Is ignorance bliss? Or is knowledge power? If there’s one thing that seems to divide the Doctor Who fan community, it’s spoilers about the show.
While spoilers mean different things to different people, in the context of Doctor Who they’re often plot details of upcoming episodes, and the show’s fandom is rife with people clamouring for such insider titbits about their favourite programme.
There are many Whovians who find spoilers thoroughly irritating, though, among them Doctor Who’s executive producer Steven Moffat. He said in a recent interview: “A lot of the audience that I talk to specifically avoid any spoilers and I’m absolutely certain they have a better experience of the show.”
He may well be right. After all, forums across the ‘net abound with people complaining about having their enjoyment of TV shows ruined by spoilers.
“I hate spoilers so much!” said a poster on Mangabullet’s forum, making the point in no uncertain terms. “I hate anyone who ever posts drastic spoilers uncensored. I think my favourite series is RUINED.”
Yet not all of the show’s fans are happy at being kept in the dark. In May 2011, Moffat went on the attack after the complete plots of two episodes from Doctor Who’s then-unaired sixth season were leaked online – not by embargo-busting journalists, but by fans who’d been invited to the series launch event.
“It’s heartbreaking in a way because you’re trying to tell stories, and stories depend on surprise. Stories depend on shocking people. Stories are the moments that you didn’t see coming. If you are denied those, it’s vandalism,” he said at the time.
But as Steve Hill, who runs the Doctor Who fan forum Gallifrey Base, points out, some fans are more interested in sharing information than actually watching the series.
“I think any viewer would have a better viewing experience not knowing anything before it starts,” he told RadioTimes.com. “But that only works when the actual viewing experience is the most important for the individual fan – and for many, paradoxically, it isn’t.
“For some, discovering, holding, and sharing advance knowledge is actually more important than watching the show.”
Indeed, he says that about 20% of all the Doctor Who-related discussion on Galifrey Base is given over to spoilers and speculation, which bears out the fact that there’s a very real hunger for inside information from many Doctor Who fans.
And it’s also true to say that people react to spoilers in different ways, ranging from those who can’t bear the surprise of Doctor Who being ruined to those who ravenously consume advance information.
Entertainment journalist Colin Paterson thinks that some people are just naturally drawn to spoilers. In a BBC interview, he said: “A lot of people when they buy a book, the first thing they do is turn to the last page and find out how it’s going to end. There are always going to be people who like that, feeling ahead of the game.”
Some even use their advance knowledge of the show to give themselves a different viewing experience to other fans, as Steve Hill explains. “[Spoilers] certainly change the [viewing] experience, but at the same time one ruins the chances of being surprised by one thing or another, one gains a certain thrill of expectation, especially if watching with other people who have remained spoiler-free.
“For example, let’s say (spoiler alert) you knew that Professor Yana was the Master, but the five other people watching with you don’t know. You don’t get to experience the surprise moment affecting you, but you do get to experience it affecting them, and there’s definitely a certain excitement in that.”
But despite the obvious appeal of spoilers to certain sectors of the fan community, Benjamin Cook from Doctor Who Magazine still can’t fathom the desire to read spoilers about the show. “I can’t quite understand why anyone would want to watch an episode of Doctor Who and know what’s coming up,” he said. “It’s like watching The Sixth Sense and knowing that big twist…”
So what do you think? Are you a fan of spoilers, or do you prefer to be surprised by your favourite TV series? Vote in our poll, or post a comment and let us know your thoughts…