Sub-Editorial: The Doctor Who Leak

As you no doubt know, thanks to a huge mistake by BBC America’s DVD distributors, some people in the USA have already seen the series finale, The Name of the Doctor.

The Name of the Doctor TV

And by now, though I have not searched around, I’m sure there are illegal copies, torrents, circulating on the internet. Promised a brilliant episode, in which we find out about Clara and the Doctor’s greatest secret, with a shocking cliffhanger that leads into the 50th anniversary special, it’s the dilemma fans faced before with the leak of Rose back in 2005: do I see it online, or wait until Saturday?

I know which I’m going to do – but then, I refuse to even watch the show on iPlayer before I see it on TV. In fact, the last episode I didn’t watch live was in 2007 when I was on holiday. And despite being on holiday in 2010, I even managed to watch it live then! But what should you do? You’ve probably made your mind up already, but nonetheless, let me make my argument clear…

If you watch it now, the story will be the same. The shocks will still be shocking and the happiness will still be joyous. What’s more, you’ll have bragging rights. You will know all the secrets The Name of the Doctor has to tell.

But there’s far more to consider.

The Name of the Doctor- TV Trailer - Doctor Who Series 7 Part 2 Finale (2013) - BBC One.mp40032

Most obviously, quality is a massive concern. I don’t use torrents, but surely the version shown on BBC One and BBC HD will be far superior? You won’t be squinting to make out all the details that the episode will inevitably have – is that the Seventh Doctor’s umbrella? Are those Amy’s glasses on the sideboard? Is that a Cyber-mite? Did anyone else see the Tissue Compression Eliminator in the greasy mitts of the peasant in the background?

(Please note that I haven’t seen the episode so all those listed above aren’t spoilers. I’m just stabbing in the dark. Although I have it on good authority that a peasant might, possibly, maybe, perhaps lurk in the background just the once…)

Doctor Who Series 7 finale The Name of the Doctor

‘The quality might not be the best,’ I hear you say, ‘but I can always watch it again on Saturday to pick up on those details.’

Ah yes – but should you?

The idea of a leak is a bigger issue than just quality. It’s also insulting to the creative team simply because this is not how it’s meant to be.

Like the episode or not, Steven Moffat, Matt Smith, Jenna-Louise Coleman, Saul Metzstein, and a massive crowd of others have dedicated a huge amount of effort, love and attention into making this series finale. Their dedication and passion cannot be underestimated. And the reason they did all of it is so that you – yes, you – can sit down on (or behind) your settee on a Saturday evening and enjoy the culmination of their hard work in glorious definition.

Don’t you think it’s a bit insulting to them if you sneak a look at a dodgy copy online just so you can tell others that you know what happens?

Doctor Who Series 7 finale The Name of the Doctor

Yes, it’s the old argument against pirate DVDs all over again. But don’t forget that the 40-odd minutes of entertainment you’re going to watch took months to produce by a hard-working bunch of people who do it because they love it – and they want you to love it too. In fact, it’s likely that Steven Moffat has spent years thinking about this finale.

(Furthermore, if you watch it solely online, you won’t be taking advantage of your TV license, will you? See, that’s got you thinking…)

So watch it now or watch it on Saturday. Only you can make that decision. I know which side of the fence I’m on. Please join me. We have jammie dodgers.

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  1. Well put, and a very balanced argument if I may say.

  2. DisappointingNose says:

    I’ve looked for torrent copies (purely out of curiosity, of course), and I think the BBC have deleted them all, or put some sort of data block, since I can’t seem to find any. However, that could just be the US’s RIDICULOUS internet copyright regulations.

    • Mr says:

      No actually there is no leak to begin with. Nothing has leaked at all. The blog was started two months ago. Obvious PR stunt to boost viewers. NO leaked series ( and dr who is really popular in the US) that leaks and leaves no trace at all.

      • theamericanwhovian says:

        You don’t make any sense, there are actually people here who’ve gotten the dvds early, it’s not a stunt, it’s real.

        • Grant says:

          Your word against his. Would be the work of one man with a spare hour to upload some screenies of the Blu-rays “proving” that people have received them. Do you know anyone personally who has received them?

  3. Paula Douglas says:

    That’s it? The picture quality might be better on Saturday? It’s not pirating, either: nothing was stolen. In fact, the early release copies were bought legitimately from legitimate sources. How does piracy enter into that? If I were Moffat, et al, I’d be flattered that so many people are so invested in the story that they will take the earliest possible chance to see its continuation. They want us to love it, and we do, so how is that love diminished by our seeing an episode before it airs? A better case could be made that watching the show in any format other than on live TV as it’s broadcast is an insult: what, you couldn’t take an hour out of your busy schedule to watch Saturday night? You had better things to do, so you caught it on line three days later? That’s supposed to make them feel all tingly? None of Mr. Bates’ arguments as presented here hold water, and if anything they strengthen the case for people who want to see the episode *now.*

    • It’s not pirating, either: nothing was stolen.

      Once the video on the DVD/Blu-ray is ripped and put online, it’s stolen. This is how it works.

      • Paula Douglas says:

        Then any YouTube fan compilation of video clips is pirating. Pirating requires another purchase, in this case by the end user, i.e., the viewer on the Web. Someone posting a paid-for video on the Web for free isn’t profiting, and therefore isn’t pirating any more than he would be if he had the neighborhood block over to watch the video in his living room. I concede that if one were to pay to watch the episode early on-line then the moral and legal issue changes, but watching for free what someone else paid for and voluntarily provides is neither pirating nor unethical. The fact that the BBC’s miffed is irrelevant.

        • Paul says:

          Unfortunately, your arguments are factually wrong as the law in most countries currently works. The law is based on opportunity cost, and therefore the idea that a creator is notionally being deprived of potential income if a free copy is distributed.

          Fan videos are a very complex area and subject to much legal disagreement. But they take advantage of an idea called “fair use” which is constantly under attack by Disney et al. Fair use means that you can use a part of a work in order to create a new derivative work. That’s the get-out clause. This clause clearly doesn’t apply to reproductions of the original work (ie “pirate” copies).

          I do recommend you research this if you don’t believe me, because (depending on your country) you could be setting yourself up for some punitive legal sanctions if you’re not careful, and “I didn’t know” isn’t a legal defence. I live in Japan, which recently passed a law that massively fines and potentially even sends to prison those caught downloading copyright material.

          • David F says:

            I’m in Japan too, Paul, and have likewise been thoroughly deterred since the new laws started in October. Especially since recent reports of police raids on homes across the country, with some people arrested for downloading a single file. (I read the offence is punished with two million yen fine or time in prison.)

            Before that, my entire experience of the series from Rose onwards was on my computer. They briefly showed the Eccleston series late at night here, with bizarre dubbing and multiple cuts, and my Japanese friends were completely baffled by the show. Now, none of them even remember it. Although I have trained dozens of five-year-olds to shout Exterminate.

            Luckily, I’ve found an alternative avenue so I can watch it at the same time as everyone else and thus avoid spoilers. That’s what the BBC is always telling me to do, so they’d be really hypocritical to object. I promise to buy the complete series 7 boxset when it’s out.

          • Philip Bates says:

            Wow. That’s awful about Japan. I didn’t realise their law was so strict! Can you get DVDs of Doctor Who…?

        • Topaz says:

          Yes, many fan compilations are pirating, and many of them get deleted for legal reasons on a regular basis. There is a legal exemption for “transformative works”, ie something that is saying something substantially different than the original footage intended, or that sheds valuable new light on it. This is why parody videos tend to be exempt. The original creators also often allow certain fan videos to stay online because it enhances their brand and ultimately increases ratings and DVD sales. But legally if they wanted those compilations taken down, they could do it.

          There are many valid moral arguments for and against banning fan compilation videos. I personally think they should be allowed. But whether the person posting them or a full episode of a show is making money or not is irrelevant. The point is that the owners of the content believe that if footage of their work is widely available online this will deprive them of income because people will not buy their DVD or watch it on TV if they can get it for free on the internet. Legally, posting the episode online is copyright infringement and anyone posting it opens themselves up to tens of thousands of pounds in liability for lost income.

          • STLShawn says:

            I recently heard a rather lengthy podcast (I drive alot, and the Kasterborous PodKast is only an hour) that really delved into the grey world of intellectual property, safe harbor, fair use, etc.
            I believe it was on TechStuff from How Stuff Works. Basically, any image, sound, or any other bit of produced content from anywhere is not legal to put on YouTube, or anywhere,, rather for profit or for pure fun. They also tackled many of the misconceptions (such as video mash ups and 15 seconds of music) that are also actually illegal.

            Having said that, we do live in a real world where the BBC would be completely insane to shut down something like Kasterborous because of the Tardis image in the name. They like seeing a community develop, especially for a show with a fanatical following like DW.

            Found the webcast at

            FYI: if you don’t know what article 5 of the DMCA is,,, look it up,,, it’s hilarious,,, but maybe it is about piracy 😉

          • TARDIS image? All I see is a small oblong…

    • Philip Bates says:

      Hi Paula,

      If I were Moffat and co., I’d hope that the fans have enough love and respect for the whole creative team and the show to watch it when it’s intended, in the quality it’s meant to be in.

      That’s a good point about people not having an hour out of their lives on a Saturday for the show. I do think this feeds into my argument that that’s not how it’s meant to be (which was my main point – picture quality included in that).

      Thanks for commenting.

    • Rhys Morgan says:

      Also, the picture quality argument is ridiculous. The format that was allegedly leaked are Blu-Rays. That means you’ve got 1920×1080 full HD video to rip, exactly the same quality as the broadcast would be. It might be compressed, which would indeed slightly reduce the quality, but not to the extent that the author is insisting would happen.

  4. Gary says:

    So, you don’t want to know that the reason he keeps meeting Clara is that she’s actually Capt Jack Harkness? A mis-setting of his wrist time-jump device resulted in Jack’s sex change; even though he now is Clara the time vortex still will not let him die.

  5. David F says:

    I’ve lived for ten years in a country where Doctor Who isn’t broadcast. So I’ve only ever watched new episodes on my computer. (And I always buy the DVDs later to make up for it.)

    Last year, when I was visiting the UK, I caught a repeat of The End of Time on television, and was gobsmacked by how sharp and shiny the picture looked. I’d always thought I was getting a good picture on my computer, because I didn’t know television images had improved so much while I’d been away. (I don’t have a television at all where I am, so advances had passed me by.)

    If I had the choice, I know which I’d go for.

    The issue is not whether we should watch it early or at the weekend. If I could be guaranteed a good, safe copy, I’d watch it right now. The issue is that we don’t want to learn anything before we watch it, whenever that is.

    • STLShawn says:

      David, if you watched the BBCA broadcasts of the 9th and 10th doctor’s episodes, you would have been angered (as i was) that they were edited. For example, “Voyage of the Dammed” ended with the ship flying over Buckingham, no bringing anyone back, no proper ending.

      I checked my DVR for other ones after realizing that, and comparing it to my DVD’s, and sure enough,,,, every episode was missing bits here and there. 43 minute episodes, 40 minute time slots on BBCA at that time.

      I don’t think they’ve done that since 11th doctor series’, but it used to be a problem.

      Anyway,,,, always buy the shiny disks. They are fun. But,,,,, having said that,,,,, i wish the BBC would pack them with more extras. maybe 12 hours per season 🙂

      • Philip Bates says:

        The extras are a bit lacklustre, aren’t they? When are they gonna release boxsets of Confidential as well?!?!

  6. Lyne says:

    Myself I enjoy rushing home after work ..(It is on at 5:00pm) Sit down on the sofa or behind lol and watch it on the TV ..:) Love it ..The next day Check on the web /FAcebook to see what everybody think of the episode .. Like to hear and share ideas about the episode !!! 🙂

  7. honest downloader says:

    I live in a country that does not have Doctor Who. If I want to watch it at all, I have to download it. The BBC has decided that people from this country can not be allowed to get Doctor Who. I can’t buy it, I can’t rent it, I can’t stream it, and I can’t even watch the promo clips on the BBC website. If I am ever going to watch it, I have to download it. So I can decide that the BBC is big and mighty and therefore right about this and that I am small and weak and really should just shut up and let the BBC decide that I am undeserving of Doctor Who. Or I can say that they are being prejudiced against me. That I do have value and I can decide what to spend my time and money on. If the BBC doesn’t want my money and doesn’t want me to have their product but I decided that the product is for me then I will get it. They don’t want my money, so fine, I won’t pay them.

    If they would sell it to me I probably would buy it.

    Now considering that exactly ZERO torrents of the final episode have been put out for me to download, this whole leak thing is probably a stunt. It’s fake. Moffat knows his take on Doctor Who is boring and the audience will not remain fooled for much longer. So he has to create a fake scandal about a fake leak. If it really is leaked, let me download it and watch it. I won’t spoil it for other people. But I can’t watch the broadcast anyway so it doesn’t matter when I see it.

    • Philip Bates says:

      I have every sympathy for you; have you contacted the BBC about it…? It seems unfair that you can’t even get the DVDs.

      It’s not a fake, though. BBC America accidentally distributed copies of the DVD early, so I presume from that, someone can easily put it online. I dunno – I’m no expert on this, but that’s what I think can and does happen. Maybe it hasn’t with The Name of the Doctor yet. I do know that there are some accounts on Twitter who are spoiling the episode by tweeting anyone who mentions Doctor Who – which is disgraceful.

      • Nakajima Kaito says:

        As long as no one spoils the ending for anyone, it’s fine… As what River Song says… “Spoilers!”… But always kept a secret…

  8. Philip Bates says:

    This is a nice way of putting it, thanks to the DW Wikia:

    “Do the right thing. Don’t spoil the ending.

    Because of the accidental early shipment of some series 7b DVD sets to North American customers, it’s possible you might know what’s coming on Saturday. But this wiki has long stood firm against spoilers from stories that have not yet been officially released.

    What’s happened in America is not an official release. It’s a mistake. And everyone’s enjoyment of the episode will be increased if we all have an equal opportunity to watch the episode after the BBC One broadcast. That’s why this wiki believes that in this unusual circumstance, it’s a Very Good Thing to listen to the British Broadcasting Corporation, who have asked us all to try to keep information about this Saturday’s episode off the net.

    We may not be successful, but the BBC have been unbelievably kind in allowing this wiki to even exist. They have every right to shut us down at any moment. The least we can do is to help when they ask for it. So this wiki is going to try. Hard. Which is why we’ve immediately enacted some unusual protections on some parts of the wiki.

    For five decades, the BBC have given us the show we love. Surely we can give the BBC the next five days.”

    • Prime says:

      “For five decades, the BBC have given us the show we love. Surely we can give the BBC the next five days.””

      We’ll just ignore that 16 year gap between ‘Survival’ and ‘Rose’, then?

  9. Prime says:

    Two points I wish to make:

    1) The quality argument is vastly overstated. Back in the days of VHS this might have been a concern, and there are still torrents of films out there that were filmed from someone’s camera smuggled into a cinema.but these days the quality difference is largely negligible, *especially* when the rippers have access to the DVDs or Blu-rays.

    2) If the BBC had the power to block torrents of one episode of Doctor Who, they’d be doing it for ALL of their shows, ALL of their episodes. Even the most cursory glance online reveals this is not the case; every episode of Doctor Who is online, even the classic series. So where is Name of the Doctor? If there was a way to block torrents so completely you could guarantee Hollywood and the American TV producers would be doing it too – any cursory search reveals they aren’t either.

    It also can’t be due to the “Loyal Fans” not uploading it if your own article is telling us that there are people on Twitter actively trying to ruin it for everyone else.

    I’m unwilling to accuse the BBC of manufacturing this little stunt to increase ratings but the facts are simply not adding up.

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