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parrot_knight [userpic]

Thoughts on how far any Doctor Who is canonical

July 26th, 2009 (01:35 pm)

Over at Teatime Brutality (and what a good name that can be for a blog discussing Doctor Who) there's a good essay about why the concept of the canon, at least in the way it has been used in fandom, doesn't apply in Doctor Who. Recommended by Paul Cornell on Twitter.

Comments

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: July 27th, 2009 11:46 am (UTC)
bemused spock

Actually, the new Star Trek film explicitly didn't wipe out the original time line, since the nearest we get to an Authoritative Explanation of What Has Happened - Spock, Uhura, and Kirk's conversation about temporal anomalies - is that Nero and the black hole created a new time-line/ parallel universe. The older Spock and Nero and company end up in the new parallel universe, but there's nothing to indicate that the old one isn't running along happily without them, or that the original Star Trek canon never happened. In fact, the existence of Older Spock proves that they did.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: July 27th, 2009 07:37 pm (UTC)
Eccleston

As I understand it, SF(&F?) fandom's idea of 'canon' has a very convoluted history,derived from particular ways of understanding how the Bible works through rules developed for dealing with the Sherlock Holmes works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and then combined with the notion of a canon of English literature as developed by the dominant London booksellers and Samuel Johnson in the eighteenth century, and added to since then. These three distinct ideas of a canon become confused and indeed cross-fertilise in transmission.

The Time War is indeed a great get-out clause for those nervous about being selective about details. It's often pointed out that at least one 'new series' Doctor Who story, Dalek, can't have happened the way we saw it on screen from the perspective of the most recently shown episodes - which doesn't mean to say that we can't retell the story ourselves in ways that make more sense in the context of a Doctor Who-2012 where the existence of aliens and their occasional involvement in human affairs is widespread knowledge.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: July 26th, 2009 01:50 pm (UTC)
Doctor Who

I didn't think the article broke new ground, to be honest. It was essentially the same thing people have been saying in DWM since the nineties (notably in a big article by Steve Lyons ages ago).

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: July 27th, 2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
Tom

I'd forgotten that article, but I do remember one by Paul Magrs. I think that the charm comes in the way the argument is expressed - though some of the quotations from Paul Cornell are a little long - and I agree with what it's saying, though there are competing ideas about what 'canon' means - it's an all-purpose noun-adjectival noun-adjective, possibly with adverbial aspirations, used by people passionate about their subject but not necessarily engaging as fully as they ought to with the arguments they are challenging.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: July 27th, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)

Interesting, isn't it, though... I largely agree with Teatime Brutality, while also agreeing with the point with which you open your post. The problem is this word 'canon' and what it's come to mean; I don't think what you mean by the word canon is the same as what Teatime Brutality means, though I'll need to think over that a bit more and will comment on your post when I have.

Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: July 27th, 2009 11:51 am (UTC)

Interesting post - thank you for the link!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: July 27th, 2009 07:53 pm (UTC)

It is - the main problem is in how fandom uses the word 'canon' and what it's come to signify. As zanda_myrande has argued, in one sense there always will be a canon - though there are canons themselves within that canon, arguably - but Teatime Brutality's ideas are closer to mine on the subject - a non-canon, non-law, perhaps.

Posted by: philmophlegm (philmophlegm)
Posted at: July 27th, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
cyberleader

Clever.

Now people can replace "That's not canon. If you'd been in Who fandom as long as I have, you'd realise this" with "There is no Doctor Who canon. If you'd been in Who fandom as long as I have, you'd know this".

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: July 27th, 2009 07:49 pm (UTC)
pic#70424010

Already a well-established ploy, if you want to look at it like that... but it's really more a matter of saying that where Doctor Who is concerned, assumptions behind the use of the word 'canon' developed in other fandoms can't apply.