Doctor Who and the Fan Who Never Was

 by Martin Belam, 3 April 2008

I noticed a flurry of referrals from The Pirate Bay and Mininova this week, which is, frankly, a reversal of the normal direction of traffic from me to those sites. My recent interview on currybetdotnet with Paul Wilson about file-sharing - "Doctor Who and the Pirates" - has been cited in the latest round of the saga about Big Finish and the people who upload their work to peer-to-peer networks.

An open response to the Big Finish podcasts was posted on The Pirate Bay, out-lining what one file-sharer sees as the case for actively distributing the Big Finish Doctor Who audio plays. Their argument is classic 'freetard' logical fallacy. They state that because Big Finish are not completely transparent about the finances of producing a play, their figures for estimated sales loss can't be trusted.

"Here is an idea. Instead of just 'stating' that 75% of your potential profit is being lost by file sharing, why not show some proof? I don't believe it. Show us an example, like of a Paul McGann story that shows how much he was paid, how much the actors were paid, how much BBC was paid for the rights, and how many were sold? You claim some GIANT numbers, with no proof.

See, until you do that, you will never substantiate your sob story that you would like everyone to believe. Be honest. Let's see some real figures. Or shut up."

The thing is that you can see one side of the equation - many torrent trackers show how many times a file has been downloaded. If you have that figure, and any sense of how many physical CDs Big Finish sell, you can do the maths for yourself, you don't need access to Paul McGann's bank account. My benchmark is that around the time of the 'Scream Of The Shalka' webcast, the number of hardcore Doctor Who fans who bought every book and 'classic' video release used to be estimated in the low thousands. And, for the record, Big Finish estimate they lose three-quarters of their potential revenue, not 'profit', through file-sharing.

Paul McGann as The Doctor

However, having established that they don't think piracy is causing a dent in the Big Finish business, the anonymous response goes on to say that if peer-to-peer filesharing does cause Big Finish to go out of business, well, they don't really care anyway.

"I'd hate to see Big Finish fold, but all good things do come to an end."

The rest of the argument is basically that because some of the people involved in Big Finish used to make unlicenced original Doctor Who audio stories before convincing BBC Worldwide to let them do it for real, they shouldn't complain about piracy some 15-or-so years later, when it is impacting upon their business.

Also at fault apparently are the 'Restoration Team', who it seems can't run their website to the satisfaction of the anonymous poster.

And then there is the argument that if file-sharing had been around in the early 1970s, then 1960s Doctor Who would never have gone missing from the BBC's archives. Although, presumably, if legitimately sold videos and DVDs had been around in the early years as well, that would probably have solved the problem without the need for peer-to-peer transfers using only the tortuously slow power of WOTAN and BOSS.

WOTAN from The War Machines

Plus there is a homophobic hate-fuelled rant against Russell T. Davies.

It never ceases to amaze me that your favourite thing ever can be a show that basically uses the vehicle of traveling through time and space to scream at the top of its lungs "Isn't life and the universe fantastic? Aren't people amazing when they are put in difficult situations? Isn't there some beauty and goodness in every sentient being in creation?", and then you hate gay people.

"The only way to allow our kids to enjoy WHO, to expand their minds without the filth of a gay agenda that was a passing trend in the West (and now well past), is to download and edit the versions on the Internet. So there you have that. Thanks to Russell T. Davies, we have no choice but to download AVI files as to where we can edit out all of his homosexual agenda, targeting impressionable children."
Russel T. Davies in Cardiff shooting Rose

So basically the person behind the response doesn't think it matters if Big Finish go out of business and stop making audio Doctor Who, doesn't like the way the 'Restoration Team' have restored old episodes for DVD release, and can't watch the new series without editing it first to take out all the gay bits that they object too.

My suggestion?

If it makes them that angry, and they hate it all so much, perhaps they should think about getting a different favourite programme...

Tom Baker in Paris for The City Of Death

Who’s Who? The Resurrection of the Doctor charts how the Guardian has covered Doctor Who since it was revived in 2005. If features interviews with Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith and the men in charge of the show's fortunes: Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat. It also includes interviews with a host of other Doctor Who actors including Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman and writers including Neil Gaiman and Mark Gatiss. There are contributions from legendary author Michael Moorcock, Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy, and specially commissioned illustrations from Jamie Lenman.
Who’s Who? The Resurrection of the Doctor” - £2.99 for Kindle & iBooks.

1 Comment

It never ceases to amaze me ... "and then you hate gay people"

well said Martin.

.. nb: the turing test keeps giving me 'toothpaste' - got to be a joke in there somewhere ...

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