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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Choose Your Own Retcon Game

You ever see a tv show, or series of movies, or book series and think "You know, if it weren't for xxxx, that series would go down as my favorite series of all time...or at least I'd love it more."

I call it the "Choose your own retcon."

Like for me, I'd love the X-Men movies much more if X3 didn't exist. And if they were to make new movies, I would much prefer THEM to pretend X3 didn't exist either. I like the Star Wars movies, even the prequels, but I want to retcon out two things:

1. Padme's annoying death from a broken heart. Hello! You have things to live for! Your kids! Your planet?! Using your influence to help seed the rebellion! And I liked her so much in Attack of the Clones! (Err, bad romance aside.)

2. Anakin and Owen Lars as (step)-brothers. I know that not everyone saw the version of ROTJ I did, since apparently tv versions sometimes have odd added/omitted scenes. But the one I taped off USA in 1994 or so clearly had Obi-Wan call Owen Lars HIS brother. And that makes sense! What better place to hide a child then with the brother no one knows you had, who you have very little connection to thanks to your raising, and has a different name!

It makes NO SENSE to me to hide the kid on his father's home planet, with his father's step brother, in the same place where the kid's grandmother lived until her death. It just seems like it'd be really easy for someone in the Empire to think about poking around there. (Even if not for the baby, then maybe for a weapon against Vader if his origin was discovered by anyone, or as a hunt for an unaccounted for Jedi, if someone didn't know. Or Vader, who seems mopey enough after RotS, just deciding to see and/or lay additional waste to the place where his mother died.)

Bookwise, well, I always liked Margaret Weis's Death Gate Cycle. I thought it was nifty and the character dynamics intrigued me. Until the last book, with the oddly contrived scenario and the never-before-seen love interest. (Tip: If you want me to care, said love interest should probably be featured prominently some time before book SEVEN of a seven book cycle!) Or maybe Sarah Monette's Corambis. Which wasn't a bad book, but it felt oddly lackluster and anti-climactic to me after the intensity of the first three books in the series. That intensity's what got me reading the series in spite of so many plot elements that would normally have annoyed the hell out of me, but I somehow found compelling. The last book had all the annoying qualities but none of the energy. I find it's even killing my urge to reread the previous books.'s hard to retcon out comics for me since eventually it'll be fixed anyway. I'd like to get rid of some of those unexpected pregnancy storylines in Marvel though. It seems like there are a lot of them. Do superheroes not use condoms? I'll keep the Sharon Carter one because I found that compelling and, as my friend pointed out, she could have been brainwashed into poking holes.

Though as Cyclops shows, you can be fairly responsible with birth control and STILL end up with stray kids from across the cosmos!

Oh, I know, I'd un-retcon Vulcan. I normally love Brubaker and all, but the entire thing still doesn't make any sense to me. The Krakoa story as it was was silly, but it at least made sense. The new version doesn't work for me. And besides, while I'm accustomed to wanting to smack the crap out of anyone with the last name of "Summers" once in a while, I just want to drop kick him into a volcano.

I might just be bitter about Corsair.

For DC, hmmm, it's hard. I don't want to undo a death that may end up a plot point in Blackest Night. Oh, I know, I'd take out that gratuitous Jade-was-almost-molested as a child storyline from Green Lantern which didn't fit with any of her previous backstory and never made an ounce of difference to her overall characterization or plot that I could see. I appreciate the desire to show survivors who have emerged from their traumatic experience, but it just seemed so very arbitrary and instantly forgotten.

Actually, I always thought the flashback would have been more interesting from KYLE. Boys suffer too, after all. Granted, he wouldn't have had powers. But maybe it could have gone differently. Like an acquaintance of Maura's getting ideas, and then her diving in like a banshee with a pair of sewing scissors and sending the would-be perpetrator packing. I'm not sure that it would have had any more of a lasting effect on either character or plot, but it wouldn't require as much tweaking of the pre-existing backstory, and might have added another element to consider while rereading issues with Kyle's pre-occupation with finding his father, or that entire Oblivion mess in Circle of Fire. And I like seeing "normal" characters show moments of badassery saving people they love. Also, I've always wanted to see a kindly Irish woman attack someone with sewing scissors. I might be a little odd.

Granted, my version's probably equally as bad. But I like it better because I thought of it. :-P

So what would you like to retcon? Any medium is fine.


  • At July 01, 2009 2:25 AM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    I'm pretty sure that you dreamed the Owen/Obie Wan thing. Because he's always been Anakin's brother...

    I'd retcon away Vulcan but then I couldn't be as happy when Adam Warlock bitch-slapped him...

    If I were going to "fix" anything it would probably be the heel turn for Superboy Prime. Or at least how they made him an ANNOYING whiny godling...

  • At July 01, 2009 2:56 AM, Blogger Flidget Jerome said…


    This is the first time I've ever run across anyone else who's even heard of the Death Gate Cycle.
    Are we talking about Haplo's chick? 'Causes she features in his flashbacks early on and I think she shows up by book six. Otherwise, yeah, things rather fell apart there towards the end. I'd say the rot set in earlier, actually, around book 6.

    I think the other problem with Jade-as-a-survivor is that Obsidian was also abused as a child and it took him years to begin healing from it. She's already better than him at everything but I'm not really sure that "she's even better at surviving bad-touch!" is somewhere you really want to go with that.

  • At July 01, 2009 5:52 AM, Blogger James Ashelford said…

    My personal retcons:

    DC: Max Lord should not be evil.

    Doctor Who: Cut out Martha's unrequited love for the Doctor. ose and Jack were enough. Also give Donna a happy ending, one companion should get one, at least.

    Star Trek: Make Nemesis more like the trailer made it look like; all about the nature of identity and not about a very incobsistent plan to destroy the Romulans/the Federation/the Earth or whatever Shinzon eventually decided on. Also, make the crap fake!Data into Lore.

    Marvel: Kill Lilandra and all her siblings, close the stargates, cut off the Shi'Ar Empire and NEVER HAVE TO DEAL WITH THEM AGAIN.

  • At July 01, 2009 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The identity of Selina Kyle's babydaddy.


    The (tv) finale of Dollhouse.

    Seasons 6 and most of 7 of Gilmore Girls, most especially the "add a kid" thing with the "daughter [character] never knew he had."

    Paul's disappearance in The Tribe. So worthless. Come on, they could've done better than "We leave here every time we want to, but it's too dangerous to go looking for one little boy!"

    "The Woman King" in Galactica, and all the dialogue Angeli wrote for women during his time on the show.

  • At July 01, 2009 9:38 AM, Blogger Jer said…

    Actually, if I were going to retcon Padme I'd go further than her death. I'd start with her slide from "aggressive and competent leader" that she was in Episode I down to "pathetic mewling love interest for a crappy dumbass whiny punk" that she was in Episode III. Seriously, Padme from Episode I should have shown up and kicked Episode III Padme's ass all around the Republic for what a tool she'd become. The wholesale degeneration of Padme's character from Episode I to Episode III was severely disappointing. Though that may be because there were exactly two characters I found interesting in Episode I - Obi-wan Kenobi and Padme Amidala - and then they turned Padme completely pathetic by the end (I'd also retcon Anakin into something more respectable than "crappy dumbass whiny punk" while I was at it.)

    I don't actually have that much in the way of "that series would have been awesome if it weren't for that one small thing" retcons - things like that I tend to brush aside and forget about pretty quickly. It's the BIG screw ups that I tend to remember. Like, for example, my major beef with Star Trek Voyager. They go to all this trouble to setup a starship where the crew should be at each others' throats constantly - and then they mostly ignore it except when it's convenient for the plot. I would have put that at the center of the series and made sure that for at least the first two seasons some element of that conflict was at the center of the story every week. Either that or I would have just thrown it out and had a bog standard Federation crew thrown out to the edge of the universe. Because why setup something that cool if you're just going to ignore it most of the time?

  • At July 01, 2009 10:35 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I'm a moron, I ended up fixing up my response to Lurker and Flidget without re-adding my links. For coherency's sake, I'm reposting it here:


    LurkerWithout: Nope. It's also in the original novelization.

    I'm not the only one who remembers it.

    There were also a number of Phantom Menace related fanfics that ended up using the idea before Attack of the Clones came out. I'm not trying to use fanfic as proof that "YES, THIS HAPPENED AND ITS CONTINUITY!!!" but it's an oddly pervasive for a dream, wouldn't you say?

    (The Star Wars wikia also references the discontinuity:

    "Before it was revealed in Attack of the Clones that Owen and Anakin become stepbrothers, it was believed that they were never brothers, and that Luke falsely believed Owen was his uncle. This was stated in most sources preceding Attack of the Clones, most notably in early editions of the Return of the Jedi novel, where Obi-Wan Kenobi refers to Owen as his brother. The error managed to enter profiles of both characters in The Essential Guide to Characters and the second edition of A Guide to the Star Wars Universe. By the time of the publication of the third edition of A Guide to the Star Wars Universe in 2000, Owen and Obi-Wan were no longer brothers. However, in the book Jedi Apprentice: The Hidden Past, Obi-Wan says he remembers a brother named Owen, though this is not likely intended to be Owen Lars, but perhaps a reference to the inconsistency."

    Sorry, but I've been accused of "dreaming" this by too many people. But I'd watched my television-taped ROTJ many many times over the years (it was always my favorite) and it DID contain that line. I don't mind acknowledging that it wasn't intended to be and isn't in continuity, but it definitely existed. AND made more sense.

    I'm guessing originalslugboy has the right of it in my previous post, (though I have no knowledge of the phenomenon aside from this) and that the television version padded the movie with a few cutting-board scenes to make it longer.

    Flidget: I might have been mistaken about when she was introduced. :-) Still, it's hard to care about someone when she only pops up alive in book six of seven.

  • At July 01, 2009 11:42 AM, Blogger Your Obedient Serpent said…

    Here's a Q&D Padme retcon that may work for you:

    The emotional bond between Anakin and Amidala -- enhanced by her pregnancy and the shared genetic material between them -- caused her physical and psychic injury each time Anakin gave way to the anger, paranoia, and obsession that dragged him to the Dark Side.
    As he fell, she fell -- and her worsening condition pushed him closer and closer to the edge.

    Feedback loop.

    I don't even consider this a "retcon", personally; there ALWAYS seemed to be a supernatural component to her demise.

    Of course, maybe that's just the only way I could make sense of the movie. =D

    As for Mr. Ashelford's comment on the lame Not!Data in Nemesis, there's an even better arguably-canon treatment of that issue in Star Trek: Countdown, the comic book prequel to the Abrams film. Countdown is set in the post-TNG era, and among other familiar faces, we see Captain Data commanding the Enterprise-E. When asked about his "demise", he very casually notes that downloading his memory engrams into the "B-4" body... simply worked. After a period of adjustment, he was back to himself again.

    Such a casual, callous dismissal of concentrated Plot Stupid is even better than a retcon, for me.

  • At July 01, 2009 12:53 PM, Blogger Menshevik said…

    Spider-Man: One More Day.

    X-Men: Most of the (often self-contradictory) stuff added to Rogue's origin after Claremont's first run, especially Cody Robbins falling into a permanent coma and dying (had that happened at the first experience of her power, Rogue would have behaved completely differently) and the trainwreck that was the "romance" with Gambit. Oh, and Morrison's entire run.

    The Ending of Armageddon 2001.

  • At July 03, 2009 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh I'd have Tara on Buffy not be dead. Willow just had a bad dream.
    X-retcon is tougher..Where to start?
    I'd lose Daken, make Jean not having been dead more then say one time. I'd totally dump Vulcan too, so Corsair would live.

  • At July 05, 2009 2:04 AM, Blogger Brian Smith said…

    My Star Wars retcons: Mace Windu survives his fall and winds up making a surprise return at the end during Yoda's escape from the Senate. Windu brings down a chunk of the building on himself and a squadron of troopers, and Palpatine senses Windu's death and thinks it's Yoda's.

    I also want Luke and Leia born on Dagobah, dang it. I just *knew* that was where Luke was born after his line in "Empire Strikes Back."

    Also? I would've loved to have found out that oh, hey, the Jedi lost their way with all this "Test for midichlorians" nonsense. I liked the Force better when it was more of a religion and less of an accident of birth.

    I'd try to retcon stuff in Piers Anthony's Xanth books, but he's doing a fine job of that on his own. When you use time travel in the 21st book to explain the actions of a magical tree in the second book, you're getting a tad carried away.

  • At July 05, 2009 2:49 AM, Blogger Brian Smith said…

    I meant to say the 23rd book -- that's what I get for trying to count after midnight. (I read too many of those things.)


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