Ten Reasons Why The Doctor Who 'Expanded Universe' Is A Bad Idea

How do you decide what's official Doctor Who 'canon'? Not easy, is it? Obviously the televised adventures (and yes, before anyone writes in, Shada) are all that's eligible under the strictest definition, but sometimes you get something that the then-production team clearly intended as a legitimate spinoff; witness RTD's subtle references to events in the official tie-in novels, the countless comic strips and short stories overseen by original showrunner David Whittaker, and that schools radio thing where The Doctor and Sarah Jane have a smackdown with Megron over who knows the most about geology. And then on the other hand, there's Death Comes To Time.

Some fans have gamely tried to map out an 'Expanded Universe', where after much brow-furrowing everything - no matter how self-contradictory - is slotted in around the TV episodes proper. The problem with this is... well, where do you stop? Tom Baker was a bit Doctorish when presenting The Book Tower, so should we be counting that? What about that fan fiction you wrote as a youngster that started with a Cyberman 'bursting through' a room? Does that Big Finish play about an imagined future Britain run by inept public school idiots mean that the current Tory administration should be considered 'canon'? Does anyone even care about Abslom Daak - Dalek Killer??

Of course not. And here's ten reasons why the 'Expanded Universe' is a bad idea...

Terry Nation's Dalek Annual 1977

Start looking into this 'Expanded Universe' business, and one of the first things you'll come across are character profiles that have been heftily beefed up through the incorporation of backstory details gleaned from spinoff books, plays and what have you. Whether you like it or not, this would also have to include those late seventies Dalek Annuals, which presumably slipped under the approval radar while Terry Nation's attention was focused on Blake's 7. Particularly worthy of elevation to 'canon' status is the 1977 offering, in which they elect to dispense with all of that pesky 'extermination' business in favour of pissing about with phone number-based secret codes.

Not So Old by Roberta Tovey

Numerous attempts have been made to incorporate the mid-sixties Dalek films into proper continuity, with the 100% human Peter Cushing-essayed bumbling inventor 'Doctor Who' variously passed off as a Next Doctor-esque tribute act, an interloper from another dimension, or even a memory loss fever dream thingy. As part of the movie-pushing publicity blitz, Film Susan Roberta Tovey recorded an in-character pop song celebrating her time-travelling antics with her troublingly-monickered grandfather. On the flipside was an equally in-character number in which the time vortex-straddling fourteen-year-old outlines her desire to 'do things' to a much older man, on the proviso that he doesn't tell her mother. Possibly not something that the BBC would be happy to have attached to the Doctor Who franchise right now.

Jason & Crystal from The Ultimate Adventure

Go on, admit it, we'd all have loved to have seen comic strip-derived talking penguin Frobisher, platform-straddling Lara Croft inspiration Bernice Summerfield, or that chain-smoking girl-chasing proto-Inner City Unit beatnik geezer from the Eighth Doctor Novels make an appearance in the show proper. And that's just the tip of the Non-TV Companion Iceberg; there's probably even some people out there who'd make a case for TV Comic irritants John and Gillian, or those 'Blaxploitation' blokes from the Pertwee strips. But does anyone really want any further exposure for that Kylie and Jason-infringing pair who conducted a confusingly trapeze-enabled romance-in-song beneath the stars to the accompaniment of Tetraps and Veroids hoofing it up in that bizarre late eighties stage play? No, thought not.

Daleks And Cybermen

For some reason, the question of who would win out of the Daleks and the Cybermen was a particularly vexing one for eighties-based correspondents to Doctor Who Magazine's question and answer page Matrix Data Bank. Long before RTD had even thought of Army Of Ghosts, this issue was addressed by a set of twenty plastic snap-together, well, Daleks and Cybermen, of rare proportional correctness to boot. These were made by Citadel Miniatures, and possibly had something to do with the sanity-defying Doctor Who role-playing game, though nobody's really got enough cerebral stamina to check. In case you were wondering, the cover illustration appeared to show a Cyberman being trounced by a Dalek with a controversial 'water pistol' weapon attachment, whilst his Cyber-pal looked on in alarm. Well, that's that question answered, then.

Son Of Doctor Who

From Anthony Coburn's hastily rejected second ever story in which some robots 'did' Daleks only more boringly, right up to that Stephen Fry business nobody's ever really got to the bottom of, the history of unfinished or rejected Doctor Who scripts is a long and fascinating one. But by their very nature they're not part of the show continuity proper, and often for editorially sound reasons to boot, and any attempt to tie them in with what actually did make it to screen is an absolute non-starter. Start making too many claims for them, and you'll also have to invite William Hartnell's insane idea for a story in which he met his 'evil twin' progeny - and thus conveniently had to have double the screentime - along for the ride. If the production team never took that seriously, then neither should you.

"And Greetings To You From The Time Lords!"

According to some sources, any non-series appearance in which The Doctor remained entirely in character throughout should be considered 'canon'. Presumably this also extends to Hartnell-doppelganging cheese-scoffing Five Doctors First Doctor stand-in Richard Hurndall, who - bless him - made a great many promotional appearances despite apparently possessing an almost complete lack of comprehension of anything at all to do with the character. Worse still, an equally true-to-the-role Jon Pertwee once met up with the original cast of The Tomorrow People, and you really don't want Kenny getting involved. And speaking of in-character promotional appearances...

The Frog Chorus

In August 1975, a decidedly Doctored-up Tom Baker hosted the BBC's long-running celebrity-fronted clip show Disney Time. This ended with him being handed a note from The Brigadier, leading directly into the forthcoming Terror Of The Zygons. We're now in a crossover of televisual 'universes', with other canon-by-association hosts of Disney Time including Paul Daniels, Paul 'Dinners' McCartney, Jim Davidson, Bing Crosby and Rod Hull and Emu. This presumably allows all of their artistic works in through the back door, from The Bunco Booth to that song in praise of Page 3 Girls, and given that Emu's Broadcasting Company featured its own running Doctor Who parody fuelled by bin-hewn Daleks, we're really opening a can of canonical worms there.

Teen EastEnders - Solid Ground

There is a surprisingly large contingent of fans who will argue until they are as blue in the face as McCoy in his opening titles that the ludicrous Children In Need-supporting 3D music hall hoedown Dimensions In Time is in fact a proper legitimate instalment of Doctor Who, and not a bit of played-for-laughs frippery like you thought. Dimensions In Time was, of course, a crossover with a sort of imagined 'dark future' EastEnders, in which characters made much mention of Albert Square-based events from years gone by. This effectively means that the entire history of EastEnders is as 'canonical' as The Vervoids, including this cheapo BBC Books tie-in novel about Sharon Watts trying to track down her 'real' parents. There's not a single mention of a battered broad-brimmed hat in it!

Graham Linehan

Alan Moore's graphic novel series The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen is literally bursting at the seams with characters from and references to all shapes and forms of classic literature and cult TV. Needless to say, given Moore's interest in the show and 'form' on Doctor Who Magazine, there are are tons of appearances by everything from Silurians and Torchwood Three to a stray Second Doctor and an hallucination-derived Dalek. Also making an appearance in one volume is comedy scriptwriter and Twitter Policeman Graham Linehan, seen being forcibly ejected from a bookshop by his fictional creation Bernard Black. By a process of six degrees of separation, we're that bit closer to having Ricky Gervais accepted into 'canon', and that can't happen.

The Sleeze Brothers

In the late eighties, for reasons best known to themselves, Doctor Who Magazine went seriously overboard in pre-publicising an imminent comic strip cameo by Deadbeat and El Ape Sleeze, the not-at-all Blues Brothers-inspired Graphic Novel creations of John Carnell and Andy Lanning. None of the readers were really that bothered. But they're in your Expamded Universe now, and you've just got to like it...