Commentaries for Doctor Who

Posted Sunday, April 13, 2008, 5:51 PM

For the last couple of seasons, the BBC website has offered downloadable mp3s of commentary tracks to listen to alongside the episodes of Doctor Who. This has been a great added extra, because these are different to the commentaries that they subsequently provide on the DVDs, so you get twice the insight from twice the number of cast and crew - and in the last DVD collection, most of the commentaries had David Tennant, who is always entertaining to listen to, and is thoroughly enthusiastic about his participation in the show.

However, the BBC website has now changed its methodology somewhat, claiming to be hampered by some sort of self-imposed rules, that mess things up for us all. We can download the full length commentaries only for a few days, then afterwards they cut the commentaries down to 29 minutes, rendering them useless for scene-specific simultaneous listening. The reason for this is because the BBC, in its infinite wisdom, imposed the rule that they can only offer downloads of audio if it has already been broadcast on BBC radio first, and they're only playing the 29 minute commentaries on the radio to fit their carefully timed format. If you're fast enough you can get the full length commentaries. Normally.

Commentaries that refer to specific scenes are useless if they aren't full length; you can't sit there stopping and starting the audio file in the hope of matching up what's said with what's being seen. Why do they think this was a good move? I can only assume that the people making these asinine decisions do not listen to commentaries to recognise their value.

But. What makes this frustrating for me is that, instead of offering the full length commentary for this week's episode, they've accidentally, or on purpose, only released the shorter edited commentary. After some complaints, they have said that they will offer the full length version too, for the fans (which is everybody, I might add - nobody wants to hear a commentary just on its own with no logical real-time reference to the visual alongside it), but only after it's also been broadcast on BBC radio, which they will be scheduling after midnight on some day through the week (so as to comply with their stupid rules they've inexplicably set up).

There's no need for this foolishness. And they then put on the pretense that they're bending over backwards in order to accommodate the demand from the fans, even though all they need to do is restore the functionality as it used to be. After all, there are no copyright issues involved here; it's all their own content.

This is just madness.

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