The other day, I snapped.
In our forums, there is a spoiler, which came about from a careless photo posted by a crew member. It’s not a huge spoiler, maybe. I doubt many people will be upset reading it. But it’s the latest in a long line of spoilers about the show posted online since the recordings started late last year.
There’s an interesting thing about these spoilers, mind. Nearly every single one them have come from the cast, crew, and – in one notable case – an executive at UKTV. The large audiences full of excitable fans who came to watch the shows have remained generally shtum.
On some level, this is great for us, of course. Our spoiler policy quite clearly states:
“Details revealed via Dave, Grant Naylor or Baby Cow can and will be discussed openly; the same applies to things revealed by the cast and crew on social media or in interviews. However, if spoilers from the audience recordings are revealed elsewhere on the net, they can not be discussed here.”
Our spoiler policy is there merely to protect spoilers leaking out from anyone in the audience. Anything else is fair game – and spoilers from cast, crew and the like give us easy news stories, or at the very least fun fodder for the forums. It’s a win-win situation, right? We get fun stuff to talk about, while still retaining the moral high ground of not leaking stuff from the recordings. And maybe that’s the most healthy way of looking at it – and I certainly expect many comments to this article to say that’s the right way of looking at things, and I should just shut the fuck up.
But there is another way to look at it, and it’s something that’s been playing on my mind more and more as of late.
It’s important to note the genesis of Ganymede & Titan was very much as the young upstart. We were bored of the way Red Dwarf was written about online, and we wanted to change that. We never intended to be some big, mainstream fansite, who were well-behaved and nice and didn’t do any of that naughty swearing. Our job was to poke at the show, with a friendly – and sometimes not-so-friendly – stick. Sometimes, we should be discussing things that the makers of the show would rather we didn’t discuss. That’s pretty much the point of the site.
That being the case, why does G&T uphold its spoiler policy? It’s not that we really think the show will actually be damaged from us publishing more details about the recordings. The whole problem with television – and media as a whole – is that attention is a finite resource, and is spread rather more thinly than anyone would like. If we sat and published endless spoilers about the series, they wouldn’t filter through to the real audience of Red Dwarf in any meaningful way. The real audience which is in its millions… and don’t go anywhere near Red Dwarf fansites.
A more likely thing which might affect the show if we were more lax with our spoiler policy is more practical: the production might seriously think twice about whether any potential Red Dwarf XIII should be shot with a studio audience. Seeing as – whatever our differing opinions on nearly everything else – everyone who writes for G&T prefers Red Dwarf to have an audience, there’s an argument that posting spoilers we gleaned from audience members could damage any potential future series of the show. So that’s one reason we enforce our spoiler policy. But would abandoning it damage XI or XII in any meaningful way? I think not. Frankly, we’re not important enough.
No, there’s one main reason why we enforce our particular spoiler policy: Doug Naylor is clearly hugely uncomfortable with spoilers. As those self-styled upstarts, we don’t want to give too much respect to the production… but neither do we want to disrespect it entirely. Or at least, if we’re going to disrespect it entirely, best wait for the thing to actually be broadcast first. We’re happy to be dicks, but we don’t have to be complete dicks. If Doug hates them that much, we’ll play ball. This is a television show, not life-and-death coverage of a war zone, no matter what We’re Smegged may have lead us to believe.
Another reason – which has maybe come to the fore more recently – is simply that different writers for G&T have different attitudes towards spoilers. Some of us know far more about certain episodes than others – and that’s not just because some of us went to different recordings. I used to suck up as many spoilers as possible, but these days I try and avoid as many as I can. Others have exchanged emails which I have specifically asked not to be privy to. The spoiler policy we have makes everything rather easier – and hopefully helps some of our readers too.
Now, I must stress: I don’t think trying to avoid spoilers is more noble than learning everything you can about the episodes before they are broadcast. Different fans engage with shows in different ways. I’d be very wary of putting any kind of blanket interpretation that one way is “better” than another. But when each of us has a slightly different attitude, then caution works very well as an editorial policy.
That doesn’t mean we roll over entirely. One of my favourite articles we’ve ever published – and I can safely say this, as I had no hand in writing it – is Ian’s report on the recording of Trojan. I think it’s a superb example of us exercising caution, while still trying to give you, dear reader, something to enjoy and get your teeth into rather than mere platitudes. And it set the tone for everything we’ve done on the site since Red Dwarf started having audience recordings again.
But let’s return to those cast and crew leaks. Because every time something leaks from the cast or crew, our spoiler policy comes under a little extra tension. Fans – on the whole – have actually been superb at not posting spoilers. Hundreds upon hundreds of people saw XI and XII recorded – yet the net is virtually free of anyone discussing any of the episodes in any detail. There have been very few plot details, character descriptions, or specific jokes mentioned. I’m not saying there’s nothing out there, if you search extensively – but there is remarkably little of it. Why, as a community, have we managed to behave, and yet some people who actually worked on or are connected to the show seemingly can’t?
To put things even more bluntly: when important people at UKTV post things like this, where’s the incentive for excited fans in the audience to be good little boys and girls and behave with their cameras? Why, when interviews like this exist, have we not collated a list of synopses for the upcoming twelve episodes, and published and be damned?
Before anyone leaps to the wrong conclusion: this certainly isn’t a call to arms for everyone to start posting huge spoilers about what happened at each recording. That’s not what we’re asking for. Our spoiler policy remains fully in place. It might be a fudge, and the best of a bad job, but we do fully believe in the “best” part of that description. Being a fansite which deals with spoilers arising from audience recordings is a very unusual situation. Nobody gives a damn about Birds of a Feather spoilers. All we can do is our best.
But I do acknowledge this: there’s something odd when it’s the cast and crew being silly, and it’s us being the sensible, responsible ones. That’s not only the wrong way round, but at some point it just becomes entirely untenable. We’re supposed to be the ones who are slightly naughty. If we’re on better behaviour than people who have worked on the production, then that genuinely eats into the entire point of what G&T was set up for in the first place. The entire situation makes me profoundly uncomfortable.
Still, you’ve got to laugh, haven’t you?