Doctor Who – A Global Phenomenon: Part 6: New Zealand

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Guest contributor Nathan Hall invites the Whoniverse for some “fush and chups”.

It has never been more obvious that Doctor Who is most definitely a global phenomenon, and to celebrate we’ve pulled together yet another group of Whovians from different corners of the globe to show how Doctor Who is received in their own home country. Part Six is…

Doctor Who in New Zealand!


Astrid: But it’s beautiful.
The Doctor: Really? You think so? It’s just a street. The pyramids are beautiful, and New Zealand…
– Voyage of the Damned

Kia Ora Everyone! Doctor Who in New Zealand may not seem as big as it is in other parts of the world, but it still has a strong cult following among the population. In beautiful Middle Earth, the number of Whovians is growing as people discover the magnificence of Doctor Who. New Zealand has a long, yet hidden history with the show, being the first country in the whole world to screen the show outside of the UK. The show first aired on September 19, 1964 on the NZBC in Christchurch.

Remembrance of the Kiwi

Remembrance-of-the-Kiwi-nzI first sat down in June 2005 as a 7-year-old to watch Doctor Who. The first episode of Series 1 was about to air on the Prime network and I didn’t know what to expect. Luckily my father, a fan of the show since the 60’s, told me I would enjoy it, and boy was he right!

In New Zealand, episodes are currently broadcast on one of New Zealand’s smaller FTA channels: Prime, just under 2 weeks after airing in the UK (except for specials). This delay can be frustrating for Kiwi Whovians, but at least the show isn’t taken off air like it was during the classic series. We know to count our blessings! In the 70’s and 80’s Doctor Who was hard to keep up with, with episodes airing in both the morning and afternoon, but on two different channels (TV One and TV2, both part of NZBC). Spin-offs “Torchwood” aired on TV2/Prime, while “The Sarah Jane Adventures” aired on Nickelodeon.

New Zealand doesn’t have many obvious ties to the production of the show. The only known and notable links are Anna-Louise Plowman, who portrayed Diana Goddard (daughter in law of Dame Maggie Smith) in the Series 1 episode “Dalek” is a New Zealand actress, and author David Bishop who was born in New Zealand, and is accredited with technically the first ever “Doctor-Lite” story – the Novel “Who Killed Kennedy”. Bishop’s other Who related work includes novels “Amorality Tale”, “The Domino Effect” and “Empire of the Death”, as well as a total of 12 Big Finish audio drama’s for their main “Doctor Who” series, “Sarah Jane Smith” series and “Judge Dredd” series. New series writer Neil Cross, who wrote both “The Rings of Akhaten” and “Hide”, resides in Wellington, New Zealand.

Journey to Middle Earth

voyage-of-the-damned-astridWhile New Zealand doesn’t have many links to the production of the show, it has been referenced many times in all forms of Doctor Who, whether it be TV, audio or novelizations. In the main TV series, New Zealand was first referenced in the First Doctor’s swan song, “The Tenth Planet”. During the Cybermen invasion, the crew of Zeus Probe IV mentioned that they were over New Zealand’s South Island. Doctor Who was again referenced in a Cyberman story, this time in “The Moonbase”, where Sam Becket who was a crew member aboard the moon’s weather station was revealed to be a New Zealander. In the 2007 Christmas Special, “Voyage of the Damned”, Astrid Peth called a London street ‘beautiful’. The Tenth Doctor stated that New Zealand was beautiful, not the London street. New Zealand was even referenced in Doctor Who spin-off “The Sarah Jane Adventures”, where the villain Ruby White from “Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith” was said to have been a member of the Auckland Institute.

peter-jackson-doctor-who-dalekThere have recently been rumors of an episode being filmed in New Zealand, directed by our very own Peter Jackson. All he asks in return is a Dalek. Come on Moffat! Say yes! There are so many possibilities for an episode set in New Zealand. “Invasion of the Alien Sheep” and “Love and Hobbits” are just a few ideas. The scenery in New Zealand is just outstanding and poetic. This is shown by the fact that Major film franchises such as “The Lord of the Rings”, “The Hobbit” and now the “Avatar” sequels are taking advantage and filming here. An episode set in New Zealand would allow us to delve into the Maori culture and traditions and all the myths and legends that go with it. This would really benefit the Maori language and culture, which at this point in time is dying, while also educating the audiences around the world about a unique culture, and even some of the atrocities that occurred when the Europeans settled Aotearoa in 1840.

Whovian Culture

Doctor-Who-Symphonic-Spectacular-2014-smithDoctor Who is not as big in New Zealand as it is elsewhere, so our Whovian culture is nowhere near the likes of Britain and the USA. However the 50th anniversary and surrounding celebrations have helped in many ways;

Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular: The Doctor Who symphonic spectacular came to the capital city, Wellington in spectacular fashion in February this year (A review of which can be read here. The show was hosted by the Fifth Doctor Peter Davison, with specially recorded segments from Tom Baker. It was regarded by all who attended to be a great hit!

Kiwi Conventions: New Zealand has recently had a number of conventions with former Doctor Who stars, including most recently “Armageddon Expo”, which featured the Sixth Doctor Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant who played his companion Peri. In April 2013, in the lead up to the 50th we had a dedicated convention for Doctor Who. “The Lords of Time” featured 4 Doctors; Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann plus the voice of the Daleks and Cybermen, Nicholas Briggs.

50th Cinema screenings: The Day of the Doctor was released in theatres for one day only on the 24th of November. Tickets sold out extremely fast – so much so not even I couldn’t get a ticket! – With fans leaping at the chance to see Doctor Who on the big screen. New Zealand also had previous cinema screenings for episodes The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon and later Asylum of the Daleks and The Angels Take Manhattan.

doctor-who-coins-nzDoctor Who Coins: New Zealand Mint was responsible for the variety of coins available for purchase, including coins of the Doctors 1-11 and the one to commemorate the 50th anniversary. The gold coin, with an engraved picture of the T.A.R.D.I.S had a nominal value of $200NZD. Only 250 in the world were made. More recently NZ Mint have brought out some new Doctor Who coins featuring some of the most famous monsters of Doctor Who. These include the Daleks, Sontarans, Weeping Angels, Cybermen and Silurians. These coins retail for NZD$70 (£35). NZ Mint is one of if not New Zealand’s biggest contribution to Doctor Who, and I expect and look forward to many more new coins in the future.

The New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club: The NZDWFC has been running since 1988 and is the main place for Kiwi Whovians to connect with each other. The site provides a full screening history of the series, a forum for fans to discuss the show and they even used to produce an online magazine, producing a whopping 76 issues!


Doctor Who is still small in New Zealand compared to other countries, but it is one of Prime’s most popular shows, consistently rating 150,000-200,000 viewers, and there are probably many more out there watching online. New Zealand fans generally don’t seem to be as loud about their passion for the show as other countries are, but the show is still very much loved here. Major events such as the 50th, casting of a new Doctor and finding missing episodes make it onto the news here. The show is popular with both young and old, with New Zealanders enjoying the show every day and absolutely loving it. The show definitely has a substantial cult following, and merchandise is now readily available on New Zealand online stores such as Mighty Ape as well as in stores.

New Zealand has loved Doctor Who since 1964, and continues to do so today. The show enjoyed a slight boost in popularity due to the 50th anniversary which bought a lot of publicity for the show here, however the fact that PRIME aired “The Day of the Doctor” 10 minutes after the rest of the global simulcast – due to its rating, which goes to show that the show still can’t be too popular, as Prime couldn’t even be bothered to get a 10 minute exemption to air a PG programme in a G rated timeslot.

In the future, Doctor Who will hopefully continue to grow in New Zealand, becoming more and more popular and hopefully one day we get an episode filmed in New Zealand and directed by Sir Peter Jackson himself!

Reputation rating: 7/10
Prominence rating: 7/10

To read the first 5 articles in the series, simply click on the links below!