Hypertime, Continuity, Doctor Who, The Prismatic Age Etc. (Prelude – On The Subject Of Canon)
What I’m planning – and hoping to do over the next week or so – is to do a massive set of semi-connected essays. The subjects on which I’ll be writing will be:
The Kingdom – a mid-90s DC comics series by Mark Waid and various artists
Seven Soldiers – a DC comics series from a few years ago that I’ve written a lot about already, by Grant Morrison and various artists
52 – another DC comics series from a few years ago, by Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Keith Giffen and various artists
Spiral Scratch – a Doctor Who novel by Gary Russel
The End Of Time – a non-fiction book by physicist Julian Barbour in which he tries to show that time is an illusion.
Melmoth by Dave Sim and Gerhard
Deadline, a Doctor Who Unbound audio story by Big Finish
Possibly also I’ll bring in Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?, the Doctor Who audio stories Masters Of War and Jubilee (I plan to write about MoW at some point anyway), All-Star Superman, Miracleman and Alan Moore’s work on Captain Britain and his Doctor Who Magazine strips. If it gets silly I may write about The End Of Eternity by Isaac Asimov and the About Time series of Doctor Who guidebooks…
This series might well not come off – when I try these things, they often go off in totally different directions from what I originally intended – but that’s the plan at the moment. If it doesn’t come off, just think of this and be glad – I’ve actually considered committing fanfic. I actually have a Doctor Who/DC Universe crossover fanfic novel planned out in my head as a result of this. Seriously. I could write it right now. I came *this* close to just doing it and sticking it up here. But I will spare you and do the essays.
This series of posts started out as being about the idea of ‘canon’, but has been sidetracked and then sidetracked from the sidetracking. It was originally in response to Dan Howells, who asked me to do a post about “things that have never been mentioned in Doctor Who canon, but which you consider canonical anyway” – my response to that is actually this:
That image comes from this great post about how there is no Doctor Who ‘canon’ (interestingly Dan, who asked me that question, replied to that post saying “Can’t wait to discuss this with my NuWho denier friends…” while I see that argument, which I’d made many times myself, as perfect justification for me choosing to ignore the Welsh series altogether).
However, before going into my extended series of posts, I’ll answer Dan’s question on the terms he asked it – here are five things that are ‘true’ in the Doctor Who that’s in my head, but have never been referenced – or have been directly contradicted – on TV:
1) The explanation of the TARDIS’ workings and ‘artron energy’ in About Time 1, where Miles and Wood suggest that the TARDIS is powered by energy from the collapse of quantum waveforms, and the difference between potential and actuality. Wonderful gibberish that’s *just* on the cusp of making some kind of sense.
2) Daleks have no letter J in their alphabet. Terry Nation said so. (Neither do the Welsh, by the way. Coincidence? I think not…)
3) The Fifth Doctor had a huge series of adventures with Peri, many involving the Pharaoh Erimem as well, and at the same time regenerated within a couple of days of meeting her. He can do that kind of thing.
4) The Doctor is an agnostic. He’s seen too much to be certain either way about anything, and considers that stating that anything is absolutely true is tantamount to saying you have a perfect, complete working model of the universe in your head, which he doesn’t.
5) The Eighth Doctor existed but the TV Movie never happened. The Ninth Doctor was very like the one on TV, but no RTD-era story ever happened, and there is no Tenth Doctor. The Time War happened, but the Welsh series bears as much resemblance to what ‘really’ happened to the Doctor afterward as Blackadder II does to the real court of Elizabeth I.
But that’s only the story I tell myself. In my personal ‘canon’, the most important stories are the Baker and Davison audios made while Gary Russell was head of Big Finish (plus The Kingmaker), followed by the Alan Moore and Grant Morrison comics, followed by the original TV show, followed by the rest of the audios except Flip-Flop, Master and The Rapture, followed by the Target novelisations, followed by those of the original novels I’ve read… yours could instead count Scream Of The Shalka, Dimensions In Time, the two Peter Cushing films, the adverts Tom Baker and Lalla Ward made for Prime Computers in 1979, Torchwood, the unofficial Ten Doctors webcomic and the role-playing game, and I bet you could tell yourself some interesting stories with that as the basis, too.
Because continuity and ‘canon’ only have any worth at all – are only not actively pernicious concepts – when they’re a springboard for telling more stories – either the stories told by the author, or the stories we tell ourselves. Those stories can be as simple as us reading between the lines – or a three-year-old pretending a cardboard box is her TARDIS or shouting “I AM A DA-LEK!” – or as complex as fanfic. But the second they become strictures on storytelling, instead of an inspiration for it, something is very wrong. Stories should never become dogma.