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Old June 19 2013, 01:55 AM   #72
Fleet Captain
Re: I thought they said the JJ-comics were canon?

Christopher wrote: View Post
Although, of course, the original series had an enormously loose continuity long before there was a Time War -- for instance, presenting three separate, incompatible versions of the fall of Atlantis. They never really bothered much with consistency on that show. What really provided a retroactive justification in the new series, more than the Time War, was the Cracks in Time storyline in Moffat's first season, which explicitly established that history could be rewritten and the events of past episodes (including some of the cataclysmic events in Russell T. Davies's episodes) erased from the universe's memory altogether.
Though he is talking specifically about the Time War, this idea was brought forth quite well by Paul Cornell back in 2007, and basically describes exactly what you're saying.

During the 1990s, when the New Adventures were such a source of friction, I kept saying, about my own work, since I was one of the authors, that there was ‘no such thing as “canon”’. The New Adventures were as ‘real’ as any other sort of Doctor Who. (That’s something else of a bullying nature that people on fan forums say. ‘None of it’s real, you know.’ Like the other person thought it was. They’re deliberately confusing the game of ‘it happened’ with the reality of something that actually did.) Now I want to say that again, when the boot is on the other foot. There is no such thing as ‘canon’.

Russell Davies probably could utter a pronouncement about canonicity that would be accepted. If he wanted to. He could declare that only the TV series was canonical, and that the books and audio plays were not. He’s come close, in that he’s said that only what the general TV audience remembers is important in terms of what’s referred to onscreen (I’m vastly paraphrasing here), and also that BBC television dramas must be whole unto themselves, and must not require extra purchases that ‘complete the story’, as per the BBC charter. (And how arcane a rule is that? But one that fan fora make as much ado out of… as probably the BBC themselves do.)
To deal with that ‘won’t be bound by’ clause, Russell’s quietly invented something, and I have no idea as to whether or not he realised it could be used for this purpose. (I don’t think he sits up at night worrying about canonicity, except for the times when I’m pretty sure he does.) I’m talking about The Time War. As mentioned often by the Ninth Doctor. Probably between the Time Lords and the Daleks, and it probably ended with both sides being wiped out, probably that being a sacrifice made by the Doctor. (Like I have any idea, I’m just following the hints.) There’s a line in ‘The Unquiet Dead’ (I think) indicating that the War puts all historical events up for grabs. Nothing necessarily happened like we think it did.

Including previous Doctor Who.

Doctor Who fans, we like to think it all fits together. In our book about continuity, The Discontinuity Guide, me, Keith Topping and Martin Day suggested that, following the events of the story ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, a story where the Doctor is deliberately trying to change history, and says he succeeded in doing so, previous Dalek stories may not have happened, in the universe of Doctor Who, as they were seen onscreen. This theory has gained no ground at all. It was met with a resounding silence. Fans like to think that what they’ve seen remains ‘real’. (No abuse implied, I’m using ‘real’ in the way they’d intend.) Probably because if it doesn’t it makes fun with continuity that much more difficult. (But not impossible, and the game is surely worth it.)
There is, of course, and I wouldn’t want to put a stop to this, an entirely benign sort of canonicity discussion, in which a writer, such as Lance Parkin, enters into a game of where and how everything might fit together, if it did. That’s just fun, and the authority assumed is only that of a stage magician, because the intention isn’t to hurt anyone. Also, recently, message board posters have tried to declare a truce by use of the term ‘personal canon’. That is to say, we all have our own version of ‘what happened’. That’s entirely lovely, to say that canonicity is ‘an ecumenical matter’. But I’d like us all to go that one step further.

Because when you say ‘the books just aren’t “canon!”’ or ‘the books “happened” and the TV show can’t ignore them!’ you’re not saying something like ‘for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction’, you’re saying something like ‘the South will never surrender’. You’re yelling a battle cry, not stating the truth. Because there is no truth here to find. There was never and now cannot be any authority to rule on matters of canonicity in a tale that has allowed, or at the very least accepted, the rewriting of its own continuity. And you’re using the fact that discussions of canonicity are all about authority to try to assume an authority that you do not have.

In the end, you’re just bullying people.

Because in Doctor Who there is no such thing as ‘canon’.
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