Prime those sonic screwdrivers and prepare the TARDIS, as US audiences now have access to hundreds of hours of classic Doctor Who adventures. Steaming service Pluto TV has just announced a deal they’ve struck with the BBC to air over 200 episodes of the show for American audiences. This looks like it’ll feature every (still existing) Doctor Who serial from William Hartnell’s 1963 debut in the role right through to Sylvester McCoy, whose adventures wrapped up in 1989.
There’s a hitch, though. Viacom’s Pluto TV doesn’t function as a traditional streaming service like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu. Instead, it takes its cues from broadcast television, meaning that content is scheduled to be streamed on a dedicated Doctor Who channel with ad breaks. This means that if you want to check out the classic Tom Baker serial “The Brain of Morbius” you’ll have to look up when it’s screening and be sure to tune in at that moment. Having to do this in 2019 is a little anachronistic, but I suppose you can’t argue with free.
The BBC have recently shown themselves to be somewhat flexible with the rights to classic Doctor Who serials, with 2018 seeing them screen the entirety of the classic series on Twitch over the course of seven weeks. It appears that the deal with Pluto TV will be more akin to syndication though and will feature a rotating selection of serials rather than running through the show in a loop from Hartnell to McCoy over and over again.
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All that said, if this is a US Doctor Who revival fan’s first exposure to the show’s roots, they might be in for a nasty surprise. Production standards for broadcast television have come a long way since the 60s, 70s and 80s, meaning you’ll have to put up with some special effects that are, shall we say, lovingly handcrafted.
But give it some time and audiences will discover there’s a reason Doctor Who is one of the longest-running programs in television history. Buried under the ropey special effects are some genuinely wonderful science fiction and fantasy adventures, with each incarnation of the Doctor bringing something unique and praiseworthy to the table (well, maybe except the sixth Doctor).