The Stations of the Canon
The inevitable result of a Divergence
or a Peggy Sue
Fic: You move across the plot points of the original from that point onward, with the intent of showing how the story has changed due to whatever factor has been added to the story. These events tend to be quite fixed, and thus they can, when done poorly, come across as merely crossing over The Stations Of The Canon, rather than an actual plot, which is where this trope gets its name.
For example, if you have "Harry Potter
raised by someone else" Fan Fic, you must cross over the Stations of The Letter From Hogwarts, The Visit To Diagon Alley, The Trip To Hogwarts, The Sorting Hat, and, depending on how you play things, The Troll, all the way up to The Confrontation With Quirrell/Voldemort — all iconic moments that establish key points of the setting or characterization as the fandom knows it.
Sometimes (but not always) this brings up Fridge Logic
involving In Spite of a Nail
; no matter what changes have already been made in the characters or setting, the plot somehow twists to allow it to cross the Stations. (If the events in question are on a schedule that has nothing to do with what happens to the protagonist, this particular problem does not appear.) At the very worst, the story will be exactly the same as the original just with a few changes in the details.
Some authors attempt to minimize this trope by either describing the events from a different perspective
or simply skipping over a Station with only minimal description of the events. After all, the audience has most likely already read/seen/played through those events, no need to make them go over it again (the obvious exception being a Crossover fic, where a prospective half of the readers might not
This trope is named after the Stations of the Cross
, a traditional set of 14 or 15 iconic scenes from the Passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ
used in some Christian worship, and are frequently reinterpreted in various media.
Remember that Tropes Are Tools
: Fanfiction stories can play this trope reasonably straight and still be good stories.
Examples should be of works whose fanfic show this tendency, rather than individual fanfics, since this is very much one of Sturgeon's Tropes
. Connected to Broad Strokes
: how broadly the events are painted relates to how many Stations the work bothers crossing. Compare with In Spite of a Nail
Examples of fandoms whose fanfics show this tendency:
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Anime and Manga
- Naruto: Good luck finding any Divergence Fic that does stealing the scroll, the Wave Country mission, or the Chuunin exam with any amount of creativity.
- The Wave mission is really the worst offender. There must be around 50000 versions of it and they usually end up the same way as in canon, with the usual exception that Haku (and sometimes even Zabuza) survives.
- Strangely, a common scene to see is so minor that people often forget it at all: the first meeting between Team 7 and the Suna Team.
- Ranma 1/2: Girl-type Ranma being introduced to the Tendos, "I'm Ranma Saotome. Sorry about this.", the first encounter with Kuno (and Ryoga, and Shampoo) etc.
- Mazinger Z: Dr. Hell's surfacing, Dr. Kabuto's death, Kouji finding Mazinger and trying piloting for first time with disastrous results, Sayaka showing up to save him from himself, Baron Ashura attacking the institute, first meeting with Boss... To spice things up, some Fanfic writers try blending or playing out of order several minor events and battles.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji's "reunion" with his father, the battle with the Third Angel, etc. Many have described the EVA canon as one of the most stiff and rigid to bend for fanfic purposes without going to full blown Alternate Continuity.
- Well, the Angels keep coming, on a preexisting schedule and with preexisting forms (the later ones evolve slightly to deal with prior ones' defeats, but that can't kick in until later). What else is going to happen? The only one that really averts this is Nobody Dies, which has the Third killed somehow by Rei before the story even begins, in a manner that postpones the Fourth by a few years, and that's only possible because the diversion point is in the backstory of both the series and the fanfic.
- Even the official rebooted continuity, Rebuild of Evangelion, hardly changes anything from the first six episodes - Evangelion 1.0/1.01/1.11 goes through the stations at a rapid pace, but still every one of them, with the only changes being some new and different Foreshadowing. Then the second movie comes along and everything goes completely and totally Off the Rails.
- Done often with Zatch Bell!, especially with the Millenium-Mamodo arc. It doesn't seem to matter what things change beforehand, what OC characters are involved, or even if it's a cross-over fic. The entire arc seems to go on exactly the same way, right up to and past the ending battle between Brago and Zophis, which might as well be 'copy-and-pasted' from the canon.
- Bubblegum Crisis: Irene Chang dies (or not), Storming the Castle to kill Brian J. Mason, etc.
- Wolf's Rain, fanfic really repeat your episodes an awful lot. Heck, even the canon does it.
- Zero no Tsukaima crossover fics cannot avoid - unless you want to get really creative - including the summoning, since it kickstarts the plot. The bugbear will be mentioned. Most people doing crossovers usually also include the duel with Guiche in some way, as it is where the Saito-substitute gets a chance to show off his/her power, if he did not already do so at the summoning, and prove that (s)he's not a hapless schmuck. And no matter who the familiar is they will have to go to town to buy a sword. Even if they honestly have no reason to just so that they can buy Derflinger. Writers like having the sword around even if the familiar might end up never using it in combat.
- Unfamiliar has Alex Mercer as the substitute and he simply doesn't use swords. To make things even more different, Wardes picks up the sword seeing as Mercer doesn't. And Derf seems to have become a tad Axe Crazy with his new owner.
- A Green Sun Illuminates The Void torpedoes canon even more thoroughly. Louise fails the summoning, resulting in an Infernal Exaltation showing up in response to this failure with cosmic ramifications. The duel happens, but against Monmon and results in a Mutual KO. Foquet gets away. Louise winds up with the Staff of Destruction, here a magical BFS called a Shattered Crystal Blade. Wardes has Derf and isn't a traitor. And then the lead-up to Albion starts and everything goes off the rails. By the time Louise is in Albion, she's married to Wardes, no mind control needed and canon is irreparably destroyed.
- Overlady wrecks canon about as well as "Green Sun" (by the same author). Again, Louise completely fails to summon anything. She runs away to make a name for herself as a wandering hero (just like her mother) and stumbles across an abandoned Overlord tower. By the time she's dug her way out, the rebellion in Albion is over and Henrietta has been arrested for adultery and bigamy.
- Mahou Sensei Negima!, what are we going to do with you? Many OCs go through the arcs by numbers. One inevitably meets Konoemon, Shizuna, and Takamichi, then meets Negi and the 3-A class, before going through the Evangeline Arc, Library Island, the trip to Kyoto, and the tournament within the Mahora Festival, before the writers inevitably exhaust themselves and give up their fic for death.
- Death Note. If it involves Mello after Wammy's House, no matter how AU the fanfic is, Mello will get scarred or already be scarred. Also, Fix Fics really love following the Stations up through the start of the Memory Gambit, then seeing how spectacularly they can derail it.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica has about twelve episodes, each with at least one important event happening in each of them. note It's almost impossible for a Fix Fic to not go along the plotted line until it starts making its changes, though those that really want to get the ball rolling usually start around the third episode's event.
- Lyrical Nanoha fanfics that follow the actual series almost always use the same fights between Nanoha and Fate over the Jewel Seeds with the former eventually befriending the latter, the Wolkenritter collecting linker cores for Hayate, and so on.
- Although Game Theory puts an interesting spin on this due to the Butterfly of Doom. The first few fights between Nanoha and Fate play out more or less the same. Things get a bit different when one of the Jewel Seeds triggers a minor Zombie Apocalypse. And then the canon gets nuked from orbit when Nanoha decides to help Precia.
- Sword Art Online fanfic is particularly prone to this when it comes to Kayaba's so-called "tutorial" where he explains to all 10,000 players about the conditions for clearing the death game. Very few authors put forth enough effort to make it worth reading through the same speech for the 400th time. The first-floor boss battle led by Diabel is another common station, as is going through the motions of Kirito's first encounter with the Black Cats in order to set up an AU aversion of their deaths.
- Girls und Panzer fanfics featuring an alternate retelling of the main plot, or a similar story to it, often begin with the following sequence of events, or at least close equivalents:
- Miho and/or the Original Characters, despite not wanting to take tankery, get pressured to do so by the student council, but take it for their own reasons.
- The group goes hunting for tanks.
- The group has a practice battle.
- The crew fights St. Gloriana, often with a different outcome.
- The group encounters Maho and Erika, with the OCs usually giving a stronger rebuttal to the latter.
- The group goes up against Saunders.
- Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: The gathering of the kids for the team, the appointment of Nambu to his position, the death of Ken's mother, the death of Joe's parents, episodes 52 and 53 involving the launch of the Van Allen rocket and the fate of Red Impulse, and Joe's becoming a cyborg are all big landmarks for fanfic.
- The Stations in Percy Jackson and the Olympians OC stories always open with the particular demigod's homelife or with a scene between them and their parents. Then, they're either picked up by a satyr or Percy and friends themselves and whisked away to Camp Halfblood, with an explanation of all the demigod basics included something during the trip.
- Harry Potter: As described above.
- Lord of the Rings gives us Frodo inheriting the Ring, running from Nazgūl, meeting Strider, the Council of Elrond (Even if a Tenth Walker Mary Sue has skipped over the previous bits, we invariably get the "and you have my X" lines.) Caradhras, the Mines, Boromir's betrayal, etc.
- The Circle of Magic books invite this by starring a Four Temperament Ensemble who all followed the same general template to begin with — so it's inevitable that half the fanfics are about The Woobie experiencing a traumatic event (or an entire tragic childhood) resulting in Parental Abandonment, having their unusual ambient magic discovered at a late age, being whisked off to Winding Circle Temple, and getting transferred to Discipline House because they don't fit in.
- Discussed in the RPG rulebook for The Dresden Files. In one section about what to do with the eponymous wizarding PI, it mentions that whatever you decide to do with him, there are some defining events of the setting that need to be taken into account—usually because Dresden himself was in a wholly unique position that let him stop The End of the World as We Know It. Therefore, if you go the "kill off Harry in the background" route, the GM needs to either figure out a way that the world continues to not be a Zombie Apocalypse, or perhaps have the PC's deal with it.
- The Hunger Games fanfictions have the Reaping, the family good-byes, training, forming alliances, the chariot entrances, the interviews, and the start of the Games themselves. Fanfics that are told in the first person, present tense, also tend to include exposition on what the Games are, what tesserae are, etc., just in case the reader has forgotten.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy's arrival, meeting Angel, "Prophecy Girl", Angel losing his soul, etc. No matter how much is changed, the mayor will seldom show his hand in season one.
- Sherlock AU fanfiction, for some reason, usually seems to avert this trope. Depending on the writer, the re-imagining of the canon cases can be very clever, in the same way that the show itself stays true to the original works while still being new.
- Ace Attorney: For whatever reason, a Fix Fic generally only changes one of the Canon Stations: the DL-6 case, the SL-9 case, Diego going into a coma, Mia getting killed by Redd White, and the real perpetrators of each of the cases.
- Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is a criminal offender of this trope, to the point where nearly every single event, no matter HOW minor usually get's copy and pasted into any PMD fic that takes place in a canon game. Nine times out of ten, if the plot to the fic isn't completely original, most PMD fics end up being 'the exact same story, but with the Pokemon the author got ingame as the protagonist'.
- In general, any alternate universe based on a videogame will include an encounter with every boss (or every boss with a name), in order. If it was a series, it will tend to cover these games in series. This happens no matter how far diverged the fic's universe is from the game's universe.
- The Mega Man fandom tends to set fics and Sprite Comics based around the games, in order, even if they're alternate universe takes. Particularly popular are Mega Man X 4-6, since most comics based on that series use sprites from those games, making them the easiest to recreate.
- The Mass Effect Self-Insert Fic Mass Vexations and its sequel both play with this trope extensively; general things occur as they should in the games, but often little details will change, such as differing body language and people not being where they should at a given time. And then there are the times where it's flat-out subverted, such as Garrus's squad surviving; his loyalty mission still goes through Harkin giving them the information and Garrus finding Sidonis, but that's only the first half of the mission then.
- In Til the Sun Grows Cold and the Stars Grow Old, which is basically a fanfic novelization of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, this is done with a twist. The major plot points of Twilight Princess are the stations to be crossed, since the stations are the plot, but it also introduces some of the stations of the canon of other Zelda games because Link keeps having past life flashbacks.
- In The Sims fanfiction, no matter what the divergence is, Bella will always go missing and many times she will be revealed to be in Strangetown all along.
- Renegade, a Mass Effect/Command & Conquer Fusion Fic/Alternate Universe story, has some of this initially, with the events surrounding the attack of Eden Prime and the initial timeline being the same despite the presence of GDI and Nod and their technology in the setting. The author has admitted this was a result of working on the fic in a spontaneous manner, but the storyline has quickly diverged from canon by the sixth chapter and continues doing that. By the tenth chapter, the storyline has gone pretty far off the rails, with a Scrin attack on the GDI Embassy on the Citadel.
- Mass Effect fanfics in general suffer from this, partially due to the structure of the setting. Since the Reapers and their actions are such a deeply ingrained and integral part of the setting, deviating from established canon without utterly wrecking the setting is very difficult.
- Homestuck is very prone to this: fanfic, roleplaying and forum adventures based on homestuck near enough always begin in the exact same way, a kid has his/her birthday, gets Sburb discs somehow, contact their friends to be server players for them, have their server deploy all the required items, release their sprite and prototype it, use the required items to obtain their entry item, use the entry item to enter the game and then wander about. They'll also often meet consorts, go through their first gate, fight a denizen, become godtier etc. Understandable though as Sburb is a game and these are necessary in order to both survive and continue playing the game, but it is nevertheless very formulaic.
- The "X reimagined as a series of tabletop gaming sessions" as popularized by DM of the Rings and Darths & Droids has a love/hate relationship with this trope. On one hand, when all you have are the screencaps from the series you are adapting, it's hard to stray from the Canon Stations. On the other hand, part of the draw of these comics is to see how differently a certain event will play out.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Early on there's Katara and Sokka crashing their canoe, unfreezing Aang, Zuko (or AU equivalent person) arriving in his warship, and then the Water Tribe kids rescuing Aang from said warship. In the Season 2 Ba Sing Se arc, there's typically some variation of Toph learning metalbending, Katara stumbling across Zuko and his uncle in the Jasmine Dragon, Katara and Zuko being imprisoned in the crystal caverns, Azula's temptation of Zuko, Aang being killed by Azula's lightning strike and Katara subsequently reviving him with the Spirit Oasis water, and the fall of Ba Sing Se. Season 3 features less of these stations overall, but there will usually be some variation on the Lion-Turtle appearing, Aang energybending Ozai, and Zuko becoming Fire Lord.
- Total Drama rewrites tend to completely rehash the contestant arrivals/introductions word for word, and some of them even keep the first few eliminations unchanged. Also, if the redux is of the first season and Heather is still the villain — which is quite common — expect her to ally with Lindsay and Beth (maybe with one or more people added/replacing Beth) during the Awake-a-Thon challenge. The season pilots tend to be the worst offenders of all: Several remakes of either the whole series (starting with season one) or season three by itself leave the first episode almost completely unchanged, even if there are new characters they tend to arrive last and don't make any lasting interactions with the canon characters.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfics which cast different characters into the roles of the bearers of the Elements of Harmony usually start the same way - one character is sent from Canterlot to Ponyville to oversee the Summer Sun Celebration, and meets the other five characters while checking on preparations for food, weather, decorations and music.
Outside of fanfic:
- Superheroes tend to have their origins retold over and over again (sometimes in completely alternate realities), but certain plot points must be hit. E.g., "I shall become a bat!", Professor X getting crippled, Hellboy joining the BPRD, etc.
- All-Star Superman hits all the notes of Superman's pre-Metropolis origins in four panels and eight words: "Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly couple."
- When John Byrne rebooted Superman in the 1980s, the first issue began with his parents on doomed Krypton. Later, Byrne commented that this was dumb of him; he should have let the readers learn the details at the same time as Clark, since all the readers knew the basics already. In his own opinion, Byrne stuck to the Stations too closely.
- Quite a few of the Elseworlds comics from DC suffer from this problem. Most commonly, they will rehash the origin of Batman with minor variations, but there will almost always be a Joker, a Catwoman, etc, etc, regardless of how illogical they might be in this setting.
- Speeding Bullets is one of the worst offenders in thisnote - If Kal-El was raised by the Waynes instead of the Kents, Lex Luthor would be the Joker!
- Darkest Knight was worse by several measures. After Wayne becomes a Green Lantern, Sinestro starts wearing a purple trenchcoat and hat for no reason whatsoever.
- Superman: Secret Identity flip-flops on this, partially because of its This Is Reality message. Clark still grows up in a suburban town and then moves to a big city, swapping a Superboy identity for a Superman identity, gets a writing-related desk job and marries a Lois (Chaudhari, not Lane)... but no equivalents appear for any other classic Superman characters, such as Lex Luthor or Lana Lang.
Live Action TV
- The Doctor Who story "Turn Left" focuses on a For Want of a Nail timeline in which Donna Noble never met the Doctor and, as a result, the Doctor dies. Many of the present-day events from earlier in the season and the previous season are revisited with very different outcomes, if one of the Doctor's former companions didn't step in and make a Heroic Sacrifice while saving the day.
- Virtually every Game Mod ever made. In this case, it's primarily because they edit the existing game. This is common for example with Super Mario World ones, where blatantly edited hacks will keep the general structure of the game and many of the levels.
- Super Robot Wars K sure feels this way. Instead of combining and reimagining the various stories like other games in the franchise do, most chapters feel basically like "this episode or arc from a series, with scenes copy-pasted and everything", heroes barely interacting and such.
- Granted, most Super Robot Wars games do this. But most of them are also much better about it, keeping the important consequences of each event (if it isn't already out to subvert them), but often modifying the location, situation, people involved, and sometimes even the reasons they occur. The games also often mix things up by causing important events in different series' to happen at the same time.
- Super Robot Wars Judgement also does this for Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, and to a minor extent Tekkaman Blade and Full Metal Panic!. Granted, it was the first appearance for all three (first handheld appearance for SEED), but they still follow canon VICIOUSLY - You can't keep Mu La Flaga alive, a lot of the game caters to Kira being the only Gundam around despite Mobile Fighter G Gundam being an established part of the story, and a lot of the random events can seem very catering to SEED at times.
- What makes J and K so jarring is that the game immediately before J on handhelds was Super Robot Wars Destiny, which played the most fast and loose with canon possible (the world disappears at the START of the game.), and in between them was Super Robot Wars W, which contained a lot of J's series but changed events around enough to keep everything very fresh, even for the new arrivals.
- Partial example: The Kingdom Hearts series passes through the Stations of Disney Animated Canon either as the events of their respective movies are happening, or right before the start of any exciting plot action.
- In fact, Sora (re)experiencing the events of the first game Station for Station (except for a certain Important Promise) is a plot point in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories.'
- An unusual, in-universe example in Bioshock Infinite - some things may change, but Booker will never row the boat, will always get a Heads, and will always draw ball #77. And on a bigger scale, there is always a man, a city, and a lighthouse.
- The Transformers will always find themselves chasing a MacGuffin to Earth (yes, Energon counts) after at some point, meet human kids early on, and make them sidekicks, no matter the continuity or how improbable it seems. Megatron and Optimus Prime will have a showdown, lines from the 1986 film battle will probably be spoken at some point (even if the story isn't in that continuity), and Optimus Prime will die.
- And probably come back to life, usually with an upgrade. Also, Bumblebee is always younger/smaller and Starscream is always, well, The Starscream. Also, Megatron will almost always become Galvatron, though outside the original, that just means a Palette Swap.
- Lately, it seems Bumblebee will always be mute for some reason.
- Also, the stealthy Autobot agent Mirage isn't in most series, but when he is, he will get suspected of treachery. G1 did it, RID did it, and the IDW Comics series has him not knowing if he's an Autobot with visions of an alternate Decepticon life, or the other way around.