Saudi Arabia

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SAUDI ARABIA is a Middle Eastern country, between the Red Sea and the Persian / Arabian Gulf.

Profile

Country Number (27) 1968? FIRST, SECOND and THIRD WAVE
Region Middle East
Television commenced 17 June 1955
Colour System 1 1973 SECAM
Colour System 2 1976 NTSC
Colour System 3 1979 PAL
Population 1969 7 million
TV Sets 1969 29,000
Population 1977 8.1 million
TV Sets 1977 130,000
Language/s Arabic and English Dubbed or Subtitled


Television Stations / Channels

Despite its vast size, television coverage in Saudi Arabia is isolated to only two specific regions: Riyadh and Jidda in the west, and the south eastern provinces near Dhahran on the Persian Gulf. By 1970, it had three separate broadcasters serving the country.


AJL-TV

The second-ever television service to the Arab world was established in Saudi Arabia; commencing from 17 June 1955, station AJL-TV went on air in Dhahran on the Arabian / Persian Gulf. This NTSC service was operated by the United States Air Force, and was intended to provide entertainment to personnel at the Dhahran Air Force Base. (This station was part of the American Armed Forces Network.)

The base was vacated by its American personnel by the 1980s, and as far as can be determined, TV broadcasts ceased at the time. The base was manned and brought back into operation during the Gulf War crisis of 1991-1992, and television and radio transmissions resumed during the conflict. The station ceased broadcasting on 17 January 1992.


ARAMCO TV / HZ-22 / DHAHRAN TV / CHANNEL 3

ARAMCO TV
TV camera with HZ-22-TV label

On 16 September 1957, another NTSC broadcaster was established in the nearby compound of the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO); Station HZ-22 channel 2 (aka Dhahran TV) broadcast both Arabic and English programming. The English material was a mixture of dubbed, subtitled or narrated (in which the origin soundtrack played but with an Arabic voice-over providing narration). In the case of dubbed material, the original English soundtrack was often also broadcast by FM radio, allowing for simulcast in both languages.

When the new Damman station (see below) went on the air in 1970, ARAMCO ceased its Arabic service, and all subsequent broadcasts from HZ-22 / channel 2 were in English.

Screen grab of Saudi's Channel 3 ident from 1987
Screen grab of Saudi's PAL colour Channel 3 ident from 1987

In November 1976, ARAMCO modified its monochrome 525-line transmitters to broadcast in NTSC colour. Three years later, in March 1979, it installed a PAL colour transmitter which brought compatibility to the station and the neighbouring gulf nations (Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait) that were already broadcasting in PAL. This PAL colour station was simply called Channel 3.

Doctor Who aired on ARAMCO TV's PAL Channel 3 between 1977 and 1982.

The ARAMCO stations eventually closed in 1998.

These sites contain further information about ARAMCO:


SAUDI TV

The Saudi government's Ministry of Information began its own television broadcasts from Riyadh (on channel 5) and Jeddah (channel 10) from 17 July 1965, operating two language frequencies, one in Arabic, the other English.

In 1967, television coverage was expanded with the launch of Al Qassim Television (channel 8), in central Saudi. In 1968, another station was launched, in Medina (channel 5). Damman Television (channel 6) was established in 1969 and Abha Television in 1977. There was also a station in Mecca (channel 7).

All these stations were part of the same network and as such broadcast much of the same programming; this was achieved by the installation of numerous microwave relay stations at different locations throughout the country.

Colour transmissions on Saudi TV began in 1973 using the SECAM colour broadcast system.


OTHER STATIONS

Saudi viewers purchased dual-standard television sets to enable them to enjoy broadcasts coming from all the different stations, as all were broadcasting in different formats.

Broadcasts from Kuwait could also be received in eastern Saudi Arabia, and from 1973, colour transmissions from Bahrain could also be received.

Transmissions from the United Arab Emirates could also at times also be received.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, satellite and cable stations became available in Saudi Arabia. Doctor Who may have aired on an unidentified satellite station during the late 1980s.


Language/s

The principal language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic, although ARAMCO television broadcasts were also simulcast in English, for the benefit of the English-speaking workers at the oil-fields.

The dubbing and subtitling for programmes screened in Saudi Arabia was done in Lebanon.


DOCTOR WHO IN SAUDI ARABIA

الدكتور هو

Saudi Arabia was approximately the 27th country to screen Doctor Who; it was the third to screen the series in Arabic (see Selling Doctor Who).


BBC Records

Saudi Arabia is named in the list of 27 countries in The Making of Doctor Who (1972 Piccolo edition).

The Seventies records a sale of "(4)" stories by 28 February 1977. The Handbook identifies these as being: C, E, J and L.

The Eighties - THE LOST CHAPTERS records a sale of "(25)" stories (by 10 February 1987).

Only 21 Jon Pertwee stories aired, so the balance of four would be Tom Baker stories, to make up the 25 (at least) sold by February 1987.

In DWM, Saudi Arabia is identified in only 16 story Archives: the same four Hartnells as above, plus K, with year of sale given as 1967 or 1968; and for Pertwee, it is recorded under AAA, BBB, DDD, EEE, KKK, MMM, LLL, RRR, PPP, QQQ, UUU, with the year of sale being 1977.


Stories bought and broadcast

WILLIAM HARTNELL

Nine stories, 37 episodes:

A An Unearthly Child 1
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

Saudi Arabia therefore bought the standard package of GROUP A, B and C of the William Hartnell stories dubbed into Arabic.

The programme was supplied as 16mm black and white film prints with Arabic soundtracks. It is possible that the broadcaster was also supplied with English prints, enabling a simulcast in both languages, with the English soundtrack available on the radio.

Origin of the Prints?

Tunisia and Morocco had screened the Hartnell stories from 1967 to 1968 (exact dates for the latter country are not known) so it's possible the prints sent to Saudi Arabia came from one of these two countries, if not a fresh set direct from the BBC itself. (Saudi Arabia was also a distribution client of Television International Enterprises Ltd / TIE (Programmes) Ltd, who had previously supplied prints (in English) to Aden.)


JON PERTWEE

21 stories, 112 episodes (presumably):

"The Doctor arrives", Gulf Mirror, 21 November 1981

NTSC Colour Channel HZ-22

AAA Spearhead from Space 4
BBB Doctor Who and the Silurians 7
CCC The Ambassadors of Death 7
DDD Inferno 7
EEE Terror of the Autons 4
FFF The Mind of Evil 6
GGG The Claws of Axos 4
HHH Colony in Space 6
JJJ The Daemons 5
KKK Day of the Daleks 4
LLL The Sea Devils 6
MMM The Curse of Peladon 4
NNN The Mutants 6
OOO The Time Monster 6
PPP Carnival of Monsters 4
QQQ Frontier in Space 6
SSS Planet of the Daleks 6

PAL Colour Channel 3

UUU The Time Warrior 4
XXX Death to the Daleks 4
YYY The Monster of Peladon 6
ZZZ Planet of the Spiders 6

Saudi Arabia therefore bought all of GROUP A, B, C, and E, only some of D.

(Other BBC records indicate that the sale of The Three Doctors was "CANCELLED"; Strict Saudi censorship did not permit programmes that featured "god-like" beings, of which Omega may have been considered; The Green Death was never offered, possibly on account of its strong views against oil pollution...; and Invasion of the Dinosaurs was not available at all.)

Although ARAMCO was broadcasting in NTSC colour from 1976, it's not readily clear whether these episodes aired in black and white or colour. U-Matic colour video tapes were in common usage by ARAMCO in the 1970s, so it is feasible that the BBC supplied ARAMCO with the first four Pertwee seasons in that format, rather than as b/w film. However, the TV listings seem to denote colour programmes with an asterisk (*) and none of the Doctor Who listings are marked as such, which does suggest that, like much of the TV schedules at that time, these were in black and white.

It's possible that the first five serials were supplied by Lebanon.

ARAMCO commenced PAL colour broadcasts after 1979. The final four season 11 stories would have been supplied on PAL colour video tape in English.


TOM BAKER

UNKNOWN TV STATION (NTSC) *(Armed Forces Network?)

23 stories, equivalent of 98 episodes edited into "omnibus" movies:



An unidentified satellite or cable station screened the standard package of Tom Baker stories that had been edited into omnibus "movies" that was distributed by Lionheart.

The programmes would have been supplied on NTSC colour video tape in English.


ARAMCO – English Channel 3 (PAL)

Potentially 18 stories, equivalent of 74 episodes edited into "omnibus" movies:



ARAMCO appears to have bought the remaining Tom Baker stories (or maybe only some of them), and aired them as "omnibus" editions.

It is possible that the "(4)" stories sold by February 1987 as noted in The Eighties might relate solely to the PAL episodes - in which case, and on the basis that one of them was Full Circle (as covered below) - the stories that aired in Saudi Arabia in the mid/late 1980s might be from season 18 only…

Although the sale itself was probably still handled by Lionheart, the tapes supplied in the PAL format in English were likely sourced from the United Arab Emirates, where those stories were screening episodically at the time. (It would seem that ARAMCO may have edited the stories into "movies" themselves.)


Transmission

WILLIAM HARTNELL

Doctor Who aired on Saudi TV circa 1968.

We have not been able to access Saudi Arabian newspapers from the late 1960s, and therefore do not have any details on these transmissions.

According to his book Half Past Ten in the Afternoon (Arabian Publishing, 2014), author James Budd (who lived in Saudi Arabia from 1965 to 1970) recalls that he "bought a television set in 1968 when al-Gassim TV [sic] first went on air for a few hours a day in the evenings … Later, a dubbed version of Dr Who arrived on our screens."

This anecdote indicates that the Doctor Who screenings in al-Qassim (and therefore the rest of the country) commenced sometime in 1968 or early 1969 (after whenever it was that the Qassim station went on air). And with 37 episodes to account for, the run perhaps extended into 1970. (But if film prints were also being bicycled around the regions, the series may even have still been airing somewhere in Saudi Arabia into 1971.)

Fate of the Prints?

Jordan was the next Arabic country in the Middle East to purchase Doctor Who (from mid-1969). Depending when the regional screenings concluded, it is possible that Saudi Arabia sent its prints of the Hartnell stories to Jordan.

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JON PERTWEE

And The Silurians Part 2, Arab Times, 3 May 1977, Arab Times
"… and the Inferno", ep 1; 14 June 1977
Terror of the Autons, Part One, Arab Times, 11 August 1977 – NOTE programmes marked with a * probably in COLOUR
The Mind of Evil, Arab Times, 8 September 1977 - NOTE programmes marked with a * probably in COLOUR
The Mind of Evil, Arab Times, 29 September 1977 - NOTE programmes marked with a * probably in COLOUR
The Daemons, Part One, Arab Times, October 1977 - NOTE programmes marked with a * probably in COLOUR
Generic Sunday listing (Pertwee) ARAMCO TV, Gulf Mirror, 1977
The Ambassadors of Death ep 1; 8 January 1978
The first of the duplicated TV listings showing KKK No 1 (15 March 1978)
Generic listing (Pertwee), Channel 3, Gulf Mirror, January 1982

Nine or so years after the William Hartnell Doctor featured on Saudi TV screens, the good Doctor returned in 1977 – now played by Jon Pertwee.

The newspaper listings are a bit erratic from mid 1976 until the start of 1977, so we are uncertain as to the exact start date for the Jon Pertwee run, but the first clear listing is for part two of Doctor Who and the Silurians on Tuesday, 26 April 1977 on DHAHRAN TV (i.e. ARAMCO). (This start is only a few days after the brief run of Pertwee episodes commenced in Lebanon.) The timeslots fluctuated, with the earliest at 4.45pm and the latest 5.55pm.

ARAMCO had dropped its Arabic programming in 1970, so these episodes were all broadcast in English. They were (most likely) also in black and white.

From 11 August 1977, the series shifted to Thursdays, usually at 4.55pm. From Sunday, 25 September, a second episode was added to the schedules (at 4.20pm), so the series played twice a week – Sundays and Thursdays. The timeslot for both weekly episodes fluctuated during the run.

There were two dates on which episodes did not air – 2 August 1977 and 22 September 1977; however the accuracy of the listings is under question for reasons outlined below.

The series did not screen in correct story order; in fact it looks very much as though the schedulers played the serials according to "theme" – it seems ARAMCO may have run the first seven stories featuring Roger Delgado as the Master (from seasons 8 and 9) in a 'block' (there are certainly enough airdates for this to have been the case), followed by The Ambassadors of Death, then the first two Pertwee Daleks stories back to back, with a four-parter (Spearhead from Space, The Curse of Peladon or Carnival of Monsters?) to finish.

The only ten stories are identified by title or story code: Doctor Who and the Silurians, CCC, Inferno, EEE, FFF, GGG, HHH, JJJ, KKK and SSS, which accounts for 56 episodes.

Two unidentified 6-parters aired in November and December 1977. Given the themed stories that aired either side of these, they would (presumably) be ones to feature the Master, so likely The Sea Devils or The Time Monster, or possibly Frontier in Space (which may have aired later, in July 1978).

According to the Gulf Mirror, the run lasted for at least 72 episodes, and concluded on Sunday, 19 March 1978. However, the Arab Times continued to list the series until 22 April 1978 – but for reasons outlined below, we have reason to doubt the complete accuracy of these Times listings.

A new run of only six episodes aired from Saturday, 8 July 1978, at 4.40pm. Again, no titles were given; but presumably this 6-parter was Frontier in Space, as that was the only other Master-themed 6-parter not identified during the previous run. (The other options are for this run to be The Sea Devils, The Mutants or The Time Monster.)

NOTE: There were no ARAMCO listings for Doctor Who in the Gulf Mirror between 20 April 1978 and 8 July 1978; however given that we are potentially short 14 episodes, it is possible that these "missing" episodes aired during that time. From 22 April, the usual Doctor Who slot was taken by the American comedy Dennis the Menace, but the accuracy of those listings is under question...

After a three year break, the series returned, now on the newly-established PAL colour Channel 3. The first episode was at 8.04pm on Saturday, 21 November 1981. This slot moved around a bit during the run, with 5.54 or 5.45pm being the two most common.

This 20-episode run was previewed by the article, "The Doctor arrives", in the Gulf Mirror which was illustrated with a photo of Jon Pertwee – see image above.

ARAMCO/Channel 3 transmitted in PAL colour from 1979, so these 20 episodes would most likely have all been from season 11 (sans Invasion of the Dinosaurs).

The last recorded Channel 3 episode was on 3 April 1982.

Assuming ARAMCO purchased all the available Pertwee stories, there are 14 episodes not accounted for – two 4-parters (two from the list of Spearhead from Space, The Curse of Peladon and Carnival of Monsters) and one 6-parter. The first run was for (at least) 72 weeks/episodes; the second only six, and the third and last for 20. That is only 98 out of a potential 112. It is possible that Spearhead from Space didn't screen at all – there is no listing for it ahead of Doctor Who and the Silurians – which potentially leaves just one 4-parter and one 6-parter unaccounted for.

But since accurate TV listings between 19 March and 8 July 1978 are not available, it's highly likely the "missing" 14 episodes aired during that four month period.

Fate of the Prints / Tapes?

Saudi Arabia appears to be the last-ever country to screen a full run of season 7 to 10 Jon Pertwee stories from black and white film. With the exception of Bangladesh, who aired a handful in black and white in 1980, all other countries screened what was then left of the third Doctor stories still in PAL colour.

In late 1981 / early 1982, a number of Doctor Who films that had been returned from an overseas station were reportedly destroyed by the BBC. Given that Saudi Arabia had finished its run of 16mm film prints by then, it is a very good chance that these destroyed episodes came from Saudi Arabia.

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TOM BAKER

"Omnibus" editions of Tom Baker stories, Robot through to The Invasion of Time, aired on an unidentified NTSC channel which does not feature in any newspaper TV listings. It may have been a satellite or cable channel, possibly via the United States.

Our eye-witness (see below) recalls that the station might have been called Star, but our investigations have drawn a blank on this name. It's possible that these broadcasts were by the United States Armed Forces Radio and Television, (aka AFRTS), which is almost an anagram of "Star". However the Saudi AF station was non-operational during the mid-1980s, but maybe the broadcast equipment was still in use as a local satellite relay station?

We do not have confirmed airdates for these broadcasts, but an eye-witness who actually watched them at the time tells us that the stories aired around mid-1985 to early 1986 (which certainly ties in with at least four stories having been sold by February 1987, per The Eighties).

One surprising recollection made by our viewer is that one short scene in the movie omnibus of Underworld retained a brief section of the old Howard da Silva narration (added to the episodes by the United States distributor in 1978), but which was accidentally left in when the episodes were re-edited into their "movie" omnibus editions in 1981. The voice-over says: "The signal from the missing ship grows stronger as the crew plummets to the underworld". This confirms that NTSC tapes or the transmissions if via satellite were possibly sourced from the United States. (See the Underworld page for a clip with this narration.)

(See also UNDERWORLD VARIATIONS for more about these variations (scroll down to 1991).)

Around the time that these NTSC omnibuses of fourth Doctor stories had concluded, ARAMCO started screening its own run of PAL omnibuses of fourth Doctor stories. (Or there may even have been a brief period of overlap when the two channels were screening Doctor Who at the same time.)

The only story known to have definitely aired was Full Circle, circa May or June 1986.

Our man on the scene says: "It is possible that both channels were airing Doctor Who simultaneously: the NTSC ones had finished broadcasting by the time I got out to Saudi - my father recorded them so these were probably on during early 1986 but Full Circle on Channel 3 - as it is on one of my tapes - must have been while I was out there in the summer (May-June)."
"I don't know if this was a local case of bicycling - season 18 being shown in the UAE (e.g. Meglos) then the tapes being sent onto Saudi 3 very shortly after (e.g. Full Circle) - but the NTSC tapes probably may have come via America (remember that snippet of Howard da Silva narration I mentioned appearing on Underworld) and not via the usual UK sales."
"Saudi 1 was the more technically primitive, as I recall, and was probably broadcasting from the capital Riyadh, which I never got to visit … Saudi 3 was, I think, broadcasting from the Dhahran region, and the quality of transmission was usually superb."

From this information, it seems that Tom Baker stories aired in Saudi Arabia from:

Unfortunately, as noted below, we have been unable to find clear TV listings to back this up…


TV listings

Airdates in Saudi Arabia
← AIRDATES ...... (CLICK ICON TO GO TO TABLE SHOWING EPISODE BREAKDOWN AND AIRDATES - N/S = listing Not Specific)
TV listings from 24 June 1986, showing the three Saudi channels: Saudi One and Saudi Two are the two national stations, while Saudi Three is ARAMCO's PAL station

1960s

We have not been able to locate any newspapers with Saudi Arabian TV listings for this period.


1970s

TV listings have been obtained from the Saudi newspaper Arab News (an English publication from Jeddah), and the Bahraini paper, the Gulf Mirror, which has full TV listings for most of the neighbouring Gulf countries (but no issues available prior to October 1977).

The Gulf Mirror printed the series title as "Dr Who". No story titles were given.

In the Arab News, listings also gave the title as "Dr Who". Two of the serials were identified by name (with various different attempts at spelling "Silurians" and "Inverno" (sic)!)

Programmes marked with an asterisk (*) in the Arab News appear to denote that it is in colour. None of the 1970s listings for Doctor Who are marked that way, which suggests the episodes were all in black and white.

From the 11 August 1977 listing onwards, many episodes were identified only by the three-letter BBC production code and episode number, such as "EEE No 1", "CCC 1", "CCC EP 2", etc.

However it seems that the News experienced a glitch in its printing process, as the TV listings started being duplicated over and over for several weeks, with as many as nine listings being given for "FFF No 4" over an eleven week period, from October to December 1977. Glitches of this nature continued to plague the listings, with one extreme example of the problem occurring when the very same programme schedule (which included "Dr Who: KKK No1") was repeated every day from 15 March 1978 through until 22 April 1978! (when the listings for Doctor Who were replaced by the American comedy series Dennis the Menace).

To add further frustration, the two papers do not always agree with the timeslots, particularly the Thursday episodes, which are timed around 4.00pm in Arab News, but as early as 2.45pm in the Gulf Mirror (it's possible this is due to the time difference between the two countries, but if so that should be only an hour, not two or more). Also making it hard to reconcile the two sets of listings is that the Bahraini paper did not always date the days of the week in its pull-out TV guide, which sometimes started with Monday, sometimes Sunday, so it's possible we have "missed" some of the Sunday listings.

Given all these anomalies, we've done our best to combine the two sets of listings, but need to stress we do still have some uncertainty as to the accuracy of our valiant attempt!


1981

In the Gulf Mirror issue dated 21-27 November 1981, the new run of episodes starting that week was previewed by Ian Wilson in his Sight and Sound column. The article headed "The Doctor arrives" (see image above, next to the table of Jon Pertwee stories), is illustrated with a captioned photo of the lead actor, and says: "Jon Pertwee … bringing Doctor Who to the Gulf". The article mentions that the series had been running in the UK for 18 years, and names the other three actors to have played the title character, although oddly, Wilson does not mention that the series had aired in Saudi Arabia in the sixties, or indeed only four years earlier!


1985-1986 (1987?)

We have yet to find clear listings for the Tom Baker stories broadcast on the mystery NTSC or ARAMCO channels from 1985 to 1986 (and 1987?). For this range of dates, the Arab News only had television listings on an infrequent basis, and when they did have schedules, they identified programmes only by type (e.g. "Children's feature") rather than by title.

During mid-August through until the end of September 1986 some days did have a 90, 110 or 120 minute "Feature" in the early-evening, all of which could potentially be omnibuses of Doctor Who.


Arabia in Doctor Who

  • The Doctor and his friends found themselves running around a 1920s Hollywood film studio that was "full of Arabs" during The Daleks' Master Plan
  • Garron once tried to sell Sydney Harbour to an "Arab" (The Ribos Operation)
  • In his guise of Kalid, the Master said he learned his magic "in the deserts of Arabia", which in very broad terms could mean Saudi Arabia. (Time-Flight)


Links