Forbes contributor Dade Hayes recently published a piece about why DVDs aren’t about to go extinct. Now, as Doctor Who fans, many of us pride ourselves on our comprehensive DVD collections and cringe whenever a visitor picks a disc of the shelf and opens the box too far back so it warps the cover that you spent so long lining up so the spine looked right on display. Anyone?
The point being that no matter what format these stories are released on, we as fans will always clamour to get them in the best quality regardless of how many copies we already own. For example, I possess three different versions of Spearhead from Space: two DVD releases (the original 2001 version and the 2011 Special Edition which came boxed with Terror of the Autons) and the 2013 Blu-Ray. Now, the reasons for this are two fold; firstly, I am a completest for the Doctor Who DVD range only and there is nothing else in my life I grant this honour to. The second reason is because each release grants a step-up in quality and indeed value for money. These are represented as either a brand new, clean transfer of the older tape or as “VAM” (value-added-material, aka special features).
I can’t think of another DVD range that delivers the sort of loving care and attention to detail that 2|Entertain gave to the Classic Series DVDs (the only other one that instantly springs to mind are the Red Dwarf releases which are blisteringly superb). It is because of this dutiful and boundless love shown to the DVDs that we flocked to the shops every month or so to pick up the latest release. As we look to the state of the DVD shelves now, however, there’s not much to be thankful for. Firstly, it is clear that DVDs are not in the forefront of publisher’s minds when they wish to bring their product to the masses. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc. These are the figureheads for media consumption in the 21st century. It happened to VHS and it happened to…well, erm…
Physical media has had a massive resurgence in the last two or three years. Take vinyl records for example; defunct and largely unwanted until around 2009. Suddenly, everyone was buying them as bands realised that nothing sounds like a 180g record blasting out the triumphant ending to The Beatles’ Abbey Road. Digital media can’t replicate the ageing and weathering sustained by years of over playing and rewinding and scratches. There’s something far too clinical about endless streaming and torrenting. It’s too easy for me. I like to be challenged by my VHS player. There’s no “tracking control” on Netflix and that makes me very sad.
Anyway, here are Dade’s reasons as to why it will always be that we need physical media and how they relate to us as Doctor Who fans:
1) The kids need it – in Dade’s piece, he bemoans the lack of Wi-Fi hotspots in rural areas and links it to a necessity for online connections to keep kids amused on Netflix during long car journeys and holidays. For us big kids, I take this to mean that Netflix UK only has the New Series up to The Name of the Doctor and the episodes selected for sale on iTunes are, frankly, mind boggling. At least they have The Web of Fear and Enemy of the World, mind.
2) The industry’s own marketing says so – Hayes highlights UltraViolet here, a system by which when you buy the DVD, you get a code which allows you to download the film to a device of your choice. So you’re not only getting the disc, but also a rather nifty file that you can stream on your iPhone. Great. The UK doesn’t really have that in abundance – though you do get it from time to time. The closest parallel I can make here is getting a free Top Trumps card with a Series 4 volumed release. Whoopie.
3) Specialization favors it – in other words, DVDs are easier to shift. And yes, this is very true. It’s much easier to advertise a brand new repackaging of Series 1-7 on DVD than inform the entire fan community how BitTorrent works and tell them to get the episodes from there. In addition to this, I suppose you could stretch this to mean that iTunes would be more prepared to allow the Tennant 2009 Specials on their store than a bundle of Doctor Who Night 1999 with More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS (a personal fantasy of mine). It works both ways.
4) Blu-ray still the best viewing experience – a key point to be made here; why have we only ever had one Doctor Who Classic Series Blu-Ray release? The easy answer is because the film negatives from Spearhead from Space exist and the high definition element comes from the transfer of the original print. The more convoluted answer: because…why? It’s not like making the jump between DVD and VHS. Obviously DVD provides more options and a crisper image. But while 35,000 people in the UK are still watching TV in black and white, does anybody really care that they can see the joins even more clearly on a physical format that looks identical to DVD before you even stick it in the player? The very fact I had to buy a Blu-Ray player to want to see Spearhead From Space is a testament to the fact that not everyone wants and can see Blu-Ray level definition.
5) It’s the collector’s choice – see picture of gormless article writer surrounded by DVDs.
6) For a lot of Americans, it ain’t broke – bingo. It’s the best and most affordable way to watch anything. It’s portable and works almost anywhere. It’s less clunky than a cassette tape, and less fiddly and non-existent than iCloud. DVD is the best way to watch anything.
Just don’t place them on a tabletop shiny face down, or you’re screwed.