Doctor Who on New Zealand Television

By Paul Scoones

Note: This is a reworked version of the articles written by Paul Scoones for the 'Selling the Doctor' sections of The Handbook - The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to the Production of Doctor Who (Telos Publishing, 2005)

July - September 2005

New Zealand was the second country to buy the new Doctor Who series, following Canada but ahead of Australia. Allegedly Prime TV beat out TVNZ in a bidding war and apparently purchased not only the 2005 series but also acquired first refusal rights to purchase and screen repeats of earlier Doctor Who stories.

The series was purchased around the beginning of December 2004 and the announcement was made public on Monday 6 December. Prime's Programming Manager indicated in the press release that Prime intended to place it in a primetime slot.

Prime heavily promoted the new series before it began screening in press advertising, in trailers on Prime and also advertised it with a large publicity photo of the Doctor, Rose and the TARDIS featured on the backs of buses, with the tagline 'If you're not on the edge of your seat, you'll be hiding behind it.'

The series was scheduled on Thursdays at 7.30 PM. The first episode screened 7 July 2005 - just a few weeks after the new series ended its initial run in the UK. Prime gave Rose a scheduled 'Encore' repeat screening at 7.30 PM on Sunday 10 July, three days after the first screening. This 'Encore' repeat was only for the first episode.

Unlike the original UK transmissions, the episodes were presented in a full screen, not widescreen format, and consequently the edges of the picture were cropped and sometimes the picture appeared slightly 'scrunched', most noticeably in The Long Game, to get the whole picture in frame. The episodes were screened in an hour-long slot with four commercial breaks. Generally the episodes were screened uncut although a few seconds were sometimes lost in the edit for the commercial breaks.

The new series episodes screened once a week, in the correct order, without any schedule changes. The series ended with the last episode, The Parting of the Ways, screened 29 September 2005.

View the Prime Press Pack for Series 1

July - October 2006

New Zealand was the first country outside the UK to screen Series 2, just two days ahead of Australia. The series was launched on Prime TV on Thursday 6 July 2006 with The Christmas Invasion, screened more than seven months after its UK broadcast. This hour-long episode was accorded a 75-minute timeslot to accommodate commercials, from 7.30 to 8.45 PM. The final episode of Series 2, Doomsday, screened in the UK two days after the NZ broadcast of The Christmas Invasion.

Series 2 began on Prime the following Thursday, 13 July, in the regular timeslot of 7.30 - 8.30 PM with New Earth. All 13 episodes were screened in their correct order and the run concluded with Doomsday on 5 October 2006.

As with Series 1, the episodes were presented in a full screen ratio, cropping the edges of the picture, and several commercial breaks were inserted throughout each episode.

The 2006 series was heavily promoted by Prime with various eye-catching adverts on buses, large billboards, radio adverts and television trailers. Once the series was underway, individual episodes were promoted with teaser trailers on Prime that sometimes presented an unexpected angle on the story; for example School Reunion focused on the threat of school teachers masquerading as aliens, with no mention of Sarah Jane and K9.

December 2006 - March 2007

After a two-and-a-half month break, Doctor Who returned to Prime in December 2006 for a repeat screening of the complete Series One from Rose through to The Parting of the Ways. The episodes were repeated 18 months after their initial New Zealand screening. The End of the World was erroneously promoted by Prime with the title Death of the World. This episode screened without commercial breaks on Christmas Day 2006. The series screened on Mondays at 7.30 PM from 18 December 2006 to 12 March 2007.

August - November 2007

Five months later, Doctor Who was back on Prime, this time with previously unscreened episodes. The series was moved to Sundays, still at 7.30 PM, and commenced on 19 August 2007 with the second Christmas special, The Runaway Bride. To accommodate this longer episode Prime allocated an extra half hour to the timeslot. The complete Series Three followed, from Smith and Jones through to Last of the Time Lords. This last episode screened 18 November 2007 was the so-called ‘international version’ with an approximately 45-minute duration, rather than the extended 52-minute version that had screened on UK television.

December 2007

Christmas 2007 saw Prime devote over 12 hours to a Doctor Who marathon over a 24-hour period. All 15 episodes screened were repeats, beginning with The Runaway Bride at 7 PM on Christmas Eve, Monday 24 December, and followed on Christmas Day by a continuous, commercial-free screening of the complete Series One from Rose through to The Parting of the Ways, and then concluding with The Christmas Invasion. The End of the World was again erroneously promoted by Prime with the title Death of the World. This episode has the distinction of having screened on Christmas Day two years in a row. This was the third transmission of Series One on Prime (and the fourth for Rose). Prime initially claimed that The Runaway Bride would be screened twice: on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day, however the latter screening was quickly amended in the schedules to The Christmas Invasion.