Doctor Who – Series 9 Daleks Explained

The mutual love of the Classic Series that both Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi shared meant that the Twelfth Doctor’s era was packed with Classic Who references. Arguably the most overt were the appearance of several classic monsters, such as the Mondasian Cybermen, and spiritual sequels to several classic episodes, such as Genesis of the Daleks being continued in The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar. The latter two-part story features the appearance of several iconic Dalek designs, seemingly with little explanation as to why they appear. Variants such as the Special Weapons Dalek, a Renegade Dalek, 1960s Dead Planet Daleks and even Dalek Sec. But why are so many different types of Daleks featured in this episode?

The Asylum Problem

The real-world answer for the diverse variety of Daleks in this story is that the production team, particularly Moffat himself, decided to use more Classic Daleks in response to the poor reception of Asylum of the Daleks. The dark lighting and dulling-down of the paint jobs on the props in the Asylum meant that they were difficult to recognise in the episode, and their limited screentime coupled with the fact that the Special Weapons Dalek was completely idle was seen as somewhat of a missed opportunity by fans. So, when the next chance to introduce more kinds of Daleks to New Who came along, Moffat took it.

The fact that the Series 9 opener featured the Dalek central control on Skaro meant that there was now a chance to populate the set with Classic Daleks in a well-lit atrium, rather than a dank dusty chamber. The Dalek props were sourced from a variety of collectors and prop manufacturers, and a few were even hired from novelty businesses. Some were accurate representations of Classic Daleks, such as the Renegade Dalek and Special Weapons Dalek props, but others were modified varieties, such as the bright blue 1960s Daleks. But what was the lore reason behind these Classic Daleks showing up again after all these years?

The New Dalek Paradigm

As of Victory of the Daleks, it can be assumed that the Daleks featured in the New Series are all members of the New Dalek Paradigm. It has been shown that the Progenitor Daleks and the Bronze Daleks are part of the same faction in the Dalek Parliament, and depending on when The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar is set in the Dalek timeline, it could be that Skaro had been rebuilt for hundreds, even thousands of years before the Twelfth Doctor arrived to meet Davros. It is even possible that the Classic Daleks seen in the episode are survivors from previous wars that are kept safe at the heart of the Empire, as a form of experienced Elder Council. Or, the Daleks have been snatched from their own timeline to add their DNA to the pure Dalek race. Either way, it would seem that Bronze and Classic casings have replaced the Paradigm designs in the new Dalek regime.

However, it is clear from behind the scenes images that the Paradigm Daleks were on set, suggesting that they were originally to be included in the episode but were pulled at the last minute. As a previous Sacred Icon theory post suggested, the Paradigm could now be an elite time-travelling Dalek caste similar to the Time Controllers and Time Strategists of the Big Finish Audios. In that sense, the mainline Dalek Empire is composed of Bronze Daleks, with Classic Daleks appearing in the safe depths of Dalek space. Meanwhile, the Paradigm Daleks travel up and down the timeline, interfering when they see fit.

Russell-era Daleks

Another interesting addition to the Daleks seen in Series 9, however, are a particular set of Russell-era Daleks. The same kind of Dalek Supreme seen in The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End also appears here, although it is clearly a different individual as it displays a distinctly different personality from its 2009 predecessor. Whilst the previous Supreme shunned Davros and locked him away, the Series 9 Supreme shows Davros more respect and even praises him. The return of the red Supreme Dalek in this episode is a welcome addition, and is a clear deviation from the consistent use of the White Paradigm Supreme in the Matt Smith era.

The other significant Russell-era Dalek is the distinctive Dalek Sec, and as another theory post suggested, the fact that the Black Dalek featured here is definitely Sec going by the identification tag means that this Dalek is in fact Sec at a point in his timeline either before the events of Doomsday or, more likely, between Doomsday and Daleks in Manhattan. This is interesting as it suggests that the Cult of Skaro could have had more exploits between the ones we see on-screen that could potentially be developed in a Big Finish audio series.

Skaro Shenanigans

So now that the appearances of the forms of Dalek seen in Series 9 have been explained, hopefully the reasoning behind Steven Moffat’s decision to include them seems more clear. Many fans would agree that the appearance of Daleks from different eras of the show in the New Series is definitely welcome, but perhaps it should be used more sparingly. Hopefully if the Daleks return to battle the Thirteenth Doctor again, they adopt a standardised design whilst still retaining varieties like the Supreme Dalek and the Special Weapons Dalek, but fans can only hope.

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

How to Fix – Halo: Reach

Welcome to another article in our How to Fix series, a collection of features dedicated to outlining the main issues with the story of a film, game, TV show episode or book and suggesting ideas of how to effectively ‘fix’ it. As stated in previous installments of this series, the subject in question does not necessarily have to be something that is already bad – a prime example of a How to Fix article covering a title that is already of a decent standard is this one. Halo: Reach is without a doubt a legendary game. With a community that is still active to this day, and the recent announcement of a PC release that is likely to lengthen this game’s already impressive post-launch lifespan, the game is still a popular title even nearly ten years after its release. And yet, as popular and enduring as Bungie’s final Halo title is, there is still a lot about the story of the Campaign in particular that can be improved. So, how could Halo: Reach be fixed?

reach story.jpg

Story and Campaign

Though epic in its scope and powerful in its delivery, Halo: Reach’s story does leave something to be desired by the end, especially after multiple playthroughs. The early story is gripping as it peppers multiple clues about Halsey and the Covenant through the various missions – the discovery of Halsey’s data in the first mission, to meeting Halsey herself, and then after that being chosen by Cortana to get her to the Pillar of Autumn so that the story of Halo: Combat Evolved can kick off. But there are many aspects to the story, particularly later on, that are unexplained, and plot threads left unanswered. Some of these are smaller, more nitpicky things such as ‘Why do Emile and Jorge hate each other?’ and ‘What was Carter and Kat’s prior history?’ that are never truly resolved as the various characters die before their stories can progress. Whilst this does add to the shock factor and warfare immersion initially, as it keeps the player on their toes and reminds them that warfare isn’t kind, but after multiple runs through the story you expect the deaths to come and yet there is still no way of expanding on the character’s backstory.

As for the campaign itself, the gameplay is almost perfect – there really isn’t much to fix here, as Halo: Reach has some of the largest and most intricate levels in all of the Bungie games, and despite not featuring any Flood or Forerunner enemies, the game still manages to make the levels feel varied as it features the most Covenant enemy varieties of any Halo game to date, even beating Halo 2. That being said, as with many later Halo games, your allies do not feel as useful in this game as they did in previous titles. Although your Noble squadmates feature in some levels as AI bots to help you through the mission, in a manner similar to that of the Arbiter in Halo 3, they are not exactly masters of aiming precisely on target – in fact, one might go so far as to say that the Noble team AI is almost totally pointless, and the Marines actually offer better support to the player in missions than their Spartan compatriots do. Not only that, but the AI driving for Noble Team seems to be particularly bad – an infamous example of this being Kat’s godawful attempts at keeping the Rocket Hog steady during the run on the AA Guns in Tip of the Spear, only to topple both herself and the player off a cliff.

reach multiplayer.jpg

Multiplayer

Although Halo: Reach’s multiplayer is perhaps one of the most treasured of all the Halo games, and the recent announcement that it is coming to PC via the MCC has fans ecstatic, upon its initial release the game was met with a mixed reception from fans, who called it too far of a deviation from the classic Halo formula to be considered a ‘true’ Halo game. They were of course referring to the additions of armour abilities, specifically Sprint and Armour Lock, which were quite radical additions to the Halo sandbox at the time but, in hindsight nearly 10 years later, these pale in comparison to some of the additions that Halos 4 and 5 would go on to add, so by comparison it doesn’t look as bad – although the dreaded firefight-stalling pace-shattering Armour Lock still remains one of the games most controversial features.

As for the maps, there are plenty – although almost all are sourced from either the Campaign missions, or Forge World map variants. This is not necessarily an issue in itself – after all, Forge World is a really diverse map and, as previously discussed, the Campaign does involve a variety of different terrains and arenas, so the developers definitely had plenty to source from. The main problem with Reach’s maps is the lack of specialising particular maps for particular kinds of game – with the addition of Sprint, as well as Anti-Vehicle Armour Abilities such as Jetpack and Armour Lock, many of Reach’s maps moved away from map control and layout memorisation. This is further exacerbated by the inclusion of Loadouts, though these are not present in all game modes online, and in recent years the Reach multiplayer seems to have moved away from Loadouts and Armour Abilities and more towards emulating the classic Halo style in some game modes, suggesting that they have taken fan criticism to heart.

falcon.jpg

Weapon and Vehicle Sandbox

Though there is no denying that Halo: Reach had a fantastic weapons sandbox, including a diverse variety of new weapons such as the Grenade Launcher, Focus Rifle, Concussion Rifle, Plasma Launcher and the legendary Target Locator, one of the essential elements missing from Reach’s weapons sandbox is specialisation – many of the weapons have counterparts that do a similar or, in some cases, the exact same job. Examples of this include the DMR and the Needle Rifle, both one-shot weapons capable of landing headshots and good for medium-long range aiming, the Plasma Rifle and the Spiker, both two-handed automatic Covenant weapons with a similar rate of fire, and the Concussion Rifle and Grenade Launcher, both of which are short-range explosive weapons for clearing out large areas. Some weapons do have special traits, such as the Needle Rifle’s supercombine and the Grenade Launcher’s EMP, but overall some more diversity in the weapons sandbox might have been better – the DMR is a solid rifle, but the Battle Rifle reigns supreme.

Speaking of notable absences from Reach, many previous Halo vehicles are absent from Reach’s sandbox, including the Chopper, Prowler, Spectre, Hornet and Elephant – and although there are some new vehicles, like the Revenant and the Falcon, overall Reach’s vehicles seems to be the only aspect of the game in which it feels like there is actually less content than there was before. This would begin a trend in Halo games up until Halo 5: Guardians in which the number of Covenant vehicles usable in the game is drastically reduced, which is a shame considering that they are among the most fun vehicles to drive. As always, the Banshee, Ghost and Wraith all feature, and Reach’s Banshee has the best handling of all the Bungie Banshees – but unfortunately, the addition of the limited boost feature for all three vehicles has significantly reduced their effectiveness. Overall, Reach’s vehicles are perhaps its game’s biggest shortcoming, but there are two particular vehicles of note in the game, ironically the two vehicles original to the game mentioned earlier, the Falcon and the Revenant. The Falcon is an instant fan-favourite, the ‘team troop carrier’ that was ideal for Capture the Flag getaways – although there should have been an option to turn on the pilot’s main weapon and the inner passenger seats for Custom Games. As for the Revenant, it is hilariously fun to drive and finds a sensible middle ground between the Ghost’s speed and the Wraith’s firepower. Plus, it has a passenger seat!

forge world

Conclusion

All things considered, Halo: Reach is definitely one of the best Halo games in its own right, as it remains one of the most unique and creative Halo games in history and definitely a fitting sendoff for Bungie. The inclusion of Reach into MCC, and the concurrent and long-awaited release of Reach on PC, is definitely good news for fans. Overall, the issues that Reach experienced early on were mostly due to sudden and unexpected changes that fans weren’t happy with but, in hindsight, Reach seems far closer to the earlier Bungie games like Halo 3 now that the new pariah of the franchise, Halo 5: Guardians, has released. No prizes for guessing what the next Halo How To Fix will be about…

Read More

 

 

Halo 3 Multiplayer – Top 5 Halo 3 Maps

Halo 3’s multiplayer  is one of the most fondly remembered of all the classic Halo games, and the recently news that it will finally be coming to PC after over 10 years has many fans excited. In light of the recent announcement of Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC, we’re counting down the Top 5 Maps in Halo 3 Multiplayer – discounting remakes, for now…

narrows.jpg

#5 – Narrows

This map usually leads to games that are best described as hilariously frantic. Considering the fact that many players will stick to the upper level of Narrow’s ‘bridge’, the actual play-space of this map is actually quite small. As a result it is best suited for small arena-style games, but usually ends up being used for 4v4 matches. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on your point of view – on the one hand, Narrow’s multiple paths can lead to some interesting strategies with 4 players on a team, including a two-pronged assault on the opposite side using the gravity cannons and the lower bridge to take the enemy by surprise. However, if both teams are disorganised matches can end up with both teams just mincing each other in a war of attrition (usually involving frag grenades). Overall, if you’re using it for the right kind of game, Narrows is easily one of the best maps in the game – small but packed with potential. The map design is reminiscent of Gephyrophobia, a Halo: CE PC map involving a huge bridge over a cavernous chasm, although Narrows is a far more downsized affair that involves no vehicles. Then again, adding a Banshee to the map might make things interesting…

sandtrap.jpg

#4 – Sandtrap

Speaking of vehicle maps, none of them hold a candle to Sandtrap, a map designed with vehicles in mind. The most memorable and exciting feature of this map is the Elephants, gigantic UNSC transport vehicles that serve as drive-able mobile bases that can make for some creative and interesting matches. Players have also created entire gametypes around the Elephants, such as a Pirate game in which both teams are disallowed from touching the sand and must use the Elephants as makeshift boarding vessels. However, Sandtrap has much more to it than just these vehicles – almost every vehicle in the game can be featured on this map (depending on settings) and the huge size makes for some hectic gameplay. The ring design makes races a common social gametype for this map, and even if vehicular combat isn’t your style, the semi-submerged Forerunner ruins in the map make excellent hiding spots. Inquisitive players who delve deeper into the ruins may find themselves rewarded with better power weapons, the Sniper Rifle being a particularly deadly example.

guardian.jpg

#3 – Guardian

This is perhaps one of the most popular maps in Halo 3, simply because of its versatility. Being set in a strange arena-shaped structure suspended among humongous trees in a Forerunner forest, the map has a very distinct identity both in terms of its aesthetic and its gameplay. This map is very reminiscent of previous Halo arena maps such as Lockout and Wizard, and like all good Halo maps it has excellent vertical movement options. The Gravity Hammer placed at the very bottom-centre of the map is usually the thing that players rush for when a game starts, making for some intense combat in the confined lower area of the map. Another spot that seems to attract frantic fights is the area around the gravity lift, as well as the central arena – a combination of a Shotgun and Needler nearby often leads to teams trying to wrestle control of that area early on. As for the visual design of the map, you couldn’t ask for a better setting – the forest harks back to several iconic levels from Halo: CE and Halo 2, and the bright grey Forerunner structures break up the greens and browns of the various trees.

the pit.jpg

#2 – The Pit

A classic Halo arena, The Pit is relatively simple in its aesthetic, being set not on an ancient Forerunner facility but instead in a simple military training ground on a human planet – but it is also surprisingly complex in its actual level design. What at first appears to be a simple setup disguises an intricate maze of power positions and weapon placements, and experienced players know the best areas of the map to defend or set up an ambush. Due to its various tight corridors that surround an open exposed playspace, the map is particularly good for free-for-all matches or games with particularly large teams – Halo is known for its hectic firefights over power weapons, and The Pit is a great map for this. Overall, as arenas go, The Pit has a bit of everything – wide open spaces, tight enclosed corridors, hidden power weapons and some great opportunities for intense firefights.

high ground

Honourable Mention – High Ground

A favourite for objective or assault-style games involving one team attacking and the other defending, High Ground is set in an abandoned UNSC base near the coastline, and the fact that the facility has clearly seen action in the past opens up some creative strategies for assaulting the base, as a full-frontal assault on the main gate is usually not the best way to go – that is, at least, until you can get it open. The primary objective of attacking teams, whatever the gamemode happens to be, is always to open the main gate – this creates a kind of multi-tiered style of gameplay in which, if the defenders fail the first objective of defending the gate control console, they all fall back further into the base to concentrate on defending the objective. As good a map as High Ground is for Objective games, it features here as an honorable mention as it is not the best choice for standard team or free-for-all Slayer games, but is still a fantastic map in its own right.

valhalla.jpg

#1 – Valhalla

Regardless of which map took the top spot, there will inevitably be people who disagree. After all, each individual Halo fan will have their own opinion of which maps are best based on their personal experience, their playstyle, and even their favourite aesthetic. However, few can argue that, objectively, Valhalla is a truly astounding map. There are plenty of excellent maps in Halo 3 that invoke similar gameplay ideas – maps like Standoff and Sandbox, to name a couple – but although they are both excellent, they both fall just short of topping Valhalla. Combining the best elements of almost every aspect of Halo’s multiplayer at the time, this perfectly blends vehicular combat, oppurtunities for map control, power weapon positioning and team-based combat. With the classic trope of two bases, one canyon, Valhalla harks back to two of the most popular Halo maps of all time – Blood Gulch and its Halo 2 remake, Coagulation – but at the same time takes a completely new spin on the layout – it is considerably smaller in scale compared to Blood Gulch, but the more varied terrain and map topography allows players on foot a better chance, and the addition of the man cannons on the bases cuts down map travel time and improves the pacing of objective-based games. Speaking of which, Valhalla is a classic objective map – the telltale sign of truly great map design in Halo is when a map is perfectly suited for both Slayer and Objective gametypes, and Valhalla is one of the most popular maps in the game for both categories. By staying true to the classic Halo map design philosophy but tweaking the transportation system of the map from teleporters to man cannons, the Bungie managed to create a perfect balance of the vehicle combat from Blood Gulch and the intense run-and-gun firefights of Beaver Creek within Valhalla’s map design and it stands as a suitable middle ground between these two gamemode-tailored maps. At the end of the day, nothing beats the simple but effective map design of two opposing bases in a canyon, one red, one blue.

Read More

 

Transformers – Top 5 Movie Autobots that Disappeared

When watching Michael Bay’s Transformers films from start to finish, one might start to wonder – was there really any reason, other than merchandising, for the films to have Autobot characters in them at all? Other than Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, the filmsAs previously discussed in How to Fix Michael Bay’s Transformers Films – Part One: More Than Meets the CGI, the films don’t exactly do their Autobot characters justice, and despite the literal decades of character development through multiple different incarnations of the franchise, the Michael Bay films never managed to present anything more than a cardboard cutout Autobot cast. The filmmakers cared so little for the ragtag gang of ‘lesser’ Autobots that, throughout the five films in the Michael Bay Transformers chronology, there are many Autobots that simply disappear between films, never to be seen or heard from again. So, in honour of those Autobots that are MIA, let’s roll out the Top 5 Movie Autobots that Disappeared.

#5 – Jolt

jolt.jpg

Jolt is perhaps the most unknown Autobot of the movie franchise (that actually appears in the films, at least) as he was a last-minute addition to Revenge of the Fallen and so gets very little screentime. His most notable scene is when he uses his electric powers to fuse Jetfire’s warm corpse to Optimus Prime’s back so he can use the rusty afterburners to defeat the Fallen, but after the second film, he is never seen again. Since Chevrolet were really pushing his alt-mode – the Chevloret Volt – at the time, perhaps they had something to do with his sudden last-minute inclusion into the script – after all, in what little screen time Jolt gets, he is often in vehicle mode. Unlike other one-shot Revenge of the Fallen Autobots like the Arcee sisters, Jolt is never seen being injured or killed in the film. The Transformers movie comics would do Jolt the justice of giving him a heroic death at the hands of Shockwave at some point before Dark of the Moon, but since this was not included as part of the movie itself, Jolt is still considered MIA as far as most of those that care are aware.

Transformers Revenge of the Fallen Skids and Mudflap

#4 – Skids and Mudflap

It would be hard not to mention the infamous twins having just referred to their debut film, particularly as they are a notable case when it comes to missing Autobots – eagle-eyed fans have noticed that Skids and Mudflap do actually appear in the third film, albeit in a brief scene in which all the Autobots drive into their home base in their vehicle modes, but aside from that they are totally absent with no explanation. Apprently the twins were set to appear in the film until as late as early shooting began, as they had received concept art and even toy models for an update appearance for Dark of the Moon, but were clearly cut at the last minute. Once again, the vigilant folk that write and draw the Transformers movie comics included a death scene for them at the hands of Sentinel Prime in the third film adaptation, and quite a heroic one too. As for why they were cut from the movie in the first place, it might have something to do with their overwhelmingly negative reception as racist stereotypes, but that lesson clearly didn’t sink in completely with Bay as racist cartoonish stereotypes would go on to become a staple of the franchise from the second film onwards.

roadbuster.jpg

#3 – Roadbuster

One of the Wreckers introduced in Dark of the Moon, Roadbuster was the loudmouth Scottish Autobot who, along with his teammates Leadfoot and Topspin, crewed the Autobot’s only spacecraft, the Xantium. Following the strange time-jump between the third and fourth films that saw a radical shift in tone (and cast), many Autobots went missing and are presumed to be killed at the hands of the vicious Cemetary Wind – with emphasis on the word ‘presumed’. We see evidence that Humans were responsible for the death of Leadfoot via camera footage in Age of Extinction, and Topspin is seen to be alive in The Last Knight – but poor Roadbuster is never seen again. Some fans have pointed out that several of the KSI drones seen in the fourth film bear a resemblance to Roadbuster, implying that he may have been among the first victims of the Transformer Purge and his ‘Cybertronium’ was harvested to make Oreo robots, though this is unconfirmed. Although most movie fans assume that this Autobot’s road has long since been busted, his official status remains as Missing In Action.

#2 – Mirage

mirage.jpg

Another prominent Autobot who disappeared after Dark of the Moon is Mirage, the blade-wielding red Ferrari who actually received a fair amount of screen time in the film, killing Hatchet during the highway chase and taking part in (and surviving) the final battle. However, following this, he is neither seen not heard from again. Like Roadbuster, several fans assume that he may have been an early casualty of Cemetary Wind’s purge of the Autobots and Decepticons on Earth following Dark of the Moon, as several of the KSI drones seem to feature his trademark blade weapons and sleek design – particularly Stinger. Interestingly, it was originally planned for Mirage to meet his maker near the climax of the third film, instead of poor Que, as it was originally scripted for Starscream to make mincemeat out of him before using his head as a puppet, for some reason. As Que took the literal bullet instead, and there are no further appearances to explain what happened to our Ferrari friend, Mirage’s fate remains unknown.

Honourable Mention – Trench

Autobot Trench from Transformers: The Last Knight

‘Trench’ is the name given to a Constructicon-turned-Autobot who appears in The Last Knight for about forty-five seconds before disappearing completely, never to be seen again. He is included here as an honourable mention as he doesn’t disappear between films, and the fact that he vanishes is not due to lazy writing – Trench was one of many Transformer characters introduced in the fifth film to make the world seem more populated by factionless or disparate refugees – a welcome change, even if it was too little too late. Trench, therefore, is likely a Decepticon who managed to survive the events of all the movies and eventually gave up on combat and joined the Autobot hideout crew in their junkyard. He is seen transforming to help Hound create a diversion to stop Megatron from discovering Cade, and so he more than likely met a final end in the fifth film. Nonetheless, as his fate was never shown, his status is still MIA.

Autobot Sideswipe from Transformers: Dark of the Moon

#1 – Sideswipe

Arguably the most prominent Autobot to simply ‘disappear’ without a trace between films, Sideswipe was a rare example of a well-liked fan favourite Autobot character that did not debut in the first film – of all the ‘disposable’ Autobots introduced later in the series, he gets by far the most screentime. He is perhaps best known for his role in the opening sequence of Revenge of the Fallen, in which he chases and kills Sideways in a dramatic fashion only to do nothing for the rest of the film. In Dark of the Moon, he helps Ironhide kill the Dreads and survives the final battle, but is never seen again after that. Allegedly he was originally to be confirmed dead in Age of Extinction, either through Cemetary Wind’s strange Autobot hit-list playing cards or during the scene in which the Autobots mourn Leadfoot. Either way, he is still MIA, and of all the Autobots to slip off the radar during the production of the live-action film series, Sideswipe is perhaps the most unusual. After all, there is no clear reason why he was never either killed on-screen or featured alive in a later film, as he was a popular character and was about as close as the series ever got to a suitable replacement for Jazz, so for him to simply vanish between films is particularly strange. On the other hand, if this list has proven anything, it’s that the movies use a revolving door technique for their Autobot casting, likely to maximise toy sales, because that is what Transformers is all about, apparently.

Read More

Doctor Who Feature – The Twelfth Doctor Era: Is Peter Capaldi the Definitive Doctor?

Doctor Who has its ups and downs, as anything that runs for over 50 years does. After all this time, the show perhaps as well known for its dud season arcs, madcap plots and failed experiments as it is for its creativity, memorable characters and iconic villains. For every modern classic like Series 4, there is a legendary failure like Series 7 – and nothing illustrates this point more than the Peter Capaldi era. This three series long chunk of the New Series that lasted from 2014 to 2017 presented audiences with some of the best Doctor Who content of the decade – and also some of the worst. But can the flaws of the Capaldi era truly dampen its successes? Do fans look back on the era fondly or harshly? Is Peter Capaldi actually the definitive Doctor? We aim to find out.

series-8-capaldi.jpg

The Grumpy Doctor

Upon his initial casting, Peter Capaldi proved to be somewhat of a controversial choice to play the Doctor, despite having all the necessary traits required to play the Doctor. Due to the fact that the previous two Doctors, who had a combined tenure of nearly ten years, were both young and handsome incarnations, the show had got used to that idea being a staple of the series – in fact, it could be argued that Clara’s entire relationship with the Eleventh Doctor in Series 7 was based around the fact that he was young and handsome. As such, the fact that the Twelfth Doctor was cast as an old man was a sudden and jarring change to the series, one that many viewers felt shook the foundations of the show a little too much.

But there was more to this shakeup than just the casting. Moffat’s decision to write the Twelfth Doctor as a grumpy and at times even cold character in his first series was a bold one, and it certainly shook the series up even more for Series 8. The reaction of a sizeable portion of the fanbase at the time when this was all first announced was then reflected in Clara’s reaction to the Eleventh Doctor’s regeneration – the look on her face perfectly visualises what many fans were feeling at the time. In many ways, the situation was somewhat comparable to the reaction to the casting of the Thirteenth Doctor, albeit for very different reasons. In the run-up to Series 8, fans were wondering whether the show could pull off such a radical change to its comfortable tried-and-tested formula.

Overall, Series 8 is somewhat of a mixed bag. There are definitely some genuine gems in this series, episodes like Mummy On The Orient Express, Flatline and Time Heist are enduring classics that most fans agree are the standouts of the series. Following these are the episodes that some fans love, but other fans despite – episodes like Robots of Sherwood, Listen and the too-often overlook Into the Dalek. The series does play host to some really terrible episodes, however, such as In the Forest of the Night and the truly abominable Kill the Moon, an episode that is only worth watching for Clara’s final confrontation with the Doctor due to Jenna Coleman’s astounding acting – other than that, the episode may as well have never existed. The two episodes of note that are particularly divisive are the first episode, Deep Breath, and the two-part finale, Dark Water/Death in Heaven. The former is a strange episode to put at as the opener to a series, as it requires too much prior lore knowledge to be accessible to newcomers. The latter is a finale that, although making fantastic use of the Cybermen and Missy, was notoriously dark and was responsible for genuinely upsetting some fans in a way that didn’t sit right with many people.

series 9 capaldi

The Hybrid

For Series 9, Moffat introduced a gradual change to the Twelfth Doctor’s character that would be truly actualised in Series 10. Grappling with the choices necessary to truly define himself as a good man, Series 9 sees the Twelfth Doctor tested in several ways, with each story presented a piece of the best and worst of the character. This is mirrored in the format of the series and the accompanying titles of each episode – most of the stories in this series are two-parters, with titles that oppose one another. This presentation of the character was certainly an improvement over the Series 8 version of the Doctor in the eyes of most fans, but still retained enough of the abrasive Series 8 Doctor that those who had grown attached to Capaldi’s Doctor were not disappointed.

Series 9 of Doctor Who, however, suffers from an entirely different issue, which ironically has almost nothing to do with the Doctor himself. The hamfisted attempt to insert an arc into this series with the lacklustre ‘Hybrid’ buzzword failed to click with many fans and the end result, revealed in the controversial finale Hell Bent, left many fans confused. However, Capaldi’s performance as the Twelfth Doctor was exemplary and, although the scripts themselves left something to be desired, the combination of Capaldi and Coleman’s fantastic acting was able to carry Series 9 despite its flaws – and this was enhanced thanks to guest appearances from Maisie Williams, Donald Sumpter and Julian Bleach that made Series 9 feel like the blockbuster run that it was designed to be.

Ultimately, the highlights of the series have to be those that are the most steeped in lore – the opening two-parter The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar make a fantastic opening to the series, and the penultimate episode Heaven Sent has to rank as one of the best episodes of Doctor Who of all time. There is a definite pattern to the quality of episodes in Series 9 – the best ones are the ones in which Capaldi himself stands out. From his emotive anti-war speech in The Zygon Inversion to his one-man-band performance in Heaven Sent, the Twelfth Doctor is by far the best thing about Series 9. Whilst the series itself it usually met with mixed reviews from fans, none can deny that it is Capaldi who makes the series – with almost any other Doctor at the helm, Series 9 may not have been the success that it was.

Although the ‘Hybrid’ arc seemed tacked on and rushed, the theme actually relates a lot to the Doctor himself and where his character was at this point. Series 9 presents us with a true Hybrid Doctor – a fusion of his Series 8 and Series 10 personalities that occasionally clash but more often than not showcase the gradual development of the character, particularly with hindsight. Critics of the Twelfth Doctor argue that his character was poorly written as each series seems to portray a completely different interpretation of the Doctor, and they are correct – but this is hardly a criticism. Capaldi plays perhaps one of the most dynamic Doctors of them all, changing from a brusque and occasionally mean character to a warm and merciful Doctor who understands his own moralistic limitations and does his best to do the right thing. The most interesting Doctors are the ones who grow and change over the course of their tenure – the Seventh Doctor and the Ninth Doctor both experienced this kind of development, but none have had such a structured three-stage character arc over as many seasons. Those who stopped watching the show after Capaldi’s first season due to the negative reception his character received were not privy to the incredible change that was apparent by Series 10, meaning they never got to understand why his character had to be that way in Series 8. But what was so special about this arc that it warranted having the Doctor act so un-Doctorish for a season?

series9.5 capaldi

Never be Cruel, Never be Cowardly

To answer that question we have to go back to the beginning. In its early days, Doctor Who was not fully established, either in its popularity and fanbase or in its own personal identity. Fans of newer versions of the show, even as early as 80s Who, may be shocked if they choose to watch some earlier episodes by just how un-Doctorish the Doctor himself acts. William Hartnell himself actually contributed a lot to the development of the Doctor as a man of strict ethical principles after disagreeing with how the character was handled in the first ever season of the show, in which the Doctor regularly tricks and manipulates his companions, influences events to suit himself, and even on one or two occasions attempts murder. As the character traits of the Doctor became established, these character-breaking moments were seemingly brushed under the rug.

In the modern day, the New Series has reinforced the idea of the Doctor as principled and ethically conscious, but many fans have taken the idea of the Doctor as a ‘man who never would’ as gospel – particularly during the Tennant era – to the point where the idea of the Doctor shooting someone becomes completely unjustifiable. This is a nice sentiment, and ‘the man who never would’ is certainly how the Doctor himself wants to be seen the majority of the time, but those who buy into this have forgotten the ‘rule one’ of travelling with the Doctor – he lies. A lot. In fact, we already know that when the Tenth Doctor utters the line “I never would” in regards to using guns, we already know he is lying. The Doctor has shot and killed people many times throughout the show, a famous example being in Day of the Daleks when the Third Doctor steals a laser and blasts an Ogron. Following the Time War, the battle-scarred and guilt-ridden Doctor invents a persona for himself that exaggerates and hyperbolises all of his pre-Time War traits of honesty, mercy, pacifism etc to alleviate his guilt, but it is not a true reflection of his character. We know that the Doctor is prone to rage, and occasionally makes bad choices. Unfortunately, one particular bad choice has sullied the Twelfth Doctor with a bad reputation that is not entirely justified.

be cruel

The choice in question of course refers to the scene in Hell Bent in which the Doctor shoots the General. Fans have grappled over this scene and its implications, with some citing the fact that the Doctor had been driven mad with grief in that episode as justification, and others even going so far as to say it is proof that the show itself has lost its way. However, looking back on this entire situation, it seems fans on both sides of the argument need to re-assess the scene with the benefit of hindsight and the context of the episode. For those not in the know, the Doctor shoots and ‘kills’ The General after the latter refuses to allow Clara to escape from Gallifrey. Prior to this, the Doctor had spent 4.5 billion years living the same day over and over again, dying each time, and had now finally escaped and found a way of bringing his friend back – the thing that had kept him going the whole time. Considering all of these factors, and then adding to that the fact that the General is able to regenerate and that he had previously helped keep the Doctor imprisoned, adds a lot more to this situation than simply ‘The Doctor killed someone.’ In fact, this seems far more reasonable than the Third Doctor shooting an Ogron.

And yet, this scene does achieve something tangible – it is an important turning point in the second major change to the Doctor’s character. This scene represents the culmination of the ‘Clara arc’, a pseudo-unofficial story arc that essentially starts with Asylum of the Daleks that is supposed to showcase the best and worst parts of a close friendship. Clara and the Doctor are good friends, and they both help each other through serious tragedies in their respective lives. They are both flawed characters, and their flaws overlap – each one is too dependant on the other, and the fact that their friendship was set up by Missy goes to show how destructive it has the potential to be. The notion of the Doctor and Clara being the Hybrid may seem ridiculous, but it is Moffat attempting (in a somewhat ham-fisted way) to illustrate the point that Clara and the Doctor are in many ways two sides of the same coin – their personalities, their motives, their tendency for lies and showing off are all similar – yet ultimately they must be separated otherwise the Doctor runs the risk of sacrificing everything for her. The Doctor shooting the General acts as a wake-up call, both for Clara and the Doctor himself, that their friendship is no longer healthy and that they need to separate. If you look at the Series 9 finale in this light, it is actually a mature and introspective story that showcases how far the Twelfth Doctor had developed by this point – the seemingly unfeeling angry Doctor from Series 8 is gone, replaced with a far more compassionate man who is willing to go to any lengths to save his best friend – even if it kills him.

series -10 capaldi

The Grandfather Doc

The version of the Twelfth Doctor that we saw at the end of Series 9 sets up the plot of Series 10 perfectly – with Clara gone, the Doctor strikes up relationships with friends new and old in a way that the Series 8 Doctor would not have been able to do. With this newfound persona he is able to make peace with River Song, befriend Bill and even teach Missy how to be good, showing that even without Clara the Twelfth Doctor is just as much a paragon of virtue as the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors tried to be. But perhaps the most important facet of the Twelfth Doctor’s character development that takes place in Series 10 is his relationship with Bill and how that evolves. Initially taking on Bill as a student, their teacher-student dynamic gradually develops as the Doctor becomes a more paternal figure in her life, and this is a fantastic parallel of the very first Doctor-companion dynamic in the show – that of Grandfather and Grandchild. This is further implied in Bill’s first episode, in which the Doctor looks to Susan’s portrait when trying to decide whether to involve Bill with the dangers of TARDIS travel.

This is perhaps one of Moffat’s greatest achievements with the Twelfth Doctor, and many fans say that Series 10 has the best ‘feel’ of the three Capaldi seasons, as the friendship between the Doctor, Bill and Nardole seemed to resonate more with viewers than the Doctor and Clara’s had. It would be hard to imagine the Series 8 version of the Twelfth Doctor working in Series 10, as his pricklier personality and demeanour would clash more with Bill’s fun-loving attitude, but after two seasons of gradual character development the Twelfth Doctor proves himself to be everything that the Doctor should be, and more – Series 10 doesn’t just present the Doctor as a hero who saves planets, but also as a form of therapist, even counsellor. For fifty years he is able to provide Missy with a stable environment in which she can work towards casting off her evil ways and embracing the good in life, and with just a few months of tuition the Doctor is able to raise Bill’s grades and inspire her with new confidence, all before she even sets foot in the TARDIS.

The Twelfth Doctor in Series 10 is in many ways the ideal Doctor – perhaps even the definitive Doctor. Some may think it a shame that the Doctor didn’t simply start out with this personality from the beginning, and whilst it may have been lighter on viewers at the time if the Doctor had emerged fresh from regeneration as a kindhearted old man, but there is an argument that Moffat did the right thing from the start. The Twelfth Doctor was referred to earlier in this article as one of the most dynamic Doctors of them all, and this is due to his three-season long character development. Without the Series 8 version of the Doctor and his brusque attitude, the emotional weight behind Series 9 and 10 loses some of its impact, as part of what makes his character so interesting and likeable is his painstaking transition from a grumpy old man to a truly definitive Doctor.

Doctor Who Christmas Special 2017

The Definitive Doctor

There will of course be those who disagree, but overall Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor represents all the best aspects of the character. He is a righteous character, yet aware of his own moral hypocrisy. He is a kind and caring figure, yet he is also among the angriest and most utilitarian of the Doctors. His speech to the Master and Missy at the climax of The Doctor Falls perfectly summarises this – he admits that, although he doesn’t always get it right, he tries as hard as he can to be kind. Throughout his entire tenure the Twelfth Doctor grapples with the question of ‘Am I a Good Man?’, and it is in this scene that we, the audience, finally receive a definitive answer. The Doctor lays down his life for innocent people he doesn’t even know, and his final regeneration speech outlining what it means to be a Doctor proves that Capaldi himself has a deep understanding of the character.

If you are a former fan of the show who lost interest midway through the 2010s, or perhaps even earlier, then hopefully this article has made some points that will make you reconsider your stance on Capaldi’s Doctor. With hindsight, and the wider knowledge of the show that newer fans may have gained thanks to the rising popularity of the Classic Series, it is clear that many of the criticisms that were levied against Capaldi were either grossly exaggerated, such as claims of him being ‘too old’, or simply unfair, such as blaming him for the occasional bad episode like Sleep No More or Kill the Moon. Each and every Doctor is faced with criticism like this – Matt Smith was ‘too young’ for the role according to many in 2010, and nobody needs reminding of the frenzy of baseless criticism levied against Jodie Whittaker before Series 11 even aired.

Ultimately, the Twelfth Doctor era speaks for itself. Even amid the aforementioned terrible episodes it hosted, as well as others like In the Forest of the Night, the era also gave us some of the best instant classics of the modern era of Doctor Who. Episodes like Heaven Sent, Flatline, Mummy on the Orient Express, Oxygen, World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls will be remembered for years to come and proves that, even after more than 10 years, the New Series still has plenty of excellent stories to tell. Moving forward there is certainly a lot that the show can learn from the mistakes of the Capaldi era, but after the lacklustre Series 11, there is definitely a lot that Chibnall can learn from the Capaldi era’s resounding successes. Without a character-driven story Doctor Who can appear to lack substance, and this was an issue that plagued the Thirteenth Doctor’s debut season despite the writer’s best efforts to make her quirky and likeable. The irony is that Capaldi’s grumpy first-series persona is a far more interesting character than the typical do-gooder Doctor, and Moffat was able to blend the best elements of both worlds by having a brusque Doctor early on, that evolves into the definitive Doctor over time.

be-kind.jpg

So, to answer the question that sparked this lengthy feature-style blog post: Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor is the Definitive Doctor. Though it takes him time to get to that point, when he gets there, fans have to agree that it is worth the wait. It is a classic case of not truly knowing what it is you had until it suddenly disappears. Obviously there are some that may not agree – that is the nature of the fanbase. For some fans in 2014, the hardest part of being a fan after Series 8 was accepting Capaldi as the Doctor. But now, after a brief but legendary tenure, the hardest part for many is letting him go.

Read More

 

 

Transformers – How Did Michael Bay Screw Up Starscream?

Starscream. The name has almost become an adjective in itself for characters that are traitorous, two-faced, sycophantic or conniving. Not only has the original Starscream been reinvented many times throughout the various iterations of the Transformers franchise, but characters in other shows, films and video games have taken inspiration from him. Starscream is certainly one of the most recognisable from the original series alongside Optimus Prime, Megatron and Bumblebee and almost every iteration of the character has been resoundingly popular with the fanbase. However, oddly enough, the Michael Bay Transformers films managed to perform the seemingly impossible – they managed to screw up Starscream.

One might ask how, since the logical thing for the film series to do would be to do what it did with almost every other Transformers character – have them be an almost exact carbon copy of their G1 personality, with almost none of the character development. In the first Transformers film, however, Starscream seems to be just like any other Decepticon – he lacks the iconic voice, he displays no traitorous intent whatsoever, and all we are really told about the character is that he often fails Megatron – and we only know that thanks to a single line during their only on-screen conversation in the first film in which Megatron says “You fail me yet again, Starscream.” So essentially, going off the first film alone, Starscream comes across as just another of Megatron’s incompetent lackeys. In the after-credits sequence, we see Starscream blasting off into space – which was obviously sequel-bait, but at least gave the audience something to remember him for.

Come Revenge of the Fallen, however, and suddenly things have changed dramatically. Now having inexplicably gained his G1 voice to replace the alien rasp he spoke with in the first film, Starscream is again bullied and kicked around by Megatron for no real reason – he is annoyed that Starscream took the mantle of Decepticon leader, but given the fact that Megatron was dead and rotting at the bottom of the ocean, and that the Fallen had asked Starscream to raise a hatchling army, this seems a flimsy excuse for abuse. A similar issue plagues Dark of the Moon, as Starscream seems to be loyal, if a little sychophantic, and yet Megatron still treats him like dirt. One would think that, with so many of his soldiers being killed in every film, Megatron would actually grow to appreciate Starscream – not for his unwavering devotion despite the constant failure of Megatron’s plans, but simply for surviving this long.

Having said that, Starscream’s impressive survival streak is brought to a sudden and jarring end in the final act of the third film, as he is unceremoniously killed off by Sam, of all people. Starscream’s death is one of several in the third film that were included when the filmmakers assumed that the third Transformers would be the last – as a result, every single Decepticon is killed, even Megatron, and although other incarnations of Starscream had a knack for returning from the dead, it would seem that the movie-universe Starscream is dead for good this time. Looking back on the character’s presentation in the three movies in which he appears, it is obvious that he was grossly mishandled – like many other classic characters in the live-action movies – but the real question is: how? How is it possible to screw up such a tried-and-tested, almost cookie-cutter character as Starscream?

To answer that question, we must first look at the wider issue of how the villains of the Transformers films, particularly the Decepticon characters, are used. As alluded to in How to Fix Michael Bay’s Transformers Films – Part Two: Decepticontinuity, the writers of these films were obviously not concerned with how effectively the villains were presented – as far as they were concerned, the names ‘Megatron’ and ‘Starscream’ held enough brand recognition in themselves that audiences would project their own recollections of the characters onto them. As a result, hardly any effort is put into actually establishing the motivations, personalities or conflicts of the villains aside from what is absolutely essential to make the framework of the story. In other words, the villains are only developed when the writers realise they absolutely have to be, and as a result they all come across as one-dimensional.

Starscream is as treacherous as ever in G1, but is he as well-established in the movies? The short answer is no, the long answer can be found at Sacred Icon
In G1, Starscream was known for his continuous attempts to betray or overthrow Megatron throughout the series that firmly established his character in the minds of the audience

Starscream is the perfect example of this – we never see or even hear about any treacherous ideas that he might have, the writers just have Megatron constantly refer to him as ‘treacherous’ despite there being no evidence for this. This uninspired ‘tell-don’t-show’ method of storytelling wouldn’t seem out of place in a Star Wars Prequel, and it even continues after Starscream’s death – the appearance of his decapitated head in The Last Knight (despite the fact it was blown up in Dark of the Moon) and the fact that Megatron still refers to him as ‘treacherous’ showcases just how little the writers cared about the character. Even a relatively generic and by-the-books depiction of Starscream, such as the version seen in Transformers: Animated, is leagues ahead of the Starscream seen in the movies.

Hopefully this article has shed some light on how Michael Bay managed to screw up Starscream in the Transformers films. To read more deconstruction of the Michael Bayverse, click the links down below. Be sure to leave a like if you want to read more Transformers content!

Read More from Sacred Icon