torrents for some stirring, atmospheric after-dark thunderstorm scenes. Fifteenth Century St Michael’s church played its part too, being blown to Kingdom Come (wherever that is) during the serial’s explosive climax – a scene that prompted some letters of complaint from irate Christians. “Dear Sir, I was appalled to witness the wanton destruction of a place of worship on my television set...”

The Corporation’s famous/infamous special effects department used a “somewhat crude” two dimensional photo model for this particular scene.

The gnarled old churchyard was deployed to great effect… but only on the condition that the word “God” wasn’t mentioned in the script!

Another church-related scene, in which The Doctor’s companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) was spread-eagled beneath the altar in readiness for being skewered with a sacrificial knife was unsportingly edited out, much to director Cristopher Barry’s ire.

Much of the on-location shooting took place at Aldbourne’s quintessentially English village green – complete with Celtic Cross – including the memorable May Day scenes with Morris Dancers draped in classic Mummery garb.

The indoor sequences were filmed back at the studio in London where interior of The Blue Boar – sorry, The Cloven Hoof – and the some shadowy recesses of St Michael’s Church were recreated.

Quarter of a century later in 1996 (see panel) villager Marian Deuchar, 73, told how she made a brief appearance in The Daemons, snatching a child away from some Evil lurking on The Green.

She said: “The whole village was taken over for about two weeks for the filming. The children here were enthralled.

“I certainly enjoyed my part, although it only lasted a few seconds.”

Doctor Who expert Jeremy Bentham recalled in a glossy booklet produced to mark the 25th anniversary of The Daemons: “All the Morris Dancing scenes were done in one day.

“Going against normal practice Christopher Barry included some of the real Aldbourne villagers as crowd extras – so many having turned up to spectate throughout the shooting.

“The only problem was that they were more inclined to cheer The Master (the Doctor’s villainous, long standing adversary) than to boo him, as instructed.”

Bentham added: “For the final shot Barry took a film camera to the very top of the church tower to do a long zoom out.”

Actress Damaris Hayman, who played Olive Hawthorne, a local White Witch and the possessor of uncanny powers, returned to Aldbourne several times over the years, opening fetes, crowning carnival queens and the like.

She felt the village played an important role in a serial that both Pertwee and Barry – as well as an overwhelming number of Doctor Who aficionados considered at least back in the mid Nineties, the best ever.

“I think the village helped – the atmosphere of the place. While we were doing all that bit with stilling the winds, which we did at Crooked Corner, I felt a tremendous sense of power," she said.

“I even believed, for those few moments, that I could actually still the wind.”

  • IT is a sunny Saturday afternoon 20 years ago – April 27, 1996 – and Jon Pertwee is posing for photographs next to a Dalek.

    He has long ceased to be Doctor Who, having relinquished the role to Tom Baker 22 years earlier, but seamlessly slips back into his Time Lord persona.

    With his striking silver-white locks and familiar frilly shirt he has hardly changed at all, even though, at 76, it has been more than quarter-of-a-century since he first boarded The Tardis.

    Pertwee has returned to Aldbourne – come back in time, if you like – to celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Daemons after it was voted the favourite ever Doctor Who serial by its fans.

    I have brought the kids along to educate them in the ways of Daleks, Cybermen and those funny things that look like they’ve been made out of spaghetti, and to point out to them my favourite Doctor Who in the flesh right there, right now. 

    I am allowed a few minutes to interview Pertwee before he addresses the Whovians which is the word he uses to describe some 500 devotees gathered in a spacious marquee eagerly waiting for him to appear and to spill some behind-the-scenes beans.

    “I still don’t really get it,” he says, shaking his head and grinning.

    “I played Worzel Gummidge for years and that show has been around the world and was very popular.  But you don’t get Worzel Gummidge conventions.”   

    The affable character actor says he has a great affection for Aldbourne, where he filmed for two weeks back in ’71 while he and the crew bedded down in Marlborough.

    It is the third time he has been back in the village since shooting The Daemons and he often meets and chats with some familiar faces.

    “There was just a wonderful, wonderful atmosphere in Aldbourne when we did The Daemons,” he enthuses.

    “It was a tremendous backdrop for the story. I have such fond memories of it all.”

    And with that he was off to re-live the filming of the serial with fellow cast members for all of those Whovians who paid 20 quid for the privilege, and had converged on Aldbourne from all corners of the country for the inside lowdown on “probably the most popular Doctor Who adventure ever.”

    Three weeks later on May 20 Jon Pertwee died in his sleep from a heart attack.
  • THE Daemons – director Christopher Barry insisted on the “a” just for the hell of it – begins one stormy night when a regular staggers in confusion from the village pub. Nothing unusual in that, you might think. 

    But seconds later his eyes are bulging as he dies a terrible and mysterious death, having been lured into the churchyard by some peculiar activity. 

    A new vicar Mr Magister (Roger Delgado) turns-up at the village without warning. But you can’t fool dedicated Doc fans who immediate recognise him as The Master, an old and formidable adversary.

    The cad has conjured some Hammer Horror-like Daemons from the bowels of the long barrows and his intentions – you better believe it – are less than honourable...

    The services of a foppish caped crusader are required. Enter The Third Doctor (Pertwee) whose frilly, flamboyant attire conceal a business-like man-of-action. 

    His firm belief is that all these dark and menacing occurrences that have suddenly engulfed Devil’s End can be explained and overcome by the appliance of science… along with some good old fashioned gung-ho, naturally.