Top 10 Best Halo Easter Eggs

So I’ve already covered the topic of Creepiest Halo Easter Eggs, Funny Halo Skulls and Hardest Halo Skulls, so it seems only fair that I also rank the funniest and/or coolest Easter Eggs in the Halo Series to round this theme to a close. For this list I will not be including Skulls, since I have covered those already, and none of the Easter Eggs that appeared in my Top 10 Creepiest Easter Eggs list will be appearing here either. So, coming in at number 10:

10 – Windows Phone – Halo 3

windows phone

The wall-mounted phones in Halo 3 have tiny Windows logos on them, a nostalgic callback to the era in which this game was released. This is one of several computing-related references in Halo 3, another being the fact that the UNSC computers offline with a modern-day blue screen of death. Just a small but relatively interesting detail that shows the dedication to making the world seem real.

9 – Excalibur – Halo 2

excalibur.jpg

This Easter Egg is tucked away in the top floor of a destroyed building in the Halo 2 level Outskirts. What makes this interesting is that it is located outside of the level boundaries, meaning that the developers must have known that players would manipulate the game mechanics in ways that would allow them to leave the level boundaries, and yet rather than filling every corner of every level with invisible walls or death timers, Bungie instead filled the outside areas of their levels with secrets to find. This Energy Sword serves as a reward for players who manipulate the game mechanics, as well as seeing one of the infamous ‘Rex’ symbols written in rocks and blood (shotgun shells in the anniversary version). This sword can also be used to implement a glitch that gives you an invisible Energy Sword with infinite ammo in the next level, so it is a useful Egg to find.

8 – Notice Board – Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

ceabillboard.png

The Pillar of Autumn’s notice board in the original version of Halo: Combat Evolved was already full of in-jokes, references or gags such as a note claiming to have lost Alien‘s cat ‘Jonesey’, but the Anniversary version steps this up a notch. The ‘Cat Found!!!’ notice is clearly a reference to the Jonesey post on the original notice board, and the Spartans on the ‘Defy the Covenant’ poster are wearing Halo: Reach-era armour, further solidifying the link between Reach and Halo: Combat Evolved. There is even a trollface next to a blatant advert for Halo 4 which, at that time, had not been released, so in a way this notice board looks both to the past and to the future.

7 – Red vs Blue Marines – Halo 3

 

 

This one crops up a lot because it doesn’t take much to find – simply go further along to a corner near the start of the Halo 3 level Crow’s Nest when the game prompts you to turn left, and you will encounter a door with a Marine standing outside. What proceeds is a humourous argument between the Marine outside and another Marine, presumably just inside the door, over the password needed to get in. What makes this even better is the fact that the voices are done by various members of the Red vs Blue cast, and the conversation changes depending on the difficulty.

6 – Football – Halo 2

football

This one takes some effort but is really fun if you can pull it off with two people. The football itself can be located at the very top of a damaged skyscraper in the Halo 2 level Metropolis, which continues Halo 2’s theme of placing fun and interesting secrets and hard-to-reach areas. Using various Skull combinations, the players can then push the ball with explosives out of its corner and down into the play-space of the road itself, and with two Ghosts this can make a game of giant football in the streets, if you can overcome the strange physics of the ball.

5 -Siege of Madrigal – Bungie Games

controlroom.jpg

This Easter Egg is brilliant because it recurs throughout the franchise, and when activated it plays a piece of music called Siege of Madrigal from one of Bungie’s older games, Marathon. To activate it in Halo: Combat Evolved, one must fly a Banshee up to the peak of the control room tower in the level Assault on the Control Room and park in a very specific spot (to the right of the second-highest rung, to be precise.) The tune can be found in almost every Halo game, usually located in a very specific but hard-to-reach location, and can be heard here.

4 – Flyable Pelican/Phantom – Halo: Reach

flyablepelicanphantom.jpg

It had long been a dream of Halo fans to actually get a chance to fly the iconic dropships of either the UNSC or the Covenant, but Halo: Reach finally made it possible, albeit in the form of a very glitchy Easter Egg. Bungie knew that fans had always wanted to fly a Pelican because the vast majority of the few mods that exist for Halo generally are mods that allow the player to fly the Pelican, and although they implemented a form of air-vehicle in Halo 3 with the Hornet and again with Halo: Reach’s Falcon, they knew that before they left the franchise for good they would have to provide some form of closure to fans, and so enters New Alexandria, an air level in Halo: Reach that primarily uses the Falcon, but with the flip of a secret switch and a quick flight through a giant ring-shaped building and your Falcon is magically transformed into a very unstable Pelican. Phantoms can also be driven if you manage to complete the same method with a Banshee, although that is even more unstable with no collision detection at all.

3 – Club Errera – Halo: Reach

brutedj.jpg

Oddly enough, this next Easter Egg is actually from the same level as the previous one, but that is no real surprise since Halo: Reach’s New Alexandria is jam-packed with fan-service Easter Eggs, since it was Bungie’s last massive open level in the series. The basic story behind Club Errera is simple – in the game as normal, you pass through a nightclub during your mission to destroy Covenant Radar Jammers, but if you manage to find and activate a secret switch before coming into the Club, all of the Covenant will be either dancing, Dj-ing or waiting at the bar, and the Hunters act as bouncers guarding the door. Overall, it is a surreal experience, and you can even change the music with different switches, one of which is a remix of a track from the Halo 2 Soundtrack.

2 – Scarab Gun – Halo 2

scarabgun.jpg

This unassuming-looking Plasma Rifle floating above a conveniently placed danger sign atop a skyscraper (that requires sacrificing an arm and a leg to get to) is actually the key to ultimate power. There are few examples of Easter Eggs as sandbox-altering as secret weapons, but this is the obvious exception. This weapon, although looking visually identical to a Plasma Rifle, is actually a placeholder for the Scarab’s main weapon used semi-regularly throughout the level Metropolis in Halo 2. Using a Banshee, (which requires a tedious and complicated method to even obtain in the first place) the player must fly up to the very top of a specific building in New Mombasa, the player can find and acquire this weapon, which allows them to shoot Scarab beams to their heart’s content. Unfortunately, this weapon is extremely hard to use since it can often kill the player due to the insanely high splash damage, and a single tap of the trigger can instantly kill the player. In the Anniversary version of Halo 2, a whole Skull was created to turn every weapon in the game into a Scarab weapon, (that thankfully turns off scoring) so now even casual players can experience the power.

Honorable Mention – Secret Talking Grunts, Halo: CE, Halo 2 and Halo 3

secretgrunts.jpg

This single Honorable Mention is in fact three separate Easter Eggs, all involving secret Grunts with specific lines of funny dialogue. The first is the ‘Thirsty Grunt’, who can be found during the final run of the last level of Halo: Combat Evolved. When approached, he expresses his hope that the ‘food nipple’ is waiting for him at the starship, clearly ignorant of his impending doom. The next, ‘Cowardly Grunt’, can be found in the Halo 2 mission Uprising, during which the player is actually allied with this Grunt since you play as the Arbiter. However, this Grunt will refuse to fight, and instead pitifully cowers in the corner whilst assuring the Arbiter that he will stay behind to make sure nobody sneaks up on him. The final Grunt is aptly named the ‘Final Grunt’, since he is the final grunt you encounter in Halo 3, although he is occasionally called the ‘Jerk-Store Grunt’ since he rants and raves to the Chief, claiming that ‘the Jerk Store called, and they’re all out of you’ as well as berating the Chief for having a troubled past and claiming that he is high on gas. Wow.

1 – Terminals, Data Files and Audio Logs – All Halo Games

halo terminals

This could be considered cheating since I’m incorporating a vast array of separate Easter Eggs into this one entry, but they are essentially the same thing – hidden lore elements that are buried in the game and left for the player to find. This process began in Halo 3 with the ‘Terminals’, Forerunner (or sometimes Covenant) devices that could be accessed to read/hear small snippets of information about the wider story of the game and its context. This continued with Halo 3 ODST’s atmospheric audio logs, Halo: Reach’s data files and continued well into the 343 era with fully rendered mini-movies being hidden throughout Halo 4, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Halo 2 Anniversary, and a huge swath of fully voiced audio logs for Halo 5: Guardians, which is one of the few things worth praising about the game. What makes this such a great Easter Egg is that it is the perfect way of making players want to learn more about the wider lore of the games, as by hiding it away and including an element of challenge to find them with achievements encourages players with a sense of accomplishment or desire for 100% completion to scour the levels searching for clues and piecing together the wider lore that explains the origin of the Forerunners, the Halos, the Covenant, the Flood and countless other aspects of Halo lore.

So that’s my list of Top 10 Best Halo Easter Eggs, I hope you enjoyed and if you did then please be sure to leave a like, and remember to like us on Facebook or follow us on WordPress for more content like this, and look down below for more Halo related content!

 

Star Trek – Top 10 Federation Starship Classes

The world of Star Trek is defined by magnificent and elaborate starship designs of various diverse cultures, races and factions. The show has created dozens of iconic starship designs, many of which are recognisable even to people who have never seen the show, but by far the most iconic are the various Federation Starships that … Continue reading “Star Trek – Top 10 Federation Starship Classes”

The world of Star Trek is defined by magnificent and elaborate starship designs of various diverse cultures, races and factions. The show has created dozens of iconic starship designs, many of which are recognisable even to people who have never seen the show, but by far the most iconic are the Federation Starships that appear throughout the various incarnations of the legendary series. For those not in the know, the Federation in Star Trek is made up of a multitude of different races, including humans, and the starships we see throughout the show ferry our heroes from planet to planet, engage in ship-to-ship combat, and provide a home from home for the sizeable crew that make it their mission to explore the furthest reaches of space.

The question remains, however: which Federation starship type is the best? Of course, there are many different criteria that can be used to define what the ‘best’ class of ship is, from how iconic it is to how powerful it is within the show itself. For the purposes of this list, we will be factoring in several different criteria including longevity, artistic design, reliability and physical power, and ship classes from either the revival movies or the expanded universe will not be included. With that out of the way:

10 – Miranda-class

miranda class

Although it may be accidental, the Miranda-class has become somewhat of a running joke in the Star Trek universe, due to the numerous cases of Miranda-class vessels getting destroyed, attacked, lost, captured or having their entire crew die of old age. This is almost certainly due to the incredible quality of the original studio model of the USS Reliant, which led to the show’s creators re-using the same model for many other less important ships. It may seem odd now, but the USS Reliant was actually supposed to be quite powerful compared to the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as it is capable of holding its own in a fight against Kirk and his crew. However, subsequent appearances of Miranda-class vessels have presented the ship as being woefully under-powered, possibly due to the huge time jump between the Original Series and TNG.

9 – Prometheus-class

prometheus class.jpg

Visually, the Prometheus-class is awesome – the pointed primary hull, the four nacelles – and of course the infamous ‘multi-vector assault mode’ which splits the ship into three sections for coordinated attacks – but the reason why this ship ranks low on the list is the ease by which it is captured in the show, during its only significant appearance in Star Trek: Voyager’s Message in a Bottle. Despite featuring advanced armaments, prototype tactical configurations and improved shields, the ship is already in Romulan hands before we are even introduced to it, which begs the question – how on Earth did the Romulans manage to steal this advanced top secret prototype so easily? Clearly the crew were redshirts in disguise, considering they apparently all just dropped dead with little resistance.

8 – Nebula-class

nebula-class.jpg

A smaller and more compact cousin of the Galaxy-class starship, Nebula-class vessels are shown to share the same levels of endurance as their larger cousins in the show, with examples like the USS Phoenix and the USS Sutherland holding their own against comparatively larger starships, including the Galaxy-class itself. One of the best things about this vessel is its design, as it includes the newer, sleeker design of Federation Starship whilst also invoking a sense of continuity, since the ship is structurally similar to the previously-mentioned Miranda-class ships.

7 Ambassador-class

ambassador-class.jpg

Despite its brief appearance, the Ambassador-class USS Enterprise-C proved the worth of this class both as a Federation starship but also as a ship bearing the name Enterprise. The design of this ship has a clear motive – to form a link to bridge the gap between the USS Enterprise from the Original Series and the USS Enterprise-D from TNG – and it works perfectly. The clearly separate Saucer, Engineering and Nacelle sections are reminiscent of the original Enterprise, with the blue circular deflector dish resembling that of the Enterprise-A, and yet the colour scheme and sleeker look makes it visually similar to the Enterprise-D, providing clear continuity between the classes and forming a ‘missing link’ between the Original Series and TNG.

6 – Sovereign-class

sovereign class

From one Enterprise to another, the most famous Sovereign-class starship is of course the USS Enterprise-E, the final ship in the mainline show in the chronology of Enterprises. Created to replace the unwieldy Enterprise-D model that was unsuitable for big-budget movie levels of filming, the Sovereign-class is meant to represent the pinnacle of Federation starship design for its era, featuring advanced ‘Quantum Torpedoes’ to replace the regular old photon torpedoes and a more traditional Federation starship design that incorporates updated technology. Unfortunately, the entire point of the Sovereign-class’s creation was made redundant by the transition from physical models to entirely CGI ships towards the end of the TNG Movies, but we can still appreciate the fantastic design.


Read More


5 – Excelsior-class

Excelsior_class

The ‘new kid on the block’ towards the end of the Original Series era, the Excelsior-class was essentially the sleeker, cooler younger brother to the now-outdated Constitution-class ships. With famous post-Original Series starships like the USS Excelsior and the USS Enterprise-B represented by the Excelsior-class, it remains one of the most famous and well-known Federation ship classes that is not the primary ship of a mainline TV series, although it does feature prominently in Star Trek VI and Generations. Interestingly, the prototype Excelsior-class ship was captained by none other than Hikaru Sulu, further solidifying the idea that the Excelsior-class bears the torch passed on from the older Constitution-class.

4 –  Defiant-class

defiant.jpg

Although the design of the Defiant-class ships represents a radical deviation from the standard Federation starship look, within the context of the show the change was warranted. Throughout the late-TNG and Deep Space Nine era of Star Trek, the Federation is faced with enemies that require a more tactical and combat-orientated response, rather than  the usual ‘exploration first, combat second’ philosophy that had previously dominated their starship designs. The Defiant-class represents a prototype of dedicated warship designed to fight and defeat the Borg, a vicious and powerful threat to the Galaxy. Seeing action throughout Deep Space Nine and First Contact, the Defiant-class lives up to its role as a combat vessel by aiding in the defence of Earth from the Borg and the war with the Dominon.

3 – Constitution-class

constitution class.jpg

The grandfather of Federation starships, this is the one that started it all. This design would go on to influence each and every Federation starship to come, and is respected as one of the most iconic and memorable starship designs ever created. In terms of the show’s continuity, the Constitution-class is far from the first Federation starship to be created, but the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 is certainly its most famous, and the adventures of Captain Kirk and his crew go on to become almost akin to the stuff of legend by the time of the Voyager and DS9 era. The ship itself is supposed to be one of the best Federation ship designs of its time, and although it is far outstripped by the Federation starships shown in later Star Trek incarnations, the legacy of the Constitution-class is upheld through the name Enterprise, and all the fantastic ships of that name to come. Talking of which…

2 – Galaxy-class

galaxy-class.jpg

Known most famously for the USS Enterprise-D from TNG, the Galaxy-class starship serve as the primary setting for TNG, and so forms the backbone for what is arguably the essential Star Trek experience, depending on how you rate it in comparison with the Original Series. As a result, like the Constitution-class, the Galaxy-class has become one of the most recognisable ships in all of Star Trek. From a visual standpoint, this vessel effectively conveyed that massive changes had occurred in the Star Trek universe since the era of the Original Series. The ship maintains the same basic shape as the earlier incarnation, but with a sleeker design and more advanced-looking engine and sensor technology. In-universe, the Galaxy-class is a powerful exploration vessel, and although we never see the Enterprise-D go head-to-head with a Romulan Warbird to the death, the vessel is held in high regard by many allies and enemies of the Federation, making it a formidable vessel.

1 – Intrepid-class

intrepid-class

Despite being smaller than the Galaxy-class, less advanced than the Sovereign-class and less iconic than the Constitution-class, the Intrepid-class is a fantastic ship in its own right. Quick and nimble, it demonstrates its efficiency throughout Star Trek: Voyager as the titular USS Voyager holds its own against practically everything the Delta Quadrant can throw at it, provided no time-travel is involved. The Intrepid-class personifies the apparent change in Starfleet from the era of TNG, with stark grey metallic corridors replacing the beige and wood-paneled interior of the Galaxy-class ships, and more focus on speed and durability than sheer power of its weapons. The design of the Intrepid-class also departed from the traditional Federation starship design, doing away with the separate saucer and engineering sections and opting instead for a sleeker, more aerodynamic dagger-shaped design. This design choice complements Captain Janeway’s spiky personality, and it is no surprise that some species in the Delta Quadrant come to see the USS Voyager as a warship, since Janeway demonstrates the Intrepid-class’s resourcefulness when dealing with more powerful enemies like the Borg, by pushing the craft to its very limits. Indeed, in an alternate timeline in which Voyager is constantly attacked by a race that can negate shielding technology, Janeway and her crew manage to keep Voyager running after weeks of constant attack, to the point that the ship loses an entire deck but still functions. Likewise, the Borg modifications made to the ship during Star Trek: Voyager demonstrate the ship’s adaptability, as does its ability to actually land on planets, a gimmick that is used about as often as the Galaxy-classes’ saucer separation.

Do you agree with this list? What is your favourite Star Trek ship design? Leave a comment below with your ranking, and see below for more Star Trek related posts.

See Also

More

Get In The Ring – What Makes Halo’s AI So Fun To Fight?

Few gamers would argue that a key element that can make or break a video game experience is immersion, or the extent to which a video game draws you into the world in which it is set. Many primary criticisms of popular titles are spawned from aspects of the game that break immersion, from Assassins Creed Unity’s dreadful face glitches to Skyrim’s multitude of quest-related bugs. But if a game can create a truly immersive experience, it has already won half of the battle, particularly if the game’s focus is on story elements, world-building or delivering a cinematic feel. And like all games that get immersion right, Halo has one crucial ace up its sleeve that many modern shooters lack today – AI that is actually good.

In-universe, Halo ‘Smart’ AIs like Cortana expire after seven years of service, which is ironic in retrospect since the AI of early Halo games has stood the test of time for far longer than that. Halo 2 in particular is now nearly 15 years old, and yet the AI is still just as fun and interesting to fight now as it was in 2004. There is no shortage of praise for the AI in the Halo games, ever since the beginning one of the main selling points of Halo: Combat Evolved was that the AI ‘feels real’, which seems laughable now considering the fact that Halo 2’s AI makes Halo: CE’s appear primitive by comparison. But to fully understand why Halo’s AI is so good, it is important to first understand the status quo for enemy AI at the time (and, indeed, for many games released today). The difference between earlier shooters like Doom and Quake when compared with Halo is how the AI react to combat situations and alter their strategy to counter the player’s movements, and the truth is, in most shooters, they don’t. AI in corridor shooters is generally there to lurch at the player and get shot, with most games relying on a huge group of enemies programmed with swarm tactics to overwhelm the player with no real reliance on tactics of any kind.

doom gameplay

Halo’s AI is quite the opposite. Aside from the Flood, which for all intents and purposes fills the role of mindless zombies, Halo AI was unique in that the individual aliens respond to what is happening in the world around them. Subtle details in the programming of the AI convey more to the player than any AI in any game had ever done before, and many players take these features for granted since so many other games have incorporated the more advanced features of in-game AI that Halo pioneered into their own games. Bungie programmed the Covenant AI to fulfil the roles they were assigned in a way that not only creates a fun and challenging pantheon of enemies to fight, but also reminds the player of which roles each member of the Covenant plays in their hegemony. When left idle, Grunts will take menial orders from Elites, Curious soldiers may attempt to interact with control panels, or wander up to each other and start a conversation. AI scripts like these were barely present in contemporary RPGs at the time, let alone a sci-fi shooter. But that is one of the many reasons why Halo greatly surpassed the competition at the time – In Halo, gone are the days when a player would wander into a room full of enemies that are positioned in symmetrical semi-circles – the AI in Halo fill the space they occupy, they make the world feel alive because there are so many dynamic elements at play between the individual AIs, and that is something no game had truly tackled before.

Furthermore, each individual AI has its own sense of self-awareness. Ridiculous as it may sound now, having it so that shooting an Elite in the leg will cause it to fall down on one knee was a wondrous innovation at the time, but that’s barely scratching the surface. Grunts flee when their leader is killed, Elites are programmed with a sense of honour, Hunter pairs move in sync to protect each other, and wounded Brutes work themselves up into a frenzy if too many of their brothers are killed. Again, these details seem trivial today, because many games since have incorporated similar features into their games, but the key factor to remember is that Halo pioneered it. And, in truth, there are still many games released this decade that actually lack these features, as more and more shooters return to the linear format of pre-2000s shooters as a means of cutting development time. What really hits this point home is how proud Bungie programmers were (and still are) of what they achieved with Halo given the lasting impact the game had on the first-person shooter genre as a whole. Damain Isla, who worked on the AI for Halo 2 and Halo 3, talks about how they actually weighed the balance of encounters to show off the AI that they had created:

“How smart can an AI even appear to be if you can just gun them down in two seconds flat? So lots of people assumed that we added all kinds of “smarts” to the AI when on legendary difficulty, but nope, it’s just the fact that they have more hitpoints, and so they live long enough to show you all the smart stuff we programmed them to do.”

But he wasn’t just referring to the AI interactions whilst idle – realistically, those kind of details will only really appeal to players like me who take their time to explore every hidden detail of the game rather than playing it how it was meant to be played – the most immersive aspect of Halo’s AI is that it is actually combat-viable. Unlike a game like Skyrim, which has a level of AI idle immersion that almost certainly surpasses that of Halo but then has enemies that seem completely oblivious to cover, traps and player attacks, Halo’s AI utilises the environment around them to make tactical decisions. This is most apparent in Halo 2, a game that is made all the more replayable by the degree of variety one finds within the levels themselves due to the random element of an enemy’s decision making process and the fact that the ranks of the AI you fight are not set, which further impacts the variation in AI behavior.

covenant-vs-flood.jpg

By far one of the best aspects of Halo’s AI system, however, is that the same level of depth to the enemy AI is also applied to AI that help the player, also known as allied NPCs. Because Halo has such a diverse range of characters, factions and settings, the form that allied NPCs may take vary – usually, they are Marines, but at various points you also get Sentinels, Elites, Factory Workers, other Spartans, Hunters and even Flood at one point, meaning that defending and working with allied AI becomes a priority, particularly when vehicles are present. Halo’s sandbox is highly varied, and throughout the various campaign missions various different combinations of enemy and ally AI can be encountered, including sections in which warring factions of enemy AI can be observed fighting each other with the same level of tactical intelligence as the AI uses against the player, so there is always more to explore with the AI interactions. In certain cases, you genuinely do not know what the AI is going to do next, and that stands for your allies as well – particularly in hectic situations. This is why AI Battles using what is now considered to be relatively outdated AI are still popular today.

Tragically, like too many modern shooters, Halo’s combat AI has become more and more predictable and generic with each new iteration since Halo: Reach – allied AI in the newer Halo games is less fun to fight with, weaker and less useful, and the enemy AI has become less versatile, with more restrictions being placed on their programming to prevent the AI from reaching its full potential. Typically, this has been done to make the levels more linear – if the AI is more predictable, it is easier to design levels around them. Even with the limitations of the technology available to them at the time, Bungie managed to create a system of AI that helped build a truly immersive experience, and perfected a behavioural program that is still used today, particularly in the Unreal engine, all while making sure the levels that the AI populated were varied, fun and enjoyable on many replays, and that is one of the many reasons why Halo pioneered a revolution of its genre.

See more:

 

 

Why the Daleks? – “The Daleks are awesome, no matter what anyone says.”

A question I’m asked often by friends and family alike is, ‘Why the Daleks?’ In fairness, it is a valid question. To any average Joe the Daleks are frankly laughable, both in their design and their execution. They look like dustbins and are often described as such, they shriek impotent threats and inaudible screams of malice, often directed at nobody in particular, and their episodes range from pretty good (Remembrance) to downright awful (Asylum). And if the tone of this introduction seems somewhat pessimistic, that’s because any Dalek fan is aware of the never-ending uphill battle of not only trying to convince non-whovians to watch Doctor Who, but also trying to convince just about everyone that the Daleks are a viable threat, a well-crafted villain and an essential part of British culture. It’s like being the only person in town who likes Marmite, or the Star Wars prequels, or Tommy Wiseau. I could be shown a list of a hundred viable reasons why the Daleks aren’t cool, but I would never be swayed. But the question remains: Why?

Dalekmania – Britain and the Daleks

For one, whether we like it or not, the Daleks are embedded in British culture. Show a Dalek to anyone in England and they would be able to tell you immediately what it is, no matter where in the country they lived or worked, and there are very few fictional icons that have such universal recognition. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that Dalek imagery has permeated into every corner of the English-speaking world, and perhaps beyond. One must remember that the Daleks are old, they turn fifty-four this year, making them older than Darth Vader and Spock, giving them an edge over their franchise rivals. Any Brit who isn’t even a tiny bit proud of the Daleks is ignorant of how much of an impact they have truly had on the world, despite everything. As far as British iconography goes, there is nothing that can top the Daleks.

The Daleks don’t just form part of Britain, they also represent it. At heart, the Daleks are personified by raging impotence, they hate the universe and want desperately for it to just go away and leave them alone, and yet despite their claims of supremacy and ultimate power, their enemies continue to defeat them simply by surviving. Any post-imperialist British politician can sympathise with this stance, it mirrors how most Imperialists must have felt following the collapse of the British Empire, and in many ways any Powellite, Tory or Nationalist can relate to the Daleks. In the modern era, their link with Britain has changed but remained strong – the Daleks in the modern day are struggling desperately to stay relevant in a world that has moved on from them, and to many they seem almost comical in their futile attempts to cling to power. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the world’s view of the Daleks very much mirrors Europe’s view of Britain right now, and speaking of which…

Tinfoil Pepper Pots – The World vs The Daleks

In a world of cinematic superheroes, awe-inspiring CGI Death Stars, Lord of the Rings, and over 60,000 years worth of youtube videos, is there even any room in pop culture for the comparatively whimsical Daleks? I’ve already discussed how the Daleks must struggle to captivate their audience in the modern day, but even to a die-hard Doctor Who fan the Daleks can seem stupid. They trundle about, shout ‘Exterminate’, shoot their gun (usually missing their target) and get blown up. But what makes that so different from anything else on TV? For an example, let’s take the Stormtroopers from Star Wars. They are one of the most popular and well-celebrated fictional military forces of all time, and yet at any point following the opening sequence of A New Hope, they’re about as threatening to the viewer as Bob Ross in a Cookie Monster onesie. Their heads are disproportionately large, their aim is comically bad, and their armour looks like cheap plastic, and this is from a production with a budget hundreds of times larger than anything Doctor Who had seen at the time.

And yet, two years earlier, Doctor Who gave us Genesis of the Daleks, the six-parter that reaffirmed in the minds of the British public the idea that the Daleks are a nightmare, a metallic monster that deals death to dozens of innocents, all while the Stormtroopers couldn’t even catch a bin on wheels and a gold-plated diplomat in a desert. And it is true that both have experienced ‘villain decay’ over the years, to the point where during the 1990s both were appearing on comedy sketches, and Star Wars has since totally redesigned the Stormtroopers (in a manner similar to Doctor Who’s treatment of its primary villain 10 years prior) or ditched them entirely in favor of CGI robots or other stand-in soldiers. Doctor Who, however, stuck to its guns, and although the Daleks were heavily redesigned in 2005, they deliberately kept in those comical design choices that could have easily been eliminated, like the plunger. Is that a good thing? Well…

Victors of the Longevity Game

Of course it is. Any self-respecting remake of a classic work of art sticks to the design choices of that era, regardless of the consequences. Apart from anything else, deviation from classic designs invokes fan backlash of Vesuvian magnitude, just look at the new Marvin, the new Kryten, or the redesigned Covenant in Halo. Whilst the Daleks have undergone serious updates since 1963, the base design has remained the same, and they occasionally call back to their roots, bringing classic designs back in homage to the bygone eras of Doctor Who. In a way, part of what makes the Daleks so great is that they relentlessly, shamelessly and stubbornly continue to deal out death and destruction on-screen in the same way that they did 54 years ago.

Despite everything, it’s not even as if Doctor Who revolves around the Daleks. The show does not need the Daleks in every series in order to be successful, and nothing has proven this more than the fact that all of the best post-2010 Doctor Who episodes have almost all been non-Dalek episodes. That is by no means to say that there are no Dalek episodes, just that the show maintains a healthy balance of keeping the Daleks in the show and yet not leaning on them for success, like some other franchises do with their main villains. Out of the 275 Doctor Who stories, merely 40 or less actually feature the Daleks, and even fewer have them as the main villain. In many ways that is a testament to the type of show Doctor Who is, it doesn’t exist simply to tell one story, or even one set of stories – it crosses genres and styles of storytelling in a way no other show does – and the Daleks form just one part of a much greater pantheon, and have done for over 50 years.

So… Why the Daleks?

Alright, I’ll stop beating about the bush. Now that I’ve set the scene, here are just some of the reasons why I think the Daleks are so cool. Here goes.

  • They’d definitely beat any other sci-fi race in a fight, hands down. They are so overpowered that the SpaceBattles forums, that deals in using community-based input to attempt to decide who would win out of sci-fi races from various franchises, often bans Daleks from discussions for being too overpowered and coined the phrase ‘Dalek-stomp’ as a one-word dismissal of anyone trying to post races that could beat them. Yes, I’m serious.
  • The music. Their classic-era episodes had some good soundtracks, particularly Genesis and Remembrance, but Murray Gold has composed some truly awe-inspiring pieces of music to accompany the Daleks that rivals any John Williams score in the ears of all true Doctor Who fans.
  • The sound effects, throughout their existence. The gunstick effect is always a feast for the ears, and the shrill, shrieking voices still strike fear into the hearts of children even today, like an electronically enhanced recording of the worlds most overbearing drill sergeant who also wants to kill you. Also, the Dalek heartbeat is one of the most ambient tension-builders in the history of television.
  • The extermination effect – when it actually gets used its always cool to see, and usually its being dealt to some poor innocent bystander, a desperate soldier or sometimes even the Doctor himself, creating the constant fear that no-one is safe from the Daleks. They have no mercy or pity, and the extermination effect shows that – the skeletal negative effect momentarily removes all individuality and humanity from the victims, showing just how weak even the most morally empowered force is when compared with the Daleks.
  • The CGI, and again, I’m serious. From something as simple as the plunger forming a surgical mask to crush a man’s skull, to the intricately designed swarms of endless Dalek assault squads pouring out of the mothership to attack Earth, CGI always seems to treat the Daleks surprisingly well, given the circumstances. Then again…
  • The practical effects, from both the classic and the modern era. Doctor Who is a show forged in fire, or rather, trial by fire, in that adversity mires production around every corner. As the previously mentioned A New Hope shows us, however, that usually ends up with creativity tested to its limits, and aside from a few missteps in the classic era, this is definitely true of most Dalek stories. From an excess of TNT to a prominent use of silly string, the practical effects are a treat.
  • The morality of it all. As anyone who has read my previous Dalek articles, I am truly fascinated with the morality surrounding the Daleks. All the best Dalek episodes deal with this concept, but the best thing is that there is so much more to be explored, and so much more to learn. 2015’s Dalek two-parter was packed full of brand new Dalek lore that fits in nicely with pre-existing Dalek mythology, and that’s what good Dalek stories in the future should hope to do. (I’m looking at you, Asylum of the Daleks.)And, finally:
  • The foil. No, not tin foil, I mean they exist as the perfect foil for the show’s main character, the Doctor. Any good villain should show us the worst aspects of their hero yet still strive to be villainous, and this is definitely true of the Daleks. Nothing hates more than the Daleks, nothing kills more than the Daleks, and that is the perfect foil for the epoch of morality that is the Doctor.

Thank you for reading this opinion piece on the Daleks, I hope that some of what is written here has swayed you to the Dalek cause, or at the very least has given you some appreciation for the supreme beings in the universe.

See more of our Doctor Who content below:

Halo: Combat Evolved – Capturing the Magic

Halo: Combat Evolved is a game that is full of surprises. Anyone who has played the game will know that there are moments in the game that are genuinely memorable – moments that stay with you forever and will always inspire feelings of nostalgia. The fact that the game contains so many of these moments is a testament to how fantastic the game really is, even over 10 years later.

The first of these wonderful moments that you encounter in the game is the reveal of the Halo itself. After a whole level of crawling through vents and facing linear corridor-shooter style gameplay in Pillar of Autumn, the second level Halo suddenly opens up into a wide vista with trees, rocks and even a river. Leaving the escape pod and seeing the lens flare of the Chief’s visor against the ring arcing into the sky is nothing short of breathtaking.

The player is also introduced to the Forerunners and their architecture which establishes a theme in this game of things appearing out of place – rounding the corner and seeing the beam emitter tower immediately reminds the player that they are standing on an artificial world, a totally alien environment that appears natural but is in fact an ancient fortress with thousands of hidden rooms and structures. It is truly unearthly.

Another memorable moment is the ascent into the Covenant ship via Gravity Lift in the third level, Truth and Reconciliation. The role of the ship as an alien war machine is contrasted by the sudden tranquility upon entering the belly of the beast, creating a peaceful moment for the player to assess this new environment – and then the doors open. After a huge firefight there lies ahead a maze of purple corridors and white-blue hangars – the interior design of the ship makes it appear mysterious and otherworldly.

These are just a few of the moments in Halo: Combat Evolved that really stick with you, and there are many more both in Halo: CE and its sequels. Truly the only way to fully experience the magic is to play the game yourself and see where it takes you.

Remembrance of the Daleks – A Classic

Remembrance of the Daleks is a fantastic episode of Doctor Who. Not only was it one of the first episodes of Doctor Who that I ever saw, not only did it introduce me to the Daleks that I would come to love, it actually holds up as an enjoyable episode even today. For most people, Classic Doctor Who episodes are hard to watch because they are slow, the production values are awful and the monsters look cheap and fake – this is not true of Remembrance. Not only does it stand the test of time but it remains one of the Daleks best appearances in the Classic series and serves as the perfect finale of the ‘Dalek Civil War’ trilogy consisting of Resurrection of the Daleks in 1984, Revelation of the Daleks in 1985 and finally Remembrance of the Daleks in 1988.

One of the greatest strengths of Remembrance compared to previous Dalek stories is the character of the Doctor and how he is influenced by the story. In Resurrection the Doctor is caught up in a situation that he has no control over whatsoever, and most of the events that occur in the story that move the plot forward have no relation to him whatsoever. This is even worse in Revelation, to the extent that the Doctor may as well not have even been on Necros in the first place. Remembrance, on the other hand, places the Doctor firmly at the center of the plot, he carries it forward whilst springing his trap for the Daleks which puts him in a much more powerful position than in previous Dalek stories.

This is thanks to Andrew Cartmel, the script editor for much of the Seventh Doctor’s tenure and instigator of what many now call the ‘Cartmel Masterplan’, in which Cartmel attempted to make the Doctor a much darker and more mysterious figure, to bring the show back to its roots and shroud the Doctor in mystery once more. This change in the Doctor’s character works perfectly for a Dalek story, where he is willing to manipulate humans and Daleks alike to ensure his plan succeeds.

Another of Remembrance’s greatest strengths is the Daleks themselves and how they are used. After being stuck with the same props for over a decade the BBC finally created some new Dalek props for this episode, bolstering the ageing ranks of the original Daleks with four new Imperial Dalek props, a Special Weapons Dalek prop, several SFX props and a Dalek Emperor prop. This allowed for greater set pieces involving more Daleks on-screen than was possible in the previous Dalek stories, and improved special effects and tonnes of explosives lead to some exciting battle sequences in this episode, particularly when the awesome Special Weapons Dalek is rolled out in Episode 4.

Speaking of the Daleks, their primary motivation in this episode involves defeating an opposing faction of Daleks very like themselves only just different enough to warrant extermination. This theme of extremist racism and ethnic purity runs deep in the story of Remembrance, with dissident fascist groups and a far-right military defector working with one of the factions of Daleks with promise of help to conquer the nation, put also a more domestic view on everyday racism in the 1960s – with a disgusted Ace pulling a ‘No Coloureds’ sign out of a B&B window striking a contrast between the norm of the early 1960s and the much more culturally developed mindset of the late 1980s.

With its position as a classic hardly in dispute, as it consistently wins top spots in Doctor Who ‘favourite episode’ polls, I still feel Remembrance of the Daleks deserves more praise considering how much it achieves with such limited budget. There is a lot of heart in this episode and Ben Aaronovitch deserves credit for such a fantastic script, especially since he later adapted the episode into book format, expanding on the characters in giving detailed insight into the Daleks and how they operate. Overall, Remembrance remains a fantastic end to the Daleks tenure in Classic Doctor Who and is, to many, the true 25th Anniversary Special.

Doctor Who – Will The Cybermen Ever Be Scary Again?

Fans of Doctor Who who have watched the show since they were children have, at some point in their lives, got to accept the fact that the Cybermen aren’t very scary. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the Cybermen were considered to be one of the scariest monsters in all of Doctor Who, and the 1967 Patrick Troughton episode Tomb of the Cybermen is often considered to be one of the scariest episodes of classic Doctor Who.

So why aren’t the Cybermen scary anymore? The answer to that question involves several phases that take place at different points in Doctor Who’s history, the first of which being that they have never truly been used to their full potential. The Cybermen are twisted and mutilated versions of ordinary humans – a terrifying concept that revolves around an equally terrifying conversion process involving body horror and psychological trauma. And yet we never get to see this on screen.

And this leads us to the first phase to our answer of why the Cybermen are nowhere near as scary as they should be – the full potential of what they represent cannot be fully exercised on a TV show like Doctor Who, that caters to family audiences and relies heavily on its reputation as a show for all ages. It is for this exact reason that the Cybermen have an equally strong reputation as silly tin foil men that stomp around like robots, rather than their real potential as a truly terrifying monster.

This leads us right onto the doorstep of the second phase of reasoning as to why the Cybermen are no longer scary, and that is the way in which they were handled by the writers of Doctor Who during the 1970s and 1980s. Following the success of Tomb of the Cybermen, and their equally strong impact in episodes such as The Moonbase, The Invasion and, of course, their debut episode The Tenth Planet, the Cybermen were firmly entrenched in Doctor Who mythos by the time the Fourth Doctor came along, but it was during his era that the Cyberman episodes began to decline in quality. Revenge of the Cybermen is considered by many to be the worst story of Season 12 and perhaps even one of Tom Baker’s worst episodes, and the appearance of the Cybermen in episodes like The Five Doctors and Silver Nemesis have them serve as little more than cannon fodder and not the central focus of the episode.

Only Attack of the Cybermen stands out as a story that actually involves the conversion process of a human into a Cyberman, with Lytton’s conversion being both haunting and disturbing, but aside from this the vast majority of later classic Cyberman stories deviate massively from the overall point of the Cybermen, which is to warn us of the dangers of technology and present a horrendous potential future where humans are horrifically altered to the extent that they are barely human anymore, and instead present them as angry robots who march around and then die. So, overall, not a fantastic record for the Cybermen in later classic Doctor Who then. The only area of Classic Doctor Who media post-1970 that seems to actually use the Cybermen properly is the 2003 Peter Davison audio story Spare Parts, considered by many to be the strongest story of the Cybermen.

So, what about NuWho? Russel T. Davies made a bold move when he decided to ‘reboot’ the Cybermen for the new series, particularly since he rewrote them from the ground up, establishing his Cybermen as totally new, with a new origin story and overall design. The debut story of this new breed of Cybermen, Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel, offered a promising premise as regards to making the Cybermen scary again, as there are some truly scary elements to the Cybermen in this episode – the fact that they can still remember who they used to be leads to a harrowing scene where a Cyberman reveals itself to a man as his wife, and in his distress he loses sight of which Cyberman it actually was that told him – and as all Cybermen are identical, he can’t figure out which one it is. A Cyberman ‘autopsy’ that takes place in this episode also reveals that the Cyberman specimen under study is actually a woman called Sally who was about to get married when she was captured and converted. Harrowing stuff.

So surely this means that the Cybermen have been redeemed? Well, unfortunately not, as there are still one or two problems with Russel’s representation of the Cybermen, and the Cyberman episodes of NuWho in general, and it is that there is too much of a divide between the Cybermen and the humans in this incarnation of the metal men. They appear too robotic, speaking in monotonous voices and generally appearing more like a race of hive-minded robots than remnants of humanity. Whilst there are some elements of body horror in the NuWho Cyberman episodes, such as the Torchwood workers in Army of Ghosts and the Cyberman head opening to reveal a human skull in Pandorica Opens, the concept of body horror in regards to the Cybermen is practically abandoned in NuWho. Ironically, it is the often lambasted Cyberwoman, an episode of Torchwood penned by none other than Chris Chibnall, has possibly the most focus on body horror in a Cyberman story, particularly since the show is not child-friendly, but again this is a form of media outside of the mainline TV show which, for the most part, tragically misused the Cybermen between the years 2007-2015.

However, after a dreadful period during Matt Smith’s era where the Cybermen literally destroyed themselves because of a baby crying, quite possibly their worst defeat yet, and were redesigned and subsequently rehashed into an app during Peter Capaldi’s first series, something happened that no-one expected. The Cybermen finally returned in full form during the first part of the finale of Series 10, World Enough and Time, and they were actually scary again. This episode finally realises the full potential of the Cybermen as a monster, presenting them as terrifyingly mutilated former humans and focusing in detail on the horrors of the conversion process. The scene in the ward with the partially-converted people desperately attempting to communicate the fact that they were in terrible pain is terrifying, and it made the Cybermen terrifying.

So it would seem that a scary Cyberman episode is possible, albeit rare, both in Classic Who and in NuWho. We can only hope that Chris Chibnall continues the tradition that Moffat has started by making the Cybermen truly scary again after almost 50 years.

%d bloggers like this: