I, Probert

Former GeekPlanetOnline Site Editor Dave Probert is a man with an ear to the ground of the geek community. When that ground starts to rumble, our man in East Sussex has something to say...!


Plot holes, they're everywhere! Very few sci-fi tales are entirely free from them and if the story involves time travel they are virtually guaranteed.

People's ability to accept or ignore plot holes tends to be connected with how much they enjoyed the overall story. An enjoyable story and people will say “Yeah, there are a few plot holes but if you ignore those you'll enjoy the ride” while a a bad or poorly executed story will have people saying “the plot is full of holes you could drive a bus through. And another thing...”

Both of these statements have been attached to Doctor Who in the past. In particular with regards to the episode The Big Bang, which divided people along those lines. One half considered the episode so much fun that the logic of the time travel conceits didn't matter, while the other half considered the plot holes so huge that the episode would have been irredeemable even if it had ended with Rory repeatedly kicking Michael Grade in the knackers with spiked boots while Amy and River pole danced naked in the background. There are convincing arguments to made on both sides for that one but, as always seems to be the case with online Doctor Who fandom, there are people who take the quest for plot holes a little too far.

Not an episode goes by where I don't see a bizarre form of narrative spelunking going on. The quest seems to be to find the most obscure of plot holes and post it somewhere so they can show how clever they are and win the internet. This is something that I just don't understand.

Some plot holes are glaring. You can't ignore them and they get spotted straight away because they are that big. Some episodes don't have these howlers because they are well written stories which means plotholers have to work much harder. In their quest to show how bad the current show is, these people will turn flips and twists to highlight even the smallest plot foible and blow it out of all proportion.

The classic run of the show has stories that would evaporate immediately if put under that kind of scrutiny, but the old shows seem to be given a pass because of their age. The expectation seems to be that in this modern age of forums, internet fan sites and digital recorders all media should be created to withstand a much deeper level of analysis.

It's like those film mistake shows on BBC Three where Robert Webb smugly points out that the film makers didn't spend extra time and money making sure that the drink levels in everyone's glasses were consistent from shot to shot. The kind of error you only notice because you know the film backwards and have stopped paying attention to the main action and get distracted by the little things. Things that didn't detract from your initial enjoyment. It is these things that are being actively sought out from the get go.

I'm not saying that all plot holes should be ignored. If it sticks out like a sore thumb of course it's going to get mentioned, and chances are I'll be mentioning it along with everyone else. It's the people who go out of their way to find every tiny plot hole that I have an issue with. These people think that because they have found these things then they somehow are a better judge of overall quality.

There was a time when such things were accepted at face value. Films like Star Wars, Back to the Future and Superman are all regarded as classics despite all having plot holes, some of them enormous (spinning the Earth backwards turns back time?) but they all get a pass in a way that a lot of modern media doesn't.

I think the time has come to ask ourselves whether it is the fault of the writers for not putting enough effort into covering every tiny plot hole so it still holds up on the 500th viewing or is it we as fans who are at fault for going through everything with a fine tooth comb the minute it's released rather than just sitting back and enjoying the entertainment we are being presented with. After all it IS entertainment, not something to be studied academically.

If you aren't being entertained then why are you watching in the first place?