As has been more than adequately commented on elsewhere, almost* all of the existent Doctor Who library has hit iPlayer – with the classic episodes, when queried by get_iplayer, reporting an expiry date of 2028-11-01T05:59:00+00:00. So that’s plenty of time to be thoroughly overwhelmed by choice!

*except for An Unearthly Child as – apparently – the writer’s son has issues….

Sadly, there doesn’t appear to have been any efforts to re-scan any of the the surviving film in a higher resolution format and so these classic episodes are presented to the viewer in what iPlayer classes as it’s standard definition. There also appear to be some tagging issues – when queried with get_iplayer multiple episodes will report the same season and episode number. This is especially prevalent from season four onwards. For instance both The Macra Terror: Episode 3 and The Tenth Planet: Episode 3 report that they have an episode number of ‘s04e03’.

Fixing some of the tagging may be possible via the use of the first broadcast date…

get_iplayer --info https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00v2xsg/doctor-who-19631996-season-4-the-tenth-planet-episode-3
firstbcast:      1966-10-22T17:55:00+01:00
firstbcastdate:  1966-10-22
firstbcastday:   22
firstbcastmonth: 10
firstbcasttime:  17:55:00
firstbcastyear:  1966

…however there will be a point where fixing this stuff is not easily scriptable and I/you will just have to go in there and sort out both file naming conventions and in-file metadata by hand. Also many of the animated episodes do not appear to have the ‘firstbcast‘ metadata atom at all – though whether this is an issue with get_iplayer, iPlayer, or something else entirely is something I have yet to work out.

And as for running all of the classic Who through get_iplayer? Classic Doctor Who – without the audio description or sign language – looks to weigh in at around 215GB for the 644 episodes, which is about a third of a GB per show. Now 215GB certainly a non-trivial amount of data but, in a world with easily available 20TB+ drives, neither is it particularly outrageous and, in comparison to actually buying the DVDs, would come no where close to breaking the bank.

The Classic collection is joined by a number of related series (Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, K9 & Company: A Girl’s Best Friend etc…) but sadly none of the greater ephemera around the show – we miss out on various promo pieces and trailers, things that, if they survive the various purges, should have been covered by the late 00s BBC digitisation project and should really be available.

It’s unlikely that I’ll end up watching all 644 episodes – the recreations and orphaned episodes don’t particularly interest me – but there are some that I plan on subjecting myself to; Genesis of the Daleks and Tomb Of The Cybermen are the two serials that immediately spring to mind from the true classics pile, but also The Happiness Patrol which, as far as I can tell, is the first episode of Doctor Who that I can remember any fragments of at all…

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