#2 Shhhhh! Spoilers!!
No, this isn’t a rant about hating River Song – we’d need a whole additional top ten for that – but about actual spoilers. And those who trade in them, AND those who complain about them. Confused? You will be… (pauses while nobody notices the ‘clever’ metatextuality of that reference).
Remember waiting all week to see what The Destroyer looked like? And then finding out the answer was ‘a bit rubbish’? Anticipating a new episode of Doctor Who used to be as exciting as, and sometimes more exciting than, the episode itself.
The show’s early producers have often spoken of how their biggest audiences were for the first episodes of new stories, with people tuning in to see who the latest aliens looked like, after losing interest in the previous bunch halfway through. Look at that early fan newsletter reprinted in Doctor Who – The Sixties, and you’ll see the editor jumping up and down with excitement despite not knowing much more than the working titles of stories that were due to air in a fortnight or so. Even twenty years later, in the age of Doctor Who Magazine, little had changed; prior to transmission, all anyone really knew were story titles and bits and pieces of cast details and that was it. Only once, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, did an episode escape in any form before it was aired, and even then it was a hissy and distorted audio of a very visual second episode of a story, so it made no sense anyway.
These days, however, you can’t move for people who want to know every last detail about new episodes as far in advance of transmission as possible. Go to any prominent fan site and you’ll find – whether you want to see them or not - a list of ‘spoilers’ that are almost as long as the actual scripts. But where’s the joy in knowing exactly what’s going to happen beforehand? Would, say, The Invasion Of Time have worked as well if all its twists and turns had been common knowledge pre-broadcast? Of course not, but then rampant spoilerism isn’t anything to do with joy; it’s more to do with the need to be the most knowledgeable fan on the block, to discover that elusive last little snippet of information that will have a couple of dozen internet forum posters hailing you as a hero for about thirty seconds.
Enough of this nonsense. Let’s get a bit of surprise and mystery back into Doctor Who, and maybe, just maybe, get back to the days when even “wait… don’t move!” and Sylvester hanging over an ice ledge for no reason could, in the heat of the moment, feel like exciting cliffhangers. But then again… there’s the whining from the production team, who seem unable to understand that their very public displays of ‘secret filming’ and encouraging their pals who’ve been to preview screenings to slap ‘not allowed to say anything about it but I’ve just seen best episode ever!’ type statements all over Twitter, that they are basically poking the spoiler hornet’s nest with a red hot poker… and those fans who think that they have to assume a militant anti-spoiler stance and complain that the Radio Times announcing what day and time it’s going to be on is ruining their enjoyment… and suddenly you feel like revealing everywhere that the Ice Warriors are back (sort of) next series. Sometimes, you just can’t win. And now someone’s going to complain about having Rhinocratic Oaths by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band spoilered…