Master Chief’s journey to starring in a live-action series has been almost as torturous as his campaigns across the Ringworld.
Halo: Combat Evolved was a sensation when it launched on the original Xbox in 2001. Its innovative gameplay and compelling story influenced the first-person shooter games that followed and propelled Master Chief and the Spartan force’s adventures into a multimedia franchise. So far, Halo has encompassed 16 videogames, including eight directly following the core continuity set by the original game. In addition, the story has grown over books, graphic novels, and comics.
But adapting the game for the screen has proved to be more challenging.
Halo’s road to the screen
In 2005, an attempt to bring a Halo feature to the screen attracted big names, including Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) as executive producer and Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim) and Neil Blomkamp (District 9) as directors. Despite Fox and Universal teaming up to fund the film and meet Microsoft’s option demands, the project stalled, seemingly over the vast costs required to bring the universe to screen. The future looked a lot like interconnected series and games.
Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn was released in 2012. Originally a feature, it was chopped up and released as a five-part web series in the run-up to Halo 4‘s release. Franchise developer 343 Industries was on set to ensure the series didn’t break the game canon. It received acclaim, including an Emmy nomination, and the first episode won five million views on Youtube in its first two weeks. But this approach felt like a warm-up.
Two years later, 343 Industries joined with Scott Free Productions to produce the five-part Halo: Nightfall series, which connected Halo 4 to Halo 5: Guardians. It provided an origin story for Agent Jameson Locke, a playable character in the latest Halo game, released a month earlier.
Not all Halo spin-off series have been contained by the canon established on Xbox. In 2010, 343 Industries contracted five Japanese production houses to produce seven anime shorts. While six of those were canonical, one was a parody.
After an animated series and two short-lived promotional live-action series almost entirely linked to the game series, fans were itching for something more substantial. That arrived with confirmation that a high-profile live-action series had entered production in 2019.
Fans are now looking forward to a mainstream adaptation of the universe in 2022. After it was initially commissioned for broadcast on Showtime, the show will now premiere as an exclusive on Paramount Plus. It’s likely to be a high-profile property at the front of the streaming service’s original content. But true to form, Halo retains the limited series approach of ten episodes. Master Chief has been cast in the form of Pablo Schreiber, filming has taken place, and the first trailer released. That leaves the big question of whether the show will stick with the existing Halo canon.
Will the Halo show be canon?
The answer has come straight from 343 Industries, who confirmed that the Halo TV show will follow the “Halo Silver Timeline.” It’s a new canon that means it will exist in an entirely separate continuity to the 20-year old Halo timeline.
Kiki Wolfkill, who oversees Halo in multimedia at 343 Industries, is an executive producer on the show. She has confirmed that the show’s new status is designed to protect the game’s core canon and the ongoing continuity of the TV show, allowing both to develop in the best way for their respective media.
In an interview available on Halopedia, Wolfkill said:
“We do have some context and perspective that is different from some of those stories that we’ve experienced or read about in the games. We’re referring to this as the Halo Silver timeline as a way of differentiating it from core canon, in both protecting core canon and protecting the television story. And by that, I mean being able to give ourselves the chance to evolve both, and for both to be what they need to be for their mediums without colliding with each other.”
This approach is contrary to previous series and books, and it has split the fanbase. Shows like Game of Thrones have highlighted the dangers of two continuities taking a story in separate and possibly contradictory directions.
On the other hand, wiping the slate clean does allow the TV show to stand on its own two VZG7 Armored Boots. New viewers will be able to catch it on the fledgling network without having to know the intricacies of the videogame continuity.
Either way, it’s an interesting proposition for the established franchise. As Natascha McElhone’s Dr. Catherine Halsey suggests in the trailer, fans should see this as a “new beginning.”
Halo will stream exclusively on Paramount Plus in 2022.