Shooting the Canon
Fervently, vigilantly, passionately, scrupulously, relentlessly and endlessly, Star Trek fans debate, defend, define, defy, attack, praise and bemoan something called “canon.”
What’s in it? What should be in it? What should be drummed out of it? How closely must the new movie adhere to it, worship it, or is it an irrelevant albatross? And by the way…what is it?
Functionally, it is Star Trek—that is, the saga, its chronology and mythology, the whole story with all its events, characters, relationships, as well as worlds, ships, species and so on, as catalogued (though partially and unofficially, sort of) in the Star Trek Encyclopedia, and interpreted on web sites like Memory Alpha and Ex Astris Scientia.
As the current Doctor (of Who, not Voyager) might define it: it’s everything that’s appeared in the TV episodes and movies. Wellll, not the animated series. Welllll, maybe some of the animated series. But not the novels. Wellllll, maybe some of the novels. And maybe not all of the movies? Anyway, it’s the Star Trek universe: the official one.
That’s the key word: official. It’s the law—which is more or less what the word “canon” means. But canon has a particular history that suggests both its importance and the fervor it inspires. For while some of the new movie’s creators refer to it in terms of the Supreme Court, canon has its deepest roots in the Roman Catholic Church, beginning back when it in some ways ruled the western world.