Doctor Who 2024: BBC Confirms 4K For The Full Series

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In a notable update for fans of the long-standing British sci-fi series, the BBC has confirmed to us that the eagerly awaited new series of Doctor Who, featuring Ncuti Gatwa, will be available in 4K Ultra HD on BBC iPlayer.

This marks the first time a full regular series of the iconic show will be broadcast in such high definition on the platform, setting a new standard for viewing quality and immersing fans in the Whoniverse like never before.

Until now, some of the Doctor’s specials were available in 4K on iPlayer – but the regular episodes did not get the Ultra HD treatment.

However, viewers who want to watch the Doctor in 4K, will have to make sure they have the right streaming device / TV, with the correct settings on BBC iPlayer – so see our guide below for the full details.

BBC 4K UHD mark Doctor Who

For audiences outside the UK and Ireland, the new Doctor Who episodes will be available on Disney+, also in 4K.

The Doctor Stepping Into 4K

Doctor Who’s legacy, a cornerstone of British television since 1963, is one of constant evolution – and not just because the actors have been replaced.

From black and white to colour, from analogue to digital, the series has always been at the forefront of broadcasting innovation – despite its often low budgets.

Now, as it steps into the Ultra HD era with the upcoming new series starring Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor, Doctor Who is finally embracing 4K for all the new episodes – a first for the show on BBC iPlayer (and, perhaps, we have to thank Disney+ and its increased budget).

Before this, only some of the Doctor Who specials were available in 4K on iPlayer.

First, we got Doctor Who: The Power Of The Doctor and Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks, and in 2023, the 60th-anniversary specials starring David Tennant were also available in 4K, as well as Ncuti Gatwa’s first Christmas special, The Church on Ruby Road.

Doctor Who the power of the doctor

Until now, however, it was unclear whether the new regular series would also be available in 4K / HDR – and we can finally confirm the good news.

4K, or Ultra High Definition (UHD), and High Dynamic Range (HDR) represent significant advancements in video quality, offering viewers a better viewing experience.

4K resolution provides a picture that is four times sharper and more detailed than standard High Definition, bringing out the finest details in every scene with crystal-clear clarity.

HDR enhances this further by expanding the range of colours and contrast, making bright areas brighter and dark areas darker.

4K TV comparison

This combination results in a more vivid, lifelike picture, but a lot depends on your TV. Even if your TV supports 4K / HDR but has a cheap, inferior screen, you might not see that big of a difference compared to Full HD (1080p).

The Gatwa Era Begins

The anticipation for Ncuti Gatwa’s debut as the Doctor has been building, with fans eager to see how he will fill the shoes of his predecessors.

Gatwa, known for his charismatic performances, is expected to bring fresh energy and depth to the iconic role. Alongside him, Millie Gibson will star as Ruby Sunday.

Doctor Who Season 1 Ncuti Gatwa Millie Gibson in Tardis
Photo: The BBC

However, the announcement of the series premiere has not been without its controversies.

The BBC’s decision to launch the season with a double bill on BBC iPlayer at midnight on May 11, before its terrestrial airing on BBC One, has sparked frustration among UK fans.

This scheduling, aimed at synchronizing the global release – including a 7pm ET slot on Disney+ for American audiences – has led to concerns over spoilers and the prioritization of American viewers over the UK audience.

Accustomed to primetime viewings, British fans have voiced their discontent on social media, criticizing the BBC for sidelining the domestic audience for a show deeply embedded in British culture.

How To Watch Doctor Who In 4K On BBC iPlayer

Ultra HD (4K) content is still rather scarce on BBC iPlayer, but things have gotten slightly better in recent years.

As part of its UHD Experiment, the BBC offers a select few programmes in 4K and occasionally streams live events, such as sports and – more recently -the Coronation of King Charles III.

The first step for viewers to be able to watch the Doctor Who episodes in 4K is to make sure their TV supports 4K.

Doctor Who Christmas Special UHD iplayer

If you also want to watch with HDR, you need a TV that supports the HLG format, which is the one the BBC uses (and isn’t as popular as some of the other HDR formats).

In addition to a 4K TV, you also need a streaming device that supports 4K and has the BBC iPlayer app. This can either be your Smart TV or a dedicated device.

Your 4K streaming device or Smart TV also needs to be supported by the BBC Ultra HD trial – and many devices are NOT yet supported, including some very popular ones like the Google Chromecast, Apple TV or even some versions of Sky Q (though Sky’s streaming TV – Sky Glass, as well as the Sky Stream standalone puck – do support 4K on BBC iPlayer).

Additionally, the BBC’s 4K trial is NOT supported on mobile phones and computer/desktop browsers.

Amazon Fire TV Max 2nd hero
Amazon Fire TV Max 2nd Gen

Some devices that DO support the BBC’s Ultra HD standard are the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K and some Freeview recorders like the Manhattan T3-R and the Humax Aura.

The BBC used to offer a full list of devices and TVs that support its 4K implementation.

However, that list was often inaccurate, so instead, the BBC’s guidance for viewers now simply says to check whether you’re seeing the BBC iPlayer UHD logo on your screen.

Doctor Who Christmas Special UHD screenshot

Also, remember that for 4K streaming, you need a fast broadband connection – the BBC recommends a connection speed of 24MBit/s for the full 4K experience (3840 pixels), or 12MBit/s for a lower (2560 pixels) resolution. 

BBC iPlayer Ultra HD Settings

Before you can watch in 4K, you need to make sure you have the right settings on your BBC iPlayer app, where you must set the video quality to “Best”:

  • Go to BBC iPlayer’s “Settings”
  • Select “Video Quality”
  • Choose “Best Quality”

BBC iPlayer video quality selection

Then, look for content with the UHD icon. Once they’re available to stream, the Doctor Who episodes will show the UHD icon on the main iPlayer menu (as long as your device supports it).

The first two episodes of the new Doctor Who series will be available on BBC iPlayer from Midnight on Saturday, May 11. 

For those who prefer traditional TV viewing, the two episodes will then air on Saturday evening, just before the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final.

An episode will then continue to drop on BBC iPlayer at 00:00 on Saturdays, followed by a primetime slot on BBC One each week following that.

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3 thoughts on “Doctor Who 2024: BBC Confirms 4K For The Full Series”

    • There is no 5.1 audio available on BBC iPlayer – so the better picture it at the costs of audio quality.
      UK viewer have to choose either 5.1 audo with HD picture or 2.0 audio with UHD.
      US viewers get Doctor Who as UHD/HDR with 5.1 audio.

      Reply

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