Doctor Who: The Library of Carsus discussion

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Outside the Matrix > Continuity or Canon?

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message 1: by Lori S. (new)

Lori S. (fuzzipueo) | 583 comments Mod
When dealing with any fandom, you are inevitably going to encounter arguments about what is and isn't canon within a body of work, such as with Star Wars and Star Trek. I think it gets a bit sticky and way too restricted to say Doctor Who has a "canon" though. Personally I prefer the term "continuity" when it comes to Who, because the words feels more fluid and implies that things not only can change, sometimes, within the space of a single episode, but often do change, constantly. Given that we're talking about a show that features time-travel and infinite possibilities, I like that it's flexible that way.

I know this can be a tricky, and touchy, subject, but I would like to have an open and honest discussion about it, if possible. Anyone game? All fandoms welcome!

The article which triggered this idea: Is Canon As Important As We Think It Is? by Mike Chen at The Portalist.


message 2: by Rick (new)

Rick | 1044 comments I know my concept of time travel is a bit different from others, but I hadn't thought of this difference between canon & continuity until I tried to reconcile the Doctor Who theatrical films and the TV series. There isn't anyway to work them into cohesive reality, so they have been alternate realities. Rather like the recent rebooted Star .trek films.

I'll have to read the article now. ;)


message 3: by Travis (new)

Travis (travishiltz) | 1170 comments Not sure that I prefer one term over the other or, if push came to shove, could define them so they didn't sound like two words that mean basically the same thing.
I see them as almost interchangeable terms and so are probably misusing them most of the time.

My rule is always 'what is on the screen/page counts, anything else is fan fiction/ head cannon.'
While I enjoyed some of the EU stuff, I didn't cry when it went away.
I also don't really believe Dumbledore is gay.

I will talk/debate/argue head cannons with anybody about anything, but will also defend everybody's right to have their own head cannon.
Being a big DC comics fan, I see stuff like the EU or the X-men movies as just another alternate Earth, and can take it or leave it.

The side stuff can be fun, but it is all just fan fiction until the people in charge of the source says it isn't.


message 4: by Trae (new)

Trae Stratton | 10 comments As a reader and a fan of both Star Wars and Doctor Who I believe Canon or if you'd rather, Continuity is very important. Quite frankly I was very annoyed when Disney scrapped the entire EU and rebranded it Legacy. Many of those books were great (and much better than what's been coming out now in my opinion) and now they never happened. The only reason I read them was because they were Canon and I never bothered to finish the last cycle because Disney unceremoniously dumped it from the mythology. Yes, I'm glad I got to enjoy them when I did, but I would never pick it up now. Why waste my time? The SW saga is a story, why invest in what didn't happen? I want to know what DOES happen. The exception to this are the Infinities or What If type packages that are meant to be brief and fun. I also would not watch Clone Wars or Rebels if it wasn't Canon. As for Doctor Who, time travel affords them a great luxury, and the tv show always goes out of its way to leave sizable gaps in each Doctor's timeline to make room for "endless" EU stories- but again, if it's not Canon don't pitch it to me. I am also not against timeline updates. I thought Star Trek handled this perfectly in its latest incarnation. They didn't eliminate the past, they found a cool, interesting way to change it in order to make the stories fresh and exciting.


message 5: by Lori S. (last edited Jun 09, 2017 08:36AM) (new)

Lori S. (fuzzipueo) | 583 comments Mod
So, maybe we need to define the two terms?


continuity
1. the state or quality of being continuous.
=>2. a continuous or connected whole.
3. a motion-picture scenario giving the complete action, scenes, etc., in detail and in the order in which they are to be shown on the screen.
4. the spoken part of a radio or television script that serves as introductory or transitional material on a nondramatic program.
(5 and 6 don't fit into the discussion here)

Number 2 is why I think continuity works better for Doctor Who than canon.

canon
1. an ecclesiastical rule or law enacted by a council or other competent authority and, in the Roman Catholic Church, approved by the pope.
2. the body of ecclesiastical law.
3. the body of rules, principles, or standards accepted as axiomatic and universally binding in a field of study or art: the neoclassical canon.
4. a fundamental principle or general rule: the canons of good behavior.
=>5. a standard; criterion: the canons of taste.
6. the books of the Bible recognized by any Christian church as genuine and inspired.
=>7. any officially recognized set of sacred books.

I find the term canon to be really constricting and tight, myself. Also, the thing about the BBC, they have never declared a canon for Doctor Who. And when the series came back to TV format, RTD did not dismiss all the stuff from the so called "wilderness years" out of hand. Some of it actually made its way into the TV version of the series (not just the obvious stuff either, like Human Nature). The only thing he didn't do, because it is against the BBC's rules, is require people to go scrambling for information that would have required them to spend a lot time and money to retrieve. Given how hard it's gotten in recent years to find books and the like as time's gone on, this is fair, I think.

Unlike Star Wars, Star Trek, or any number of other shows, series, what-have-you, Doctor Who is too big to be contained or constrained by "canon".

I find too, that I'm one of those who cannot separate the expanded universe stuff from the TV series. Since I read so much, I find that, if I read a tie-in book for a particular series, it automatically becomes part of the time line, even if the parent company's saying "No, that doesn't count". It all counts. All of it. While it may never impact what's occurring in the series proper, it has impacted my viewing and interaction with the characters and events in the show.


message 6: by Rick (new)

Rick | 1044 comments The point of having a canon though is that everyone accepts that as the "real" stuff. If everyone just thinks of what they've read/seen/experienced as canon, we have no central point of reference to agree upon.
I think everyone creates there own experience, but there should be a conceptual canon that serves as that common base to build individual experiences upon.


message 7: by Lori S. (last edited Jun 09, 2017 01:25PM) (new)

Lori S. (fuzzipueo) | 583 comments Mod
Rick wrote: "The point of having a canon though is that everyone accepts that as the "real" stuff. If everyone just thinks of what they've read/seen/experienced as canon, we have no central point of reference t..."

While agree with you on the shared and accepted content of a series, the moment people start saying "real" stuff I find myself wanting to run the other way. It's all real. That's why I like Doctor Who so much. It's so expansive that even the alternate time lines work. When people get that didactic about their chosen fandoms, it takes all the fun out of it and suddenly you're arguing over nonsensical stuff that, in the end, turns out to be throw away lines ... though often enough things like that will change how people see a series - ahem (view spoiler) and start arguing over something entirely new[1].

[1] The EDAs suggested that this happened because the Doctor has regenerated around so many humans over the years, he'd picked up a certain amount of biomass/data from them.


message 8: by Trae (new)

Trae Stratton | 10 comments I have to totally disagree with you Lori. When Disney rebranded the original EU as Legacy it was officially removed from the canon and became "not real" or not what happens to beloved characters.


message 9: by Rick (new)

Rick | 1044 comments Trae wrote: "I have to totally disagree with you Lori. When Disney rebranded the original EU as Legacy it was officially removed from the canon and became "not real" or not what happens to beloved characters."

So the EU was ret-coned out of regular continuity and it became an extended "what if" sort of thing? That's kind of depressing and frustrating.


message 10: by Travis (new)

Travis (travishiltz) | 1170 comments Rick wrote: "Trae wrote: "I have to totally disagree with you Lori. When Disney rebranded the original EU as Legacy it was officially removed from the canon and became "not real" or not what happens to beloved ..."

But isn't everything 'not on the screen' potentially 'not real' anyway?
Any novel or comic connected to a movie or TV franchise can be disregarded by the source in a heartbeat and have been.

I love the Doctor Who comics and novels, but things they introduced have been rendered not real by the TV show coming back.

You have a bit more luck if the stuff is set after a movie or show (Buffy Season 8 and Smallville season 11 come to mind)
But any tie in stories were always on thin ice.

Being a 'what' isn't nessicarily a bad thing.
After all Abrams Trek is basically a big 'what if', yet people treat it like it's real.


message 11: by Jadetyger (new)

Jadetyger Sevea | 70 comments I'm somewhere in the middle on the 'canon' debate. On the one hand, there are certain things that I believe are canon for Doctor Who, in that they are facts of the show. There is a Second Doctor. That is a fact of the show. I suppose you could write Troughton out of the history of the show retroactively, but who would want to? There is a space/time machine. That is a fact.

Ah, but that Space/Time machine! Here's where, I think, Lori's idea has merit, and where things get interesting. And complicated.

To step back into the Star Wars discussion for the moment:

Disney's decision to declare the EU novels 'not canon' rubbed me the wrong way, a bit. Back when their was no Star Wars on screen, when there was not likely to be any Star Wars, ever again, it was all we had. It was considered 'canon' by Lucasfilm, THE continuation of the saga.

While I didn't enjoy a lot of the EU (I stopped reading when it became clear that the authors had no real plan for the series, and were just throwing things in at random (Chewie was killed by a moon--What?), I don't like the fact that Disney decided to say: "oh, that--that doesn't count anymore," with a hand wave.

So, to drag this back on topic: Because of the TARDIS, Doctor Who has much more fluidity as a medium. I'm struggling to warm to the books. Does that mean I don't believe they are valid as part of the whole? Nope. Do I think there is a place, within the narrative, where Peter Cushing is Doctor Who? Yep.

Basically, because of the TARDIS, all things Are, and Will Be, and Have Been. Everything 'counts'.

And, to quote Nine-- It's fantastic! :)


message 12: by Rick (new)

Rick | 1044 comments I have to admit I get a bit annoyed when I read stuff that clearly contradicts continuity. But if it's written well, I can accept it into my own personal established "canon." the problem is if it isn't written well, I get so frosted it turns me off the whole format for that version of the characters.


CaptKirk42 Classic Whovian (klandersen) | 178 comments Rick wrote: "I have to admit I get a bit annoyed when I read stuff that clearly contradicts continuity. But if it's written well, I can accept it into my own personal established "canon." the problem is if it i..."
I don't mind much when the extra written stuff contradicts the continuity, but I do mind when the show (or movies) contradicts the continuity. Then again with time travel continuity ISN'T exactly a fixed event.

I do tend to enjoy all the types of media so even with some contradictions it is fine. Unless a single work contradicts its own continuity within itself then what you have there is poor writing.


message 14: by Travis (new)

Travis (travishiltz) | 1170 comments But at the same time, time travel isn't a 'get out of jail' free card for continuity.
There has to be some kind of internal logic to how it works.
Part of my problem with Abrams Trek is that the time travel element makes no sense.
Kirk's dad died too soon, so Kahn is now a white english guy...?

So does 'Legends of Tomorrow', but I can't decide if that's bad time travel or just the fact that the heroes are bad at their job.

Doctor Who has made similar mistakes, but at least attempts to set up rules, tries to fix mistakes and has some awareness of how tricky juggling the whole thing is.


message 15: by Lori S. (last edited Jun 13, 2017 07:57AM) (new)

Lori S. (fuzzipueo) | 583 comments Mod
Travis wrote: But at the same time, time travel isn't a 'get out of jail' free card for continuity.
There has to be some kind of internal logic to how it works.
Part of my problem with Abrams Trek is that the time travel element makes no sense.
Kirk's dad died too soon, so Kahn is now a white english guy...?


The first time I watched the Abrams movie I was so confused about the whole thing. For some reason, I never caught on that it was an alternate time line - not really a reboot so much as a way to explore Trek in a different way. I was so angry at the destruction of Vulcan that by the end of the movie, in spite of Nimoy's Spock showing up, I'd decided it was on of the worst movies I'd watched in a long time. (I did enjoy the most recent one, however.)

"So does 'Legends of Tomorrow', but I can't decide if that's bad time travel or just the fact that the heroes are bad at their job."

In this case, I think it's actually the writers at fault - and that's based off one episode, I admit, but in this episode one of the characters, in an attempt to create a distraction, gets up on the podium in a nightclub and starts singing Edelweiss in a story set during WWII. The band knew the tune too. That made my jaw clench.

On the face of it, it seem innocuous, harmless, right? Problem is, the song Edelweiss did not exist during WWII as it was written for The Sound of Musice in 1959. After that, I never went back to watching the series and I really kind of wanted to.

I can put up with anachronisms, but if the writers aren't even going to check even basic historical facts, what's the point of watching?

Doctor Who has made similar mistakes, but at least attempts to set up rules, tries to fix mistakes and has some awareness of how tricky juggling the whole thing is.

Doctor Who has this down to an art form really.


message 16: by Travis (new)

Travis (travishiltz) | 1170 comments Lori S. wrote: "Travis wrote: But at the same time, time travel isn't a 'get out of jail' free card for continuity.
There has to be some kind of internal logic to how it works.
Part of my problem with Abrams Trek ..."


Much as I rag on 'Legends', I love the cast and how it has embraced it's silver age comic goofiness.
They are just crap at Time travel, despite Rip Hunter constantly announcing he's a Time Master.
Love the show, but I'm merciless about the writing.

I would cut Abrams Trek some slack if they'd been brave enough to just make it a total do over, but the time travel and snarkily announcing 'It's not your father's Trek', while ripping off my father's Trek just meant I was going to land on it with both feet.
Shame, as it's a good cast.


message 17: by Travis (new)

Travis (travishiltz) | 1170 comments Another thought: Much as I'm not a fan of the term 'head canon' but it is a thing that we all have.

Whenever we encounter side stories we tend to mentally edit them, incorporating some in and casting others onto the 'it doesn't count' pile.
It is interesting to me to see what other people's 'head canon' is.
Sometimes there are arguments, okay, most times, but it's always interesting to me to find out what version people have put together.


message 18: by Lori S. (new)

Lori S. (fuzzipueo) | 583 comments Mod
Travis wrote: "Another thought: Much as I'm not a fan of the term 'head canon' but it is a thing that we all have.

Whenever we encounter side stories we tend to mentally edit them, incorporating some in and cast others onto the 'it doesn't count' pile.
It is interesting to me to see what other people's 'head canon' is.
Sometimes there are arguments, okay, most times, but it's always interesting to me to find out what version people have put together."


Yes. Everyone's experience is going to be different. You and I can watch the same things, be in the same room even, but the way we each experience the story is going to be very individual and personal. The filters we have on our perceptions will, more than likely, denote different things as being more significant than others and if we were to compare notes, probably not match up.

I often find that things I found fascinating or significant about a story are things that others dismiss as trivial. Or, more likely, I will totally miss what everyone else thinks is so important about a story ...


message 19: by Travis (new)

Travis (travishiltz) | 1170 comments Lori S. wrote: "Travis wrote: "Another thought: Much as I'm not a fan of the term 'head canon' but it is a thing that we all have.

Whenever we encounter side stories we tend to mentally edit them, incorporating s..."


like I said, there will be arguments, but it can also lead to some real interesting conversations.
I've always been interested in discovering what the other persons 'version' is.
Who do they consider their Doctor.
When did they start on Star Trek, or X-men or almost anything.
Did they start with the book, the comic or the movie etc...


message 20: by Rick (new)

Rick | 1044 comments I agree Travis, it's interesting to see where someone came into the fold, so to speak, of any given franchise. Someone who came into Star Wars with Phantom Menace will have a very different perspective than some who came into it with A New Hope back in 1977 (like me) when it was just Star Wars and had no subtitle.

I'm always interested in seeing who people started Doctor Who with and then who's their favorite Doctor. It makes for interesting conversations, as you pointed out.

As another example, I hated the new Star Trek rebooted films (although this last one was entertaining) not because they rebooted things or because the exist in an alternate reality. I don't like them because I find the first two to be badly written and really more Star Wars than Star Trek, if that makes sense.


message 21: by Travis (new)

Travis (travishiltz) | 1170 comments Rick wrote: "I agree Travis, it's interesting to see where someone came into the fold, so to speak, of any given franchise. Someone who came into Star Wars with Phantom Menace will have a very different perspec..."

I tell my daughter "my butt was in a theater in 77, so there's none of that No Hope stuff. It's Star Wars. The list goes Star Wars, Empire and Return of the jedi."

And I have been known to slap people who say "Actually, it's Episode 4..."


message 22: by Rick (new)

Rick | 1044 comments Haha. I've actually gotten used to calling it episode 4, just so I don't confuse youngsters. ;)

Getting back to Doctor Who. While I've gotten burned out on the books and comics related to Doctor Who, I do enjoy the 8th Doctor audio adventures. And I do consider them as canon.


message 23: by Travis (new)

Travis (travishiltz) | 1170 comments Rick wrote: "Haha. I've actually gotten used to calling it episode 4, just so I don't confuse youngsters. ;)

Getting back to Doctor Who. While I've gotten burned out on the books and comics related to Doctor ..."


Actually, the 8th Doctor's BF stuff is canon. It happened in the 50th anniversary short.

The comics are pretty decent. Especially like the past Doctor mini-series.
I'm so behind on BF and the novels.


message 24: by Rick (new)

Rick | 1044 comments Travis wrote: "Actually, the 8th Doctor's BF stuff is canon. It happened in the 50th anniversary short.

The comics are pretty decent. Especially like the past Doctor mini-series.
I'm so behind on BF and the novels."


I've only got a couple of the 8th Doctor audios, but I like them.
I got burned out on the Titan comics stuff. It felt like the writers were just rehashing catch phrases and quips from the shows. I didn't feel like they were taking the characters anyplace new. I'm not saying they're bad, just uninspired.


message 25: by Rick (new)

Rick | 1044 comments Finally got to read the article. Interesting stuff. Particularly on how we build relationships with the characters from the franchise. This does explain a lot about my feelings for Doc Savage and his crew, as I've reading their exploits since I was 10 (that's for over 40 years). And how sickened I've been when, over the years, The Arnold and Dwayne Johnson have been linked to a new Doc Savage film. Thankfully neither happened.


message 26: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (mollygr) Has anyone read Lance Parkins' book Doctor Who: AHistory? It actually makes a fair attempt at reconciling the show, books and audios into a somewhat coherent timeline for the Whoniverse. I forget if it includes the comics, but would be surprised if it didn't.


message 27: by Lori S. (new)

Lori S. (fuzzipueo) | 583 comments Mod
Sarah wrote: "Has anyone read Lance Parkins' book Doctor Who: AHistory? It actually makes a fair attempt at reconciling the show, books and audios into a somewhat coherent timeline for the Whoniverse. I forget i..."

Yes, he included the comics. Lance Parkin is one of those who can see and deal with the meta of Who in a way most of us can't.


message 28: by Travis (new)

Travis (travishiltz) | 1170 comments Don't have that one, but have read the Terrestrial Index, which is the Who history of Earth from the dawn of time to the end of the world.
Really nice attempt to make it all fit and a great section on some of the side stuff that it wasn't sure where it fit.


CaptKirk42 Classic Whovian (klandersen) | 178 comments Been a while since I've read this thread (or any goodreads thread recently). DW: AHistory. Don't have that yet it is on my mental "to get" list.

I admit I have not bought or listened to any of the Big Finish Audios. I don't get as much of a thrill from audiobooks, audiostories than I do the real TV shows, movies, novels and even comic books. Of the frew audiobooks I've listened to and got enough out of to really enjoy were ironically "Doctor Who and the Pescatons" (the first ever Doctor Who Audiobook, not necessarily the first audio-adventure but the first to be released during the audio-book infancy of the early 1980s) and The Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy audiobooks as read by Stephen Moore (Marvin the Paranoid Android from the original radio shows and the early 1980s BBC TV show). I just don't do audiobooks/audiodramas that well. Even on record or CD I don't get into them well. To add insult to that now the Big Finish stories are at least equal to the number of actual TV episodes (series by story) of Doctor Who. 100+ It takes enough to go through all the TV eps, and the novels that I have read, with another 100 or so yet to read or to purchase.


message 30: by Mark (new)

Mark C | 43 comments This is an interesting thread. As someone else said, it's interesting to read about different people's experiences with canon/continuity.

I'm of the school that says it all counts. But I'm also of the opinion that a lot of the expanded universe stories happened in alternative realities. So the novels, audios, comics etc are all in separate realities to the TV series. It's not a perfect setup admittedly. There is some crossover between the mediums and there's still some discrepancies but, on the whole, it's easier for me to keep them separate.


message 31: by Rick (new)

Rick | 1044 comments That's kind of the way I look at it as well, alternate realities. That's why I didn't mind so much, the recent reboots of the Star Trek franchise. They were set up specifically as an alternate reality. So even though I didn't care much for the first two, I can accept them into my conceptual universe of Star Trek. Same as the two theatrically released Doctor Who films with Peter Cushing as the Doctor.


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