I thought I would write what will no doubt be the first of many challenging posts on canon in Doctor Who. I have recently expanded my consumption of all things Doctor Who (see The Doctor and Me) to turn me more into a fan though still retaining my critical eye (I hope).
Wading through the vast tract of Eighth Doctor Adventures I have been (mostly) enjoying how they patch over the earlier cracks in the canon (such as the flaws in The Movie) but inevitably when you consider how much material there is, other gaps appear. The gap I want to talk to in this piece concerns how Big Finish have covered a similar piece of the Doctor’s timeline…
What is canon?
In simple terms it is the desire of the obsessive fan to have every story make sense when joined to every other story. Now fans understand that in the early days this wasn’t important (nobody predicted that we would all own copies of everything available and study to the nth degree!). Steven Moffat has also waded in with an opinion along the lines of ‘it’s a show about time travel – how far can canon apply?’. We also accept that the Time War re-wrote some history allowing for a geologic flaw between the first eight doctors and the next three. The BBC charter also means that the show must be complete without the viewer needing to buy other content – in other words all other stuff must be able to be removed without changing the overall story.
We also realise that some stuff is fan fiction and that items from AudioVisuals are not of themselves canon.
Finally Big Finish and the various novels are all BBC licensed so it would be nice to add them in. I can’t stretch my brain to cover comic strips I’m afriad!
Legacy of the Daleks
The author, John Peel (not that one), writes well – I really liked his previous War of the Daleks and this is also well written. Thematically it is a follow on to Dalek Invasion of Earth and lets us find out what happened to Susan after she left the TARDIS to be with David Campbell. We find Susan to be ageing slowly, barren and also later widowed as David gets killed saving the Doctor (of course!). The tale ends with Susan leaving the earth in the Master’s TARDIS.
Earth meanwhile is a post-apocalyptic somewhat primitive world with guns, some electricity and colony worlds ‘out there’. Susan and the Doctor spend little time together in the tale which is a shame.
The problem – Earthly Child (and following tales)
Meanwhile Big Finish also followed up on Susan’s future life on Earth in Earthly Child (brilliant title) and from there Relative Dimensions and the rest of the last season of Lucie Miller stories (see my thoughts here). We have a Susan who is still on Earth (no TARDIS though I suppose that could have been discarded) and also a son in the form of Alex. The world feels very different as well less feudal, one culture in the UK and the ability to holiday around the globe.
Clearly this is not the same world!
What’s the answer?
Obviously I am very pro Big Finish and want their line to be canonical. This knocks some of Legacy into touch which is sad as bits of it are interesting and it attempts to plug a link into the Master’s timeline up to the Deadly Assassin (the novels are quite good at patching up the classic TV series).
Maybe as I read more the Eighth Doctor will re-write the post Invasion timeline – until then I either ignore it or come up with a brighter explanation!