Having just received in the mail the last two Classic Series Doctor Who DVDs required to complete my collection, it’s probably an appropriate time to discuss the best ways to build a DVD collection. With the exception of Spearhead from Space, the Third Doctor’s debut, Classic Series Doctor Who is only available on DVD. Spearhead from Space has been released on Blu Ray as it is the only Classic Series serial produced entirely on film. New Series Doctor Who is now released on both DVD and Blu Ray, although Series One through to Four and the 2009 Specials are DVD only. Please note that this article is written from an Australian perspective. Unless otherwise stated, all references to box sets refer to Region 2 and Region 4 releases only. American Region 1 Classic Series Doctor Who DVDs have been released by individual serial only. To the best of my knowledge there are no American Classic Series box sets.
1. BUY ONLINE
This is probably stating the obvious, however procuring a complete Doctor Who DVD collection would be prohibitively expensive if all your titles are purchased from bricks and mortar stores. Also, finding any one title that you require in a physical store could very likely see you traipsing the length and breadth of your city. Retailers of DVDs/Blu Rays tend not to stock extraordinarily large catalogues of Doctor Who DVDs. JB Hi Fi is perhaps one exception and you can generally find a very long shelf full of Who titles in each store. Even then, you’ll only find a small percentage of releases at any one store. JB Hi Fi’s website has search functions enabling you to search by title and then ascertain stores with stock. Delivery is available from JB Hi Fi for only 0.99c per DVD.
First Doctor DVDs
When considering purchasing online look for stores that offer free postage. Postage charges can be a real killer and you can potentially save a great deal with free or low cost postage. Online retailers in Australia that offer free postage include Fishpond and The Nile.
2. BUY FROM OVERSEAS
For Australian purchasers it is unfortunate that the prolonged period of a high Australian dollar has come to an end. After reaching a high of around 108c US, the dollar has now plummeted to 91c US. I was fortunate enough to do the bulk of my collecting when the Australian dollar was at its peak but nonetheless, significant savings can still be made. Region 4 DVDs can be prohibitively expensive however Region 2 DVDs are frequently more affordable. Please see the paragraph below on UK Region 2 DVDs for further details. In recent times I’ve found the most competitive prices are available at Fishpond.
First, Second and Third Doctor DVDs
When purchasing from overseas be prepared to wait for your titles to arrive rather slowly. Between four and six weeks is not an uncommon time frame for arrival from the UK.
3. UK REGION 2 DOCTOR WHO DVDS ARE DUAL CODED REGIONS 2 AND 4
When perusing an online store such as Fishpond you will generally find up to three listings for each DVD title – one for each of Regions 1, 2 and 4. Region 1 titles are from the US and are even more expensive than the Australian and New Zealand Region 4 titles. Region 2 titles, from the UK, are nine times out of ten the cheapest.
Third and Fourth Doctor DVDs
What these websites invariably don’t tell you is that the BBC’s Doctor Who DVDs are dual coded for Regions 2 and 4. Instead the titles are generally listed as Region 2 only, with the usual disclaimer stating that you will require a multi-region player. It’s only when you have the DVD in your hands that the dual coding is obvious . Once you’ve bought your first Region 2 advertised Doctor Who and seen for yourself that it’s dual coded, you’ll wonder why you’ve been wasting your money on the higher priced Region 4 ones for so long.
The Region 2 release of The Five Doctors. You will note from the back cover that it is dual coded Region 2 and Region 4
Region 2 DVDs are also more attractively packaged than the Region 4 ones. Nearly all DVDs have the whole of the disc covered in a colour graphic from the serial. The Region 4 DVDs are generally a solid colour only with no pictures. Region 2 DVDs also have a 4 page brochure setting out the production details and special features. This is a great deal handier than the Australian and New Zealand releases that have this information printed on the reverse side of the cover. This necessitates removing the printed cover from the sleeve if you wish to read it. The Region 2 brochure is also in a larger font than the Region 4 releases, therefore making reading easier.
An example of a Region 4 Doctor Who disc. Note that it doesn’t have any photographs or otherwise interesting artwork
An example of a Region 2 New Series disc. Classic Series Region 2 discs also generally have photographs and interesting graphics
4. EVEN CHEAP REGION 4 DVD PLAYERS MAY BE MULTI-REGION
If you’re still not convinced that the BBC’s region 2 DVDs are dual coded for Region 4, consider that even your cheap Region 4 DVD player may be multi-region. My Studio Canal release of The Dalek Collection which includes the two Dalek movies, Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD, is listed as Region 2 only. It’s a non BBC release. It plays perfectly on one of my $25.00 K-Mart Region 4 DVD players. You can read two interesting articles from the Sydney Morning Herald here and here. In these articles, and the numerous comments to them, you will find discussion of Multi-Region (Region-Free) DVD players being marketed in Australia as Region 4 only.
Fourth Doctor DVDs
If you want to be 100% certain then I would suggest buying a multi-region DVD player which can be picked for as little as $35.00. You’ll make the purchase price up dozens of times over with the savings you’ll obtain buying Region 2 DVDs.
5. COMPARE PRICES and BUY DURING SALES
It is more than worthwhile to shop around a number of websites and compare prices before every purchase. In my experience prices can vary frequently so what is cheaper one day at a store may not be so the next day. Try eBay as well. Also be on the lookout for sales. JB Hi Fi seem to have 20% off DVD sales every few weeks. It’s worthwhile subscribing to the stores’ emails so that you can be advised of upcoming sales.
Fourth and Fifth Doctor DVDs
6. COLLECT BY CHEAPEST FIRST RATHER THAN FAVOURITE TITLES
If you are looking to buy the complete collection then it’s worthwhile purchasing titles when you find them on special even if they’re not your favourites. If you’re going to buy them all eventually you’ll be kicking yourself that you missed the chance for a bargain.
Fifth and Sixth Doctor DVDs
7. DON’T BUY IMMEDIATELY UPON RELEASE
Especially when it comes to Special Editions, don’t buy your DVDs immediately upon release. Prices for new releases are always at a premium so if you are prepared to wait you can often save up to $10.00 on the purchase price.
Sixth and Seventh Doctor DVDs
8. KEEP A LIST AND MARK OFF TITLES ORDERED AND RECEIVED
This is another fairly obvious point however it’s easily overlooked. There are 155 Classic Series serials, 90% of which have been released as individual stories and not as part of a box set. Unless you’ve rote learnt the names of every title then you’re sure to forget what you’ve bought and also ordered. In completing my collection I used Mark Campbell’s Doctor Who. The Complete Guide, to mark off the serials as I ordered then, and again as they were received. The book has the added advantage of allowing me to see what’s next in my marathon and also quickly consult a list of cast members, writer, directors and the like for each serial.
Classic Series Revisitations Box Sets, Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures
9. ACQUAINT YOURSELF WITH THE CONTENTS OF BOXED SETS
Probably around 10% of Classic Series titles have been released as part of a box set. Find out what serials are included in each box set as generally you can’t search by story title for those serials contained in a box set. A complete list of DVD releases can be found here.
New Series Doctor Who
Although New Series DVDs are packaged as Series box sets, Classic Series DVDs are generally sold by single serial only. The only Classic Series Seasons released in a single box set are Season 16 (the Fourth Doctor and Romana I) The Key to Time, and Season 23 (the Sixth Doctor, Peri and Mel) The Trial of a Time Lord. This unfortunately means that Classic Series collecting can be an expensive past time and also takes up a great deal of shelf space.
The Key to Time is Season 16 of Doctor Who. It is one of only two Classic Series Seasons released as a box set
The Trial of a Time Lord is Season 23 of Doctor Who
The most inexpensive (and shelf efficient) way of buying Series 1 through to 4 of Doctor Who (2005-2008) is by the Complete Box Set. Purchased from the UK this Box Set costs around $70.00
10. DISPLAY YOUR COLLECTION WITH PRIDE
Once you’ve finished your collection display it with pride and sit back and enjoy watching 50 years of Doctor Who history. You’re in for a great ride!
Mark Campbell’s Doctor Who The Complete Series Guide provides a good introductory summary of each Doctor Who serial. This book has been of invaluable assistance to me in building my complete collection of Doctor Who DVDs
SUGGESTED ONLINE DVD RETAILERS
The ABC Shop – http://shop.abc.net.au/
eBay – http://www.ebay.com.au/
Fishpond – http://www.fishpond.com.au/ (Australia) and http://www.fishpond.com/ (world-wide)
JB Hi Fi – http://www.jbhifi.com.au/
Mighty Ape – http://www.mightyape.com.au/
The Nile – http://www.thenile.com.au/
WOW HD – http://www.wowhd.com.au/
ZAVVI – http://www.zavvi.com/home.dept
I’ve posted several UK based online retailers with free or low cost world-wide delivery here.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this article is of a general nature only and the author does not purport to be an expert in the sale or operation of DVDs or DVD players. The information is made available on the understanding that the author is not engaged in rendering professional advice. Buyers of DVDs and DVD players should make their own inquiries in respect of compatibility issues.
©Vivien Fleming, 2013.