The Whoniverse Guide to Canon

One of the things you'll learn is that it's all real. Every word of every novel is real, every frame of every movie, every panel of every comic strip - The Gallifrey Chronicles

The subject of the Doctor Who canon is one of the fiercest debates amongst Doctor Who fans, partly because there is no official BBC line on the issue. Although which stories count as real Doctor Who is only relevant to those seeking to categorise the whoniverse, many fans are very emphatic about what stories count and what stories don't. As The Whoniverse is a reference guide to the universe of Doctor Who, we have to take a stand on this issue, if only so that we know what it is we're referencing. Our aim is to cast the net as wide as is possible without making the task of cataloguing it too difficult to ever achieve. This page discusses each major area of Doctor Who fiction in turn, and explains what parts from each area count and which don't. As a general guideline, if something is at least semi-official and is intended to fit with the rest of the whoniverse, then it's probably canon unless there are very good reasons why it can't be. However, for sanity's sake, we have chosen to exclude some material that fits that definition.

1) The TV Series 1963-1989, 1996, 2005 onwards

The TV series is pretty much the only thing which is universally accepted as canonical by fans, and forms the basis of every continuity reference of note. We count the spin-off story K9 and Company as part of the TV series, and count the 1996 TV Movie (semi-officially titled Enemy Within) and the new series (including Christmas Specials and in-continuity scenes from Children in Need) as of equal weight, and will probably do the same with spin-off series Torchwood. The unfinished story Shada also counts, although it has to be interpreted within the context of the webcast version - the original version was written out of the Doctor's timeline during The Five Doctors and "replaced" by the webcast version. We also include Attack of the Graske - the interactive episode shown via digital TV after The Christmas Invasion

On the other hand, we don't count the Children in Need special Dimensions in Time, which is just silly, contributes nothing important, and is impossible to get hold of (at least legally) - and, in any case, the New Adventure First Frontier established that it was a nightmare of the Doctor's. We also don't count The Curse of the Fatal Death because it's a parody. We also don't count any in-character appearances by the Doctor or other Who characters on other TV shows.

2) Missing Stories, Extended Versions, and Novelisations

It should go without saying that the 109 missing episodes from the 1960s still count as part of the TV series, even though (as far as we know) there are no copies still in existence. The only "missing stories" that deserve consideration are The Masters of Luxor, which was published as a script book, and the 3 "missing season" stories that were novelised (they had been planned for Season 23, but were abandoned at a late stage when the show was suspended for 18 months). No other abandoned scripts have ever been made public, so even if we wanted to include them we couldn't. The Masters of Luxor is very difficult to fit into continuity, and so we don't count it (at least for now). The Missing Season stories are referenced in the original novels, so they definitely count. Extended versions of televised stories on the video or DVD releases count as much as the original versions - particularly because extended and extra scenes were often only cut because of time constraints. However, in the case of conflicting information, they count for less. Novelisations of TV stories often differ significantly from the TV versions (and sometimes directly contradict the TV series), but in some cases flesh out the material quite effectively. We have included novelisation material where we thought it added to what we know, but have ignored it when it contradicts other information.

3) BBC Webcasts and tie-in websites

The BBC have placed 4 webcast stories on their Doctor Who website (though last time we looked Death Comes to Time had been taken down). We haven't got round to these stories yet, though we fully intend to do so. Real Time, starring Colin Baker, is fairly easy to accept as canon, as long as we accept an unrecorded adventure to resolve the plot thread it left dangling. Death Comes to Time, starring Sylvester McCoy poses severe continuity problems, but once we work out how to resolve them, we are happy to accept it as canon. Shada, starring Paul McGann, rewrites the unfinished TV story of the same name (originally starring Tom Baker), and even explains how it relates to the original. Scream of the Shalka, starring Richard E. Grant as the ninth Doctor, cannot really be counted since the announcement of the new series with Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor.

The various tie-in websites that have appeared in the wake of the new series clearly occupy the same fictional space as the old Target novelisations - they expand on the series, but are clearly subordinate to it. Therefore, any information that contradicts the series is ignored, anything that expands it is accepted. This is less of an issue now that the tie-in sites have switched focus to become online games.

4) Radio & Audio Adventures

The BBC have broadcast 3 of their own audio adventures on radio. Slipback contradicts the televised story Terminus, though this can be worked around - so we accept it. The Paradise of Death and The Ghosts of N-Space, although absolutely terrible, are official BBC productions and also the second one was also part of the Missing Adventures series of novels, and is a sequel to the first. We also count Doctor Who and the Pescatons, which was originally released as a record back in the 70s.

The fan-run company Big Finish has produced a large range of licensed Doctor Who audios, some of which have been broadcast on digital radio station BBC7. Despite attempts to distance their audios from the novels, they can still be made to fit. Therefore, the only ones we don't count are their Doctor Who Unbound series, which was always intended as a 'what if' series rather than something that fits within the canon. However, we don't count BBV's Professor and Ace series, which featured a thinly disguised seventh Doctor and Ace, due to their unofficial nature.

5) Original Novels

We count the two original Companions of Doctor Who novels, Virgin's New Adventures and Missing Adventures, BBC Worldwide's Past Doctor Adventures and Eighth Doctor Adventures, and the Telos novellas. We also count stand-alone novel Who Killed Kennedy. Virgin's Decalog series of short stories, BBC Worldwide's Short Trips collections and Big Finish's Short Trips collections - though some individual stories in these collections are clearly intended to be outside continuity, and so count. We also count the K9 picture books, but not the Make Your own Adventure books - because we can't decide which version of the story is canon. We aren't currently including any of the charity anthologies, or Jim Mortimore's self-published Campaign, which are unlicensed, despite their high standing with fans.

6) Comics and Annuals

The comics are probably the easiest of the officially licensed stories to ignore. The 60s and 70s comic strips in TV Comic were never designed or intended to fit in with the TV Series, and neither were the Doctor Who Annuals of the same era. On the other hand, the comic strips in Doctor Who Magazine fit much better (particularly those published after the original series was cancelled). However we have chosen to leave these strips out of the site for the time being for the simple reason of avoiding being overwhelmed by sheer volume of stories. However, there will be occasional references to any comic strip directly referenced by stories we do count.

7) Spin-Off Series

Although spin-off series by their nature may not be licensed by the BBC (as they contain no BBC-owned characters or concepts), some of them are of prime importance, and deserve to be catalogued.

The Bernice Summerfield spin-off series' by Virgin and Big Finish all count - especially as some of Big Finish's Benny audios tie in to their licensed Doctor Who range. However, the first season of Benny audios don't count - being rewrites of earlier novels. Although, again, extra information that doesn't contradict anything else does count.

The Faction Paradox series is a difficult one. On the one hand, it seems to deserve canonical status as much as the Benny spin-offs - being officially licensed by those who own the characters involved. On the other hand, its very existence as a spin-off is a result of its setting being retconned out of existence by The Ancestor Cell. The best solution is probably to treat the series as a divergent timeline within the canon.

As mentioned above, BBV's Professor and Ace stories don't count, and neither do their Stranger stories. In both cases, these are attempts to use a Doctor/companion team without a license by thinly disguising the fact. Any other such series we've forgotten about are in the same category. However, BBV's more direct (and licensed) Doctor Who stories Wartime, Downtime, Shakedown, and the Auton trilogy do count - after all, two of these stories also happen to have been novelised as part of the Missing Adventures and New Adventures series. Their PRoBe series featuring Liz Shaw is also worthy of being counted.

8) Fan Fiction

There is a very large amount of fan fiction floating around. However, it is clearly insane to even contemplate including fanfic in a reference work like this. Partly because it would be impossible to do a comprehensive survey of fan fiction, but mostly because you would end up with far far too many contradictions (imagine how many fans have written their own version of Liz Shaw's departure from UNIT, or Mel Bush meeting the Sixth Doctor), not to mention that some fans write x-rated material that we really wouldn't like to point people to (some of our readers are children). Having said that, if a widely distributed piece of fan fiction is mentioned in a canonical story, then we may include that individual story. The only example that really fits the bill are the numerous references to the fan-produced video Time Rift in Vampire Science. Despite this, we may include discontinuity guides on notable pieces of fanfic. But don't e-mail us with suggestions, because we will probably ignore any direct requests.

9) Anything Else

There are things that don't fit into the above categories. However, very few of these (if any) are seriously worth bothering about - I doubt anyone seriously considers that, for example, the story given away with sky ray lollies or within the computer game Destiny of the Doctors to be more worthy of inclusion here than some of the material that we have currently excluded from the Whoniverse canon.

You visited the Whoniverse at 9:58 pm BST on Thursday 27th September 2007


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