"Omnibus" is a term, arguably more popular in British than American English, used to describe a collection of individual parts of a story into a single entity. The term is used in Doctor Who televised fiction to describe the conversion of a serial into a movie. It has a different meaning in print, where it is used to describe the collection of multiple whole stories. The term has a further particular meaning in comics, where there is some definitional variability between the US and UK meanings.
An "omnibus edition" of a serial is one in which constituent episodes have been edited together to form a single movie. Thus, it begins with the opening titles of episode 1, and concludes with the closing titles of the final episode, with all intervening credits removed. The various end-of-episode cliffhangers and their reprises in the following episode are also slimmed so that, effectively, there is no "cliffhanger", as such, present. Though generally not actually destructive to the content of a serial, the practice could have some minor consequences on the viewer's experience of a serial. For instance, if people were only credited in one of the middle episodes, there was a chance — depending on who was doing the editing and how it was being done — that their credit might not appear at the end of the so-called omnibus edition. Also, on those rare occasions when a reprise of a cliffhanger was a different take of the same scene from the previous episode, the editor would have to choose which of the two performances to edit out. By and large, though, an omnibus edition was not so heavily edited as to create a significantly different version of the narrative.
United States Edit
This practice was done frequently, if inconsistently, in the United States, to make a standard four-part adventure fit into a ninety-minute time-slot. Often stations ran a version that had been pre-edited by BBC Enterprises, but sometimes they created a unique cut of their own and sometimes slightly re-edited the BBC Enterprises version. Thus omnibus editions did not necessarily conform to a standard. Viewers of a California PBS station may have experienced a slightly different version of a story than a New York PBS station. Indeed, sometimes the same station broadcast slightly different versions of the omnibus on different occasions, depending upon their scheduling needs. It was not uncommon for PBS stations to broadcast omnibus editions during one part of the week and the full episodic versions during another. BBC America also uses this format for its 2013 feature, The Doctors Revisited.
Because individual stations sometimes created their own omnibuses, it is difficult to say with any degree of certainty which serials were ever broadcast in North America as omnibuses. We know quite definitively which were released to home video — these were exclusively Tom Baker episodes from his first three seasons — but it is impossible to compile a definitive list of all the omnibuses ever created in the US. Anecdotal evidence on fan message boards suggests, however, that the Philip Hinchcliffe era was not the only one to be broadcast in the movie format in some parts of the United States. All we can say for sure about omnibus broadcasts in North America is that after that first three seasons of the Fourth Doctor, BBC Enterprises stopped offering the movie versions.
Although the term "omnibus" is understood in the US, it is never a word that was used to actually market Doctor Who in North America. Indeed, little attention was ever drawn to the fact that the edit was in any way "different". Thus, fans were free to describe the editions how they wished, and the terms "movie version" or "movie format" have dominance over "omnibus".
United Kingdom Edit
The practice was less usual in the United Kingdom and could only be said to apply twice to the initial broadcast of a Doctor Who adventure — and then only somewhat arguably. It did begin to happen with more frequency once Doctor Who shifted to second-run channels like UK Gold and during themed "Doctor Who nights" on channels like BBC Two.
The single instance in which "omnibus" was used to market the initial broadcast of a Doctor Who episode was with the animated adventure, The Infinite Quest, in which the final episode was originally broadcast as a part of an omnibus edition. All previous episodes of Quest had debuted on the CBBC's Totally Doctor Who.
Later, Dreamland was also broadcast on BBC Two, but it had previously been made available episodically on BBC Red Button. Dreamland thus made its terrestrial debut as an omnibus, but its genuine television premiere had been as an episodic event.
Home video Edit
BBC Video began their VHS releases of Doctor Who stories by using the omnibus format. However, the practice was quickly abandoned in the UK. The format lingered for a bit with their releases to the United States, however, where buyers would have been more accustomed to seeing Fourth Doctor stories presented as movies. Nevertheless, the episodic versions were soon seen as preferrable, and the practice was dropped for even the NTSC versions relatively quickly. Ultimately, all stories originally released as movies were re-released episodically in both PAL and NTSC.
|Omnibus edition name||Where released||Notes|
|Revenge of the Cybermen||Global||First VHS ever released|
|Terror of the Zygons|
|Pyramids of Mars|
|The Brain of Morbius||North America||Heavily edited; 30 minutes of actual story not present|
|The Deadly Assassin|
|The Robots of Death|
|The Talons of Weng-Chiang|
Unlike a television omnibus, which collects only one story, a print omnibus is generally one in which multiple stories are present. Put another way, an omnibus is the collection of several books into a single volume. From at least the American perspective, this is true regardless of whether the book is prose or sequential art. However, there is some variability between the way the term is used on both sides of the Atlantic with respect to sequential art.
Target novelisations of Doctor Who serials were sometimes collected by other publishers into omnibus editions, though only the British compilations used the word "omnibus" in their titles.
|Doctor Who and the Daleks Omnibus||UK||Doctor Who and the Planet of the Daleks, Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks, additional, non-Target material|
|The Doctor Who Omnibus||UK||Doctor Who and the Space War, Doctor Who and the Web of Fear, The Revenge of the Cybermen|
|Doctor Who: Dalek Omnibus||UK||Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth, Doctor Who and the Planet of the Daleks, Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks|
|The Adventures of Doctor Who||US||Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks, The Revenge of the Cybermen, Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster|
|The Further Adventures of Doctor Who||US||Doctor Who and the Deadly Assassin, Doctor Who and the Face of Evil, Doctor Who and the Robots of Death|
In addition, there was also an British line of paperbacks by Star Books called Doctor Who Classics which published two novelisations in a single volume. Seven volumes were published in all, but none of them were marketed as "omnibuses" in any way.
Comics have often been collected in the history of Doctor Who. However, there is a difference in what the term means in the UK and the US. In the UK, virtually any collection of comic stories can, and is, called an "omnibus", "graphic novel" or a "graphic novel omnibus" — at least informally. That said, the word "omnibus" hasn't, as of 2010, ever officially been used in a title for a UK Doctor Who publication.
In the US, a collection of issues (which may or may not contain multiple stories) is more frequently called a trade paperback, whereas a collection of trade paperbacks is called an omnibus. Thus, the 2010 release, Doctor Who Classics Omnibus volume 1, is the combination of the trade paperbacks, Doctor Who Classics volumes 1, 2, and 3.