Dubbing Doctor Who into Spanish
EL DOCTOR MISTERIO
To Latin American audiences, Doctor Who is commonly known as El Dr / Doctor Misterio (Dr Mystery) (El is Spanish for "The", the definitive article.)
In newspapers, the programme was billed as Dr Who, El Doctor / Dr Misterio or just Doctor / Dr Misterio.
According to the 1983 Radio Times 20th Anniversary Special, some Latin American countries knew the series as "Dr Insolito", but we have found no evidence of the series having ever been called that in Spanish-language countries. However, see the foot of this page for how that title was used...
The BBC marketed and distributed its own programming to Latin American countries during the late 1960s, but only had very limited success, selling Doctor Who to only four countries.
In 1973, the exclusive distribution of BBC programmes to North, Central and South American regions was given to Time-Life Films / Time-Life Television.
As was noted in the 31 March 1976 edition of Variety, Time Life's top markets for BBC material in Latin America at the time were "Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Central America, in that order". Puerto Rico had also been a viable market before suffering an economic slump. The article also noted that Chile was also buying product, while Argentina and Peru were difficult markets to break.
The article also notes the costs associated with dubbing programmes into Spanish, which was "virtually all ... done in Mexico". And at a cost of between $900 and $1,700 (US dollars) per one hour segment, was an expensive undertaking without prior commitment to buy from the regular markets.
This section provides an overview of Doctor Who in Latin America.
Twelve of the first seventeen William Hartnell stories, comprising 56 episodes, were dubbed into Spanish and offered to Latin American countries from 1967.
Some of the Spanish titles assigned to the episodes differed from the English titles; only those that varied significantly are noted below:
|An Unearthly Child||Una Niña Que No Es De Este Mundo||A Girl Who Is Not Of This World|
|The Cave of Skulls||La Caverna de las Calaveras|
|The Forest of Fear||La Selva del Terreno||The Forest of the Land|
|The Firemaker||El Que Sabe Hacer Fuego||The One Who Makes Fire|
|The Dead Planet||El Planeta Muerto|
|The Survivors||Los Sobrevivientes|
|The Escape||La Huida|
|The Ambush||La Emboscada|
|The Expedition||La Expedición|
|The Ordeal||El Ataque||The Attack|
|The Rescue||El Rescate|
|Inside the Spaceship|
|The Edge of Destruction||La Edad de la Destrucción||The Age of Destruction|
|The Brink of Disaster||Al Borde del Desastre||At the Border of Disaster|
|The Keys of Marinus|
|The Sea of Death||El Mar de la Muerte|
|The Velvet Web||La Trampa de Terciopelo||The Trap of Velvet|
|The Screaming Jungle||La Selva de los Gritos||The Forest of Shouts / Screams|
|The Snows of Terror||Las Nieves del Terror|
|Sentence of Death||Sentencia de Muerte|
|The Keys of Marinus||Los Micro Circuitos de Marino||The Microcircuits of Marinus|
|The Temple of Evil||El Templo del Mal|
|The Warriors of Death||Los Guerreros de la Muerte|
|The Bride of Sacrifice||La Novia del Sacrifício|
|The Day of Darkness||El Día de la Obscuridad|
|Strangers in Space||Extraños en el Espacio|
|The Unwilling Warriors||Guerreros Involuntarios||Involuntary Warriors|
|Hidden Danger||Peligro Oculto|
|A Race Against Death||Carrera Contra la Muerte|
|A Desperate Venture||Una Aventura Desesperada|
|Planet of Giants|
|Planet of Giants||Un Planeta de Gigantes|
|Dangerous Journey||Jornada Peligrosa|
|The Dalek Invasion of Earth|
|World's End||El Fin del Mundo|
|The Daleks||Los Dalekios|
|Day of Reckoning||El Día del Juicio||The Day of Judgement|
|The End of Tomorrow||El Fin de la Mañana|
|The Waking Ally||El Vigilante Aliado||The Allied Vigilante|
|The Powerful Enemy||El Poderoso Enemigo|
|The Web Planet|
|The Web Planet||El Planeta Misterioso||The Mysterious Planet|
|The Zarbi||Los Zarbi|
|Escape to Danger||Escape del Peligro|
|The Crater of Needles||El Cráter de las Agujas|
|The Centre||El Centro|
|The Space Museum|
|The Space Museum||El Museo del Espacio|
|The Dimensions of Time||Las Dimensiones del Espacio||The Dimensions of Space|
|The Search||La Búsqueda|
|The Final Phase||La Fase Final|
|The Executioners||Los Verdugos|
|The Death of Time||La Muerte del Tiempo|
|Flight Through Eternity||Vuelo a Traves de la Eternidad||Flight Across Eternity|
|Journey into Terror||Viaje al Terror|
|The Death of Doctor Who||La Muerte del Doctor Misterio|
|The Planet of Decision||El Planeta de la Decision|
WHO DUBBED WHO?
- In early 1966 the BBC created special "M/E Track" soundtracks on separate magnetic tape that had only sound effects and music (often the scores differed from the ones that featured in the UK version, and usually consisted of stock non-copyrighted material), but no dialogue (see our interview with Eddie Montague).
- These tracks were prepared specifically for upcoming sales to Latin America, a market that the BBC was only just starting to exploit.
- It was likely to be at the "M/E Track" creation stage that the decision was made by the BBC to exclude all the historical stories with the sole exception of The Aztecs in the package that was sold to Latin American / Spanish countries. This decision was probably made on the basis that period costume dramas set in 13th century China, revolutionary France, Nero's Rome, Palestine during the Third Crusade, and 1066 Northumbria that would hold little interest or historical significance to younger Latin American viewers. The sole historical that was dubbed into Spanish - The Aztecs - was, of course, set in Mexico, and therefore had some relevance to Latin Americans.
- The actor who dubbed William Hartnell was Alberto Gavira
- See also the Dubbing Wiki
- The Spanish dubs were commissioned by the BBC. The actual dubbing sessions were performed in Mexico City, the centre for specialist studios where the majority of film and television dubs were produced for the Latin American markets. The dubbing studio would have been supplied with a dialogue-only transcript of each broadcast episode from which a translation into Spanish could be undertaken, and a copy of each episode to enable lip-synching. It is likely that the episodes were provided on video tape rather than film as a tape could easily be paused and rewound during the dubbing process.
- Of particular note, the dubbing director ensured that the Spanish actors adopted the speech-patterns of the original English characterisations: the Daleks still spoke with mechanical voices while in The Web Planet, the Menoptera retained their high-pitched sing-song and the Optera their rough guttural. (Although oddly, the Animus was given a male voice.) This indicates that the original English soundtrack was provided to assist with the dubbing process.
- Once the dubs had been made, the BBC created new negatives of the episodes but with Spanish optical soundtracks from which sales prints could be struck.
- If the split airdates in Venezuela are anything to go by, it appears that the stories may have been dubbed in separate batches.
- Venezuela aired the first two serials in early 1967.
- Venezuela then aired Inside the Spaceship to Planet of Giants from October 1967 to February 1968. (The Dalek Invasion of Earth was not available, due to the BBC's arrangement with Terry Nation. The Rescue was also not available at that time.)
- BBC Records do indicate that royalty payments for a sale of Marco Polo and The Reign of Terror to Venezuela were made at the same time as the other serials in early 1967, but that those payments were later "cancelled". This cancellation is most likely on account of an administration error - i.e. royalty cheques being sent out in error – rather than an indication that the serials had actually been purchased by the broadcaster but later cancelled by them.
- The same "M/E Track" tapes for the same seven serials were also supplied in late 1966 / early 1967 to Tunisia, so they could be the first Arabic country to screen the series. And as was the case with Venezuela, Tunisia also could not get "M/E Tracks" for The Dalek Invasion of Earth and The Rescue.
- The sales rights to The Dalek Invasion of Earth and The Rescue eventually became available again in early 1968. (The "M/E Tracks" created for The Dalek Invasion of Earth and The Rescue were also supplied in 1968 to Morocco and Saudi Arabia, the next two Arabic countries to screen the series.)
- Mexico was the first country to air all the available serials, from An Unearthly Child to The Chase, albeit wildly out of sequence, throughout 1968.
- Venezuela did not air the serials The Dalek Invasion of Earth to The Space Museum until September 1968 to January 1969. (They did not screen The Chase.)
- Chile aired the full run of twelve stories, from January 1969. It would not have needed to dub any of the episodes.
This link is to a voice recording of the opening voice-over giving the series title:
- Episodes would be introduced as "Today we present for you..." (in Spanish, natch) followed by the episode title. It has been noted that the dubbing was rather haphazard in places, in that the actor's mouth would open but there would be a short delay before the spoken words were heard in Spanish.
- At the end of each episode, the voice-over would say, "In our next episode, we will present for you…" followed by that instalment's title.
- In the original English, the voice of the Animus in The Web Planet is female, but in the Spanish dub, it is male.
- Interestingly, at the end of the final episode of The Web Planet, the Spanish narrator gives the title of the next episode as "El Lion", although The Crusade was not included in the package of episodes...
These twelve stories were offered to and screened in the following countries:
- Venezuela – from 26 February 1967
- Mexico – from 25 March 1968 (and repeated numerous times in the 1970s)
- Chile – from 5 January 1969
- Costa Rica – from 8 June 1971
The programme was also offered to Dominican Republic in 1968, but BBC records indicate that the sale was cancelled in 1969 (however, like the Venezuela "cancellation", this may have also been an admin error).
BBC Archive Holdings
A Spanish-dubbed print of part 4 of An Unearthly Child may have existed in 1973 to be used in a November 1973 edition of Blue Peter; this clip has the alternative "Music / Effects" soundtrack (compiled by Eddie Montague), but the few shots which would have had dialogue have been carefully edited out to disguise the fact that it wasn't in English. It is therefore unknown whether this print was dubbed into Spanish or Arabic, or was dialogue-free. If it was in Spanish, it was disposed of prior to 1976.
(Was this print used because when the anniversary tribute was compiled the BBC only had access to a foreign dubbed positive print and not an English copy of this serial?)
In late 1976 when the Lively Arts documentary Whose Doctor Who was being researched, the BBC held at least the following prints with Spanish soundtracks:
|K||The Dalek Invasion of Earth||5|
|N||The Web Planet||1-6|
|Q||The Space Museum||3|
These may have been returned by Costa Rica, the last Spanish-speaking country to screen the series.
By late 1978, only The Web Planet part 6 was still held.
Extracts on DVD / Video
- The Spanish soundtrack for The Web Planet part six appears as an alternative language option on the DVD release of that story.
Within a year of Doctor Who taking off in the United States in 1978, the existing edited Time-Life Television videos of the first 23 Tom Baker stories (98 episodes), were dubbed into Spanish for the Central and South American markets – see more on the dubbing below.
The first two countries to air these stories – only a few days apart - were Mexico and Chile; interestingly, the newspapers of these countries sometimes assigned (at least in print) different titles to the stories:
|Robot||El Robot / Robot||Muerte de un Robot (Death of a Robot)|
|The Ark in Space||El Arca del Espacio (The Ark of Space)||El Arca Espacial (The Spacial Ark)|
|The Sontaran Experiment||El Experimento del Sontaran|
|Genesis of the Daleks||El Genesis de los Dalekios|
|Revenge of the Cybermen||La Venganza del Hombre Cibernetico (Vengeance of the Cybernetic Man) / Los Hombres de Metal (The Men of Metal)||La Venganza de los Hombres Metalicos (Vengeance of the Metal Men)|
|Terror of the Zygons||El Terror de los Sigons|
|Planet of Evil||El Planeta del Mal|
|Pyramids of Mars||Las Piramides de Marte|
|The Android Invasion||La Invasion de los Androides (Invasion of the Androids)|
|The Brain of Morbius||El Cerebro de Morbius / El Cerebro del Doctor Morbius|
|The Seeds of Doom||Las Semillas del Mal (The Seeds of Evil)||Las Semillas de la Ruina (The Seeds of Ruin/Decline) / Semillas de Maldad (Seeds of Evil)|
|The Masque of Mandragora||La Mascara de Mandragora|
|The Hand of Fear||La Mano del Miedo|
|The Deadly Assassin||El Gran Reto del Amo (The Great Challenge of the Master)|
|The Face of Evil||La Cara del Demonio (The Face of the Demon/Devil)||La Cara del Mal (The Face of Evil)|
|The Robots of Death||El Robot de la Muerte|
|The Talons of Weng-Chiang||Las Garras de Weng-Chiang|
|Horror of Fang Rock||Horror en Fang Rock|
|The Invisible Enemy||El Enemigo Invisible|
|Image of the Fendahl||La Imagen de los Fendalines|
|The Sun Makers||Los Forjadores del Sol (The Forgers of the Sun) / Los Hacedores del Sol (The Makers of the Sun)||Los Summakers|
|Underworld||El Mundo Subterraneo||Bajo Mundo|
|The Invasion of Time||La Invasion del Tiempo|
- One of the two Mexican titles for Revenge of the Cybermen is in the singular, whereas the other and the Chilean is in the plural!
- The Chilean title "Los Summakers" could be a printing error, with the English title getting scrambled in the translation (one Chilean paper, El Sur, sometimes did print the English title). However, this 'error' appears in two different newspapers, so it's likely that both papers were supplied with the 'wrong' spelling of the title direct from the broadcaster itself.
- Some of the titles published in Colombian newspapers also have slight variances, such as "Las Creación de los Daleks", and "La Venganza de los Cyberman" (singular) being used. These are probably the result of incorrect translations of the English titles given to or done by the newspaper editors rather than being titles under which the episodes were broadcast.
WHO DUBBED WHO?
As with the Hartnell stories, the dubbing sessions commissioned by Time-Life would have been performed in Mexico, as that was the centre for film and television dubbing for the Latin American market. (By late 1979, however, long after Doctor Misterio had been dubbed, Spanish-dubbing facilities were established in Los Angeles.)
When Lionheart took over the distribution rights for the US in May 1981 (see United States--1981), the rights to Latin American were assumed by Western-World Television Inc (a co-owner of Lionheart). Based on the known airdates, the only Latin American country known to have screened Doctor Misterio after 1981 is Colombia. They would most likely have utilised the old Time-Life tapes.
- The dubbed Tom Baker episodes were adapted from the ones that had been edited for the United States. The scripts for the Howard da Silva narrations were also translated and dubbed into Spanish.
- As had been the case with the Hartnells, the dubbing was rather haphazard in places, with footsteps sounding the same no matter what the terrain, and with background sound effects suddenly starting and stopping. As an example, in the dub for The Sontaran Experiment the sonic screwdriver and Styre's robot are completely silent in some scenes, and one of the Galsec astronauts is clearly heard to shout "please!" in English at one point. Tacky 1940's-style film noir music was also dubbed on to replace the original music.
- It would also appear as though each episode had further edits made to them to bring them to a 23 minute running time.
Airdates for the Baker serials are recorded for the following countries:
- Mexico – from 4 May 1979
- Chile – from 9 May 1979
- Puerto Rico – from 23 October 1979
- Costa Rica – from 4 February 1980
- Colombia - from 13 February 1980
- Ecuador – from 19 March 1980
- Nicaragua – from 6 August 1980
- Venezuela – from 31 May 1981
Colombia also repeated some episodes in 1987, presumably distributed by Western World (but using the old Time-Life tapes?).
The following countries are recorded in BBC Records or elsewhere as having bought and screened the Spanish Baker serials, however we have yet to pinpoint any airdates:
OTHER SPANISH CHANNELS
When 50 Tom Baker episodes screened on a regional basis across Spain from 1988 onwards, brand new dubs into Spanish and the regional languages Galician and Catalan were created locally.
The cable and satellite station Imagen Satelital broadast a run of Tom Baker stories in English but with Spanish subtitles on its Uniseries channel in 2002.
HBO Ole also broadcast to South America, again, programmes were in English with Spanish subtitles. See our dedicated page for more.
As noted at the top of the page, the Radio Times 20th Anniversary Special reports that Doctor Who was known as "Dr Insolito" in some Latin American countries. While that title was not used for Doctor Who, it was the title given to the Spanish-dubbed release of Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film, Dr Strangelove (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb).
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