The Young Doctors

The Young Doctors is an Australian early-evening soap opera originally broadcast on the Nine Network from Monday, 8 November 1976 until Wednesday, 30 March 1983. The series is set in the fictional Albert Memorial Hospital and is primarily concerned with romances between younger members of the hospital staff, rather than typical medical issues and procedures. The program was shown in numerous international locations, throughout the United Kingdom and North America, and also in France and Spain.

The Young Doctors
GenreSoap opera
Created byAlan Coleman
Directed byAlan Coleman
Reg Watson
Ian Coughlan
Max Varnel
David C. Wilson
Brian Faull
Peita Letchford
Kendal Flanagan
Chris Adshead
Mike Murphy
Chris Connelly
Michael Pattinson
Phillip Bowman
Rusty Buckley
Denny Lawrence
Wayne Cameron
Starring(see detailed cast and character list below)
Country of originAustralia
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons8
No. of episodes1,396
Production location(s)TCN-9 Willoughby, New South Wales
Running time25 minutes
Production company(s)Reg Grundy Organisation
Original networkNine Network
Picture format4.3 PAL
Audio formatStereo
Original release8 November 1976 (1976-11-08) –
30 March 1983 (1983-03-30)

Series historyEdit

The series was created and devised by Alan Coleman with Reg Watson acting as Executive Producer. Watson had been the Producer of the British soap opera Crossroads from 1964-1972 and he moved back to Australia to help set up a new drama department within the Reg Grundy Organisation, which at the time, was better known for its game shows. With Coleman directing, and Watson's experience of producing fast-turnaround, 5-days a week serial drama, The Young Doctors became the third soap opera produced by the Reg Grundy Organisation following Class of 74 / 75 for the Seven Network, and Until Tomorrow, which also briefly aired on Seven Network in 1975.

The Young Doctors began in November 1976, a week earlier than another new soap opera on Nine, The Sullivans, which was produced for the network by Crawford Productions. Nine Network made it clear only one of the series would be commissioned beyond the initial 13 week production run.

After the 13-week trial period The Sullivans, which had a budget which was three times bigger than The Young Doctors, emerged as the critical success, so The Young Doctors was cancelled. Fans lobbied Nine Network, who then decided to reverse their decision and by popular demand The Young Doctors continued in its daily 6.00 pm slot and had a successful run of six and a half years, making it one of Australia's longest running and popular serials of the time. After several years however, many long-serving cast members began to leave, so during the final season in 1982–83, many new characters were added in an attempt to modernise and refresh the long-running serial.

Producer and co-creator Alan Coleman also left in early 1982, and he was replaced by Sue Masters twelve months before the series finished production in late November 1982. Masters went on to produce Grundy's replacement medical soap, Starting Out for Nine, and then Grundy's stablemate Prisoner from 1983. Several cast members from The Young Doctors including Judy McBurney, Genevieve Lemon, Babs McMillan, Tottie Goldsmith and Peter Bensley all went into leading roles in Prisoner after The Young Doctors finished production.

The advent of one-day cricket led to Nine Network moving the show around the schedules. The loss of several popular cast members also contributed to a sharp decline in ratings, and as a consequence of this, the series was moved to a mid-afternoon timeslot and then cancelled in late 1982.[1]

When the series ended after 1396 episodes, it held the record of Australia's longest-running commercial television drama serial, which was previously held by Number 96. This was later surpassed by A Country Practice and then Neighbours, which is currently the longest-running Australian drama serial. The Young Doctors also holds the distinction, rare among long-running Australian dramas, of having never won any sort of television award.

The Young Doctors final episode aired on Nine Network on March 30, 1983 at 14:30, and, coincidentally, The Sullivans had also ended just two weeks earlier.

Nine Network and Grundy's launched several new soap operas in an attempt to fill the gaps left in their early-evening schedule. First, in July 1982, there was an attempt to emulate the opulence and grandeur of American prime-time soaps such as Dallas and Dynasty and Reg Watson came up with Taurus Rising which had a short, but eventful 21-episode run. Grundy's reportedly spent over $1 million on the opening episodes alone and the series was also notably recorded entirely on film rather than the standard videotape presentation. This notorious series went on to become popular when broadcast internationally, particularly in 1984 when it aired in syndication on some US TV networks.

Next, in February 1983, Grundy's and Nine launched Waterloo Station, a series focused on two sisters, both married to policemen, and their adult children starting careers in the police force. After a month of poor ratings, and just 40 episodes, Nine pulled it from the schedules and quickly launched Starting Out, which was set around a group of young medical students at a boarding house. However, this series also quickly flopped and was discontinued after only 85 episodes had been produced.

Finally, in 1985, came Possession which started promisingly with an intriguing espionage story before giving way to the usual soap-opera tropes. Although it lasted long enough to give the producers a chance to revamp the storylines and characters to try and save the series, when Nine moved it out of primetime, it became clear that Possession was never going to be a success. Cutting their losses, the series was pulled after just 6 months and Grundy's and Nine Network did not attempt to launch another soap opera again, with The Young Doctors remaining Grundy's sole soap opera success on the network.

Story and settingEdit

Despite the medical setting, medical procedures rarely featured in storylines, with most of the stories and plots focusing more on the personal life, romances and dramas of the staff. All scenes were played out in the various sets forming the Albert Memorial Hospital. A memorial plaque situated on the wall of the studio set of the hospital's exterior stated the hospital opened in 1889 and it is also established early in the series that the Albert Memorial is located in a Sydney district, with Sydney generically referred to as 'the City'.

The most regularly seen set was the large hospital entrance lobby containing a reception desk, refreshments kiosk, a lift and stairs to the upper floors, and swinging double-doors that led into the casualty department. Various wards, offices, theatres and small medicine labs all saw an equal amount of romantic and dramatic action over the years. Alan Coleman revealed on a DVD release of the series that the various 'flats' used as sets were simply re-dressed with different hospital equipment and furniture giving the Albert Memorial a sense of monotony often associated with clinical, hospital environments.

Later in The Young Doctors run, location shooting became more frequent and viewers saw more of the hospital's exterior and grounds. Scenes filmed outside the hospital now showed modern, 1960's era buildings, presumably extensions to the original Victorian hospital. Exterior shots were filmed at the real life Royal North Shore Hospital and the former Greenwich Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, which was used for later exterior shots. There was also a Chapel located in the hospital grounds which was filmed on a few occasions, most notably when Julie Holland (Lisa Aldenhoven) was shot at the altar on her Wedding day to dashing Doctor Russell Edwards (Peter Cousens). With location shooting so rare, a trip to Melbourne for a travelogue-style Wedding and tour of the city was an extravagant way to celebrate Liz Kennedy's marriage to Doctor John Forrest in 1981.

There was also a local bar Bunny's which was another venue for the staff to mingle. The bar was originally owned by, and named after, Bunny Howard, played by Ugly Dave Grey who was killed off after the first 65 episodes. Bunny's was said to be situated on the opposite side of the busy main road to the hospital. Although the bar's exterior was never shown on-screen, its interior regularly featured in every episode for the duration of the 6 and a half year series, appearing in both the first and final episodes.

Cast and CharactersEdit

The Young Doctors had a relatively high turnover of young cast playing the doctors and nurses whom featured alongside a more stable roster of longer-running elder cast members. The serial also featured many of today's most well-known Australian actors appearing in their earliest roles. Actress Peta Toppano, who appeared in the first season of Prisoner in 1979, and later, Return to Eden in 1986, had previously appeared in The Young Doctors for just over a year as Doctor Gail Henderson from the first episodes to 1977. Appearing alongside her was future singer, songwriter, and music producer Mark Holden who played pin-up Doctor Greg Mason for 12 months before his music career took off. At the same time, a lengthy story arc featured Mark Hembrow in an extended guest role as the (fictional) hugely popular rock singer Georgie Saint. This storyline included the famous 70's pin-up icon Abigail who completed two stints in the series as assertive secretary, and later Georgie's manager, Hilary Templeton. She would go on to play tragic-heroine Caroline Morrell in Sons and Daughters the following decade.

Particularly popular during the early years was Cornelia Frances who played sternly efficient Sister Grace Scott, later Matron. The character was regularly seen irate and disciplining the young nurses in her charge. She was also central to one of The Young Doctors most famous cliffhangers when Sister Scott accidentally plummeted down an empty lift shaft and broke her leg. Frances would go on to play the equally formidable character Barbara Hamilton in Sons and Daughters from 1982 to 1986, and then the truly terrifying Judge Morag Bellingham in numerous stints in Home and Away from 1988.

Another star cast member was Gwen Plumb, a recipient of the British Empire Medal and AM recipient for her service to the arts and communities service, who portrayed gossipy kiosk lady Ada Simmonds for the length of the series, appearing from episode 2. Ada was very close Dennis Jamison, the hyperactive hospital orderly, played for six years by Chris King who became a big hit with viewers. Actress Joanne Samuel was another fan-favourite as Nurse Jill Gordon. The actress was written out of The Young Doctors by Alan Coleman to allow Samuel the golden opportunity to star in the film Mad Max alongside Mel Gibson in 1979. The film is now widely considered an enduring example of classic Australian cinema.

Rebecca Gilling, who later became an international star due to her iconic role as Stephanie Harper in the hugely successful series Return to Eden, spent three years in The Young Doctors as Liz Kennedy. Her character memorably progressed from a first year Nurse to a fully qualified Psychologist before being fatally electrocuted by a faulty lamp on her Wedding night to Doctor John Forrest, an early role for Alan Dale, who later became a star of Neighbours for eight years as Jim Robinson, before going on to appear in many successful U.S drama series and films. Also, Neighbours current longest running actress, Jackie Woodburne, who has played enduring and wise Susan Kennedy for over 25 years, was tragic young Nurse Maggie Gordon in The Young Doctors during 1980–81.

Animal rights activist Lynda Stoner, and Paula Duncan, both left their respective roles in The Young Doctors to join Crawford's soap Cop Shop. Duncan would star in this series for its entire run from 1977 to 1984 as Detective Danni Frances. She then joined Network Ten's Prisoner for its final season in 1986 as regular character Lorelei Wilkinson. After this, it was a starring role in Grundy's replacement soap for Prisoner on Network Ten, Richmond Hill, in 1988 (which also starred Gwen Plumb from The Young Doctors) as Janet Bryant, but this series only lasted one year. A prolific soap star, she then had more guest stints in soaps including Home and Away in 1989, Paradise Beach in 1993, Breakers in 1997, and also Neighbours, first in 1985, and then again in a different role in 2011.

The Albert Memorial hospital's suave superintendent, Doctor Brian Denham, was played by former male-model Michael Beecher for almost the entire run, leaving shortly before the series ended. Similarly, Alfred Sandor who played charming surgeon Doctor Raymond Shaw, was forced to leave due to ill health, and his last appearance was just a month before the final episode.

Staying on until the very end was Doctor Denham's faithful secretary, original cast member Helen Gordon, played by Lynn James. Also there from the start was Tim Page who portrayed Dr. Grahame Steele, whom, along with Ada Simmonds, also appeared to the very end of the series, as did Judy McBurney, as Nurse Tania Livingstone, who first appeared in episode 40. Notably, the serial also featured a very young Russell Crowe in his first acting role in an episode originally aired in 1977, playing 'Russell'.

Main castEdit




Hospital staffEdit

Other miscellaneous charactersEdit

Opening and Closing ThemeEdit

The Young Doctors has a memorable and distinctive instrumental theme tune, highly evocative of the era, which is still widely remembered by a generation today.[citation needed] The theme was composed by Alan Olivan and Brian King and played by The Executives, the band also making a cameo appearance performing the tune at Bunny's at the end of an early episode.

There were two versions of the opening theme; the first was used from the pilot episode, through to early 1978. It is a fast-paced arrangement with the accompanying visuals of the main cast cleverly edited with quick-cut synchronisation to the beat. With its distinctive horn section, thumping piano and dramatic drum snares, this theme is heavily influenced by the disco sound of the era.

The second version was introduced along with a brand new opening sequence focusing on the main cast performing an operation in the hospital theatre. A new, 5 note, dramatic build which gives way to a re-recording of the established signature tune. In 1980 an ambulance siren is heard at the start of the opening theme, replaced by a beeping heart monitor effect in 1982, which was used until the final episode in 1983.

There were four versions of the closing theme. The first was a distinctive disco arrangement, with the cast shown dancing to it in the first version of the opening titles, and although the end theme was in the same style, it was played at a much slower pace. During 1977, the closing sequence was shortened and a slightly faster arrangement of this closing theme was used. This was replaced by the probably most remembered and longest running closing theme which first aired in 1978 and was still being used to close the final few episodes in 1983. It is 1 minute in duration and is the only version of the theme that featured a dramatic piano and trumpet staccato intro. This theme is used on episodes where cast, all crew, and sponsors are all credited.

The third version is a 35-second, shorter arrangement of the second theme, however, it completely removes the intro and starts directly at the signature trumpet section, features a slightly different guitar solo, and has a much shorter, punchier ending. This theme was used when the credits contained only cast and sponsorship slides and not the crew.

The second and third theme tunes were more or less than used interchangeably for the rest of the series run, presumably depending on the running time of the episode, and the number of sponsorship slides being shown. These advertisements would be removed from international episodes thus reducing the run time of the closing credits considerably; this meant viewers of episodes edited outside Australia seldom, if ever, heard any of these theme tunes played out in full at the end of an episode, although the third, shorter version would air on very rare occasions.

The fourth version was used on the credits for the final episode only and was a suitably slow and sombre arrangement reflecting the end of the series. This slow version had previously been used as incidental music and the ending bars were often used as a “sting” at commercial break points in the later episodes.

International successEdit

The relatively long-running serial also achieved modest international cult success, particularly in the United Kingdom, where it aired in a daytime slot on the commercial ITV network for well over ten years starting in 1982 to 1995, as well as a short repeat run on Sky One from 1989 to 1992. The serial has not aired in the UK since 1995.

UK BroadcastsEdit

In the United Kingdom the programme was acquired by 13 of the 14 weekday members of the ITV Network. Scottish Television never purchased the series, although Grampian Television and Border Television did. Most of the ITV regions initially screened The Young Doctors at their own regional pace starting in January 1982.

  • Central Television pioneered the programme in a Tuesday and Thursday 12:30 slot from Tuesday, January 2, 1982, but it was quickly moved to Monday and Tuesdays at 15:45, sharing the slot with Take the High Road. This was then increased to daily at 15:30 until Sons and Daughters began in February 1983. The two serials shared this timeslot for over four years, with The Young Doctors always airing on Mondays and Tuesdays. This continued until September 1987 when Central returned the programme to 12:00 noon, and then 12:35, and this allowed both The Young Doctors and Sons and Daughters to increase to four or five episodes a week in their respective slots. Following the end of Sons and Daughters in early December 1988, The Young Doctors returned to 15:30 at the end of 1988, usually airing Tuesday to Friday until Families began in April 1990, which took the Monday and Tuesday 15:30 slot. The Young Doctors was finally moved to 14:50, Monday to Thursday in 1990, and finished 15 August 1992.
  • HTV started the series on Tuesday, 4 January 1983 and screened the series regularly on Mondays and Tuesdays, finishing on 18 April 1994.
  • Granada Television and Border Television both broadcast three episodes a week, and screened The Young Doctors Wednesday to Friday, finishing at Easter 1993 at 15:20.
  • Anglia Television started on 3 September 1984, going out Mondays and Tuesdays at 15:30 until 17 April 1990; then changed to Wednesdays and Thursdays from 25 April 1990. It was then moved to Thursdays and Fridays from Friday 6 July 1990 and an additional Wednesday episode returns in January 1991. Then Mondays to Fridays from January 1992 and finally, Thursdays and Fridays at 13:55 until Friday, 2 June 1995.
  • Thames Television and LWT in London started screening the series initially at 17:15 on Thursdays and Fridays from 23 June 1983 until 1 September 1984, before switching the series to 15:30 slot, to allow Blockbusters the slot. From this point onwards, only Thames broadcast the series. When Carlton Television took over in January 1993, the series was dropped for 6 months to allow backlog of Blockbusters episodes to be aired, The Young Doctors returned daily on 7 June 1993 concluding the programme as an 80minute special from 13:55 on Friday 30 December 1994.
  • Grampian Television started on Monday, 14 November 1983, increased to 4 episode per week by 1991, and finished Friday, 30 September 1994.
  • Television South (TVS) started on Monday 9 April 1984 broadcasting Mondays and Tuesdays 15:30; In May switched; Mondays to Wednesdays 17:15 for summer 1984; then Thursdays and Fridays 15:30 from early September 1984; then Mondays to Wednesdays from January 1985 until Wednesday 2 September 1987; then Wednesdays and Thursdays at 12:00 noon; then Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays used from 4 January 1988 15.30; then Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from April 25, 1990. TVS lost their franchise at the end of 1992 but their successor, Meridian Television continued to show the series (more information on the timeslot required) and completed the run on 8 July 1993.
  • Tyne Tees Television began the series Monday, 1 October 1984 and aired Mondays and Tuesdays 15:30 until 17 April 1990. It was then moved to Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 14:00 from 25 April 1990. From Thursday, 3 January 1991 moves to 15:20 Thursdays and Fridays. A Wednesday episode was added from 23 January 1991, and then from January 1992, it is broadcast Mondays to Fridays at 15:20. From Monday 4 January 1993 Tyne Tees and Yorkshire screened the programme daily at 15:20. From January 1994 until the end in December of that year, this changed to Monday - Thursday at 14.50.
  • TSW Started the series on 1 April 1985, Monday and Fridays at 17:15 until 8 July, when it was moved to 15.30 slot. On 17 October 1988, the series moves to 12:30 on Mondays and Wednesdays but due to network programming resulted in the series becoming weekly during 1989/1990, but returned to twice a week by the end 1990. Westcountry Television took over in 1993, and continued twice a week until early 1994 when it was increased to three times a week until 20 December 1995 when episode 1101 was broadcast. The series was not completed.
  • Years after most of the other regions Yorkshire Television started the series in October 1988, going out five times a week, reducing to three times a week from January 1989. In January 1993, they had to skip 215 episodes to enable them to catch up to Tyne Tees Television, as from January 1993, both regions screened exactly the same material. It aired daily at 15:20, until January 1994 when the Friday episode was dropped until the series ended on Thursday 15 December 1994.
  • The Young Doctors was also aired on Sky Channel. On Monday, 6 February 1989, the first episode was broadcast 17:00-17:30. From 6 July 1989, when the channel relaunched as Sky One, The Young Doctors was moved to 15.15–15.45 (to make way for Sky Star Search which took the 17:00-18:00 slot), before finally settling in the mid-morning 10:30-11:00 slot from 7 February 1990. When Sky purchased the newer Australian soap E Street in April 1992, they eventually cancelled The Young Doctors after episode 589 which aired in July 1992.


In November 2007, the Nine Network announced plans to remake the series in conjunction with FremantleMedia. Originally, it was set to be broadcast in 2008 but due to script delays, the premiere date had been pushed back to 2009. The remake was set to be named Young Doctors (minus "The"). However, at the end of 2008, the Nine Network officially passed on the idea. The network decided against the remake, instead, confirming a second series of the popular Australian drama Underbelly. FremantleMedia is currently searching for another television station to contract the programme.[2]

Home MediaEdit

Selected episodes of the serial were released on DVD in October 2006, under the title of The Best Romances. A second set of selected episodes, under the title of Classic Cliffhangers, was released in February 2008. In 1994, prior to the DVDs, a VHS was edited in the UK by "NTV entertainment" collecting episodes A, B (pilots) & 1.

Title Format Ep # Discs/Tapes Region 4 (Australia) Special Features Distributors
The Young Doctors VHS 3 1 1994 None
The Young Doctors: 30th Anniversary DVD 12 2 6 November 2006 Reunion

Audio Commentary

Stills Gallery

Umbrella Trailers

Umbrella Entertainment
The Young Doctors: Classic Cliffhangers DVD 12 2 2 February 2008 Audio Commentary

Umbrella Trailers

Umbrella Entertainment

Available At (National Film and Sound Archives)Edit

Season Title Episodes NFSA Content Available For Viewing
The Young Doctors 1,396/1,396 Production Documents

Production Stills Images


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ New life for Young Doctors | The Daily Telegraph

External linksEdit