We seriously need to talk about Doctor Who right now, guys. And not only because it’s coming back in a week, but because of the steady stream of information that’s being revealed to us entirely unnecessarily. Yes we’re going to talk about spoilers, what it means to be a spoiler, and why the BBC’s ad campaign for the upcoming series of Doctor Who is beginning to really grind my gears as someone who watches fandom very closely.
I’m no stranger to leaks coming from insiders on sets of films or series, and I’ve seen my fair share of rumors that turn out to be true. But I’ve also seen plenty that turned out to be nothing more than fan speculation and/or sensational headlines. But when the BBC go out of their way to spoil their own series, I have to take a moment to ask myself ‘why?’
Earlier this week we were treated to a second trailer for Series 10 of Doctor Who, which was in many ways similar to the first trailer we received a few weeks prior, but there was a certain few frames of footage at the end of it that stood out to me and just about everyone else and had fandom on edge. In said trailer we see a few seconds glimpse of Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor using up regeneration energy, which is important to discuss. We know Capaldi is leaving Doctor Who sometime during the Christmas special. But that hasn’t begun filming yet. So if this scene is filmed, and it has any significance to the plot, which I’m sure it will – AND it’s from Series 10 of Doctor Who, which it most certainly is, could it be that Capaldi will actually regenerate sometime during this season?
Seeing regeneration energy outside of actual regeneration stories is nothing new for the show. So this could easily be just that – a teasing glimpse at something essentially meaningless. BUT we know that Capaldi is leaving, and very soon. Is it possible that they were trying to throw us off the scent for once by having us assume he wasn’t going out until the Christmas special, only to have him regenerate right there, under everyone’s noses? That would have been great! It would have been spectacular if they were able to manage that! But then why would they show us this and expect fans NOT to suddenly expect the moment within series 10 when he would use his regeneration energy, potentially even regenerating?! It’s so backwards I can’t even wrap my head around it.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the BBC’s draw in publicizing huge events like regenerations months in advance. It brings in numbers. It makes sense from a business perspective. A new Doctor potentially means an all new audience. But to then tease said regeneration in something like a Series 10 trailer, after telling us it wouldn’t happen until the Christmas special, is confusing and honestly unnecessary. I don’t think that clip inclusion made anyone more or less likely to watch the series.
But let’s move past the trailer. It really isn’t the worst bit of this rant I want to get to. So what is a spoiler? In its most basic understanding, it’s receiving knowledge of something prematurely, something that would have been better left for the proper opportunity to reveal itself. And generally speaking, if the parent company, or some other official source, reveals information prematurely on purpose for the sake of advertising, we generally don’t consider that a spoiler. Because that’s what the producers want us to know going into it. But in this age of information, where do we draw the line as fans and producers?
We gave J.J. Abrams flak for outright lying to audiences who asked whether or not Benedict Cumberbatch’s character in Star Trek Into Darkness was actually Khan. There are some things better left secret when it comes to big films or shows. And you know what, at least he had the balls to not cave in to the leaks. Lucasfilm and Disney are the greatest examples today of keeping a tight lid on spoilers, even when it comes to their trailers. It’s commendable for a company to take the time to slowly show you little by little, but never enough for you to piece together the plot, until you actually see the thing in question. Even the Abrams produced pseudo sequel to Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane, only announced its existence a mere 3 months before it hit theaters. I publicly lauded this move on the blog because it showed an awareness not to over-hype something and to keep leaks from spoilerphobes. In an age where information is as readily available as it is today, we need better teasers and less press releases, because you do your fans a disservice by revealing things out of turn.
Yesterday the BBC let loose yet another press release, one I wish I hadn’t seen. And this is coming from someone who’s been working his way up the latter of breaking geek news for the past 5 years. This is too far, and you know it. It goes without saying, but the next paragraph contains (in my opinion) a huge spoiler.
The BBC has confirmed that John Simm’s Master will return in Series 10 alongside the current Master, Michelle Gomez. This is really cool, and is something I actually saw floating around the rumor-mill for a while. But for the Beeb to break down and spoil it for us robs many of those not in the know of a proper reveal. That would have been such an epic thing to sneak under everyone’s noses! But the BBC appears not to be able to keep hold of even their own spoilers.
What constitutes as a spoiler, if even the parent company is telling us we should know about this particular reveal before it’s shown in episode? I don’t know any more. Why did they do this? Were they pressed against the wall while leaks were coming out from insiders? Did they wish to let taxpayers know their publicly funded programs were allocating their funds wisely? Who knows? And sure, it’s not MY taxpayer money, but Doctor Who is a huge international export for the company, and I’ve spent enough on DVDs and Blu-Rays to make my small contribution to its continued success, and I feel robbed of a fantastic surprise.
Hey BBC. Remember the Blu-ray for Series 7b? I received it early, from your sister company BBC America. Really early actually. About 8 days before the end of the season even occurred live. I saw the finale, The Name of the Doctor. I posted some images on Instagram and Tumblr, caused a big stir in the community, which looking back I now totally regret. But I kept the big reveal to myself, even though it was rumored that John Hurt would be in the 50th anniversary, and now here he was, shaking Who lore forever. You pleaded with me and some hundred or so others, not to share that information, all the while news organizations were offering me real money to share the news. I chose not to. And you guys sent me a mug as thanks. You also sent me this little note: “We blew it, you didn’t! Thanks for keeping the Doctor Who Season Finale a secret.”
Well you blew it again. But this time it wasn’t a mistake – it was part of your marketing campaign. It was a move to bring back fans you lost who look fondly on the RTD era of the show. And I know you’re better than that. Because sometimes you go down the opposite extreme. The same year you asked me not to spoil the season finale, you went too far in that while you showed the trailer to the 50th anniversary to a select few at San Diego Comic Con, you chose not to show that trailer to those funding it for months. But all too often it seems it’s been one huge reveal after another, which ruins the surprise in Episodes that are mostly lackluster anyway. Write good sci-fi content. Keep quality fans. It’s as simple as that.
This doesn’t just go for Doctor Who. I’m singling BBC out here and now because I’m particularly upset about this latest revelation. To some extent most things are spoiled for us, whether it be in Trailers, press releases, interviews with the cast and crew, or otherwise. The less we know, the more we’ll talk about it after seeing it.
If you agree with anything I’ve said here, share this, and remember #stopspoilingwho.