Back in the late 80s and early 90s, when my interest in TV peaked, I spent some time procuring TV series well before their Australian debuts, courtesy of overseas contacts, twin VCRs and airmail. Thus I was able to see Red Dwarf series 4 and 5 only weeks after they aired on BBC2, albeit on slight fuzzy VHS tapes. Some of my fellow year 12 students saw the debut seventh Doctor Who episodes well before the rest of the country. Great title sequence, shame about the story.
These days such trading is done digitally, and thanks to the joys of P2P, often without the participants even knowing each others’ names. And before any ladies reading scoff at the level of male nerdy obsession required for this kind of activity, I could name a number of otherwise non-nerdy women who in recent times have furtively traded VideoCDs of upcoming Buffy episodes.
This week Doctor Who fandom is abuzz with the news that the first of the new episodes has been leaked onto the net (check your favourite BitTorrent site). Being three weeks before the world premiere, it may be a preliminary edit, but many are keen to get their mitts on it nonetheless.
Of course, a stoush of the proportions of the Imperial vs Renegade Dalek civil war has developed, with some fans proclaiming intellectual property theft will be the downfall of the Beeb. Others are pointing out that apart from the UK, NZ and Canada, no other countries are known to be showing the new series anyway, so they need to get it somewhere. (Some say the ABC has bought it, but I can’t find any hard evidence of this.)
The leak of the episode comes just as the BBC’s own publicity machine ramps up, with UK trailers and a revamp of the website expected. Hey, maybe the BBC itself surreptitiously released the episode a few weeks early to get maximum publicity for the new series. After all, they are one of the most forward-looking of the old media corporations on the planet.
Inevitably other media outlets are picking up on the hype, with a fair dose of nostalgia for the old series — for instance this article (via Doug) in which Rachel Cooke recalls the episodes of the 70s:
…the lore of the series passed, almost without our noticing, into the lore of our family. … My father’s toolbox was not merely full of screwdrivers. It was full of sonic screwdrivers. The shed at his allotment was sometimes known as the Tardis.
When I was eight, walking home from school down Hendrefoilan Avenue, I always used to think ‘I could turn round the corner and the Tardis would be there – and I would run inside and I would fight alongside the Doctor.’ It was the one programme that encouraged you to make up stories. The Tardis could land in the everyday world and no other science-fiction programme would do that. You were never going to be a member of the crew on the Enterprise when you were eight years old: it was in the future and they were the navy.
Amen to that. I had the same thoughts while walking home down Greenmeadows Lane, Russell.