Doctor Who – Chris Chibnall Wrote ‘The Timeless Children’ to Deliberately Provoke Fan Hate

By now every Doctor Who fan will have seen or at the very least heard about the most recent controversy in the show’s long, twisted history – Chris Chibnall has seemingly defied all pre-existing unwritten rules and has decided to explore the origins of the Doctor in his most recent series finale, and it seems the vocal majority of fans are largely unimpressed. The premise of the episode, which depicts the Doctor trapped in the Matrix and informed by the Master that everything she thought she knew about her origins is a lie, seems to have been specifically designed to invoke fan rage.

Not only does this episode reveal that the Doctor is in fact not a Time Lord at all, but is in fact an entity from another universe who was found by a Gallifreyan scientist called Tecteun and used as the template to create the entire Time Lord race, it also implies that the Doctor has had a previous set of regenerations before the First Doctor, and that after living an entire set of lives working as an agent for a Time Lord organisation called ‘The Division’, who would wipe the Doctor’s memories, revert them back to a child, and begin the chronology of the Doctor’s life that we are already familiar with.

Like all huge revelations that change fundamental aspects about Doctor Who lore, such as The Time Meddler, The War Games, Spearhead from Space, The Deadly Assassin, Genesis of the Daleks, The Five Doctors, The Trial of a Time Lord, Rose, The Big Bang, Night of the Doctor, The Day of the Doctor, Time of the Doctor and Hell Bent before it, the fandom will likely require some time – anywhere between 15 to 25 years – to fully assimilate this new facet of the lore into canon and process its many implications. In the meantime, however, it is important to look above the tangled mess of fan outrage and slander to understand exactly why Chris Chibnall would commit such a heinous act of treachery against the show he claims to love.

The key aspect of Doctor Who that is critical to this debate is the power of hindsight. It is no secret that Doctor Who’s lore is a complete mess, arguably one of the messiest timelines in sci-fi history – whilst Doctor Who has never had to rely on out-of-universe reboots or alternate universes to keep its lore intact, one simply cannot rationalise each and every aspect of the vast narrative universe of the show and its various multi-media spinoffs into one cohesive narrative. It simply isn’t possible. As such, the show has often had to ‘bend’ its own rules and lore in the past in order to tell new, compelling stories.

A perfect example of this is Genesis of the Daleks, a four-part story from Tom Baker’s run that is often lauded as being one of the best episodes of Doctor Who ever made, and yet, for those who were keeping up with Dalek lore in the 1960s, the episode essentially rewrites Dalek history from the ground up, and throws out many of the pre-established concepts from earlier Dalek stories. For example, the Daleks are shown to have been created by a scientist called Davros, and the Thals are depicted as being just as warlike as their enemies. The previously established proto-Dalek race that Terry Nation had previously alluded to, the Dals, were erased in favour of the Kaleds, and there isn’t a petrified jungle in sight.

The same is true of another popular Tom Baker story, The Deadly Assassin. This episode was lambasted at the time for utterly demystifying the Time Lords, reducing them from a godlike race of immortals to a society of doddering bureaucrats, a transition from which the species never truly recovered. To this day, Time Lords are still depicted as being innately corrupt and fallible, whereas the original intention was for the Time Lords to embody temporal justice. Despite the negative reception of this episode at the time, it has since been re-evaluated – particularly as newer Doctor Who episodes helped to reshape the lore to fit the new depiction of Time Lords. Over time, the fandom collectively forgot that the lore had even been changed at all, to the extent that some now see the early depiction of the Time Lords as odd by comparison.

But what does all of this have to do with The Timeless Children? Sure, introducing Davros and changing the lore of the Time Lords may have been a controversial decision, but over time the fanbase has some to accept this ‘new lore’ as simply ‘lore’. The old debates over whether or not the Daleks grew from Dals or were engineered from Kaleds by Davros have long been lost to time, and that is the critical factor: Time. The unfortunate truth is that The Timeless Children is the most recent in a long line of controversial stories, and as it is currently the most recent Doctor Who story to air, there is no ‘cushion’ to help rationalise the new revelations within the lore of the show – whilst the lore-scars of The Deadly Assassin and others like it have long since faded, The Timeless Children is a fresh cut, and the coagulation has barely begun.

The frustration that fans currently feel derives from the fact that we are being presented with a narrative that goes against the grain, and because we cannot see inside Chibnall’s head we do not know where this new road will take the show. The key to understanding where Chibnall intends to take us lies in understanding what this man knows about Doctor Who and, more importantly, what he knows the fans want and, in this case, what they do not want. When watching The Timeless Children, there are several important things to take into account that are very telling of how Chibnall plans on approaching this new plot thread in the future.

The combination of utilising the Master and the Matrix as framing devices for telling the story of the Timeless Child is very revealing in itself. From previous episodes of Doctor Who we know that both the Master and the Matrix are highly unreliable sources – and given the fact that we know that the Master can alter Matrix projections at will (as seen in the Colin Baker story The Ultimate Foe) proves that what we have been shown so far regarding the story of the Timeless Child is not the whole picture, and the fact that this is a story in-progress is very pertinent. Doctor Who fans as a whole have a tendency to take plot revelations in the show at face-value, and Chibnall has clearly exploited this to create the ultimate controversial story – but just because what we learn from that story is presented to us as the truth, it does not mean that we can take it as such. A great example of this is the Valeyard, who in The Ultimate Foe is revealed to be a dark amalgamation of the Doctor’s evil nature, a revelation that has had very little impact on the show’s narrative as a whole.

Oddly enough, there is another aspect to The Ultimate Foe that is extremely relevant to The Timeless Children. Not only does this story give a potential get-out clause as it confirms that the Master not only has access to the Matrix but can also re-write its contents at will, but there are also out-of-universe links between this story and the most recent finale. The writers of The Ultimate Foe, husband-and-wife writing duo Pip and Jane Baker, were publicly lambasted on national television at the time by none other than baby Chibnall, who back in the late 1980s was a prominent member of the Doctor Who fan club. Chibnall’s scathing review of the story proves not only his passion for the show but also his understanding of what Doctor Who fans like and dislike, and this information is critical for unpacking his thought process when writing The Timeless Children.

With Doctor Who, hindsight is everything – and without it new plot revelations can seem shocking, unnerving and ‘canon-destroying’. But when you take a step back and look at the show as a whole, Doctor Who has been built on bucking tradition and charging head-first into the unknown – something that Chibnall has definitely done with The Timeless Children. He has steered his ship into a storm with the fandom tied to the mast, and only when we emerge on the other side will we be able to judge if the path he took was the right one or not. As recent news has suggested that both Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker could be staying with Doctor Who until at least Series 15, it is possible that so far we have only seen the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to Chibnall’s grand plan. A lot can happen in three seasons, and if it is true that what we have seen so far of the Thirteenth Doctor is still her ‘early phase’ (think Series 8 Capaldi or Season 24 McCoy) then who knows what the future holds.

Read More

Doctor Who – Series 6 Cybermen Designs Explained

One of the many unexplained things about Moffat’s era of Doctor Who is what happened to the Cybermen. Due to an apparent mishandling of the metal men early in Moffat’s run, some strange continuity errors have cropped up which baffle fans to this day, and it is all to do with the specific design of the Cybermen that was used in each episode that featured them in the 2010s.

The continuity error surrounds the use of the Cybus Cybermen, a subspecies of Cyberman that originated in a parallel universe during Russell T. Davies’ era as showrunner. These Cybermen, unlike their prime universe counterparts, were more robotic and heavily armoured, and were easily recognisable by their characteristic stomping feet.

Despite originating in a parallel universe, these Cybermen were first seen crossing over into the Doctor’s universe in Doomsday, and were later seen stranded in our universe having fallen back through time to the 1800s in The Next Doctor. These Cybermen used Victorian steam technology to build a rudimentary CyberKing dreadnought, but were stopped by the Tenth Doctor and seemingly destroyed. These Cybermen were seemingly the last surviving Cybus Cybermen, and as far as this Christmas Special is concerned, they were all destroyed when the CyberKing was sucked into the Time Vortex.

That would be it for the Cybus Cybermen, were it not for the fact that they also started inexplicably appearing in early Moffat stories. Series 5’s The Pandorica Opens featured a damaged Cyberman guarding the Underhenge, which was recognisable as a Cybus Cyberman by the distinctive ‘C’ on its chest. Later, other Cybus Cybermen were seen forming part of The Alliance alongside the Daleks, Sontarans and other creatures. How and why these Cybermen were present in Roman times is still unknown.

From Series 6 onward, Steven Moffat and the production team clearly realised that they needed to change the Cybermen in order to distinguish them from the Cybus Cybermen of Russell’s era. Though they would later completely redesign the Cybermen in Series 7, in the meantime the production team simply removed the ‘C’ logo on the chest of the Cybermen and replaced it with a more generic circle-like design. This was allegedly done to establish that these Cybermen were indeed native to our universe, and according to non-narrative sources, the idea was that the Cybus Cybermen had encountered the Cybermen of the Doctor’s universe and the two had merged into one species, explaining the fact that the Cybus design was now used by Cybermen of our universe.

Whatever the reasons, Series 6 saw two appearances of the Cybus-style Cybermen with circular logos. The first was the Twelfth Cyber Legion, the fleet of Cybermen that was terrorised by Rory and the Doctor during their search for Amy Pond. These Cybermen sported the circular logos but the leader featured the distinctive black head and exposed yellow brain of the Cyber-Lord seen in The Next Doctor. The second appearance of the Cybus-style Cybermen was near the end of Series 6 in the episode Closing Time. This episode featured a small group of Cybus-style Cybermen stranded on a crashed spaceship in modern-day London. The Doctor mentions that the ship itself was likely empty for ‘centuries’ until the construction of a nearby power grid restarted the conversion chambers.

These seemingly unconnected Cyberman appearances could, in fact, be connected in more ways than simply featuring the Cybus-style Cybermen. The fact that this specific design is present in all of these appearances suggests that these events are interlinked. Could it be that the Cybermen featured in The Next Doctor are in fact the same as the ones in Closing Time? Or could the prescence of Cybus Cybermen in Roman times eventually lead to a Twelfth Cyber-Legion in the distant future that sported the same design? Perhaps survivors from other Cyber-incursions eventually culminated in the Mondasian Cybermen adopting the Cybus design.

Whatever the reasons, the Cybus model eventually overtook the Mondasian Cybermen, Telosian Cybermen and other disparate Cybermen models to become the definitive Cyberman design, as by the events of Nightmare in Silver both the ‘C’ variant and ‘circle’ variant of Cybus Cybermen are featured as remnants of a recent Cyber-War. This episode also reveals that the Cybermen have evolved beyond the Cybus design, adopting the new look that has endured to this day. Having taken on this new design, the Cybermen of the New Series have been more prominently associated with Mondas as their homeworld, rather than originating from a parallel universe.

However, there are also other examples of Cybermen from parallel universes invading our universe, that may not necessarily be from the same parallel universe as the Cybus Cybermen. These include the Blood of the Cybermen model, sporting a Cyber-face logo instead of the usual ‘C’ but otherwise appearing as Cybus Cybermen, and the ‘Cyber-Reality’ Cybermen that face off against UNIT and the Master in the Big Finish box set UNIT: Cyber-Reality. These Cybermen look and sound like the Cybermen seen from series 7 onwards.

As if that were not complex enough, the final Cyberman story of Moffat’s run further solidifies the idea that the Cybus Cybermen are a natural evolution of the Mondasian Cybermen. During their thousands of years of development during the events of The Doctor Falls, the Cybermen adapt from primitive Mondasian variants to Cybus Cybermen, and later the newer Cyberiad Cybermen. The short story Alit in Underland reveals that an interim stage exists in which the Cybermen appeared as they did in the 1980s, from Earthshock to Silver Nemesis.

Doctor Who – Which Daleks make up the Dalek Supreme Council?

Due to the temporally unstable nature of Dalek history, establishing who their primary leadership are can get a little confusing. Between Dalek Emperors, Supreme Daleks, Dalek Parliaments and interference from their creator Davros, the Daleks have had numerous rulers or ruling bodies over their corrupted history.

The Dalek Supreme

However, one concept that has remained constant throughout most of the Dalek timeline is the concept of the Dalek Supreme Council, a ruling body that served directly under the Emperor. This concept was perhaps best expressed in the Third Doctor story Planet of the Daleks, with the black and gold Supreme Dalek being a representative of the Dalek Supreme Council. The idea was later elaborated upon in the Big Finish audio We Are The Daleks, in which the Dalek Emperor summons the Supreme Council to preside over the Doctor’s execution.

Although the concept of the Dalek Supreme Council is fairly well-established, which unique Daleks actually make up this council remain mostly a mystery. Other than the Supreme Dalek seen in Planet of the Daleks there has been no reference to specific members of the Council on-screen. As the Doctor Who fanbase is known for speculation, however, there have been several theories as to which Daleks feature on the Council.

The Dalek Supremes

The Gold Dalek from Day of the Daleks

Undoubtedly the primary members of the Dalek Supreme Council were the various Dalek Supremes that were active during Dalek history. Although Dalek Supremes vary in design and colour schemes, and it is unlikely that all Supreme Daleks were members of the council at once, it seems only logical that the Dalek Supreme Council was made up of Supreme Daleks. There are various distinct Supremes from across Dalek history, from the Gold Daleks of Jon Pertwee’s era to the Black Daleks that ruled in the 1980s.

The Black Dalek from Remembrance of the Daleks

The most likely candidates for inclusion on the Supreme Council include the commander-class Daleks of the early Dalek empire – identified by the black base colour of their casings, replacing the standard silver. Later Supreme Daleks include the previously mentioned Gold Daleks and Black and Gold Supreme, the Black and White Supreme featured in Resurrection of the Daleks, and the Black and Silver Supreme featured in Remembrance of the Daleks. Although counted as Supreme Daleks, the red New Series Supreme as well as the White Paradigm Supreme are unlikely to qualify, as their post-Time War placement in Dalek chronology means they outlast the Council itself.

Whilst there are probably dozens, if not hundreds of Supreme Daleks, there are likely others that make up the Supreme Council. The Big Finish audios have proven that Daleks would often specialise certain members of their ranks for particular roles, and the same is true of their upper echelons of command. Whilst the Supreme Daleks would have made up the majority of the Council, these Daleks are a more elite caste designed for the development of special weapons, secret strategies and temporal machinations.

The Eternity Circle

A Dalek Interrogator Prime

First mentioned in the War Doctor novel Engines of War, the Eternity Circle were an elite group of five Daleks sported blue and silver casings that were tasked with creating temporal weapons for use against the Time Lords during the Last Great Time War. These Daleks possessed abilities above and beyond that of a standard Dalek, capable of temporal engineering, advanced reasoning, and even laughter.

Though it may be an error, some are described as being blue and gold, suggesting that not all in the order possess the same markings. However, the recent release of the Dalek Interrogator Prime figure in the B&M Exclusive Doctor and Dalek Figure two-pack suggests that the Blue and Silver colour scheme was not exclusive to the Eternity Circle either, as the Dalek Interrogator Prime from the Big Finish audio In the Garden of Death is apparently depicted with this colour scheme too.

As they form a key component in the Dalek war effort, as well as possessing capabilities above that of the standard Dalek, it is highly likely that the Eternity Circle were also granted seats on the Dalek Supreme Council. Likewise, high-ranking individuals such as the Dalek Interrogator Prime were also likely granted seats on the Council, as they would likely deliver important information to the Council first-hand.

The Cult of Skaro

The Cult of Skaro after the Time War

Although they were only part of the main Dalek Empire for a relatively short amount of time, the Cult of Skaro – an elite order of Daleks capable of imagination – were commissioned by the Emperor to create strategies and long-term survival plans during the waning days of the Last Great Time War.

Due to their high status among the Dalek ranks, allegedly ‘above and beyond’ the Emperor, the Cult of Skaro were likely privy to Supreme Council meetings, and would likely offer their insight into battle strategy or survival tactics. It is known that before the end of the war the Cult of Skaro served as front line commanders before fleeing the war in their Void Ship, meaning their tenure over the Supreme Council was likely very brief, even by Time War standards.

Interestingly, as mentioned in a previous Dalek theories post detailing a possible appearance from Dalek Sec in the Series 9 two-parter The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar, it is possible that the temporal nature of the Cult of Skaro allowed them to preside over multiple incarnations of the Dalek Supreme Council throughout Dalek history, though this is merely speculation.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Halo – How Many Species are in The Covenant?

Throughout the Halo games we, the players, gain a complex and deep insight into the Covenant military in all its forms, since they comprise the main bulk of the enemies fought in the Halo games, particularly the original trilogy. From the diminutive, cowardly Grunts to the easily angered Elites and every Jackal, Hunter and Drone in between, Halo fans basically know the Covenant warrior castes inside out.

However, despite interacting on the front lines with various Covenant troops, we are never shown or told in-game exactly how many species make up the Covenant. So today, we will be taking a look at all of the species that we know to be in the Covenant, be it military, leader or civilian.

Covenant Military

The primary races of the Covenant, as previously mentioned, are the military. Led by the Elites, the armed forces of the Covenant represent one of the most effective fighting forces in the Galaxy, not least due to its impeccable methods of species-based specialisation. In other words, every race of the Covenant that has a potential combat role to play is put to work in the military.

Elites

The classic Sangheili that we all know and love, the Elites form the backbone of the Covenant military hierarchy in the majority of Halo games. Not only do they use their influence to keep frightened Grunts or mischievous Jackals in line, but they also represent one of the most powerful soldiers on the field with powerful energy shield and the best Covenant weaponry.

Grunts

Like the Elites, the Grunts are probably the first thing that pops into your head when you think of ‘Covenant’. Known to the Elites as ‘Unggoy’, these diminutive, goblin-like creatures make up the vast majority of the Covenant military.
Despite their large numbers, Grunts are individually weak and cowardly, although they will stand and fight if being led by an Elite or other powerful commander.

Jackals

These avian aliens are somewhat unusual among the Covenant military in that they are not devout believers in the Covenant religion like the Elites, Brutes or Grunts. Instead, Jackals (or ‘Kig-Yar’) work solely for profit.
Protected by personal energy gauntlets, the standard Jackal infantry can present a challenge, particularly in groups, but by far the most lethal is the infamous Jackal Sniper.

Hunters

These gigantic titans always work in pairs, and each one is actually a hive-creature composed of hundreds of Lekgolo worms. When a Lekgolo colony reaches a certain size, it will split into two and form the bond-brothered Hunter pairs, known as the Mgalekgolo.
Since joining the Covenant, these behemoths have been outfitted with heavy armour, huge shields and a distinctive fuel rod cannon.

Brutes

Having only joined the Covenant relatively recently after almost wiping themselves out in constant civil war, the Brutes (or ‘Jiralhanae’) have a newfound fervor for the Covenant faith, although their hulking forms and obtuse personalities make them difficult to get on with.
The Brutes have a longstanding rivalry with the Elites, and this would erupt into a full-blown conflict during the Great Schism that ultimately shattered the Covenant Empire.

Drones

Flying insectoid creatures that live in hives and thrive on carrying out mechanical repairs, the Drones (known to the Elites as Yanme’e) are not particularly enamoured by the Covenant religion but have used the Covenant’s technological superiority to their advantage.
Having enhanced their flight capability and armed themselves with Covenant weapons, the s are one of the most dangerous races in the Covenant military.

Covenant Civilians

These races are key members of the Covenant Empire but, for one reason or another, they were deemed unworthy of combat duty and serve purely logistic or technical support roles. As such, they are rarely seen by humans, with some having gone the entire length of the 25 year Human-Covenant War without being seen by a single human.

Engineers

The first species on this list that occupy a purely non-combat role, the Engineers are life forms that were artificially created by the Forerunners during the waning days of their conflict with the Flood.
Known to the Covenant as Huragok, these createures care only for carrying out repairs and building new things. Engineers are docile and could even be considered cute, and many joined the UNSC after the downfall of the Covenant.

Prophets

The figureheads of the Covenant religion as well as the political leaders of the Covenant Empire, the Prophets (or San’Shyuum) were once tall, athletic creatures capable of extraordinary feats of physical combat.
However, due to the loss of their homeworld before the Covenant was even formed, the Prophets today are feeble and rely on gravity belts or thrones in order to move around.
Following the destruction of High Charity and the downfall of the Covenant, very few of these enigmatic creatures remain.

Covenant Fringe

These races, although still Covenant Civilians, have their own sub-faction within the Covenant, in that they are races that have an alliance with or have tentatively joined the Covenant, but have no active role in either the military or the main logistic hubs of the Empire.

For example, many races of the Covenant Fringe live on the outskirts of Covenant space, light-years from even the most remote human settlement. As such, these species are even rarer than regular Covenant civilians, and because the Fringe has not been fully explored in any form of Halo media, even 343 industries aren’t certain exactly how many races the Fringe consists of. We do know of a few, however.

Yonhet

Yonhet are diminutive, humanoid creatures that have a particular knack for hunting down Forerunner relics. For this reason some were inducted into the Covenant to use as artifact retrieval specialists or scouts, but none were ever involved in combat. It wasn’t until after the war, when the Covenant was splintered, that the Yonhet emerged to find a role in the post-Covenant galaxy.

Sharquoi

Although their canon status was in limbo for over a decade, the elusive ‘Drinol’ – a cut race from Halo: CE and Halo 2 – has finally been confirmed to exist within the Halo universe, and they are assumed to be one of the members of the Fringe.
These giant creatures are used for their brute strength and are known to cause massive collateral damage, so were rarely seen even on the front line of the Covenant war.

Conclusion

So, with all the known Covenant races listed here, we can conclude that there are at least ten races in the Covenant at the height of its power. However, as previous stated, neither we as players nor the development team of Halo are sure exactly how many species the Covenant consists of.

The previously unknown Covenant Fringe are a relatively new concept that has not been explored properly in Halo games, books, TV shows or comics, so until we get a full outline of what species are in the Fringe, we will never know exactly how big the Covenant really was.

Still, even without the Fringe, the Covenant is still a large and diverse alliance of alien species, and although it inevitably ended in disaster, one cannot help but admire the fact that the Empire stood for so long despite being made up of so many opposing races. What the Covenant lacks in transparency, it makes up for in diversity.

Read More


Halo – Who Are Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant?

The end of Halo 3 saw the death of the Prophet of Truth, the final destruction of the now Flood-infested capital city of High Charity and the apparent destruction of the Covenant as we knew it, with the remaining Elites making peace with humanity and the Human-Covenant war officially coming to a close. So why is it then that in Halo 4, Master Chief goes back to fighting Elites again? Didn’t the Elites leave the Covenant in Halo 2? How can the Covenant be back when it was destroyed in Halo 3? If you have ever found yourself asking these questions when playing 343 industries’ Halo games, then this crash course in post-war Covenant history will help fill answer these questions.

The Great Schism

Years of internal conflict followed the fracturing of the Covenant as the Brutes and Elites fought

The origins of Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant lie in the Great Schism, an event triggered during the events of Halo 2 that fractured the Covenant Empire. In the chaos surrounding the discovery of Installation 05, the death of the Prophet of Regret and the release of the Flood, the Prophet of Truth enacted the first stage of his plan and replaced all the Sangheili (Elite) guards with Jiralhanae (Brutes). This angered the Elites to the extent that many left the Covenant, and the Arbiter assumed leadership over most of the Elite forces in the immediate area around Installation 05, as High Charity descended into civil war. The holy city’s defence fleet practically destroyed itself in open combat as the Elites and Brutes battled for dominance, and to make matters worse High Charity itself was infiltrated by the Flood and transformed into a dreaded hive.

So by the time of Halo 3, the surviving Elites from High Charity and Installation 05 came to Earth in what few ships had survived, and this new fleet, dubbed the Fleet of Retribution, aided UNSC forces and would later form the backbone of the Swords of Sanghelios, the Arbiter’s new faction that opposed the Covenant. Following Halo 3, the Arbiter’s forces returned to Sanghelios and would establish themselves as a proper faction, amassing fleets and thousands of followers, mostly Sangheili who saw through the Prophet’s lies about the Great Journey. However, not all Elites saw it that way, and from as early as the first days of the Great Schism in Halo 2, Elite warlords in Covenant space took advantage of the fracturing of the Covenant and established their own tiny empires, often on colony worlds and former outposts. Considering the sheer size of the Covenant, this meant that there were now dozens of these factions, each sporting significant military assets usually comprised of the older and out-of-date domestic patrol fleets of the old regime.

The Rise of Jul ‘Mdama

The opportunistic ‘Didact’s Hand’, Jul ‘Mdama

So before Truth had even met his end, the Covenant itself had already fractured beyond repair as a result of his actions. The fragile relationship between many of the races of the once mighty empire dissolved, with Covenant space rapidly descending into a disorganised mess. With the fall of High Charity, the Covenant’s centralised capital city and primary control centre, coupled with the deaths of all three Hierarchs, communications between Covenant worlds began to break down. Some, like the Sangheili colony of Hesduros, were aware that the Covenant had fallen but were unaware as to the circumstances, whereas some colony worlds refused to believe that the Covenant had even fallen at all. Although these worlds were hardly equipped with state-of-the-art Covenant technology, they all each possessed a defence fleet, ground troops and other military assets. In theory, an opportunistic figurehead who was aware of everything going on behind the scenes could have easily taken control of the Covenant and there would have been little issues, minus the loss of High Charity.

A Hesduros-produced Elite Combat Harness was radically different to its Covenant counterpart

Unfortunately for the Covenant, however, this didn’t happen in time. Although, a leader would eventually emerge to reignite the flame of the original Covenant, albeit without the former empire’s unity and co-ordination. Jul ‘Mdama, a pragmatic Sangheili who disavowed the Covenant religion but still revered the Forerunner’s technological prowess, recognised humanity as the greatest potential threat to the Sangheili, as their rapid expansion would stunt Sangheili development. As such, he worked his way into extremist Covenant factions and began to advertise himself as the new Prophet, amassing followers with the promise of taking them to Forerunner technology. By swaying several colony worlds to his cause, including Hesduros, Jul ‘Mdama’s military assets rapidly expanded, to the extent that his followers and even some in the UNSC began to refer to his faction as simply ‘The Covenant’. Although they were using outdated or improvised equipment, armour and ships, the new Covenant was just as fanatical and driven as the original regime had been. This would only intensify when Jul’s forces found and finally gained access to the Forerunner Shield World of Requiem, as not only did they gain allies in the Prometheans, but they also increased their claim to the former Covenant faith when they allied themselves with the Didact.

Awakening

A CRS-class light cruiser from Halo 4

So, by the time of Halo 4, Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant were not only a fairly large military force, but also a significant threat to humanity, despite their status as a ragtag Covenant splinter faction. as previously mentioned, the ships and technology used by Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant were hardly up to the usual Covenant standard, but they were still capable. The bulk of their fleet was initially made up of CRS-class light cruisers, a diminutive ship formerly used for patrol duties that was a tiny cousin of the Covenant’s much larger mainline battleship, the CCS-class battlecruiser. As the supply of these ships began to dwindle, however, colony-based shipwrights began to manufacture new Sangheili warships based off old designs, such as the Sangheili Man O’ War and the gigantic Brigantine carrier. These ancient designs, upgraded with modern Covenant tech, began to slowly replace the old Covenant warships in the fleets of both Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant and the Arbiter’s Swords of Sanghelios. Likewise, newer models of Ghost, Wraith, Phantom and Banshee began to replace the aged and rapidly dwindling Covenant vehicles. Many of Jul’s old Covenant ships amassed around Requiem for three years, attempting to gain access to the planet, when the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn, carrying the Master Chief, drifted into orbit.

And this is the start of Halo 4, Master Chief awakens following his four-year cryo-sleep to find he is in orbit around a Forerunner Shield World surrounded by Covenant ships, and immediately sets to work destroying one, demonstrating the weaker status of CRS-class cruisers compared to the CCS-class battlecruiser. It would seem, therefore, that ‘Mdama’s Covenant were significantly weaker then the previous Covenant had been, although that is not necessarily the case. Following the Didact’s attack on Earth at the end of Halo 4, Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant became a primary target of the UNSC. After Halo 4, during the Spartan Ops missions, the UNSC Infinity returns to Requiem to deal with the considerable number of Covenant forces that remain there, and the following ‘Requiem Campaigns’ would later expand into a massive conflict for control of the Shield World. Unwilling to relinquish Requiem to humanity following the death of the Didact and the defection of Doctor Catherine Halsey to Jul’s cause, the Covenant destroy the Shield World and flee into space. Forming a unified fleet, Jul Mdama’s Covenant would fortify its presence on Sanghelios and other former Covenant worlds. However, a crippling blow would be dealt to Jul ‘Mdama’s faction soon after the destruction of Requiem, and it ties into the rise of Cortana’s faction of rogue AIs, the ‘Created’.

Second Fall

Jul ‘Mdama fight Spartan Locke in his final duel

By the time of Halo 5: Guardians, Cortana had taken over many of the AIs in the Galaxy, including the Prometheans. This sudden turn took Jul ‘Mdama completely by surprise, and his Covenant experienced a mini-Great Schism of its own when their forces were suddenly forced to fight both the UNSC and the Created. Taking advantage of this confusion, Doctor Catherine Halsey managed to contact the UNSC, betraying Jul ‘Mdama to them in exchange for recovery. By this time, Jul was on the planet Kamchatka, attempting to determine the purpose of a Forerunner communication node that activated, causing his Prometheans to turn on him. This led to a massive battle on the planet, during which SPARTAN Fireteam Osiris managed to fight their way to Halsey and assassinate Jul ‘Mdama in the process. And just like that, the head of the New Covenant was severed. By another stroke of extreme bad luck, the retreating Covenant fleet from Kamchatka was then destroyed by Blue Team, leaving a massive power vacuum in the faction formerly known as Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant.

Following this, the remains of Jul’s Covenant rallied at the city of Sunaion on Sanghelios. Described by the Arbiter as the Covenant’s final stronghold on the planet, Sunaion had served as a bastion for the religion as much of the population of Sanghelios gradually swayed over to the Swords of Sanghelios. By this point, even before the death of Jul ‘Mdama, the Covenant had begun to splinter – one of the factions only CAS-class carriers was stolen by an Elite named Sali ‘Nyon and his forces who formed a whole new splinter faction, and as such the Covenant had truly descended from religious theocracy to deranged fanatical cult. By the time the Arbiter’s forces arrived at Sunaion, the Covenant had resorted to blaring loud transmissions through loudspeakers across the city, insisting on the supremacy of the Covenant faith as their fleet and army crumbled.

Aftermath

And thus ends the tale of Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant. Whilst it seems fitting that the remains of the Covenant Empire would fight on to the bitter end, it may not be the end for the Covenant, as despite the death of Jul ‘Mdama, many faithful Covenant citizens still remain. Following the rise of Cortana’s Created at the end of Halo 5: Guardians, not much is known about the state of the Halo universe, although it is known that Cortana travelled to Balaho and managed to sway the Unggoy population to her cause, suggesting that she may continue where Jul ‘Mdama left off – as an opportunist who manipulates those who clung to the Covenant religion and fashions them into a military faction for power. Ultimately, Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant proves the same enduring point that the Fall of the original Covenant did – that religious theocratic oligarchies are bad, especially when the leader happens to be a power-mad callous pragmatist willing to exploit the faith of their followers and achieve their goals regardless of the cost.

Read More