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The Stations of the Canon
aka: Stations Of The Canon

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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. In most cases, the reason for doing this is to show just how the divergence(s) has changed the story.

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. After all, if Harry still goes to Hogwarts, he's gotta be sorted by the Hat no matter how different he's become from canon.) 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 have done so).

This trope is named after the Stations of the Cross, a traditional sequence of 14 (or 15) iconic scenes from the Passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ in Christian doctrine; in this regard, the revisitation of canonical scenes in an adaptation or a derivative work can be compared to an iconic guided tour allowing pilgrims to Jerusalem to literally follow in Christ's steps. Coincidentally, the "stations" evoke the image of a railroad to indicate that the plot hasn't gone Off the Rails.


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. Connected to Broad Strokes: how broadly the events are painted relates to how many Stations the work bothers crossing. On the other hand, when you hit the broad stroke of a Station the fine details can also be changed up. Compare with In Spite of a Nail.

Examples of fandoms whose fanfics show this tendency:

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  • The Infinite Loops plays this back and forth depending on the loop. Most loopers try to play baseline loops as close to canon as possible, simply because certain events need to happen in order for other events to take place... and chances are that they've seen the consequences of derailing already and don't want to repeat the mistake. However, minor and out-of-the-way activities are usually fine, minor changes that just make it easier on everyones' lives are welcome, and outright cruelties tend to be averted completely unless they're absolutely essential to the grand scheme. There's also the occasion when a looper needs to blow off some steam (because eternal looping life can get weary otherwise) with some elaborate pranks. And then there's the seriously messed up variant loops, where the loopers say "Screw the plot, we're fixing this!"
  • Certain genres of a full Alternate Universe fanfiction (such as High School AU) avert this trope... but fewer fics within those genres avoid the Stations then you might think, if for no other reason then because it helps protect the result from being accused of being In Name Only.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Naruto:
    • Good luck finding any Divergence Fic that does stealing the scroll, the Wave Country mission, or the Chuunin Exams 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.
    • Shikamaru is almost always among the first (if not the only one) of the Konoha 12 to become Chūnin pre-timeskip.
    • Sasuke performs a Face–Heel Turn.
  • Ranma ½: 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.
  • 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.
  • The Familiar of Zero 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, usually at the insistence of Louise. 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.
  • 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.
  • Sword Art Online fanfic is particularly prone to this when it comes to Kayaba's so-called "tutorial" where he explains to about 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:
    1. 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.
    2. The group goes hunting for tanks.
    3. The group has a practice battle.
    4. The crew fights St. Gloriana, often with a different outcome.
    5. The group encounters Maho and Erika, with the OCs usually giving a stronger rebuttal to the latter.
    6. 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.
  • Code Geass:
    • Fanfics that try to remain remotely like the original plot tend to go with the basics of Lelouch and Nunally hiding in Area 11, Lelouch meeting C.C. after Kallen's truck crashes and Lelouch making a contract with C.C.
    • There are an astounding number of fanfics that have as their premise Lelouch returning from his death in Zero Requiem to to moment when he got his geass, with all of his memories intact, and still making the same choices, leading to this trope. The only variation is usually that he recruits Jeremiah earlier. He doesn't refuse to kill Clovis, or somehow protect Suzaku from being accused. He doesn't try to recruit Suzaku before killing Clovis, an offer Suzaku very well might have accepted. He never makes use of any of the intelligence he's gathered as Zero. He doesn't attempt to contact Kirihara earlier than in canon. He goes through the whole season, at least up to the SAZ, with an attitude of, "Alright, so this is the part where..." — completely OOC for someone so calculating and creative — it's actually quite like the mode of chess playing that he criticizes typical Britannian nobles for.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Dragon Ball fanfiction, especially those that involve an AU where an evil character undergoes a Heel–Face Turn, tends to repeat the fights against all of the villains after that character, one by one and ending with Buu. Especially egregious cases are when an event prevents the heroes from growing stronger, but nothing by any stretch of the imagination can stop the next Station from arriving. A notorious example is the special chapter in Dragon Ball Multiverse that revisited the Majin invasion in Universe 12, Future Trunks' timeline — everything about the enemy's actions had to screw themselves over because the author simply had no idea how not to make Gohan blow up with one punch. To their credit, it was a plot hole in canon, but it shows that trying to fill them in doesn't always work out well. Ironically, Dragon Ball Super (which actually is canon) handled this exact situation with a lot more simplicity than Multiverse: the Majin Invasion still happens roughly when it did in DBZ, but this time the Supreme Kai warned Future Trunks and helped train him until he was strong enough to defeat Babidi and his minions before Majin Buu could be released.
    • MasakoX's What If stories are generally willing to diverge in all sorts of places, but he has his own personal station of canon: the existence of Future Trunks, since his timeline would be unaffected by these changes. This can create some awkward situations, as in the "What If Goku Married Bulma?" story, where Trunks has to deal with the fact that he doesn't exist in the main timeline. Over time Masako recognized how many missed opportunities this created and started relying on it less often. While his stories will typically feature someone coming back in time to warn the Dragon Team about the Androids, it no longer has to be Future Trunks, especially in storylines where Vegeta and Bulma don't become an item.
  • One Piece: Variations include how Luffy gathers his crew and whether or not he has consumed any Devil Fruit. It's almost an Enforced Trope due to how the Grand Line is set up (with seven different routes that are fixed unless one has an Eternal Pose set to an island outside of that route) - 99.9% of fics will go to Whiskey Peak and consequently replay the exact same islands as before.
  • Attack on Titan AU fics usually follow the canon with little deviation until at least the Battle for Trost.
  • Fate/Zero fics, especially massive Crossover fics with other fictional characters taking the various Servant roles, tend to have the same 5 events before diverting from canon. The summoning of the Servants (obviously), Assassin apparently being killed by Archer (which makes sense since Kirei and Tokiomi are working together), a brief skirmish at the docks to show various abilities and have the various Servants meet for the first time, the Banquet where the various Servants share what their wish of the Holy Grail would be, and a massive climatic battle against one of the more evil/powerful Servants (usually Ryuunosuke's) that's decided to attack the citizenry with Enemy Mines made between the other Master-Servant pairs. Most but not all fics also have the various Servants disagree to varying degrees with Saber's wish assuming she's one of the ones not replaced.
  • Pokémon:
    • Most fics featuring Ash (and Pokemon fanfiction in general) challenging gyms will more often than not move akin to the path the games and anime took, with similar events occurring at similar times with similar people and Pokemon. You will rarely see Ash tackle Gyms in different orders, with Pewter always being the first Gym and Viridian the last. The events of the first episode will nearly always happen as they did canonically, and Ash will always fight Gary. Even in a heavily diverged plot, Ash will always obtain Charizard (even beyond Pikachu), and recently Greninja. He will always follow up Kanto with the Orange Islands, and he will meet all of his companions. Except the Unovan ones.
    • No matter how different Ash's path is before or after the Viridian Forest, even if he doesn't capture his canon Caterpie and Pidgeotto, he will always encounter The Samurai from Episode 4. Of all of the characters of the day he is the most frequently appearing, quite possibly for being the first.
  • My Hero Academia fics featuring Midoriya starting without a Quirk will usually feature the bullying of Midoriya by Bakugo, Midoriya's encounter with All Might, and the encounter with the sludge monster to set up the story, and even those where he begins with a Quirk will usually have at least one of those. Those that follow the "Midoriya gets One for All" plot will also include him receiving the Quirk from All Might, though some will have this happen later in the story. Later on stations include the USJ villain attack, the sports festival, an internship with some pro hero, Iida's encounter with Stain, the final exam, the school trip and subsequent villain attack, All Might's final battle with All for One, and the hero license exam. All of these are justified by either being events put in motion by individuals unaffected by the story changes of the protagonist or fixed parts of the UA curriculum, with the events that don't involve the protagonist in fic's plot typically still happening offscreen. The Entrance Exam is one that happens often but receives variations as Midoriya rescues his Love Interest in that arc, some people like to use that situation to set up alternate romantic possibilities for him.
  • Bleach: The Soul Society Arc is usually a given in any fic that involves Ichigo receiving Rukia's powers as in canon regardless of any other changes, as the fallout of said actions coupled with Aizen's manipulations need to happen assuming Aizen is going to remain the Big Bad. Even if said events don't necessarily play out the same way, Ichigo and Byakuya will have their showdown, Aizen will make his dramatic reveal and obtain the Hogyoku, and the status quo of Soul Society will change. This likely has to do with the popularity of said arc. Everything after that, however, while it might use the characters later introduced, is usually fair game.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Regardless of universe, Maleficent fics that feature the Maleficent/Diaval pairing will almost inevitably have them meet by her saving him in some capacity. Additional plot elements like them raising Aurora together or him complaining about her treatment of him are optional but common. Surprisingly averted in Maleficent/Aurora fics, perhaps because there aren't as many canonical shippable moments to create Stations from.
  • The Hobbit fics where someone (usually Bilbo) is sent back in time to fix things will still have certain events occur like the encounter with hungry trolls or Bilbo finding the One Ring with minimal changes because these events basically have to happen for the characters to succeed in their quest — if the characters don't run into the trolls, they don't find the trolls' valuable weapon stash, and if Bilbo doesn't find the Ring, he can't become invisible when the party really needs someone capable of sneaking around and the Ring might fall into the hands of someone more susceptible to its evil influence.

  • Harry Potter:
    • As described above, Year One will have The Letter From Hogwarts, The Visit To Diagon Alley, The Trip To Hogwarts, and The Sorting Hat. These stations are particularly special in that they'll often take place in any fic which contains a Year One, even if it's not Harry's Year One. Next Gen, Self-Insert Original Character, Peggy Sue, you name it, if the main character is eleven, they will do these things.
    • Again, as described above, Philosopher's Stone stations include Harry's versions of the above, plus The Troll and The Confrontation With Quirrelmort. There's a high chance of the viewpoint character successfully retrieving the Stone from the Mirror, even in cases such as a Peggy Sue where they should realize that the Stone is safest where it is. Oh God Not Again! splits the difference, with Harry knowing that retrieving the stone is unnecessary, but this time he also brought in Neville, who does not. This being the first book, the stations are more influential here.
    • Chamber of Secrets stations include Lockhart's Book-Signing, Dobby Blocking Platform 9 3/4 (which doesn't necessarily proceed to Stealing The Anglia or Ron's Wand Breaking), Mrs. Norris's Petrification, Several Miscellaneous Other Petrifications (which don't necessarily happen to the same characters as canon), The Kidnapping (which only usually happens to Ginny), Lockhart Tries A Memory Charm (which often goes differently, especially if Ron's wand didn't break), and The Confrontation With Diarymort. Rarely shown on-screen but invariably implicit to the year's events is the station of Lucius Planting Tom's Diary, which again only usually happens to Ginny. And in an inversion, because the basilisk kills nobody in canon despite having a lethal gaze, most fics will do the same, with some going one further than canon and giving an explicit reason for this rather than a series of coincidences. Contrariwise, some fics will forget that the basilisk's gaze is supposed to be deadly at all, and act like petrification is explicitly its power.
    • If a fic goes on into a character's seventh year, usually something will happen to them make them miss the end of the school year or the whole seventh year just like the main characters. This is because there isn't much known about how Hogwarts students celebrate the end of their schooling, and it just isn't in the fans' consciousness. (One thing is certain, though — there would not be a "graduation ceremony", because in the UK, "graduation" refers to finishing university, not school.)
  • 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.
  • The Lord of the Rings gives us Frodo inheriting the Ring, running from Nazgûl, 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.
    • In a similar vein, The Silmarillion has the Darkening of Valinor, the Oath of Fëanor, the Kinslaying at Alqualondë, the ships burning at Losgar, Fëanor's death, Maedhros's capture, the Battle of Sudden Flame, Fingolfin's duel with Morgoth, Beren and Lúthien's adventures, and the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Most fix fics generally wipe the Kinslaying and burning of the ships from history, but despite the significantly better political situation this causes various tragedies still occur.
  • 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 player characters 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.
  • Worm fics that replace Taylor's original power with something else usually still have the locker as her trigger event, a run-in with Lung that she'll win, joining the Undersiders or Wards, the Undersiders bank robbery, Leviathan as the first Endbringer that comes bythough , a visit from the Slaughterhouse 9... The confrontation and inevitable defeat of Coil always happens; however, exactly when it happens is a variable.
    • Amusingly, the Armsmaster-branded underpants Taylor mentions once owning seem to be a popular mention.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An enormous number of Battlestar Galactica fics seem to be stuck to the concept that Cavil and the other Ones will always win the Cylon Civil War, regardless of how heavily the AU has changed beforehand.
  • 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.
  • Doctor Who has a large number of rewrites of specific seasons, most of which follow this trope.
    • There are also many examples of alternate Nth Doctor fanfics, either following a "what if the Doctor regenerated to XYZ?" format, or as an alternative to an on-screen regeneration an aspect of fandom did not like/want/appreciate. Specific example: that the Thirteenth Doctor did not undergo the controversial Gender Bender, with alternate examples of a male Thirteenth Doctor presented. Stations of the Canon must still be followed in that the alternate Doctor still needs to follow some of the usual storytelling tropes related to the character getting to know his new self.
  • The stations for almost any Glee fanfic usually go through the shows built-in Tournament Arc: Sectionals, Regionals, Nationals. Occasionally they also include Invitationals, which was more of a qualifier round in the show proper, as well as Internationals, which was discussed behind the scenes but never actually happened.
  • Once Upon a Time: In the Rumbelle fandom, especially early on when there was no other material, the Stations tend to follow the events of "Skin Deep": Rumple makes a deal in exchange for Belle, Belle goes with him, they fall in love, she's kidnapped by Regina (sometimes after an argument), but it all turns right in the end. However, these fanfics will usually add new elements which makes this a zig-zagged trope.
  • 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.
  • Skins: Almost all Naomily fanfics that want to create conflict between the two will run through at least the Sophia arc (even in AU settings the name will remain the same), probably also Mandy's, and possibly reference Naomi's aborted earlier fumblings with Cook; most of them will in turn resolve it with a derivative of the shed speech.

    Video Games 
  • 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, Phoenix losing his badge, and the real perpetrators of each of the cases. Though as Trials and Tribulations and Investigations 2 establish, the DL-6 case had a huge impact on the rest of the series canon, to the point where even slightly changing it often creates a radically different Alternate Universe.
    • Many fan games like to imitate the basic formula of the canon games as close as possible, which goes something like this: first case is a short one against a Warmup Boss Prosecutor like Payne or an Expy of him, with an obvious culprit, but maybe slight ties to the overall Story Arc. Second case introduces the new Prosecutor, who has some gimmick to them, is very antagonistic towards the main lawyer for some unexplained reason and seems like a Flat Character at first. One or two later cases flesh out the Prosecutor's backstory, explain their reasons for hating the lawyer, and reveal they have ties to a major unsolved case (Usually some kind of "Letter Letter-Number" Incident). Final case connects to this unsolved case from X years ago (playable flashbacks are often involved), often has a major recurring OC as the victim and/or defendant, has a temporary change of prosecutor (the new one is often Edgeworth or Franziska) and eventually leads to the Big Bad behind everything.
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is a criminal offender of this trope, to the point where nearly every single event, no matter HOW minor usually gets 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 Pokémon the author got in-game as the protagonist'.
  • In general, any alternate universe based on a video game 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 X4-6, since most comics based on that series use sprites from those games, making them the easiest to recreate.
    • Oddly, one of the "stations" that so many fics and comics feel obligated to touch on both never happened in the games, and in fact has Word of God saying it didn't happen. The idea of "The Cataclysm," an event that supposedly killed off the Mega Man (Classic) cast before the Mega Man X games started, was speculated on then popularized by Bob and George, to the point many fans generally assumed it was canon. As a result, tons of fancomics have some variation on the theme of "Zero goes nuts and kills everyone" — sometimes with a Self-Insert Author Avatar either in Zero's place or stopping Zero. Keiji Inafune later specifically said Zero didn't kill the original cast. (After all, who would be able to seal him away in time for the events leading up to X1 if everyone's dead?)
  • 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.
  • Mass Effect fanfics in general suffer from this, 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. We will ALWAYS visit Eden Prime, get implanted with the Prothean warning, go to the Citadel, get told nightmares aren't evidence, rescue Tali, etc. Even if Shepard is replaced with Master Chief or a waterbender.
  • Persona 5 AU fics tend not to stray very far from the original game's plot. They tend to start with the In Medias Res sequence at the casino, have whoever is replacing Joker get arrested, then the Kamoshida arc, then the Madarame arc, and so on and so forth.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Given the rather linear progression of the canon story, there are quite a few stations that fanfic authors tend to check in at. If the story starts in Midgar, we will have the first job to destroy the reactor, and then the next, falling into the church to meet the flower girl, interrogating Don Corneo, the destruction of Sector 7, and finally the storming of Shinra tower. In some cases, the entire Midgar section can be skipped, but even if it is, there are still stations from later parts of the game that seemingly must be hit; at some point they will go to the Temple of the Ancients to retrieve the Black Materia, followed by Aerith going to the Forgotten Capital to summon Holy (roll of the dice as to whether or not she survives in this instance). This will be followed by Meteor appearing and the WEAPONS being released and needing to be dealt with before a final confrontation, usually at the Northern Crater, and ending with the Lifestream being summoned to destroy Meteor before it can destroy the planet.

  • 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 problem of the Homestuck fanfic is that for a proper AU to be made, every single event in the story has to be changed. To change how a single event happens, say John prototypes a different object instead of the harlequin, Lord English's entire Xanatos Gambit has to be altered, which leads to either A.) A story that diverges completely and ends up doing something well that we never expected, or B.) A story that fills itself to the brim with paradoxes. Most simply have no time for the research required in outcome A.
  • Campaign Comics have 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.
  • TwoKinds has an odd version of this trope. The TwoKinds fanfiction scene sprawls all over itself like an incestuous farming cult, taking stations from those selfsame fanfics rather than the comic itself. They're, nine tines out of ten, about the author's (inevitably male) OC getting Isikaied into Mekkan, meeting an escaped keidran slave girl based on the author's favorite large predator who falls in love with him, and fighting the Templars with the gun he had in his back pocket when he got bamfed. Interacting with the canon events after meeting our expies of Trace and Flora are optional. You can expect Black Magic to be largely ignored, despite it being a central part of the comic's story, and they will also probably meet a basitin (and an Eastern one at that) despite them being rare outside of their homelands.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY suffers from this hard. Less than six months after the first episode came out, there were already over 1,100+ fanfics. And no matter whether they starred an OC, someone from another show, or just an alternate version of a major character, almost all of them hit this trope. Years later, many of these fanfics still continue to religiously address every minute plot beat of the first season, no matter how many other things the author may have changed about the plot. We will get the Ruby and Torchwick robbery scene. We will get a bullhead scene where Yang hugs Ruby to death and/or Jaune vomits from airsickness. We will get Ruby dustneezing Weiss, who will get promptly called out by Blake. We will get someone helping Ruby up. Etcetera, et cetera, and most of the dialogue will be completely unaltered. Things usually ease up after that first season, though.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
    • FIM 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 (usually) Ponyville to oversee the Summer Sun Celebration, and meets the other five characters while checking on preparations for food, weather, decorations and music, then encounter with the Big Bad.
    • Most writers that do a self-insert fic, by inserting either themself directly as a human character, or as an Author Avatar, tend to drag it through most of the major events of the show, such as villain appearances, regardless of what impact the new character has on the story.
  • Total Drama:
    • Season remakes, especially Season 1 remakes, tend to follow both major and minor canonical events very closely in the early going. It often takes several chapters for these stories to find their own path.
    • Rehashing contestant arrivals/introductions almost verbatim, including much canonical dialogue, is more the rule than the exception. A few of these remakes omit the contestant arrivals/introductions altogether, covering it all with a note stating that they're the same as in the original. If there are new characters, they tend to arrive last and have little interaction with the canonical cast.
    • Some remakes even keep the first few eliminations unchanged.
    • If a Season 1 remake retains Heather as the villain, which is quite common, she will typically ally with Lindsay and Beth (maybe with one or more people added/replacing Beth) during the Awake-a-Thon challenge, just as in canon. She will also typically get a canon-like humiliation conga when she finally goes down in flames.

Outside of fanfic:

    Anime and Manga 
  • An In-Universe example is present in the series My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!. The main character of the series has been reincarnated as the main antagonist of the ficticious Video Game "Fortune Lover," and she believes that she is going to inevitably die or be exiled if things continue to follow the original game's Stations of the Canon. This would be a problem if her change in personality as a result of her remembering her past life didn't completely obliterate the game's canon already, unfortunately she doesn't realize it.
  • Also in-universe, An Observation Record of My Fiancee - A Self-Proclaimed Villainess has the heroine and co-protagonist Bertia firmly believe the Stations in spite of working against and thoroughly averting them. An early example is a plague that heavily influences where things go, killing her mother and crippling a future character. She informs someone who can do something about it how to treat it and where it starts, and as a result prevents it from ever happening. In spite of this, she's thrown into an utter panic when her mother (who is alive and well) has a second child, because she wasn't supposed to. This also happens with the antagonist, Heronia, who tries to follow the Stations (and botches lines when she references events that don't happen as if they did) and gets very upset when they don't work in her favour.

    Comic Books 
  • 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!"note , 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 this note  — 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 Bruce Wayne becomes a Green Lantern, Sinestro becomes a Joker-like figure for no reason whatsoever. note 
    • Superman: Secret Identity flip-flops on this, partially because of its This Is Reality message. Clark still grows up in a small 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.
  • At first, this seemed to be a thing for Archie Comics' Mega Man series, with the first 12 issues dealing with the original game, the remake and the sequel. It gets derailed after the twelfth issue.
  • IDW's Star Trek (2009) continuation toys with this. Despite the new universe, some of the old missions still happen, but the events sometimes differ wildly. Gary Mitchell still encounters the galactic barrier and goes mad with power but he and Kirk aren't friends, and Elizabeth Dehner isn't present at all.

    Film — Animated 
  • The LEGO Batman Movie, despite ostensibly being set in the same canon as The LEGO Movie, still has the same origin story as usual: parents murdered, raised by Alfred, becomes Batman. Thankfully, the origin story is so well known that it's scarcely alluded to outside of Batman sadly looking at a painting/picture of a young Bruce, Thomas, and Martha Wayne outside the theater. note 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • A problem for The Amazing Spider-Man was that it had to introduce Spider-Man to movie audiences, but couldn't follow the standard version (Peter is a hopeless loser, gets bitten by a spider, gains powers, uses powers for personal gain, Uncle Ben warns him against this, does it anyway, Uncle Ben dies, Peter learns responsibility and becomes a true hero) because Spider-Man had done it relatively recently. They mostly got the same message of each plot beat without doing it exactly the same as the comics or previous movie, although the writers were clearly straining to deliver Uncle Ben's message without explicitly saying it outright. It is taken even further in Spider-Man: Homecoming; it's never stated outright that there ever was an Uncle Ben or if Aunt May was a single mother (Aunt?) and Peter's With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility mantra in Captain America: Civil War is even more mangled. There is a character named MJ, although she's not a love interest and Word of God says that she's not Mary-Jane, and that the similarity was meant as a Shout-Out rather than a canon confirmation that they are the same. Their reasoning for all this was, presumably, that because audiences had seen the story done twice in the past 15 years, that they would know the origin story and didn't need to retread it.
  • Particularly in the early scenes, Groundhog Day invokes this to illustrate that Phil Conners is repeating the same day over and over again. Despite his increasingly different reactions to the day, in each iteration we repeatedly see some variation of the following elements: the clock in his bed room switch from 5:59 to 6:00; Phil meeting "Porkchop"note ; Phil having a conversation with his rather ditzy hostess over coffee; Phil encountering Ned Ryerson ("Bing!") on the street and trying to get away from him; Phil crossing the park where the Groundhog Day celebrations are being held; and the Groundhog Day ceremony itself.

  • Two Star Trek: Myriad Universes novellas use this:
    • In the Star Trek: The Original Series novella The Chimes At Midnight, set in the movie-era in a universe where Spock died as a child and Kirk's first officer is the Andorian Thelin, the Stations are: Khan and Genesis; Kruge and Genesis; whale-probe attacks Earth; and Praxis explodes, leading to the Khitomer Conference.
    • In the Star Trek: Voyager novella Places of Exile, which has a Point of Divergence in "Scorpion", the Stations are: Seven of Nine joins the crew; Kes becomes more powerful; they meet the Species 8472 Boothbynote ; and they find the Hirogen transmitter array that lets them communicate with the Federation.
  • The first three books of the Temeraire series follow the beats of the Napoleonic Wars from the British perspective, but soon the addition of dragons as essentially aerial, rigged-out ships with attitude causes things to veer from history. Things go off the rails as the setting expands outwards from Europe, as dragons act as an equalizer for civilizations that fell to European imperialism—although still hit by disease, most were able to either retain or regain independence. Meanwhile Trafalgar happens, but Nelson survives, and Napoleon rolls over Prussia even more so, but China, Tswana, and Incans become participants. It's brought in at the end of the series when Napoleon invades Russia, where winter still beats all. The series does not end with Waterloo, but Napoleon is sent to his final residence on St. Helena—had he been placed on Elba, the site of his first, temporary, exile, it would be construed as a Sequel Hook.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: "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, usually involving a much higher body count.

    Video Games 
  • Super Robot Wars:
    • 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.
    • SRW games' tendency for this gave birth to the "fifty Strike Daggers" meme in China: no matter how ridiculously powerful the player faction is, they'll still be forced to retreat when defending Orb from the Earth Alliance's invasion by fifty Strike Daggers, giving the cheap mass production mobile suit Memetic Badass status.
    • Super Robot Wars Judgment 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.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • The world-traveling heroes tend to pass 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. It gets very noticeable in Kingdom Hearts II, where most of the worlds' events are "The plot from the movie, but with Sora, Donald, and Goofy." (On the mild plus side, for just about every world, there's a second, non-Station following episode.)
    • In spite of this, the first game both played this straight and averted it in equal measure. Some of the Disney worlds followed the movie the world is from down to a tee, with the only difference being that the trio was there to either watch or have a subplot. Others completely deviated from it, often by incapacitating the normal protagonist in a way involving the Heartless somehow. The exceptions to that are Olympus by having Hades run the show but otherwise focus on Sora and co., and Hollow Bastion by having Beast be a party member with his own goal of rescuing Belle.
    • 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.
    • In some cases, such as The Little Mermaid (1989), Sora ends up passing through the events of the movie twice.
    • Mostly averted in Kingdom Hearts III, where a number of Disney locations end up focusing on other things, presumably in response to complaints about this. Some of them, such as the Toy Story world, even have plots that aren't tied to the movies' ones at all.
  • 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.
  • In Legacy of Kain: Defiance, all of the places that Raziel visits are significant places that Kain has already been to, and most are in reference to the original Blood Omen. (It isn't until the climax of the game that he stops being just behind the fledgling of his sire.)
  • Many modern games that allow you to make choices for the player character will experience this, due to the logistics of having to create and compensate for all the various outcomes. As an example, for all the choices one can make in the Mass Effect trilogy, almost all of the major plot events and their results will be the same: what changes is who is present, what their outlook towards the player character is, and exactly how those events play out.
  • Almost every single Dragon Ball game covers most of the events of the series in order (specifically, the Z portion — GT often gets a token nod and the original Dragon Ball will get one if it's lucky). In Dragon Ball Xenoverse, it's your job to enforce them.
  • Most video games based on an anime tend to do this, however Sword Art Online is a notable exception. Starting with the events of Infinity Moment/Hollow Fragment, the game splits away from canon during the battle on the 75th floor. From there, Kirito and company need to clear the rest of the game up to the 100th floor. In addition, Leafa/Suguha and Sinon/Shino get pulled into SAO as well. It's actually done quite well and creates a separate timeline of events that is exclusive to the games.
  • Metal Gear tends to incorporate the same plot structures over and over again, even in spin-offs. This particularly affects Metal Gear: Ghost Babel (the only spin-off to be written by Hideo Kojima), where Snake is supported by Mei Ling over the CODEC, infiltrates the fortress via vents, has to identify a female informant in disguise as a guard, finds Metal Gear is in the control of a group of quirky terrorists with animal-based codenames including an Evil Counterpart obsessed with besting him, has to rescue a nerdy young genius responsible for designing Metal Gear, fights a kinky ninja-themed boss, fights a Hind D helicopter, defeats a Noble Demon female villain with a sad backstory about colonialism, defeats the Metal Gear pilot in return for more details about his own tragic backstory, and then has a fistfight with his evil counterpart on top of a nuclear launch platform that's ready to go off, before deciding to enjoy life and driving off with the Damsel in Distress he rescued.
  • In Overwatch's Junkenstien's Revenge event, despite taking place in a different setting altogether, Hanzo still murdered his brother and went on a self-imposed exile, Reaper is still an old friend turned evil of Soldier: 76 and Ana, and Genji is still Zenyatta's disciple.
  • Hiveswap introduces us to an isolated kid whose authority figure doesn't understand them, their bedroom full of interests, their special personality/weapon, their character quirk, has them communicate with other kids, has them communicate with Trolls...
  • The Final Fantasy VII Remake runs through the famous early original game Stations of the reactor bombings, meeting Aerith in the church, the crossdressing sequence of Wall Market, the plate collapse and the deaths of Biggs, Jesse and Wedge, and the assault on the Shinra building, most with some form of modernised twist and fleshing out. It has also courted a certain amount of controversy by hinting that it will not necessarily adhere to the Stations going forward; the metaphorical function of the Whispers seems to have been to keep the game on track with the original Stations, but with their defeat the timeline appears to be being altered: Biggs and Wedge are still alive, and Zack's fate appears to be deviating from the original canon. It's a curious case in that the fans expected the Remake(s?) to adhere rigidly to the Stations, and have some concern that the most infamous Station of them all — the death of Aerith — is set to be averted.

    Western Animation 
  • Transformers:
    • The Transformers 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.
    • Oddly enough, every time a series diverges from the usual characterizations, it often becomes a new Station itself, such as Bumblebee either being mute or playing a stronger role in combat after the live-action film series came out.
    • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Stations Of The Canon


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