The Flying Doctors
|The Flying Doctors|
|Directed by||Colin Budds
see cast table below for complete cast
|Country of origin||Australia|
|No. of episodes||3 (miniseries)
221 (regular series) (list of episodes)
|Running time||approx. 0:55|
|Original network||Nine Network|
|Original release||1986 – 1993|
It was initially a 1985 mini-series based in the fictional outback town of Cooper's Crossing starring Andrew McFarlane as the newly arrived Dr. Tom Callaghan. The success of the mini series led to its return the following year as an ongoing series with McFarlane being joined by a new doctor, Chris Randall, played by Liz Burch. McFarlane left during the first season and actor Robert Grubb came in as new doctor Geoff Standish.
The series' episodes were mostly self-contained but also featured ongoing storylines, such as Dr. Standish's romance with Sister Kate Wellings (Lenore Smith). Other major characters included pilot Sam Patterson (Peter O'Brien), mechanic Emma Plimpton (Rebecca Gibney), local policeman Sgt. Jack Carruthers (Terry Gill) and Vic and Nancy Buckley (Maurie Fields and Val Jellay), who ran the local pub/hotel, The Majestic. Andrew McFarlane also later returned to the series, resuming his role as Dr. Callaghan. The popular series ran for nine seasons and was successfully screened internationally.
Cast and characters
- Andrew McFarlane played Tom Callaghan, a young doctor who takes over the R.F.D.S base in Coopers Crossing after proving himself to the original boss of the base, Harry Sinclair. He brings along Chris Randall, who is also a doctor, as his assistant. In episode sixteen Tom leaves the base, volunteering for World Vision in Africa. He returns in episode 113, staying until episode 156. Tom makes a final appearance in episode 201 when there is a town celebration in Coopers Crossing.
- Liz Burch played Chris Randall, a female doctor who comes along with Tom Callaghan to run the R.F.D.S base in Cooper Crossing. When Tom leaves for Africa she decides to stay in Coopers Crossing, remaining until episode 146, when she moves to Melbourne to take care of her sick father. Returns in episode 201 for the town celebration, and falls in love with Tom Callaghan again. She decides to join Tom in Africa.
- Robert Grubb played Geoff Standish, who makes his first appearance in episode 17 when he takes over the R.F.D.S base from Tom Callaghan. Geoff is one of the longest-running characters in the series, and stayed until the end. His relationship with Nurse Kate Wellings was a key storyline.
- Brett Climo played David Ratcliffe. A young doctor who joins the staff in episode 101 and stays until episode 171 when he decides to leave to do something else with his life. However, after a final rescue mission goes terribly wrong, he dies in a climbing accident when he falls down a cliff.
- Sarah Chadwick played Rosie 'Rowie' Lang. She makes her first appearance in "Swinging on the Rope", when she returns to Cooper's Crossing after leaving as a teenager to attend Medical School at the University of Sydney. Dr. Lang is the replacement for Dr. Radcliffe. She is a headstrong, determined woman, applying for a position with the RFDS to confront childhood bullies, and show them that "being a Lang doesn't mean being a loser", after having grown up as the youngest of 6 children (and the only girl), of alcoholic, neglectful parents. Despite her late arrival, Sarah is given a rich character-profile, the series featuring episodes in which both her older brother Frank and her father Alf appear. She attracts romanctic interest from Captain Johnno Johnson and eventually accepts his proposal of marriage. On the day of the wedding she realises she is marrying Johnno to make up for the less than ideal marriage her mother experienced. Rosie calls off the wedding as the RFDS cars are proceeding to the airstrip where the guests are waiting for the service.
- Lenore Smith played Kate Wellings / Standish. She makes her first appearance in the mini-series.
- David Reyne played Dr. Guy Reid.
- Lewis Fitz-Gerald played David 'Gibbo' Gibson.
- Peter O'Brien played Sam Patterson. He makes his first appearance in "Good Day For It", as a replacement for Gibbo.
- Christopher Stollery played Johnno Johnson.
- Justin Gaffney played Gerry O'Neill. (Season 6)
- Louise Siversen played Debbie O'Brien. She fills in every now and then. Loses her flight certificate after she faints during a flight because of a concussion and is never seen again after that.
One prominent feature in the show is the communication between the aircraft and the base station in Cooper's Crossing. Their designations are spelled out using the NATO phonetic alphabet.
- MSF, or Mike Sierra Foxtrot, is the aircraft. It's a GAF Nomad. Registration VH-MSF
- VCC, or Victor Charlie Charlie, is the RFDS base at Coopers Crossing.
The Flying Doctors is available to purchase in Australia. All 234 episodes are on a 48 disc set, complete with cast interviews, episode synopses and stills gallery. In region 2, Mediumrare Entertainment have released all nine seasons of The Flying Doctors including the mini series also called The Flying Doctors in region 2.
By 1993, the ratings were in decline and few original characters remained in the much-changed cast. To revamp the show the setting was changed to Broken Hill, the name changed to R.F.D.S., and of the cast only original cast members Fields and Jellay were retained in the show as well as Sophie Lee as Penny Wellings. The storyline had their characters, formerly publicans at the Cooper's Crossing pub, moving to Broken Hill. The show lasted just one season in this new incarnation.
Most recently the Australian pay-TV channel FOX Classics has secured the rights to the program from 3 July 2006. The Flying Doctors have returned for a rerun free to air channel Win Television from 17 August 2007 at 12 pm – 1.00 pm weekdays only.
The Flying Doctors was successfully broadcast in the UK on BBC 1. The series initially aired on Fridays at 20:10 from 1st July 1988. From September 1988, the series was moved to a Saturday early evening slot at around 17:15 where it gained a loyal audience of around 2-3 million viewers. In the summer of 1992, a backlog of episodes aired Monday to Friday at 11:05 during school holidays. From September 1992, the series settled into a new regular Friday afternoon slot, usually at around 14:30. The BBC concluded Series 9 in spring 1996 but continued to air repeats in various timeslots until 1998.
The Flying Doctors was also broadcast on the satellite and cable channel UK Gold. The channel repeated all 221 episodes weekdays at 15:00 from 1998.
The series was also aired in some parts of Europe and was particularly popular in the Netherlands where it aired on VARA at 8pm on Saturday nights from 1987 to 1993.
The series was filmed at:
- Nulla Station, New South Wales
- Cranbourne, Victoria (Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne)
- Pearcedale, Victoria
- Minyip, Victoria
- Broken Hill, New South Wales
- Lancefield, Victoria
- RAAF Base Point Cook
- List of The Flying Doctors episodes
- List of Australian television series
- List of Nine Network programs