Who Watches the Re-Watchmen?

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Early 1950s Television Set on flicker.com by gbaku via a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

It’s not enough for a science fiction fan to view a favorite movie or series, or read a favorite novel, once. The whole notion of fandom involves repeated and extended interaction with the object of our notional obsession. The repeated engagement with a work of science fiction, in any medium, is not unlike any form of literary or cultural study. We re-read, or re-watch, in order to better understand the object we are studying.

Re-watching or re-reading is not simply summarizing; to re-watch is to examine a part with knowledge of the whole. Sometimes this task reveals continuity errors or plot holes; other times, re-watching reveals nuances planted early in a series that only bear fruit much later in the future.

While the whole prospect of re-reading or re-watching science fiction is nothing new—the fanzine has been around about as long as the genre itself, and parodies of devoted re-watchers raising continuity questions feature prominently in any portrayal of science fiction fandom—of late, several science fiction re-watching efforts have been undertaken online.

In addition to my own Doctor Who Re-Watching Project, two other groups are working their way through the numerous Doctors, including The Doctor Who Mission, a group project trying to tackle a story a week, and The TARDIS Project, which is revisiting not just stories but individual episodes within each story. Even publisher Tor’s website is getting into the act with a Star Trek re-watching project and several re-reading projects as well.

One of the problems with Doctor Who re-watching in general is the difficulty in finding all of the stories. Besides the much-lamented loss of more-than-a-few episodes by the BBC, the entire existing run of the series is not yet out on DVD, leaving dedicated re-watchers who have no desire to acquire the missing stories via peer-to-peer solutions to scramble about at library sales and online auction sites to find VHS tapes to undertake the task before they stop making VHS players.

The glee of finding some repeated trope or following the evolution of a phrase in a series is well worth the effort required to track down all of the damn things, though.

(Image courtesy of gbaku via a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.)

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