The Flying Doctors
In 1984, the Australian company Crawford´s Productions decided to make an adventurous medical mini-series on the national Flying Doctor service. It would be interesting to see what would happen if a young, eager city-doctor came to work at an RFDS-base alongside an old living legend of a flying doctor, and all of that situated in a dusty, gossipy and closed little Outbacktown.
The mini-series were quite a success, and Crawfords decided to continue the story into a real series. So after the six episodes of the mini-series, between 1986 and 1992 they produced 221 more episodes on flying doctor adventures situated in that same little Outbacktown. Strangely enough, the series never turned into a real mega-success in its homecountry. But it did abroad! Especially in Europe, the viewers really enjoyed watching The Flying Doctors. During the late 80´s and early 90´s, it was broadcasted in England, in Holland, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Italy and many, many other countries. In Holland, The Flying Doctors even won the award for the best foreign TV-series.
Even today reruns of the series are shown in Holland, Belgium and Sweden, and recently a German company has published the entire series on dvd – though solely with the dubbed German text, to the regret of many fans.
In the TV-series the Flying Doctors base was situated in a small town called Coopers Crossing. Its exact position has never become really clear. It must be somewhere in the Outback of New South Wales, with Broken Hill as its nearest "city".
Once, the coordinates on the aircraft´s dashboard were shown when the plane was taking off from Coopers Crossing airport, but it turned out that those coordinates fitted Broken Hill instead.
Further, it is mentioned that the RFDS-district based in Coopers Crossing covers an area that includes parts from three states: New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. Other mentionings of existing nearby towns and places include – among others – Moomba, Thargomindah, Tibooburra, the Callabonna road, Bourke, and helping out the RFDS of Port Augusta.
The postal code of Coopers Crossing is shown twice in the series, too. Funny enough, they weren´t the same: once it was 2930, later on it was 2908. A rather generally accepted assumption is however, that Coopers Crossing would be situated in the far northwest corner of New South Wales, more or less coinciding with the town of Milparinka.
The town where The Flying Doctors was filmed was not quite so far out in the Outback. The series was filmed in the town of Minyip, in Victoria, about 300km northwest of Melbourne. Actually, Minyip was (and is) not at all situated in the Outback. Crawfords even had to organize sand to cover its Main Street, to make it look like a dusty Outbacktown. And the temperatures in Minyip weren´t all that Outback-like either: it appears the actors´ often seen perspiration was nothing but sprayed on water. And as soon as there was no filming going on, they hurried to put on their coats...
When the shooting of The Flying Doctors series ended in 1992, the little township of Minyip was doomed to be forgotten again. Strangely enough, that didn´t really happen.
For many Europeans, The Flying Doctors series was their first real encounter with Australia. And those who go there on vacation, even years later, often wish to visit the familiar site of "Coopers Crossing". The Minyipians had nothing against these pilgrimages, and are happy to sell the series´ souvenirs, and to show the European tourists around town. For most buildings that were part of the series are namely still there: the pub, the RFDS-base, the garage (existing of nothing but a wooden structure built just for the series), the shop, the church, the rotunda, the memorial hall... So far, only the old hospital has been demolished and a new one has been built.
Minyip´s attraction as the Flying Doctors-town is so strong, that the roadsigns guiding tourists to "Coopers Crossing" are practically eclipsing the ones on the same post leading people to Minyip...
As for the TV-series: many people have observed that the series can be divided in different stages. After the mini-series, the ordinary series continued in more or less the same atmosphere: very country, with its attention focusing on both the doctors, the town and the medical stories and emergencies. The extreme countryness subsided a little when more and more young people entered the series. But there was still a clear and ongoing general storyline that was accompanied by a medical problem (or two) per episode.
During the period of the episodes 110-166 however, the general storyline disappeared more and more, ending up in solitary episodes with no continuity whatsoever towards its preceding and following episodes. At that time, the series was about "the medical adventure of the week", often very exciting indeed, though what happened in town was practically ignored. Consequently, most of the town´s characters disappeared from the series during that time.
The end of the series however returned more to the social aspects within the RFDS-team and somewhat to the town as well. A little too much, according to many fans: they consider the series started to resemble a soapseries at that stage. And indeed: at that point the rates just kept dropping, and in 1992 – after a short and completely failed spin-off series, Crawfords decided to discontinue The Flying Doctors-series.
And what do we have left?
Memories of a great TV-series. A worldwide knowledge and understanding of the Flying Doctor-system. Fanclubs all over the world. Fansites, often with heaps of pictures. And fanfiction of course, regaling us with dozens of new adventures for our favourite docs and their Coopers Crossing friends. The German FD-fanclub even publishes an annual book with all new German fanfiction, with its proceedings being donated to the RFDS-base in Broken Hill.
All pictures on this page have been taken from my TV-screen.
As far as I´m concerned, you are free to download and/or copy them.