Tiers of Canonicity, Version 2!

by Planetperson
BIONICLE Tiers of Canonicity, Version 2

Back in April, a number of us in the Great Archives Discord server concocted a document called the “BIONICLE Tiers of Canonicity” – a systematic, objective way of ranking the “officialness” of different BIONICLE media. We based this document as best we could on past statements BIONICLE author Greg Farshtey has made about canon, which we researched in the Official Greg Discussion Archive. We felt the Tiers would be useful both to ourselves and to the broader community of BIONICLE lore enthusiasts, because it has never been 100% clear how to handle different versions of BIONICLE canon that contradict each other. The Tiers can help resolve these ambiguities in an impartial way, which is useful when writing fanfic, designing games, writing wikis, and so on.

After publishing the Tiers, we immediately got some very useful feedback and suggestions for revisions. (It was even translated into French and Russian!) We discussed the Tiers further, did some more research and quote mining in the Official Greg Discussion Archive, and realized that we agreed with some of these changes. So we wrote up a new edition: the BIONICLE Tiers of Canonicity, Version 2! Not only this, but we were able to send this updated version to Greg Farshtey for feedback, to which he added his stamp of approval with a terse “Looks fine to me” (more on that below).

What Changed?

The main changes we made to the Tiers of Canonicity are:

  • We now rank books, comics, and other written material above movies, except we treat movie novelizations as a special case that ranks below the movies.
  • Magazines and non-story pages in the comics have been put into their own category, which ranks below other written material.
  • Product descriptions have been moved so that they rank lower than websites but higher than video games.
  • The non-serial content on bioniclestory.com has been put into the same category as websites and CD-ROMs.
  • We explicitly list the trading card games as non-canon.
  • We provide a citation confirming that only the functionality, not the backstory, of the winners of the Xian Weapons contest is considered canon.
  • We provide a citation confirming the canon status of “Protection” by InnerRayg, since the contest it won was not originally a canonization contest.
  • We have clarified that, with only a couple of exceptions, video games are generally considered non-canon, except for one-off cases such as the Mask of Elemental Energy and some of the creatures and locations in VNOG.
  • In many places we have made clarifications in the wording of the rules.
  • We ran the final Tiers by Greg Farshtey to see if he had any suggestions or corrections, to which he responded that it “looks fine.”

The BIONICLE Tiers of Canonicity, Version 2

Here we present Version 2 of the BIONICLE Tiers of Canonicity. First, I’d like to thank the following people for co-authoring this new version (in alphabetical order): Dag, Gonel, HahliNuva, JSLBrowning, Lehari, maxim21, Nicrophorus, SurelNuva, toaskello, and Wolk. I would also like to thank Turaga of Force for additional research and suggesting some of the revisions we made.

The list of rules below defines canonicity rankings for the various sources of BIONICLE lore. They are applied in decreasing order of precedence, from most canon to least canon. These rules were designed with the following principles in mind: (a) sources whose authors have lower degrees of separation from the core story team should have higher precedence; (b) since Greg Farshtey by his own admission is not a visual thinker [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8], visual details in other media can take precedence over his work; (c) they follow explicit quotes about levels of canonicity from Greg Farshtey when they are available.

  1. Quotes from Greg Farshtey can override any of the rules below when they directly acknowledge past statements and context.
  2. The LEGO sets. Certain visual aspects of the BIONICLE LEGO sets (weapons, masks, colors, etc.), including the system play sets, take highest precedence, even over movies and written story [9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15]. The set designs coexist with the more organic visualizations from the movies and books (as well as the illustrations in the comics, which are sometimes a little different), all of which are simply different artistic expressions of the sets. The sets are considered the most authoritative, but neither the sets nor the movie visualizations are considered non-canon [16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23]. The forms of the 2010 BIONICLE Stars sets are considered canon, though not their scale compared to previous set waves [24, 25, 26, 27]. The representations in video games (e.g. BIONICLE Heroes), on the other hand, are not considered canon, as those games were never intended to be canon [28].
  3. Books, comics, and, more broadly, any officially published material written by Greg Farshtey. This includes Greg's published written work and the storyline of any visual media for which Greg wrote the script. More precisely, this category includes:
    • comics written by Greg Farshtey (except for adaptations of scenes from the movies, which are a special case to be covered below; this also does not include extra content featured outside of the main comic book panels, such as character descriptions)
    • the Greg Farshtey novels (except for the movie novelizations, which are a special case to be covered below)
    • guide books
    • web serials and podcasts
    • web content written by Greg
    • The Legend Continues game on maskoflight.com [29, 30]
    • the Level 3 readers
    • the 2005 web animations
    • any of the character "stats" used from 2007 to 2010, which were written by Greg [31]
    The books and comics are equal in canonicity [32, 33, 34]. In Greg's work, the story and plot details take precedence, but since Greg by his own admission is not a visual thinker, some visual details may be overridden by other visual media that otherwise have lower precedence. Published work takes precedence over online quotes from Greg by default [35, 36, 37]. In cases where sources within this tier contradict, later sources take precedence over earlier ones, as they presumably represent a change in the story team's view of canon. As mentioned above, any adaptations of scenes from the movies are a special case; they rank below the movies rather than above, since the adaptations were usually based on earlier versions of the movie scripts.
  4. Movies. Books, comics, and movies are all about equal in canonicity, but some visual details and plot details in the movies may be overridden when there are contradictions (e.g. the Rahaga's propellers in BIONICLE 3: Web of Shadows contradict the sets) [38, 39, 40]. Otherwise, the movies rank highly, as their stories were developed by multiple story team members. The movies generally take precedence over their respective novelizations or adaptations in the comics, which were typically based on earlier versions of the final scripts [41].
  5. Movie novelizations, or, more generally, any adaptations of scenes from the movies in books or comics. When movies and their adaptations contradict, the final movie takes precedence, since the adaptation is often based on an earlier version of the script [42]. However, scenes that exist in the adaptations but not the movies are canon, since they were approved by the movie makers [43].
  6. Cathy Hapka books. Certain plot and visual details in Hapka's books conflict with other sources. (For example, BIONICLE Chronicles #1: Tale of the Toa does not mention the Makoki Stones when the Toa pass through Kini-Nui, but MNOG and the BIONICLE Encyclopedia do. The book also has a different version of the Shadow Toa fight that conflicts with BIONICLE Encyclopedia.) This is a separate category because Hapka was never a member of the story team, although she did have access to the story bibles [44] and was advised by Greg Farshtey [45]. Despite this, Hapka reportedly went in a different direction from the story team when writing the way the Toa received the golden masks and the Shadow Toa fight. Hapka's books take precedence over Templar's work, since the books were approved by the story team, whereas Templar's work was not [46, 47, 48, 49].
  7. LEGO Magazines [50, 51] and extra content featured in the comics outside of the main comic book panels, such as character descriptions [52]. Greg wrote the magazines along with Daniel Lipkowitz; Greg wrote the BIONICLE-related material in the magazines [53, 54, 55].
  8. Visual media by Advance/Ghost, including visual media on bionicle.com. This covers much of BIONICLE's CGI animations and stock artwork. Christian Faber worked closely with this group, so visual details here generally override versions in other sources, including comics [56].
  9. Visuals from media for which Greg Farshtey served as the writer, including the comics, guide books, 2005 animations, and level 3 readers. Although Greg wrote the storyline for these media, visual details sometimes got lost in translation between Greg and the artists [57, 58]. The comics also sometimes made concessions for the sake of advertising the sets [59].
  10. Websites, CD-ROMs, and, more broadly, officially published material not written by Greg or a member of the story team. Such things were often written by people in Denmark [60, 61]. For a time, the website was developed by Leah Weston and her team in Denmark [62]. More specifically, this category includes:
    • much of the content on bionicle.com [63]
    • content from official micro-sites such as the movie micro-sites and the Metru Nui Ministry of Tourism
    • promotional CD-ROMs such as the Bohrok-Kal CD-ROMs and the Toa Metru CD-ROMs
    • written material on bioniclestory.com besides the story serials
  11. Work by Templar Studios (MNOG, MNOG2, and the Bohrok and Bohrok-Kal episodes). Although most BIONICLE games are considered non-canon, MNOG and MNOG2 are a special case in that much of them is official [64]. MNOG and MNOG2 were never approved by the story team; MNOG was not approved by the story team because the story team did not exist at the time [65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71]. Some specific things have been retconned from MNOG; for example, Bob Thompson hated the idea of "taxi crabs" [72], and Lewa getting his golden mask from his suva contradicts other canon material.
  12. Product descriptions for the BIONICLE LEGO sets [73]. On rare occasions they contain inaccuracies, such as the 2010 Skrall set having shadow powers [74].
  13. Fan-created work canonized by Greg Farshtey, such as short stories, artwork, and LEGO models (MOCs). This includes the canonization contests run on BZPower, BS01, KanohiJournal, The Unofficial German Bionicle Magazine, and TTV. This does not include the results of canonization contests that were ultimately never approved by Greg, such as "Memoirs of the Dead," which are non-canon. In the case of the Xian weapons contest, only the functionality of the weapons is considered canon, not the backstory provided alongside them [75, 76]. The story "Protection" by InnerRayg is considered canon [77].
  14. Online Q&A with Greg Farshtey. This includes the "Official Greg Discussion" topics on BZPower, the "Chat with Greg Farshtey" topic on the LEGO Message Boards, the "Ask Greg" section on TTV, and any other correspondences with Greg posted online.
    1. In general, when Greg quotes contradict, earlier answers take precedence. This applies to quotes from both the BZPower era (2003-2011) [78] and the LEGO Message Boards era (2013-2017) [79]. Greg quotes which inadvertently contradict previously established canon should be considered non-canon [80, 81], especially on the LEGO Message Boards. Later quotes override earlier ones only when specifically acknowledged as a retcon. Note that published material sometimes revealed new information that rendered some earlier Greg quotes inaccurate, in which case the published work (or any item from a higher tier) takes precedence.
    2. Responses along the lines of "fine" or "sure", though weak affirmations, are still affirmations and should be considered canon.
    3. Responses along the lines of "I guess" are considered a weaker form of affirmation than the above. They should be considered canon on a case-by-case basis.
    4. Responses along the lines of "maybe", "most likely", and "probably" mean exactly that – they affirm that something might be true or probably is true, not that it necessarily is true. This information should be qualified as such when documented on the Great Archives and should not be stated as fact.
    5. Similarly, responses along the lines of "possibly," "it's possible," and "anything's possible" should be qualified as such on the Great Archives, if they are documented at all. Whether or not they are documented should be decided on a case-by-case basis. Affirmations of frivolous hypothetical scenarios (e.g. "would character X do Y in situation Z?") should not be included. However, there is precedent for hypothetical things being considered canon despite not appearing in story, especially when they pertain to world-building or pre-existing LEGO models, such as Toa Nui, Bohrok Kaita, Akamai Nuva, or Makuta-Nui.
    Note that Greg quotes sometimes canonize or confirm the canonicity of visual details or lore details in work that is otherwise not considered canon. Specific, one-off examples of this include: the Mask of Elemental Energy from BIONICLE: The Game, and some of the creatures and locations from VNOG.
  15. Video games with story elements that are compatible with the rest of the story. This includes the BIONICLE: Quest for the Toa and BIONICLE: Maze of Shadows GameBoy Advance games. The events of BIONICLE: Quest for the Toa are canon [82]. Greg Farshtey never played BIONICLE: Maze of Shadows to verify how much of it was canon [83], but the story "Protection" by InnerRayg was written to explain canonically why Bohrok appear in the game [84, 85, 86, 87]. Otherwise, video games are generally considered non-canon, since they were not made by LEGO and often had to make concessions to suit the needs of gameplay [88, 89, 90, 91, 92].
  16. Trading card games are considered non-canon, as they were only approved by marketing and not the story team [93].
  17. Unpublished work that was later uncovered through unofficial means, such as the Legend of Mata Nui PC game or the written material in the 2003 style guide, is considered non-canon, although it may be interesting to record for posterity's sake [94, 95].

You can also find these Tiers of Canonicity on this wiki page.

Email with Greg Farshtey

Back in August, we had a short chat with Greg Farshtey about figuring out how to resolve inconsistencies in BIONICLE canon, and he agreed to help us out as he was able. So we polished up Version 2 of the Tiers, and in September, via Gonel, we were able to send an email to Greg to get his take on them. Here’s how that went:

Email with Greg Farshtey about the Tiers of Canonicity


Dear Greg,

Thank you again for taking the time to chat with us earlier, and for agreeing to help us figure out how to reconcile some inconsistencies in the BIONICLE lore.

Our small group of BIONICLE story enthusiasts has something we’d like to run by you. When we first came together, one of our earliest orders of business was to define a consistent, impartial method of ranking BIONICLE media in terms of canonicity. For example, we wanted to come up with consistent rules for figuring out whether details from books or movies should take precedence when they contradict. This isn’t to say that we want to dismiss some versions of the BIONICLE story as completely unofficial, but for the purposes of writing new stories or documenting the BIONICLE story on wikis, it’s often really useful to point to one version that is “most official.”

We did a lot of research on past statements you’ve made about the canonicity of books, comics, movies, video games, etc., and after a few months of development, and after getting feedback from the broader BIONICLE community, we’ve come up with a comprehensive set of rules that we call the “Tiers of Canonicity.” The latest version of this document is here:


If you don’t mind, would you please read through this document and let us know your opinion on it? We did our best to include citations to justify all of our decisions, but we think it would still be very valuable to get your feedback. Do you see any inaccuracies, and are there any changes you would suggest? And finally, would you be willing to endorse it for the rest of the BIONICLE community as a set of guidelines for resolving contradictions?

Thank you for your time,
Gonel, Planetperson, and co.

Greg Farshtey:

Looks fine to me.

So, that’s a thumbs-up from Greg! Now, there is a point at the end of our message where we ask if Greg would be willing to endorse the Tiers for the rest of the BIONICLE community, but Greg did not specifically respond to this, so we don’t recommend interpreting his response as endorsing the Tiers as something that everyone needs to use. In fact, we kind of regretted asking that after sending the message, because it was never our intention to step on other people’s toes and try to force them to adhere to the Tiers if they don’t want to – but we hope it will be useful for many of you nonetheless! At any rate, Greg did take a look at the Tiers and apparently didn’t spot any problems, which gives us confidence that the Tiers are a worthy standard to abide by.

That’s all for now, and let us know what you think on Discord and Twitter!