After almost 60 years of TV adventures, plus countless spin-off books, comic strips, games and audio plays, trying to make sense of Doctor Who‘s canon is a tricky, some would say impossible, task.
So, should we even bother? Ninth Doctor actor Christopher Eccleston has suggested that the BBC sci-fi series needs to “explode the canon” as he reprises the role for the first time in 16 years.
“I’m not a slave to the canon,” Eccleston said (via Den of Geek) while promoting the Ninth Doctor Adventures range of audio dramas from Big Finish.
“I think if the show wants to survive going forward, it needs to explode the canon. That rigid adherence to, ‘There can only be this number of incarnations,’ et cetera, it’s nonsense. It’s nonsense. The imagination is limitless.”
On television, Doctor Who recently dropped a bombshell that, if not quite exploding canon, certainly shook it up, with series 12’s The Timeless Children dealing a double shocker in revealing that the Doctor was not originally from Gallifrey and that there had been many incarnations of the character before William Hartnell’s “First”.
As for where Big Finish’s new Ninth Doctor adventures take place in that incarnation’s timeline, producer David Richardson has confirmed that the stories – which launch next month with Volume 1: Ravagers – are set “pre-Rose. These are the adventures some time after his regeneration, travelling alone, starting to discover himself after all that time being the War Doctor.”
“I just ignore it,” Eccleston said of the Doctor’s personal timeline. “And he does. We’ve just recorded an episode for instance where the Brigadier is saying to him, ‘You remember, you came to my retirement party and then we ended up on Gallifrey,’ and he said, ‘No, I don’t remember.’
“An essential quality of him is he’s entirely in the moment[…] I don’t refer to any of that [canon]. My Doctor is very much in the moment.”
Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor Adventures – Volume One: Ravagers will be released by Big Finish in May 2021. The new stories will see the Ninth Doctor meet the Cybermen and the Brigadier (originally played by Nicholas Courtney, now voiced by Jon Culshaw).
Listen to the latest RadioTimes.com Doctor Who podcast to hear our thoughts on Nine’s big comeback and his upcoming run-in with Mondas’s deadliest export.