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creator intent vs on screen

markhawkmanmarkhawkman Member Posts: 35,231 Arc User
Personally I think both are important in their own ways. But some people try to say only on screen info is canon. Why? Well there was this statement published by Paramount: "As a rule of thumb, the events that take place within the real action series and movies are canon, or official Star Trek facts. Story lines, characters, events, stardates, etc. that take place within the fictional novels, the Animated Series and the various comic lines are not canon." But that statement was modified greatly later.

Also, in 2007 Paula Block said: "'Canon' in the sense that I use it is a very important tool. It only gets muddled when people try to incorporate licensed products into 'canon' - and I know a lot of the fans really like to do that. Sorry, guys - not trying to rain on your parade. There's a lot of bickering about it among fans, but in its purest sense, it's really pretty simple: Canon is Star Trek continuity as presented on TV and Movie screens. Licensed products like books and comics aren't part of that continuity, so they aren't canon. And that's that. Part of my job in licensing is to keep track of TV and Movie continuity, so I can help direct licensees in their creation of licensed products. It gets a little tricky because it's constantly evolving, and over the years, Star Trek's various producers and scriptwriters haven't always kept track of/remembered/cared about what's come before."

It was replaced with this: "As a rule of thumb, the events that take place within the live-action episodes and movies are canon, or official Star Trek facts. Story lines, characters, events, stardates, etc. that take place within the fictional novels, video games, the Animated Series, and the various comic lines have traditionally not been considered part of the canon. But canon is not something set in stone; even events in some of the movies have been called into question as to whether they should be considered canon! Ultimately, the fans, the writers and the producers may all differ on what is considered canon and the very idea of what is canon has become more fluid, especially as there isn't a single voice or arbiter to decide. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was accustomed to making statements about canon, but even he was known to change his mind."

This lasted until 2010 when all statements about canon policy got erased entirely. There is a rather obvious change though in that the current database on the website apparently lists TAS as canon. Which means that the last published policy is no longer valid. It's possible it was removed because they didn't feel like updating it any more. At any rate there is no currently published reference as to what the policy is. Also it's debatable whether behind the scenes info was considered canon. The phrasing doesn't specifically include or exclude it. The general purpose seems to be about which stories are considered canon, not specific details.

At any rate the core focus of this discussion is not the precise details of the old(and out of date) canon policy. It's about whether creator intent and behind the scenes information is useful as part of canon.

The main reason why I like it is a simple matter of practicality. There's only so much info you can cram into a TV show. This is part of why TNG started the trend of Okudagrams. It adds background info without getting in the way of the story. There's a reason why only around half of the stuff from the LotR books made it into the movies. But even then the BOOKS are missing a lot of back story. There are some things Tolkein never wrote because he never decided what they should be. But then you have the Silmarillion.... which is mostly the backstory of where Sauron came from.... along with a bunch of other things like explaining why Numenoreans are special, and what Gandalf meant when he said "not even Ancalagon the Black".... Short version: Ancalagon made Smaug look like a puny weakling. Ancalagon was said to be so big that when he died he crushed a castle(or was it a mountain?) by falling on it or something.

See... the Silmarillion was published after Tolkein's death and was compiled from notes Tolkein had made about the backstory of the world. Thus it actually counts as behind the scenes info since it was not directly written and published by Tolkein himself. While he wrote the material, he didn't make it into a book and it's unclear how much of it he was planning to actually use.

In Star Trek, there are lots of things that are only seen in the scripts. Often these are descriptions of things that don't actually get described on-creen. One criticism of this is that this information is often ignored by later writers. Well that happens to things that get seen on-screen too. Then you have weird special effects that sometimes make things look different from how the writers had envisioned them. Like how TOS often showed planets with no atmosphere....

So, what do you guys think?
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My character Tsin'xing
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Comments

  • lazarxlazarx Member Posts: 115 Arc User
    Besides stating the obvious, what was your point? No one is claiming that this game is canon outside of it's venue. And anything produced for mass media is going undergo evolution through the process. David Gerrold wrote a pretty good book of his experience of "Trouble with Tribbles" going to screen. H. Ellison wrote a more distaff view about the history of "City On The Edge Of Forever".
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  • jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 9,614 Arc User
    How can one know "creator intent", particularly when a given creator is no longer with us? How is it resolved when two creators have differing intents? (I know I far prefer John M. Ford's exceedingly clever Klingons to the biker Vikings we got in TNG and later...)
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  • angrytargangrytarg Member Posts: 10,651 Arc User
    The official canon policy, timestamped 2017 is the Star Trek database, labeled "the official Star Trek canon". It covers all shows and movies and nothing else. If you look at specific articles in the database some use behind the scenes material, others don't. If the database has this sort of information I'd consider it canon. If not it's a interesting bit valuable for a discussion but it's not part of the official story. I personally include some in my "headcanon", for example the intended landing module function for the Galaxy saucer which couldn't get the required landing gear due to modeler's deadline,but it could have been refitted and is plausible. Other stuff like the "Akira carrier" are simply not plausible and thus I dismiss them. Baseline canon consense are none of those however.
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    ^ Memory Alpha.org is not canon. It's a open wiki with arbitrary rules. Only what can be cited from an episode is. ^
    "No. Men do not roar. Women roar. Then they hurl heavy objects... and claw at you." -Worf, son of Mogh
    "A filthy, mangy beast, but in its bony breast beat the heart of a warrior" - "faithful" (...) "but ever-ready to follow the call of the wild." - Martok, about a Targ
    "That pig smelled horrid. A sweet-sour, extremely pungent odor. I showered and showered, and it took me a week to get rid of it!" - Robert Justman, appreciating Emmy-Lou
  • markhawkmanmarkhawkman Member Posts: 35,231 Arc User
    jonsills wrote: »
    How can one know "creator intent", particularly when a given creator is no longer with us? How is it resolved when two creators have differing intents? (I know I far prefer John M. Ford's exceedingly clever Klingons to the biker Vikings we got in TNG and later...)
    Well, a good example here was the Tzenkethi. They were never seen on screen, but their creator described them as "heavily armored lizard things" in a discussion on some internet message board.

    Personally I'm inclined to take that as canon until it gets retconned by something more official.

    About the new database.... I think parts of it might be derived from scripts and not aired episodes. If so it would suggest that CBS/Paramount considers that a valid source.
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    My character Tsin'xing
    Costume_marhawkman_Tsin%27xing_CC_Comic_Page_Blue_488916968.jpg
  • angrytargangrytarg Member Posts: 10,651 Arc User
    (...)
    About the new database.... I think parts of it might be derived from scripts and not aired episodes. If so it would suggest that CBS/Paramount considers that a valid source.

    But only the parts actually used. It is a beginner's mistake to assume because some elements are taken into canon that suddenly everything is canon.​​
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    ^ Memory Alpha.org is not canon. It's a open wiki with arbitrary rules. Only what can be cited from an episode is. ^
    "No. Men do not roar. Women roar. Then they hurl heavy objects... and claw at you." -Worf, son of Mogh
    "A filthy, mangy beast, but in its bony breast beat the heart of a warrior" - "faithful" (...) "but ever-ready to follow the call of the wild." - Martok, about a Targ
    "That pig smelled horrid. A sweet-sour, extremely pungent odor. I showered and showered, and it took me a week to get rid of it!" - Robert Justman, appreciating Emmy-Lou
  • markhawkmanmarkhawkman Member Posts: 35,231 Arc User
    Enh, sweeping generalizations are rarely entirely true. But I don't really see a downside to treating behind the scenes info as canon until it gets contradicted by something else. *points at Miranda class*
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    My character Tsin'xing
    Costume_marhawkman_Tsin%27xing_CC_Comic_Page_Blue_488916968.jpg
  • jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 9,614 Arc User
    edited February 2017
    The Miranda-class light cruiser was first introduced in Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan, in the form of USS Reliant NCC-1864. The variant Soyuz-class was embodied by USS Bozeman NCC-1941, in the TNG episode "Cause and Effect". (Yes, the class names were introduced in supplementary material, but that's true of every class name since the old Constitution-class in TOS - Roddenberry wanted to call them Starship-class, but everyone else realized that would be like referring to Fulton's old boat Clermont as a Steamship-class boat, or our modern USS Enterprise as an Aircraft Carrier-class).
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  • markhawkmanmarkhawkman Member Posts: 35,231 Arc User
    Exactly my point. That's the sort of details that rarely if ever make it on screen, but get made for behind the scenes data.
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    My character Tsin'xing
    Costume_marhawkman_Tsin%27xing_CC_Comic_Page_Blue_488916968.jpg
  • lordrezeonlordrezeon Member Posts: 399 Arc User
    Judging the canonicity of things based on intent and actions can be a tricky thing. Many of the writers are only hired to write a few scripts and have very little say over the franchises development as a whole. With the franchise having such a revolving door policy on writers, saying that their unused "intentions" are canon is pretty flimsy. Many writers often had contradictory views of the same content, which is one of the common complaints about Janeway's portrayal.

    On the flipside we are often left with glaring gaps in information where random stuff just never gets explained, generally because it was never relevant to the episodes script. In these cases fans are often left with little choice but to turn to side material such as production notes or licensed products to try and fill in the gaps. However that can lead to contradictions and confusion such as with ship classes like the Avenger/Miranda or the Hope/Olympic class.

    In most franchises there is a degree of consistency with canon, once something is decided upon it becomes the law of the land. However Star Trek has never played by those rules, instead opting to make it up as they go and freely altering things when they become inconvenient, which has left us with a rather troublesome mess, particularly in the 22nd/23rd century time periods.


    As for my personal take on it... I've long since given up worrying about Star Trek's inconsistencies. Considering the series sordid love affair with time travel and alternate universes one could argue that the canon is fluid and always in flux.
  • jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 9,614 Arc User
    Of course, going with the author's intent also leaves us with things like the underground drug ring aboard the Enterprise and the death penalty being a sentence of summary court-martial (in Harlan Ellison's script for "The City On the Edge of Forever" - he won a Writer's Guild of America award for Best Episodic Drama, while the episode as filmed won a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation). Ellison is (or at least was) a brilliant writer (I'll put "The Deathbird" up against anything else out there, and "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" is a classic by anyone's lights), but he wasn't a brilliant Star Trek writer.
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  • starkaosstarkaos Member Posts: 11,534 Arc User
    STO is canon to Star Trek in the sense that it is a parallel universe to the Prime Universe similar to one of the parallel universes shown in the Parallels episode. The problem with using the many worlds interpretation in a TV series is that anything could be considered canon to Star Trek even X-men, Doctor Who, Legion of Superheroes, Planet of the Apes, Green Lantern, and Aliens. A STO/Neverwinter crossover would certainly be an interesting event.

    If some future Star Trek series set in the Prime Universe wants to introduce the Tzenkethi as humanoid ravenous bunnies instead of heavily armored lizards, then they are humanoid ravenous bunnies. So just because STO and the creator of the Tzenkethi introduced them as armored lizards, doesn't mean they are armored lizards in the Prime Universe.
  • angrytargangrytarg Member Posts: 10,651 Arc User
    starkaos wrote: »
    STO is canon to Star Trek in the sense that it is a parallel universe to the Prime Universe similar to one of the parallel universes shown in the Parallels episode. The problem with using the many worlds interpretation in a TV series is that anything could be considered canon to Star Trek even X-men, Doctor Who, Legion of Superheroes, Planet of the Apes, Green Lantern, and Aliens. A STO/Neverwinter crossover would certainly be an interesting event.

    If some future Star Trek series set in the Prime Universe wants to introduce the Tzenkethi as humanoid ravenous bunnies instead of heavily armored lizards, then they are humanoid ravenous bunnies. So just because STO and the creator of the Tzenkethi introduced them as armored lizards, doesn't mean they are armored lizards in the Prime Universe.

    This is a bit misleading. You are right with the multiverse thing, however "anything could be considered canon" is simply false. "Canon" is no in-universe concept, it's a real world concept which concerns the actually shown content. You are basically free to write your own fanfiction where crossover elements happen (even licensed works did that), however that has nothing to do with canon. Star Trek canon only concerns the episodes that are shown to us and references to other realities begin and end - canonically - when they are made on screen and the episode ends. It's not just the prime timeline any more since the KT is just as canonical​​
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    ^ Memory Alpha.org is not canon. It's a open wiki with arbitrary rules. Only what can be cited from an episode is. ^
    "No. Men do not roar. Women roar. Then they hurl heavy objects... and claw at you." -Worf, son of Mogh
    "A filthy, mangy beast, but in its bony breast beat the heart of a warrior" - "faithful" (...) "but ever-ready to follow the call of the wild." - Martok, about a Targ
    "That pig smelled horrid. A sweet-sour, extremely pungent odor. I showered and showered, and it took me a week to get rid of it!" - Robert Justman, appreciating Emmy-Lou
  • markhawkmanmarkhawkman Member Posts: 35,231 Arc User
    lordrezeon wrote: »
    As for my personal take on it... I've long since given up worrying about Star Trek's inconsistencies. Considering the series sordid love affair with time travel and alternate universes one could argue that the canon is fluid and always in flux.
    This is true. In theory Star Trek should have not one but many timelines in the main universe. Like Tasha Yar. In the original timeline she died because Armus felt like killing her. Then time travel happened and now there's two of her in the main timeline. Granted both are dead.... but the presence of the second one had long lasting repercussions(such as Sela) on history.
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    My character Tsin'xing
    Costume_marhawkman_Tsin%27xing_CC_Comic_Page_Blue_488916968.jpg
  • jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 9,614 Arc User
    edited February 2017
    angrytarg wrote: »
    "Canon" is no in-universe concept, it's a real world concept which concerns the actually shown content. You are basically free to write your own fanfiction where crossover elements happen (even licensed works did that), however that has nothing to do with canon.
    For example, the official Trek comics have had crossovers with Uncanny X-Men (the original crew somehow accidentally beamed up the X-Men, with the story featuring Spock, during the inevitable "confused heroes fight" scene, dropping Wolverine with a neck pinch), Doctor Who (the Cybermen and Borg allied, and Picard and the Doctor had to work together to stop them) and Green Lantern (nuKirk and the Corps uniting against some cosmic menace or other).

    Each of those happened in their own individual continuity; none of them are canon. For that matter, neither Diane Duane's novel Dark Mirror (which has the Terran Empire as a going concern well into the late 24th century, contradicted by the Mirror Universe episodes in DS9) nor John M. Ford's previously-mentioned The Final Reflection (with its own explanation for why the Klingons in TOS had smooth foreheads, as well as a much more plausible (IMO) culture for an interstellar empire) is considered canon - the shows and movies take precedence.
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