DWM 479 Ignorance is Bliss

New Doctor Who: how do you watch yours?

Obviously the answer is ‘I just sit in front of the telly and point my eyes at the screen’, but aside from that, it’s not quite so straightforward…

Let’s look first at spoilers, sweetie. I hate and fear them. Oh, I’m fine with knowing bits and pieces, but don’t tell me things that the creators intended to be a surprise. As I’ve mentioned before, my top moment in recent years of Doctor Who was the Doctor, but definitely not the one I was expecting, popping up in Night of the Doctor. Oh my word yes. And I can’t forget Mels regenerating into River (nope, genuinely didn’t see that one coming), Catherine Tate materialising in the TARDIS, the woman Donna was talking to turning out to be Rose… Those are the things that have me punching the air, and I’m glad I wasn’t robbed of those viewing experiences. I still hold grievances against the people in offices where I was working who loudly announced spoilers for both the Buffy and Angel finales on the respective days of UK broadcast, totally negating my immense efforts to avoid any information online (and they didn’t even watch Buffy or Angel! They just did it to show they knew! Aaaaaargh!) I got up at whatever early hour of the morning it was to watch the UK/US simulcast of the Lost finale to avoid anything like that happening again (and if you knew how much I like my sleep you would know what a sacrifice that was). Admittedly, once I’d seen it I wished I hadn’t bothered (actually, wished I hadn’t bothered watching the entire series), but that’s another story.

Husband, on the other hand, doesn’t mind spoilers. In fact he likes them. In fact he actively welcomes them. In fact, if it were possible to have the entire episode spoiled before watching the episode, he would do so. There’s a reason for this, though, which is to do with another way in which our new Who watching experiences are totally different.

I get heavily emotionally invested in fiction. I live inside books and television programmes. I care. I stop breathing when it gets tense. My heart races as characters try to escape. I hate it when I can see the fiction has been really cynically designed to emotionally manipulate me, and yet can’t help myself getting emotionally manipulated anyway. I cry a lot. I really do mean a lot. We’re talking buckets here. But if I feel betrayed by the plot, or the characters, or especially the ending (hello again, Lost finale), that’s it. The entire series/book is ruined for me, at least temporarily.

It isn’t like that for husband. He likes watching things to have watched things. For him, there’s an endless pantheon of outstanding culture out there and not enough hours in the day to consume it all, so he’s always eager to be on to the next thing. Our complete and total incompatibility in viewing matters is demonstrated whenever an emotionally charged film or programme finishes, and he’s discussing what DVD to put on next while I’m still a soggy heap in the corner. ‘How can you think of anything else?!’ I cry as I howl into an entire boxful of tissues, knowing I won’t be good for anything for the next half hour. Or, in the case of Earthshock/Father’s Day/Journey’s End, for at least a week.

But Doctor Who isn’t just another programme for him, so there is an emotional component, just a different one. According to him, there’s too much resting on Doctor Who, a programme that consumed his childhood and became the foundation for his adult life, for him to be able to actually enjoy watching a new episode for the first time.  The weight of expectation (all those years without new Doctor Who) is such that the first viewing exaggerates that which disappoints. He can’t properly enjoy it until the second time of watching, because it’s much less pressured. Spoilers enable to him to process some of the potential disappointments in advance. There are quite a few recent Doctor Who stories I’ve only watched once, despite loving them. He’s watched all of them more than once, even if he hated them. (And some of those ones he used to hate, he now loves.) Fans, huh?

And what of the children? They watch Doctor Who entirely in the moment. If it has monsters, they run around pretending to be the monsters. If it has funny bits they repeat the funny bits.  Again and again and again. So they might miss a bit of the plot, so what? This is how they’re enjoying it. And yes, we may hiss ‘Mummy and Daddy are trying to watch this,’ but that completely childlike appreciation is really the way to watch telly.

I’m now going to pass this column to my husband so he can point out how much I’ve misrepresented him. Fingers crossed for marital harmony.

Addendum: Husband has completely rewritten the bits about him. Marital harmony breathes a sigh of relief.