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Dubbing Doctor Who into Arabic

Al-Doctor Who

To the Arabic speaking countries, the series was known as Al-Doctor Who ( الدكتور هو). Al is Arabic for The, the definite article; curiously the name Who is used and spoken as per the English pronunciation rather than being translated into the Arabic equivalent for the word "Who".

In Arabic script (read from right to left), the programme title is written:


الدكتور هو


When the New Series aired in the Middle East, the Arabic form of the series title logo was even able to incorporate the stylised "DW" ident:

ArabicTitles2010.jpg

The BBC's Radio service used Egyptian actors living in London for dubbing radio plays into Arabic for consumption in the Middle East.

BBC Radio's Arabic Service also had a production centre in Cairo, Egypt, but following the 1956 Suez crisis, the organisation relocated to Beirut, Lebanon, where it remained until the 1975 Lebanese civil war.

Due to the popularity of BBC radio programmes in Arabic countries it wasn't surprising that the BBC wanted to exploit its television programmes to the same market.


WHO DUBBED WHO?

UniArt logo

The BBC employed the services of the dubbing facilities at the Al-Ittihaad Al-Fanni Studios in Beirut, Lebanon. Founded in 1962, Al-Ittihaad Al-Fanni was also known as UNIART STUDIOs.

Because of the sheer number of variant Arabic dialects, a neo-classical form of Arabic was adopted for all radio and television dubs.

But it's unclear whether the BBC themselves commissioned and arranged the Lebanese dubbings of Doctor Who; it's equally possible this was the responsibility of the first Arabic country to purchase the series, which was Tunisia.

In order for these dubs to be made, the BBC created and provided separate magnetic soundtracks that had only sound effects and music (often the scores differed from the ones that featured in the UK version, and usually consisted of stock non-copyrighted material), but no dialogue. These "M/E Track" copies were created by the BBC by mid-1966 (see interview with Eddie Montague). It was likely to be at the "M/E Track" creation stage that the decision was made by the BBC to exclude all the historical stories with the sole exception of The Aztecs from the set of episodes to have M/E tracks made. (See the Spanish page for more on this.)

The BBC supplied the dubbing studio with each magnetic soundtrack recording along with a copy of each broadcast episode -- most likely on video tape rather than film, as a tape could easily be paused and rewound during the dubbing process -- and a post-broadcast transcript of the English dialogue so a translation into Arabic could be prepared.


WILLIAM HARTNELL (الدكتور هو)

Only nine of the first eleven William Hartnell stories (40 episodes) were dubbed into Arabic:

الدكتور هو - Al-Doctor Who, TV Listing from Lebanon, 1977
A An Unearthly Child 4
B The Daleks 7
C Inside the Spaceship 2
E The Keys of Marinus 6
F The Aztecs 4
G The Sensorites 6
J Planet of Giants 3
K The Dalek Invasion of Earth 6
L The Rescue 2

Although "M/E Tracks" had been made for The Dalek Invasion of Earth and The Rescue in 1966, the first serial was not available in 1967 due to rights issues with Terry Nation (see also the section on Who Dubbed Who? on the Spanish); this may have also affected sales of the The Rescue to Arabic stations.

Therefore, only the first seven serials were available by early 1967 when they were sold to:

(These same film prints may then have been sold to Iran in late 1968; although Farsi is the principal language, the same film prints could be used with an alternative soundtrack in Farsi played in during transmission.)


The Dalek Invasion of Earth and The Rescue eventually became available again in 1968, and all nine serials were sold to:


Interestingly, only the first episode of An Unearthly Child was screened by some (all?) of these countries. (It is known that the other three episodes of the first serial were fully dubbed, as BBC Enterprises held copies of all four instalments in that language in late 1976 – see below.)

One possible explanation for the "rejection" of these three episodes is that a story set at the time of cavemen might have conflicted with the religious beliefs in some of those countries in which Islam is practised.

There has been a long-held belief that The Crusade wasn't sold to Muslim countries because of its subject matter, and therefore some prints of the sixth episode of The Web Planet were re-edited so the NEXT EPISODE caption read THE SPACE MUSEUM rather than THE LION. However, as none of the stories after The Rescue were dubbed into Arabic or sold to Muslim countries, the change to the caption was done for other reasons (see The Web Planet page for a possible answer.)


BBC ARCHIVE HOLDINGS

An Arabic print of part 4 of An Unearthly Child may have existed in 1973 to be used in a November 1973 edition of Blue Peter; this clip has the alternative "Music / Effects" soundtrack (compiled by Eddie Montague), but the few shots which would have had dialogue have been carefully edited out to disguise the fact that it wasn't in English. It's therefore unknown whether this print was dubbed into Arabic or Spanish, or was dialogue-free.

(Was this print used because when the anniversary tribute was compiled the BBC only had access to a foreign dubbed positive print and not an English copy of this serial?)

In late 1976, when the Lively Arts documentary Whose Doctor Who was being researched, the BBC still held at least the following Arabic prints:

A An Unearthly Child ALL
B The Daleks ALL
C Inside the Spaceship ALL
E The Keys of Marinus ALL
F The Aztecs ALL
G The Sensorites ALL
J Planet of Giants ALL
K The Dalek Invasion of Earth ALL
L The Rescue ALL

It has been suggested that these prints may have been returned from Algeria, not long after the broadcasts had been completed in February 1974. It has also been suggested that Algeria also returned to the BBC the copies they had of the English negatives of the first two William Hartnell seasons, which had been sent to the Algerian TV station to enable them to make foreign language dubs of the stories, and that is why those negatives survive to this day. However, we have to question that line of thought, if only for the simple fact that Radiodiffusion Television Algerienne would not have made its own Arabic dubs. Instead, they would simply have been sent a set of the pre-dubbed Arabic positives that were in circulation and had been for a number of years. (Our own thoughts as to the origin of those negatives is covered in the section on WILLIAM HARTNELL.)


By late 1978, only the following were still held by the BBC:

C Inside the Spaceship ALL
E The Keys of Marinus 1
J Planet of Giants ALL
K The Dalek Invasion of Earth 1,2,4,6
L The Rescue ALL

A couple of additional episodes with Arabic soundtracks also exist in private hands, such as The Aztecs part four, which was used as an alternative language option on the DVD release of that story.


EXTRACTS ON DVD AND VIDEO

Clips from some of the Arabic prints have featured in documentaries about Doctor Who:


  • CLIP: Once Upon a Time Lord: (Arabic section at 1.39):




  • CLIP: Missing in Action: (Arabic sections at 2.25 and 2.44):




DVD TRANSLATIONS

The following are translations of the narrations that accompany the opening and closing titles of the Arabic soundtracks that feature as the alternative audio options on the DVDs for Inside the Spaceship part two, The Aztecs episode four, and for all three instalments of Planet of Giants.

On all five episodes, the name of the dubbing studio "Al-Ittihaad Al-Fanni" can be heard as the last words spoken in the opening and closing voice-over.

In most cases, character names and other identifiers, such the names Doctor Who, Susan, Ian, Barbara, DN6, Forester, are retained in the translations.

However, some of the detail in the dialogue has been changed; for instance in the original English, the Doctor tells Ian that his Ulster was given to him by Gilbert and Sullivan whereas in the Arabic, the Doctor tells Ian that his coat was like one that Ferdinand de Lesseps - who built the Panama and Suez canals - used to wear.

None of the closing narrations gives the title of the "Next Episode". Given that the giant footprint lead-in to Marco Polo is intact at the end of Inside the Spaceship part two, it would seem that no edits were made when, as in the case of this surviving Arabic edition, the story that followed did not screen.

And yet, the Arabic print held of part one of Planet of Giants contains a brief edit: the section of dialogue in which the Doctor discusses their previous adventure in the "eighteenth century" has been excised; this would have been done because the previous serial, The Reign of Terror, was not part of the package sold to Arabic countries. It's not clear whether this edit was done at the dubbing stage or by one of the Arabic broadcasters.

Director Mervyn Pinfield is named in the closing narrations to the first two episodes of Planet of Giants only; no director is credited in the narration for part three.



INSIDE THE SPACESHIP (EPISODE 2)

  • OPENING TITLES:

NARRATOR: "Al Doctor Who". This episode: Edge of Disaster. Written by David Whitaker. Translated into Arabic and direction of voice-dubbing by Al-Ittihaad Al-Fanni.


  • CLOSING TITLES:

IAN: Does this coat suit me?

DOCTOR: Yes, it does suit you. Did you know that Ferdinand de Lesseps, the man who built the canals, wore a coat similar to this?

IAN: Really? No, I didn't know that. Shall we go out now?

DOCTOR: Yes, my pleasure.

SUSAN: Grandfather. Look. It's a footprint on the ground. It must be a monster!

NARRATOR: The ship has now landed on another planet. We wonder - what type of adventure they will face? This is what you are going to find out in the next exciting episode of the programme Al Doctor Who. Directed by Frank Cox. Translated into Arabic and direction of voice-dubbing by Al-Ittihaad Al-Fanni.



THE AZTECS (EPISODE 4)

  • OPENING TITLES:

NARRATOR: "Al Doctor Who". This episode: The Day of the Darkness. Written by John Lucarotti. Translated into Arabic and direction of voice-dubbing by Al-Ittihaad Al-Fanni.


  • CLOSING TITLES:

IAN: What's going on, Doctor?

DOCTOR: This is very mysterious, my boy.

IAN: What's mysterious?

DOCTOR: It's the engines. These instruments indicate that we've stopped, but these controls show we are still moving.

IAN: Maybe we've stopped on top of something.

DOCTOR: Sure.

BARBARA: Or inside something.

[FADE TO BLACK – THE CREDITS ROLL:]

NARRATOR: And so they rushed forward just in time as the conspirators were rubbing their hands and weaving their conspiracy. But Doctor Who managed to discover the path to escape from that silk-smooth trap that was about to ensnare them all. The engines of Doctor Who’s spaceship started, and rushed through time and space only to halt shortly afterwards. On what planet have they landed and what new adventure awaits them? This is what you are going to find out in the next exciting episode of the programme Al Doctor Who. Directed by John Crockett. Translated into Arabic and direction of voice-dubbing by Al-Ittihaad Al-Fanni.



PLANET OF GIANTS (EPISODE 1)

  • OPENING TITLES:

NARRATOR: "Al Doctor Who". This episode: The Giants' Planet. Written by Louis Marks. Translated into Arabic and direction of voice-dubbing by Al-Ittihaad Al-Fanni.


  • CLOSING TITLES:

NARRATOR: Even the shadows around Doctor Who and his people have turned into ashes. Death was following them, and the smell of the gunpowder was thick in the air. Can Doctor Who and his people make their way to safety and survive? This is what you are going to find out in the next exciting episode of the programme, Al Doctor Who. Directed by Mervyn Pinfield. Translated into Arabic and direction of voice-dubbing by Al-Ittihaad Al-Fanni.


PLANET OF GIANTS (EPISODE 2)

  • OPENING TITLES:

NARRATOR: Al Doctor Who. This episode: A Dangerous Adventure. Written by Louis Marks. Translated into Arabic and direction of voice-dubbing by Al-Ittihaad Al-Fanni.


  • END OF EPISODE:

NARRATOR: And it was an adventure of a different kind, a new, different experience, a battlefield the Doctor Who has never experienced before. This time he had to fight a new type of adversary, an adversary whose weapon is a deadly substance that they want to spread on the earth to kill all living things. Will the ray of light win and beat the ashes of darkness? This is what you are going to find out in the next exciting episode of the programme Al Doctor Who. Directed by Mervyn Pinfield. Translated into Arabic and direction of voice-dubbing by Al-Ittihaad Al-Fanni.


PLANET OF GIANTS (EPISODE 3)

  • OPENING TITLES:

NARRATOR: Al Doctor Who. This episode: The Crisis (*). Written by Louis Marks. Translated into Arabic and direction of voice-dubbing by Al-Ittihaad Al-Fanni.

(*) This could also be translated to mean In Trouble.


  • CLOSING TITLES:

DOCTOR: I might have finally discovered where we are.

NARRATOR: Doctor Who and his friends escaped from being prisoners inside the deep pipes of the lab, as it was written for them to survive. The truth of what had happened struck Doctor Who like lightning! What secrets have been revealed in front of him? This is what you are going to find out in the next exciting episode of the programme Al Doctor Who. Translated into Arabic and direction of voice-dubbing by Al-Ittihaad Al-Fanni.


It appears that whoever wrote the Arabic narration didn't realise that the next episode was the start of a new story, and has the closing voice-over describe the next episode as the continuation of the same story.

(With grateful thanks to Fady, Rami and Rama, Aidan and Hiyam O'Donnell and Leen Al-Hadban for assistance with the translations.)



JON PERTWEE (الدكتور هو)

Some (but certainly not all) of Jon Pertwee's stories screened in the following Arabic countries:

Some of the Pertwee stories that played in the UAE may also have screened in Kuwait, but this country is not named in any BBC records, nor have any broadcast airdates been found.

It is likely but not a certainty that both Lebanon and Saudi Arabia broadcast the episodes in black and white. The other countries broadcast only the handful of PAL colour stories that existed in their entirety.

In the 1974 edition of the World Radio Television Handbook (WRTH), BBC Managing Director Huw Wheldon in an April 1973 speech mentions that he had seen "Dr Who in my own office in Arabic, and a curious experience it was". Given the early 1973 date of his address, it is very likely that he was referring to viewing dubs of these Pertwee stories.

It is known that some Arabic countries broadcast in both English and Arabic simultaneously – with the English soundtrack broadcast over the radio.

As far as can be determined, all Pertwee stories bar the two stories that were not sold - The Green Death and Invasion of the Dinosaurs - were dubbed into Arabic.




TOM BAKER (الدكتور هو)

Some (but certainly not all) of Tom Baker's stories were screened in the following countries:

All episodes that aired in these countries were in PAL colour.

The United Arab Emirates broadcast Tom Baker's first two seasons on the all Arabic-language station, Channel 10 (which means these were dubbed into Arabic), with the rest on the English-only Channel 33. The Channel 10 broadcasts might also have had radio-simulcasts in English.

In his 1997 autobiography, Who on Earth is Tom Baker?, Baker makes the observation that he is popular in Abu Dhabi.



NEW SERIES

The following link is to an Arabic blog about the New Series:


Links