Retcon / Live-Action TV

  • Alias - "Hey you know the man you loved that died and you grieved over? Yeah, know he's alive remember, and we totally knew about it all the time, even though you cried lots in private over his loss." Explainable in-universe, however, since the enemy is dangerous enough to be able to successfully bug even the private homes of the characters for long periods of time before being uncovered. Having experienced that in the past, it would be sensible for that kind of charade to continue in private just to be on the safe side.
  • The Star Trek franchise is a Shared Universe spanning more than fifty years, with writing of, to put it kindly, variable quality. Naturally, it has had many retcons:
    • The Klingon makeup change was just better budgeting from the show to the movies. Worf's scene in Deep Space Nine in the flashback turned it into an actual plot point.
      • The reference was meant to be a quick joke about the effects budget in an episode that was already tongue in cheek. The writers expressed total bafflement over how much of an uproar it had created with the fandom. Reactions in Usenet newsgroups ranged from "can't you guys relax and take a joke", to "we demand answers NOW!" to "We were fine ignoring it until you morons brought it up". The same lunacy also made another Worf joke from that same episode, the "The Great Klingon Tribble Hunt", official canon. Canon is serious business.
      • In the end, Star Trek: Enterprise resolved the matter once and for all, proposing that the change was a side effect to the cure for a fast-spreading plague.
      • The changes we see in Kang, Koloth and Kor are alluded to as well, as the episode ends with a Klingon doctor speculating on the fortune to be made in the reconstructive surgery business — an option for seasoned veterans who had acquired fame and fortune in their younger days, but probably not for young starship commanders looking to make names for themselves. (And neatly ties up the early version of the Klingon makeup used in Star Trek: The Motion Picture as the result of botched reconstructive surgery.)
      • The Klingon language brought about a minor retcon. It was decided, while it was being developed, that it shouldn't contain a /k/ sound, because "K means Aliens" was already a well-established cliche that they wished to avoid. The problem being, of course, that the language was being written for a race with a K in their name. It was then made canon that they weren't really called "Klingons", that was just a minor mistranslation, and the actual name was "thlIngan".
    • Exactly the same thing happened to the Ferengi between Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, turning from a mighty empire with warships that seriously threatened the Enterprise into a one-note joke race of scheming cowards.
    • TNG's pilot, "Encounter at Farpoint", implied that the Ferengi were known for eating sentient beings. This was never brought up again.
    • TNG introduced an entire new race mid-series: the Cardassians. They had never been mentioned before, and yet in their very first episode, it is made clear that the Federation and Cardassians had been at war. And recently enough to be living memory for several crew members. Indeed, the plot of the Cardassian introduction episode is all about the psychological fallout from them. They got a lot of mileage out of this retcon.
    • And then again during TNG, the Borg changed from assimilating only technology to being essentially techno-vampires.
    • In the final episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, "Turnabout Intruder", Dr. Janice Lester pulls a Grand Theft Me on Kirk to break through the glass ceiling, because even in the utopian future of Star Trek, women were apparently barred from service as starship captains. This embarrassing piece of 1960s male chauvinism was retconned out by attributing it to the delusions of a mentally unstable woman, despite Kirk's explicit on-screen acceptance of both the accuracy of her accusations, and the injustice of the policy. Subsequently, Star Trek: Enterprise gave the NX-02 an all-female bridge crew.
    • The revelation made late in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that Dr. Bashir is a genetically engineered superhuman causes numerous conflicts with earlier episodes, and basically makes him an awful person through Fridge Logic. For instance, the episode reveals that he could win every game of darts against O'Brien. Not only does this make their entire friendship seem like a farce, since playing darts is the chief activity they're seen enjoying together, but it contradicts the episode "Visionary" where O'Brien's foreknowledge of where Bashir's darts are going to hit was used to show that he had really been to the future. Then the episode "Distant Voices" is centered around an alien probing his mind and drawing out his deepest secrets, but him knowing himself to be the product of illegal genetic engineering never comes up.
    • Also in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sisko's status as one of the holiest people in all of Bajor, the Emissary of the Prophets and the one who found the Celestial Temple, was not realized until around the end of season three, even though he takes on that role from the first episode. He's so holy that every Bajoran walks on eggshells around him and is deeply honored to even be in the same room as him. Even Kira later admits she doesn't dare to get to know him better because he's the Emissary. And yet, initially, people don't treat him any differently than any other Starfleet officer. Kira even angrily complains to his superiors behind his back. In a custody case he was deemed an appropriate judge by a Bajoran because he "is also a father", not because his holiness is second only to the Kai.
    • Taking this further, if one revisits the Season 2 TNG episode "Unnatural Selection", where the Darwin station scientists are engineering perfect humans, those scientists are doing something wholly criminal (by any measure several orders of magnitude worse than what Julian's parents did) and really should have been taken into custody by Picard. This is somewhat mitigated by the The Lost Era Novel (The Buried Age) which revealed Darwin station was to be used as a test case to explore the field despite fear that it would spiral out of control.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation has a revelation that excessive warp speeds are causing holes in spacetime (in an Anvilicious Aesop about pollution and the environment), which prompts the Federation to limit ships to Warp 5. Characters in a couple of subsequent episodes pay lip service to the "speed limit" right before they break it, but after that it is forgotten completely, with the general Fan Wank being that an improved version of the Warp Drive that didn't mess up subspace was invented. May also apply to what ought to be the inevitable ramifications of a new technology or application thereof, such as retrieving a heretofore-disintegrated crew member out of the pattern buffers of the transporter. In Peter David's Star Trek: New Frontier novels, there's an offhand reference from a character who can "see" spacetime about the damage still being done by warp travel. This got so noted that fanfiction writers No-Prized it, coming up with the dual ideas of the ruts worn in spactime healing over a period of time and simply changing your routes to avoid cumulative Spatial Fatigue.
    • In Star Trek: Voyager, The Mole Seska claimed to Chakotay that she impregnated herself by stealing his DNA. She also told Kazon leader Cullah, who she was sleeping with, that the baby was his. After the baby was born and was clearly a Cardassian/human hybrid with no Kazon-like features, Cullah was naturally pretty pissed off, which led us into the season ending cliffhanger. However, between seasons everyone decided that the Kazon weren't up to the job of being the show's big recurring bad guys they were envisioned as, much like the Ferengi on TNG, so they decided to drop them from the show entirely. This involved Seska dying, and Cullah running away with the baby. Naturally, fans wouldn't accept Chakotay's kid being raised by the Kazon, however unwillingly he fathered it, so just before this the Doctor reveals it is actually Cullah's baby after all. The baby's appearance is Hand Waved by saying there's never been a Cardassian/Kazon hybrid before so before now no one knew what one would look like, and it'll probably develop Kazon features as it ages.
    • The two-part Star Trek: Voyager episode, "Year of Hell", plays retconning literally. The Big Bad has developed a weapon that lets him use retcons to change the timeline (while he himself is protected by Applied Phlebotinum). He first uses it to reverse a stunning defeat to his species... Only to discover he's accidentally retconned his beloved wife and daughter out of existence. He keeps trying. (Also provides a handy Reset Button: evidently, destroying his ship undoes all his Retcons, and Ramming Always Works).
    • And then there's the question of currency, specifically whether the Federation uses any during the 23rd century. There is at least one mention of a crewmember "earning their pay" in a TOS episode, though that might have only been a colloquialism Kirk was using. In "The Trouble with Tribbles", we see what clearly looks like trade with a human salesman - it's hard to imagine that guy was just in the business of giving away these critters for free. Then by The Voyage Home Kirk has a quote about people in the 20th century "still using money", implying that they don't anymore. You might think that they stopped using money at some point between TOS and the fourth movie, but the tone and reactions in the scene seem to indicate the Enterprise crew is completely unfamiliar with the concept of currency - so the change wouldn't have occurred in their lifetime. And then, a later movie has McCoy snark that he'd give "real money" to have the movie's villain stop talking, possibly indicating that McCoy - generally shown to be an older, more curmudgeonly figure than Kirk - witnessed the changeover while Kirk had missed it. And of course, by the TNG era, they pretty much beat us over the head with the fact that the Federation doesn't use money anymore (except for outside trades with other species, especially the Ferengi). Enterprise seems to hint that currency was abandoned when the Federation was first formed, a few years after the end of that series, but it's very vague about it. And then, to add further confusion, the 2009 movie has a scene that takes place in a bar, on Earth, that clearly seems to operate on capitalistic principles (not to mention the Nokia phone in Kirk's uncle's car). Now, that movie takes place in an alternate timeline, but since the two timelines diverged on the day of Kirk's birth, it would mean that even in the original one, currency was still legal tender at least until that day. To sum it up, it seems like we're now just meant to vaguely accept that they've phased money out by the 24th century without asking too many questions about how they did it or the precise moment when they did.
    • Trills make their first appearance in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation ("The Host"). Here, the symbiont clearly has total control over the host body and considers transporters to be harmful. In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the makeup is completely different (mainly because they didn't want to ruin Terry Farrell's looks with a rubber forehead), the host and symbiont create a combined personality, and use of transporters does not appear to be an issue. Additionally, Trills are virtually unheard of in their introductory episode, making The Reveal of Odan's true nature a surprise, while in DS9 they're indicated to have been a known quality for ages, with Sisko having been mentored by Curzon Dax, and Jadzia Dax remembering a sexual encounter with Dr McCoy.
    • In "Space Seed", the Eugenics Wars (set during the 1990s) was mentioned by Spock to be in the "era of your last so called World War". In the Next Generation era, World War III is said to happen at least five decades later. Additionally, author Greg Cox, who wrote several Trek novels set during the Eugenics Wars era, observed that the passage of the real 1990s necessitated reimagining the Eugenics Wars as a less overt conflict that happened around real life events and may not have been known to the general public. The episode where the Voyager crew visited The '90s did not depict an Earth embroiled in a world wide conflict with genetic supermen. Cox also humorously noted (in one of the DVD extras in Wrath of Khan) that Khan didn't exactly appear on the cover of Time Magazine.
  • The most egregious retcon in 20th century American entertainment is the soap Dallas which, in order to bring a character Back from the Dead, made an entire season All Just a Dream. You'd think a Soap Opera, of all things, could figure out an easier way to bring someone back.
  • Parodied in The Conditions of Great Detectives when, in the final episode, Banzo finds out his family has been completely rewritten without his knowledge. Originally his estranged wife was Japanese and they had a teenage daughter, Hanako who committed suicide. His new wife wants to get back together with him and run a restaurant together, she's also blonde and non-Japanese - and their new daughter (who has another name) is a lot younger and also blonde. Banzo compares the family photograph his "new wife" gave him and compares it to the photograph of the "old family" he carries in his wallet.
  • Although Scrubs doesn't usually do a lot of continuity, one of the later episodes has a throwaway joke where J.D.'s friends claim that he cannot see women wearing their wedding ring. If that is the case, how was he able to see Carla in the later half of the show (5-9), or T.C.W., for that matter...
    • Another J.D.-related retcon is that in later season of Scrubs, he says he doesn't like beer. In the earlier seasons of Scrubs, however, he's clearly shown drinking beer in some episodes. Turk eventually calls him on this when he claims he can't drink beer, and he admits that he's been making up excuses to drink appletinis (which is itself a retcon, since part of the gag about the appletinis was that he doesn't even realise other people find it unusual).
    • Elliott from season 2 onwards can't say dirty words as a result of her mother's influence as a child, making up her own euphemisms. Yet she had no problem saying "penis" and "vagina" in several season 1 episodes.
  • Several in Battlestar Galactica (2003):
    • In the initial mini-series and first few episodes, humanoid Cylons are shown to have glowing spines during intercourse. However, this was officially retconned by producers when it was pointed out that Dr. Baltar already had an amazing Cylon detector. In his pants. Though note Scifi Channel commercials for the second half of season 2, which show a spinally-luminated fetus. Also, in the commentary for later webisodes, writer Jane Espenson mentions it was planned to depict Eight's spine glowing during sex with Gaeta but the scene was rewritten for them to kiss instead. The novelization of the Miniseries says the glow isn't visible to the naked eye, but that book isn't Canon.
    • In early episodes we learn that human Cylons had 'evolved' from the Centurions after the First Cylon War. Later there are a few hints that human models already existed before the war. Then, in the last ten episodes, it is revealed that the ancients on Kobol first created artificial 'humans' thousands of years ago, and descendants of these same artificial humans had worked with the Centurions to create the new human models.
    • Several characters are revealed to be Cylons and thus, alive after they and the audience thought for years they were human and/or dead. Stand up Anders, Tyrol, Tigh, Tory and Ellen!
    • In the miniseries, the audience learns that there are only twelve Cylon models that look like humans. These are gradually revealed over the series, the twelfth and final Cylon in "Sometimes A Great Notion" then, four episodes later we learn of the (former) existence of a lost thirteenth model, whom we never see.
      • This one is especially bad because when it was first revealed, many fans took it as an explanation for what the hell Starbuck was after being apparently resurrected despite her dead body still being on Earth. Ron Moore was quick to deny this, as it was just thrown in as an explanation for why the number designations for the humanoid Cylons skipped number 7.
  • In My Parents Are Aliens an episode showing how the aliens met the children shows that Brian and Sophie originally had disguises resembling the presenters of Crimewatch before changing into their familiar forms. Later in the series 7 finale they said that they stole the identities from the children's real uncle and aunt, also named Brian and Sophie.
  • Doctor Who: Many of the most notable features of the series, such as regeneration and the Time Lords, were retconned in, often to account for some out-of-character problem.
    • In "The Sea Devils", the Doctor points out that the cave creatures from "Doctor Who and the Silurians" should have, in fact, been named the "Eocenes" instead of the "Silurians," because of the epoch they originated from, which is the real-life author (same for both stories) correcting his earlier mistake when he was called on it after the broadcast of the first story. Unfortunately, it's highly unlikely that that they could have come from the Eocene period, either.
    • Uniquely, Doctor Who has had two paratextual retcons during the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor's tenures, consisting of in-universe explanations for the theme song and title.
    • The episode The Two Doctors was an attempt by Robert Holmes to retcon the early eras of the show. The loosely canonical "Season 6B"—which claims that the Doctor wasn't regenerated at the end of The War Games, but was sent by the Time Lords on various missions around the cosmos—is actually less insane than what Robert Holmes was planning! Holmes figured that it was impossible for the Time Lords to just lose track of a TARDIS, so in reality the Doctor had been working for them from the very beginning! This also explains why the first and second Doctors were never able to control the destination of the TARDIS. Holmes said that after the events of "The War Games" the Doctor's superiors let the Doctor take the fall for his interference, even though he had been acting on their orders.
    • Nu Who Series 7 and the 50th Anniversary Special "Day of the Doctor" managed to retcon in an entire new Doctor. When it was revealed that a secret hidden Doctor, played by John Hurt, existed, fan theories melted down the Internet (including on this very wiki) as to who he really was. One fan theory that was roundly rejected was that he was the Doctor who fought in the Time War and destroyed both his planet and people and the Daleks as well, thus the epic guilt that caused him to try and forget that persona. The problem there was that the Doctor had spoken frequently about his involvement in the war, and the action he took to destroy both sides, leaving himself as the sole survivor, and the massive guilt he feels. None of that was a secret, so why would the body he used to do it in be one? Of course, once the fiftieth anniversary special aired, it turned out that that was indeed who John Hurt's Doctor was, meaning that every line of dialogue establishing that Christopher Eccleston's Doctor was the ninth, David Tennant's the tenth, Matt Smith's the eleventh, etc., were all lies that the Doctor was telling so that he could try and forget the version of himself that committed the heinous act that he had no trouble talking about in all three of his subsequent forms. On the other hand, the Tenth Doctor's line about regenerating "half a dozen times" since the last time he saw Sarah Jane has a new meaning now: he didn't forget about the events of "The Five Doctors" after all.
      • The series itself at least tries to avert the numbering controversy arising from this retcon by having the Eleventh Doctor point out that his John Hurt incarnation renounced the name of the Doctor, feeling that he didn't deserve that title after what he did in the Time War. Thus, while he was the ninth incarnation of our favourite Time Lord, he wasn't the ninth Doctor. (Although, confusingly, the end credits name him "The War Doctor".)
    • "The Brain of Morbius" displays the faces of previous incarnations of the Doctor at one point, including several others in addition to those of the first three Doctors. These were retconned to have been Morbius's previous incarnations just a handful of stories later in "The Deadly Assassin", in which the Fourth Doctor informs Borusa that he's only had three 'face lifts', and in which the twelve-regeneration limit was established.
    • The Doctor has blue Alien Blood in "State of Decay", but normal red blood ever before and normal red blood ever after.
  • Season 2 of Heroes has a rather clumsy example. In the middle of the first season, it's revealed that Matt's wife is pregnant. This causes a few fans to wonder if the baby is really his, since she cheated on him earlier in the season. However, in an episode set five years in the future, we learn that the kid is named after Matt, sends him crayon drawings of himself and mommy from hiding, and, most tellingly in a show where almost everyone with superpowers gets them from Super Powerful Genetics, has a power. Then in an early Season 2 episode, Matt says that whoops, turns out it wasn't his kid after all. In "Fight or Flight," a later Season 2 episode, however, it is implied that he has accepted that it isn't his child without any actual proof, when he has a nightmare in which his wife chastises him for not reading her mind and learning the truth, so this may be a reversion more than rewrite.
    • In S1, Mohinder was originally said to have been two years old when his sister died, but they changed it so that he was born months before she died in order to wrestle Molly into his plotline.
    • Season 3 retcons Sylar's murderous ways as a side effect of his original ability. His ability to know how things work apparently gave him a "hunger" to kill people just so he can satisfy his fix for more power. This of course ignores that S1 and S2 showed him utterly reveling in murder, even when he didn't have any abilities. The writers have a go at fixing this one again, with Sylar shown to have gone through a guilt ridden phase around the time the series began, presumably redecorating appropriately. The plot that tried to explain this retcon also retconned Elle's background, as she is portrayed as relatively normal and even caring and guilt-ridden, rather than sociopathic and murderous as in season 2. This contradicts season 2, in which she states she was diagnosed as a sociopath at eight.
    • Take it as a retcon or a further loss of his humanity, but as of season four Sylar can seemingly suppress his hunger (evidenced by a casual road trip that lasted for several episodes next to tasty brain Luke) but still revels in his murderous behavior, perhaps moreso.
    • It seems that every other episode that something new is added to Noah Bennet's back story that wasn't there before. A prime example in season 4 when Noah almost participated in an affair during the events of season 1, when his daughter was in danger. Then later in the season, he had a deceased wife that had never, ever been mentioned in the plot before.
    • Claire having magic blood in Series 2 which can resurrect anyone from the dead, such as when Noah Bennet was killed after being shot in the eye. This is promptly forgotten after this incident and by Series 4, when her biological father Nathan is killed, reviving him in this way is never an option.
    • The actual cause of what gives them powers has also been retconned several times. At first its hinted at being a genetic trait which has something to do with the brain. This made some semblance of sense, until an Eclipse somehow turned everyone's power off. And then Hiro's mother had some kind of mystical power that was the key to abilities.
    • There's also Sylar's parentage. When he's first seen, it appears his parents were ordinary people (indeed, they're too ordinary for him). It's later revealed that he's adopted, and that his real parents are Angela and Arthur Petrelli. This is later retconned too, and it's revealed that his real father was an evil psychopath that killed Sylar's mother.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch establishes that the curse that will turn Sabrina's mother into a ball of wax is only supposed to last two years - so it should lift when Sabrina turns eighteen. Yet in the sixth season (where Sabrina is 20-21) it's still in effect. And when they go to the Witches' Council to appeal, none of them mentions that the curse should have expired by now.
    • Season 3 shows that cousin Amanda has a little sister Allie. She's never mentioned nor referenced after this.
  • In Charmed the sisters constantly had to fight the risk of exposing their magic to the public. The season 3 finale revolves around them trying to get a demon to turn back time for them to reverse this. But season 6 adds in entities called The Cleaners whose job is to fix things whenever magic is exposed. They claim they've been watching the sisters from the beginning. They would have been really useful three years ago. One also wonders why they didn't step in to stop the bad future in "Morality Bites".
    • Penny was originally said to have been married six times. Later seasons retconned that into only engaged six times, and married four.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The show plays with and subverts this trope in a very interesting way within the show. In the end of the first episode of season 5, Buffy suddenly has a sister that has never appeared or been mentioned before, and it had previously been established that Buffy is an only child. But neither Buffy nor anyone else shows any signs that anything is out of the ordinary. It later turns out that powerful magic was involved that not only created Dawn, but also retconned her entire past life into the memories of the people of Sunnydale. Even when it turns out she didn't really exist until some months ago, she continues with her current life as if she were a regular person.
    • In season 1, Giles states that he is inexperienced with magic and has never used it before. By season 2 it has been established that while he was in college he was using magic recklessly enough to gain the nickname "Ripper" and to summon a dangerous demon that killed several other people.
    • Also with Spike's introduction. He expresses anger that Angel has gone good, saying, "You were my sire, my Yoda, man!" Angel doesn't elaborate on this at the time. Later it's seen that it was Drusilla who actually turned Spike into a vampire while Angelus was his teacher and role model. In another episode Spike outright says, "Drusilla may have made me a vampire, but you made me a monster." Joss Whedon also gave the explanation at one point that 'sire' can refer to any of the predecessors of a vampire's line and not just immediate sire.
    • Spike saying that he respected Angel. Flashbacks show that he and Angel were always at each other's throats.
    • Both Spike and Angel had their ages changed. For Spike it happened twice. He went from "barely 200" in "School Hard", to 126 in "The Initiative", to 120 in "Fool For Love". Angel had 29 years added to his age in the episode Becoming.
    • A minor example concerning Anya's demon friend Halfrek. She was played by Kali Rocha who had appeared in another episode as Cecily, one of Spike's human love interests. In her next episode when she and Spike appeared on screen together they had Halfrek say "William?" and then the two avoided each other's gaze, implying Halfrek and Cecily to be the same person. Also Halfrek's flashback scene in "Selfless" was changed from the Renaissance to the Russian Revolution to support this.
    • Throughout the series it is firmly established that Sunnydale is the center of all evil activity (thanks to the Hellmouth) and has been for a long time. However, in the first season, no one in town (including Willow, Xander and Cordelia) seem to be aware of the existence of vampires and demons until Buffy shows up. Whedon tries to cover this up by claiming that everyone in town was just ignorant and/or in denial.
    • Sunnydale also seems to grow substantially in the first three seasons. In the first season several lines of dialogue make it sound like a small-ish town. Several people comment on how there's nothing to do or see there and Buffy is able to walk everywhere in town she needs to go. Later on Sunnydale is large enough to have its own University campus and a booming downtown district.
    • The notion that vampires are Always Chaotic Evil was starting to be done away with possibly as early as season 5, but it doesn't really take off until the Season 8 comics. The bonus/supplementary issue following 25, Tales of the Vampire, involves the aftermath of a teenage boy being transformed into a vampire, and neither he nor his vampire friends even come close to acting like any of the soulless monsters in seasons 1-3 of the television series. He briefly considers killing his mom, but quickly decides against it when she reveals that she still loves him no matter what. The idea of vampires killing people for food is even thrown out the window with Harmony's in-universe television show demonstrating that they can survive on non-lethal amount of blood from people. It goes hand in hand with the increasingly Black and Grey Morality of the series.
      • Other hints / retcons are dropped throughout the TV series, such as the Master in Season 1 appearing much less human that younger vampires, the Judge in Season 2 noting that vampires such as Spike and Drusilla "stink of humanity", and the introduction in Season 7 of the Turok-Han, described as "neanderthal" vampires, suggesting that the series' contemporary vampires are much diluted by humanity.
    • The season 8 comics retcon Warren's death in season 6 and reveal that Amy Madison saved him. When fans pointed out that this was strange, as the First Evil impersonated him several timesnote , Joss hastily said that he had been legally dead for about a minute but Amy hadn't told him out of fear of upsetting him.
  • Smallville:
    • The most egregious example of this was a vital clue hidden in a stained-glass window that hadn't been there in the previous episode, as well as the same window had been destroyed several times over the course of the series. The ridiculousness of retconning a window a week after it had last been seen casts a shadow on what would have been otherwise well-written.
    • The original meteor shower that brought Clark to Earth now includes Davis 'Doomsday' Bloom several feet away. Lionel's agents manage to reach Davis after the Kents have already carried Clark home.
    • The show introduced a major character from the comics, Jimmy Olsen, in S6. He had a supporting role for the next three years, then they decided to kill him off in the season finale. To keep the show in line with the comics, they had his funeral reveal that his name is actually Henry James Olsen, and it was implied that his previously unheard of little brother was the real Jimmy Olsen. Three years' worth of retcon!
  • Friends:
    • Ross is shown in later seasons as having a long-standing passion for dinosaurs that stretches back to childhood. However, in the first season, he states he only picked paleontology as his major on a dare.
    • Flashback episodes were particularly egregious with this, resulting in the internal history that makes little sense. In the first episode, after Rachel flees from her wedding and first encounters Monica and Ross, it's implied she hasn't seen them in years, and that she and Monica were little more than casual acquaintances growing up - Monica wasn't even invited to the wedding. Later flashback episodes portrayed Monica and Rachel as practically being best friends in high school, attending prom and parties together, and Rachel spending Thanksgiving at the Geller home.
    • Also in the first episode, other than Monica and Ross, none of the other characters recognize Rachel, including Chandler. In the third season, it's revealed that Chandler had actually met Rachel just a year before her wedding, and wanted to sleep with her. Another episode reveals they had met even earlier than that, while Rachel was still in high school. Yet another episode ("The One Where the Stripper Cries") revealed that Chandler and Rachel had kissed during a college party.
    • Also, in "The One With the Prom Video", it's clear that Chandler had never seen fat Monica or pre-nose job Rachel, but in a later episode he was retconned into meeting them...and actually caused Monica to lose weight!
    • An early episode also had Rachel imply she had met Chandler at Phoebe's birthday party. Luckily, the phrasing is ambiguous enough that it could also mean she met Chandler in the first episode as was initially assumed.
    • Friends was notoriously bad at doing more harm than good with their retconning, as the episode "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry" goes to show. The entire premise of the episode was (in typical Friends fashion) exactly what it said on the tin. Only, Chandler was easily the most emotional of the boys, and had several earlier episodes revolving around this fact. He had the same thing happen with his sudden and crippling fear of dogs. The same episode that introduced Chandler's dog phobia also reveals that Ross hates ice cream... despite the fact that a past episode (The One After the Super Bowl) shows him just fine with eating it.
    • Then in "The One With The Sharks", it's brought up that Phoebe has never been in a relationship that lasted longer than a month, or lived with a partner, both of which happened at previous points in the series. While the whole living with a guy issue can be brushed off due to the fact Phoebe broke up with him after one night of living together, another episode had a boyfriend of Phoebe's mentioning that they had been together over a month. Phoebe also once mentioned near the end of the series that she had never been married before. She technically had - she married a Canadian man who she thought was gay so he could get a green card.
    • In yet another late season episode, it's suggested (through a throwaway line) that Ross got drunk and slept with the cleaning lady as a teenager. Really puts his constant whining during the first two seasons about Carol being his first and, until the start of season two, only sexual partner in a new light, doesn't it?
  • The most painful, quickest retcon ever was in The 4400. One episode revolves around re-opening the 4400 center. Notably, police try to stop it and tell Shawn he can't heal anyone, because no one can use 4400 abilities, whether they were a 4400 or got it via promicin injection. The very next episode features someone saying "Maia is a 4400, she can legally use her ability". The show then kept on like that without even acknowledging that superhuman abilities were entirely banned in the first few episodes of its last season.
  • Retcons galore in Stargate SG-1:
    • In the episode where Zat guns (a type of stun-gun) were introduced, they were shown to be capable of disintegrating people and things if they were shot three times. This was used once to get rid of dead bodies that the crew didn't want to have to leave on set, once to destroy a dead body so SG-1 wouldn't get noticed, and once to destroy evidence of SG-1's presence during a time-travel adventure, then dropped completely because it was silly and overpowered. Now zats only stun people, or kill them if shot enough times.
      • This is referenced in episode 100 "Wormhole X-treme!". On set for the show-within-the-show, someone suggests giving their stun gun a feature to dissolve dead bodies so they won't have to be there for the romantic scene that follows, but the idea is denounced as stupid.
    • Another under-noticed retcon is the fact that Hathor was able to turn humans into Jaffa, which is mentioned both times she appears but never again. Apparently the other Goa'uld forgot how to do it too?
    • Not to mention the show retconning a number of things from the original movie, despite the movie itself still being mostly canon:
      • Ra wasn't the last of his species. (The series suggests that the Abydonians were tricked by Ra to think he was the only one, to ensure their loyalty.)
      • The Goa'uld didn't look like Protoss with mouths. Within the series this is never explained, but in extended universe material it says that Ra's previous host was an Asgard, which does look somewhat like the alien shown in the movie. Apparently the Asgard can't make for healthy hosts.
      • Abydos isn't "on the other side of the known universe," but one of the closest planets to Earth, which is used to explain why other addresses didn't work until they readjusted the dialing software to account for stellar drift. (Non-canon explanations state that the technicians during the first Abydos mission were incorrect with their calculations for distance.)
      • A few names were changed: Jack O'Neil becomes Jack O'Neill (which is lampshaded by O'Neil's statement that there's another Colonel O'Neil with one L, and "he has no sense of humor"); his wife Sarah and son Tyler become his ex-wife Sara and his son Charlie; Daniel's wife Shau'ri becomes Sha're; and the fictional Creek Mountain complex becomes the real-life Cheyenne Mountain complex. Sha'uri became Sha're because Michael Shanks (the actor playing Daniel Jackson in the series) had trouble with the "au" diphthong.
      • One of the better retcons from the movie was the reason for Daniel Jackson's career nosedive. In the movie, he's laughed at for arguing, with evidence, that the pyramids are older than we know, simply because he didn't know who built them. The series changed this so that instead of one of his mocking audience suggesting aliens built them, it was Jackson himself which makes his getting laughed at perfectly understandable.
      • One of the more plot-significant retcons has to do with the fact that the symbols on each gate are now the same except for one (the symbol designating the gate's point of origin), so they don't have to spend half of every episode figuring out the return address like they did in the movie. All addresses are based on points in space derived from Earth constellations.
      • In order to fit the constraints of a TV series, they dropped the language issues that were such a big part of the plot of the movie, and now the Stargate acts like a Universal Translator for some reason. It does this for every language except Goa'uld, Asgard, Ancient, and Unas, apparently.
  • Mid third season of Stargate Atlantis shows the first shot of the interstellar gate bridge. The first episode of season four shows its completion. Watch carefully in this scene. At one point, we see Carter moving past a computer with a wire frame of a Stargate, notably looking like it has an iris on it. Fastforward to episode seventeen where an entirely brand new line is added into the "previously on" segment, where McKay claims there is actually no need for the midway gates to have irises at all. This change is made for no reason other than to have an episode where the Wraith board the midway station and destroy it. The fallout of this episode is that the I.O.A refuses to build another because they're afraid of the same tactic. The possibility of building another and just adding irises is conveniently never brought up, so it would appear this retcon was all for the sake of justifying the permanent removal of a quick way back to Earth from the series.
  • A cross-series Retcon occurred between Cheers and Frasier. In a late Cheers episode, Frasier remarks that his father is dead and was a scientist in life, two things that are clearly not true in Frasier - it was explained as being the result of Frasier and Martin's relationship being quite cold at the time.
  • In Night Court, Brent Spiner played a character named Bob Wheeler from West Virginia. After a number of people from that state complained it was later revealed he and his family had actually come from Yugoslavia.
  • The series long neural-clone subplot in Farscape hadn't actually been thought of when Harvey first appears in "Crackers Don't Matter". The writers needed to think of a way to have Scorpius appear more frequently without losing his menace in the process, so decided to have him pop up as an offkilter hallucination. It worked so well, they ran with it and started dropping hints something more was going on inside Crichton's noggin, before introducing Harvey proper later in the same season.
  • Car 54 Where Are You? broke continuity to suit the backstory of the episode probably more than any other sitcom.
  • Red Dwarf is full of retcons. Major examples include the number of the ship's original crew being raised from 169 to 1169 (and raised to 11169 in the books), Lister having his appendix removed twice and Lister's relationship with Kochanski being altered from simply someone Lister was interested in but never asked out to ex girlfriend.
  • Angel had one about halfway through season four when the gang find out that Big Bad Jasmine had engineered most of the major events that brought the gang together.
    • in-universe, Angel had the gang's memories retconned to edit out Connor and allow him a normal life. Eventually, the reality alteration does get exposed, however.
  • Highlander is full of retcons between the films and the series. One huge example is Connor's fight with The Kurgan. The series retconned it to simply being a really big quickening from a normal battle rather than The Prize. Other retcons were about the immortals' physiology and abilities. Series immortals died temporarily when injured, unlike the film, where they just kept on going and could walk under water without drowning.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers has one when it came replacing Rangers. In season 2, when Jason, Trini, and Zack had to leave, the team needed to acquire a special sword to transfer their powers to Rocky, Aisha, and Adam, but in the following season, when Kimberly need to give her powers to Kat, she was handed her power coin away.
      • Also, the ages of the original Rangers were 16-17 as evidenced by the fact that they drive cars. The original finale "Doomsday" would see the rangers battle and defeat Rita and give up their powers and go to a prom. However, based on the popularity of the show, Saban altered the episode to not be a finale and leave room for more story. The prom part was cut out and the Rangers were retconned to being 14-15 in order to keep them around longer.
    • Power Rangers Ninja Storm originally indicated that it wasn't part of previous Power Rangers continuity, but their team-up with Power Rangers Dino Thunder (and before that, the 500th episode "Legacy of Power") shoved it back in.
    • Power Rangers Operation Overdrive changed Power Rangers Mystic Force's own rules when, during the anniversary episode "Once A Ranger", it's stated that all powers are connected to the Morphing Grid, retconning Mystic Force's magic reasoning.
    • Power Rangers Samurai retconned the previous season, RPM, out of continuity with every other Power Rangers series, and this was originally intended to be done to every Disney era show until the production staff saw what was going on with Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger and had to backpedal on going through with it. Suffice to say, fans did not take it well when Clash of the Red Rangers aired. The reason behind this is because Jonathan Tzachor publicly stated he hated the Disney era shows and wanted to disregard them. He also has tried to say that every Power Rangers season is out-of-canon with each other after In Space outside of the crossovers.
    • Power Rangers Megaforce essentially retconned the Sentai series from before Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger as well as the suits from Gosei Sentai Dairanger as just powers that weren't brought to Earth.
  • Spooks the main arc of Season 9 qualifies (it qualifies as other nasty tropes too) Lucas is actually Evil!Lucas...turns out he was " lying to himself" being the perfect spy : it all comes out of nowhere and makes NO SENSE whatsoever
  • Prison Break did this with alarming frequency, to the point that they actually resurrected a character whose DECAPITATED HEAD WAS SHOWN ONSCREEN. This was retconned as a female guard helping her escape before the assassin had a chance to behead her. Instead, the assassin chose to behead the guard and deliberately left the package in a dark place, so nobody would look at the features.
  • That '70s Show does this with a very early character, Donna's younger sister Tina. She appears in just one scene of one episode (Season 1 Episode 5) and is never heard from again. She is mentioned just once afterward in Season 2 Episode 6, in a joking Lampshadeing at the end by a soap-style announcer: "And whatever happened to Midge's daughter Tina? [...] Confused? You won't be, after the next episode of That '70s Show!"
  • Supernatural's Trickster secretly being the Archangel Gabriel. At the time of his creation in the second season, angels weren't even planned to appear in the show -That decision was made during the third season, due to the Writer's Strike cutting the season short. Then in the fifth season they're revealed to have been the same being all along.
    • Incidentally, the fifth season was planned to be the last.
    • The cure for vampirism. In the earlier seasons it was explicitly stated that there was no cure, but season 6 introduced one anyway. They try to Handwave it by stating the Campbells were keeping it secret, but this is flimsy at best -Wouldn't the logical thing to do be to spread knowledge of the cure to as many hunters as possible, so that more victims of vampires could be saved?
      • Likewise with the cure for lycanthropy. In season 2, an entire episode was dedicated to the boys trying to find and stop a werewolf and eventually having to kill a girl Sam had feelings for because they could not find a cure for her. In season 12, Claire, a friend of the Winchesters is bitten and they are able to save her with a little known cure from the Men of Letters using some unknown chemical and the blood of the siring werewolf. Claire is saved. It's handwaved as she was saveable because she hadn't fully transformed and there hadn't been a full moon yet.
    • In season 8, we learn that hunters were intended to have a scholarly counterpart, the Men of Letters, that handled the research, but that the American chapters had been so thoroughly wiped out, no living hunter had ever heard of them. Dean and Sam, hunters, actually should have been Men of Letters, but their grandfather was was sucked into the future where he was killed before he could tell John about his legacy. This retcon was further expanded when the British chapter arrived in America to fix what the American hunters have broken... six years after the Apocalypse. They knew the American hunters were grossly outnumbered and relied on a very loose network of trial-and-error information that would be hugely helped by the arrival of a highly organized society steeped in lore and knowledge, but they chose not to intervene from the 1960s all the way to 2016. Their excuse? They didn't want to meddle in American affairs.
  • Good Times: The 1976-1977 season finale saw Florida marry an elderly gentleman named Carl Dixon and the two moving to Arizona (to tend to Carl's frail health condition); this was done to explain Esther Rolle's departure from the cast. When she agreed to return at the beginning of the 1978-1979 season, one of her demands was — and it was granted — that no mention of Carl ever be made, not even why he was no longer in Florida's life. (Rolle, whose Florida character was a devout Christian, said she did not want her character associated with a hardcore atheist.) Although fans often speculated about Carl's departure (death, a particularly acrimonious divorce, etc.), no mention about the Carl-Florida relationship or its end was ever made.
  • The Brady Bunch: Events and characters that occurred in the Brady Spin-Off The Brady Bunch Variety Hour are retconned by the time The Brady Brides make it to air; as such, none of the events in the ill-fated variety series are considered canon.
  • The MTV Reality Show The Hills was a major offender when it came to this. During the pre-credits voiceovers, new dialogue and/or footage would be added to address what the episode's focus would be, even if it conflicted with events as they were seen in previous episodes. These included, but were not limited to, pleasant conversations between characters being reframed to look more antagonistic, characters describing events that never could have occurred within the timeframe of the show, extra dialogue being looped into conversations (said when the camera isn't on them) to change the focus of the plot, and deleted footage that showed characters doing activities that they were never seen to have done in the previous episode. This fed a lot of fan speculation as to whether or not the show was scripted.
  • Monk has had a couple involving Trudy's death. First, it's originally stated that Monk was there by Trudy's side as she died from the car bomb, but later episodes show he was across town. Additionally, Monk originally did not know that the reason she'd left that fateful day was to pick up medication for his brother Ambrose, and Ambrose personally blamed himself for her death as he felt that if she hadn't done so than maybe she'd still be alive. However, in Ambrose's first appearance, along with a flashback to the day of her death in the series finale, it is mentioned that Trudy is picking up Ambrose's medication.
    • Additionally, in one episode as part of a gang of Chinese criminals' plan to lead him to Monk, they attempt to trick him with fortune cookies. One of the fortunes states that he will receive money from an uncle, which Randy rebukes since he only has two aunts and no uncles whatsoever (it was actually referring to tax return money, the uncle in question being "Uncle Sam.") Two seasons later, another episode is kick-started with the death of Randy's uncle. Not only that, but Randy visited his farm several times as a kid.
  • Kamen Rider Double has an example in the form of Katsumi Daido, who was the Big Bad in The Movie. In The Movie, all we know of him was that he was an experimental attempt at Back from the Dead mixed with Super Soldier that managed to come back wrong and now has an unstable mind, all while showing off just how evil he is at every single step. Background info points to Daido's cause of death being disease. Cue his spin-off movie, which changes a lot of aspects for the character. Disease? Nope. He got run down by a truck. Came Back Wrong? Nope. He's perfectly fine before he came across a Mad Scientist who managed to make him lose his mind. Absolute evil bad guy? Nope. Turns out he's a Fallen Hero.
  • Gossip Girl has done this with Chuck's parents so many times that it's hard to keep track of what is currently canon. In the pilot both his parents are alive. Then it turns out his mother died giving birth to him and his father has never forgiven him for it. Then it turns out his mother is actually alive after all. Then maybe Elizabeth Hurley is his real mom and his Uncle Jack is his real dad. After that there was no point in trying to keep track anymore.
    • Showrunner Josh Safran really, really, really wanted people to ship Dan and Blair like he does even though Blair and Chuck are the show's Super Couple and the reason most people tune in at all. So in season five he alluded that Dan has had feelings for Blair all along and that in season one he was the only one who went to her (previously never mentioned) essay contest to support her. Never mind the fact that Blair and Dan hated each other until mid season four. Or that the episode that takes place a week after the supposed essay contest has Dan wondering if it's worth dating Serena (the girl he had been in love with for ages) because he's not sure he likes what it says about her that she can stand to be friends with a person as awful as Blair. Most of the fandom refuses to acknowledge that the essay contest ever happened since it doesn't fit in at all with what was going on in season one.
      • Safran took it even further in his interviews where he retconned so much stuff you wonder if he ever actually watched the show himself. A particularly glaring example is when he claimed Blair was never friends with Nate or Chuck. Even though the close friendship between the three of them and Serena is one of the key elements of the show.
  • CSI: NY had Mac stating in the first episode that he used to sit with his wife in the hospital like he was doing with the locked-in victim. Although it could mean Claire was sick before her death and got better, it's likely that they retconned how she died on 9/11, from being pulled out of the rubble injured and dying in the hospital to her body never being found.
    • A more minor one was Clare being retconned as a blonde, rather than a brunette like in the pictures Mac showed Reed in season 4. There are reasons for having a different actress-the writers not knowing they'd need an onscreen Claire for flashbacks and the woman in the pics possibly not being a professional actress-, but it appears the casting department still got a bit lazy.
  • Forever Knight did some retconning of the main characters' histories between the made-for-tv film and the actual television series. Nick was only about 200 years old in the film, with Janette being about 400. This means that much of their history was only conceived for the film. Kinda justified, though, since a film wouldn't have as much backstory and character development as a series would over its run.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place had the episode "Alex's Logo", where Mr. Laritate has mysteriously forgotten that Ms. Majorheely "texted in her resignation". This is due to actor David Henrie writing the episode, but that doesn't justify the error. The majority of fans have already shunned this episode from canon anyway, not without reason.
  • Super Sentai Does this to its own canon on occasion, both within series and externally.
    • Originally, Himitsu Sentai Goranger and J.A.K.Q. Dengekitai were not part of the Super Sentai canon that was established with Battle Fever J and made notable when Kousoku Sentai Turboranger was stated as the eleventh team in theri beginning-of-series crossover event and that there were ten before them with Battle Fever J being the first. However, when Chouriki Sentai Oh Ranger was labeled at the 19th and not the 17th when the series was introduced, it meant that Goranger and J.A.K.Q. were put back in retroactively. In Explaination, Toei has explained they were not Legally able to count Goranger and JAKQ as part of the greater Sentai canon due to the nature of who was responsible for and involved in production; Goranger and JAKQ under Shotaro Ishinomori and his company; whereas Battle Fever J, Denjiman and Sun Vulcan following it had limited partnership and invovlement with Marvel Comics. But they were able to clear up such licensing issues in the 90's due to Shotaro Ishinomori's Terminal cancer having him Give Toei the rights to all of the things he produced with them, thus were able to finally back-include them.
    • Similarly, each Sentai series are considered standalone series; not out of canon with each-other, but not being reliant on other's continuity for major events they may conflict with. Which when they started doing the 'vs' crossover movies rubbed people the wrong way, as several of them are impossible due to each show's own canon. While Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger was clarified that all Sentai series existed in the same world, it merely reinforced statements made in Every multi-team crossover to begin with which went back to Turboranger at the beginning of the 90's. Meaning all the reasons why the various crossover films couldn't work because of conflicting canon were simply continuity errors to begin with. And since EVERY Movie toei makes has Continuity errors with regards to the relevant TV series it's a movie of...
      • This also clarifies and retroactively makes the World of Shinkenger in Kamen Rider Decade the World of Super Sentai.
    • Choujin Sentai Jetman starts off by announcing it occurs in the eyar 199X. Cut to two episode slater, and you see calenders announcing it's the year 1991
    • Chouriki Sentai Oh Ranger Starts off the first episode as announcing the year it occurs in is 1999. Cut to the middle of the series, and it's shown to be occurring in 1995, more to fit it in better with how Sentai series tend to be successive canon to each-other; and Toei treats the series in all later media as occurring in 1995 (and at it's end early 1996). Apparently no-one told shout factory, as it's part of their descriptive blurb about the show on their DVD box set.
  • Once Upon a Time does this with the Frozen mythology - despite following the continuity of the movie almost directly. Anna and Elsa's mother (renamed from Idun to Gerda) is revealed to have two sisters Ingrid and Helga. Ingrid had ice powers like Elsa and accidentally killed Helga with them. As a result Gerda sealed Ingrid inside an urn and got the trolls to erase her sisters from the memory of everyone in Arendelle. This is also implied to be how the parents knew about the trolls (through Gerda) whereas the movie implies that the king was the one who knew.
    • Season 3 retcons Cora's backstory into having an illegitimate daughter before Regina who she gave up in order to marry into royalty.
    • The pilot episode has Snow White remark that Regina "poisoned an apple because she thought I was prettier than her". We later learn that Regina's vendetta has nothing to do with her being pretty.
    • The third episode has the prince ask if Snow ruined Regina's life and she replies that she did. The reason is revealed to be that Snow told Regina's mother about her daughter's romance with the stable boy - resulting in his death and Regina being forced to marry her father. In the episode that shows this, Regina lies to the younger Snow White and says the stable boy simply ran away - with the aforementioned episode implying Snow later found out the truth. However she finds out about the death right before she bites the apple - which chronologically takes place after the conversation between her and the prince.
    • Season 5 adds another retcon between Regina and Zelena. This time it's revealed that the two actually met when they were children, and were even friends for a short time. After the two sisters discovered they were related, their mother believed that Zelena would jeopardize her plans to make Regina queen, so she forced them apart again and wiped their memories of their meeting.
    • It's revealed right from the start that Regina got the Dark Curse from Rumplestiltskin, thereby implying that he's the one who created it. But then Season 4 reveals that he just stole it from the cave where it had been hidden, suggesting that he didn't have anything to do with its creation. This is confirmed in Season 6, with the revelation that it was actually the Black Fairy, the show's Ultimate Evil and Rumple's mother, who actually created the curse.
    • In a mid Season 2 episode, Cora tries to remove Emma's heart but is magically blocked, with the implication that it's merely because of Emma being the Savior. Near the end of Season 6, however, when the Black Fairy tries to do the same, it's revealed that Emma's heart actually contains powerful Magic Music which protects her.
  • The West Wing In s3e5 'On The Day Before', President Bartlett vetoes the repeal of the 'death tax'. This is made up to be a huge deal, as it is an election year, and you don't support a tax in an election year, but it is considered 'shooting the moon', as the veto is supposed to be something that Bartlett has never done before. However, in s2e4 'In This White House', during Ainsely and Sam's debate on Capital Beat, it is mentioned by Mark Godfreed that Bartlett vetoed the Republican education package.
  • The Worst Witch:
    • Season 2 retcons there being a Miss Gimlett who taught at the school - but abruptly leaves at the start of term. This teacher had never been seen, nor referenced in Season 1.
    • Charlie Blossom's second episode implies that he's related to Frank the caretaker through his sister. Season 3 adds his father Ted - and Frank's brother - as a character. But since Charlie's last name was Blossom already, the first one appears to be the goof.
  • In Gilmore Girls, Dean is originally introduced as having just moved from Chicago and enjoying obscure books and movies in season 1. Once he breaks up with Rory, he is retconned to be a book dumb, country bumpkin who can't imagine living in a big city after living in Stars Hollow most of his life (despite having only moved there when he was 15 and disappearing from the show when he was roughly 19) in order to draw a clearer contrast between Dean and Rory's new love interest, Jess, who recently moved to town from New York City and enjoys obscure books and movies.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Retcon/LiveActionTV