The Young Doctors

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The Young Doctors
Genre Soap opera
Created by Alan Coleman
Directed by Alan 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 languageEnglish
No. of seasons8
No. of episodes1,397 (60-minute pilot episode and 1.396 30-minute episodes)
Production locationsThe Film Centre, North Sydney [1]
Running time25 minutes
Production company Reg Grundy Organisation
Distributor FremantleMedia
Original network Nine Network
Picture format4.3 PAL
Audio formatStereo
Original release8 November 1976 (1976-11-08) 
30 March 1983 (1983-03-30)

The Young Doctors is an Australian early-evening soap opera originally broadcast on the Nine Network and produced by the Reg Grundy Organisation, it aired 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, Spain and New Zealand.

Series history

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 to 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.

Later years

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. [2]

When the series ended after 1397 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 30 March 1983 at 14:30[ citation needed ], and, coincidentally, The Sullivans had also ended just two weeks earlier.

Nine Network replacements

Taurus Rising

The Nine Network in association with Grundys 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.

Waterloo Station and Starting Out

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.

Stories and settings

Albert Memorial Hospital

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, 1960s 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 was shot at the altar on her Wedding day to dashing Doctor Russell Edwards. 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.

Bunny's Place

There was also a local bar Bunny's Place which was another venue for the staff to mingle. The bar was originally owned by, and named after, Bunny Howard, played by comedian Ugly Dave Gray 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 characters

Early characters

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 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 1970s 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.

Cornelia Frances

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 playing Morag Bellingham in numerous stints on and off form 1988–2017 in Home and away who was truly terrifying judge but character mellowed in later years and was also the sister of the show's most recognisable character and longest character Alf Stewart and Frances died in 2018 aged 77.

Gwen Plumb

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.

Chris King

Ada was very close to Dennis Jamison, the hyperactive hospital orderly, played for six years by Chris King who became a big hit with viewers.

Joanne Samuel

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

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.

Jackie Woodburne

Neighbours current longest running actress, Jackie Woodburne, who has played enduring and wise Susan Kennedy for over 26 years, was tragic young Nurse Maggie Gordon in The Young Doctors during 1980–81.

Paula Duncan and Lynda Stoner

Paula Duncan and Lynda Stoner 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 Francis. 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.

Duncan, a prolific soap star, 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.

Michael Beecher and Alfred Sandor

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.

Original cast

Staying on until the very end of the series was Gwen Plumb as Ada Simmonds, Lyn James, who played Doctor Denham's faithful secretary, Helen Gordon and Tim Page who played Dr. Grahame Steele. Judy McBurney, as Nurse Tania Livingstone, who first appeared in episode 40, also continued to the end. Alfred Sandor played Dr. Raymond Shaw from the beginning until approximately episode 1380 - leaving the series through ill health just a month or so before the end of the series.

Russell Crowe guest role

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 cast


Alfred Sandor Dr. Raymond Shaw1976–1982
Tim Page Dr. Graham Steele1976–1983 entire run
Michael Beecher Dr. Brian Denham1976–1982
Alan Dale Dr. John Forrest1979–1983
John Dommett Dr. Jim Howard1976–1979
Mark Holden Dr. Greg Mason1976–1977
John Walton Dr. Craig Rothwell1976–1978
Peta Toppano Dr. Gail Henderson1976–1977
Bartholomew John Dr. Chris Piper1977–1979
Peter Bensley – Dr. Mike Newman1979–1983
Eric Oldfield Dr. Ben Fielding1978–1982
Peter Lochran Dr. Peter Locklin1978–1982
Tony Alvarez Dr. Tony Garcia1977–1979
Chris OrchardDr. Rod Langley1978–1980
Rebecca Gilling Dr. Liz Kennedy1979–1982
Serge Lazareff Dr. Ian Parrish1979
Judy Lynne Dr,. Susan Richards1977–1980
Joy Chambers Dr.Robyn Porter 1980–81
Andrew SharpDr. Andrew Baxter 1977–1978
John Hamblin Dr Dan Wheatley1979, 1981
Vince Martin Dr. Richard Quinlen1981–2
Carole Skinner Dr. Judith Ann Napier1980
Adrian Van Den BokDr. Nick Barratt1982–1983
Peter Cousens Dr Russell Edwards1980–1981
Michael Gow Dr. Lance Wilkinson1982–1983
Nick Holland Dr. Matt Burke1982
Brian Moll Dr. Vincent Snape1977–1979
Graham Harvey Dr. David Henderson1982–1983
Sally Tayler Dr Vicki Daniels1982–1983
Eileen ColcottDr. Marion Stoddard1979
Veronica Lang Dr. Lesley Collins1978
Doctor Robert Summers1978
Tim ElliotProfessor William Hume1978
Kevin WilsonDr. David Meredith1978
Mike Dorsey Dr. Clifford Langley1979
Robert Coleby Dr. Paul Barratt1977
Gordon McDougall Dr. Crew1978
Raina McKeonDr. Martha Ahmed1981–2


Cornelia Frances Sister/Matron Grace Scott1976–1979
Judy McBurney Sister/Nurse Tania Livingstone1977–1983
Anne Lucas Sister Eve Turner1977-1980
Diana McLean Sister Vivienne Jeffreys1978–1982
Susanne StuartSister Suzanne Gibbs1977–1983
Babs McMillan Sister Erin Cosgrove1982–1983
Jeannie DrynanSister Margaret Evans1977
Helen Scott Sister Norma Campbell1981
Sheila D'UnionSpinal Unit Sister1977


Delvene Delaney Jo Jo Adams1976–77
Joanne Samuel Jill Gordon1976–1979
Ros WoodKate Rhodes1977–1982
Lynda Stoner Kim Barrington1977–79
Paula Duncan Lisa Brooks1976–77
Lisa Aldenhoven Julie Holland1978–1981
Margaret Nelson Julie Warner1976–1977
Rosie BaileyVirginia Mason1978–80
Robyn GibbesAngela Parry1978
Karen Pini Sherry Andrews1979–1982
Julie Wilson Jodie Carter1980–1981
Margaret Laurence Yvonne Davies1979
Debbie Bailenurse/sister Vicki Rainer1978–79
Gregory Apps Martin Price1977–79
Jackie Woodburne Maggie Gordon1981–82
Christine Harris Dolly Davis1982–83
Julie Nihill Linda Wilson1982–83
Susan Stenmark Genevieve Ridgeway1982–83
Genevieve Lemon Zelda Baker1983
Julianne WhiteDiane Trent1983
Kim KrejusSally Brown1978
Carla HoogeveenJeanette Palmer1978
Louise HowittDeborah Kendall1977
Julia PetersGloria Stapleton1981–2
Tina DarbyAnnette Darcy1981–2
Juli FieldEmmi King1982
Katheryn DagherKelly Jones1977

Hospital staff

Gwen Plumb Ada Simmonds1976–1983 entire run
Lyn James Helen Gordon1976–1983 entire run
Chris King Orderly Dennis Jamison1976–1982
Robert LeysMark Holland1978–1980
Kim WranCaroline Fielding/Morgan/Jamison1977 recurring 1978–1982 regular
Robert KorosyFlint Stone1981–1983
Tottie Goldsmith Toni Sheffield1982–1983
Bunney Brooke Trixie Rogersguest 1978
Tracy Mann Gail Hogan1980
Briony Behets Frances Taylorguest 1981
Katy BrinsonJudy Sutton1982
Stephen McDonald Orderly Time Jones1982-3
Harold Hopkins Orderly Terry Cooper1978
Kent StricklandOrderly Damian Swift1979

Other cast and characters

Opening and closing theme

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. It is also included on two compilation albums: Australian TV's Greatest Hits released by Silva Screen Records in 1988, and TV Tunes, released by K-Tel in 1989.

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 then 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 success

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 of early episodes on Sky One from 1989 to 1992. The serial has not aired in the UK since 1995, and also aired in New Zealand from 1982 to 1987.

UK broadcasts

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 screened The Young Doctors at their own regional pace, starting in January 1982.

New Zealand broadcasts

In New Zealand The Young Doctors was aired on TV2. On Monday, 22 February 1982, the first episode was broadcast at 5.30pm. From 19 July 1982, it was moved to the 6pm slot. To make way for Sons and Daughters , the series was moved from 6pm to a 'double episode' format at 6.30pm on a Tuesday and Wednesday evening from 11 February 1986. It reverted to half hour, weekday episodes in the 5.15pm slot from 4 August until 12 December 1986, and then to double episodes in the 5.05-5.55pm slot from 15 December 1986 until 6 February 1987. From 9 February 1987, the series was moved to TV One and reverted to half hour episodes at 5.15pm. The final episode was broadcast on Wednesday 27 May 1987.


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. [3]

Home media

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.

On 16 June 2021, ViaVision Entertainment will release the first 250 episodes of the series in a 35 disc set. This will consist of all episodes screened in 1976 and 1977.

TitleFormatEp #Discs/TapesRegion 4 (Australia)Special FeaturesDistributors
The Young DoctorsVHS311994None
The Young Doctors: 30th AnniversaryDVD1226 November 2006Reunion

Audio Commentary

Stills Gallery

Umbrella Trailers

Umbrella Entertainment
The Young Doctors: Classic CliffhangersDVD1222 February 2008Audio Commentary

Umbrella Trailers

Umbrella Entertainment
The Young Doctors Collection 1DVD1-2503516 June 2021NoneViaVision Entertainment

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  1. Coleman, Alan James (2009). One Door Shuts: My Autobiography. pp. 288. Trafford Publishing. ISBN   9781426909207.
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. New life for Young Doctors | The Daily Telegraph