For some, the dividing line is as insubstantial as a repeated meme or Kamelions’ story arc. For others, more impenetrable than E Space. Why I hear you ask?.... In the best traditions of Doctor Who, I’ll explain later…
For any newcomers I should first explain what Dr Who aficionados mean when they refer to canon. I should also point out that there is no right or wrong answer in this debate. It’s really not worth getting steamed up about but I’ve engaged in hours of light hearted banter on topics as diverse as the canonicity of Dimensions in Time to the merits of including Lolly Card stories in the official Whoniverse.
The definition of canon is;
material that is considered to be "genuine", "something that actually happened", or can be directly referenced as material produced by the original author or creator
Most Dr Who fans agree that the main TV show is 100% canon. But even here there are grey areas, mainly to do with contradictions in continuity. In a show that has run for nearly 50 years there have been many. For example in The Time Monster  viewers thrilled as Atlantis was finally destroyed, for the 3rd time! The first destruction occurred in The Underwater Menace . The second was described by Azal in The Daemons ]
So, how do fans feel about these contradictions? Casual fans say it’s just a TV show!! But we know better than that don’t we? However, it will be a warm day on the ood sphere before anyone but a die-hard fan will debate canon with you. So if you find yourself discussing this with someone, you have reached geek nirvana.
Still Here? Then you, my Anethan friend, have entered the Nimon maze [all together now] "Weakling Scum"! You love Dr Who, Huzzah.
So here’s where I stand..I really like the idea of a unified Whoniverse where everything is regarded as “something that actually happened”. Take for example, The Big Finish Doctor Who Unbound Stories. In Exile Annabel Wier plays the Doctor. She has changed her appearance and is working at a well- known supermarket. She is still in communicado with her previous incarnation who isn’t one of the regular Doctors either. It’s a comedy romp and also features David Tennant as an imperious Timelord working for the CIA. So, how does this fit?
It does require a bit of a leap and some creative thinking. In this case I envisage that the 5th Dr materializes on an alternate Earth. This has been seen before, most notably in Inferno, but in this case, the Dr is affected too. The events of the story take place and ‘actually happen’. At the end of her exile Annabel regenerates into the 5th Dr who cannot remember a thing!
Creative thinking can be used to solve almost any continuity problems. The Key to Time, as it were, is to embrace the use of the Reset Button. In the world of Canon it is your best friend and can get you out of seemingly blatant forays into the absurd,
How about the real bug bear for fans, Dimensions in Time. How could any right thinking fan of the show want to include this travesty in the proud ranks of canon? Well, I’ll admit, it is probably best forgotten, but it’s got some good points. Tom Baker raises a rueful smile. So, here is a possible explanation..
The 7th Dr lands on the planet Varos. Torture is still the order of the day. The Doctor is captured and strapped into a mind mangler. It taps into his innermost fears and displays them on a surprisingly small TV.
The nightmare that plays out is..Dimensions in Time!
The recent BBC audios series, Hornets’ Nest takes place in a strange nether world supposedly set after series 15 but depicting a 4th Dr seemingly out of time. It casts its own unique spell and by the end you want it to be canon and damn the consequences.
I, like most fans, find reasons to explain contradictions. Sometimes the clues are on screen. Other times we have to join the dots for ourselves..
For example perhaps in The Time Monster, the Doctor landed in the 2nd empire of Atlantis and in The Underwater Menace perhaps Azal was working behind the scenes to bring the 1st Empire to its knees
Let’s face it; this is a show which features the McGuffin of a Trans Dimensional Box that can travel in Time and Space and to Parallel Dimensions. It must be one of the greatest storytelling devises ever conceived.
It would be a shame to be narrow minded about its possibilities.
There is nowhere that the Tardis or The Doctor can’t go. The Doctor can even break the 4th wall and talk to the viewers at home [Feast of Steven ]
Was this 30 seconds canon or not? Could the Dr somehow see out into the real world for one lucid moment?
I wouldn’t put it past the wily old bird, would you?
I’ll nail my Colin Baker jacket to the mast. I want ALL Dr Who media to be canon!!
From the glorious Dave Gibbons comics. This is a timeline that can easily be slotted in between the TV stories of the time.
And the books, BBC, Target, Virgin and many, many more. Even the contentious Lungbarrow could have taken place. It might be that another origin story later contradicts the idea of Time Lords being woven on Looms.
But Gallifrey is a pan dimensional place. A lot of strange things happen there!
I hope you have found my ideas of intrest. I have taken inspiration from The Vast Toffee MN, for wasn’t it he who foretold,
“Timey Wimey can be unwritten”.