In this the end of the year of 2023, I bought a brand new DVD box set from Wal-Mart of a new television series. This was Star Trek: Picard, which exists because of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show that first aired on September 28, 1987. Star Trek: Picard ended on April 20, 2023, and on November 25, 2023, I was able to buy all three seasons of this show on DVD mere months after this series ended, and there are some interesting coincidences which help to underscore some of the reasons why I decided to buy this series on DVD and waited to binge watch it until Christmas of 2023.

The DVD format we know today started out as the CD Video format , a combination of the standard compact disc and LaserDisc technologies, in 1987; the same year that the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation aired. The CD Video evolved into the Digital Video Disc in 1996, the same year Star Trek: First Contact was released. This was the first ever Star Trek movie to not star William Shatner as Captian Kirk, and so was the first movie to be entirely about the Next Generation. And now we have Star Trek: Picard, released on DVD the same year Best Buy announced they are no longer going to sell DVDs . I bought my copy of Picard from my local Wal-Mart, which is also where I bought Star Trek: Insurrection, in the year 1999, which was the first DVD I ever bought. Back then, we didn’t even have a Best Buy store; that store was known as Future Shop here in Canada.

A photo of my Star Trek:Picard box set shortly after I purchased it at Wal-Mart A photo of my Star Trek:Picard box set shortly after I purchased it at Wal-Mart

Between 2002 and 2006, Paramount released the original Star Trek movies as part of their “Wide screen collection” on DVD, which was when I replaced my original VHS collection, and for four very good reasons: The first was that these came with an abundance of “Bonus features” that included hours of behind the scenes content, deleted scenes, interviews, storyboards, set photos, and detailed commentaries, all of which are a big deal for fans of any movie. For example, in Wrath of Khan, we learn that the diamond-shaped chrome shelf unit in Kirk’s apartment was later used in the Farpoint mall set in the first episode of The Next Generation, and we also learn which scenes were cut in the theatrical version were restored in the director’s edition, among other things. The second was that the image quality is significantly better overall; the horizontal resolution is functionally double that of VHS, and eliminated picture quality issues such as colour bleeding. The benefits of this were apparent when I watched Wrath of Khan and noticed a Commodore PET in the background of Kirk’s apartment, which was not apparent in the VHS version of this movie. The third is better sound quality. While VHS tapes were quite good for audio, they only offered 2 channel stereo sound from an analog source, while the DVD was able to deliver five channel surround sound from a crystal clear digital source that, when connected to a good surround sound system, could reproduce the sound of a theatre quite accurately. This also allowed for a director’s commentary to be played along with the movie. The fourth one was that DVD’s will last significantly longer than a VHS tape. The magnetic signal on a VHS tape is prone to fading over time, with an estimated signal loss of 10 to 20 percent over 10 to 25 years, and the simple act of playing the tape meant that the tape itself needed to be dragged across a spinning head, which causes the physical tape to wear out every time it’s played; whereas the DVD has the video data physically stamped and sealed inside the polycarbonate plastic of the disc so it won’t just fade away, and playing it uses a laser that never comes in contact with the surface of the disc, which means a disc that is properly cared for could be played any number of times and not show any signs of degragation over an estimated life span of 30-100 years, with some speculating up to 200 years if taken care of and handled properly.

A photo of my Star Trek:Picard box set shortly after I purchased it at Wal-Mart This scene from Wrath of Khan includes the same diamond-shape chrome shelf used in Encounter at Farpoint, as well as a Commodore PET computer, captured from my DVD copy of this movie

The first VHS tape came to market in 1976, and the last movie ever released on VHS was in 2006, which means this format lasted for 30 years. Today, the DVD is closing in on that mark, at 27 years old, but I don’t think it will go away for a while. Comparing a DVD to a VHS tape is a lot like comparing a vinyl LP to a wax cylinder recording. I never really saw much point in collecting VHS movies beyond a few I really enjoyed, but the longevity, relatively cheap price, and bonus features sparked my interest in collecting movies on DVD, and I think there are many others who feel the same way. The first vinyl LP was released in 1948, and was supposed to be replaced by the compact disc in 1982, 34 years later, but we can still buy new vinyl LP’s to this day. While we also have the Blu-Ray format as well as streaming options available, I believe the DVD format is superior to streaming, and can still offer certain advantages over blu-ray.

My wife and I started buying DVD boxsets of our favourite shows when we realized that, for less than the price of basic cable, we could buy a box set of our favourite show every month and binge watch it. After watching it, that box set still had value both in rewatchability with all of the bonus content and in the used market, unlike the cable subscription which was essentially a 100% loss month after month. We were also able to enjoy our shows without them being interrupted by advertising, and we were able to watch them wherever, whenever, and however we wanted. Today, a basic cable “Starter” package costs $25, plus equipment fees. Meanwhile, at the time of this writing, Picard season 1, 2, and 3 can each be bought for less than that from Amazon both new and used. Furthermore, we were not limited by what was available on cable nor did we need to subscribe to “Specialty” channels to watch shows that were only available outside of the basic cable subscription package. If I wanted to watch Mythbusters, I could buy the boxset and continue to enjoy watching what I wanted, when I wanted, where I wanted, free of advertising. It made our viewing of television programs and movies more meaningful, and we ended up watching less television overall. This was the model I wanted to support.

Enjoying Star Trek: Picard on my portable DVD player anywhere I want Enjoying Star Trek: Picard on my portable DVD player anywhere I want, anytime I want, no Internet connection required.

Paid streaming services offer some of the advantages, such as watching when I want, without ads, and, to a certain extent, what I want and where, but there are still limitations. For example, while Netflix does have Star Trek content, it doesn’t have Picard; I would need to subscribe to Paramount Plus to watch that. Plus there’s no telling how long content will stay on Netflix. The standard Netflix subscription costs me $16.49 if I don’t want ads. The best deal for Paramount Plus is $99.99 a year, with the first year at half price, but if I don’t want to commit to a year at a time, it’s $9.99 a month. Then I need to consider the added expense of a video streaming capable Internet connection. On average, one must pay around $40 more for an Internet package that provides sufficient bandwidth for streaming video content. Then there’s the fact that the subscription prices of streaming services increase over time, while the cost of a new DVD box set, movie, or season has remained the same or has even gone down. I have better control over my finances and over the content I watch with DVD’s. Then there’s all of the special features and commentary. Star Trek:Picard came with over seven hours of special features. I can watch the episodes with a commentary from the producers, as though they’re sitting there watching it with me. I get to see the deleted scenes that were removed to meet programming time constraints and presumably to save storage space on the streaming servers. I can come back to this series and all of the extras years later without worrying if it will still be available.

When compared to Blu-Ray, DVD’s still offer some advantages, but I expect Blu-Ray will eventually take over. I could have bought the Picard box set on Blu-ray for only $10 more, so there’s not a huge price advantage on the media buying DVD new anymore, but Blu-ray players still cost more, costing twice as much as DVD players on average, and computer Blu-Ray drives costing up to and over three to four times more than a comparable DVD drive. Thrift stores are filled with used DVD players of many types, from portable players with built-in screens to multi disc carousel players. I could get a brand new Sony DVD player from Amazon for only $40, but I don’t need to, since I already own several DVD players in my home; inside of my old but still working Lenovo laptop, built into the back of one of my TV’s, and even my portable DVD player still works fine; not to mention the fact that my blu-ray player and XBox both play DVD’s fine. The used DVD market is currently an embarrassment of riches, with TV box sets that can be found for $5 or less, and movies that can be bought for $1.50 or less. Meanwhile, older movie collections can be found for a great deal. The Matrix 4 film collection can be found for under $10, and the Smokey and the Bandit 7 movie outlaw collection can be bought for around $10. And these DVD’s still look good on a modern big screen; many decent DVD players with an HDMI connection do a very nice job of upscaling to 1080p, and unless you’re sitting very close to the television, you might not even be able to tell the difference. My XBox One upscales to 4k and from my sofa Picard on DVD looks very good.

DVD’s still look great in 4k from my sofa DVD’s still look great from my sofa

While I switched to Blu-Ray with the new J. J. Abrams Star Trek movies (Star Trek, Into Darkness, and Beyond), and received The Next Generation series on Blu-Ray for Christmas from my parents, my last Star Trek movie DVD I bought was Nemesis, and so it seemed appropriate for Picard to be in this format. It really feels like an end to an era, both for the DVD format and for the Next Generation Star Trek, and so that’s the reason why I opted for the DVD version of this series.