Sri Lanka

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SRI LANKA is an island to the south east of India.


Country Number (55) 1981 SECOND WAVE
Region Australasia/Asia Commonwealth
Television commenced 13 April 1979
Colour System 13 April 1979 PAL
Population 1982 14.57 million
TV Sets 1982 45,000
Language/s English

Television Stations / Channels

Sri Lanka government began its commercial PAL colour television service - Independent Television Network (ITN) - on 13 April 1979.


The principal languages of Sri Lanka are Sunhala, Tamil and English; television broadcasts are generally in English.


Sri Lanka was the 55th country to air Doctor Who; it was the 10th in Australasia/Asia (see Selling Doctor Who).

BBC Records

The Eighties - THE LOST CHAPTERS records a sale of "(9)" stories (by 10 February 1987). However we have only located airdates for 7 or 8 stories. The total in The Eighties may have been incorrect, or perhaps one or two of the stories later repeated in 1984 was counted again?

Sri Lanka is not named in any of the DWM story Archives.

Stories bought and broadcast


Spearhead from Space, part one; 30 April 1981
The Three Doctors, part one, 28 May 1981
The Time Warriors (sic), part three; 9 July 1981
Doctor Who, episode one of 14, 4 April 1984
Terror of the Zygons, part four, 24 April 1984
Pyramids of Mars – with Ian Marter and Nicolas Courtney!, 8 May 1984
Unidentified serial, episode 9/14, 12 June 1984
Final Tom Baker episode, 17 July 1984
The Three Doctors, part three; repeated, 7 August 1984
The Time Warriors (sic), produced by Harry Letts (sic); repeated, 28 August 1984
The Monster of Peladon, part one, directed by Jennie Mayne; repeated, 25 September 1984

Four stories, 18 episodes:

AAA Spearhead from Space 4
RRR The Three Doctors 4
UUU The Time Warrior 4
YYY The Monster of Peladon 6

Sri Lanka therefore bought part of GROUPs A, D and E of the Jon Pertwee stories.

The same four Pertwee stories were sold as a package to Swaziland (in 1978), Malta (1979), and Sierra Leone (around the same time).

The programme was supplied as PAL colour video tapes (or film for the first serial) with English soundtracks.


Three or four stories, 14 episodes:

4F Terror of the Zygons 4
4G Pyramids of Mars 4
six unidentified episodes 6

Sri Lanka therefore bought (at least) part of GROUPs A and B of the Tom Baker stories.

The programme was supplied as PAL colour video tapes with English soundtracks.

It's unknown what the other six episodes were: if it was a six-parter, then it would be Genesis of the Daleks or The Seeds of Doom, however given the wide distribution of season 12 serials around the globe in the early and mid-1980s, and that Sri Lanka was sold at least "9" stories (see above) it's far more likely to have been the 2-part The Sontaran Experiment plus a 4-parter -- either Robot, The Ark in Space or Revenge of the Cybermen.



The series commenced on Thursday, 30 April 1981, and ended 18 weeks later on 27 July 1981. The first five episodes aired at 8.00pm, the remaining episodes at the slightly later time of 8.30pm.


Just under three years later, the second run commenced from Wednesday, 4 April 1984 at 8.00pm, screening weekly. The first story was Terror of the Zygons, followed by Pyramids of Mars. Both stories had pre-emptions, with no episodes airing on 15 May and 5 June (the latter for coverage of the opening of the new ITN headquarters).

The next six episodes were not identified by title – with the billings crediting Tom Baker and Ian Marter; however both Marter and Nicholas Courtney were billed under Pyramids of Mars, so the final six episodes do not necessarily feature Ian Marter - nor Tom Baker, for that matter!

The first four might be a repeat of Spearhead from Space, in which case the remaining two might be The Sontaran Experiment. However given that the first 14 episodes are billed as "1/14", "2/14", etc, does suggest that those 14 comprise a run of 'new' episodes rather than including repeats. If the stories were aired in strict story code order, then the 6-parter may have been The Seeds of Doom.

However given the proliferation of season 12 Tom Baker stories being sold at this time, and that some countries did screen them out of order, the unknown six episodes are far more likely to have been from Tom Baker's first season but played out of sequence, so probably The Sontaran Experiment and one other 4-parter.


Starting the week after the 14th Tom Baker episode, three of the Jon Pertwee serials were repeated, although they were not billed as such: The Three Doctors from 24 July, still at 8.00pm. There was a one week gap between parts three and four on 14 August. This was followed by a re-run The Time Warrior, with part four at 7.55pm. Then from 25 September it was The Monster of Peladon; again a one week break on 9 October. Part 4 aired at the later time of 8.30pm. The last episode was on 6 November 1984.

It's not clear why Spearhead from Space wasn't rerun (unless it was the unidentified four parter, as noted earlier).

Papers as far as 1988 were checked; there is no clear record that Sri Lanka screened Doctor Who again.

TV listings

Airdates in Sri Lanka

TV listings have been obtained from the Sri Lankan newspapers Ceylon Observer, Daily Observer, Daily News and Daily Mirror. Newspapers were checked for 1979 through to 1988, and the 1981 and 1984 runs of episodes were the only two found.

The series was billed as "Dr Who", "Dr WHO" or "Doctor Who".

The 1981 Pertwee serials were all identifiable by story title or a short synopsis.

The 1984 Tom Baker episodes were all noted as being part of a fourteen episode run – e.g. "Prog 1/14", "Prog 7/14". The first aired episode is simply billed as "Science fiction series". It's not until the fourth episode that the title "Terror of the Zygons" is given. All four parts of the next serial, Pyramids of Mars, are identified by title.

Some of the 1984 listings include cast and crew credits: there was clearly a difficulty with the spelling of some names, as the credits include "Jon/John Partwee", "Harry Letts" or "Jennie Mayne". Other actors named are "Jon Petwee", "Patrick Trounghton" and "Donald Palmer".

Some of the story titles are incorrect: Two episodes were billed as being "Part 3" of The Monster of Peladon, The Time Warrior was listed as "The Time Warriors" (plural) both years, and Pyramids of Mars was given in the singular. The billings also identify some of the episodes by their BBC production codes, such as "Dr Who - Series 3U – "The Time Warriors" both years, and "Dr Who Series 3Y – The Monster of Peladon" on all six in 1984.

Six episodes are not titled, but are credited as "starring Tom Baker, Ian Marter"; these six could be a 4-parter (such as Robot or The Ark in Space) and a 2-parter (The Sontaran Experiment), or a 6-parter (Genesis of the Daleks or The Seeds of Doom).

But given the track-record of the papers printing incorrect names and askew billings, there's no guarantee that the credited actors did actually feature in the listed episode – for instance, Nicholas Courtney is credited as being in Pyramids of Mars when it's clear that the cast billing for Terror of the Zygons has simply been carried over and applied to Pyramids of Mars in error, so it's just as likely that the printing of Ian Marter's names on the last six might also be an error.

Sri Lanka in Doctor Who