Currently my most popular post has been “No Igor, No Problem” and so I have decided to continue it with an updated musing on the matter. Although focused on the novel Frankenstein and its changes, it sparked the idea that stories change over time as adaptations are made to fit different media, and whether or not the adaptations are still canonical parts of the story. Thinking back on my childhood I have a perfect example of this in action.
Starship Troopers: Roughneck Chronicles.
Starship Troopers started as a science fiction novel written in 1959 by Robert A. Heinlein. It tells the first hand account of a young recruit who joins the ‘Mobile Infantry’ a futuristic army during an epic war raging between mankind and a race of ‘Pseudo-Arachnids’. Two things that made this work of fiction unique was the military run state organization of Earth in the novel, (Suffrage is only earned after giving at least two years of volunteer federal service.) and POWER ARMOR. That’s right folks, you have Robert Heinlein to thank for Master Chief’s bad-ass look.
In 1997 a movie was made and although it bombed in the box office it did acquire a cult following. Unfortunately it satirized the sociopolitical themes in the original work, but to this day most people who have heard of Starship Troopers remember this movie, and not the book. To most viewers who were unaware of the book, this movie would hold a kind of ‘precedent’ over any differences that existed in the novel…and oh boy were there differences. In the DVD commentary the Director Paul Verhoeven admitted to never finishing the book. (Source)
Later, two direct-to-dvd movies were made. They were quickly forgotten by some, and wished to be forgotten by others.
Now that all the history is out of the way we can mention the computer animated tv series that came out in 1999 called Starship Troopers: Roughneck Chronicles. This show was my childhood. I am confident I actually saw this before I saw the movie. By then it was only on late-nights on YTV. The theme song remains one I’ll never forget. In an age when every cartoon series had to have someone singing the name of the show repeatedly, this show had the balls to only play music, a recording of a wartime speech, and the haunting screeches of alien arachnids. (Opening Theme) It unfortunately got cancelled on a cliffhanger due to production problems.
So what does this all have to do with Canon? Because here we see a story that was in novel form, transform into a movie, and then into a kids show, and the mutations became stark. One character, Dizzy Flores is now a female character instead of male. Various policies of the Federation have changed, such the no women policy in the novel. Both the novel, movies, and series all have their own various timelines and events that have little to no connection with each other.
Canon by definition are the parts of the story that are absolute and key to the material. Superman being a child from the planet Krypton is canon in the Superman universe. So what happens when the canon says two different things at the same time? If the book says a character is male, but the movie says they’re a woman? If one character dies in the first chapter of the book, but is still alive and well in the TV series?
Simple. It’s all true. Every rendition, remake, and sequel are all legitimate. As time goes on and more of the media gets produced, reproduced, and updated to new forms of media, new things will be added or changed and those, too, will become canon. The only problem being that if the earlier material gets lost or forgotten then it’s possible bits of canon could also be lost and forgotten. If the original Frankenstein is lost forever then few will know that there originally was no Igor.