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LIBYA is in North Africa, bordered by Tunisia and Algeria.


Country Number (32?) 1969? FIRST WAVE
Region Africa
Television commenced 1958 / 24 December 1968
Colour System 1976 PAL
Population 1970 1.8 million
TV Sets 1970 1,000
Language/s English, Arabic, French, Italian Dubbed and Subtitled

Television Stations / Channels

Television came to Libya in 1958 when the American Armed Forces at Wheelus Base (WAB) established its own NTSC station in Tripoli; this was one of the first television stations established within the greater Arab world.

But only those wealthy enough to own a television could view the transmissions coming from the base and the very weak signals from Italy and Tunisia.

Libya did not establish its own television service until the final week of 1968 when the Libyan Broadcasting & TV Service, a government-owned commercial broadcaster, began transmitting on 24 December 1968.

All television broadcasts were disrupted following the 1 September 1969 Libyan Revolution led by Muammar al-Gaddafi.

Regular television broadcasts recommenced by February 1970. Wheelus Base was vacated in June 1970.

Colour transmissions began in 1976 using the PAL colour broadcast system.


The principal languages of Libya are Arabic and French, with Italian and English also common tongues. The Wheelus Base station broadcast in English.


الدكتور هو

Libya was (we believe) the 32nd country to screen Doctor Who; it was the 11th in Africa, and the fifth to broadcast the Arabic language versions (see Selling Doctor Who).



Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD, Libya, 16 January 1969

The second of the two Peter Cushing Dalek movies screened at the Al Metropol theatre in Tripoli from 12 to 20 January 1969. Dubbed into Italian as "DALEKS – Il Futuro tra un Milione di Anni", it also screened with Arabic subtitles ("sottotitoli in arabo").


Session times were 3.30pm, 5.15pm, 7.00pm, 8.45pm and 10.30pm.

BBC Records

Libya is named in The Making of Doctor Who (1972 edition) as one of 27 countries to screen the series.

Libya is not recorded in The Seventies, nor is it named in any of the DWM story Archives. (It's possible the entry for "Lebanon" in the 1977 memo, was supposed to be for "Libya". After all, the name of the television station of the former, "Liban/Libanaise", is very similar to that of the latter, "Libyan"...)

Other BBC documentation indicates that the series was sold to Libya by December 1969, and that payment was completed by November 1971, which certainly ties in with the disruption experienced by the television services between those two years

Stories bought and broadcast


Generic 1971 Libyan TV listings in Arabic, from Al-Thawrah – Doctor Who not included!
Generic 1968 TV listing for Wheelus Airforce Base TV – Doctor Who not included!

It is likely that Libya got the standard Arabic package of 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

Libya would have acquired the standard Arabic-dubbed package of GROUP A, B and C of the William Hartnell stories; like other Arabic countries, only part one of An Unearthly Child would have aired.

The programme was supplied as 16mm black and white film prints with Arabic soundtracks.

Origin of the Prints?

Morocco was the previous Arabic-speaking country in Africa to screen the series so it's possible that Libya was supplied with the same set of prints. Alternatively, the prints were supplied from a Middle Eastern country – Saudi Arabia or Jordan.


"Serial: The Long Journey", 9.30pm, Tuesday / "Serial: Crisis", 8pm, Wednesday; March/April 1970 – are these for Doctor Who?
"For Children", 7.30pm, Thursdays; March/April 1970

We are unsure when the series started; with television broadcasts and newspaper publication disrupted during the September Revolution, it has not been easy to research the country's broadcast history.

With a date of sale in late 1969, if the series aired by the start of the year, it is almost certain that broadcasts were affected by the September 1969 revolution – unless all 37 episodes had aired earlier in the year.

However, Paul Clark emailed us with this comment:

"I lived in Tripoli from May 1969 as a ten year old; my father had a job out there. I loved all the programmes that have since become cult TV. I can recall three TV channels. One showed American TV shows, such as Garrisons Guerillas, Branded, Lost in Space, etc [*], [and] the others always showed [local content]. The old king favoured the West, but once the regime change looked like taking place [in September 1969], from a cultural point of view anything western was unwelcome. At no time do I recall any Dr Who being shown on Libyan TV or on the Forces channel."
[*] This would be Wheelus AFB; in fact Lost in Space is part of the line-up in the 1968 example we have illustrated here.

Taking Paul's comments into account, it is possible that Doctor Who aired from late 1968 – soon after TV services commenced – through until early 1969, maybe even completing its run prior to May 1969. 37 episodes playing once a week would end in September, but a run playing five nights a week would have concluded in mid-February.

However, as noted below, there is a possibility that the series aired from late December 1969 through to April 1970, playing twice a week (on Tuesdays and Wednesdays) - the 3-part serial Planet of Giants may have aired in March 1970.

If the two (very much open to interpretation!) duplicated billings (see below) are indeed for Doctor Who, and the series aired regularly in that twice a week slot, and the run did conclude 15 April 1970, then the first episode could have aired 10 December 1969. A December 1969 start certainly ties in with the "December 1969" sales date recorded in BBC sales paperwork.

But if it's only the Wednesday billing that is Doctor Who, and the series aired only once per week, the series may have recommenced from the point at which it had stopped prior to the Revolution; Planet of Giants may even have been the first serial to air once television broadcasts had resumed.

TV listings

We accessed the English language paper The Libyan Times from July 1968 to December 1971, but the irregular TV listings that were published were those for the Wheelus Base station only. And following the September 1969 revolution and vacation of the base in June 1970, those TV listings discontinued.

We also viewed random issues of the Arabic paper Al-Thawrah, those available from November 1969 to January 1972, but TV listings were infrequent – particularly in 1970 and the first half of 1971 - and the few that were published in late 1971 did not appear to include Doctor Who.

A few issues of the Italian-language newspaper, Il Giornale de Tripoli, did have TV listings for TV Libica / Televisione Libia during July and August 1969 (prior to the Revolution). TV listings resumed in the 16 February 1970 issue, but only some of the subsequent papers had full daily listings for the Libyan TV channel.

The Saturday editions of that paper also printed the upcoming full week's television; only four of the available Saturday papers in March and April contained such listings for Libyan TV:

  • 14 March 1970, which included listings for that full week, 14 to 20 March
  • 4 April 1970, which included listings for that full week, 4 to 10 April
  • 11 April 1970, which included listings for that full week, 11 to 17 April
  • 18 April 1970, which included listings for that full week, 18 to 24 April

However, due to a printing error, the TV listings for the first three of these weeks were duplicated, with identical text and layout. All three have these exact same listings:

  • Tuesday (17 March, 7 April, 14 April): "Serial <<The long Journey>>", 21.30 to 21.45
  • Wednesday (18 March, 8 April, 15 April): "Serial <<Crisis>>", 20.00 to 20.40
  • Thursday (19 March, 9 April, 16 April): "For Children", 19.30 to 20.00

The titles given to the two Serials are very similar to the episode titles of parts two and three of Planet of Giants. (The title for episode two is "Dangerous Journey", which became "A Dangerous Adventure" in its Arabic translation, which could have become "Long Journey" in its translation by Italians back into English.)

The coincidence of there being two "Serials" airing on consecutive days with titles that are a close match to two consecutive episodes of Doctor Who and on dates that tie in with when the series was "sold" to Libya is hard to ignore! And as far as we can tell, there are no serialised British or American television drama series or serials with either of those two titles...

(According to Halliwell's Television Companion, Crisis was the "international title" of the US anthology series Bob Hope's Chrysler Theatre, which ran from 1963 to 1967, and indeed, that was the title under which it aired in New Zealand from 1965, although the alternative title is not mentioned on the series' Wikipedia or IMDB listing.) However, each episode of the anthology was 50 minutes long, but the Libya TV listing is for only 40 minutes. Halliwell's has no mention of a series/serial by the title of The Long Journey - so the jury is still out…)

The other listing, "For Children" on the Thursday could be for anything.

Although three of the available TV schedules were exactly the same, the listings for 18 to 24 April in the last available paper are completely different, which indicates that the printing error that had affected the paper previously had been resolved. Of particular note, is that this paper does not carry the listings for "The Long Journey" or "Crisis".

If the billings for Tuesday, 17 March and Wednesday, 18 March were themselves not duplications, and were the first instances of those particular billings, and are for Planet of Giants parts two and three, the run of Doctor Who would have concluded (with The Rescue) the week of 14 and 15 April, hence why those two "Serials" are not listed for the week of 18 to 24 April.

Fate of the Prints?

The films may have been destroyed during the September Revolution.

The next African/Arabic country to air Doctor Who was neighbouring Algeria, in 1973/74. It is therefore possible that Libya sent its prints to Algeria (which was the last ever country to purchase that package of 37 dubbed episodes).