South Africa

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SOUTH AFRICA lies at the southern tip of the African continent.

BBC Records

Although an article in DWM issue 187 (June 1992) claimed that Doctor Who "went to countries that still broadcast black and white television services, such as South Africa", the series was never broadcast there - the country did not establish TV until the mid-1970s, and this was only ever a full colour PAL service (see below), so no black and white episodes would have been shown.

BBC Prime was available from 1999, but it appears that the schedule broadcast in South Africa was different to that seen in Europe and elsewhere, and did not include Doctor Who.

So although it never made it to TV in South Africa, Doctor Who was available in other ways.


Peter Cushing?

It's likely that the two Peter Cushing Dalek movies were shown in cinemas throughout South Africa in the late 1960s.


Television was not introduced to South Africa until the late 1970s, when the government finally bowed to public pressure after years of banning television as being morally corrupting.

A PAL colour system television service was launched by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) on 5 May 1975 in some areas, with nationwide coverage from 5 January 1976; half the broadcasts were in English, half in Afrikaans.

Of note, the English content was mainly American product, as due to its opposition to Apartheid, UK Equity refused to allow sales of British drama programmes to the country. Doctor Who was therefore never shown.

There have been claims that British television programmes - including Doctor Who - may have been "smuggled" into the country from other African nations and shown illegally in order to circumvent the Equity boycott. It is impossible to verify if this was ever indeed the case.

But some residents living near the borders could potentially have seen Doctor Who via transmission signals coming from neighbouring countries. Of those with which a border was shared, only three aired Doctor Who - which may have been seen in isolated parts of South Africa:

  • Rhodesia / Zimbabwe in the North East (a run Hartnells from August 1965 to circa September 1966, then two shorter runs of Tom Baker episodes January 1979 to January 1981)
  • Swaziland (now Eswatini) to the East (several runs of Tom Baker episodes from February 1978 to November 1983)
  • Botswana to the North, may have had some Baker or Peter Davison serials in the 1990s


It was reported on ITV's Teletex service in mid-1996 that South Africa "was interested" in purchasing the TV Movie. However, as far as we can tell, no local TV station acquired the film for broadcast.

But the TV Movie did subsequently air many years later on the Sci-Fi Channel's branch in Southern Africa; while this arm of the satellite station had much of the same material as its UK counterpart, it was a separate feed and had its own scheduled programming.

See that PROFILE for further detail.

Books and Novelisations

The prize draw coupon at the back of 1970s Target books included an address in Johannesburg

Although the Doctor Who series did not screen on TV (at least officially), books about the series were available in the early to mid-1970s and the late 1980s.

The 1972 Pan Books Ltd / Piccolo edition of The Making of Doctor Who has a South African price of 60c printed on the back cover. This is an unusual item to be on sale in a country that didn't have a television service, and for whom the target readership wouldn't have known what Doctor Who was! (Pan and Piccolo published a number of tie-in books in the 1970s based on popular ITV series - such as Timeslip, UFO, Follyfoot, The Persuaders, Here Come the Double Deckers and Freewheelers - which are also priced for the TV-less South Africa.)

No pre-printed price for South Africa appears on the back covers, but on the final page of some of the Target paperbacks published in 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977 was a list of addresses to which readers could write for a catalogue and to go into the draw to win a set of books and receive a free Target badge; this included an address in South Africa:

Purnell & Sons,
505, C.N.A. Building,
110, Commissioner Street,

A decade later, the run of Target Books published from late 1987 until mid-1988 (first edition and reprinted paperbacks, and the final seven hardbacks) had the addresses for the distributors printed on the back covers, including one in Bergville (Bergvlei):


Target books were also available in South Africa in the late 1980s

This address also appeared on the back cover of the seven Star Books dual editions published from 1988 to 1989.

In recent years, Penguin Random House publishers, who own the "BBC Books" catalogue, sell the Doctor Who novels, Target book reprints and audiobooks through its South African branch.

New Series

Although the "Classic" series was not shown, the New Series of Doctor Who was available in South Africa on BBC Prime / BBC Entertainment (South Africa) since late 2008. And from November 2018, it has been shown on the Free-to-Air web-based service TV2Go.

South Africa in Doctor Who