Doctor Who on New Zealand Television

By Paul Scoones

1964-1970 | 1970-1981 | 1981-1989 | 1989-1999 | 2000-2002

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)

March 1981

The movie Dr Who and the Daleks (1965) was repeated nearly two years after its first screening. Billed as the ‘Tuesday Movie’ it played at 4.25 PM on 3 March 1981 on TV1.

March - September 1981

Season Eighteen was acquired by Television New Zealand between 12 March 1981 (for The Leisure Hive) and 12 April 1981 (for Logopolis). Tom Baker's final season was launched on a new day, channel and timeslot. From 23 March 1981 the series aired on Tuesdays on Television One with an earlier start-time of around 5.30 PM. Most of Season Eighteen was screened in this position, but came to a premature end on 1 September 1981 with the final episode of The Keeper of Traken. At this point, New Zealand was just one story short of catching up to the UK, but viewers were then left waiting for just over a year to see Logopolis.

September - October 1982

Logopolis finally screened from 20 September to 18 October 1982, with a week off midway through the story to accommodate Commonwealth Games coverage, on the same channel, day and timeslot as the rest of Season Eighteen. TVNZ had held on to Logopolis for a year, and their rights to screen Season Eighteen episodes expired 31 March 1983.

March - November 1983

Peter Davison's Doctor arrived on New Zealand television screens just over a year after his first story screened in the UK, and as Castrovalva Part One screened in New Zealand, Davison's second season was ending on British TV screens.

The series screened on Mondays at 5.30 PM on Television One, beginning 14 March and ending 28 November 1983. This run of episodes covered all seven stories of Season Nineteen as well as the first three stories of Season Twenty. Unusually for New Zealand, Arc of Infinity, Snakedance and Mawdryn Undead were all screened the same year these stories were aired in the UK. After Mawdryn Undead ended however viewers had to wait over a year for the series to return but further Davison stories were not seen until five years later.

April 1985 - February 1986

When Doctor Who returned to New Zealand television in 1985, it was with two previously unscreened Troughton stories The Mind Robber and The Krotons, which were selected to begin a long run of a mix of first-run and repeated Doctor Who stories. The Mind Robber was billed as both “the very first Doctor Who story” and a repeat in promotional material, when in fact it was neither. The story was transmitted on Fridays on TV2 from 12 April to 26 April 1985, followed by The Krotons from 26 April to 10 May 1985. Two episodes were screened back to back each week, from 6.30 PM. The middle closing and opening credits were removed, and the opening titles of the first episode screened were edited to remove the episode number, usually replaced by a still frame of the series logo. The closing credits of the last episode of The Mind Robber were removed, with a continuity announcer coming on to explain that the first episode of The Krotons would follow after the commercial break. Viewer ratings for these screenings show that the series got off to a strong start, with The Mind Robber rating 11.1%, making it the seventh most watched Doctor Who story between 1985 and 1989. The Krotons however saw a drop to 8.1%.

Spearhead from Space began on 10 May 1985, and the series ran without a break through to The Three Doctors. Most stories were screened in colour, except for: Doctor Who and the Silurians, The Ambassadors of Death, Terror of the Autons, The Mind of Evil and The Daemons. The last three episodes of The Three Doctors were screened back to back on 7 February 1986, followed by a month's break.

Viewer figures for this run of Pertwee episodes reveal that 12 July 1985 gained the greatest Doctor Who audience with The Ambassadors of Death Episode 7 rating 14.5% and its paired episode, Inferno Episode 1 increasing to 15%. 16 August 1985 received the second highest ratings, with Episodes Two and Three of Terror of the Autons both rating 13.5%. Doctor Who and the Silurians Episode 3, screened 31 May 1985, also rated 13.5%. Terror of the Autons was the highest-rated story with a 12% average.

March 1986 - December 1988

Carnival of Monsters commenced on 11 March, now in a single episode per week format on Tuesdays at around 5.30 PM on Television One. Planet of the Daleks Episode Three was screened in black and white, and the first episode of Invasion of the Dinosaurs was omitted as TVNZ had been supplied with a re-edited five part version with renumbered episodes. The Pertwee episodes screened during this period were supplied by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and consequently in many cases had cuts that had been made by the Australian censor. From 18 November 1986, during The Monster of Peladon, the series was screened on Wednesdays as well as Tuesdays at the same time. The Pertwee era ended 24 December 1986 with the screening of Planet of the Spiders Part Six.

The highest rated Pertwee episodes for this period were Planet of the Daleks Episode Six and The Time Warrior Episode Two, each with 13% of the potential viewing audience. Planet of the Daleks was the highest-rated story with a 10.8% average.

Following on from the Jon Pertwee stories, Robot was screened from 30 December 1986, marking the beginning of a run of the entire Tom Baker era, including Genesis of the Daleks, Horror of Fang Rock, The Sun Makers and The Invasion of Time which had all been omitted during the initial screenings of the Tom Baker stories. Genesis of the Daleks was screened out of sequence in May-June 1987, located between The Seeds of Doom and Masque of Mandragora, but otherwise the stories were transmitted in the correct sequence. The episodes were initially broadcast on TV1, twice a week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at around 5.30 PM. In February 1987, midway through Revenge of the Cybermen, the series moved from TV1 to TV2 but otherwise continued unchanged. In December 1987, The Ribos Operation was screened as two double-length episodes from 5 PM. For the last two stories of Tom Baker's era, the series moved to Thursdays and Fridays, and Logopolis ended on 19 August 1988. The episodes screened at this time were supplied by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and consequently in many cases exhibited cuts that had been made by the Australian censor.

Viewer ratings for the Tom Baker stories screened 1986-88 reveal that The Hand of Fear Part Four, with a rating of 18.5% (of the potential viewing audience) was the Tom Baker episode with the most viewers, and this episode was placed 45th on the top 50 most watched programmes chart in the first week of July 1987. Part Three of Horror of Fang Rock, seen by 15% and charting in 49th position for the third week of September 1987, was second equal with The Hand of Fear Part Three. The five top rating stories were: The Hand of Fear (14.1%), The Robots of Death (13.4%), The Deadly Assassin (12.4%), Horror of Fang Rock (11.3%) and The Face of Evil (10.9%). The time of year would appear to have had an influence on the viewer ratings, with all of the top-rated episodes screened during New Zealand's winter months when television viewing figures are typically higher than in warmer months and correspondingly the lowest rated episodes - including The Stones of Blood Part Two (3%), The Ark in Space Part Three, Robot Parts Three and Four (all 4%) and The Invasion of Time Part Six (4.5%) - all screened in December and January, which is New Zealand's summertime.

Following on directly from the Tom Baker stories, Davison's first season, Castrovalva to Time-Flight, was screened from 25 August to 18 November 1988.

The regular Thursday and Friday screenings were interrupted for one week as Television New Zealand scheduled a 'Silver Jubilee' week of Doctor Who special screenings, from Saturday 19 November to Friday 25 November, featuring the first New Zealand broadcasts of five stories. These special screenings began at midday on Saturday 19 November 1988 with The Dalek Invasion of Earth which had been omitted twenty years earlier. This was followed at 2. 40 PM by The Seeds of Death which was billed as a repeat, when in fact this was its first-time appearance on New Zealand television. The Seeds of Death was advertised in some publications with a synopsis for The War Games, prompting a voiceover correction at the beginning of the story. Both stories were presented in an omnibus format with all six episodes edited together.

Sunday 20 November 1988 saw The Five Doctors screened at midday, followed at 1.30 PM on the same day by a repeat of the 1965 movie, Dr Who and the Daleks. The film was the one item from the 'Silver Jubilee' line-up that had previously screened on New Zealand television.

Revelation of the Daleks, the first New Zealand viewers saw of Colin Baker's Doctor, was broadcast in a four episode format over four nights from Monday 21 November to Thursday 24 November 1988 at 5.30 PM.

Silver Nemesis was broadcast as an omnibus edition of all three episodes on Friday 25 November 1988. Part One had been transmitted for the first time in the UK just two days earlier, but New Zealand was the first place in the world to screen Parts Two and Three. The story was scheduled in a ninety minute timeslot from 4.30 PM. to 6 PM., with commercial breaks and, between Parts Two and Three, a five-minute break for news headlines. Part One's opening titles were used at the beginning of the story and Part Three's closing credits at the end, and although the other opening and closing titles were removed, Parts Two and Three retained their opening reprises and episode numbers. Part One was cut, with about a minute missing from the point at which a commercial break occurred, although it is unknown whether this was an intentional timing edit or an accidental omission caused by the insertion of the commercials.

Viewer ratings for the ‘Silver Jubilee’ week saw Revelation of the Daleks gain the highest viewer ratings on average of all the Doctor Who screenings that week, with 6.9%. Silver Nemesis viewer ratings started out high at 7% for the first quarter hour of the story, then dipped to 6% and remained steady up until the last quarter hour when viewer numbers dropped to 5%. The Five Doctors gained a viewer rating of 4.2%, Dr Who and the Daleks 3.8%, The Dalek Invasion of Earth 3.6% and The Seeds of Death just 2.4%.

Following the ‘Silver Jubilee’ week, regular screenings resumed, however just two stories were broadcast before the series took a break. Arc of Infinity and Snakedance screened from 1 to 23 December 1988.

Viewer ratings for the Davison era stories screened in 1988 show that Castrovalva Part Two was the highest rating episode on 7.5%. Castrovalva was also the highest rating story with a 6.9% average, followed by Four to Doomsday and Earthshock, both on 6.4%.

April 1989 - November 1989

After three months the series returned 6 April 1989 back on Thursdays and Fridays on TV2, but at the slightly earlier time of around 5.15 PM. The series resumed with Mawdryn Undead and then Terminus, which saw the regular story sequence pick up where it had left off in New Zealand more than five years earlier. Because it had screened as part of the 'Silver Jubilee' week just a few months earlier, The Five Doctors was omitted after The King's Demons. Resurrection of the Daleks played as a four-part story (as opposed to the two episode format seen in the UK), and the Davison era ended 4 August 1989 with the screening of Part Four of The Caves of Androzani.

Many of the Davison episodes screened during 1989 were broadcast in a slightly edited form, as the commercial half-hour slot to which they had been allocated allowed for only 23 minutes of actual programme time. Further edits were evident because the episodes had been supplied by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and cuts had been made by the Australian censor.

The version of The Caves of Androzani screened in New Zealand was one that had been heavily edited by the Australian censor to remove sequences deemed too violent, with around two and a half minutes removed from Part Four alone.

Viewer ratings for the Davison era stories screened in 1989 show that Frontios Part Two was the highest rated episode on 9%, with the first episodes of Terminus, Resurrection of the Daleks and Planet of Fire all rating 8.5%. The Awakening and Frontios were equally the highest-rated stories, each with a 7.3% average.

The Colin Baker era proper began with The Twin Dilemma on 10 August 1988, following on from the end of the Davison era stories. At this point, Doctor Who screened twice a week on Thursdays and Fridays at around 5.15 PM. The Season 22 stories were screened in the 25 minute episode format, and the season was also screened in production order, so The Two Doctors preceded The Mark of the Rani. The series suffered some disruption when it was moved in the schedules at short notice as TV2 realigned its programming to combat the launch of the rival television channel, TV3. Timelash Parts Three and Four, which were advertised as screening on Thursday 2 November and Friday 3 November, were moved to Saturday afternoons at 5 PM, with Part Three playing nearly a week earlier than scheduled on 28 October, and Part Four on 4 November 1989.

Viewer ratings for this period show that of the Colin Baker episodes, The Twin Dilemma Part One was the most watched, with 9.5% which higher than any of the Davison episodes screened in 1988-89. Part Four of the same story was the second highest at 9%, followed by The Two Doctors Part Four on 8%. The average audience ratings for the first six stories of the Colin Baker era are: The Twin Dilemma 8%; Attack of the Cybermen 6.3%; Vengeance on Varos 6.5%; The Two Doctors 6.8%; The Mark of the Rani 4.5% and Timelash 3.4%.

December 1989

Tuesday 26 December 1989 saw the New Zealand television debut of the second Dalek movie, Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 AD (1966). The Boxing Day holiday movie screened at 10.05 AM on TV2.

1964-1970 | 1970-1981 | 1981-1989 | 1989-1999 | 2000-2002