Examples of canon violations

Thought it’d be fun to share glaring examples where a series violates its own canon. Feel free to supply retcon explanations if you choose.

For example, in the later seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a character is introduced that contradicts previous seasons.

It turns out Dawn is an intentional canon violation. But at times, she appears in the comics before she was supposedly created. A retcon explanation is the comics are portraying Buffy’s memory of events.

I believe the series Frasier had a bunch of contradictions, such as shifts in Frasier’s religion and parent.

In “Cheers”, Frasier says that his father is dead, which of course isn’t true in “Frasier”.

“MASH” is chock-a-block with contradictions - Hawkeye refers to a sister and a living mother in an early episode, but later he’s an only child whose mother has been dead a long time. Similarly, Margaret’s parental situation changes, and there are other glitches like Hawkeye having claustrophobia in one episode and Margaret a fear of loud noises, neither of which conditions exist in any other episode.

But it was such a plot blunder of massive proportions that if the author had realized what he had done, he would have had to completely rewrite entire chapters of two subsequent novels.

In Dan Simmons’ The Fall of Hyperion, the Shrike removes Father Paul Dure’s cruciform (a cross-like object that will bring you back from the dead, each time bringing you back with lessened mental acuity). The relevant lines (pp. 306-307):

OK, so Paul Dure will no longer rise from the dead - the means to do so has been physically removed by the Shrike.

HOWEVER, in the following two novels, a resurrected Paul Dure is one of the major characters! There is even a scene where Lenar Hoyt dies, Dure is resurrected and then killed, and then Hoyt is re-resurrected, because Hoyt/Dure is still in possession of two cruciforms.

But Dure can’t be resurrected - his cruciform was removed!

In the first episode of The Cosby Show, the parents specifically say that they have four children “because they do not want five”. A few seasons later a new daughter, never before mentioned, magically comes home from college.

Although I believe they mentioned this in “Frasier” when Sam shows up. Frasier says that he was embarrassed by his father, so he made up a fictional father who had died.

This isn’t a TV show… but a movie series: Harry Potter. Although it violates a lot of book-cannon items, it even contradicts itself in the same movie: Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry will be expelled if he uses magic outside of school. This is true in the movies and the books. Yet, Prisoner of Azkaban begins with Harry practicing the spell “Lumos Maximus” in his bedroom. Then later he runs away for “blowing up his aunt” and Uncle Vernon even says that he will be expelled because he used magic outside of school. Soooo… why didn’t he get expelled for the “Lumos Maximus” bit? This has never sat well with me.

In that case, wasn’t it explained away that the Ministry and Dumbledore knew about it, but were willing to overlook it because they were more worried about the escaped psychotic (Sirius) that was presumably trying to kill Harry?

In the British sitcom Men Behaving Badly, it wasn’t unusual to see one character - Tony - munching on pizza (even out of a bin) or eating a lump of cheese out the fridge.

In one episode of the final trilogy, a major plot point is that Tony hates cheese to the point that it makes him sick.

Not exactly canon violation, more ‘Eh? Hang on…’

No, actually Harry “blowing up his Aunt” was explained this way. No mention was made of the “Lumos” spell Harry was doing in his bedroom. One could argue that it included both in this particular instance.

However, the main difference is that Harry and the Dursleys were certain that he would be expelled for his use of magic outside of school, whereas Harry wasn’t concerned at all about getting in trouble for the “Lumos” spell he was doing in the begining of the film. It’s clearly stated in this and other Potter films that any use of magic outside of school could get him in serious trouble if not outright expelled.

It seems pretty obvious that the only reason for the intro “Lumos Maximus” bit was purely because it “looked cool” as an opening for the film, even though it makes no sense plot-wise and is definitly a canon violation.


I think you misremember - Hoyt had two cruciforms. One from Dure, and (IIRC) Hoyt received another one when he went back to the village right before it was bombed.

I think it’s sort of unfair to use early shows like MAS*H as examples. They weren’t thinking of their shows as canon, they were writing week by week. Got a good idea about Hawkeye’s family, use it, and who remembered or cared that they’d said something different a few months (or seasons) earlier?

Kind of like the original of the canon, Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes (see: the brilliantly written http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2088/did-sherlock-holmes-really-exist ) … The MAS*H writers had no idea that there would be something like VHS and DVD, where everyone could watch episodes over and over. So they didn’t bother to think about continuity. Similarly with the original STAR TREK: each show was what it was.

Later shows that have a story arch (like BUFFY or HARRY POTTER) should be held to the higher standard of consistency.

Correct. At the very beginning of Hyperion (in the first story) Paul Dure gets a cruciform while he is studying the Bikura. The Church sends Lenar Hoyt to find him, whereupon he finds that Dure crucified himself in a manner that had his cruciform fall off. After Dure died, the Bikura took Hoyt to get his own cruciform, and also to attach Dure’s cruciform to him, giving Hoyt two of them: his and Dure’s.

But in the Fall of Hyperion, Dure’s cruciform was removed by the Shrike, leaving only one, Hoyt’s, remaining on his body. However, in Endymion, Dure is resurrected from the cruciform that was removed half-a-book ago.

Regardless, at the end of Fall, Dure only had one cruciform. In Endymion, he had two.

Not exactly what I would call “canon,” but one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen contradicted its own central plot. In the Nicole Kidman remake of The Stepford Wives, we see at one point some of the husbands in a private meeting. They bring in one of the hot blonde wives and demonstrate her “ATM” function. She beeps and whirs and dispenses several paper bills from her mouth. Obviously, she is a robot. Yet later, it turns out that the Stepford wives were all so obediant and domestic because they had microchips planted in their brains. But they were otherwise completely real human beings.

ISTR that in Endymion, it was mentioned that the first two books were actually memoirs written by whats-his-name the poet guy, and that most of the scenes he wasn’t present for were filled in with guesswork and poetic license. Any contradictions between the first two books and the later two can therefore be chalked up to the first two being written by an unreliable narrator. Someone actually points this out at one point when people supposedly killed in the first two show up alive and well at one point.

Personally I prefer to ignore the second two books completely.

Dawn’s a little…complex. Though she did not exist before the last scene of “Buffy versus Dracula,” the characters all have memories of her existing; she was inserted into their recollections, and all records changed as well. Thus any flashback scene can reasonably include her, because the characters remember it and cannot break the spell. I’m sure at some point, Willow, Xander, & Buffy decided it was simply easier to go along with the spell and their emotions for Dawn than to fight it.

I’m just gonna go ahead and say pretty much the entire series Enterprise, though I’m led to believe that the last episode made make the nomination moot.

I have two mutually contradictory explanatioons for Enterprise.

  1. The show’s history is not the “original” history. When Picard & Co. went back to Zephrem Cochrane’s time they changed history; because Cochrane knew he was destined to begin a new era in Earth’s history, his attitude towards the Vulcans was subtly different; likewise Alfre Woodward’s character. A butterfly effect ensued. TNG & Deep Space 9 are part of the “earlier” history; Voyager is part of the later.

  2. Every damn episode was part of a series of holonovels by Tom Paris.

In Doonesbury, when Joan first left her husband, it was expicitly stated she had two children (a son and daughter). The daughter later became a major character in the strip and Joan remarried and had another son. But the first son disappeared and was forgotten - to the point where Joan calls herself the mother of two children.

I think it was only a few episodes later when Sondra showed up (this says it was partway through the first season http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_Cosby_Show_characters#Sondra_Huxtable-Tibideaux); there’s probably a law of conservation of sitcom children - the Huxtables pick up one after the Cunninghams lose Chuck.