I’ve mostly been avoiding reviews of the new Dr Who series. Not because I think critical discussion of it is pointless, or because many disagree with me, but because I think they’re problematic. Is the problem in TV reviewing, or is it a problem with this specific fandom? I don’t know.

The problem turns on this question: how many times should you watch something? It seems obvious to me that most drama shows these days are designed to reward repeat viewing but that this is and should be a secondary consideration to their first-time impact. Within the Who community, repeat watchings are the norm – several reviews on Outpost Gallifrey apologise for only having seen an episode a couple of times. Of course, repeat watchings are a good idea for catching nuances or foreshadowings one might have missed the first time, but it seems to be that ‘best practise’ should always be to try and carry your initial response with you as you set your thoughts down.

Except of course fan reviewers aren’t writing for people who haven’t seen the show, they’re writing for other people who have seen it in potential multiples. Their reviews aren’t only reviews, they’re critical arguments, launching points for discussion, stances taken within ongoing factional conflicts. The weekly ‘review’ format, with its tidy summaries and concluding judgement, is the most common for these kind of writings but it so easily seems to devolve into nit-picking and glitch-spotting, rather than widening its focus to look at a show as a whole. The initial response seems to be thoroughly mistrusted.

The majority of a given TV audience will be watching a programme once only: they won’t be taping it, saving up for the DVD, catching extra repeats. So in that regard reviewing TV hardly even makes sense. But if you are going to do it, I think you should trust your hunches.

(I’ve just read this post again and it’s not saying very much. Basically I think the idea of ‘reviews’ is pernicious and limiting, and I think that in the specific case of Dr Who most reviewers seem to be emotional dwarves who are so proud of themselves for appreciating an old show that they can’t enjoy a new one.)