StarTrek.com FAQ Update

In the comments to the last thread, GStone broke some news . . . there's a StarTrek.com FAQ update regarding canon!

Cool! Thanks for the tip GStone . . . nice to see some action regarding canon stuff. (The peril of CanonWars.com, besides the subject matter which should be so dry (and yet which also can spawn such vitriol from rabid fans), is that as a rule of thumb, there's just not a whole lot of movement on the subject, especially in regards to Trek . . . i.e. never will there be "Canon Today" or something.)

Anywho, let's see what's new here:

(from http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/help/faqs/faq/676.html)


No change to the date, entertainingly enough. That corresponds with my statements in the TrekBBS thread about how the page had enjoyed a minor edit without the date being modified. But anyway . . .

How do the Star Trek novels and comic books fit into the Star Trek universe? What is considered Star Trek "canon"?

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.

This is largely similar to the old version:

"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, the Animated Adventures, and the various comic lines are not canon."

Video games are added to the mix, and the language is significantly softened. By analogy, instead of a proverbial "thou shalt not" it's more of a "hey, you sure you wanna do that?"

This segues right into the following new stuff, speaking of thou-shalt-nots . . .

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.

There's a lot of juicy stuff here. Most notable is the point that there is no single voice or arbiter to decide canon anymore (contrast that with Gaskill's past statement wherein he mentions Berman as the final arbiter). Roddenberry is long since departed, and now Berman is out of the picture too. And, now that the rights to the Star Trek intellectual property are somehow divvied up between CBS Corp. and Viacom after the recent split, there's really no old-style "Star Trek Office" at all now, nor "the writers and the producers" at CBS Corp. Of course, someone at CBS Paramount Television is in charge of Trek, but whoever it is is about as likely to hand down a ruling as the Talifan are to be logical ... i.e. not.

Note, of course, that Paula Block is not identified as that arbiter, naturally. Sorry SDN.

In the publishing world, there used to be two exceptions to the novel rule: the Jeri Taylor- penned books "Mosaic" and "Pathways." Many of the events in these two novels feature background details of the main Star Trek: Voyager characters and were to be considered as references by writers on the show. Now that the show is over, some of those events may never be incorporated into a live action format, so the question of whether details from these novels remain canon is open to interpretation.

This is quite nicely diplomatic on StarTrek.com's part. See, according to http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?t=100736 some random dude at SDN e-mailed the StarTrek.com editor and referred to Paula Block's opinion on the matter. With the above, StarTrek.com makes the situation seem more fluid, yet also gives firmer indication of the novels' status during Voyager's run. They were most assuredly canon at the time, and to be considered so by the writers (as was also related to the fans).

The odd part above is the suggestion that the novel events had to be incorporated into a live action format, as if Mosaic and Pathways were instead the show's Writer's Bible (which no one ever considers canon). If the novels were canon as indicated, then the information within did not have to be incorporated into live-action material any more than third-season TOS has to be mentioned or referenced again.

To my mind, the novels' canonicity has been reinforced here, and although things are left "open to interpretation" there is no self-consistent interpretation that ignores them, save for one where everything is "fluid" and the whole shebang is left "open to interpretation".

What StarTrek.com has done is to attempt to channel the spirit of the diplomatic Steve Sansweet (of Star Wars), who tried to leave things to one's point of view. In other words, they wanted to smooth the issue over amongst folks, some of whom (like the anti-canon brigade at TrekBBS who rejects everything after TMP and anything else they don't like, or the writer's bloc at TrekBBS that rejects Taylor) have unique and venom-backed opinions on Trek canon. Of course, such a 'multilateral' revision of the FAQ will undoubtedly be viewed by such wackos as opening the door to all manner of off-the-wall ideas.

As for this site, the canon pages are based on finding the bedrock . . . the best conclusion on what is "real" for the universe in question, based on objective opinions weighed properly, so that one can be comfortable taking information and saying "this is true" or "that is not true" about the content of the canon in question.

As the new StarTrek.com FAQ notes, there is no current arbiter of canon. That means there is no enforcer of the old rules. However, that also means that no one has changed them. As such, our choices are to either wipe the slate clean and go willy-nilly with what we want canon to include (as SDN denizens, anti-canon wackjobs, and Pocket Books licensees at TrekBBS will do), or we can acknowledge the "last known good" canon policy, which should hold us just fine. After all, it was the policy in effect during Trek's run (meaning it also provides us with the most useful standard), so unless and until whoever's in charge at CBS Paramount Television decides to canonize or decanonize things officially then we've got the answers already.

Though, I'd still like to know whether the director's editions of the films or the originals are canon. But I guess that'll have to be one area that's fluid and open to interpretation.

With regard to the Animated Series, there are a few details from the episode "Yesteryear," written by D.C. Fontana, that reveal biographical background on Spock and planet Vulcan. Details from this episode have been successfully incorporated into the canon of Star Trek (such as in "The Forge") and now that the Animated Series is out on DVD, we hope that even more can make its way in!

That last comment is based on a poll done at StarTrek.com where 2/3rds of the respondents indicated that they wanted the Animated Series to be Star Trek canon. Of course, since there is no more live-action TV Trek I'm not sure how TAS stuff would make its way into anything, but in any case it's nice to see the ENT-era updates to this section.

All around, I'm quite satisfied with the change to the page insofar as whether or not I'd need to rewrite anything at CanonWars. No damage has been done. However, the multilateral approach is going to cause problems among the Trek fan base, as weirdos like the anti-canon folks at TrekBBS may now feel vindication, and of course the anonymous SDN nuts above are going to try to make use of every bit of the wiggle room StarTrek.com gives them.

The purpose of a canon policy is, in part, to have a base standard of what is real in a fiction franchise. The weirdos are going to have that all muddied up by rejecting or including random things, so that in the end I fear Trek fandom is going to look like the largely-made-up and frequently-self-contradictory mish-mash it was during the last interregnum. (A good example is looking through the "Best of Trek" books, where some folks treat fandom as fact and base all kinds of nonsense off of other nonsense, whereas others speculate from the show itself. A newbie to Trek would be utterly confused.)

But of course, during that interregnum between TOS and TNG, Star Trek hardcore fandom was small but quite vigorous, and grew from virtually nothing to being a force that resurrected Trek. Maybe this sort of multilateralism for the fans will do something similar.