Steven Moffat has a thing about spoilers. You’d have guessed it, given he snuck the word into ‘Doctor Who’ and then turned it into River Song’s catchphrase. But his recorded complaint about fans posting spoilers made BBC Breakfast News (and elsewhere).
I agree with Moffat. The kind of person who likes to spoil shows is the kind of person who interrupts your joke near the end with a punchline that isn’t quite right. They deflate all that build-up. The mainstream media abided with Moffat’s request not to reveal things until the day of broadcast. Someone decided their desire to show off their knowledge was more important than other peoples’ pleasure from tension. Someone was that selfish, and that self-aggrandizing.
I’m a spoilerphobe. I have been since around season 5 of ‘The X-Files’, back in the days when TV took a year to cross the Atlantic and you could summon up synopsi and scripts online. At 56kps. And I realised the initial sugary hit of knowing the next Mulder/Scully twist in advance meant the actual viewing was a crash. It was never, ever, as good as I hoped it would be (or as bad as I feared). In the old days it was simple to become a spoilerphobe, you just didn’t dial up the internet. And, rather rapidly, you realised SFX was a glossy mag filled with stuff you didn’t actually want and you could spend the money in those new frothy coffee shops that were opening.
When I started writing for BBC Books’ ‘Doctor Who’ range, I got sent an outline of an arc. I got manuscripts, synopsi, notes on what I needed to do to tie with the novels around mine. I was so happy a year later when a novel came out I didn’t know anything about. (Less happy with the actual book, mind.) I could have told people about what I knew in advance, about the Doctor losing a heart and gaining a beard, but I didn’t. Not because there was a non-disclaimer clause, but because it would have been spoilers. How disrespectful to other writers’ work would that have been?
Now, of course, the media is saturated. ‘Doctor Who’ isn’t something of interest only to DWM/DWB readers. My 7 year old neighbour watches it. A friend’s kid stared at me in awe at a wedding because I had something – anything – to do with it. And there are press releases. Many, many press releases. This is why people say there’s no way to avoid it.
So here’s how I had NO IDEA the aliens in The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon were the Silence, or who dies at the start of the series.
1. Avoid fansites
Not just before broadcast, either. There will always been some poster who puts up a ‘mild’ spoiler for a future episode in the discussion of the one just broadcast, claiming “everyone knows it”. You’ll also find you have more time, and lower blood pressure when you’re no longer having to repeatedly explain to people that ‘Doctor Who’ has things for 7 year olds in it because it’s for 7 year olds. Or that there is no such thing as ‘canon’.
2. Avoid TV gossip sites
Worse in some ways than fansites, because they contain much that is speculative, spurious or downright wrong. Also, there’s only so many shots of Karen Gillen in a parka you need to see. No really, there are.
3. Avoid the press coverage
I do read the very brief summary of the episode in the Guardian Guide each week, as they are generally very good about not revealing too much. But I don’t read the tabloids, or any chunky article about the show. I have to read quite enough press in my day job, so avoiding it the rest of the time is easy. I’m afraid it also means I don’t read my husband’s copy of DWM either. Er, except the big Moffat interview last month but then Moffat doesn’t do spoilers. Teasers, yes, spoilers no.
4. Be ruthless with your twitter follows
If someone you follow keeps tweeting spoilers, hit ‘unfollow’. Yes, even if they do post funny stuff about their cats and links to cool music. You can’t stop them posting spoilers, but you don’t have to read them.
Some people might say this is a harsh regime to follow. Not really, not if you are enough of a fan that you want surprises. Not if you want to enjoy the tension, the jokes, the speculation.
I was standing in a queue in Rymans once, and the woman behind me said she couldn’t wait to see ‘The Return of the King’ and find out how ‘Lord of the Rings’ ended. I nearly, nearly turned around and said “they throw the bloody ring in the volcano”. But I didn’t, because I’m not actually that mean.
I’m a fan. I want to get the optimum enjoyment from ‘Doctor Who’. I hate spoilers, sweetie.