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Revanvolatrelundar has recently brought my attention to a question that needs resolution. Do the inclusion of possible nods towards The Curse of Fatal Death in PROSE: The Tomorrow Windows and The Gallifrey Chronicles make Curse itself canon? This discussion was held about six months ago at Talk:The Curse of Fatal Death#Part of the DWU. Revan apparently feels that the discussion there was sufficient to establish that Curse is canon. But it's too counter-intuitive a notion to bury on a talk page. Thus, I bring it here for greater, or perhaps just renewed, consideration.

The one thing that the previous discussion failed to do was to examine the actual text. It is tempting to go off of what other fans have said — as at the Discontinuity Guide's entry for The Tomorrow Windows. If you just read that, then you'll be happily convinced that it's sort of a big deal in the novel. It's not, though. It's a few sentences on pages 17 and 18.

The Doctor lifted his chin. "Show me . . . my future."

The fog cleared to reveal a dark chamber, the only light the red of a digital countdown clock. The image was replaced with a concrete world of motorways. A man with powdery skin, his body covered in implants and calipers, revolved in a wheelchair. A flower drifted through space, its petals unfurling towards the auburn sun —

"Yes, yes. Further forward," urged the Doctor. The picture flitted like a fast-forwarded film, the images flickering by so rapidly it was impossible to make out individual scenes.

Abruptly the image changed to a ruined city, the buildings silhouetted against billowing flames. A flying saucer soared overhead, its body revolving around it. Squat machines in gunmetal grey glided through the rubble, their eyestalks scanning from left to right.

The picture changed again. An artist scraped oils on to a canvas, his model smiling enigmatically. Men in skullcaps, robes and large, rounded collars gathered in a cathedral of turquoise. A robot spider, fifty yards tall, advanced upon a medieval castle as flaming arrows streaked through the sky. A figure with the head of a yellow-horned bull emerged from a sphere —

A planet exploded in a silent flash. A listless-looking man sat on a sofa beside a girl in a red dress in an unconvincing medieval dungeon. An aristocrat with a high forehead and devilish, shadow-sunken eyes sucked on an asthma inhaler. A man in a cream suit strolled through Regent's Park, his long hair swept back, his nose bent, his chin held imperiously high. A kindly-faced old gentleman in an astrakhan hat pottered in a junkyard, chuckling. A short, impudent-looking man, his ginger hair in disarray, plucked fluff from the collar of his afghan coat. A stockily-built figure in a crushed velvet suit and eyeliner stared arrogantly into the distance. A scruffy student with unruly, curly hair shrugged and smiled an apologetic, lopsided smile. A stranger stood alone on a sand dune, his hair scraped into a ponytail, his cloak flapping batlike in the wind —

The picture drifted. Sometimes it seemed to settle upon one face and then another. Sometimes the figures merged into a double-exposed photograph. Sometimes other men appeared, each one in pseudo-Edwardian dress —

Then it solidified into one, final figure. a wiry man a gaunt, hawklike face, piercing, pale grey-blue eyes and a thin, prominent nose. His lips were set into an almost cruel, almost arrogant smile. He had an air of determination, as though withholding a righteous fury. As though facing down the most terrible monsters.

Then he turned to the Doctor and his expression softened into a broad, welcoming grin, as if so say, "This is what you've got to look forward to."

Jonathan Morris, The Tomorrow Windows

I've emphasized the one part of this thing that could at all refer to the Curse of Fatal Death But that's the entire passage of the Eighth Doctor looking into the Tomorrow Window.

What I note by looking at this is the extent of the ambiguity. Clearly, the Tomorrow Window does not just show the Doctor himself, but images from his entire future. He sees a "man with powdery skin", a "ruuined city", an artist working in oil, an artist's model, "men in skullcaps, robes and large, rounded collars", a "robot spider", a "figure with the head of a yellow-horned bull" — just to name the things he sees that are definitely not him. Why should we assume, therefore, that everything which then comes after these "other" images are necessarily him?

I admit, sure, the sentence fragment of a "man sat on a sofa beside a girl in a red dress in an unconvincing medieval dungeon" could be read as something from COFD. But it's not at all clear. Nor is it immediately apparent why a seeming reference to the Hartnell Doctor ("a kindly-faced old gentleman in an astrakhan hat pottered in a junkyard, chuckling") would be in the Eighth Doctor's view of his future. Could it be that the Tomorrow Window is having a problem properly homing in the future of such a comprehensive time traveller as the Doctor. And if this is a reference to the First Doctor, could not the man next to the girl in the red dress be the Third Doctor in The Curse of Peladon? That was an unconvincing medieval dungeon, and Jo was wearing a red dress. Fine, it'd be stretching things to say that there was exactly a "sofa" around — but then Morris hasn't properly described Emma's clothes, either. She isn't even wearing a red dress in COFD. She's wearing a red, sleeveless pullover on top of a black knit dress. So to me it's just as likely that he's describing COP as COFD.

The Gallifrey Chronicles even more vague. There's one sentence — one sentence — that has gotten fansites like the Discontinuity Guide all in a twitter. Although there's really only one line of relevance, I'll back up a bit and give a fuller passage for context. In this scene, Marnal is looking in his bottle universe, trying to make sense of the Eighth Doctor's time-stream. on page 62:

...Look at the rest of the Doctor's time-stream, though. It's meant to be a neat line. The entire history of this incarnation is one of temporal orbits, retcons, paradoxes, parallel time lines, reiterations and divergences. How anyone can make head or tail out of all this chaos, I don't know.

Rachel certainly couldn't, not from this.

"As for his future . . . he has three ninth incarnations. I've never seen anything like it."

Lance Parkin, The Gallifrey Chronicles

And that's it. No description of what these three incarnations look like. Just this one flat statement. And of course, the whole point of the Marnal character is that he's trying to understand the Doctor, to get a history of him. He could be entirely wrong, especially since he admits himself "how anyone can make head or tail out of all this chaos, I don't know". Fans assume that these three Ninth Doctors are the ones played by Rowan Atkinson, Richard E. Grant and Christopher Eccleston — but there's really not one scrap of evidence for that.

So, there we are. The acutal text is there for you to examine. I say we shouldn't be trying to make COFD canonical based on what amounts to a sentence and a fragment. The average reader simply won't wear it. It's so counter-intuitive. Also, as TD points out on the original talk page discussion, if we make Rowan Atkinson's Doctor canonical based on this evidence, we have to make Richard E. Grant's Doctor canonical. And that flies in the face of direct statements by the production crew (namely RTD). The production office may never have really told us what is canonical (yeah, yeah, Adventure Games fans, I saw you roll your eyes), but they have in exceptionally clear language ruled Scream of the Shalka out. It really makes no sense to contravene the clear wishes of the BBC Wales team on the basis of one line that in no way describes what these "three ninth incarnations" look like.

To me, Curse of Fatal Death is so iconically, definitionally non-canon, that Joanna Lumley and Julia Sawalha now adorn the {{notdwu}} template. Maybe an image of Jonathan Pryce wearing Dalek "bumps" would be equally emblematic of "something that doesn't 'count'" — but no image would be more widely identifiable with the concept than Emma and the 13th Doctor. What do you think? (And remember, we're talking about whether it's canon in terms of our canon policy, not whether it's a part of your personal canon, or whether there is such a thing as a Doctor Who canon. In other words, can we take the events described in COFD or Scream of the Shalka and describe them as if they are part of the same universe of which the First, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors are a part?
czechout@fandom   19:58:41 Fri 11 Mar 2011 


If what you say is right about Jo being in a red dress in the Curse of Peladon (its been a while since I last saw it) then I'm open to the thought that the Doctor could see this again in his future. However I interpreted the text as it to be the "curse Doctor", when you look at the next line An aristocrat with a high forehead and devilish, shadow-sunken eyes sucked on an asthma inhaler. I really do see this to be a solid description of the Shalka Doctor. This other line A stranger stood alone on a sand dune, his hair scraped into a ponytail, his cloak flapping batlike in the wind also pretty much solidly describes the Valeyard, which suggests that the entire paragraph is describing future Doctor's (the Afgan coat Doctor is an intended future Doctor created by Peter Anghelides after all), therefore the paragraph is swaying to the idea that this man on the sofa is a future incarnation of the Doctor and not the Third Doctor with Emma.

I also understand that reading between the lines isn't a clear method of deriving the truth but the clear intention of the pages in The Tomorrow Windows is to show images of future Doctors. Therefore we cannot just dismiss it and dump the Curse of Fatal Death and other stories into non-canon status, we need a clear ruling from the community before we decide what to do about the story. --Revan\Talk 20:19, March 11, 2011 (UTC)

Yes it is canon

  • It's treated as "canon" (or rather, in continuity) already in several dozen places on this site. It's given its own placement in the timeline. Nothing conflicts with what we know given the many, many crazier conflicting information from classic Who. It was written by Steven Moffat as an interregnum story, and spoof or no, has been confirmed as a possible future in an in-continuity work (The Tomorrow Windows). At one point, Shalka was declared non-canon, but that has apparently been overwritten by the novel. We know for a fact that the Eighth Doctor could've regenerated into these three possible forms, and while his Eccleston form was the ultimate one, the Shalka adventure and the Curse of the Fatal Death truly happened in a possible, now non-existant timeline. We don't know how much of Tersurus history was changed by the lack of an Atkinson Ninth-Doctor, so CoFD info on Tersurus would still only be from a possible timeline. Given that the site already treats it as semi-canon, we should lean towards keeping the status quo and accepting it (and Shalka) as official works and therefore "canon" (a word that I thought Davies and Moffat were against using).-- 18:46, April 5, 2011 (UTC)
CzechOut's text above, and the yellow sections, clearly explain that the novels in question do not confirm anything. The text therein is far too ambiguous to say definitively that it's referring to CoFD at all. It may be a possibility, it may even have been the author's intent, but we can only go by the exact prose in the novel. In this case that prose is simply not a confirmation, and we simply can't use one possible interpretation of a vague hint as proof of something in line with this wiki's implementation of canon. Rob T Firefly 02:49, April 6, 2011 (UTC)

No it isn't canon

  • czechout@fandom   20:17:27 Fri 11 Mar 2011 , for reasons given above.
  • I certainly don't think that it is canon nor, for that matter, do I think that it was ever intended to be. It is a parody of the trappings of Doctor Who in a nutshell. While I do think that Morris intended that the possible future Doctor sitting on the sofa to be the Rowan Atkinson Doctor, that reference was meant purely as an in-joke, as far as I'm concerned, rather than to canonise a hugely enjoyable but completely non-canon sketch. GusF--Talk 20:21, March 11, 2011 (UTC)
  • ----Skittles the hog--Talk 20:38, March 11, 2011 (UTC) for the same reasoning as GusF.
  • For all the above reasons I agree that it is not canon and was never intended to be, and even the in-universe things that could be referencing CoFD aren't doing so specifically enough to affect its non-canon status. Additionally, I just rewatched the VHS and in the behind-the-scenes special after the sketch Julia Sawalha says: "A long time ago I was asked to go for an audition for the real Doctor Who. I didn't fancy it at the time. So this, you know, I'm getting my chance to do it now, the spoof version of it, which is a lot more fun." So, while we don't have any solid canon references to the sketch, we have declaration of the sketch's spoof status in official BBC product. I'm sure if anyone wants to dig up the DWM issues of the period there will be plenty of citable references to the sketch's parody status as well. Rob T Firefly 23:01, March 11, 2011 (UTC)
  • --Josho 01:45, March 12, 2011 (UTC)
  • -- We've all fairly accepted that the PROSEs are part of the wiki canon, but that there are elements where the authors play a bit fast and loose with the continuity. That's fine, if for no other reason than that those authors had no idea where elements or events might possibly conflict with future official material (notably the new TV series). So I've viewed the EDAs as canon, but with a fuzzy edge. These descriptions definitely fall across that fuzzy edge, and offer a tenuous connection at best -- certainly one open to heavy speculation, as this debate shows. I'm satisfied enough that the evidence FOR is weak enough, and the evidence/intentions AGAINST are solid enough, to count CoFD outside official continuity. --Gousha 05:40, March 12, 2011 (UTC)
  • The way I often imagine linked-canon arguments like this is using string, everything on a wiki is linked, though with canon I imagine string connecting them all. All the canon stories and their elements are linked by a bunch of related bits of string, so if you grabbed Carnival of Monsters there'd be links to the sonic screwdriver and miniscope, their presence in the story makes them canon. It works in a similar way to how we've been establishing spin-offs the Sontarans appeared in numerous TV and novel stories, the presence of them and the Rutans in Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans makes it canon because of their connections to the TV and novels.
    So, if you look at CotFD, it can't just be seen as the Ninth Doctor sequence, you need to imagine string going off from every element in the story, from the wobbly TARDIS console, the Master's etheric beam locators, the description of Terserus, and sonic screwdriver having 3 settings. All these elements have a connection to CotFD, but once we make CotFD canon all these links will go off and attach themselves and CotFD to the other canon articles and then therefore part of the canon-universe we're trying to describe and establish.
    I am for this not to be counted within the canon of this wiki. --Tangerineduel / talk 14:44, March 12, 2011 (UTC)
  • Doctor Who makes vague references to things that aren't canon. If they make a reference to Oolon Colluphid, we don't claim that all The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is canon in the Doctor Who, we just claim that Oolon Colluphid is canon. If they make a reference to there being three ninth doctors and an event in his future, we don't claim that all The Curse of Fatal Death is canon in the Doctor Who, we just claim that there being three ninth doctors and having an event in his future is canon. -<Azes13 16:33, March 12, 2011 (UTC)
Agreed; that's why I would like for the story to be considered semi-canon, as there was at least a nod to it in regular canon, with any details being given. --Bold Clone 02:19, March 13, 2011 (UTC)
  • Boblipton: Calling this canon would be silly. The preceding unsigned comment was added by Boblipton (talk • contribs) .
  • Bearing in mind that none of the Doctors featured in The Curse of Fatal Death have appeared in any of the flashback sequences featured in the new series, I think it's safe to safe to say that the story is definitely non-canon! --Freddie R. Aldous 10:54, March 27, 2011 (UTC)
  • Isn't it more of a parody? I think we're meant to take the whole thing with a grain of salt. I don't think continuity was ever part of the equation. Just my two cents... | Who is Dr. Who? 15:22, April 1, 2011 (UTC)
  • This is definitely not canon. It's a pure parody of Who, and that's all. The Doctors mentioned in the above extract, in my eyes, are purely alternate incarnations; they will never happen, and have never happened. D0ct0r11  21:22, July 11, 2011 (UTC)


  1. --Revan\Talk 20:21, March 11, 2011 (UTC) The intention is there, yet no clear ruling was given in the story, therefore theres no reason one way or another to move the story from canon or keep it in canon.
  2. --TemporalSpleen 20:41, March 11, 2011 (UTC) The way I see it, the Curse of Fatal Death represents a possible future (at least from the Eighth Doctor's perspective) or an alternate timeline. It can't be considered canon, as the events never really happened, but at the same time it existed withing canon as a possible future.
  3. I agree with Revan: The intention is there, and no clear ruling was in the story. Personally, I would consider The Curse of Fatal Death to be at best semi-canon; the concept of the alternate Ninth Doctor is confirmed, but the precise details are not confirmed. I think, Czech, that you are approaching this from a too narrow perspective. You think that the exact details must be confirmed for the story to be canon, but not enough info has been given to render that decision for you. Again, the premise is confirmed (a possible alternate Ninth Doctor), but the details are not. Therefore, my answer is this: simply say that the story is semi-canon: the alternate Doctor is an unrealized potentiality. --Bold Clone 20:50, March 11, 2011 (UTC)
I understand exactly what you're saying BC, and what you're saying works from the position of what I might believe about my personal canon. The Gallifrey Chronicles says there are (possibly, for Marnal's accuracy is in question) alternate Ninth Doctors. Atkinson is numerically the Ninth as established at the end of COFD. So maybe Chronicles is talking about him. Fine, that works for your personal canon and my personal canon.
But I'm not talking about what I might consider for my personal canon. I'm looking at the broader issue of policy for the wiki.
Because it's all well and good to say that the Atkinson Doctor is canonical, that this one vague line embraces him into the bosom of the DWU. But what about his four successors? They're not mentioned anywhere in canon. What about the Pryce Master? If we're writing an article about Tersurus, do we include information from COFD? Imagine you're editing our article about Daleks. Do we want to allow this kind of statement and citation:
The Doctor, in alternate versions of his ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth incarnations, encountered a group of Daleks on Tersurus. (TV: The Curse of Fatal Death)
And if we allow in COFD to be used like this, we have to allow in Scream of the Shalka, as TD has pointed out on Talk:The Curse of Fatal Death. How can we logically do that, when RTD, apparently with the blessing of BBC management, reduced Scream to non-canonical status, before it even was released?
That's why I'm not talking about COFD in terms of personal canon, or even whether there is even such a thing as canon in the DWU. I personally think Rowan Atkinson did more with the part of the Doctor in three minutes than Sylvester McCoy did in three years. But that doesn't matter. We're trying to write an encyclopedia describing the DWU, so therefore we must occasionally define what is in the DWU and what is not. We must proceed from the position that a thing is not in the DWU, and then determine whether there is enough evidence to support its inclusion. You seem to be suggesting, BC, that we should allow things in until we can prove they shouldn't be here. And while that's a fine, Cornellesque stance for one's personal view of the DWU, that's a very dangerous orientation when trying to write policy for people to follow on this wiki. That stance would allow in every piece of fan fiction on the planet.
You want to open up this grey area of "semi-canon", and that's very difficult in terms of policy. It doesn't give new editors clear instruction on how to proceed. And it won't make articles very easy for casual visitors to read. (It's hard enough explaining what a semi-licensed work is!) It's simply easier to say that it's not canonical. That relegates any information about it to behind-the-scenes sections and story pages. We can still have information about it on the wiki; it's just that non-canonical status means that information about it must not be in the main body of in-universe articles.
czechout@fandom   22:06:20 Fri 11 Mar 2011 
I was never talking about COFD terms of personal canon either. Thank you for noticing that, and taking it into consideration.
Again, the concept have been canonized: the COFD premise was an alternate potential of the Doctor that was never realized. The details of the story were not canonized, but the concept was. Therefore, the idea of an alternate Ninth Doctor is canon, but nothing else in particular is also canonized, because they were not mentioned. Thus, the concept of semi-canon. The alternate Ninth Doctor is semi-canon because while COFD was a possible future of the Doctor, the future was never elaborated on. --Bold Clone 19:58, March 12, 2011 (UTC)
As CzechOut noted above, none of the references in novels are clear enough to tie them solidly and without doubt to CoFD.
The notion of "semi-canon" is not within the scope of this wiki to begin with, as per our guidelines a work (and all it contains, as noted by Tangerineduel above) is either canon or it is not. Even if we did have such a thing here, however, we'd still need much more than the above passages which might possibly be taken as vague CoFD references but aren't specific enough to be certain on an encyclopedic level. "A listless-looking man sat on a sofa" is not enough for us to say "that sure is the Ninth Doctor as played by Rowan Atkinson" in this encyclopedia. "A girl in a red dress" is not sufficient evidence that the prose refers to Emma, the companion in a black dress and red pullover as played by Julia Sawalha.
There simply isn't enough here to infer any kind of canon for CoFD, semi- (which, again, doesn't exist in this wiki) or otherwise. Rob T Firefly 07:26, March 13, 2011 (UTC)

Closing thread

The nays rather unambiguously have it. A wide sampling of editors has revealed that this wiki's members almost unanimously do not consider The Curse of Fatal Death part of the Doctor Who universe. The supposed references in other works are deemed to be just that: supposed. The Curse of Fatal Death may not be used as a valid resource when writing in-universe articles. However, we will continue to allow coverage of the topic in our non-DWU categories so long as it remains clearly labelled with the {{notdwu}} flag.
czechout@fandom   15:33:12 Fri 27 May 2011 
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