Monday, November 07, 2022

Chibnall and I (5)

 5: On My Mother's Side

Star Wars and Star Trek and every single Marvel Comic cohere into one single story. Or, at any rate, if you squint very hard and say "I do believe in fairies" then you can pretend that they do. Picard is clearly trying to be a sequel to Star Trek: The Next Generation; and with a bit of effort, The Original Series and Star Trek: Discovery can be persuaded to share a setting. 

Doctor Who does not work like that. So it is more than usually important for fans to pretend that does; and more than usually exciting when the series itself affirms it. 

Paul McGann played Doctor Who for precisely 89 minutes. (He was unconscious for a lot of it.) His single episode was not a success: the whole point of it was to facilitate an American revival of Doctor Who, and no American revival of Doctor Who was forthcoming. The series remained in limbo for another nine years. (I have no beef with the episode itself. Some people liked it, others not so much.) It would have been perfectly possible to have ignored it and started Doctor Who up again in 2005 as if nothing had happened. 

But the TV film made a very big deal out of being a continuation of Original Doctor Who, where several of the rejected pitches would have presented themselves as reboots. Although he only gets a few seconds of screen time and no lines, we see the Seventh Doctor turn into the Eighth. And that's important. It tells us that the thread has not been cut. There just happened to be a longer than usual gap between Survival and the Backdoor Pilot With No Name.

Of course, the McGann Doctor has since appeared in -- dear god -- seventy novels and a hundred and fifty audio adventures. The canonicity of these stories is questioned. They contradict each other to death, so they can't all be true, unless they are. But those 89 minutes are the only definite for sure on screen canonical Eighth Doctor texts. 

And that's another reason why we are pleased when Peter Davison morphs into Paul McGann. Paul McGann doesn't do anything in the story, any more than Ian does anything in the story. He is just there. But him being there is kind of important. Because the Eighth Doctor has now appeared in definitely official New Who. (His face appeared in Human Nature; and he appeared in a Minisode during the the Fiftieth Anniversary, and I think he was in that weird sequence where Wonderful Clara turns out to have been in charge of Doctor Who continuity from the before the beginning.) But this is unequivocally part of the unfolding text. There are no gaps in the passing of the baton. All stories are one story, but that story is very big. Who said that fans talk about continuity, but what they really desire is linearity? 

It would be strange if this principle, this principle that cameos are good in themselves because they tie the canon together, became a core narrative principle. But we keep hearing that Russell T Davies, with the distribution network of Walt Disney behind him, wants to do spin-offs. Wants Doctor Who to became a Vast Franchise like Marvel and Star Wars. And fans (some fans) instantly latch on. Wouldn't it be cool if Romana were recruited by UNIT to track down all three surviving incarnations of the Master and had to recruit K9 to help her find Jenny in order to...

No. No it wouldn't be.


I'm Andrew.

I am trying very hard to be a semi-professional writer and have taken the leap of faith of down-sizing my day job.

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NickPheas said...

I assume that the five minute regeneration story is also canon (my standing rule being "Was it on TV?", though I do have to fudge it for Curse of the Fatal Death). He does there say goodbye to many dubiously canonical companions, suggesting that the canon 8th Doctor at once poi8nt knew both a Charlie and a Lucie, even if we can't be entirely sure that they are played un India Fisher and Sheredin Smith.

Andrew Rilstone said...

It's kind of like "Is the book of Enoch canon because the epistle of Jude quotes from it, or is Jude apocryphal because it quotes from the book of Enoch."