The physical format may be passing into the ethereal but for fans and collectors alike, the sight of a perfectly level shelf containing chronologically ordered, correctly sleeved Doctor Who DVDs is enough to make hearts sing.
When the range began in 2000, many Doctor Who adventures were still being issued on fuzzy old VHS (but who doesn’t love the old sleeves, right?) but with the burgeoning medium came superior audio and visual qualities, intuitive playback functions, episodes that were digitally restored from the best surviving source materials to bring them back to (or even exceed) their original broadcast quality.
Unshackled from the VHS spools, DVDs offered higher storage capabilities, giving producers extra space to offer fans an increasingly sophisticated range of additional features that examined the programme’s production and legacy – the Doctor Who range fast became one of a handful of DVD producers, like Arrow Film or Eureka, run by fans for fans.
Needless to say, regardless of the quality of the episodes themselves, each release was and still is a treasure trove of exclusive and, in some cases, familiar facts and features designed to enhance the nostalgic, carefully crafted feel of each disc.
Available now, The Classic Doctor Who DVD Compendium complied by Paul Smith – a guide to the entire range (well, not quite the entire range, seeing as The Underwater Menace‘s future is in question) on DVD of the shows run from 1963 to 1996 – is the perfect companion for fans both old and new.
It’s part buying guide for those new to or still collecting the discs, helping them compare releases and select which one they want to get next, and part catalogue for long-time buyers whose collection is complete, enabling them to quickly find any item to watch again.
Providing story summaries, without giving away spoilers for those yet to see the episodes; connections to other adventures to help viewers decide what to buy or watch next; outlines of the restoration techniques used for each release; and more comprehensive descriptions of every extra than can be found elsewhere.
There are also five appendices covering supplementary releases of Classic Who episodes and related programmes; a full list of items hidden on the discs as ‘Easter eggs’ and how to find them; details of the DVDs’ releases in other countries; and more. Plus to help collectors find specific contents, there are multiple indexes cataloguing the more frequent extras, key participants in the audio commentaries, recurring features, and a full index of contributors to the special features.
Paul Smith is the author and designer of last year’s Time and Space Visualiser: The Story and History of Doctor Who as Data Visualisations and 2011’s The Wonderful Book of Dr Who 1965, a tongue-in-cheek look at the early days of the series in a modern style.
The Classic Doctor Who DVD Compendium by Paul Smith is available print-on-demand from Amazon for £14.90 or as an ebook for £9.60.