Slipback

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Story Code: / Season "22" UK Airdate: 25 Jul to 8 Aug 1985 Doctor: Colin Baker
First airings by location UK Repeats / Foreign Cable and Satellite Previous Story / Next Story

SLIPBACK was a 6-part serial broadcast over a three week period on BBC Radio 4 VHF FM as part of its Thursday morning "Pirate Radio 4" magazine programme for children. Written by Eric Saward, and starring Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant, it was made while the television series was on its enforced 18 month hiatus.

Parts 1 and 2 aired on Thursday, 25 July 1985 (at 10am and 11.45am respectively); parts 3 and 4 on 1 August 1985 (at 9.50am and 11.26am); and the final two episodes on 8 August 1985 (at 9.44 and 11.36am). Parts 1 to 5 were just over 10 minutes each, while the sixth and final instalment was slightly longer at nearly 11 minutes.

The station could only be heard in England and border areas of Scotland and most of Wales; it was not available in more remote areas of the latter two countries - or at all in Northern Ireland.

Parts 1-2
Parts 3-4. Back Pages at the Cuttings Archive
Parts 5-6


The story was subsequently novelised by Saward and published by Target Books in 1986.

The radio recording was later released as a double-cassette by BBC Audio in November 1988, albeit with different closing credits. This was paired with the abridged edition of Genesis of the Daleks that had been issued as an LP in 1979. In January 2001, a remastered version - now with the original music - was put out on a single CD (no longer paired with Genesis) under the BBC Radio Collection brand.

The serial was repeated for the first time on BBC's Digital station Radio 7, as part of the broadcaster's Doctor Who 40th Anniversary celebrations, although this time it was in three 20-minute weekly segments.

The first two episodes aired on Saturday, 22 November 2003 in the 6.40 to 7pm slot, with an early morning repeat from 12.40am to 1am on Anniversary day itself, Sunday 23 November. Parts 3-4 aired in the same two slots on 28 November and 29 November. The final two episodes aired 6 December / 7 December 2003, again in the same two slots.


Foreign Transmissions

BBC Transcription Disk of Slipback - "Use expires 31.1.90"

The radio serial had a few broadcasts outside the UK. Only the following are known about, but there may well be others.

Unknown location Nov 85
BBC World Service Jan 86 Internationally
United States Feb 86 National Public Radio
Unknown location Jul 88
New Zealand Sep 97 National Radio

Apart from the BBC broadcasts, the episodes were transmitted from Transcription Discs supplied by the BBC Transcription Services.

These discs are similar to a LP vinyl record, both have a recording speed of 33 1/3 RPM, but a TD is much larger with a diameter of 16 inches compared to 12 inches for a LP. TDs have a play-time of 15 minutes per side; Slipback (with catalogue number CN 4628/S) was supplied on two discs - Disk 1 had Parts 1-2 on Side A, and 3-4 on B, whilst the second Disc 2 had 5-6 on Side A, and the Doctor Who theme on B (running for 38 secs).

BBC Transcription Services usually pressed only one hundred copies of each disc, to be bicycled from country to country, station to station. Usually instructions were issued to the final radio station that played them to destroy the discs at the end of the licenced period.

However, clearly this did not always happen since a set of Slipback TDs is currently held by a private collector. The labels on both discs state "Use expires 31.1.90 unless contracted otherwise". And included with these surviving discs are "Cue Sheets" which record information about the programme.

And importantly, handwritten on these sheets are what appear to be two sets of broadcast dates; these are covered in detail below.



UNIDENTIFED LOCATION #1

UNKNOWN STATION - 1985-86

Cue Sheet with handwritten broadcast dates

The Cue Sheets inside the TDs (see above) record the following handwritten dates:

  • Episode 1 -- 30.11.85
  • Episode 2 -- 7.12.85
  • Episode 3 -- 14.12.85
  • Episode 4 -- 21.Dec.85
  • Episode 5 -- 28.Dec.85
  • Episode 6 -- 4.Jan.86

These dates all fall on Saturdays. They are also only three months after the UK transmissions, which very likely makes them one of if not the first 'foreign' broadcasts.

It is unknown which country or radio station these airdates relate to. Based on available information, it is not Australia or New Zealand.

It's unlikely that this and the other unidentified airing - see below - was in Ireland, as any such broadcasts would surely be known about and documented by fans.

Of particular significance is that the dates are written in the DD-MM-YY format, which highly suggests the country is not the United States, where it would be in the style of MM-DD-YY.

Canadians tend to use both dating formats: DD-MM is more common in the eastern provinces, while MM-DD is in the western - which doesn't help!

Of note, the date for Episode 6 is only four weeks prior to the start of the WVIK broadcasts in February 1986 - see below.

A scan of available online US and Canadian newspapers failed to produce any relevant listings on those six dates, however it should be noted that while most US papers did publish daily radio schedules, many were lacking in enough detail to indicate that Slipback was part of the day's programming. Besides, at less than 10 minutes per episode, it was probably regarded as quick fill-in material and as such didn't warrant inclusion in the limited listings summaries that were supplied to newspapers.



BBC WORLD SERVICE

From early 1986, the serial was broadcast on the BBC's World Service radio network. The BBCWS - which was primarily for news and current affairs - could be heard in certain parts of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, North America, the Caribbean, Asia and Australasia, however drama content would likely have been only on the feeds going to countries where English was spoken. (These transmissions were not from Transcription Discs.)

Comprehensive listings for BBC World Service rarely appear in foreign newspapers - which tend to print only the schedules for local radio stations - so the full extent of which countries got Slipback is unknown. (Based on available information, we are fairly certain the serial did not play on BBCWS in Australia or New Zealand in the 1980s...)


ASIA

The serial did air in this region - listings for Slipback have been found in a Singapore newspaper. The broadcasts heard in Singapore could also be received in Malaysia. BBCWS was also available in Hong Kong, so it's likely the serial was also heard there.

Radio Highlights: Singapore Straits Times, 12 January 1986

The Singapore Straits Times for 12 January 1986 carried a small preview in its Radio Highlights of the Week section, although it states the serial was on Wednesdays, not also Mondays.

Part one of Slipback aired on Monday, 13 January 1986 in a 10 minute timeslot from 12.45pm to 12.55pm in the afternoon. The episode aired again on Wednesday, 15 January 1986 in the mid-evening slot of 7.15 to 7.25pm.

The serial continued to air those two weekdays in the same slots.

Coincidentally (?), a brief run of Tom Baker serials commenced on Malaysian TV from 6 February 1986, the same week that the advertised fourth instalment of the radio play aired - and a mix up at the newspaper Malay Mail placed a synopsis for Slipback against the billing for Meglos part 1!

Both the Straits Times and Singapore Business Times contained weekly radio listings for "Doctor Who" (with no story title) through until Monday, 24 February 1986 and Wednesday, 26 February 1986.

HOWEVER, that's a span of seven weeks. Since there were only six instalments, there must have been one pre-emption on each of the two days during that period, but it is unknown which week/s this was.

Generic Monday listings from Singapore Business Times - "Doctor Who" at 12.45pm
Generic Wednesday listings from Singapore Straits Times - "Doctor Who" at 7.15pm
Malay Mail synopsis error; 6 February 1986




UNITED STATES

Newspaper ad for WVIK FM radio, 31 January 1986

While the serial was playing on the BBC World Service, it also appeared on a couple of US radio stations. These recordings would definitely have been supplied on Transcription Discs:

  • WVIK (90.1 FM) aired the mini-series from Saturday, 1 February 1986 at 9.15am, as part of its Saturday Morning Live programme. (It's unknown if it aired in a single session on this date, or if it was serialised over several hours, or days or weeks.)
    • The station was based at Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, and was one of the United States National Public Radio (NPR) stations available in parts of Iowa and Illinois.
    • WVIK is a minor station in a small college town, and as such was probably more aware of Doctor Who fandom than a major station in a big city would be, which is why they were one of the few stations known to have actively promoted the serial when they aired it.


  • KCRW-FM (89.9) in Los Angeles broadcast each episode twice per week, on Wednesdays at 7pm and again on Thursdays at 3.45pm, from 7 May 1986 to 12 June 1986.

There may very well have been broadcasts of Slipback on other NPR stations across the United States but radio listings may have simply said "Dr Who / Doctor Who" in the papers, and as such cannot be easily traced with OCR searches.

LA Times listing for KCRW-FM, 7 May 1986
US tape cassette release of the serial
Back of the US tape box displays US and Canadian prices


The Slipback / Genesis of the Daleks double-cassette (see above) was released in the States by The Mind's Eye (based in California) in late 1989. It retailed for $14.95.

The clam-shell style cassette box also bears the price of CAN$16.95, meaning the tapes were also sold in Canada.



UNIDENTIFIED LOCATION #2

UNKNOWN STATION - 1988

The Transcription Disc Cue Sheets had a second set of dates handwritten on them:

  • Episode 1 - WK 30/88
  • Episode 2 - WK 31/88
  • Episode 3 - WK 32/88
  • Episode 4 - WK 33/88
  • Episode 5 - WK 34/88
  • Episode 6 - WK 35/88

Assuming a week starts on a Monday, these "WEEKS" are 25-31 July 1988 through to 29 August - 4 September 1988.

Like the other set of handwritten dates (above) there is no clue as to which country or station this was, so it could be anywhere! (It's not Australia, New Zealand or Ireland. And the unusual date format could indicate it isn't the US or Canada either.)

It's possible it is the same station as the previous "unknown location", and this was a scheduled repeat broadcast albeit several years later...

If it is the United States, a perusal of various newspapers from that date range failed to produce any relevant radio listings.



OTHER UNIDENTIFIED LOCATIONS?

With there being only two sets of dates written on these Cue Sheets, this might indicate that these TDs were bicycled between only two stations or countries between January 1986 and July 1988 - before the "use" expired in January 1990.

However it's far more likely there were other countries/stations to bicycle these discs before, during and after those date ranges - but these unknown stations didn't write their broadcast dates on the Cue Sheets.

While the "use by" on these particular discs expired on 31 January 1990, the copyright on the radio serial itself did not also expire at that time, since there are known broadcasts after 1990...



NEW ZEALAND

Although BBC World Service was available in New Zealand, Slipback didn't air there in 1986. It was however broadcast 11 years later on local radio...

  • New Zealand's National Radio transmitted the serial to the whole country for three weeks from Saturday, 20 September 1997 to 4 October 1997, playing two episodes during a 3.06 to 4.04pm timeslot. (The three billings in the New Zealand Listener incorrectly said "Pt 1 of 6", "Pt 2 of 6", "Pt 3 of 6".) National Radio broadcast on a network basis, but on different frequencies around the country.
NZ National Radio listing for "Pt 1 of 6" [sic]; NZ Listener, 20 September 1997
  • It was repeated on New Zealand radio six years later, weekly on Sundays, from 23 November 2003 to 28 December 2003, during the 4.50 to 5.10pm slot. Like BBC Radio 7 (see above), this was scheduled to celebrate the TV series' 40th anniversary.