Halo: The Television Series
From Halopedia, the Halo wiki
Halo: The Television Series is a live-action television series produced by Showtime and premiered on Paramount Plus, originally set to air in 2015, then 2020, and premiered on March 24, 2022.
The series was originally set to air 10 episodes, but this was later reduced to 9, and is set during the Human-Covenant War. John-117 will be one of the lead characters of the series. Multiple planets will feature.
The Halo television show's origins lie in the Halo film project worked on by Neil Blomkamp, Peter Jackson and WETA Workshop in the late 2000s. During the film's early production, Microsoft were purported to approach Hollywood with unrealistic expectations for their own profits and creative control, leading to the film's downfall. The lessons learned from this attempt at bringing Halo to live action saw Microsoft and 343 Industries come to the conclusion that Halos's more long-form storytelling nature may be more suited to television, rather than film. A second attempt at creating a Halo film, based on the novel The Fall of Reach, was later started in 2007 with a speculative script written by Stuart Beattie. In 2010, it was later reported that Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks had taken interest in the Halo property, and were investigating adapting the novels rather than the games to avoid the legal issues potentially present from the first film.
2012 saw the release of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, a five-part live-action webseries created to promote the release of Halo 4 and 2014 saw the release of Halo: Nightfall to debut on the Halo Channel and tie in with Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Halo 5: Guardians.
The Halo TV show was officially announced in 2013 at Microsoft's Xbox One reveal showcase event under the title Halo: The Television Series, to be worked on by 343 Industries in conjunction with Steven Spielberg as executive producer. Spielberg had been brought onto the project thanks to his friendship with Xbox head Don Mattrick, and the series was soon pitched to Amblin Television (a production company co-founded by Spielberg). Originally, the series was in production under the Xbox Entertainment Studios unit, though this division was ultimately shut. In April 2014, the series was reported as still in the "deal-making phase" due to the service going through the "growing pains of establishing a business template for original content". Ultimately, the show was given sole distribution rights on Showtime, following the closure of XES. Around this time, the director for the abandoned Halo movie and the Halo: Landfall short, Neil Blomkamp, was rumoured to direct the show. Additionally, screenwriter Stuart Beattie was reported to have worked on a large story bible for the production crew.
In May 2014, the series was stated by Bonnie Ross to be expected to launch in fall 2015, around the same time as Halo 5: Guardians. The series was later stated to have connections with Halo 5: Guardians and Halo: Nightfall, indicating an intent to interweave the narrative threads between the projects. The show was elaborated by Phil Spencer that it "won't be filler". Early versions of the script were stated by Kiki Wolfkill to lean more into the drama space familiar to Showtime, with storylines focusing on the personal lives of the SPARTAN-II supersoldiers. Microsoft digital media president Nancy Tellem later stated that the two live-action projects would be connected by focusing on a character referenced in Halo 5, though did not elaborate on this connection. At Gamescom 2014, the TV show was additionally announced to also debut on the Halo Channel.
Ultimately, despite assurances by Teller that the show was in "active development", very little news was shared for the next four years of development hell following the closure of Xbox Entertainment Studios. It was reported at RTX 2016 and later again in 2017 that the show was still in production alongside Spielberg and Showtime. In January of 2018 it was reported by Showtime president and CEO David Nevins that the show was still in "very active development", and that he had seen scripts. It was later reported by Production Weekly that the show would begin filming in late 2018.
In June 2018, the show was officially ordered by Showtime, with the company expecting ten episodes. This announcement was accompanied with a press release and more details, with Kyle Killen serving as executive producer and showrunner, and Rupert Wyatt directing. The series was stated to be an hour long, and expected to enter production in early 2019, with Kiki Wolfkill adding that the series was "already in the pre-production phase". This press release also gave the first glimpse into the series' story, taking place in the Human-Covenant War fought between humanity and the Covenant. In August 2018, the show was expected to debut in 2020.
However, in December 2018 Wyatt left the project in due to delays in production, which were unable to line up with his schedule. Otto Bathurst was later brought on to direct in Wyatt's stead in February 2019, alongside serving as an executive producer. Additionally, the series was reduced from ten episodes to nine, as the writing team after mapping out the season and breaking down the stories. This change in directors brought a further delay into the commencement of production for Halo. In March 2019, Steven Kane was brought onto the show as co-showrunner alongside Killen, though ultimately Killen later left the project in June 2019 due to not wanting to leave his family for an extended shoot overseas. As such, co-showrunner Steven Kane stepped in to take over duties on the show. By December 2019, the show had officially begun filming, and casting had been done for a number of major characters.
Production was interrupted in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with work-form-home guidelines forcing progress to be slowed and shooting temporarily halted. By the year's end, some shooting had resumed with COVID protocols in place. Production resumed throughout 2021, with the series announced on February 24, 2021 for broadcaste and premiere on Paramount Plus (formerly CBS All Access) - marking another delay from the previous release prediction. This move was done due to the show not fitting Showtime's more drama-focused offerings, whereas Paramount+ felt it would fit better alongside their Star Trek shows. In return, Showtime received The Man Who Fell to Earth.
Story and script
The Halo television show's original premise was founded on the back of the failed Halo film project, and as such Microsoft took a more lenient approach in regards to source material accuracy for the project. In the project's earlier stages, the intended 2015 release alongside Halo 5: Guardians would have seen the project tie into the game and the Halo: Nightfall webseries via a character in Halo 5. When approaching Showtime, Microsoft introduced Halo not just as a game but with the entire series' expanded universe - with the show's production staff spending several days at 343's offices in Seattle to learn about the expanded Halo mythos. As such, to help prevent the series from suffering the same pitfalls suffered by other video game adaptations, the team didn't think of the series as a video game adaptation but rather an adaptation of Halo as a whole. Early versions of the script focused on the personal lives of the Spartans, though this was eventually lessened with hints that this subject matter could be explored in successive seasons of the show.
During his tenure as showrunner in 2018, Kyle Killen developed a narrative path for the series depicting Master Chief as a character without any personality due to the effects of the SPARTAN-II program. Over time, the show tells a story of the Master Chief "discovering his own humanity" alongside the audience. To help in developing the drama of the series, the series brought on a writer not traditionally known for science fiction or action work, as to help appeal to Showtime viewers alongside the Halo fanbase. Ultimately, Kane estimated he wrote upwards of 265 drafts for the first nine episodes of the show during his time in Hungary.
As the project went on, 343 and Amblin came to the decision to depart the Halo show from the series' core canon. This was done due to issues in adapting the source material to the new medium and learning from previous past mistakes - with the decision likened to that splitting the Marvel Cinematic Universe from Marvel Comics. Although the television show draws heavily from Halo's core canon, it changes characters and events around to better fit the needs of production, with this alternate timeline referred to as the "Silver Timeline" - named after the series' Silver Team who are themselves named for the medium's nickname of the "Silver screen".
The Silver Timeline is not fully divorced from the official Halo canon, and the alternate continuity is also expected to have some crossover effects back in the main Halo canon. For example, certain locations or vehicles introduced in the Silver Timeline may also be introduced in the mainline canon, such as Dr. Halsey's ship or the WHITE TOWER facility on Reach. However, these locations may have differences in interpretation with the latter's core canon counterpart being notably smaller than that featured in the TV show. Certain designs such as High Charity have experienced significant visual overhauls from their depiction in the core canon, and certain characters introduced in the TV show - such as Silver Team - do have canon counterparts, though they may be very different in nature. To help better discuss the Silver Timeline, 343 also debuted a new feature on Halo Waypoint known as "Silver Debrief", as to reduce confusion between the two timelines.
To create the Covenant language used in the show, writer David Peterson (previously known for creating the Dothraki conlang used in Game of Thrones) was brought on to help create a language and expand on 343's existing notes. Charlie Murphy learned this language for the role of Makee.
Filming for the Halo TV show was primarily carried out in Budapest, Hungary, with 343 Industries' Head of Transmedia Kiki Wolfkill and Senior Franchise Writer Kenneth Peters on-site in Budapest. However, production was halted in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with lockdowns meaning shooting was once once again delayed. At this time, roughly 55-60% of the first season had been filmed. Following this shift, production was temporarily moved to Pinewood Studios in Toronto, Canada, for additional filming and reshoots done by the crew of Star Trek: Discovery. Sections set inside Miranda's lab were filmed in an old Nokia factory.
Lockdown restrictions were lessened in Hungary for US productions in June 2020, allowing work on the show to begin again. Filming was done at Korda Studio, with an estimated $41.3 million spent on the Hungary shoot by mid-2020. The renewed shoot was able to resume with COVID protocols in effect, with photos showcasing the cast and crew wearing masks on-set among other things. In February 2021, a handful images from the shoot showcasing several Marines in costume and a practical M12B Warthog were leaked onto the Facebook Halo community, though the post was later removed.
A number of physical props were developed for the filming, with many of the weapons featured in the series manufactured based directly on the 3D models used in the original Halo games, including the MA5C assault rifle from Halo 3, the M57 Pilum rocket launcher from Halo 5 and BR55 battle rifle from Halo 2: Anniversary and a large number of weapons from Halo: Reach including the M392 DMR and M6G magnum. A chaingun based on the AIE-486H machine gun from Halo 3 was produced based on an airsoft M134 minigun, with additional details included for lore fans such as Colonial Military Authority signage. The initial weapons developed were simple plastic molds, but as production ramped up more complex props were created with the ability to change magazines, charge the bolt and take them apart in their entirety. The MJOLNIR suits developed for the show are fully-practical, with designs based off the Master Chief's armour design in Halo Infinite. Despite this, a number of modern day real-world props were also used for background elements such as AK-derived weapons for Insurrectionists and the usage of modern cars such as the Chevy Tahoe.
In November 2019, a number of casting choices were officially announced by Showtime. Natascha McElhone, Bokeem Woodbine, Shabana Azmi, Bentley Kalu, Natasha Kulzac and Kate Kennedy were announced to join the series as Catherine Halsey and Cortana, Soren-066, Margaret Parangosky, Vannak-134, Riz-028 and Kai-125, respectively. Yerin Ha was also cast as a new character, Kwan Ha. However, in November 2020 McElhone had to step down from her role as Cortana due to scheduling issues, though still continued to play Halsey. As such, Jen Taylor - the voice actress for Cortana in the Halo games - was brought on to take on the role of Cortana in live action.
Sean Callery was announced to be scoring the series on February 14, 2022.
On December 9, 2021, a teaser trailer was released during The Game Awards. The trailer features John-117, Catherine Halsey, Miranda Keyes, Kwan Ha, Soren-066, Vannak-134, Riz-028, Kai-125, and Makee on a variety of planets.
Release and reception
The Halo television series will debut its first episode, "Contact", on March 24, 2022 on Paramount+ in North America, Latin America, the Nordic countries, Australia. The series will also debut on Sky in Germany and Italy and Cable in France as a Paramount+ Original Series, in advance of the official launch of Paramount+ in those countries. The show will be made available in the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Caribbean in summer 2022 alongside the launch of Paramount+ in those countries.
In advance of the official release, the first two episodes "Contact" and "Unbound" were premiered at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival on March 14. These episodes received mixed reviews from critics, with a score of 57% on Rotten Tomatoes as of March 21, 2022. The series has a 62 score on MetaCritic.