What is "canon" exactly?
- There exist different definitions of what can be regarded as canon. At Memory Alpha, we always try to stick to the following, most common definition.
- Technically, canon is what "The Powers That Be" (those people in control of the Star Trek franchise, from the writers, to producers, to Viacom and Paramount Pictures, also referred to as "TPTB") pay attention to in the making of new Star Trek episodes. Everything that was shown in a previous episode has to be canon in this respect. After all, if someone/something can be seen on screen, it should not be allowed to deny their/its existence.
- Official publications by the Okudas, Rick Sternbach, Herman Zimmerman, Doug Drexler, or other people directly involved in the production process may be as good as canon, since this is where the writers and producers look up the facts. Even if these books are supplemented with some information like dates or starship specs not mentioned in the show, this might be important to limit the room for speculation.
- Still, even anything stated in the series or movies may be doubted, where it is not consistent (the 79 decks of the Enterprise-A, for instance). We don't have to buy everything and make up twisted explanations where logic and common sense fail.
- Finally, there is the huge category of fan fiction all of which is non-canon, including all novels, games, RPGs and fan-made webpages. It is obvious that this strict definition is necessary, since Kirk would have lived around 10,000 years and Starfleet would have some 1,000,000 warships if all this fiction were "true". Even the novels and games authorized by Paramount are non-canon, considering that "authorized" merely means that a license is given to a third party which doesn't oblige Paramount to anything. For instance, although many fans accept that the Insurrection scout was imprudently christened "Venture-class" in a game, it will almost definitely get a different class name in the Okudas' next Encyclopedia - or, more likely, none at all.
Why don't you distinguish better what is canon information and what was made up?
- For the time being, ALL information included in Memory Alpha that pertains to the Star Trek universe must be canon. Speculation is limited to very obvious conclusions and always explicitly marked as such - please adhere to the systematic use of the subjunctive, of "could, would, might be" and little words like "if" or "perhaps." Unlike most other websites and especially many databanks, we don't make up any information, even if this leaves wide gaps in the lists and charts.
Okay, so why do you have novels and comics listed here? Those aren't canon!
- Although we may be restricting information about the Trek universe itself to canon for the time being, we also can't ignore the novels, comics, and other parts of the Trek franchise which have contributed to its success over the years. Therefore, we're including lists for topics outside of the POV of our canon articles (i.e. all actors, episodes, movies, novels, etc. - stuff in the real world) to create a useful reference base that we can build from in the future.
novels • comics • reference works • games • collectibles • fan fiction
And what about The Animated Series?
- With the release of The Animated Series DVD collection, the studio appears to have changed its stance, and is now leaning towards the animated series as part of established canon.
- While TAS had originally been officially declared "apocryphal" by the studio, the studio and Memory Alpha consider it to be too important to simply ignore. TAS was created by the same people as TOS, and is certainly not completely incompatible with the live-action shows. In short, Memory Alpha considers The Animated Series to be canon.
Why are you so strict about "canonicity" anyway?
- Until Memory Alpha develops a larger article base as a reference source, we want to ensure the greatest possible reliability for all readers and contributors. This means restricting the kinds of articles we accept to those that are most familiar - and for the Trek universe, that means Roddenberry's definition of canon.
- There are people who accept only canon – because they know the Okudas' Encyclopedia by heart or because they just don't accept anything else. On the other hand, there are the kind who stir up canon and fandom at will – because they either don't know that much and believe anything they see or read or because they don't want their creativity be limited by the strict yet contradictory canon of TPTB. We know lots of both types of fan and every shade in between. One typical situation is that some people in a message board explicitly talk about the number of nacelles on canon starships and someone throws in that the Federation class and Saladin class (from Franz Joseph's Star Fleet Technical Manual) are odd-nacelled. The result is a useless discussion about the term "canon," about the value of canon, about the authority of Roddenberry, Okuda, Paramount or Pocket Books, about books which should be considered canon because they are written by Jeri Taylor, about Colonel West and the Starfleet Marines, and so on. Since we're tired of such discussions, we go with TPTB and agree with their definition of canon (but not necessarily everything they tell me), while we encourage anyone to include whatever he likes to his personal view of the Star Trek universe. We would never want to miss the fan-made stuff all around the planet because they really enrich the universe, no matter if we "believe" in them. We probably can't help those who don't even want to see anything that was not released by Paramount or the other extreme group, those who don't care about the idea of Star Trek and are turning Starfleet into a military organization with big-gunned warships. For anyone in between, canon is a common ground. Everything else is left to our imagination and tolerance or better, mutual understanding. There are always possibilities!
Why is this article in past tense? The article's subject still exists!
- Although it may seem odd to read that "Humans were a species" or that the "Federation was an interstellar republic", it is necessary for Memory Alpha's point of view.
- Because Star Trek stories take place in many different eras, from the beginnings of life on Earth to the 29th century and beyond, and because forthcoming stories may even expand beyond that, it is important to write all articles from a single perspective: i.e. that of someone looking back at the past. This helps to keep Memory Alpha consistent and understandable. If it helps, pretend that we're writing and viewing this data archive long after the Star Trek universe as we know it has ceased to exist.
- This means using the past tense in almost all instances. For further information, please see Memory Alpha: Point of view.
How do I cite valid and canon resources?
- All "in-universe" POV articles should be cited with link to an article about its source in a primary resource (A valid series, i.e. only episodes and films verifiably from the TOS, TAS, TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT, or Star Trek films series).
- Articles should be cited both to a primary resource and a secondary resource if the information is derived from a secondary publication or information gathering method (such as an interview or document from another source). This applies to names, spellings, words or topics not immediately discernible from the filmed version but accessible through a resource that verifies it was devised for the production itself (not after the fact), and not contradicted by more prominent information.
Article cited to a primary resourceBlah blah, Blah-blah-blah blah blah blah blah-blah. Blah-blah, etc. (TOS: "The Cage")
Article cited to a primary and secondary resource (small background section)
Article cited to a primary and secondary resource (large background section)
Background informationThis was not readable on screen, but a photographic print in the Star Trek: Blah blah-blah book shows the blah blah-blah. Blah blah, Blah-blah-blah blah blah blah blah-blah. Blah-blah, etc.
Implicit or explicit research citation
It is possible to explicitly or implicitly cite a secondary source; the list of secondary sources to link to is currently expanding on Memory Alpha.
- Implicit (No link)
Background informationThe script listed the spelling...
- Currently, MA offers no links to resources of episode scripts, but archivists who legally own scripts can attest to their content, even if there is nothing to link to. MA consensus has previously decided that reproducing entire episodic scripts on this site would be a copyright policy violation.
- Explicit (Linked)
Background informationA photo of this starship model was published in the Star Trek Encyclopedia.
- This is a Memory Alpha article about the secondary resource being cited, that we can explicitly link to.
Background informationAn offsite interview with the senior executive producer stated that the missing dialogue was 'blah-blah blah'.
- This is a non-Memory Alpha information source about the secondary resource being cited that we can explicitly link to.