Doctor Who, like many other television programs, has seen many of its episodes released to DVD since the late 1990s. The first story to be released in this format was a remastered and re-edited version of The Five Doctors. Since then, BBC Video, later in conjunction with 2 entertain, has released many classic-series stories in the format, often with commentary, documentaries and other features. Some serials, such as The Ark in Space, have included the option to view with upgraded special effects, while some releases such as The Curse of Fenric have included extended versions with previously unbroadcast material.
Except for the two season-long story arcs, The Trial of a Time Lord and The Key to Time, BBC Video/2|entertain has chosen to release individual serials, rather than complete seasons, from the classic series, although several themed releases, or multi-story arcs, have been issued as well. It's also common for shorter two-episode stories to be paired with a longer stories following or preceding it (though some, like The Sontaran Experiment, have also been released on their own). Occasionally, releases have occurred to correspond with events in the 2005-present revival series, such as the release of The Invasion of Time, featuring the Sontarans, which occurred around the time the Sontarans made their return appearance to Doctor Who in the The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky two-parter.
A special release, Lost in Time, collected "orphaned" episodes from the 1960s, the remainder of the stories in question having been wiped. Another release of an incomplete story, The Invasion, saw the two missing episodes of that story reconstructed using animation and off-air audio recordings; a second story with missing episodes, The Reign of Terror, was released in January 2013 in the UK and February 2013 in North America.
Unlike other TV series that have seen home video release in a sequential fashion, this has not happened with the 1963-89 series of Doctor Who, creating a seemingly randomised order of releases. Discounting Paul McGann's TV movie, it was not until 2009 and the release of The Twin Dilemma to DVD that it was possible to watch a complete classic-series Doctor's era — the Sixth Doctor, in this case — on DVD without interruption. All stories which exist in their entirety in the BBC archives have been released on DVD.
This story-by-story release format has resulted in BBC Video releasing massive amounts of supplementary material for the series. Each release includes at least one and sometimes more behind-the-scenes featurettes, commentaries, and related material such as promotional clips from Blue Peter, deleted scenes, outtakes, and even BBC continuity announcements, where archived. As a result, Doctor Who stands as the most-documented TV series ever released in a home-video format.
The BBC Wales-produced series has been released differently, with 2|Entertain choosing to initially issue "vanilla" (special feature-lite) single-disc releases of three or four episodes (with the exception of Series 2: Volume 1 which has two episodes), followed by a full-season box set (with extras) later; these releases occur sequentially. Included in each box set are specially edited versions of Doctor Who Confidential, as well as, when applicable, charity mini-episodes such as Time Crash. David Tennant has been closely involved in the production of the box sets featuring his episodes, sometimes recording extensive video diaries for each. North America consumers have been able to buy the full-season box sets for all four series to date, although so far only Series 1 (2005) has been issued in Region 1 in the UK "vanilla, single disc" format, too. The spin-off animated adventure The Infinite Quest has also seen DVD release on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2009 and into 2010, BBC Video released the 2009 Specials, including the 2008 Christmas special, The Next Doctor, individually. These discs are not "vanilla" as they include features such as Doctor Who Confidential and the 2008 Proms concert. A box set collecting all the specials, including The Next Doctor, was released in January 2010 with the North American release in February. UK and US DVD release of the second animated serial Dreamland followed.
All official Doctor Who spin-offs have also been issued to DVD: K9 and Company: A Girl's Best Friend, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. The behind-the-scenes series Torchwood Declassified and Doctor Who Confidential have also been released, usually as bonus features in box sets for the applicable seasons, although most episodes of Confidential, due to music and footage rights and space restrictions, are usually only available on DVD in a shorter version dubbed Doctor Who Confidential Cutdown (there have been a few exceptions). No episodes of Totally Doctor Who have been released to DVD with the exception of The Infinite Quest, which originally aired as a segment of the programme.
There has also been limited DVD release of some of the independent spin-off productions made during the 1990s, such as Summoned by Shadows. To date the only BBC release of such material has been Devious, starring Jon Pertwee, a fan-made film that was included as a bonus feature on the 2009 DVD release of The War Games.
In 2009, a magazine called Doctor Who DVD Files was launched in the UK featuring photos and stories built around an enclosed DVD featuring two episodes from the revived series.
Although the arrival of the Blu-Ray high-definition format (see below) in the second half of the 2000s threatens to render the standard-definition DVD format obsolete, much as CDs supplanted vinyl in the early 1990s, the DVD format has proven to be extremely resilient and popular, especially with releases of older films and TV series that, due to technical restrictions in their original production, cannot be affordably issued at present in a high-definition format. Doctor Who, which from 1963 to 1989 was primarily produced on standard-definition videotape, would require extensive remastering to be viable for high-definition release. In an October 2009 interview, Steve Roberts of the Doctor Who Restoration Team indicated that DVD-format releases of the 1963-89 series are scheduled to continue until at least November 2013 and the fiftieth anniversary of the franchise.
The advancement of technology has allowed recent DVD releases of 1960s-era Doctor Who to be rendered closer to what viewers originally saw on television. After their original broadcast on the UK, the episodes were furnished to international broadcasters as filmed copies. It is in this form that many of the episodes survived and were recovered following the BBC's decision to wipe most original videotape copies of the stories. Only from the start of the Jon Pertwee era were episodes retained and circulated in their video/film hybrid format; specifically, that interiors were usually rendered on videotape, and exteriors on film, a format used by the series until 1985. Even then, some recovered episodes from Pertwee's era were only available on all-film copies. Spearhead from Space, Pertwee's first story, was the only serial of the entire 1963-89 series to be completely produced on film.
Beginning with an Easter egg in the DVD release of The Tomb of the Cybermen, and continuing in full use with The Aztecs and other Hartnell and Troughton-era stories, a process called "VidFIRE" was applied. This digitally reprocessed filmed copies of videotaped footage, deinterlacing the image and creating a simulation of what the original videotape footage looked like. As a result the "live" appearance of many early broadcasts has now been restored, although in some cases this has served to emphasise the low-budget nature of the production more than the transferred-to-film versions of the episodes. For example, it is much easier to notice the ragged nature of certain scenery backdrops in the VidFire'd version of The Space Museum than the filmed version.
The VidFIRE restoration has also allowed the Doctor Who Restoration Team to make occasional minor corrections digitally to the original episodes to mask potentially distracting technical flaws or on-set errors. This is most notably used to produce a version of The Pilot Episode for release in the Lost in Time box set that corrects several dialogue and performance errors in the original.
VidFIRE was introduced after the DVD release of several Hartnell and Troughton stories, such as the aforementioned Tomb of the Cybermen. Reportedly, Tomb is scheduled for a reissue with additional features in the near future; it is assumed the episodes will also be remastered completely with VidFIRE, rather than the single sequence featured on the original DVD release.
A high-definition version of DVD, Blu-ray, emerged in the mid-2000s. Due to the complexities of converting older video into the high-definition format, BBC Video has not (as of 2011) released any classic series stories in this format. Series 1 of Torchwood was the first franchise release to be issued in the format, followed by Series 2 and the Children of Earth mini-series.
The first Doctor Who release on Blu-ray occurred in the summer of 2009 with Planet of the Dead, which was also the first Doctor Who episode to be produced in high-definition; since then it has become standard for both DVD and Blu-ray editions to be issued of new-series releases. In January 2010 BBC Video released a box set of the 2009 Specials season in both DVD and Blu-ray. This release included the 2008 Christmas special, The Next Doctor, which had been produced in standard definition and previously issued only on DVD; it became the first Doctor Who episode to undergo successful "up-converting".
Spearhead from Space, the only story from the classic series of Doctor Who to be shot entirely on film, is scheduled for release on Blu-ray in July 2013.
It has not been announced when or if the 2005-2008 seasons of Doctor Who, or any seasons of The Sarah Jane Adventures, will be issued in the Blu-ray format, although the up-conversion of The Next Doctor makes this feasible. Nor has any timeline been offered for potential classic series releases to Blu-ray, if that is even possible; in theory the 1996 TV movie, having been shot completely on film, should be easily upgraded. Much depends upon the quality of the source material. In January 2010, for example, a report from the Doctor Who Restoration Team on the remastering of the Tom Baker story The Masque of Mandragora described the difficulties in restoring that story simply for DVD release, most notably the fact that the original negatives for the film segments of that story are now lost. It is not known if the VidFIRE process described above could be used to up-convert videotaped footage to high defintion.
Due to the fact most Blu-ray players will also play standard DVD, albeit with varying degrees of picture and sound quality, depending on the television, the older format is expected to remain the standard for pre-high def-era releases, including classic-series Doctor Who, at least until 2013, when the last DVD-format Doctor Who releases are expected. In November 2010 Season 2 of The Twilight Zone was released on Blu-ray, this is significant as a half-dozen episodes of the series were shot on videotape and remain available in their original videotape form, in which they were released to DVD previously. These episodes were released as part of the Blu-ray released in 1080i resulting in the picture being blurry and fine detail indistinct.  The appearance of these episodes offers some hope that there may be a Blu-ray release of classic series stories, but likely the highest resolution for these stories would be 1080i.
Doctor Who DVDs tend to debut in the Region 2 UK market, with releases later coming in the Region 1 North American markets and the Region 4 Australian markets. (There has been the rare exception, such as Series 1 of The Sarah Jane Adventures being released in Region 1 first, and The Key to Time: Special Edition which was released in North America in March 2009, with Region 2 release occurring in the fall of 2009 - though it should be noted the Region 1 edition is a repackaging of a Region 2 release previously issued in limited release in 2007.) There are generally only minimal differences between a Region 2 and Region 1 release of any particular Doctor Who adventure; The most obvious difference is mainly in the packaging of the particular adventure. Releases of the "old" series (i,e. Season 1 through Season 26, starring the first seven Doctors) Region 2 discs have a distinctive packaging format which is mostly shared with Region 4 releases but is quite dissimilar to Region 1 packaging.
A few minor bonus features have been omitted between releases. For example, a bonus feature in the The Trial of a Time-Lord set featuring TV presenter Anne Robinson was omitted from the Region 1 version, reportedly due to licensing issues over a piece of music. This also resulted in a John Barrowman commentary, included in one of the Region 2 Doctor Who-BBC Wales DVD sets, being omitted when the set arrived in Region 1 (due to him breaking into song at one point).
A rare case of a major difference between regions is occurred with the DVD release of The Chase. The original version of the story includes a clip of The Beatles performing "Ticket to Ride". The Region 2 release includes this sequence but it was later announced that release of the story outside Region 2 would be edited to remove the sequence. Another major difference occurred in September 2010 when the Region 1 release of TV: Planet of Fire was issued sans the story's making-of documentary "The Flames of Sarn" due to, according to the DVD packaging, "insurmountable rights issues". This is to date the only major supplement to be lost to Region 1 consumers.
The general breakdown of the major DVD regions is as follows:
- Region 1: United States, Canada, and all US territories.
- Region 2: Europe (except the larger former Soviet republics), plus Japan, Middle East, Egypt, South Africa (including its neighbours Lesotho and Swaziland), French overseas territories and Greenland.
- Region 3: Southeast Asia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea
- Region 4: The Americas from Mexico south (including most of South America), Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Oceania
- Region 5: Former USSR republics, regions of Africa and Asia not covered by Region 2 or 3 (including India), Mongolia, North Korea
- Region 6: China
Doctor Who DVDs are often considered to be released by region but are more often released in various markets. Doctor Who DVDs have been released primarily into the United Kingdom (Region 2), North American (Region 1) and Australian (Region 4) markets. Other markets that exist within the Region 2 and Region 4 spectrums have also seen releases of DVDs; these releases are usually the same though may be translated and with different marketing choices to the UK, North American and Australian releases.
- See the Wikipedia article DVD region for a more detailed discussion of DVD Region codes
- see separate article
List of releases
to be added
- ↑ The Doctor Who Blog - The Mind of Evil In Colour (Just Not Yet) and More!
- ↑ The Doctor Who Restoration Team Website - The Masque of Mandragora DVD
- ↑ The Twilight Zone: Season 2 Blu-ray. Blu-ray.com (Nov 16, 2010). Retrieved on 28th August 2012.
- ↑ The Doctor Who News Page: No Beatles Outside Europe
- Doctor Who Collectors Wiki - DVD page - A wiki that contains some interesting and varied information on Doctor Who DVDs