That’s cool, I didn’t like suspense anyway…

And now for something completely low-brow.

I’m not a totally pop-culture detached intellectual. Ok, mostly, but not exclusively. So what? I can’t help being better than you. Once in a while I do like to indulge in a little “low culture”. BBC Three for instance is fantastic for those occasions when you just want to sit back and switch your non-essential-functioning brain off.

Mouth-breathing, wide-eyed, vacant - The perfect mascot.

Mouth-breathing, wide-eyed, vacant, slimy – the perfect mascot.

Another television indulgence I have is Doctor Who. Looking beyond the slightly schizophrenic nature of drama/soft-SciFi aimed at children, promoted as “family” viewing, broadcast on a prime timeslot, and watched mainly by adult men; the programme is decent and one of the few things worth calling up BBC iPlayer for.

Anyway this next part contains SPOILERS. Don’t read on if you don’t want to know what happens in the Christmas special.

Are you sure?

OK.

Lead actor Matt Smith is leaving the show at the end of this year. There we go, that’s any tension or suspense taking out of the plot a full six months in advance. His character dies and regenerates. Now true, an immortal main character removes a fair chunk of tension anyway, but still it’d be nice to leave it open ended, on the off-chance that there might be a plot twist.

Imagine watching the Great Escape the first time knowing which prisoners make it and which ones don’t. Bang goes any tension on the railway platform, or on the falling plane by the Swiss border. Would the Big Reveal of Star Wars (“Luke, I am your Father”) have been anything like the surprise plot-twist it was had it been leaked in advance. The nature of surprise suggests not. West Wing had some fantastic season finales – drama of the personal and the political, with explosive action and quiet intrigue in perfect balance. Re-watching old election coverage loses most of its excitement once you already know the result – as I’ve learned when researching for the Last Post.

He doesn't make it.

He doesn’t make it.

And yet the writers of Doctor Who always do this. Every time a lead actor leaves, the BBC press team make sure you know about it. Any potential for a genuine bit of “Will they get out of this one alive?” tension is stamped out. Now I know its “just for kids”, but it seems like the writing team are being foolish in their squandering of a potential twist or dramatic climax.

Now supposedly Spoilers help to increase the enjoyment of media for certain people, but I just don’t buy it. The one main advantage, that less time figuring out plot twists can be spend enjoying the storytelling, is something that can be enjoyed on replay anyway. Plus it isn’t as if our brains are incapable of multi-tasking. Take the classic late ’90s episodes of Jonathan Creek (writer David Renwick). The fifty percent of episodes where I figured out the “trick” or twist about half-way through were far less enjoyable than those that remained a mystery until the genuine “Big Reveal”. The obvious “the real body was never in the room anyway” problem of the recent Easter special is a case in point, with the episode after that realisation being just tedious resolution.

The lesson to writers is to not throw secrets and twists away in the next press release. Use them to built tension and excitement into a great finale.

Not like this post. This post just peters out…

NASH

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