Deep Breath Screenings & Spoilers: Pros & Cons

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Guest contributor Chris Taylor looks at the pros and cons of early public screenings.

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Doctor Who: The World Tour kicked off in Cardiff on Thursday 7 August. Those who managed to purchase tickets were treated to a screening of the series 8 premiere Deep Breath. Yes, fans have been given the chance (and amazingly not because of a leak) to watch the episode over two weeks prior to its TV, and slightly controversial cinema debut. I used the word “treated”, though I’m not entirely sure whether it’s appropriate. Then again, I’m not entirely sure that fans being able to watch Deep Breath before its air date is appropriate. In this article I will be taking an opinion based look at the positives and negatives of screening Deep Breath before 23 August.

Pros

I must admit that I’m struggling to think of any. Please don’t be under the impression that I’m something of a pessimistic person, it’s just that I feel more so than optimistic when discussing this subject. There is however the obvious positive to acknowledge.

Three words (as boldly stated by Peter Davison in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot): for the fans. It seems that Doctor Who has become something of an “event drama” of late, in that its publicity and ways of screening have been somewhat amplified.

Deep Breath will be screened globally in cinemas from 23 August. As I stated in my introduction: somewhat controversially, however, after the success of The Day of the Doctor, very much worth it. The opportunity of watching Doctor Who on the big screen, surrounded by fellow Whovians – what could be better? Well, how about watching it with the cast and crew present? Yeah, as I said: “for the fans”. This is truly a unique experience and it’s no wonder that the Cardiff leg of the tour sold out incredibly quickly.

Another positive is that screening Deep Breath early gives the Doctor Who production team a basis for what sort of global reaction to expect from the episode. It also gives the media their opportunity to promote Deep Breath – writing up spoiler and spoiler-free articles/reviews, which people who didn’t attend any of the World Tour screenings, depending on how much of a spoilerphobe they are, will read, getting them even more excited for their first viewing of the episode.

I have to admit that I have read articles for upcoming TV episodes and films (spoiler-free ones), which have got me excited to see them. Having an idea of the reaction towards it is always a good thing – being excited if it’s had a positive review, or being intrigued to see it and judge it for myself, if it’s been given a negative review.

A positive that might well be just something that I believe in, is that having knowledge of the plot of a story over other people can be quite satisfying. I remember in the past when I’d watched other TV series and known what was coming up, whilst those around me were watching for the very first time. Having already experienced the episode meant I could focus on other people’s reactions – seeing how they compared to my own. I believe that with the opportunity to see Deep Breath before the majority of Whovians, this will put those in the minority in the unique position of being able to focus on the reaction of the fandom. They will be able to experience two sets of reactions – their attended World Tour screening and the 23 August screening.

Cons

As much as I’d like to believe that the opportunity to watch a screening of Deep Breath, surrounded by fellow Whovians, in the company of the cast and crew and being one in a minority who’s experienced it before everyone else is entirely a good thing, I don’t believe that it is.

Why? One word: spoilers. When the first five scripts of series 8 were leaked there was a massive uproar and divide – those that would avoid them and those that would happily read them. It was inevitable that their contents would spread, and those trying desperately to avoid hearing about them weren’t completely safe from them. To top things off, Deep Breath – the actual episode – started to leak. Albeit heavily watermarked, black and white footage but footage nonetheless.

So as a show that’s so secretive over its plot details and that desperately attempts to keep its audience in the dark, is it really a good idea to screen the episode to fans, in some cases, weeks before it’s due to be aired on TV? In my opinion: no. I believe that everyone should experience the episode at the same time. There were no early screenings of The Day of the Doctor (imagine the uproar if that episode had been leaked…), so everyone was in the dark and headed “into darkness” (I’m so sorry, I had to get that in there) at the same time. With people already having seen the episode at the several World Tour screenings this won’t be the case come 23 August. I’d be shocked and stunned if the contents of Deep Breath aren’t further revealed over these next two weeks. I hope that they’re not. However, it only takes one inconsiderate person for it to spread the net like wildfire.

Another negative point about screening Deep Breath relates directly to those in attendance at a World Tour screening. If I was attending any of the screenings, which I’m not, then at the time I’d most likely be very excited. However, once it had finished and I’d left the venue and headed back out into a world where the majority of people are still waiting to see it, I would be left feeling somewhat disheartened. As much as it might be a privilege to know you’re one of a very small minority to have seen the episode, the excitement for 23 August would be gone. There’d be nothing to look forward to. Of course you might be excited to see it again, but that’s no substitute for how you feel when you’re just about to sit down to watch it for the very first time.

Overall

I believe there are positives to screening Deep Breath early. Albeit they may be rather obvious: having the privilege of seeing it early and seeing it with cast and crew present. However, I do believe that there are greater negatives to this global event. These negatives connect directly to the decisions of those present at the World Tour screenings – to spoil or not to spoil. Whilst I believe that the majority of the fandom is and will be loyal in keeping the plot of the episode a secret, I also believe that it’s a bold, and somewhat hypocritical, idea by BBC Worldwide to screen the episode in the first place, knowing the possible implications this could have on those that weren’t in attendance.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that some aspects of Doctor Who: The World Tour are fantastic, for example: the Q&A sessions. However, in my opinion, I believe that with the exposure Deep Breath has already had because of script and footage leaks, screening it before 23 August is a very risky move, leaving those who are trying to avoid spoilers at all cost in an even tougher position.

Thanks for reading!

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