The Day BBC America Sent Me the Doctor Who Season Finale a Week Before It Aired

Before Geekritique, the blog you’re currently reading, was created by yours truly, I ran smaller blogs on Instagram with some success and Tumblr with no success. They were primarily framed around my fandom of choice at the time, Doctor Who. On Instagram I went by the name of @untempered_schism, though that account has merged to become my primary Instagram account for Geekritique. As far as my Tumblr page goes, it was merely an extension of my Instagram, but it proved highly important in informing the world that Doctor Who s7’s finale was released on Blu-Ray to a select few a week prior to its airing on television in America.

Let’s jump back 3 years to May 2013. It was the height of the Whovian fandom, as we made our way towards the show’s 50th anniversary. We were all highly anticipating Neil Gaiman’s second episode for the series, Nightmare in Silver, but the real tease we couldn’t wait to watch was the series 7B finale, The Name of the Doctor. It was believed by many that Steven Moffat would indeed reveal the Doctor’s true name for the first time in the show’s long history, which was both the show’s greatest mystery and its greatest taboo. On a Thursday, May 9th, I received a curious email from BBC America, stating that my pre-order for the second half of series 7 on Blu-Ray was on its way. This was odd, because the season wouldn’t end until May 18th, over a week away.

I was very confused. I remember getting the email while I was in line to get my coffee in the morning at my local deli. Could this be true? It can’t be! Will it just take a while before it reaches me? Is this a huge mistake with all retailers or just BBC America? So I called them, and the guy on the phone seemed super weirded out that they sent them. I was on hold for a while. The guy told me that he was able to get in touch with their shipping people to tell them to halt all shipments, but that a few had already been shipped and that there was no way to recall them. I swear, I got chills. I don’t know why they shipped their stuff in batches, but then again, I know nothing about shipping things in bulk. I tracked that package about 10 times per day. What was certain was that I’d be getting it prior to the episodes air date. I didn’t expect to receive it before Nightmare in Silver came out too!

You see, one of the perks about living in my neighborhood is the magical shipping laws it seems to avoid. I can without fail assume that when it says I’ll receive a package in 5-7 business days, it actually means 2-4. So I expected it to arrive on Monday. But even better, on Saturday morning, just two days after I received that email confirmation, my tracked package said it was en route to the destination. Sad as this is, I remember stalking the mailman as he went up and down the streets, slowly making his way to my street. Eventually, after about 10 minutes of uncertainty, I just went up and asked if he had anything for my address. He had it. I ran home. Snapped a picture for my Instagram followers, and popped the disc in. I got it not only a week before The Name of the Doctor arrived, but also about 7 hours before Nightmare in Silver went live in America (though it had just aired in the UK I believe).

After watching the season’s penultimate episode, my Instagram followers didn’t believe me, so I posted another with disc art and even a screen from the episode I was about to watch, The Name of the Doctor. And so I watched the episode. And wow, I was floored. Obviously they didn’t reveal the name of the Doctor, that would never be pulled off well – but the episode was all about it. And it didn’t need to reveal his name; the episode had two truly unbelievably momentous reveals. One being that Clara had essentially helped each incarnation of the Doctor in her own way, and the other was that there was an all new incarnation of the Doctor altogether that we didn’t know about, hiding right between McGann and Eccleston. Try keeping that a secret when you’re the only fan in the world to have seen it. It was the type of episode you just knew you couldn’t spoil. This was Doctor Who’s “I am your father,” moment. And for the most part, I did keep it secret. Say what you will about the episode, when you’re the only one in the world who’s seen it, it’s a big deal.

But I was kind of surprised come Sunday that nobody else had come forth with even the knowledge that their Blu-Ray’s would arrive early. I, and my family, were the only ones who had seen the episode up to that point, as far as I know. So I decided to post it on Tumblr, because y’know Tumblr is like wildfire and it’d get the word out. I was right. It spread to all the news outlets I followed, all the Doctor Who blogs I frequented (like this piece by Kasterborous), and even some of the podcasts I listened to like Radio Free Skaro. This was a surreal and unexpected 15 minutes of fame within the Doctor Who community, one that I remember quite fondly as being wholly overwhelming.

One needs only to read a handful of the comments I received on that Tumblr post alone to understand why this was so overwhelming. I don’t know what I was expecting, but many claimed I had lied about it, many claimed I was faking the images of the discs, and there was much hate headed my way. Over on Gallifreybase, a premiere Doctor Who forum I stopped frequenting shortly after that week, I was blatantly called a liar by hundreds, even when I gave hints at the outcome of the episode. To tell you how hard it was to keep secret something everybody in the world is badgering you to post, was extremely difficult. As a means to prove I wasn’t lying, I ended up slipping in a major reveal, that being my typing “introducingjohnhurtasthedoctor,” in code, which I immediately regretted. It was quickly deciphered, and also quickly lost in the maelstrom of dozens upon dozens of pages worth of forum posts arguing about the validity of my claims. So I wasn’t worried that point would leak to the media.

But seeing those very same blogs whom I read daily pronounce me a liar shortly thereafter was heartbreaking. Many claimed I was in on a stunt from the BBC to hype up the episode. I tried not to let it get me down, so I made a video of me popping the disc in, and showing the interface of the Blu-Ray disc. People still found reason to doubt me. I believe to this day many believe it was a hoax, but that simply isn’t true.

What really came as a shock was getting calls and emails from BBC America nearly daily telling me not to reveal anything. I believe it was Monday or Tuesday when the majority of the other shipments arrived at their destination. That was when I began seeing images and such online of others who had received the Blu-Rays. Steven Moffat claimed that he’d release a special interview with Matt Smith and David Tennant if nobody were to release the spoilers, and besides my lost slip up on Gallifreybase, nobody did. The interview had nothing to do with this leak, and would have been released either way, but it was released early which was nice.

After this was all through and the rest of the world got to see the episode, I finally felt off the hook. But that was a week of pure elation turned to nearly daily dread and guilt. And I regret getting the episode early. But enough time has since passed for me to make my peace with the fandom that broke down my barriers that week.

In the aftermath, BBC America sent me and 209 others who received it early a small gift of their appreciation. It was a mug I still use regularly, along with a note saying “we blew it, you didn’t. Thanks for keeping the Doctor Who season finale a secret.”

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22 thoughts on “The Day BBC America Sent Me the Doctor Who Season Finale a Week Before It Aired

  1. Ooh, really interesting story! I knew someone else who got the DVD early but didn’t realize that you were the one who sent the story viral. But, my bigger question… are you really Marcelo Camargo, too? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember this happening. Never knew it was you. I was on edge for a week. In fact, I think I abstained from the Internet until it was over. That final shot is the only time I’ve ever leaped-off my sofa and screamed at the TV. Thinking about it now – Clara is basically responsible for the Doctor’s victories over the years, rather than the Doctor. Plus, she had very little motivation for doing that besides it being a pre-determined decision that had little to do with her as a character; she only did it because she knew that she would. Because the Twelfth Doctor didn’t exist in that version of the timestream we saw, does that mean that the version of Trenzalore we see in The Name of the Doctor never comes to exist? Does that reverse what Clara did? I dunno. It’s way too complicated, but Moffat’s moving-on now, so it won’t matter for much longer because Chris Chibnall will probably be a clean slate.

    Were this happening today, would you have made a post about it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d probably have done it very similarly to how I did it then, but perhaps with more finesse and less gloating. I didn’t even realize I was gloating at the time. But I’d probably have made a post like this one, detailing what went down.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. A large reason for my not having spoken up about it sooner since this blog began over two years ago is that it still sat pretty foul in my memory. As cool as it was, it was also a partial departure for me from the fandom.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I’m not as involved with it as I used to be. Generally, I’m happy enjoying Doctor Who on my own, and that other fans are the last people I want to talk to now. The fact that I’m even here says a lot about this blog.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember someone making a video on Youtube about this, and that person was firmly in the “you’re part of a hoax” camp…guy was a tinfoil hat sort of person too. The truth is already here Fox

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like to talk to people about Doctor Who and things that I like… but given the circumstances of this… and I remember back when it happened, though I didn’t know anyone in that secret-circle back then… I wouldn’t have had a problem keeping that kind of secret. It’s a goof of a mistake and I wouldn’t want to be the one who ruined a thing by blabbing about it just because I got lucky. So it’s cool you were able to keep it under your hat (fez?)…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Such are the perils of fandom’s fame – damned if you share, damned if you don’t. But this is a wonderful real life story. We always get to hear something like this on the internet once in a while. And here it’s happening to one of us. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, this was cool. Though I think my heart sped up just THINKING having to keep a secret a secret that big. And after all the badgering, you STILL kept it a secret?! That’s amazing. Glad you didn’t spoil it for us! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I suspect its an odd feeling knowing that you are one of the few people on the face of the planet who knows a piece of information. The temptation to reveal would have been great, but the cool factor of being ‘in the know’ offers much satisfaction. And you got a cool mug out of it.

        Liked by 2 people

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