Halo TV Show Update – Lore Changes, Casting Choices, and More

The Halo fanbase is in uproar after huge announcements related to Showtime’s Halo TV series seem to imply that the show will take a radically different approach to the story than the games did. The once intangible and near-mythical Halo TV series, which seemed to be in limbo for the best part of five years, has recently made waves with exciting announcements – first, that the show actually exists, and second that it had cast its Master Chief. From there, however, things started to get strange and perhaps even a little scary for die-hard Halo fans.

To get the ‘bad news’ out of the way first, it seems highly likely that this new TV show is set in a different universe to the Halo series we know and love – either that, or it is playing extremely fast and loose with the canon. Story details ranging from changes to dates, characters, locations and events seem to imply that both the Covenant and the UNSC will be very different in this new retelling of Halo’s beloved story. Arguably the most significant change is to do with the Keyes family, most notably the idea that Doctor Halsey is Keyes’ ex-wife. Those who are familiar with the lore will know that, although Keyes and Halsey had a child together, they were never married in the original timeline. Secondly, their daughter Miranda is described as a Doctor rather than a Commander, and that her speciality is Covenant languages and cultures.

Though these changes seem interesting, particularly in that Miranda has chosen a more scientific-based role rather than a military one, they have been unfortunately brushed aside by those who are complaining about another change to the Keyes family in this new TV show, as Captain Keyes is played by Danny Sapani, who played Colonel Manton in the excellent Doctor Who episode A Good Man Goes To War, and EastEnders actress Olive Gray will be playing Miranda Keyes. To those not in the know, these two actors are black, and as the Keyes clan was Caucasian in the games, this seems to have caused quite a stir. Doctor Who’s male-to-female regeneration has recently shown us that change is not always as hard to accept as it initially appears. As many stalwart fans have pointed out, as long as both Jacob and Miranda Keyes have their British accents, it shouldn’t matter what colour their skin is, particularly in the homogeneous 2550s.

Hopefully most Halo fans will be more worried about the changes to the lore, something actually worth complaining about. The biggest deviation from the norm of Halo is the announcement that Charlie Murphy’s character Makee is a human who has been raised by the Covenant. This seems bizarre at face value, as the Covenant was driven to destroy Humanity out of religious fervour in the games, as they believed that all Humans were an affront to their religion. Nonetheless, this does not mean that a Human being raised by the Covenant is completely impossible, though many fans have pointed out that at this point it seems as though the Halo TV series is defined by its blatant disregard for the lore.

Halo TV Show Theories

So with the basics of the controversial details of Showtime’s Halo TV Show listed above, it is now time for some damage control. How can this show reconcile the drastic differences in the canon with the firmly established lore of Halo that we know and love?

Theory 1 – It Just Will

The first theory is the worst theory – the idea that the TV show will simply try to bolt this story onto Halo and expect fans to just go with it. Admittedly, this is highly unlikely. It might be easy for fans to assume that the production team behind this TV show don’t care about Halo lore given the evidence, but it is unlikely that 343 industries would green-light this project knowing that it would upset fans after release. In truth, it is far more likely that 343 industries wants all this ‘bad news’ to be announced well in advance to give fans a chance to assimilate it.

Theory 2 – The Show is an Alternate Timeline

This seems like a logical, if wholly un-Halo, way to get around the strange changes to the lore in this new TV show. There are two broad ways this could be done – an ‘in-universe’ alternate universe as in Star Trek, or a ‘canon’ alternate universe like Disney’s Star Wars. It could be that the fact that the series is a ‘parallel’ universe plays into the plot in some way, perhaps even to explain some of the blatant inconsistencies that already plague Halo’s lore. Either way, it would account for the differences in Miranda’s job role, the Covenant doctrine, and (for those who care) the Keyes’ family pigmentation.

Theory 3 – Miranda will Survive

This is less of a broad theory and more of a specific prediction related to Miranda. As we know she has taken a scientific career path and not a military one, we can infer that she has a closer relationship with her mother than her father, as in the games she chose the military to follow in Keyes’ footsteps. Will this choice ultimately affect her fate? In Halo 3, Miranda’s gung-ho attitude was eventually her undoing, whereas a more reserved and calculated Doctor Miranda Keyes might not make the same mistake.

Theory 4 – Makee is a Secret

This final theory relates to Makee, and the idea that she is a human who has been raised by the Covenant to hate Humanity. Whilst this sounds odd on the surface, we do not know the specific details, so we cannot judge the validity of this idea until we see it executed in practice. But how could this idea work? There are two most likely methods. First is that Makee is a secret Covenant project, perhaps even a weapon. Second is the idea that Makee has been raised not by the Covenant as a whole, but by a single member – perhaps a Sangheili or San’Shyuum – who keeps her a secret.

Conclusion

In all seriousness, it is understandable why Halo fans are confused and perhaps a little alarmed over the decisions that have been made relating to Showtime’s Halo TV series. After all, Halo is a behemoth of a franchise that has managed to keep its lore (mostly) intact for nearly 20 years, which is quite a feat considering how much expanded universe material there is. Halo fans are as dedicated to their franchise as Star Wars fans, Star Trek fans and Doctor Who fans are to theirs, which is no easy feat.

Despite everything said above, it is even understandable why some are concerned about the Keyes recastings – after all, change for change’s sake is usually a bad move. But, to those who are concerned about this decision, 343 industries confirmed that the casting was carried out based on who was best suited to play the role. The caucasian Captain Keyes was rendered, not cast, and anyone playing him for real would ideally need gravitas and a suitable screen presence, two traits that Danny Sapani showed during his brief time on Doctor Who.

As far as the changes to the lore go, we can only wait and see. There are some other interesting morsels here and there that imply a much grander and multi-layered human side to the story, such as the casting of Shabana Azmi as the infamous Admiral Margaret Parangosky as well as Bokeem Woodbine as dissident Spartan washout Samuel-066. It could well be that the story of the Halo TV series is deeper and more multi-faceted than the games could have been, which makes sense given the fact that Game of Thrones is allegedly a prime source of inspiration. Halo fans may finally get a depiction of the legendary intrigue, guile and back-stabbing of wartime Human politics, particularly if ONI is set to play a significant role. Nonetheless, there will inevitably be more rumour, controversy and pointless speculation to come – as far as Showtime’s Halo TV series goes, we’re just getting started.

Halo – Who Created The Flood?

The Flood. One of the most loathed enemies in all of video gaming history, the scourge of the Halo Galaxy, and the ancient enemy of humankind. Anyone who has played the Halo games knows the Flood well, but despite their importance to the Halo story, little has been divulged in the games themselves that explain the origin of the space parasite.

However, Halo’s vast and expansive lore has offered an explanation as to how the Flood came about, and that is what we will be exploring today. Strap in, because this post not only delves into some deep, deep Halo lore, but this story is long. Really long. Millions of years long, actually, as our story begins in roughly ten million years ago, give or take a few hundred thousand years.

The Precursors

Before delving into the tale, we must first establish the main players. Before the Forerunners even existed in the Halo universe, there was another race that dominated the Galaxy – the Precursors, a near-omnipotent race of shapeshifters who utilised their extremely advanced, magic-like technology to hold the Galaxy in balance. They created the Mantle of Responsibility, the philosophy of a single race having a duty of care over the rest of the Galaxy, and they held the Mantle for eons.

A suspected mid-mutation Precursor specimen

However, the Precursors eventually decided that the time was right to pass on the Mantle of Responsibility to a new race. As they had created every race in the Milky Way, the Precursors had to choose which of their creations would inherit their most treasured cultural and political achievement. Initially, it fell to the Forerunners to inherit the Mantle, but at the last minute the Precursors decided that it would be Humanity, not the Forerunners, who achieved this noble goal.

Needless to say, the Forerunners were less than happy with this decision. Either due to feelings of resentment or as revenge for the denial of their ‘birthright’, the Forerunners rose up and attacked their creators. Despite the fact that the Precursors were almost all-powerful, they had no combat experience whatsoever. They were shocked that one of their own creations would defy them to such a degree. In time, the Precursors were all but destroyed.

The Forerunners

As such, the Forerunners claimed the Mantle of Responsibility, and the remaining Precursors were forced to flee to the far edges of the Galaxy. Desperate to survive, the last of the Precursors employed several methods to prolong their existence. Some went into stasis, some left the Galaxy altogether, but most decided to use their shapeshifting ability to take the form of a fine powder, which was held in containers and left to drift in space until such a time when the Precursors could return to prominence.

Meanwhile, the Forerunners assumed the role of Galactic custodians and the Humans were none the wiser to this entire conflict. For some time, things continued on in relative peace, with the Forerunners keeping order and the Galaxy essentially ticking over as the Precursors intended. That is until the previously mentioned fine powder was discovered by ancient Humanity.

Suspected infected Pheru specimens in stasis

Located drifting cargo ships that would occasionally crash-land on planets near the edge of their space, Humankind discovered the powder in dozens of transparent cylinders and, after some testing, found that it was harmless and useless, but nonetheless took some for study. They began to test the powder on small domesticated animals called Pheru, basically the ancient Human equivalent of a modern Canine, and found that over time the powder promoted docile behaviour in the creatures.

The populatiry of these Pheru spread throughout the Galaxy. Other races, such as the San’Shyuum, began to take Pheru as pets. For hundreds of years, nothing happened. Then, just as the Pheru had become as engraciated within Human and San’Shyuum society as possible, the first signs of what would soon be called ‘The Flood’ began to show.

The Flood Rises

The behaviour and physiology of the Pheru exposed to the powder began to change at an alarming rate. First, soft loose fur began to grow on the backs of some Pheru, which other Pheru often consumed. This was odd, as Pheru were known to be herbivores. Eventually the fur began to be replaced by small, fleshy growths – these were also consumed by other Pheru, and led to birth defects and more radical changes in their behaviour. The infected Pheru became aggressive, and to make matters worse the early signs of the infection began to show on Humans as well.

A Flood hive developing Spore Growth Pods

Before long, the infected Humans began to consume the flesh of their fellows. Throughout Human space, panic ensued, and the same was true for the San’Shyuum. Before long those that had become infected were almost unrecognisable, they began force-feeding their infected growths to other humans, and the Flood spread like wildfire. Before long they were primed to wage war against the Ancient Human Empire.

And wage war they did. The Flood ravaged Human space, forcing them to flee across the Galaxy. This leads into the events described in the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Terminals, to sum up briefly, the Humans aggressively fled into Forerunner space with the Flood hot on their tail, the Humans began sterilising planets that showed signs of Flood infection, and in response the Forerunners, completely ignorant of the Flood threat, cast judgement over Humanity and regressed them to a primitive state.

Forerunner-Flood War

Due to their haste in condemning Humanity, the Forerunners were caught off-guard by the Flood ten thousand years later. Nobody is quite sure why the Flood waited so long to attack – the Forerunners believed that Humanity had found a temporary cure, but by now it was far too late to ask them about it. Others suspected that the Flood waited deliberately in order to maximise the impact of their sudden attack, similarly to how long the Pheru took to mutate being put down to a conscious decision by the Flood so as to not raise suspicion.

Whatever the reasons, the Flood attacked after a centuries-long wait. Caught off guard, the Forerunners lost dozens of colonies and billions of Forerunners were infected within just a few years. A horrendous campaign ensued in which the once mighty Forerunner empire was whittled away as the Flood continued their relentless advance. In response, the Forerunners became increasingly desperate.

The Forerunners created an advanced Ancilla known as Mendicant Bias, an AI designed to destroy the central intelligence of the Flood – the Gravemind. Unfortunately, Mendicant Bias was infected by the Logic Plague and defected to the Flood. The Didact’s plan to use a Composer on Humanity to create a new race of Promethean soldiers was undone by his wife, the Librarian, who at this point was dedicated to a programme of galactic conservation. Machinations within the Forerunner political elite meant that, after exhausting every other strategic option, the Halo Array was developed and deployed to wipe out all sentient life in the Galaxy.

The tragic history of the creation and development of the Flood is one of Halo’s darkest tales. Whilst it is easy to point the blame at the Forerunners for their own fate, they did eventually make the ultimate sacrifice in the hope that the Flood would never return. Unfortunately, due to their desire to ensure the Flood could be cured, the Forerunners also used the Halo Rings as research facilities, storing Flood specimens there. This ensured that the Halo Array, a weapon designed to be the ultimate counter to the Flood, was actually the Flood’s ultimate salvation – and given that a Halo Ring is confirmed to be present in the upcoming Halo: Infinite, we can be assured that the Flood will make at least a minor appearance after years of absence.

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Life, Death and the Force – The Cyclical Universe of Star Wars

“It’s like poetry, sort of, they rhyme. Every stanza kinda rhymes with the last one. Hopefully it’ll work.”

Since George Lucas first uttered that infamous phrase in the behind-the-scenes documentary of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, it has been met by a keen combination of derision and fascination from Star Wars fans. Some see this is prove of Lucas’ lazy writing, whilst others see it as the purest presentation of the creator’s intent for the universe he created.

The moment the infamous quote was uttered

The narrative of Star Wars has included elements of repetition and mirror-images since its inception, so if we dig a little deeper into what George meant by this, however, we might discover a new way to interpret how the Star Wars story is told, or at the very least learn a little more about how George wanted Star Wars to be remembered in the future.

Let’s start at the beginning – sort of. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope is not where the Star Wars story starts, but it is where the story started for many fans of the series, as it was the first film to be released. Already this tells us a lot about how George wanted Star Wars to be consumed as a medium, as he apparently had the basics of the entire saga planned from the beginning and yet chose to start with what would later become ‘Episode 4’ because he believed it was the most interesting part of the story.

Bear in mind that this has to be taken with a pinch of salt, as George has also claimed at various points over the years that ‘The Star Wars’ was originally going to be 12-parts long, or that he deliberately skipped making Episodes I-III in the 1970s because the technology to actualize them hadn’t been invented yet. Nonetheless, if we take George’s word for it, the saga was planned out to some degree before Episode IV even started production, and despite the fact that Episodes IV-VI are regarded by many as the perfect trilogy to rival The Lord of the Rings, it seems it was always George’s intention to have these three films be the middle trilogy of a much larger saga.

Things start to get interesting when you start to consider the manner in which George Lucas went about created the prequel trilogy. Either by long-planned design or spur-of-the-moment inspiration, George chose to deliberately echo the events of the original films in the prequels, to the extent that the parallels are so overt that they barely classify as subtext. The infamous ‘poetry’ quote from the start of this article was first uttered in reference to the fact that Anakin blowing up the Trade Federation ship at the end of Episode I is strikingly similar to Luke blowing up the Death Star at the end of Episode IV, but this similarity isn’t the result of lazy writing on Lucas’ part, it was intentional – apparently.

Upon realising this, one can find these sorts of similarities everywhere in Star Wars, most notably the Luke vs Vader fight in Episode V mirroring the Anakin vs Obi-Wan fight in Episode III. Delving into the Expanded Universe gives fans even more poetry to rhyme with, as we discover that the ‘New Republic’ established at the end of Episode VI only lasts for about a quarter of a decade before the Galaxy descends into chaos again. Even when Disney bought the franchise and rendered the entire Expanded Universe non-canon, they stuck with the basic story of a Skywalker child turning evil and bringing back the Empire.

The question is – why? Surely this cyclical narrative structure devalues everything that made the original trilogy so good? Surely watching Return of the Jedi will now leave a sour taste in your mouth as you know that within thirty years the entire galaxy is at war again?

Well… not really. The ending of Return of the Jedi has lost none of its impact, in the same way that the heavy-hitting ending of Revenge of the Sith is in no way impacted by the fact that the next film is called ‘A New Hope’. The reason for this is that we are already used to cyclical storytelling as humans, because that’s basically the narrative structure of our own history. One of the beautiful things about Star Wars is that it tells two important stories – the huge, diverse galactic conflict spanning dozens of planets, and the smaller introspective story of a small family and how the choices of individuals impact the wider universe.

And whilst this is as much due to a happy accident and the incredible work of thousands of talented people as it is to the scrawlings of an idealistic filmmaker in the 1970s, the end result is the same. Star Wars is a series that reflects one of the fundamental truths of life, in that whilst there are happy endings to stories, there is rarely such things as a ‘happily ever after’.

Revan, a powerful ancient Sith Lord

This is made especially clear when one delves even further into the now non-canon Expanded Universe. Did you know that 4000 years before the events of A New Hope, there was another Old Republic that had previously stood for a thousand generations, that was betrayed by a fallen Jedi, and was then transformed into an Empire only to be reformed back into a Republic by a band of Rebels? Did you also know that 120 years after A New Hope, another Sith Empire rises and has to be battled by Luke’s great-grandchildren? This is perhaps the clearest illustration of Lucas’ vision – the idea that heroes and villains rise and fall, dark and light are locked in eternal struggle, and the entire Galaxy is a stage to the cyclical ouroboros of the Force itself.

So what does this tell us about Star Wars as a whole? Have fans been barking up the wrong tree by complaining about its cyclical story structure? Is Star Wars actually a subtley veiled allegory to the vicious cycle of boom and bust in the capitalist economic system, or perhaps an illustration of the futility of warfare on a global scale? The real answer is… maybe. It is difficult to tell whether that is the intention of the filmmakers or simply coincidence that the story structure of Star Wars ended up this way, but it makes for interestng analysis. One thing that is certain is that, like all good science fiction stories, Star Wars is a parable. Deciphering its meaning is a whole different behemoth, as it can be interpreted in so many different ways – perhaps that is part of the reason why the franchise endures to this day, as its constant reinvention and enigmatic morality keep it fresh for each new generation that experiences it.

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Top 5 Scariest Big Finish Doctor Who Audios

As October is a festively spooky month, it is a good time to revisit some of Doctor Who’s scariest episodes. So in keeping with the tradition, here at Sacred Icon we are counting down the Top 5 Scariest Big Finish Doctor Who audios. Big Finish have been making Doctor Who audios for over 20 years, they have accumulated a fair amount of scary stories.

5 – Ravenous 2 | Seizure

This is a spectacular story that firmly establishes the titular Ravenous as truly terrifying adversaries. Previously in the Ravenous 2 box-set the Eighth Doctor, Liv and Helen fought against the Krampus and several hellish imps, as well as the notorious Voc Robots, so the scary theme of the set is clear – but the final episode, Seizure, takes the cake. This self-contained story depicts the trio exploring the labyrinthine remains of an insane, dying TARDIS as they attempt to locate potential survivors, one of whom is the deranged Time Lord known as ‘The Eleven’. Afflicted with regenerative dissonance, The Eleven’s previous incarnations live on inside his mind, and with ten other voices in his head at all times, he has been driven quite mad. Yet The Eleven isn’t even the scariest thing that stalks the Doctor and his friends in this story, as the dying TARDIS is also home to an elusive ghost and a ravenous monster that aims to devour the Time Lords themselves.

4 – Embrace the Darkness

Another Eighth Doctor story, but from far earlier in his timeline, Embrace the Darkness is a fantastic narrative that makes excellent use of the audio drama format. The entire story is set in near-total darkness, and the fact that there are no visuals does wonders to enhance the fear-factor, as the story consistently keeps you on your toes. There are some genuinely chilling scenes, particularly involving the humans the Doctor and Charley encounter in the dark world that they visit, and at times this audio seems like the closest Doctor Who comes to doing straight-up horror.

3 – Spare Parts

This audio is often mentioned when people discuss the benefits of Big Finish’s position as an independent company, as it is a great example of the company completely ignoring the ‘child-friendly’ requirement that people expect from televised Doctor Who. A Cyberman origin story set on the bleak, dying world of Mondas, Spare Parts depicts a society in its death-throes as the Mondasians desperately attempt to survive against the bitter cold of their lost planet. Inevitably, the Cybermen rise, and although Nyssa and the Fifth Doctor do everything they can to prevent it, we know from the beginning that the ending is inevitable. What Spare Parts does so well is show that even in the bleakest of scenarios there is still an inkling of hope, but for the people of Mondas their source of hope is the eternal living death of Cyber-conversion. Spare Parts isn’t ‘jump-scare’ scary, but it is the kind of story that will be playing over and over again in your head for days after you listen to it.

2 – Doom Coalition 1 | The Red Lady

Usually, the scariest audio dramas are the ones that capitalise on the audio format itself, as many of the scariest Doctor Who audios would be impossible to adapt for TV without losing an element of the fear factor. The Red Lady is a rare example of an audio that could, in theory, be a televised episode, but it is just so creepy that even without visuals the tale is still terrifying. The story introduces new companion Helen, an assistant language scholar for the National Museum in the 1960s, as her, the Eighth Doctor and Liv attempt to unravel a deadly mystery. An art collection featuring a recurring motif of a red woman is donated to the museum, and quickly people start dying.

1 – Night Thoughts

A creepy story set on a remote island in Scotland, Night Thoughts is a wonderful exploration of psychology and the fear of death. When the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Hex arrive at a grand old hall and disturb a group of academics residing in an old house, they soon realise that there is far more at work than the bickering of a few scholars – soon the murders start, and the most obvious lead seems to be a girl who talks with her stuffed rabbit – and the stuffed rabbit talks back. With a plot that seizes the potential of time-travel related stories by the horns, an atmosphere that is steeped in classical horror and twists and turns that keep the listener engaged to the very end, Night Thoughts is the quintessential spooky story in Big Finish’s backcatalogue.

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Doctor Who – Why do Daleks need their Casings?

Ever wondered why Daleks need their casings? Find out here on Sacred Icon:

The 2019 New Year’s Special of Doctor Who featured the return of the Daleks and the introduction of a new Dalek variant – the Recon Scout, a mutant with genetic modifications and extra abilities that allow it to survive in almost any environment, as well as allowing it to exist outside of its casing.

However, this does seem to contradict Doctor Who lore, as historically the Daleks have been confined to their casings, so is this a mistake? Well, to answer that question, let’s first dive in and explain why the Daleks actually need their casings to begin with.

Locked inside a Cold, Metal Cage

A Dalek with its casing open

The Daleks originated on Skaro, a planet ravaged by nuclear and chemical warfare, as the result of experiments conducted by Davros that focused on adapting the existing races of the planet so that they could survive in the polluted and ruined atmosphere. The idea behind this was that, once the war was over, some form of life had to survive to live on otherwise the entire conflict would have been meaningless. However, in the process Davros created a monstrous creature that lived to hate and required a life support machien to survive.

Though it might seem ironic that Davros’ attempts to create the ultimate creature ended up creating a race that were dependent on life support to exist, Davros countered this by also inventing the ultimate weapon – the Dalek shell, a self-supporting battle tank with extremely powerful weapons, armour and shields. In many ways, the Dalek mutant and the casing are intrinsically linked, to the extent that in the Big Finish Audio Story In Remembrance, an Imperial warrior states that “A Dalek is it’s casing”, further solidifying the idea that, to the Daleks, their casing is almost like an extension of itself.

Daleks and Their Casings

Nonetheless, the casing is not always necessary for a Daleks’ survival. In past episodes of the show we have seen that some Daleks are capable of surviving outside of their shells for some time, as was seen in Resurrection of the Daleks, Twice Upon a Time and Resolution. But how is this possible when the casing provides such essential life support? The answer to this question varies depending on the context and the episode – in some cases Daleks have been seen to adapt to life outside their casings over time, and in other cases the Daleks are capable of temporarily leaving their casings.

A Dalek creature inside the open casing

Either way, the primary purpose of the Dalek’s casing is to provide life support – that was its primary function before the Daleks even adapted for interstellar warfare. Daleks have also been known to use their casings to depict rank or allegiance. This was certainly the case with Supreme Daleks, and in the case of important individual Daleks such as the Dalek Time Controller or Dalek Sec. During the Imperial-Renegade Dalek Civil War, the different Dalek factions were denoted by their different-looking casings, that each sported their own unique colour scheme and overall design.

The Paradigm Daleks used bright colours to determine rank among their limited number, and their casing deviated radically from that of the standard Dalek of that era to denote their unique position in Dalek society. Despite these differences, the overall design of the standard Dalek casing has always remained constant. The Daleks have no desire to adapt the shape or design of their casings, and they see any attempt to do so as an abhorrent deviation, except in the most dire of circumstances. Daleks view themselves to be the supreme beings in the universe, so they revere imagery of their own casings, building skyscrapers in an image that resembles them, both on Earth and even on Skaro itself. Overall, it’s safe to say that the Dalek casing is an important part of the Dalek itself.

Battle Armour and Immense Firepower

In keeping with their philosophy of Extermination of all other life forms, the Dalek casing is built to be the ultimate death machine. The primary armament is a gunstick fitted into the left-hand ball-jointed socket on the front of the Dalek. This weapon fires an energy blast that can be tuned and modified to suit the needs of the Dalek in the current situation. Their first on-screen use was to stun humanoids by disabling their legs temporarily.

A Dalek fires its energy blast…

When used at full power, however, the Dalek’s death ray can instantly kill almost any life form in a single blast, which liquefies the internal organs of the victim causing intense agony followed by a sudden death. The blast can be altered in strength to quicken the death of the victim, disintegrate targets, cut through metal or cause intense explosions, or modified in delivery by either a projectile or beam-shaped blast.

…and the target is Exterminated.

Not only that, but the Dalek is also armed with a strong manipulator arm with a flexible gripper that can assume almost any shape, either to interface with complex mechanism or to crush the heads of humanoids in close-quarters combat. The Dalek is protected by an energy shield that absorbs energy-based projectiles and disintegrates incoming ballistic-based projectiles and vaporises living things that get too close when used at full power. Not only that, but the casing’s armour itself can withstand most projectiles. Needless to say, the Dalek’s casing is a catch-all tool for hunting down and exterminating prey on the ground. But the Daleks would never stop there.

Defeating the Flight of Stairs

The Dalek casing moves about using heavy lifters beneath the casing that can be intensified to allow the Dalek to fly. This allows Daleks to essentially become airborne fight craft, that can also double as bombers if their weapons are used at full power.

Daleks in Space

This feature also allows the Dalek to fly up stairs, navigate potentially difficult environments, and even function in space. When flying through space, Daleks are surprisingly fast, and are often deployed en masse from Dalek saucers and used in ship-to-ship combat.

Due to their enhanced mobility and ability to make their casings air-tight, Daleks can also function underwater if necessary. Certain models of Dalek are adapted specifically for underwater environments, as the Dalek Empire will conquer and destroy ocean worlds just as freely as any human colony or tropical paradise.

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Doctor Who – Where to Start with Big Finish’s Eighth Doctor Audio Dramas

New to Big Finish Doctor Who Audios? If you want to get into the Eighth Doctor’s era but don’t know where to start, this guide to Big Finish 8th Doctor Audios can help!

One of Big Finish’s most popular and most successful ranges among their Doctor Who back-catalogue is their extensive selection of Eighth Doctor audio dramas, and for good reason.

As he has historically been the Doctor with the fewest on-screen appearances, it is great that the Eighth Doctor was picked up by Big Finish – Paul McGann continues to add to the role he never got to play on TV, the writers have free reign to tell whatever stories they want as they are not constrained by a preexisting narrative for the Eighth Doctor, and fans have been treated to some truly amazing stories within the Eighth Doctor range, all told through the medium of audio,

However, as Big Finish have been producing Eighth Doctor audios since 2001, it can be difficult at this point to know where to begin with his series. With literally hundreds of audio plays to his name, the Eighth Doctor can seem a daunting Doctor to tackle for fans, particularly those that are just getting into Big Finish and the audio drama format as a whole.

This guide is designed to assist those who want to listen to the Eighth Doctor’s Big Finish audio dramas but are unsure of how to approach them. To begin, let’s simplify the Eighth Doctor’s era by dividing it into the distinct ‘phases’ that are generally accepted by fans to be the main pillars of Eighth Doctor audio content.

Phase 1 -Charley Pollard and The Early Years

The Eighth Doctor’s early adventures are bold, nostalgic, and stand the test of time – not only do they draw a lot from the best of Classic Who and therefore don’t feel out of place among the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors in the Monthly Adventures, they do an excellent job of firmly establishing the character of the Eighth Doctor post-TV Movie, as well as introducing us to the marvellous Charley Pollard, the Eighth Doctor’s companion for the majority of his Monthly Range appearances.

Rather like the first few Fourth Doctor TV episodes, the early Eighth Doctor stories depict the Doctor exploring the universe seemingly without a care, but hinting at an overarching plot beneath. This means that you can listen to each episode individually without a problem, but it is beneficial to listen to them in order. The saga begins with 2001’s Storm Warning, which introduces Charley, and highlights of this era include Embrace the Darkness, Neverland, Zagreus, Scherzo, The Natural History of Fear, and The Girl Who Never Was.

Although it is not necessary to listen to every single audio in this era, there are very few that could be considered downright bad. As this was an early era for Big Finish, a lot of experimentation was taking place, so this era of Doctor Who audio dramas can be forgiven for its occasional slip-ups as for every dud audio play Big Finish produced, there were three more that were truly excellent. The only audio that should probably be avoided is Minuet in Hell, although it has to be said that Zagreus is not for the faint-hearted.

Phase 2 – Lucie Bleedin’ Miller and the New Beginning

Since the first set of Eighth Doctor audios were part of the Monthly Adventures, they use the Classic Who format of 4 25-30 minute parts that make up a roughly 2 hour story. However, when the Eighth Doctor was given his own standalone series in 2007, Big Finish changed the format of his stories to single 45 minute episodes, some of which having two parts, to match the format that the televised Doctor Who used post-2005. This change makes the Eighth Doctor Adventures with Lucie Miller far more accessible to newer fans.

Not only that, but this series contains a huge amount of excellent content. Although not as experimental as the previous phase of Eighth Doctor audios, the Eighth Doctor Adventures are far more consistent in terms of overall quality. The tone and plots of the audios in this phase feel very much aligned to the New Series, specifically the Tenth Doctor era. Lucie Miller makes an excellent companion – almost like a cross between Rose and Donna, with just a dash of Ace thrown in for luck. Her strong personality and excellent portrayal by Sheridan Smith make Lucie an instantly memorable companion.

The villains of this era are also equally memorable. The notorious Headhunter is an excellent counter to the Doctor and Lucie’s positive outlook on their adventures, and as her character develops she becomes a fascinating anti-hero of sorts as well as recurring villain. There are also strong appearances for both the Daleks and the Cybermen in this era, and there are many returning Classic villains that make this phase feel like a love letter to fans of Classic and New Who alike. Highlights from this era include Blood of the Daleks, Human Resources, Brave New Town, The Zygon Who Fell To Earth, Hothouse, Wirrn Dawn and To The Death, although there are very few stories in this phase that fail to be either enjoyable romps or excellent sci-fi stories.

Phase 3 – Molly O’Sullivan, the Girl with the Dark Eyes

This phase of Eighth Doctor audios marks a significant transition into the format of 4 episode to a box set and 4 box sets to a series. The episodes are usually self-contained stories that connect together to form a 16-part story – think The Trial of a Time Lord but with less Brian Blessed and even more technobabble. This era sees a far more reserved and brooding Doctor team up with new companion Molly O’Sullivan – a World War I Medical Volunteer who possesses the ‘Dark Eyes’ that give the series its name.

Overall, this phase of the Eighth Doctor’s tenure is perhaps the least accessible to most fans, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has its own distinct identity, almost its own universe, and it creates its own galactic conflict to use as the stage for its space-opera-style story structure. Dark Eyes is certainly an immersive experience, though arguably its greatest weakness is that it relies too heavily on the combined story structure, meaning there are few episodes that stand out as individual stories in their own right.

One of the greatest strengths of Dark Eyes, however, is the Master – played excellently by the delightfully charismatic Alex Macqueen. This version of the Master is a treat, and his appearance in this series helps make it truly memorable. Highlights from this phase include The Great War, The Traitor, Eyes of the Master, A Life in the Day and Master of the Daleks.

Phase 4 – Battling Doom Coalition and Ravenous with Liv and Helen

After the intense and plot-heavy Dark Eyes, the Eighth Doctor’s life takes a sudden turn with the Doom Coalition and Ravenous storylines. The format relaxes the overarching plot meaning that the individual stories feel more unique and distinct from each other, meaning that it would theoretically be possible for a newcomer to listen to a random story from this series and enjoy it. However, as previously mentioned, at this point in the Eighth Doctor’s life there is a lot of internal lore and backstory within his stories, meaning characters, events and plot threads from previous phases play more of a part in these stories. There are even some elements of the New Series that are brought into play here, such as Missy, River Song, and the Weeping Angels.

And yet, arguably the best thing about this era is that the Doctor has a wonderful pair of companions in this phase – Liv and Helen, who come from completely different time zones, one from the 1960s, one from the far-future, and yet have perfect chemistry. Although not as dynamic as Charley or distinctive as Lucie, Liv and Helen fit the companion role excellently for this era of the Eighth Doctor’s life. Highlights from this era include The Red Lady, Scenes from Her Life, Absent Friends, The Side of the Angels, Their Finest Hour Seizure and Companion Piece.

This phase also features a character that is arguably the best villain in the Eighth Doctor’s entire era, and is perhaps one of the greatest villains in Doctor Who history – The Eleven. This insane Time Lord suffers from a condition called Regenerative Dissonance, meaning that his previous incarnations live on as multiple personalities inside his head. This leads to terrifying situations in which multiple psychopathic consciousnesses fight to control a single body and argue over the best way to murder their victim, with the primary Eleven personality vying for control.

Phase 5 – Bliss and the Time War

It was inevitable that the Eighth Doctor would have to face the Time War eventually, and Big Finish began producing the Eighth Doctor Time War stories before Doom Coalition had even finished – this represents a fresh start for the Doctor, and he has a new companion and even a new theme (borrowed from the late John Hurt’s War Doctor audios). These stories are often a lot bleaker than many of the previous Eighth Doctor audios, although this is to be expected with the Time War raging.

There are some interesting surprises in this era, as several aspects of the Doctor’s life come back to haunt him during the horrors of the Time War. This series also serves a secondary purpose – setting up the War Doctor audios which chronologically take place after this era from the point of view of the Doctor.

New companion Bliss makes an excellent impression in this series, establishing herself as a character who is just as affected by the Time War as the Doctor is, meaning she understands the nature of the conflict and aligns with the Doctor’s view of wanting to help but not actively fight. Highlights of this phase include The Starship of Theseus, One Life, Planet of the Ogrons, In the Garden of Death and The War Valeyard. Although the last phase in the Eighth Doctor’s tenure is quite disconnected from its predecessors, one must take into account the fact that Big Finish has not finished filling in the gaps as of yet. Still, those who enjoyed the legendary War Doctor audios will also enjoy the Eighth Doctor: Time War stories.

Extra Eighth Doctor Content

But wait, there’s more! The five phases might be the main eras of the Eighth Doctor’s audio tenure, but there are other stories that feature him that do not fit into any of these categories. Overall, the Eighth Doctor’s era is vast and daunting to the uninitiated, but hopefully this guide has helped to break down this enigmatic and elusive Doctor’s era into more manageable phases for those who want to take the plunge and experience the excellent audio adventures of the Eighth Doctor.

Travels with Mary Shelley

There are some audios that were released as part of the Monthly Adventures in 2009 and 2010 that depicted the Eighth Doctor at an earlier point in his life, before he even met Charley, in which he had several travels with Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. This era takes on a distinctly Gothic feel, and every one is worth a listen. The Silver Turk is arguably the best, and features the Mondasian Cybermen in 19th-century Vienna.

The Further Adventures of Lucie Miller

Acting as a pseudo-spinoff series for Lucie that is set between the first and second series of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, this box set tells various stories that primarily involve Lucie, although the Eighth Doctor is obviously present. So far only the first box set of this series has been released, but already the Further Adventures of Lucie Miller have given us a hilarious Dalek story in the debut story, The Dalek Trap.

Rage of the Master

The Eighth Doctor also appears in the third box set in the War Master series, which depicts the antics of Derek Jacobi’s incarnation of the Master during the Time War. The Eighth Doctor and the War Master bounce off each other well in their scenes together, and overall the story is highly enjoyable – but to say any more would give away some fantastic plot twists.

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Doctor Who – Who Created the Cybermen?

The Cybermen are one of the Doctor’s oldest and deadliest enemies, and since their introduction in The Tenth Planet, Doctor Who’s first regeneration story, the Cybermen have menaced almost every incarnation of the Doctor. As they are due to appear in Series 12 in 2020, fan interest in the Cybermen has peaked recently. However, a question that often comes up when discussing them is, how were they first created?

Unlike the Daleks, who get their own origin story in Genesis of the Daleks, the Cybermen were strangely neglected when it came to their origins in the Classic Series. The closest we came to an getting an explanation of their origins is the brief summary of how they came to be that we get in their first episode, as the Cybermen explain that their world, Mondas, was dying and that they needed to adapt in order to survive.

The Many Cyber-Origin Stories

Interestingly, although Classic Who didn’t divulge much about the origins of the Cybermen, the 21st century incarnations of Doctor Who have attempted to explain more about their origins.

Spare Parts, Big Finish Main Range, 2002

Spare Parts, a Fifth Doctor Big Finish Audio from the Main Range, depicts the Doctor and Nyssa arriving on Mondas just as the Cybermen are starting to take over, and although Nyssa is determined to try and save the planet, the Doctor is torn between helping the innocent and keeping history on track. Things are further complicated by the fact that this story is set not long after the death of Adric at the hands of the Cybermen.

This story shows that the Cybermen were created on Mondas as a means of allowing the citizens to survive in the increasingly hostile environment of a frozen, dead world. The Mondasian surgeons believe that they are saving the population, but the monstrous Committee, a unification of minds that acts as a precursor to the Cyber-Planner, sees the population as little more than resources to be harvested.

Rise of the Cybermen, Series 2, 2006

Another alternate race of Cybermen were created on a parallel version of Earth, as seen in 2005’s Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel. Like Spare Parts, this story depicts a scientist attempting to prolong human life by inventing the Cybermen. In this case, Doctor John Lumic created the Cybermen as a means of achieving immortality, due to the fact that he was suffering from a debilitating, incurable disease. Ultimately, he manages to convert a sizeable population of parallel London into Cybermen, and is eventually converted into a Cyber-Controller.

Although the Doctor eventually stops Lumic and destroys his Cybermen, the parallel Earth would continue to see Cyber-incursions for many years afterwards, and some Cybermen from that universe would eventually find their way into our universe and assimilate into the ranks of the Mondasian Cybermen, according to some sources.

World Enough and Time, Series 10, 2017

Another origin story for a race of Cybermen is seen in 2017’s World Enough and Time. This episode shows that, at some point, a colony ship had departed from Mondas with a crew of 50, only to be trapped in the event horizon of a black hole. Due to the time dilation effect of the black hole, the crew lived out their entire lives on the ship and bred, eventually leading to a sprawling city being built on one of the habitation decks. Eventually, however, this city would be corrupted by the interference of the Master.

As the city became more polluted, eventually the Mondasians on board began to convert themselves into primitive Cybermen that would slowly evolve over time into the modern Cybermen. After infesting most of the ship, many of these Cybermen were destroyed by the Doctor, though it is likely that many more survived.

Other Potential Cyber-Origins

These are not the only potential origin stories for the Cybermen. We know that they have sprung up on many planets due to parallel evolution, including Telos, Marinus and Planet 14 as well as Mondas and Earth. Over time the many Cyber-races would coalesce into one, known as the Cyberiad, which would fight many centuries-long wars, known collectively as the Cyber-Wars, against Humanity and their allies. These included, among others, the Orion War and the Tiberian Galaxy War.

So, unlike the Daleks, the Cybermen were not created by one specific person, nor indeed do they have one comprehensive backstory. Although the finer details of how the Cybermen as a ‘race’ came to be are hazy in Doctor Who lore, we can assume that many different versions of Cybermen came together and combined technology as a form of adapting, which explains why in the show there are some Cybermen that look very primitive and others that are highly advanced, and also why some seem to possess physiological differences.

The Real-World Origin of the Cybermen

Interestingly, the real-world Cyberman origin story shares several distinct similarities to their fictional origins. The idea for the Cybermen first came about in the 1960s when Dr. Christopher ‘Kit’ Pedler, the unofficial scientific advisor for Doctor Who, became fascinated with the idea of ‘spare part’ surgery that was becoming increasingly more sophisticated in the 1960s.

Dr. Pedler foresaw a time in which all human beings incorporated cybernetic implants and adaptations into their bodies, and this inspired him to create the ‘Cyber-Men’. Working alongside writer Gerry Davis, Dr. Pedler contributed to the writing of The Tenth Planet, the 1966 debut of the Cybermen, and this explains why in that story the Cybermen look a lot more recognisably humanoid than they would in later stories.

Whilst Dr. Pedler’s predictions about the future have (so far) proved to be incorrect, his vision of the future has lost none of its potency. In fact, with the leaps and bounds that medical science has undertaken since the 1960s, we are closer than ever to having real-life Cybermen, though it will be a long time before we have the capability to create them.

However, the essence of Dr. Pedler’s prediction endures to this day – Humankind must always be wary of the potential for excessive cybernetic enhancements, as whilst so far they are used for purely medical purposes, there is always potential for the good nature of these technologies to be corrupted. Human vanity, greed and lust for power mean that the Cybermen will always endure as villains – as a constant reminder of what we, the human race, could so easily become.

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