On Tuesday 20 of March I had no idea when or how Rory and Amy were leaving Doctor Who . I’d heard rumours of them departing at some point and I really didn’t want to know more than that. On Tuesday 20 of March I had no idea that a new companion was on the cards or in fact was even about to be named. The following day I awoke to find Twitter and Facebook and this very site full of updates and comments about Rory and Amy’s departure and the name and face of their replacement. I now know what episode they’ll be leaving in, I even know the last enemy they’re going to face; Steven Moffat was quoted as saying “Amy and Rory will leave in a final encounter with the Weeping Angels in episode five. Not everyone gets out alive – and I mean it this time.” Mr Moffat has also said “Their story is going to come to a heartbreaking end,” whatever that means.
Now, I’m not a person who is hugely bothered by spoilers, but I didn’t want to know any of this. I consider stuff like this to be pretty big spoilers. We get angry at people who spoil stuff don’t we? And yet here we have the makers of a show, Britain’s most popular sci-fi show, and they’re telling all and sundry what’s going to be happening on the show months down the line. I know they’re not giving away plot and story lines but I would still rather have not known these major events were coming or when they’d be happening. I’d have liked to be surprised. I like to watch a show and not know before hand what’s going to be happening.
They did the same thing with the departures of both the last Doctors. I understand the need for publicity but does that publicity have to be so revealing? Admittedly both those cases are a little different. With Ecceleston there’s still controversy about how and why his departure was revealed to the public when it was. And with David Tennant there was the year of specials and the long drawn-out Christmas episodes. The world knew he was going for over a year prior to his departure and when he did finally go it was more a relief than anything else. Imagine how much more powerful it would be if we hadn’t known either was leaving before hand…
Imagine if we didn’t know about Rory and Amy’s coming departure… Wouldn’t an announcement about Rory and Amy leaving “in an upcoming episode” be enough? Wouldn’t not knowing exactly when that departure was going to be, or which episode it would feature in, be best if it were kept secret? Wouldn’t that be more dramatic?
Take Being Human ; between series three and four news surfaced that Russell Tovey (George) was leaving. He would be back for series four but in a reduced capacity. Nothing was said about how many episodes or what would happen, so everyone was shocked when his character died in the series opener… It was dramatic, it was unexpected and it was brilliant. And nobody had a clue that Annie was going to be leaving at the series end. Or that she might be replaced by new ghost Alex until it happened on the show. Nobody knew Alex was going to be staying until after the show had finished. We got to be shocked and surprised by the unfolding drama and the idea that anyone could go at any time made the stakes that much higher…
Game Of Thrones is another example. In the pre-air publicity Sean Bean was a big draw. Imagine if HBO had advertised Sean Bean’s involvement as only the first nine episodes and that “His story is going to come to a heartbreaking end.” I haven’t read any of the Game Of Thrones books and so when episode nine came around I was shocked and gripped as Ned Stark’s fate unfolded. Imaging how less the drama might have been had we known what was coming… I know there are plenty of people out there who’ve read the books and they knew Ned’s ultimate fate. But I wasn’t one of them and I was on the edge of my seat right up to the end wondering how Ned was going to get out of this. When the blade fell and he didn’t get out of it I let out a slightly incredulous and quietly stunned “No!” Even now I’m still a bit shocked that it happened.
I know there are those out there who will say if you don’t want to know these things then you have to try to avoid news of them and usually I do. I avoid anything that looks like it will reveal stuff I don’t want to know. But with this Rory/Amy thing there was no avoiding it. It was all over the net. All over my Facebook and my Twitter feed. Everyone was talking about it. You might say don’t look for a day. But would a day be enough? A week maybe? And then any news that has something about Doctor Who in it at all would have to be avoided… You have to draw the line somewhere don’t you?
I know that the internet is a minefield of spoilers, with lots of sites scrambling to get the scoop and have the hottest up-to-date news. I know SFX is one of those sites. But these sites report what the shows and their maker’s release. Hell, Rory and Amy leaving wasn’t even considered spoilery as far as I can remember. It was just wedged in with the reveal of the new companion news.
What happened to surprising your audience? Do you remember the time before all this internet? When we found out what was going to happen in a show by watching it?
Am I alone in missing those days? Or is this news so big that it supersedes any thought of keeping the drama and the suspense of the show intact?