Star Wars, Doctor Who & Star Trek: Should fans be allowed story control?
- Credit: BBC / Steve Schofield
Fans provide an important voice in the world of top TV shows and blockbuster movies but Arts Editor Andrew Clarke worries that Hollywood is taking too much notice of their opinion and it is killing their ability to tell an engaging story
Fans, what would you do with them? Certainly not ignore them. Every major film or TV show or franchise has a host of devoted fans who live and breathe every moment of every episode in intimate detail.
The clichéd vision that is always conjured up tends to be the pointy-eared, wannabe Vulcan, Star Trek obsessive or the long-scarf wearing Doctor Who fan but they can come from any quarter.
Coronation Street, Call The Midwife, Poldark and Downton Abbey all have their proud keepers of the flame.
Get a minor piece of back story or continuity wrong and you are roasted and you are roasted alive on social media. Even before the rise of Twitter and Facebook, events such as Comic Con in the USA have given fans a huge amount of influence over the way that films and TV shows are presented and which films get made.
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But, when fans are launching Kickstarter campaigns to get films re-made, re-edited or the history changed then I think that things have gone too far.
I know that show business is a business and that film is a collaborative art and, particularly in Hollywood, no one’s vision can be claimed to be definitive – but there has to come a time when you let the storyteller tell their tale, even if you don’t like the way it turns out.
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As Casablanca proves: sometimes the unpopular ending is the right ending. If you always give the audience the sweet, easy ending, then you are denying them something that is, perhaps, more meaningful, more emotionally complex, something that they can come back to and revisit countless times, hoping that the ending will change but realizing that it never will.
In Gone With The Wind would you want studios to bow to fan pressure to have Rhett Butler utter that much-quoted line: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”, only for him to succumb to Scarlett’s tears and give her one last chance? Of course not, but this is happening all the time in new films as studios preview films at fan conventions and use the feedback to tailor the film to fans’ wishes.
But, (deep breath) do the fans know best? Surely, film and television has to reflect life with all its bitter-sweet twists and turns. We have to confront and deal with upset and disappointment. We have to cope with loss as well as giddy happiness and it’s important that films and television, reflect life as it is rather than how we would prefer it to be.
The reason for my increasing concern about the undue influence of the fan community is that Star Wars fans are campaigning to get the last film in the series, The Last Jedi, remade.
They didn’t like the female heroes or Luke Skywalker’s less than enthusiastic approach to fighting the bad guys.
My response to that is – let the storyteller tell his tale. It seems to me that the fan community, armed with the amplified mega-phone of social media, are behaving rather like overblown hecklers shouting down anything that they don’t approve of.
The same thing happened with the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor Who. It was a bold storytelling move which had been trialed two years before when John Simm’s villainous Master character regenerated into the quirky Missy, played by Michelle Gomez, and no-one batted an eyelid – more than that, Missy was hugely loved.
Therefore, it makes no sense that certain sectors of Who-fandom got their collective knickers in a twist over the decision to allow Peter Capaldi to regenerate into Jodie Whittaker. It seems that anything adventurous tends to get shouted down.
However, the time has come to allow the film-makers and writers of our favourite TV shows and films to get on and entertain us.
Let’s get rid of the previews and the spoilers. Let’s discontinue the fan feedback screenings at Comic Con and let us be surprised. I hate knowing what is going to happen before I watch something.
In my job it is nigh on impossible to avoid spoilers but why are they out there to be encountered? Why do film and programme makers allow marketing departments to plunder their secrets? Let’s go back to be shocked, stunned or pleasantly surprised.
Wouldn’t a film or TV programme be more engaging, more enjoyable if we were constantly being wrong-footed by the ingenuity of the writing and emotionally put through the wringer by the power of the acting. That’s difficult to do if you know what’s coming next.
Fans are important, of course they are, but they are in danger of destroying the franchises they love. Let the storytellers do their work, fans should just sit back and enjoy the results.