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'Time is Everything' - The Doctor Who Commercials

By Paul Scoones

In January this year, an Auckland company called Tiger Films produced a series of eight television commercials for New Zealand Superannuation Services (NZSS). The advertisements were designed to persuade the public to phone to make an appointment to discuss retirement savings plans offered by NZSS. The theme of the commercials was Doctor Who, and in addition to purchasing the rights to use the Doctor, the TARDIS and the theme music from the BBC, Tiger Films also hired Tom Baker to come to New Zealand to reprise his role as the Fourth Doctor.

Preparation and research for the commercials got under way late last year, with Tiger Films requesting reference material from the New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club in an effort to make their production as 'authentic' as possible. In early January the company constructed a full-size replica of the TARDIS console room and the police box exterior, based in part on plans featured in the Doctor Who Technical Manual, as well as designs obtained from the BBC.

Tom brought the Doctor's costume with him from the UK. The scarf and coat he wore on screen were apparently those that he wore in his last season, and the scarf was on loan from the Doctor Who Experience exhibition at Llangollen in Wales.

Tom Baker arrived in Auckland on Saturday 18 January and returned to the UK eleven days later, on Wednesday 29 January. Recording took place over three days from Tuesday 21 to Thursday 23 January in Studio 601 in Newmarket, Auckland, and on location on the rim of the crater of Mount Eden in Auckland early in the morning of Wednesday 22 January.

The advertising campaign consisted of a series of eight television commercials, ranging from fifteen seconds to a minute in duration, as well as radio commercials (which apparently used segments from the television commercials), and a series of large (often full page) newspaper advertisements that appeared twice weekly in the New Zealand Herald newspaper. The television commercials first aired 10 February 1997 and were only transmitted in the Auckland region. The commercials were intended to screen throughout the rest of the year depending on the level of interest generated. The phone number that the public were encouraged to call was 0800-TARDIS and there was also an email address, timelord@tardis.co.nz.

Following their use in the commercials, the police box and console room were set up on public display at the New Zealand Superannuation Services offices at 10-12 Teed Street, Newmarket, Auckland. The company's operations manager indicated that if the commercials were a success, Tom Baker might be asked back to make a further series of commercials later in the year.

At the time of publication, five of the eight commercials had screened, and these are transcribed here. It should be noted that the numbering system for the commercials used here were not assigned by the makers, and are simply there for ease of reference and to indicate the probable order in which the commercials were first screened. Advert 1 was certainly the first to be aired.

ADVERT 1 (1 minute)

A green vortex swirls against a star field. A jaunty version of the familiar theme music plays in the background, but fades away when the picture cuts to the TARDIS interior.

Inside the TARDIS console room, the Doctor comes in through the interior door, and slams the door shut behind him. The roar of an unseen creature can be heard and a shadow passes behind the circular window in the door. The Doctor seals the door shut with his sonic screwdriver and says, 'A word of advice. Plan for the future and you'll be ready for anything.'

He rushes around the console, tossing his hat down and adjusting controls. 'Of course! I hear you say. It's easy for him - he's a Time Lord. He's been there often enough. Well let me tell you something!'

The TARDIS materialisation noise starts up. The Doctor strikes the console with his fist, and the central column begins to rise and fall.

'You don't need a Gallifreyan time capsule or even a sonic screwdriver to shape the future. The answer the whole universe has been seeking for centuries is at the end of a telephone line.' The Doctor pulls down a scanner screen mounted on an adjustable overhead bracket. '0800-TARDIS' flashes up on the scanner screen.

'New Zealand Superannuation Services. Yes, I knew you'd be surprised.'

The console room jolts with a loud thump. 'Oop! We're arriving.'

The TARDIS materialises on the edge of the grassy crater at the top of Mt Eden in Auckland, New Zealand. The theme music resumes and the Doctor emerges, spreading his arms wide with enthusiasm. 'Oh yes. Oh yes!' he enthuses.

This is followed by another shot of the vortex, with the superimposed wording 'TIME IS EVERYTHING', then '0800-TARDIS' and the New Zealand Superannuation Services logo.

ADVERT 2 (15 seconds)

The TARDIS travels through the vortex with the theme music playing in the background.

The Doctor stands in the TARDIS console room, musing to himself. 'Oh, the life of a Time Lord! Travelling though time and space, toying with the future, mastering it, shaping it to your own design.' He is struck by a sudden thought 'Of course, anyone can do it now.'

The vortex, with the superimposed wording '0800-TARDIS' and the company logo.

ADVERT 3 (15 seconds)

The TARDIS travels through the vortex with the theme music playing in the background.

The Doctor stands in the console room holding up his sonic screwdriver. The small disc on the head of the device is glowing faintly. 'What does it take to shape the future? A virilium time transformer? A sonic screwdriver? Or just the uncanny ability to remember a telephone number.'

The vortex, with the superimposed wording '0800-TARDIS' and the company logo.

ADVERT 4 (30 seconds)

Once again the TARDIS travels through the vortex with the theme music playing, over which the Doctor says 'The future.'

The Doctor stands in front of the TARDIS console, holding a small electronic gadget and grinning mischievously. 'It's so much easier to plan for once you've been there. Of course it helps to have one of these - a virilium time transformer.' The device sparks as the Doctor shakes it. It appears to be malfunctioning and he drops it. 'The next best thing is a telephone number which will help you to start a savings plan for the twenty-first century.'

'0800-TARDIS' is briefly superimposed over the picture.

'Take it from a Time Lord. However you plan to spend your future, plan on having something to spend.'

The vortex, with the superimposed wording 'TIME IS EVERYTHING', then '0800-TARDIS' and the New Zealand Superannuation Services logo.

ADVERT 5 (30 seconds)

The TARDIS travels through the vortex as usual.

The Doctor leans over the console. 'The past is filled with those who didn't care to plan for the future.'

A computer read-out on the console displays the rotating three-dimensional graphic of a humanoid creature accompanied by the words 'KRAKENOID', 'TARR 7', 'MALE', 'Income: DEPLETED'.

The Doctor says, 'I'm not saying that a regular savings plan would have saved the Krakenoids on Tarr 7 from a life of financial drudgery and dependence.'

The word 'EXTINCT' appears in flashing letters on the bottom of the read-out.

'Then again, you never know.' The Doctor picks up his hat from the console. 'Remember, however you plan on spending the future, plan on having something to spend.' He puts on his hat.

The vortex, with the superimposed wording 'TIME IS EVERYTHING', then '0800-TARDIS' and the New Zealand Superannuation Services logo.

Bonus Material

[Postcard front]
[Postcard rear]

This postcard was one of a number of promotional items produced for the marketing campaign.

[Advert 1]
NZ Herald, 4 February 1997.
[Advert 2]
NZ Herald, 13 February 1997 (also appeared on 11 February in a similar form)
[Advert 3]
NZ Herald, 20 February 1997.