To Spoil or Not To Spoil? Why Spoilers Are So Attractive

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Guest contributor Clara Laurinda looks at the other side of the coin.

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Yes, I am one of “those people” who find spoilers impossible to resist but I can assure you that after events during the past 10 months, including the story leaks for “The Name of the Doctor,” the 2013 Christmas Special and the most recent leaking of 5 Series 8 scripts, I have become aware how important it is to know one’s spoiler limits and those two events certainly meet mine.

I love to watch clips and photos of on-location shooting as it is happening because I love the show and because I have a history of film and television production experience and I find it all absolutely fascinating. And of course I love to see what the show’s performers and creative team are up to as a new season is prepared and we wait (and wait) for the first episodes to air.

But I am equally capable of keeping secrets. Witness my 5 months of sealed lips as my friend Helena insisted she did not want to know who the new Doctor was until he first appeared. I DID that. I kept silent and was proud of it. Then someone leaked details of the Christmas special and like an idiot, I couldn’t resist, and yes I learned too much and it hurt my enjoyment just a little although the reality of the show, with Matt’s profoundly moving departure and Capaldi’s dramatic arrival, was far more compelling than what the spoilers implied. SO, uncharacteristically, and with my new resolve, I will be ducking spoilers this time around regarding the first 5 episodes of Series 8.

I find the situation quite different and rather unpleasant when someone wilfully retrieves and spreads accidentally released material (scripts in this case) JUST BECAUSE THEY CAN, as opposed to a few passionate fans photographing and filming Capaldi and Coleman (or before them, Smith and Coleman) on location, and then posting the images (and occasionally videos) online. The first act is an act of bloodless, knee-jerk defiance and arrogance; the second act is one of giddy Whovian delight in seeing what our beloved characters and performers are up to without really knowing the details. It’s the spoilers that emerge from this second approach that I find so attractive.

When I was 5, my mother told me I was a born researcher. Images of me being born with a pen and notepad in hand popped into my mind and never left after she said that 59 years ago. And I have been a film critic (20 years) and university professor who taught film studies and critical analysis for over 40 years. As a result, I see spoilers, mild spoilers, in a different light than most people as I really enjoy following the creation of a work and then deconstructing it and analysing it when I see it; a few spoilers only adds to my understanding and analysis and knowing what happens ahead of time doesn’t always spoil things for me. But here comes another … BUT: knowing too much going into a few of Series 7 episodes did reduce or skew their intended impact.

However, there is another reason why this Canadian Whovian normally can’t resist a spoiler: the time delay between the show’s broadcast overseas and its broadcast in Canada. With the 50th anniversary special, I was able avoid the horrendously impossible-to-resist temptation to come online after an episode is shown in Great Britain and before it is shown in Canada (5 hours later) and trawl for comments that will tell me what happens. THAT IS THE HARDEST TIME FOR ME! My friends are all watching it over there and I am waiting here. So a simulcast would save me from myself for the first episode of Series 8, but I will be sitting with a fist in my mouth in front of my computer trying NOT TO LOOK on the days of subsequent episodes!

So why am I writing all this? Simply to explain that most people who can’t resist spoilers are not weaklings who lack self-control, but highly motivated, enthusiastic and excited fans who just want to know and find that the waiting we have learned to live with in split seasons and the anniversary year is sometimes so much longer than it seems and it is fun to talk about what this image from the set might mean or not.

I have another Whovian-Canadian friend with whom I spend hours feverishly and joyously speculating on the meaning of what we see of fan-covered on location shooting; it is fun mainly because it is usually impossible to guess correctly what is actually happening and that sort of spoiler speculation is what makes us all die-hard fans. But he and I always love surprises and were blown away by McGann’s appearance in “The Night of the Doctor” BECAUSE we had missed any and all spoilers.

So it’s a draw when it comes to the Shakespearean inspired question: To spoil or not to spoil? BUT the spoiling needs to be left to our own choice (something DWTV works so hard to do) and NOT be imposed on us by someone who spoils just because they can and because they choose to do so. That kind of “freedom” isn’t freedom at all. In fact, it takes away the freedom of others, such as myself, to choose.

Step back in time...