Doctor Who "Name of the Doctor" finale may have leaked early, but you really shouldn’t download it

Blu-ray diskImagine if you knew that thousands of hardcore sci-fi fans were chomping at the bit to see the season finale of a hit TV show, especially if it had been promoted as an episode that would include secret revelations that viewers had been teased about for months.

Imagine if, by accident, some people had been sent a Blu-Ray boxset of the TV show’s episodes *before* the final episode had been broadcast.

Do you think fans would be able to wait a few days for the episode to be properly broadcast on their TV stations, or would they go hunting peer-to-peer file-sharing sites hoping to find a downloadable (and pirated) copy of the episode?

Well, that’s precisely what seems to be happening with “Doctor Who”, the BBC’s long-running science-fiction show, which stars Matt Smith and is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year.

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The season finale episode, “The Name of the Doctor”, is due to be broadcast on Saturday 18th May in the United Kingdom and USA. But, due to some colossal screw-up, BBC America has managed to send copies out early to some fans who pre-ordered the Blu-Ray boxset.

Some have even taken photographic proof that they’re watching it!

The Name of the Doctor, being watched on someone's TV

No doubt there are thousands of Doctor Who fans right now, scouring the internet for torrent links for the episode – as their fanatical fan gene doesn’t allow for them to wait until next weekend.

Aside from the morality of pirating a TV programme and ruining the surprises carefully planned by the Doctor Who production team in Cardiff, reckless downloading of torrents could also expose your computer to malware.

After all, if I were a cybercriminal, and heard that internet users were feverishly trying to find a particular movie – wouldn’t it be tempting to upload something claiming to be Doctor Who’s hotly-anticipated “Name of the Doctor” episode, but actually containing a malicious Trojan horse instead?

Maybe it’s better to wait until the TV programme is properly broadcast, rather than seeking out an early copy. And, if you are a fan, avoid social media sites and Doctor Who messageboards for a few days where someone who has seen the episode might try to ruin your enjoyment.

Certainly Doctor Who brand manager Edward Russell would prefer it if everyone resisted the temptation.

To remain legal, and to maintain the best health for your computer, it’s probably better to wait for the programme to air at its planned date and time on television rather than grab it early via a torrent site.

Update: Mischief-makers on Twitter have been posting messages pointing to what they claim to be a downloadable torrent of “The Name of the Doctor”.

In reality, the file you end up downloading is called GNFOS.MP4. I’m reliably informed that the filename might relate to a film released in 1992 called “Gay N****rs from Outer Space”. Not exactly Doctor Who…

Images of Blu-Ray disc and “The Name of the Doctor” playing on TV courtesy of the Untempered Schism blog.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

33 comments on “Doctor Who "Name of the Doctor" finale may have leaked early, but you really shouldn’t download it”

  1. Conor

    While half of me agrees that we should be patient, the other half seems to be blind ignorance. To those who do tend to use torrent sites, and with any kind of computer literacy will know what to download and what not to. It's not a case of having your computer piled full of nasties. It's a case of finding the safe torrent the community is recommending and using that.

    1. Luke Henderson · in reply to Conor

      Exactly my thoughts on the matter. I also don't feel that there is really anything immoral in downloading a show that is broadcast for FREE.

      1. Jeremy Visser · in reply to Luke Henderson

        I’m guessing you don’t live in a country where you either (a) pay taxes, (b) pay a TV licence, or (c) pay a cable/satellite TV subscription fee. The rest of us, however, do.

        1. DemonPhoenix42 · in reply to Jeremy Visser

          im sorry your a stupid w**ker then

          1. Grammar Nazi · in reply to DemonPhoenix42
        2. Digital_Utopia · in reply to Jeremy Visser

          Regardless if they do, or not – does it matter? Whether you're paying $20 a month for basic cable, or $100 for all the bells and whistles, you're still going to be paying that regardless of whether you watch the episode now, watch it saturday afternoon in the U.S. (when it's aired in the U.K.) or watch it saturday evening.

        3. C.F. · in reply to Jeremy Visser

          Look dude, I have cable, and they took away my BBC America. I think I have every right to torrent episodes. I tried to give them my money through a cable service and they refused.

      2. Spaceman Sam · in reply to Luke Henderson

        The U.S Supreme Court agrees with you. When home video recorders (VCRs) became popular, Disney and Universal Studios sued Sony, claiming that home recording of broadcast FREE TV shows was a copyright infringement. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court which ruled that "time-shifting merely enables a viewer to see such a work which he had been invited to witness in its entirety free of charge" and is thus fair use. —,_Inc.

        Downloading a show from a website or torrent is no different. The equipment is more modern, but the end result is the same. The producer (with the help of the broadcaster) invited people to view the work for free; timeshifting (regardless of the equipment used) merely enables you to watch at YOUR convenience instead of the broadcaster's schedule.

  2. Piet

    I'd wish I could say I wont go hunting for it, but Doctor Who doesn't air In my country and my only way of watching it somewhat up to date is be illegal means, I'm certainly not proud of it but I just love this show so much I just cannot wait.

    1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to Piet

      You are clearly living in the wrong country.

      Priorities, man!

      1. Prim · in reply to Graham Cluley

        PRIORITIES?!? so what to be able to watch Doctor Who we have to move? I don't think my parents would like that very much. Our only way to watch it is by torrents. What else are we gonna do? It's not my fault I was born and living in a developing country.

    2. Prim · in reply to Piet

      The same for me it's really not fair and I don't think my parents will let us move only to watch a tv-series. When you find it please tell me.

  3. Fringe Bright

    As a Doctor Who fan of the time-travel genre, why would anyone think waiting is considered "proper?" I'll see the episode when I see it; if I happen to see it early, it's not a spoiler because I would be seeing it early; negating the necessity to see it later. Air-time is an artificial scheduling system if the production of the episode is already finished.

    That said, accidentally reading spoilers before getting a chance to watch the episode is something to be concerned about; we should either stop reading DW blogs for a week, or find a way to download it if/when it actually gets leaked.

    I wouldn't criticize people for "improperly" watching something outside of an artificial scheduling system based on the speculation that some people may or may not know how to determine what is and isn't infected with malware.

    Learning how to discern what might be malware is the more important message; people will download malware copies claiming to be leaks regardless of your warning because we're all amateur time lords in the making :P

  4. I really dont want to read what happens on the way to work on a bus. I would much rather watch it now than read it but no luck finding a download link.

    Watch it now and its not spoiled… Wait until Saturday and kill who spoils it? Fair right lol

  5. Waiting for release? PSH, a true fan wants to know what happens next right away! Screw waiting. I'm an IT major, so I'll take my chances.

  6. So the ageing hipster of a brand manager waded into this SNAFU…now there's a surprise. Whether I see it early, on the day or on the Sunday it is immaterial. I have paid my licence fee I will watch it when I want. Also citing malware as a potential risk was incredibly patronising the majority of people out there are aware of it….and know how to avoid it these days. It's not exactly alchemy or some other lost art.

  7. Well apparently it was released on Saturday morning and it still hasn't gone online yet. The internet has failed us.

    1. I call BS on the whole deal no way in hell that we don't have at least a few torrent. After almost a week. Either the mess up was very small or it just a lame hoax.

  8. Tim Collins

    This entire thing was a hoax anyway. Possibly by the BBC to make it appear that Doctor Who has some loyal fans that doesn't post spoilers on the Internet which is 99% impossible. If this is legit then it was handled poorly and the BBC production staff should learn from their mistake not try to attempt a recall of the Internet which is once again impossible. Spoilers are nothing more but rumors, speculation, and trolls until the episode airs on the airways. Half of which probably stem from trolls anyway.

  9. ExcitedRhubarb

    Moffat should get Alex Kingston to front the camera to explain to fans to "Shhh…spoilers" then maybe they will.

  10. Jon

    IF it is out there, it will be posted. I'm guessing the blu rays were mailed and the first will arrive in today's post – IF the story is true, and not the BBC trying to make news for something Doctor Who related other than screwing up the 50th so badly.

    1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to Jon

      What we don't know is *how* *many* were mailed out. If only a small number leaked out then it might reduce the chances that any of the recipients might a) want to share the episode, and b) know *how* to share the episode…

      1. Fringe Bright · in reply to Graham Cluley

        Exactly what I was speculating; also BBC claims that, if everyone keeps the secrets safe until next Saturday, they will release a special new clip featuring the 10th and 11th doctor. They'll probably release it anyway, but one more reason a publicly leaked copy likely won't happen:

  11. Dominic

    The story is fake. If there was a link it would be online by this time. In a few days the BBC is going to come out and say "Wow, Look at what loyal fans we have!"

    1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to Dominic

      Yes, and Sydney Newman was on the grassy knoll in November 1963 as the Kennedy cavalcade drove past…

  12. James W

    If I want to download Doctor Who, or indeed anything else, I will. Please don't try and scaremonger, stating malware as a reason not to download. That sort of rubbish may have worked ten years ago, but not these days. I have been downloading torrents for years, and not once had anything remotely harmful. It's knowing where. Self righteous idiots are always spouting off about downloading, but those same people are usually the worst culprits.

    1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to James W

      Glad to hear that you've never encountered malicious content when downloading torrents – but that's not to say that others haven't had as good an experience, or that there haven't been cybercriminals who have taken advantage of the lure of pirated software and movies in the past.

      Just be careful folks. That's what I'm saying.. :)

  13. Gan

    Just remember that if it does get online, it was only a few people who actually received and not only BBC will be very cross because of copyright infringement but also it was only a few 50 or so people who received the CD early so it won't take long to knock at there door and go "Oi."

  14. Bobby

    torrents and viruses? Only after you download it. And only if you have crap anti-virus software. There's no way to get a virus just from the process of downloading. Get real people.

    1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to Bobby

      Approx 100,000 new pieces of malware are discovered every day. And no anti-virus is perfect

      Sometimes it's best to be cautious.

  15. me

    The only way someone will get infected is if they do not do due diligence. You have to be foolish enough to not just download a torrent with a malicious file in it, but to actually click on the malicious file and run it. Anyone worth their salt will know to look at the file type etc.. before running the file.

  16. mason Reaves

    i downloaded a episode called name of the Doctor…….it was quite interesting……espelly the ending

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