Now the individual series blu ray boxsets are available in the UK we look at the first series. Fantastic!
I’m a huge fan of the blu ray format. Superior audio and image quality, more space for extras and reasonably sized packaging that looks OK on the shelf. With blu ray production costs at mainstream level which results in cheaper costs it’s still strange why some companies have left it a long time to make the transition to the format. The BBC made this jump a couple of years ago but with an all-or-nothing box set comprising of series’ 1-7, complete with sonic screwdriver remote control.
You may be like me, I have each complete series of Who since 2005 but only on blu ray since the series 4 specials onwards, leaving series 1-4 feeling left out and out-dated. As it’s only the first four series I had on DVD, I didn’t want to splash out over £150 on the complete blu ray box set, I needed just the individual boxsets for series 1-4. They have been available in other countries for a while but only in the last week have they been released here in the UK.
I’ve so far picked up series 1 so how does it stack up against it’s smaller brother the DVD? Let’s find out!
This won’t be a review of the episodes, stories or characters etc from Doctor Who. You can check out some of those on the podcast.
One of the biggest attractions for blu ray is the improved picture quality over DVD which is classed as standard definition. Blu ray’s native high definition resolution (1980×1080) or 1080p has the potential for super sharp, clean pictures. This is normally the case for movies or tv show’s that have been filmed at that resolution or higher (4K etc) but what about older material like Doctor Who that wasn’t filmed in HD? In this case we get an upscale presentation where the original SD content has been scaled up as best it can to (just about) fit the HD resolution.
One of the biggest draw backs to this method is it will never be able to compare to footage filmed at HD, the software and scalers just can’t match the clarity and overall fidelity of HD. There is good news however, they haven’t tried to push the upscale too much with series 1, the picture quality is definitely improved but it still retains that “SD” feel to it. Some companies over-do the upscale and also use sharpening, edge enhancement etc which ruins the picture but thankfully this maintains an “untampered” look.
Overall the picture quality is decent and consistent across each episode. There isn’t that night and day difference you get from going from SD to native HD material due to this being an upscale affair but it’s still enjoyable to watch. The image is a little bit cleaner and some of the details do stand out a little bit more than they do on the DVD. For example the lights across the Thames in Rose are a bit clearer and brighter, the Tardis interior behind The Doctor as he’s asking Rose to travel with him seems to have more detail and the text in the intro sequence is now quite sharp and clean. The colours are a little better too ranging from the orange and green hues inside the Tardis through to the bright yellow of Mickie’s Beetle.
One thing that’s been pointed out a lot online is the frame rate. TV shows are generally filmed at a frame rate of 25fps interlaced which is the general broadcast standard here in the UK (Pal). However, there’s no 25fps/1080i standard for blu ray so it has to be converted to 24fps. It doesn’t match the broadcast 25fps but I’ll be honest, you don’t notice one bit. I would rather have the upscale at 1080p with a smoother frame rate than 1080i anyway. It’s around a 4% difference overall and really, the only way you’d notice is if you had two tv’s next to each other each playing a DVD and a blu ray. Basically, this issue won’t ruin your enjoyment and don’t pay it too much attention.
While the picture quality isn’t going to blow you away compared to modern material filmed in at least HD, it’s a suitable improvement from the DVD.
One of the things I was looking forward to the most was the audio mix. The original DVD’s had a good Dolby 5.1 track while the blu ray has been given a nice DTS-HD Master Audio re-do which sounds fantastic. The opening title sequence sounds great as does most of the music throughout each episode. There’s definitely more bottom end with this mix, I watched it through my cinema amp and a lot of the action sequences and music thundered through my living room creating a very cinematic feel. The vocal track is clean and and cuts through the mix for the most part.
There is a small issue with the mix however and this isn’t unique to the blu ray as the DVD suffered with the same. There are instances littered throughout some episodes where the music is just too loud and drowns out the vocals a bit. This is a problem during the original mastering of the episodes however and you’ll notice it on the blu ray or even watching it on TV. It doesn’t spoil the episodes too much but it does muddy the audio presentation slightly.
Audio is generally excellent from Murray Gold’s amazing scores that fill the room with excitement and emotion through to the Tardis’s materialisation. For a show filmed 10 years ago it still packs a punch.
There isn’t much to say on these if you already own this on DVD as they are exactly the same and in SD. No additional features on the blu ray sadly but what there is remains a good watch.
I’m glad I’ve got this on blu ray as the picture quality is definitely improved over the DVD and the audio mix is excellent. There may be a lot of people wanting more out of the picture quality and while I think there’s a decent enough jump in quality you can only do so much with SD content being upscaled. I personally think it’s a decent enough picture and the slight change in fps should also not trouble anyone.
I’ll definitely be picking up series 2-4 on blu ray as I’m mostly impressed with the blu ray presentation so far. Would have liked a couple of extra features on there but you can’t have everything and the features that are on there which are present on the DVD are pretty good.