In my review of “A Good Man Goes To War,” I mentioned my hampered viewing experience of it. I decided to wait a day or two before writing about it to calm down and see if I felt the same way. I do. I’m not quite as upset anymore, but it bothers me that my enjoyment of this, or any other Doctor Who episodes aired on BBC America, could be ruined by a couple of ill-advised decisions on the part of a network specifically trying to appeal to viewers like me. So, without further ado: An open letter to BBC America.
Dear BBC America,
First, I’d like to thank you for airing Doctor Who in the U.S. After becoming a fan watching the Eccleston episodes on DVD, I was thrilled to know that I could stay current with the series once I’d caught up.
Second, I’d like to thank you for making the decision to air Doctor Who on the same day it airs in the U.K. It was a wise decision because, as you are probably well aware, not doing this meant that fans in he States would simply acquire the episodes by other means, rather than wait the week or two for the new episodes to air. While piracy is obviously illegal, people do it because, in a world that’s smaller every day because of the internet, not doing so often means the episode is spoiled for you long before you have the opportunity to watch it. Your decision to air Doctor Who on the same day as it airs in the U.K. not only prevents piracy, but it also ensures a positive fan viewing experience that can only benefit your network and the worldwide success of the Doctor Who franchise.
Which is why I was extremely puzzled when you decided not to air Doctor Who during Memorial Day weekend this year. Why go to all the trouble of starting to air the episodes along with the U.K. if you’re only going to get off schedule mere weeks later?
Why is this a big deal, you ask?
I am probably the last person in the United States who refuses to download episodes of Doctor Who illegally. As an aspiring creator myself, I understand that doing so contributes to a system that ultimately takes money out of creators’ pockets. I firmly believe that if you enjoy any work of art—be it television, music, or film—you should pay for it, and enjoy it the way it’s intended to be enjoyed to ensure that the artists you love can continue to create the kind of art you love. I don’t believe that to be true only in the case of independent artists, but larger, more mainstream artists as well. Just because something is hugely successful and mainstream, as Doctor Who is, doesn’t mean that stealing work is okay. I say this to you, BBC America, because your decision to skip Memorial Day weekend hurt exactly the kind of fan you should be trying to cultivate. The following thoughts come to mind:
1.) Fans can end up spoiling an episode even if they’re not trying to. After successfully avoiding spoilers for a week, I was spoiled the day before “A Good Man Goes to War” aired.
I came across a piece of Doctor Who fan art created by someone who’d seen the episode (whether it was a British fan, or an American who’d pirated the episode is unclear) under the Doctor Who tag on Tumblr, which I check often. It pretty much spoiled the big reveal in “A Good Man Goes to War” in big letters with a huge photo. Now, should this fan have been more considerate? Of course. (NOTE TO FANS: Don’t spoil until you’re sure everyone’s seen it! Put stuff under a cut, put up a warning, make some kind of effort! Fandom is supposed to be a community, and it sucks when people rain all over other people’s parades.) But it wouldn’t have been an issue at all if the show were airing when it was supposed to. When I complained to people that I’d been spoiled, the first thing EVERYONE said was “This is why I download.”
I shouldn’t have to do something illegal to prevent being spoiled. It isn’t as if I was lazy and had the episode sitting on my DVR for a week without watching it and then expected to remain spoiler-free. If that were the case, I’d take responsibility. However, the episode wasn’t legally available here, and it wasn’t legally available for a really stupid reason. Which leads me to....
2) Holidays are no longer a threat to television shows.
That may have been the case years ago, but with DVR and episodes being available on iTunes and Amazon.com, holidays are less of an impediment to people enjoying a current episode of a show! YOU AIRED A DOCTOR WHO CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. ON CHRISTMAS. POSSIBLY THE BIGGEST TRAVELING HOLIDAY THIS COUNTRY OBSERVES. Yet you won’t air an episode during Memorial Day weekend. Why? Because people go away?
Have you been experiencing this economy the way I have? Because no one I know went away for Memorial Day. The word “staycation” was invented for a reason, and it’s what most people did this Memorial Day weekend. But even if people DID go away, they went away on Friday. Doctor Who airs on Saturday, and chances are, they were somewhere with a television. Any fan who would’ve watched it at home would just as likely watch it elsewhere. And if they didn’t, at least they’d be able to watch the playback on their DVR, or download the episode from iTunes or Amazon in a reasonable amount of time.
To add insult to injury....
3) The episodes aired on BBC America are ruined by commercials.
This is not to say that there should be no advertisements at all. I understand that ads are necessary, and I have no problem sitting through them. What I do have a problem with is an extended episode (“A Good Man Goes to War” was 50 minutes long as opposed to the usual 45) being sped-up to accommodate commercials. Not to mention a completely unnecessary recap sequence with an Amy voiceover explaining everything that’s happened up until that point. It’s one thing to have many commercial breaks, it’s another to affect the integrity of the episode itself in order to make them happen. “A Good Man Goes to War” is already a fast-paced episode with a lot going on and a lot of action punctuated by important emotional moments. Had this episode gone any faster, it would’ve sounded like it was being performed by Alvin and The Chipmunks.
So not only was I spoiled, but when I did watch the episode it was difficult to enjoy, because it was going by so fast I couldn’t absorb it. I could see moments that were supposed to be emotionally affecting and would have been had they not been a blur. Up until now, I’d been downloading the Series 6 episodes on iTunes the day after they aired, so I wasn’t aware of the way episodes were aired live. Now that I’ve experienced it, I can’t say it’s a wonder that people look for alternatives.
I’m not trying to justify piracy. However, I am a fan who doesn’t download illegally, and your decision not to air Doctor Who during a holiday weekend ended up punishing me. Obviously, it’s just a television show. I will survive having had a Doctor Who episode spoiled for me. But the fact remains that, if you really want to encourage viewership here in the States, punishing viewers who are doing everything you ask—who are doing their best to meet you halfway—by making unwise decisions, is not the way to go about it.
All I ask is for you consider that when you begin airing Doctor Who Series 6.2 in the fall. Thank you for your attention.
Teresa Jusino can currently be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor or Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! 2012 will see Teresa’s work in two upcoming sci-fi anthologies.Get Twitterpated with Teresa, “like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.