During its original seven-year run, I devoured Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was seven when it premiered and fourteen when it went off the air. I watched the first broadcast except for two (one in 1988 and one in 1991) that I missed because of trips to England and one (1993) that I missed because we were in the midst of moving from Connecticut to Florida. This was before the Internet, before DVDs and before the Magic of DVRs; seeing every episode of a first-run TV show required dedication.

And with equal dedication, I watched every week’s “next week” trailers. I wanted to see as much of every episode as was available, as soon as it became available.

Until one week, I didn’t.

I don’t remember the reason I missed that week’s trailer. But I do remember the effect it had well enough to tell you exactly what episode it was–“Gambit, Part I”. Not even a particularly remarkable episode, but one of the best experiences television experiences I’d had up till that point. In the episode’s teaser, we learnt that Captain Picard had been killed. Now, obviously, (SPOILER) the programme’s main character hadn’t actually been killed, but beyond that I had no idea how the episode was going to proceed from this revelation.

And when (SPOILER) Commander Riker was captured by the pirate crew that had murdered the captain, and (SPOILER) a member of the pirate crew turned round to reveal that he was actually Captain Picard, I realised I was having an incredible time. I wasn’t waiting for things I’d seen in the trailer; my expectations hadn’t been pointed in certain directions by a foreknowledge of flashes of things to come.

And in that moment, my own personal spoiler policy was born.

Last night, I got in a kerfluffle with my best man on Twitter over spoilers. It got me thinking about the topic, which is a very important one to me. And also, I think, a subtle one–you can’t address it with one-size-fits-all Rules; rather, it needs to be dealt with using moderation and nuance.*

So it’s probably something I’m going to expand on in the near future. But for now I’ll simply solicit opinions, and lay down my own core principle.

The core principle. Every conclusion I reach regarding spoilers is based on one core precept: My own enjoyment of a work of fiction is heightened the less I know about it beforehand. Every point revealed in advance risks the removal of a little piece of the joy of discovery of something new for the first time.

And the solicitation. How does everyone else feel about spoilers? What are your rules of thumb? How do you deal with them to make yourself happy–and to accommodate those around you who have different preferences?


*Actually, as a general rule of thumb, I think that’s true of almost everything. It’s very, very rare that I’ve come across issues of contention where a reasonable solution could be find at either extreme; almost always, in my experience, the most workable path is the one down the middle. People who respond to a setback by declaring, “Well, then, from now on I’m going to do the opposite!” annoy me no end. Only the Sith speak in absolutes!

Words yesterday: 1093
Words total: 9291

Time spent writing: Started at noon, finished at 7.30.
Reason for stopping: Saturday–it’s Doctor Who night!
Darling: Harofe struck me as dour towards most of the gentlemen, but as soon as his attention lit upon one of the ladies he brightened, becoming talkative and jolly.
Words that boggled Word: taipans
New words today: grandeur, thickset, Eurasian

3 Responses to SPOILERS!

  • kb says:

    Now reading: LIKE LIKE LIKE.
    On spoilers: not much, really. I don't seem to enjoy something less for knowing it in advance. I think this is probably why I read my favorite books 200-300 times. Or more. Which is why Curse of Chalion looks like it's been through the ringer, even though I never loan it out. (I just buy copies for other people instead.)

  • I says:

    That's good, because it was bought on your recommendation. 🙂

    I can get a lot from repeated viewings/readings. I really like breaking something down and seeing how effects were achieved. A year and a half as a film theory major left me with little patience for people who respond with, "It's just a movie!"

    But that first time? No thanks. 🙂

  • Pingback: The philosophy of spoilers | I, Ian

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