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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

‘Doctor Who: The Key to Time’ vs. ‘Doctor Who: The Key to Time’

I was going through my ever-growing piles of Doctor Who DVDs the other day — the classsic series, that is — because I’m like a kid on Christmas morning with them, trying to decide which ones to watch first and which ones to write about first. And also because I accidentally bought a second copy of one I already had, because I forgot I’d already bought it. So I figured I better get organized about this or I’d end up spending even more money than I should be on this silly obsession of mine.

And I came across another duplicate, too, though this one was intentional. Recently there was released a Special Edition of the “Key to Time” sequence, one entire season in the Tom Baker era (1978-9) given over to six interconnected stories, about the Doctor’s search for pieces of an artifact vital to keeping the universe running smoothly — but I’ll talk about the stories themselves when I get around to blogging those.
But I wanted to point out — particularly because a while back I promised I would! — what the differences are between the new Special Edition set and the previous box set. Content wise, there is no difference: all the many extras in the Special Edition were already there in the original set. The important difference is the picture quality: it’s noticeably better in the Special Edition. The image has been cleaned up, it’s brighter and crisper and the colors richer, and it shows off a lot more detail than the unenhanced images of the older set.

It’s not an enormous enough difference that I would recommend upgrading if you have the original set, unless you’re a superfinicky DVDphile who absolutely must have the very best version of everything. And if you’re buying the set new today, it’s a no-brainer to go for the Special Edition, because, bizarrely, it’s cheaper than the old set, which is also still available new: $67.99 at the moment at Amazon U.S. for the Region 1 version of the Special Edition, and $86.99 at Amazon U.S. for the Region 1 version of the original set. (Neither is yet available in Region 2.)

Here’s a key difference, though: The Special Edition discs are not available individually. You have to buy the whole set (which comes in a slimline package, unlike the old one) even if you just want, say, “The Androids of Tara.” If you want to buy the stories individually — if you want only “The Androids of Tara” — they are available… but those are the unenhanced versions that you’ll find in the older set.

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  • jakob1978

    aren’t there some additional commentary tracks on the newer version?

    I know the version released in the UK in 2007, had extra commentaries, with Tom Baker, on the 3 stories he hadn’t appeared on in the version that was released in the US in 2002.

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