DVDs Vs. Downloads: Is Digital Really Doctor Who’s Future?

Does Doctor Who still have a future on disc?

The Classic era DVDs might be at an end (unless of course, missing episodes are found) – however, Zavvi has released a Spearhead from Space (1970) Blu-ray steelbook, but we’re not going to discuss just how many times Spearhead from Space has been released. Blimey. Then there’s things like Downtime – an unofficial sequel to the Second Doctor serials The Abominable Snowmen (1967) and The Web of Fear (1968), featuring Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier, Deborah Watling as Victoria Waterfield, and Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. So, while we either wait for another re-release of Spearhead from Space, or missing episodes are found, NewWho continues with boxsets. But will this go on forever?

Ah, no. Probably not. Well, you never know… Right, sorry, you’re here to read an article on whether or not Doctor Who should go digital. Let’s get back to the main topic. Last November, BBC Store launched in the UK. BBC Store has thousands of hours of British TV and movie content available to buy and download. Of course this includes NewWho, but it doesn’t stop there. BBC Store also makes a collection of Classic Who stories available for DTO (Download To Own), as well as several other current and classic BBC favourites. In fact, yesterday was CapalDAY to celebrate our leading man’s birthday – offering 50% off selected series starring Peter, including Doctor Who, The Thick of It, and The Musketeers.

But is all this digital nonsense actually worth it?

Doctor Who Blu-ray set

In terms of the advancement of technology, absolutely. Is the idea of a physical copy really outdated? If it is, should it be? Okay, I’ll try to stop being so rhetorical. There’s most definitely pros and cons to both hard copy (DVD, Blu-ray) and digital (DTO) entertainment formats. Let’s get a list going.

Digital Pros:

  1. They’re Modern – As the Eleventh Doctor himself said, “times change and so must I.” Although the meaning’s a bit different here, the same words can still be applied to something we all know to be true: things are changing. Technology is exploding, as it has since day one, and one of the things that’s changing is how you watch your favourite movies and TV shows. Is keeping up with the modern tech your style? Then DTO may be for you.
  2. They’re Incredibly Convenient – This is perhaps the biggest selling point for digital copies. DTO and similar formats allow you to rewatch the Twelfth Doctor’s epic speech in The Zygon Inversion on the go or at home. In a world where convenience is the utter key to most things, this gives the digital market an advantage over its competitors.
  3. They’re Often Cheaper – So, this isn’t true for all digital titles, but quite a few are cheaper than their hard copy counterparts. For example, on Amazon, Series 9 of Doctor Who is £23.99 on Amazon Video, whilst it’s £34.99 on Bluray and £30.03 on DVD. Not all digital copies of things are cheaper, but for the ones that are, it’s definitely a plus. For an even cheaper price, head over to BBC Store where Series 9 is £21.99.

Digital Cons:

  1.  “Crumbs! My digital copy of (insert name here) has vanished” – Yep, those “existing forever” digital copies may not exist that long if you don’t download them. Content provider licensing restrictions, as well as other magical reasons, can make your movies go “poof” and disappear into the mist. Of course, this doesn’t apply to BBC Store and can be avoided on any other digital entertainment format if you download your movies and TV shows, but as we are discussing digital copies in general, this had to get a brief mention. Amazon even acknowledges this possibility in their terms of use for Amazon Instant Video
  2. Sometimes they aren’t cheaper – As stated above, sometimes digital copies are more expensive than discs, but it really depends.
  3. Aren’t things changing a bit too fast? – Alright, I admit, this is more of an opinion than an actual disadvantage… Plus, things aren’t changing THAT fast. Blu-ray discs were officially released to the public in 2006… Ten years is more than enough time for another format to show its face (as it has), and possibly even take over to dominate the whole of entertainment as we know it. See what I did there? Very not-subtle foreshadowing; more on that later. Anyway, is it necessary for hard copies to go out of style? What’s the biggest advantage digital copies have over hard copies anyway? Half the time Blu-ray discs have better quality all around so what is it that digital copies offer that discs don’t? Well, this is a bit backward as I’ve already answered this question in the “Pros” list, but I’ll restate the answer for emphasis. Digital copies allow you to watch movies on your tablet, smartphone, laptop, etc. You can’t get this level of convenience from a mere disc without jumping through hoops, doing things that are technically illegal (which we’re not endorsing) in some places.

bbc store

So there you go, some pros and cons of the digital format. But what about hard copies?

Hard Copy Pros:

  1.  Nostalgia – Another opinion… As I’ve kind of already said, I just prefer hard copies. One reason is the level of nostalgia that can be attached to them. Hopefully for the better, movies and TV shows can affect our lives. They can remind us of the important things in life like our friends and family, encourage us to keep going, and remind us that there’s always hope and that everything will turn out alright in the end. On a sidenote, I think that perhaps Doctor Who does this better than any other television series. When a show or a film means that much to you, there’s a lot of nostalgia involved. When we look at our smartphones and computers every day and watch things like cat videos with our spare time (not to downgrade cat videos), you can’t get the same level of nostalgia from something that exists in the virtual world (your digital movie or TV show). Plus, it is my opinion that something about nostalgia has everything to do with tangible things. “Well, my laptop is tangible,” you might say. Yes but is that movie you bought and downloaded tangible? No, because if it were this would be Tron, and lightcycles are dangerous. If the smell of a Doctor Who Series 8 boxset bringing back memories of the Twelfth Doctor in his early days doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then by all means, go digital.
  2. Many DVD and Blu-ray releases Today Come With a Free Digital Copy Anyway – With all this debate of which one is better, why not just go for both? Several disc releases today come with a digital copy anyway, so you can very easily get the best of both worlds!
  3. You Can Lend Your Movies to a Mate – Say I wanted to share my copy of Doctor Who Series 5 with Philip Bates (assuming he doesn’t already own multiple copies). If I had bought the series on iTunes (or some other trusted source), Phil would need to have his own iTunes account. To add, we may even have to form a “DWC family” iTunes group just so I can share my purchased content with him. If we do all that, then fantastic, Phil get’s to rewatch his favourite series of Doctor Who. “Wait, why not just download it off of iTunes and then share the file with Phil?” Knowing Apple, that’s probably not possible as pretty much everything has to go through iTunes somehow. But if it were possible to isolate the file outside of iTunes and then send that file to Philip, then.. Well… That’s getting into the realm of illegal stuff… So, definitely don’t want to do that. If you don’t want to jump through nearly as many hoops, but you’re feeling generous and want to lend your favourites to someone, then hard copies are the way to go.
  4. You Can Resell Your Hard Copies – Say, you just stop liking a certain movie or TV series as much as you did (hopefully not one about a madman with a box). Say further, you bought this movie/TV episode or season(s) in digital format. You can’t resell that. You could simply delete it off your library or hard drive, but money is nice and it’s cool to get some back by reselling your hard copies. Besides, you’re saving to buy a life-sized TARDIS model for your upcoming Doctor Who re-enactment party. “But wait”, I hear you cry. “You can get a refund from BBC Store within 14 days of your purchase.” True, but the “re-sellability” of hard copies outlives 14 days.

Hard Copy Cons:

  1. They’re Becoming Outdated – If you’re all for keeping up with the latest whiz-bang technology of the day, then DVDs and Blu-ray discs are probably too old-fashioned for your liking.
  2. They Take Up Space – One downside to physical discs (or if you’re feeling super old-fashioned VHS tapes – Oh no! Oh dear me I didn’t say that aloud did I? Blimey. Let’s pretend that never happened) is that they take up space. Since we sadly haven’t perfected TARDIS technology (yet), movie shelves still have limited space.
  3. Although It May Be Hard, Even Blu-rays Can Get Scratched/Broken – It may be able to take more of a hit than a DVD, but a Blu-Ray disc isn’t completely indestructible either. But, as the Eleventh Doctor said, “Nothing’s undefeatable”. The same could maybe be said for digital copies as well..How? Well, yknow – stuff happens… Wibbly vortex… Of course, if you’re careful enough with them, you can get a good life out of your discs. Maybe, if you’re lucky, they’ll regenerate.

TARDIS Monitor

Obviously, those are only some of the pros/cons of hard and digital copies of TV/movie entertainment. However, it brings us to a really important point. Although digital copies could be considered the new sliced bread, what format you watch your shows in is entirely up to you. To me, both formats are quite good in their own way. As I’ve already said though, I prefer hard copies of my favourite movies and shows. A physical collection just looks nicer in my opinion. Plus, although I highly appreciate modern tech, “old-fashioned” (if you want to call it that) can be a nice adjective. I even still see good things about VHS – Blimey! Did I say that again? Crumbs. I’ll be fired the next time I utter that word (Oh dear me, you mustn’t tell).

So is the BBC Store worth it? In a word, yes.

“What? But you just spent all that time talking about how good hard copies were!” Well, yes. But, the thing about the BBC Store is it offers viewers access to things not available on disc before, such as the upcoming Top Gear: The Races special starring Matt LeBlanc, several Dennis Potter dramas, and some Frost Interviews available commercially for the first time. And then there’s the missing episode of Dad’s ArmyA Stripe For Frazer – now animated, partly thanks to the support of the new BBC Store (could this be a further opportunity for missing Doctor Who? Something to consider for another day, perhaps…) To me, this is the greatest advantage the BBC Store has, save the cheaper prices on some items such as Series 9 of Doctor Who, as discussed earlier.

Should the greatest show in history really go digital though? Keep in mind, not every Who fan is particularly fond of digital entertainment, me being one of them. Some other fans may hate it with a passion, who knows. Another thing to consider is that not everyone has access to digital copies anyway. Not everyone has a computer and not everyone has a smartphone. So, if you don’t have either of those, but you do happen to have a DVD player, why would you want a digital copy of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory? Exactly: you would go for the DVD copy of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, because you’re smart, because you’re a Whovian, and because bowties are cool.

If there are enough people like this in the world, and a demand continues for hard copies, then they’ll stay around for a bit. If that demand lessens, or goes away entirely, then without a shadow of a doubt Doctor Who will completely go digital. But I think we still have time before that happens. Blu-ray discs came out almost ten years ago, and they still haven’t even totally killed off DVDs. If even DVDs aren’t quite dead, how can DTO totally take over now? Well, that’s just the thing – it’s not meant to. “Wait… What?” you may exclaim. DTO or any other digital format is not meant to replace physical copies; it’s merely meant as an alternative. It’s possible that one day the digital format could take over the galaxy of entertainment. But, as long as the demand for tangible versions of movies and TV shows still exists, then we will stay where were at most likely; having two options to choose from.

Should Doctor Who go digital?

Vote in our poll, and let us know why you voted the way you did in the comments below!