Australian 'Doctor Who' Fans Gear up for 50th Anniversary Special

Doctor Who Poster Art - P 2013
BBC America

Doctor Who Poster Art - P 2013

BBC Worldwide says demand for 3D screenings at some cinemas is outstripping demand for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," while pop-up stores selling merchandise have drawn crowds.

SDYNEY – BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the British public broadcaster, has left few stones unturned in celebrating the 50th anniversary of hit series Doctor Who in Australia.

After a raft of events in recent months, fans' excitement is set to culminate on Sunday when the BBC will offer a global simulcast of The Day of the Doctor, the anniversary special that will air here on the national broadcaster's flagship channel, ABC 1. The show is set for 6:50 a.m. Australian Eastern standard time.

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Sunday’s live broadcast of the 50th anniversary special -- which will be simulcast in around 75 countries worldwide -- will be augmented by 3D screenings at over 90 cinemas nationally, a repeat of the special in Sunday primetime on ABC followed by historical special Doctor Who: An Adventure in Space and Time.

BBC Worldwide said that demand for the cinema screenings of the special at some Aussie cinemas is outstripping demand for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire tickets, which opened on Thursday and has the second-largest opening day figure for this year behind Iron Man 3.

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Meanwhile, a Doctor Who marathon will air over the weekend on BBC Worldwide’s Australian general entertainment pay TV channel UKTV.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) has been the BBC’s partner, broadcasting Doctor Who for all of its 50 years here, and the iconic series has a significant fan base of “Whovians" of all generations down under.

Tapping into that fan base, BBC Worldwide has run a number of off-air activities around the anniversary this year, including pop-up shops in Sydney and Brisbane selling exclusive Doctor Who merchandise, as well as an online store, symphony concerts in early 2014 in Melbourne and Queensland based on recent Doctor Who 50th concerts in the U.K., an AUS$2 Doctor Who coin minted at the New Zealand Mint and the Perth Mint, which are legal tender in the South Pacific island nation of Nuie, as well as an exhibition at the ABC’s headquarters in Sydney running since August and until January.

There is even a pop-up digital radio station on ABC Radio, which will operate on Sunday straight after The Day of the Doctor and continue until midnight on Saturday, Nov. 30. It will feature fan reactions to the special, interviews, profiles, panel discussions and Doctor Who-inspired comedy and music.

The Day of the Doctor will be one of the last major programs exclusive to the ABC and on free-to-air TV here before a new deal between the ABC and BBC comes into play in August next year when BBC Worldwide launches its new BBC First. Under that arrangement, the ABC, which has been screening BBC programs for 60 years, will no longer be the home of first-run BBC dramas and comedies. BBC First will have those rights to many of the programs for 12 months.

"The response from fans in Australia to the 50th anniversary has been phenomenal," said Jon Penn, managing director of BBC Worldwide, Australia & New Zealand. "The pop-up shops have seen fans queue up for hours, tickets sales for the Symphonic Spectacular broke pre-sale records" and thousands turned out in the rain to watch a light spectacle. He added: "Cinema sessions for many of the 3D screenings have sold out, and we expect that many will be getting up bright and early on Sunday morning to watch the simultaneous broadcast on the ABC."