The Whoniverse Guide to "Canon"
One of the things you'll learn is that it's all real. Every word of every novel is real, every frame of every movie, every panel of every comic strip
The Gallifrey Chronicles
It is impossible for a show about a dimension-hopping time traveller to have a canon.
Steven Moffat (San Diego, 2008)
The subject of the Doctor Who canon is one of the fiercest debates amongst Doctor Who fans. Unlike other sci-fi shows there is no official Doctor Who canon laid down by the BBC. Therefore, many fans have constructed their own lists of what stories "count" as "real Doctor Who" - usually basing their choices on what medium a story was told in. The correct way to talk about what stories happen within the same fictional universe is to talk about stories being "in continuity" with each other, or being in the same continuity. However, fans have misused the word canon for this so much that it is beginning to acquire that second meaning.
Because there are no real limits to what stories "really happened" within the Doctor Who universe, we've chosen to cast the net as wide as it can get without becoming silly. Stories can either be in continuity, Unbound (they are clearly Doctor Who stories, but do not take place in the same universe as most other stories), or not worth considering.
The TV Series
The TV series is, of course, where the franchise started. And viewing figures are generally higher than the equivalent figures for any other media. Our continuity includes the classic series, the Paul McGann TV Movie, the new series, the half-made story Shada, and various short sketches for charity that featured the regular cast in-character (A Fix with Sontarans, Dimensions in Time - which we class as a dream sequence, and the in-continuity new series charity mini-episodes). We also count TV spin-offs (K-9 and Company, Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, Class) and direct to video/DVD spin-offs (e.g. licensed stories from Reeltime Productions and BBV video) as being part of Doctor Who. Their novels, audios, and comic strips are counted in the same way as Doctor Who ones are.
The Comic Relief episode The Curse of the Fatal Death is treated as an Unbound story, despite the novel The Gallifrey Chronicles establishing that the Doctor has three ninth incarnations in reference to it. We don't consider in-character appearances by Doctor Who actors on other TV shows.
Missing Stories, Extended Versions, Novelisations, and other adaptations.
It should go without saying that the missing episodes still count as part of the TV series, even though (as far as we know) there are no copies still in existence. The script book for The Masters of Luxor, the missing season novelisations (from the original season 23), and Big Finish's missing story audios are considered in-continuity, except when there are compelling reasons to think otherwise. Extended editions and missing scenes from DVD releases are also in-continuity except when there is a compelling reason to think otherwise, as are the extra scenes from the Series 1 Shooting Scripts book.
Novelisations and other adaptations (e.g. Big Finish's audio adaptations of novels) are somewhat trickier to categorise. Where a novelisation adds material to the original story, we treat that material as being in-continuity. Where it changes things significantly, the original is in-continuity and the changes are not. The exception to this is if the changes are significant enough that both stories could happen. So the novelisation of The Daleks is not in continuity, as it changes Ian and Barbara's origin, But the TV adaptation of Human Nature is, because the two stories can co-exist (they happen to different Doctors in different years and the other characters are sufficiently different that they could well be different people).
Webcasts and websites
There are four animated stories that were webcast from the BBC's Doctor Who website. Real Time fits nicely into continuity, Shada explains how it can co-exist with the TV story it is an adaptation of. Scream of the Shalka features an alternative ninth incarnations of the Doctor, and is currently classed as unbound. Death Comes to Time, however, causes huge continuity problems, though if we worked out how to solve them, it will move from being unbound to being in continuity.
The various tie-in websites that the BBC created to promote the new series in its first year clearly occupy the same "fictional space" as the novelisations. If they contradict what we know from elsewhere, they are out of continuity. Otherwise, they are in continuity.
Radio & Audio Adventures
All audio adventures created by the BBC to date have clearly been in continuity. As have the Big Finish audio adventures, including their various spin-off series. There are, however, three exceptions. Firstly, some parts of the Missing Stories range may prove impossible to fit into the Doctor's timeline, and hence are treated as unbound. Secondly, the Unbound series is clearly intended to be out of continuity. Thirdly audio adaptations of existing novels are treated in the same way as novelisations.
The original novels published under license by Virgin books, Telos books, and BBC Books are clearly in continuity, as are the short story collections published by Virgin, the BBC, and Big Finish (though a few individual stories are clearly intended to be outside of continuity). There are various other one-offs and short series published under license which we count as in-continuity. Choose-your-own-adventure style books are in a grey area because the format makes it difficult to decide which version is in continuity.
There are two fan-published novels which are prominent enough to be worth consideration. Jim Mortimore's Campaign was commissioned for the BBC range, but dropped at the last minute. We consider it in-continuity, because it gives us a way to pretend that certain other first Doctor stories are in-continuity. The second, Time's Champion, is based on the late Craig Hinton's submission for a sixth Doctor regeneration novel. Although the novel does not have any official status it ties up a number of loose ends that the officially licensed sixth Doctor regeneration novel Spiral Scratch does not, and both stories can easily co-exist. So whilst we'll give it short shrift when it comes to continuity conflicts, we are happy to stretch the rules for this particular case.
Comics and Annuals
Comic strips from the start of what is now Doctor Who Magazine onwards are relatively easy to fit into continuity. Earlier comic strips were clearly written with no intention to fit in. Whilst we will try to fit as many of the early strips into continuity as possible, they might not fit in as normal stories (e.g. the first and second Doctor stories with John and Gillian are later mentioned as happening in the Land of Fiction and also in the Doctor's dreams).
There are various non-TV spin-offs that we consider to be in continuity. The Bernice Summerfield stories by Virgin and Big Finish, and the various spin-offs created by Big Finish are clearly in continuity. Although the first season of Benny audios and the audio adaptation of Love and War are in the same category as novelisations. The Faction Paradox series features a time war that may have been nullified from the timeline. This series is in continuity, and any contradictions are probably the result of somebody rewriting that part of history in the course of the war. Audio and video spin-offs created by fan companies like Reeltime and BBV are considered in continuity if they use Doctor Who characters under license from the appropriate rights holders.
The Adventure Games series are the only stories that have ever been described by the BBC as being part of the "Doctor Who canon" (in a press release announcing them), and therefore are clearly Doctor Who stories. The 90s game Destiny of the Doctors fits perfectly well into the continuity. We've yet to come across any other games that have enough of a plot to be worth considering.
It should go without saying that it isn't possible to count unlicensed fan fiction as being in continuity except in exceptional circumstances. Whilst much of it could be made to fit with the licensed material there is far too much to begin to catalogue. And even the most continuity-conscious fanfics often clash with each other. For the sake of our sanity, and for the sake of our readers, who want this site to be a useful reference guide, unlicensed material will only be referenced here in exceptional circumstances. To date, there are three stories where we will make that exception.
The first is the fan-video Time Rift, whose author later made his licensed novel Vampire Science a sequel. The second is the fan novel Campaign, which was commissioned by the BBC and dropped at the last minute, after it had been completed. Because it is both easily available on the internet, and better than the vast majority of Doctor who novels we're pretending that it was actually licensed. The third is the fan novel Time's Champion. Unlike the other two, this has no real claim to being official. Before his untimely death, co-author Craig Hinton said that he'd got a verbal (but not formal) acceptance for the outline from Justin Richards (editor of BBC books), but that it had been put off so that he could write SynthespiansTM. The novel fits with the novel that actually regenerated the sixth Doctor (Spiral Scratch) and ties up existing continuity threads about the regeneration that were just ignored in Spiral Scratch. Therefore we've considered it to be halfway between in continuity and unbound.
There have been a few licensed crossover stories with other existing universes. Our approach is to only consider the Doctor Who (and Doctor Who spinoff) stories in-continuity. If the crossover is a separate series in itself (e.g. the Kaldor City series, which is a crossover series with Blake's Seven) we consider the crossover series to be in-continuity. If we ever get everything on this site 100% complete and up-to-date, we might consider adding in some of the smaller series where there is a crossover, but only ones which can be shown to take place in the same fictional universe. Crossovers with the Marvel Universe or Star Trek are clearly cases of the Doctor visiting an alternative universe,
There are odd stories here and there that may be part of the continuity. There have been a few Christmas short stories in the Times newspaper, which might count.. There was a story on Sky-Ray ice lolly wrappers in the 1970s. Such stories are few and far between, but if they are officially licensed and can reasonably be fitted in to the continuity, we will count them. Because such stories are usually difficult to get hold of, and rarely of any importance to the Doctor Who Universe, they are a very low priority for us.