Headcanon: the art of formulating explanations for certain aspects, especially inconsistencies, in a body of fiction which are not affirmed in the official canon itself, but which one personally holds as canonical. All fandoms indulge in it, and we Doctor Who fans are among the most prolific headcanonisers. The accumulated Whoniverse is so vast and so full of contradictions that it’s quite difficult not to adopt personal headcanon explanations for all the varied discrepancies, nor to resist the temptation to “add” to established canon with novel bits of headcanon.
Furthermore, no one in the Doctor Who fandom agrees on what the “rules” are for formulating headcanon. Not that any rules are needed: one’s headcanon is one’s own and no one else’s; others are not forced to adopt one’s headcanon explanations any more than you are theirs. But that still doesn’t stop my becoming annoyed when my fellow Whovians proclaim that they’re going to simply ignore something shown onscreen because they don’t like it. I generally think something that is explicitly shown or explained onscreen should not be ignored, for then Doctor Who becomes effectively a “choose-your-own-adventure” where you decide what is and isn’t canon. That’s even with the canonicity of the vast corpus of the expanded media in question.
So, without further ado, I come to my personal rules for formulating headcanon.
- Headcanon cannot contradict canon.
- If it’s shown onscreen, it’s canon.
- Any blatant contradictions between onscreen explanations can be resolved by preferring the most recent explanation.
- Other, less explicit contradictions (e.g. half-human) must be worked around, and explained, not ignored.
- Everything else one finds disagreeable must also be worked around rather than ignored.
- No, it wasn’t a dream, and nor was it a timey-wimey thing that happened in another timestream/dimension or something. If it was shown onscreen, it really happened, and the Doctor remembers it.
- Additions to canon (as opposed to explanations) must be consistent with, and cannot contradict, established canon.
- The future is fair game until it is shown onscreen.
- Only the television show is explicitly canon; the audio stories, novels and comics are canon if you want them to be, but are not necessarily so.
- If something from the expanded media is confirmed in the television show, it is canon.
- The random extra-curial pontifications of Steven Moffat are not canon unless you want them to be.
Again, these are only my personal rules for formulating headcanon. Others may be more lax or even more restrictive in the way they formulate headcanon. In any case, I think headcanon is important for resolving all the inconsistencies Doctor Who is filled with; it’s what fans do, and it’s what we need to do to remain sane. By the way, my headcanon explanation for “half-human” (which I really don’t like) is that the Doctor lied. After all, if “the Doctor lies” isn’t canon, what is?