Why spoilers are a BAD thing
While I know there is a certain irony, this article DOES contain spoilers for The Empire Strikes Back and The Sixth Sense so don't read if you're one of the 3 people in the world that DOESN'T know what happens!
It's hard to deny that there is a buzz in finding out what is going to happen in your favourite TV show or a film you're looking forward to before anyone else you know. But, is has to be argued that what you gain in knowledge takes far more away from your experience in seeing things unfold as they're supposed to. Imagine watching The Empire Strikes Back for the first time and not knowing that Vader is Luke's father, likewise imagine seeing The Sixth Sense and knowing Bruce Willis is dead all along - the former is a brilliant revelation and the latter elevates a plodding bore of a film to something of a classic. Spoilers would have ruined (and arguably in certain case have indeed ruined) the experience of discovering these things as they were meant to be discovered.
The latest series of Doctor Who - currently on a mid-series break until September - is another case in point. The shows lead writer and producer, Steven Moffat, recently launched a stinging tirade against fans who revealed (in detail) events that happen during the series opening two-part story; speaking on the subject, Moffat said "stories are the moments that you didn’t see coming, that are what live in you and burn in you forever. If you are denied those, it’s vandalism. I just hope [the spoiler poster] never watched my show again, because that’s a horrific thing to do."
The question is, how did the fan get to find this information early - was it a press copy of the first episodes? was it through more nefarious means? If it was through a review copy then it becomes obvious that early dissemination of the show to magazines and review sites may not be a good thing. Even more recently, with extensive speculation amongst fans that Who might not return for a full series in 2012 and that certain characters may or may not be making a return, Moffat posted on Twitter "misquotes and misunderstandings. But I'm not being bounced into announcing the cool stuff before we're ready. Hush, and patience."
Despite the show-runner's obvious reluctance to discuss the matter, the BBC seem intent on undermining his position with the channel's controller, Danny Cohen, stating in front of a conference that the series WOULDN'T return for a full run in 2012 and attributed it (albeit later claiming this to be a joke) to the success of Moffat's other show, Sherlock. While speculation is fine, we feel that this is a situation that could damage Moffat's interest in working with the BBC long-term. When the person who is making the show is unable to rely on the broadcaster to reign in their public comments it introduces cracks in a relationship that should be totally based on trust. The BBC website later went on to reproduce Cohen's comments in a major news item on their site, only later adding that Moffat had denied that Sherlock has any influence on the scheduling of the channel's premier science fiction show.
With the shows 50th anniversary coming up in 2013, the clamor and quest for spoilers are only going to intensify as fans chomp at the bit to discover what plans are being put in place to celebrate.
Spoilers are becoming more and more common across all TV shows - if you don't watch The Apprentice on first broadcast then it's near impossible to avoid finding out who was fired the following day - articles in all of the major newspapers and a regular slot on BBC breakfast mean that you would struggle to avoid discovering the result. Since when did a reality TV show become 'news'? Even official websites often fall in to the trap of spoiling upcoming twists and the cornucopia of television magazines with revealing spoilers splattered over their covers mean you don't even need to lift a finger to find revelations in your favourite show ruined.
This writer, for one, would much prefer to be able to experience twists and turns as they're supposed to happen - it's far more satisfying and far more rewarding when you invest many hours following a story.