aka: Series Bible
And the gods said, "Fallest not into the temptation of parallel universe subplots. For therein lies the realm of evil twins. And you shall see their goatees and know them to be unclean in my sight. And woe be unto thee that assumest all extraterrestrials would appearest as humans save for a bumpy forehead. Thinkest thou outside the box, for this is my commandment." Takest thou these words and go forth that you may multiply scripts and have them on my desk to review by Monday.
The defined rules or procedures of a series as gleaned from writers, producers and directors which are followed to maintain a sense of pacing or continuity. Can get very
long if a franchise runs long enough. These usually include:
- Main characters, supporting characters, and major recurrers, and their basic relationships with each other.
- Existing sets, and whether they are redresses of other sets or permanent structures on their own. There may also be a list of warehoused sets built for one purpose but available for reuse or recycle.
- Standard prop and set usages ("Plasma guns have three settings, and they work thusly...").
- What counts in the official storyline (Canon), including established history where necessary.
- The structure of The Verse including both internal information such as history and notable persons, and meta-level advice like the rules of Cross Over.
- Inherent Natural Laws (e.g., Magic A Is Magic A, Cartoon Physics).
- What not to do in a story, what's old hat, and what's just bad.
- Sometimes a glossary of show-specific jargon is included.
A Universe Bible
is an actual physical document, and is standard fare for any television production; it contains virtually everything
about the series, and is constantly updated and referenced during production — thus, if it's written in the Universe Bible
, it's considered de facto
canon, even if it's never mentioned in the series itself.
Sometimes animation guidelines, in-depth notes for people animating a given series, can fall under this heading, but it's technically a different field.
This can result in the production of an actual book for the fans (see Universe Compendium
), commonly called "Official Guides To __". These can be useful in combating Fanon
Anime and Manga
- The 1990s comic book speculation saw the advent of several upstart publishers and new shared universes created by established publishers. Many of those projects had Universe Bibles.
- Milestone Comics' Dakotaverse line (home of Static, Hardware, Icon, and Blood Syndicate, among others) has a universe bible that described Dakota (the line's City of Adventure) in great detail, explaining its history and geography. It also had the sketches and basic descriptions of all major characters.
- Dark Horse Comics' Comics Greatest World line had one of those as well.
- As did Marvel Comics' Razorline imprint.
- Malibu Comics' The Ultraverse is the most elaborate comic book example of it — the line described the verse's mythology, setting, major characters, and plotlines in considerable detail, allowing the creators to use it as a guide for several years. Notable because some of the more elaborate parts of the backstory never made it into actual comics (thanks to Executive Meddling on the part of their new owners, Marvel Comics).
- Most Star Trek series have some form of "series bible" made by the head writer as a guide for the other writers. This can be as simple as the "thumbnail sketches" outlining each character's basic traits, used in the casting process. Series Bibles for all of the Star Trek series — including the never-made Star Trek: Phase II — are available for purchase through both legitimate and not-so-legitimate outlets.
- Series creator Ron D. Moore wrote the series bible for Battlestar Galactica in the long wait between the pilot miniseries (which aired in 2003) and season one, when the regular series was delayed due to its large cost to film. Ultimately Britain's Sky One agreed to cover half the initial cost, on the condition that season one aired in the UK first, so season one "premiered" in 2004 in Britain, but first aired in the USA in January 2005. Ron Moore had been working on the character outlines since December 2001 when he began writing the miniseries, but it was all formalized in the series bible in early 2004. Excerpts from the series bible were leaked out on Sky One's website, but the whole thing was only publicly released to the public after the fourth and final season. Moore always insisted that the series bible was not meant to be a complete, canonical outline of the show, in contrast with how Babylon 5 was fully planned out in advance like a book. Still, certain aspects of the characters which were revealed in later seasons are indeed present within it: that Roslin's family died in a car accident (this was only revealed in the series finale), that Starbuck's mother criminally abused her, etc. It even states that Baltar is actually from the poor colony Sagittaron, but after he left for university on Caprica and became a famous scientist he actively passed himself off as a Caprican because he was so ashamed of being a poor farmer's son.
- The problem Baltar's backstory in the series bible ran into in season 3 was that it was originally going to play into the "lost Sagittaron Storyarc" that Baltar was himself a Sagittaron, but when the plotline was aborted they still wanted to stay true to this outline of the character. Therefore, the writers changed it that Baltar was from another poor colony, Aerelon, though it was not quite as poor and oppressed as Sagitarron. Essentially, if Sagittaron is like being a poor farmer's son in northern Ireland, a dirt-poor warzone, they changed it so that Baltar is from the "breadbasket" farming planet, vaguely like Yorkshire or Nebraska, which while still rural wasn't a warzone whose population was openly discriminated against by the other colonies. Even though this was in the series bible, the actor that played Baltar pointed out that if they wanted him to be from a different colony from the beginning, it made no sense for him to speak with a British accent while pretending to be a Caprican, then show that his "natural" Aerelon accent sounds like a Yorkshire accent.
- Ultimately, the Battlestar Galactica series bible has no plans for the series beyond the end of season 2. It contains a list of different plot elements that might come up — not a firm framework, never intended to be one, but a general list of "story ideas" such as "prison riot episode", or "what if another Battlestar survived, but they turned militaristic and evil?", and "what if they have to outlaw abortion because they're staring mass extinction in the face?". The last of these ideas was "what if they find a rare inhabitable planet, and decide to abandon the quest for Earth?", which was used as the season 2 finale. By the end of season 2, all of the ideas in the series bible had been used up. Later things that many accused of being made up as they went along — the "Final Five Cylons", "Starbuck is an Angel", etc. these were never planned "from the beginning of the show". In all fairness that doesn't necessarily mean those later ideas were bad, and certainly, the writers kept insisting that the series bible was never meant to plan things out more than the first season or two. It was a simple guideline for getting the show started.
- The writers became increasingly flippant and casual about "continuity" and "established rules" as the series progressed, particularly the noted break in tone and quality before and after the season two finale. At the beginning of season three, Ron Moore and David Eick wrote a second "series bible" of a sort, but meant a a "Cylon story bible", called "Life on a Cylon Basestar". The whole thing was never publicly released but screen-captures have been taken of pages that were flashed on screen during behind-the-scenes videos. The idea was that moving in season 3, they were going to start revealing the inner workings of the Cylon world a lot more, which until then had been quite a mystery. Moore and Eick developed a "Cylon bible" about how their race functions, day-to-day behavior, value sets, etc. then gave it to Cylon actors like Grace Park (Boomer) and Tricia Helfer (Number Six). However, when Grace Park was asked about this in an online Q&A featurette on the Scifi.com website, she explained that she and Helfer spent days trying to memorize it...then when they bumped into Moore several weeks later, he almost absentmindedly explained that he and Eick just dashed the whole thing off in a brainstorming session during a lunch break, then told the actresses to disregard it. Needless to say, when they started revealing more about "the inner workings of Cylon culture" in season 3, it became incredibly inconsistent as a result.
- The Series Bible for Babylon 5 was sold by the official fan club as a collectible. It's no longer available, but copies can sometimes be found on eBay.
- Barbara Hall, creator of Joan of Arcadia, had a list of ten rules for the show's writers about how God should behave. Appropriately, these were called "The Ten Commandments of Joan of Arcadia".
- The Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis production team has mentioned the fact that instead of using a show bible they check facts about the show from fansites. To be fair though, Gateworld is probably more obsessive about fact-checking than The Powers That Be were.
- Seinfeld creator Larry David famously stated that the show had two rules: "No hugging, no learning." The former was lampshaded in the series finale when Jerry and George nearly embrace, then say "Oh yeah" and back away from each other.
- If you want to actually read one, here's a reproduction of the one used by Airwolf.
- Alluded to in one of the DVD Commentary tracks for Freaks and Geeks, where John Francis Daley says of the set, "I opened the drawer of the nightstand, and there was a notebook, with journal entries by Sam Weir [his character]."
- LOST apparently does not have a normal Series Bible. Instead, its bible is said to be a rigorous, correct-to-every-detail timeline of every single event on the show, even ones just alluded to.
- Word of God has said that the Whateley Universe has a Universe Bible for the Canon authors that's three or four hundred pages long. So far. And is also infamous amongst the canon cabal for being incomplete by now.
- The Nasuverse has a massively complex Universe Bible that dictates all the rules of the verse, explains every character's powers, and gives backstory and introduces characters who may not have even appeared in the written text. However, finding these facts is a whole other matter in itself, as they only exist in untranslated art books and interviews with Kinoko Nasu.
- You wanna write a Star Wars novel? You'd better get used to long conversations with Leland Chee. Then get Abel G. Peņa to fix any mistakes you made. And that's if George Lucas doesn't Joss your idea himself. It's even got a cool name: The Holocron. However, several official writers have admitted to consulting the fan-maintained Wookieepedia for obscure facts.
- Faction Paradox has a couple of examples. The Book of the War is a universe bible framed as an in-universe encyclopedia of the first fifty years of the titular Second War in Heaven, and thus a good reference point for the 'default' status quo of the setting, but the series' creator has also released a more straightforward essay on the setting intended as a set of reference points for other writers.
- Each Magic: The Gathering setting has a MASSIVE Bible called the "style guide" that details the specifics of that setting. The purpose of the style guide is to give the artists a mold to follow when making the card art, and to have a strict formula for which cards can't be allowed because they violate the flavor of the setting. Cultures, environments, clothing, sentient creatures, wild animals, religions and holidays, what time the residents have their tea; with detailed writings and drawings on the subjects. Anything that could be in the style guide already is. The overwhelming majority of this information never sees the light of day to the general public, sadly.
- The last supplements released for all the Old World of Darkness lines (Gehenna, Apocalypse, Ascension, and Time of Judgment) occasionally refer to the fact that Universe Bibles once existed for each of them, and that at some point they were all thrown out.
- BIONICLE famously had a massive one, and it was a recurring entity in on-line discussions. It was essentially a detailed overview on the basic stories and characters, powers, items, etc. of any given year. It was in fact so detailed that the written fiction had to ignore many of its facts out of sheer necessity, but it also severally expanded upon it with new info. Due to these hasty updates, several external story sources (like LEGO set catalogs) came with strongly outdated, incorrect facts.
- There is also a Doom bible, made by Tom Hall. This version was scrapped, however. To famously quote John Carmack: "Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It's expected to be there, but it's not that important."
- The Fallout series has it's own bible, available here among other places.
- Bungie Studios, developers of Halo, have a "Halo Story Bible" which contains all the facts, design elements, and history of the Halo universe.
- Several versions of the Sonic the Hedgehog Bible have been leaked online. The Sonic Bible was written by the American localization team, who had nothing to base it on other than a prototype of the game itself. Considering games back then just dropped you in on the action with only the faintest outline of a plot, the bible ends up being quite humorous to anyone who is familiar with the character today.
- The development team for the MMORPG City of Heroes have mentioned the existence of a Universe Bible for the games' storyline several times.
- Instruction manuals of many games give details that the game doesn't. For instance, in Bomberman 64 it says that Hades was a machine for mining remodeled into a fighting machine by Orion, and in Star Fox Adventures it says Krystal is the only survivor from Planet Cerinia.
- For Dragon Age Bioware has apparently lost sections of the bible including the elven language and several developers admit to using the fan made wiki when convenient.
- The Wing Commander series bible contains a lot of the information that doesn't actually make it into print or game, but is useful for creators in presenting a consistent backstory. The WC games for sale on GOG.com offer a copy of the bible as one of the extras for the games.
- Legendary animator Chuck Jones liked to enforce strict rules about the Looney Tunes series he oversaw. See TOW.
- Matt Groening claims that there are three rules for The Simpsons: "[A]nimals should always behave like animals, the Simpsons should avoid reflecting on their own celebrity, and the Springfield universe should never become overtly cartoonlike." These rules have been violated — animals often understand human speech fluently, or make sounds that translate into complex (subtitled) sentences, and the "Behind the Laughter" episode portrays the cast as actors playing versions of themselves on TV, though that episode is non-canon. As for the third rule, there are too many instances of cartoon-like elements to list, both overt and non-overt, among them that Homer frequently suffers injuries that would be permanently crippling or fatal in real life.
- Jem and the Holograms has one.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) had one written by Michael Halperin in 1982. It was included on one of the DVDs.
- In "Slimer Won't Do That! The Making of The Real Ghostbusters", the creators of the show listed all the things Slimer could never do.
- The bible for Sam & Max: Freelance Police is included as a PDF extra on Shout! Factory's DVD release.
- The season 1 bible for Gargoyles can be found at Lost Tales: Gargoyles.
- Interestingly, Nate Morgan, a prominent supporting cast member of Archie Comics' later Sonic the Hedgehog comics, was culled from an early series bible for the animated series.
- Ted Pedersen, story editor of Skysurfer Strike Force, has posted the series bible here.
- Wing Commander Academy had one, which can be found online, although there are some considerable differences between it and the actual show. Since the show only lasted a single season, the Series Bible presumably just never got updated (or the updated version was never published online).
- Avatar: The Last Airbender revealed it relied on a Series Bible at least as far as character and setting designs went. Revealed in the Art Of Avatar: The Last Airbender Artbook.
- The entire Transformers Aligned continuity, which includes Transformers Prime, has one.
- Part of a series bible for Batman: The Animated Series found it's way online at one point. Oddly, it lists Gentleman Ghost among the characters, despite none of the writers actually using him.