Why Canon Matters

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT FOR DOCTOR WHO SERIES 12 FINALE EPISODE. 

I know I said I was done with Who but I promise this isn’t just another reason to rag on the series 12 finale and why The Timeless Children is undoubtedly the most insulting episode to anyone that cares about Doctor Who and its history.

The more I thought about this episode and all its foibles, the more I realized I had to say on the subject of canon and continuity as a whole. I’ve seen many different shows and movies fall pray to the desertion of both the holy “Cs” and they have suffered in quality as a result. This is particularly common in TV shows within the fantasy and science fiction genre.

There is the commonly used defense within the Who fandom that postulates that Doctor Who canon has always been messed up and, therefore, doesn’t matter. After all, it’s a show where “anything can happen” so it stands to reason any changes made (no matter how contradictory to the themes and history of the show) are to be accepted.

Firstly, I reject the premise that “anything can happen” in a story regardless of how mercurial in nature the narrative may be.

When you create a fictional world it is imperative to create continuity (or “rules” if you prefer) so the viewer knows what can and cannot happen in this world.

Harry Potter cannot use an AK-47 to mow-down Death Eaters, Walter White cannot use telepathy to melt Gus Fring’s head, and Joe from You can’t use vampire mind-control powers to win Beck’s affections.

Why? Because these things would interfere with each stories’ internal logic.

This isn’t to say there can’t be twists along the way that may call into question previous notions about a character’s past or motivations, but these twists should complement rather than contradict the world in which they are taking place.

If you just haphazardly throw in an unplanned twist that messes with logic of that respective universe, you usually end up with one of these guys.

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Let’s use Who as an example.

If the Time Lords gained regeneration energy from The Doctor as a child, how did River Song obtain regenerative abilities? Presumably, if the Time Lords weren’t given regeneration energy from exposure to the Eye of Harmony this shouldn’t be possible and River Song should be entirely human.

If Ruth is supposed to be The Doctor before Hartnell, why is her TARDIS a police telephone box when its chameleon circuit had not been broken yet?

Why didn’t Clara see any of the female Doctor’s when she jumped into The Doctor’s time-stream?

Why did the Time Lords need to give The Doctor more regenerations when he literally has an infinite amount of them?

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The answer is simple: Because the change in the canon wasn’t supposed to happen.

Imagine someone gives you a jigsaw puzzle as a gift. You pour all the pieces onto the table and work for hours to recreate the picture you see on the box. However, it quickly becomes apparent the picture isn’t forming the way it is supposed to. In fact, many of the pieces appear to be from a different jigsaw puzzle altogether. When you confront your friend on why this is, they explain to you that this is how it’s supposed to look and, if you don’t see it, you’re an idiot. And so you give it another try, forcing the pieces together, bending them and contorting them so they will fit within the whole. You take a step back only to realize no matter how much you try to bend the pieces, they do not–will never–form a coherent picture.

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This is what it is like when canon is tampered with arbitrarily. Anything you change in the past will invariably have a ripple effect, causing everything that happened prior to the “amazing revelation” to no longer make sense.

This drastically hampers the audience’s capacity to suspend disbelief which negatively impacts their ability to be engaged in what they are watching.

I don’t know about you, but if I am forced to do mental gymnastics in order to justify creatively bankrupt decisions in my media, I tend to just give up.

If “anything can happen,” then why does anything matter? If a character dies they can just be brought back to life through some improbable means. If a “rule” prevents a character from obtaining their goal, it can be retconned with or without explanation.

There’s no reason for the audience to internalize any new information because it will only be discarded at the writers’ convenience.

This robs the story of tension, mystery, heart and everything else that makes a good story worth telling.

I’m perfectly fine with subverting an audiences expectations, but just because something is shocking that doesn’t mean it’s good.

Thanks for reading!

Doctor Who The Hell Cares Anymore

****Warning: The following contains spoilers for Jodie Whittaker’s run of Doctor Who. Reader discretion is advised****

A couple of years ago, I wrote a series of posts where I pontificated on the possibility of a female Doctor and, while I understood the backlash surrounding the character’s gender swap, I considered it the show’s only possible move.

By the time Moffat announced he was leaving the show, Doctor Who had devolved into a paint-by-numbers soap opera with worn-down concepts. Characters were flat and one-dimensional, consequences were nonexistent, and the show was slowly rending itself apart with retcon after retcon after retcon.

I didn’t want The Doctor to be a woman because of representation, I just thought this was an excellent opportunity for the show to be reinvigorated.

I was excited for the chance to start over. It had been so long since I actually wanted to watch Who. Moffat’s flagrant disrespect for his predecessors and the intelligence of his audience had driven me nearly to the breaking point.

Chibnail would breathe new life into this stale show.

So…..how is Chibnail’s era of Doctor Who?

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If you thought constantly bringing characters back from the dead and undoing series cannon for jokes is bad, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, Princess!

Because we’re taken’ that bullshit and dialing it up to 13, baby!

Not only are we supposed to believe that The Doctor’s first incarnation was a girl—

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Yeah, not only was she a girl in her first incarnation…..

SHE’S NOT EVEN A TIME LORD!!!

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According to series 12, The Doctor was a little girl that fell out of a portal and was experimented on so Time Lords could develop regeneration. Uh huh. They are seriously suggesting The Doctor’s first form was a female.

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It wasn’t enough that The Doctor is a woman now--oh, no–we now have to go back in time and rewrite the entire frigging series so we can show how woke we are. I’m not going to lie, Doctor Who has always been a bit preachy, but are you kidding me? Are you actually kidding me? 

The question I cannot get an answer to is why? Why did The Doctor have to be a woman in previous incarnations? Why did they have to spit on Hartnell’s Doctor, on all the years that came before? Why is it not enough that she’s a woman now?

You know what makes this even worse?

It’s not even an original story. 

The entire premise is lifted directly from a Doomsday comic.

Originally known as “The Ultimate”, Doomsday was born in prehistoric times on Krypton, long before the humanoid Kryptonian race gained dominance over the planet about 250,000 years ago. It was at that time a violent, hellish world, where only the absolute strongest of creatures could survive.[4][5] In a cruel experiment involving evolution, intended to create the perfect living being, the alien scientist Bertron released a humanoid infant (born in vitro in a lab) onto the surface of the planet, where he was promptly killed by the harsh environment. The baby’s remains were collected and used to clone a stronger version. This process was repeated over and over for decades as a form of accelerated natural evolution- Wikipedia 

Uncanny, wouldn’t you say?

The Doctor—the most infamous Time Lord in all of Gallifrey—isn’t even a Time Lord.

Doctor Who has taken many a dump on it’s own lore, but this….this.

This is like finding out Harry Potter wasn’t actually a wizard but a house elf that was enchanted to look human.

This creates so many problems I can’t even list all of them or this post will be as long as War and Peace.  Here’s a link if you’re interested in some of the major plot holes this revelation has created.

I once thought that the constant rotating door of writers of this show would ensure it’s survival. With new voices being brought in, new show-runners taking the show in unique directions, it would be revitalized but this isn’t the case. From what I can tell from Moffat and Chibnail’s eras, the head writers simply have too much ego.

They want their run to be the definitive era of Who and they don’t care if they have to destroy all the hard work of previous generations to do it.

Moffat retconned the destruction of Gallifrey, completely undercutting all the character development The Doctor went through during Davie’s era. Now, upon watching series 1-7, the scenes where The Doctor talks about being the last don’t land with nearly as much impact because we know he isn’t. Or wasn’t.

Chibnail, in his turn, has destroyed all the emotional tension of Moffat’s era surrounding The Doctor’s death because now we know he (she, they, whatever) was never actually in any danger to begin with because The Doctor is immortal! 

Oh…and I guess River’s ultimate sacrifice was completely meaningless as well.

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Come to think of it, doesn’t this mean that every person—every single solitary person—that has ever died for The Doctor died in vain?

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This suddenly got a lot worse didn’t it?

The offenses didn’t start here. Chibnail gave us perhaps the most boring incarnation of The Doctor ever created, a bloated Tardis crew with no real character development or intrigue, lackluster stories as well as preachy messages so on the nose they make you sneeze.

The show has become so mired with contention Antiques Roadshow beat the season finale in the ratings.

Let me repeat that: Antiques freaking Roadshow beat Doctor Who in the ratings. 

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Simple: People stopped caring.

Now that the novelty of The Doctor being a woman has worn off there is nothing to drive people to this show.

I don’t even blame political correctness as many are wont to do.

I blame laziness and ego.

You can’t save a bland story by tacking on a “save muh planet” message onto it. It doesn’t matter if your cast is diverse if they are underdeveloped planks of wood. Nobody cares if The Doctor is a woman if she’s annoying and doesn’t bring a new spin on the character. She’s not even The Doctor. She isn’t funny or clever. She’s like a side-character in her own TV show, clever when it’s convenient and utterly useless when it’s not. Super inspiring guys!

Ratings are in free-fall.

The fanbase in the United States is basically nonexistent.

But they refuse to listen to any manner of critique, choosing the same path as many creators are these days and blaming the fanbase for not liking their product.

If you don’t like Doctor Who in its current state, it isn’t because the writing is bad, it’s because you’re a bad person.

You are an alt-right troll that doesn’t like progress.

I thought Chibnail’s era of Doctor Who would be a breath of fresh air, but it’s more like a fart; a loud, smelly fart right in our faces.

No doubt there are people who will bend over backwards to defend the changes to the cannon. For whatever reason that appears to be an unavoidable reality with this show. It doesn’t matter how many dumb decisions are made, people will always clammer to defend it with paper-thin arguments that should win them a gold metal for mental gymnastics.

I’ll leave them to it.

I give up on this show.

For good this time.

I just don’t care anymore.

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