Canonicity: give up now

Mr Mark Wilkinson tried to goad me recently. He quoted Paul Cornell for one thing. Never a good plan, particularly after he himself had posted a link to this Lawrence Miles interview that ‘confirmed’ everyone’s worst fears about PC (how apt those initials).

Cornell, it seems, wants to talk about canonicity in Doctor Who. The problem with Who is that nothing matches up. Stories contradict each other. Then there are the comics, the audio plays, the novels, fan fic and so on. How to make it all fit together?

Some people care. Some people can be very imaginative with canonicity. How come KITT in Knight Rider exists yet is so clearly impossible with 1980s technology? Because he’s made from the crashed parts of a Cylon raider from Galactica 80, of course. Didn’t the red light at the front give the game away? It did to a whole load of fans which is why this particular theory is now “fan canon” or “fanon”.

Now, if there’s a canonicity problem, I for one simply point in the direction of Toby at Inner Toob and say if anyone can sort out this tangled mess, he can. He, after all, has a grand project to make all TV shows fit together into one canonical whole. So the whole goading thing doesn’t work. My faith in Toby is great. He will sort things out.

I’d also point out that the nature of Doctor Who is such that we could have a story in the next series of the show that said the Tom Baker era never happened and because it’s about time travel, it would be true. That would be that. It happened but it didn’t. It really doesn’t matter if anything contradicts anything else because it can all be rewritten at a moment’s notice. So lie back and enjoy the fun. Read a book, listen to the play. It happened. It didn’t happen. It’s quantum mechanics in merchandising format (do you Copenhagen or do you multi-world at WH Smith’s?).

But I’ve noticed something new is happening that makes canonicity harder and even more brain-warping.

We’re all aware of DVDs that have “deleted scenes” – scenes that never made it to the final episode but were filmed all the same. I imagine working out if they’re canonical or not is a whole load of weirdness. Plus, it’s relatively easy to discount them because they’re optional. You don’t have to watch the deleted scenes. They’re not in the episode itself. Easy.

But what of Battlestar Galactica? For the last two episodes, the producers have included a deleted scene (aka ‘bonus’ scene. You can view them on the web site, too) just before the end titles. Now it’s on television, you have no choice to watch it and it usually directly contradicts what you’ve just seen in the episode itself. How does it all fit in?

My mind hurts. I suspect that canonicity is broken, that the existence of Paul Cornell contradicts itself and he has become a figment of everyone’s imagination. But I might have forgotten to carry the 1.

Toby: save me. Save us all.

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    Agreeing with everything Shagger says on the subject of canon? Gosh. But then, that’s the thing with magazine freelancers: in many ways you have the same mind…
    A few years ago, in an idle moment (one of many), I asked people on a newsgroup to define ‘real’ Who. Cobbling together a full definition from the most popular suggestions, it was possible to demonstrate (with the aid of Lance Parkin) that not only were both the pilot and the broadcast versions of An Unearthly Child canonical, but so was each performance of Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure, including one of those with David Banks in the lead.
    Happy days…

  • If I am agreeing, it’s purely coincidental. I never actually read his article. It’s by Paul Cornell, you see.

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    I was tempted to ask when it was he spilt your pint. Then I spotted Cambridge in your CV and realised a half would be more likely.

  • I don’t get it. Are you saying
    1) I was more likely to be drinking a half because Cambridge grads can’t take drink
    2) I was more likely to be drinking a half because Cambridge grads are cheap
    3) I was more likely to be drinking a half because Cambridge grads aren’t men enough to drink pints
    4) I was more likely to be drinking a half because of some pun on Cambridge half blues
    5) I was more likely to be drinking a half because Paul Cornell only spills the half-pints of Cambridge grads?
    I don’t drink beer, incidentally.

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    Well, I was thinking more along the lines of 2), albeit upholstered by Cambridge’s apparent inability to fully embrace the challenge of nonlinear analysis, unlike my own alma mater. But I suppose using the latter to suggest unstiffened sinews in the average Cambridge maths graduate only really works on those who a) were paying much attention to the research scene, and b) cared that much in the first place.
    I really should think these things through.

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    And that should read ‘3)’, not ‘2)’.

  • Ah. I did do a non-linear dynamics course or something (code for chaos theory), but I remember not a word of it. Or indeed much of my degree. I was doing other stuff… Still, I did get a tiny surge of nostalgia for Navier-Stokes the other day. D/Dt – now there’s an operator to conjure with.

  • espedair

    Perhaps there is NO canonicity as all the events are constantly changing. This is why some things contradict themselves. A bit like the Quantum Leap ‘evil leaper’ who put wrong what was right etc. Unless you believe everything is set and cannot be changed which I think Dr Who obviously doesn’t!
    Er does that make any sense?

  • Yeah. Perhaps Stephen Hawking’s latest theory – that the history of the universe is decided by present day observers through some kind of sum of histories effect – can be useful for television, too.

  • And all the non-geeks back slowly away from the area.

  • Sometimes I try to wrap my head around theories like that of Stephen Hawking’s (no matter how simply stated) and I keep hearing the voice of John Cleese in my head from ‘Monty Python’:
    “I fell off my chair, Brian.”
    But a theory like that would help a lot.
    Friend of mine is working up a theory to reconcile the look of ‘Enterprise’ with original ‘Trek’, and having heard his splainin, I think it works. When it’s done, I’ll be showcasing it over at “Inner Toob”….
    And thanks for the tip o’ the hat, Rob!

  • espedair

    Hahaha you cannot escape! If you do we can just change it so you dont! Cause and effect! baby! Cause and effect!

  • 1-2-3-4, I declare a flame war.
    Better to be a geek than?��Ǩ�� shudder?��Ǩ�� an arts graduate.
    Just kidding. I’m not built for flame wars. Anyway, looking at my readership numbers, they don’t appear to have dropped as a result of your suggestion. I don’t know what that means.

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    That was some of the thrust of Paul Cornell’s article, which, despite anything Evil Rob says, is worth a look. New Who is post-Time War?������, and although the full repercussions of that are not fully stated in the show, as the Doctor puts it:
    ‘Time’s in flux. It’s changing every second. Your cozy little world could be rewritten like that.’
    After all, who’s to say there was a Torchwood Institute when Gallifrey was still about?

  • Dude, I have to ask, but are you just a little bit gay for Paul Cornell. Cos I’ll lay off him if you’ve got a little bit of a man-crush going on…