Hello, Wanderers, and welcome back to the 50 Years of Doctor Who series that has been going on these preceeding weeks. So how are we all doing? The 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor, has aired and in it were many nods to both Classic and New Who episodes and characters. Not to mention, some of those … moments that made everyone scream at their television or cinema screen. In my personal opinion? It was a fairly good episode. I’d already kind of gotten everything I’d wanted from the preceeding minisode, The Night of the Doctor, so the actual special itself was just a pleasant episode for me to watch. However, due to the climax of the episode, there was a split faction on the social media sites, particularly Tumblr from what I could see. This issue showed me that it was really time to address an issue that I’ve been avoiding so far in this series, but could no longer do so.
People, as shocking as this may be to you, listen to me now. There is NO CANON in Doctor Who. Let it settle in, give it a moment or two. Right. Now I can hear you ready to argue with me here, and frankly, I’d love it if you did, but let me explain myself first.
Now, apart from the fact that continuity itself has always been a bit on the … less well kept side from the beginning of Doctor Who (though bless William Hartnell for making sure that he kept the Tardis buttons ‘mapped out’ so he knew what each one was meant to do), let’s have a little focus on ‘New’ Who for a bit. More specifically, let’s have a look at the Daleks. Those great, big, pepperpots of doom. Oh shush, we’ve all made the same joke. Anyway, my point is this – early on in his run, Russell T Davies made sure it was stated that the Daleks were all gone; completely dead from whatever action it was that the Doctor had taken to end the Time War – and please, don’t burst in here to say ‘ah, but actually…’. Believe me, I know, but for the purposes of this article we are going with what was stated at the time. So, y’know, bear with me here. Anyway, RTD, as fandom commonly abreviated him, stated numerous times that the Daleks were gone.
So tell me why then, dear readers, that it was that the great, big, pepperpots of doom kept showing up what felt all the time? Even if you like them as adversaries – and I’m not saying that I don’t – the amount of times they showed up to pose some great threat only to be defeated once again was, well, it was a bit tiring really. Especially since we were reassured each time that would be the last we’d see of them. And then they’d reappear the next series and there would be more of them. What’s my point here? Well, one, that you can’t trust the showrunners of Doctor Who, and two, that the facts of the show can change for the sake of making a good episode.
Writer Paul Cornell once wrote a blog post about the nature of canon in the Doctor Who universe, which I feel pertains to this article quite readily. According to this, no one at the BBC have ever actually sat down and asked the question ‘what is canonical in the Doctor Who universe’? Cornell suggests that this is because the show is in production – in flux, if you were – and much like the nature of time on the show, events can be re-written.
In other words, don’t worry too much about it. Canon is merely a concept for our dear show, one that it looked at once, thought was nice, but then didn’t really give too much thought to beyond that. It’s really for this reason that the entire expanded universe works so well as it does as, frankly, who’s to say the Doctor hasn’t had all these amazing adventures out there in the universe?
The important thing, if anything, to take from this article is this: don’t stress too much about Doctor Who and canon. The show doesn’t bother too, so why should you? Just enjoy the timey-wimeyness of it all.
Z McAspurren (Loved ‘An Adventure in Space and Time‘)