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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Doctor Who thing: Steven Moffat threatens fans, wants to keep a lid on 50th-anniv promos

An Adventure in Space and Time

This is bizarre, to say the least. Via Geekosystem:

With the 50th anniversary coming up, the Doctor Who panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2013 was pretty intense. There was even a spiffy trailer! Sadly we weren’t lucky enough to be there — and according to showrunner Steven Moffat, we’ll never get any future Doctor Who exclusives if somebody puts the trailer online, because they won’t exist. Say what now?

Moffat also tweeted:

Two trailers were shown: one for the 50th-anniversary episode, and one for the making-of docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time. Usually the way of these things is that stuff gets shown first to the Comic-Con audience and then almost immediately afterward, the trailers get posted officially online, not just to discourage those who do film trailers and then throw their crappy iPhone videos up on the Web, but just to, you know, get fans excited about the stuff we’re eager to be excited about.

But those two videos have yet to appear in any official capacity online. So, Moffat doesn’t want us to see them? Why not?

Apparently it’s fine to write about what was in those trailers, as Radio Times and EW have done; Charlie Jane Anders has a detailed breakdown of both trailers at io9. So apparently that’s okay, but letting those of us who weren’t at Comic-Con see the trailers is a no-no.

I don’t get this. At all.

As commenters have been pointing out at those links above, there’s an extra level of strangeness when it comes to Doctor Who. The BBC is publicly supported by British taxpayers — if you have a TV in the UK, you have to pay for a TV license, with the money going to the BBC — so BBC content that is specifically kept from license players is something like an affront. (British fans have noted this in the past, too, when there has been exclusive extra content for the North American audience.)

What could possibly be the benefit to withholding trailers like this?

Photo of David Bradley as William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time from the BBC’s Doctor Who site, and not leaked or smuggled or pirated or anything.

(If you stumble across a cool Doctor Who thing, feel free to email me with a link.)


  • RogerBW

    Just another trick to drum up publicity by getting people talking about it.

  • Danielm80

    Well, yes, exactly. If the trailer had just been posted on YouTube, it would have gotten a day or two of discussion. Moffat is trying to turn it into an event, twice. First he made it into an “exclusive Comic-Con premiere,” which makes it sound much more exciting than “five minutes of unrevealing clips.” Then, to make it even more exclusive, he said, “You are absolutely forbidden to see this clip.” So now, because of reverse psychology, fans will spend days or weeks asking, “When will we get to see the trailer? We DEMAND to see the trailer,” and it will become a news story on…well, on websites like this one.

    It’s the Tom Sawyer strategy. Moffat is saying that if we’re really good, he might let us paint the fence for him.

  • I disagree. We’d be talking about this anyway.

  • Danielm80

    Here are the secrets we would have learned if we’d been able to see the trailer:

    * Matt Smith and David Tennant trade witty banter about their glasses.

    * John Hurt plays The Doctor, who did Something Important at some point in the past.

    * Rose Tyler makes an appearance.

    And the big surprise revelation was:

    * The Doctor encounters the Daleks again.

    So, yes, we would have been talking about the trailer for a day or two. But we would have been saying the same things we’ve been speculating about since last spring. By delaying the trailer, Moffat is building suspense by riling up the fans (even if it’s false suspense), and when the trailer finally does come out, it will get a lot more hits, and the show will get an additional wave of news coverage.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Y’know what, I hope he makes good on the threat. SDCC is getting out of hand. It’s starting to think it matters. Every year there’s more and more film and TV footage that’s so “exclusive”, no one not at SDCC ever sees it. That’s insane. What’s the good of creating promotional material, and only showing it to a few hundred potential customers?? And yet, everyone is doing it. Why? I can only guess that the SDCC people are leveraging something (extra hookers and blow in the hotel rooms?) to get creators to act against their own interests. Somebody needs to slay that beast.

  • RogerBW

    Interesting. I’ve never paid much attention to SDCC, so my impression may be entirely wrong, but the picture I’ve got from people talking about it is that the various studios’ PR agencies have effectively bought the convention. It’s not so much that the convention has got too big for its boots, as that the PR guys spy a cheap venue with a basically-positive audience and throw lots of things at it.

  • Danielm80

    The idea is that Comic-Con will create “buzz,” because fans will watch the preview footage, rave about it to their friends, and post enthusiastic comments all over the Internet, creating free publicity for the studios. It’s the strategy that made Serenity a worldwide success.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I considered that, and it’s not an unlikely scenario, but…

    It doesn’t explain those PR guys’ increasing reticence about immediately tossing that stuff up on the web 5 minutes after the end of the panel. Not to mention every video monitor in every hallway at the San Diego Convention Center. Again, what good is a promo only a handful of people see? Word of mouth is how you sell the product, not the advertising.

    But either way, wherever the heart of this beast lies, it still needs to die.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    What you did there? I saw it.

  • Jem

    In some ways I hope there are no further trailers once this is *hopefully* released as too much info might take out any surprises and little to date appears to have leaked.

    Of more interest in the reports above is that the Christmas episode which apparently farewells MS is only half written. If casting of the new doctor is not yet finalised and they need to complete the Christmas special and move to film season 8 as a full 12 episodes, it doesn’t look hopeful for the new season starting at Easter 2014.

    I thought that season 7 suffered greatly from a lack of final polish, particularly in the scripting (too many rushed endings) so is there enough time to produce a tight and quality season? Maybe the new production team will make the difference. Or a very long wait again?

    Jem

  • Doc Smith

    Well I don’t actually blame Moffat for wanting the fans to keep quite as they are spoiling it for others, keeping things secret does build up to the excitement, but knowing about location spoilers and pics doesnt really bother me or spoil it for me in anyway, it just adds to the what if speculation.
    you release a trailer at an event allowing some who are not TV Licence payers to see the trailer before a paying who fan over in the UK is a bit unfair, they should release the clips for the general public to see a month after the showing, if they don’t well it shows how arrogant the show runner and the BBC are to dedicated fans for years who cannot travel all the way to comic con.

  • TheRealTimewarp

    So explain the part where those same PR Agencies freak out at the concept of anyone not at Comic-Con watching the trailers. I get it when the guys from say the Archer panel show off an episode since that’s showing off content ahead of time but the whole point of a trailer is to build up interest so it makes no sense to only allow a handful of people to see it. (Also the people sending death threats have gone too far)

    Basically people like Moffat are saying “Here’s a trailer for the show I really want you to watch BUT DON’T LET ANYONE ELSE WATCH IT!” Moffat is accusing us of malice while acting like a child who’s threatening to take his ball back if the comic-con audience keep sharing it with their friends.

  • TheRealTimewarp

    Another fun way to do that is to show everyone online the damn trailer.

  • TheRealTimewarp

    Is the event that Stephen Moffat is an asshole?

  • RogerBW

    The Comic-Con audience is a controlled audience. They can see the trailer only once, they’re pre-cued to be excited about it, and then they generate buzz.
    If the trailer itself gets out, to a general audience that hasn’t had the warmup and can pause the thing, watch it repeatedly, and pick nits, then the buzz won’t be as remorselessly positive.
    That’s my theory, anyway.

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