Rassilon

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Doctor Who character
Glove of Rassilon.jpg
Timothy Dalton as Rassilon in "The End of Time"
Rassilon
AffiliatedTime Lords
SpeciesTime Lord
Home planetGallifrey
Home eraRassilon Era
Time War
First appearance"The Five Doctors"
Last appearance"The End of Time"
Portrayed byRichard Mathews
Timothy Dalton
Don Warrington (voice)
 
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Doctor Who character
Glove of Rassilon.jpg
Timothy Dalton as Rassilon in "The End of Time"
Rassilon
AffiliatedTime Lords
SpeciesTime Lord
Home planetGallifrey
Home eraRassilon Era
Time War
First appearance"The Five Doctors"
Last appearance"The End of Time"
Portrayed byRichard Mathews
Timothy Dalton
Don Warrington (voice)

Rassilon is a fictional character in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. In the backstory of the programme, he was the founder of Time Lord society on the planet Gallifrey. After the original television series ended in 1989, Rassilon's character and history were developed in books and other media.

Contents

Character history

Within the universe of the television series, there are many contradictory legends about Rassilon. It is known that he developed the technology for time travel that made his people lords of time in the distant past together with his colleague Omega.[1] Omega, a stellar engineer, was presumed killed by the supernova that created the black hole later known as the Eye of Harmony, and Rassilon harnessed the nucleus of the black hole to provide the energy that powers time travel. Rassilon then took control of Gallifrey and became the first Lord President. The official history is that he was a benevolent ruler who ruled his people wisely. However, there are other accounts which paint Rassilon as an opportunistic, ambitious and cruel dictator who seized power in the wake of his friend's death (for which some suggest he may have been deliberately responsible).

Rassilon's contributions to Time Lord culture and society were immense, and his name both reverberates and is honoured throughout Time Lord history. The Rassilon Imprimatur is the name given to the symbiotic nucleus of a Time Lord's cell structure which allows them to withstand the molecular stresses of time travel and grant them a link to their TARDIS time machines.[2]

Several other Time Lord artifacts named after him have a technological function, in addition to their ceremonial roles:

The seal of Rassilon.

Rassilon is also given credit, variously, for TARDIS technology; the living metal and super-weapon validium; and the defensive Quantum Force Field and Transduction Barriers that protected Gallifrey. How much of this is true and how much of it is propaganda and public relations are not certain. However, it is established that a TARDIS derived its power primarily from the Eye of Harmony, prior to Gallifrey's destruction. And it is likely that the power provided by Rassilon's capture and installation of the Eye of Harmony would have been key to meeting the vast energy requirements of setting up and maintaining the defence screens for the entire planet of Gallifrey from its potential enemies. Indeed, in "The Invasion of Time" the Fourth Doctor uses the Matrix circlet to consult with Rassilon's personality print to find a way of disabling the Quantum Force Field, which prevented physical penetration of the planet Gallifrey, after K9 had destroyed the Transduction (teleportation) Barriers, upon his order, allowing the Vardans to first, partially materialise. However the question remains about how much is a romantic idea of Rassilon and his achievements as compared to the real person. In "The Two Doctors" (1985), the Sixth Doctor claims that Rassilon enjoyed fishing and advocated its practice by Time Lords, but on questioning by Peri, admits he may have just made it up, which can be said to illustrate the Time Lord propensity for pretension which could have obfuscated the truth from the official history.

The Tomb or Tower of Rassilon, also known as the Dark Tower, stands in the middle of the Death Zone — a blasted, barren plain — on Gallifrey. The Death Zone was used, in a period of Gallifrey's history known as the Dark Time, as an arena that pitted warriors of various alien species and times (captured by the use of a device called the Time Scoop) against each other in gladiatorial games, although the Second Doctor tells the Brigadier that Rassilon put a stop to the games ("The Five Doctors", 1983). It was rumored that Rassilon, who lived during this time, had been deposed by Time Lords rebelling against his rule. It was also claimed Rassilon had discovered the secret of immortality and was still alive in the Tower, sleeping. The quest to reach Rassilon's tomb and the secret, blocked by a series of deadly obstacles, is referred to as "The Game of Rassilon".

The Five Doctors

Richard Mathews as Rassilon in "The Five Doctors"

In "The Five Doctors", Time Lord President Borusa wants Rassilon's secret for himself, describing Rassilon's immortality as "perpetual bodily regeneration". Borusa uses the Time Scoop to transport the Doctor in all his regenerations (along with various companions) to the Death Zone, using them to clear the way to the Tower. The First Doctor deduced from the riddle "This is the Game of Rassilon; to lose is to win and he who wins shall lose" that the Game was a trap to get rid of Time Lords who might be a danger to their race. Borusa is granted immortality by being transformed into a living statue. Rassilon subsequently returned the first three Doctors to their proper places in time and space and freed the Fourth Doctor from the time eddy in which he had been trapped. In that story, Rassilon (played by Richard Mathews) appears as a disembodied image floating above his own sepulchre, but the nature of this apparition is not explained.

Revived Series

Rassilon appears as the villainous mastermind of "The End of Time", the two-part finale of the series' 2009 Specials.

On the last day of the Last Great Time War, Rassilon intended to spare the Time Lords from death by invoking "The Final Sanction", which was designed to destroy the time vortex and elevate the Time Lords into beings of pure consciousness at the cost of the rest of creation. Implicitly, his plan was defeated by the Doctor, who ended the war using a device called "the Moment",[3] which resulted in the destruction of Gallifrey and the other combatants, and subsequently placed the events of the Time War within a "time-lock", preventing them from being altered with time-travel technology. Rassilon (portrayed by Timothy Dalton) was ruthless and determined to avoid death at any cost, even going so far as to kill one of his advisors that suggested it might be a good thing to allow The Doctor to end the War, and cause the final death of the Daleks and Time Lords.

Before the Doctor destroyed Gallifrey, however, Rassilon attempted to break Gallifrey out of the time lock that blocked the Last Great Time War from temporal manipulation, placing a drumming beat in the mind of the Master when the Master gazed into the Time Vortex through the Untempered Schism as a child (and thus making Rassilon ultimately responsible for the Master's evil). When the Master turned all of humanity into copies of himself, the now-amplified drum beat, existing outside the Time Lock, acted as a signal, allowing Rassilon and his Council to escape the Time Lock. Rassilon was confronted by the Tenth Doctor who was left with the choice of killing either the Master or Rassilon with a gun he had been given by his companion Wilfred Mott to sever the link. Rassilon taunted him about his hesitation, but after seeing a mysterious woman among Rassilon's entourage, the Doctor shot the diamond Rassilon sent to the Master to act as an anchor for the link, severing it. Rassilon went to kill the Doctor in revenge, but was badly hurt by a vengeful Master, learning the truth that his life was manipulated by the president, as Rassilon, the other Time Lords, and Gallifrey were all sent directly back into the Time Lock and the last day of the Last Great Time War.[4]

The Doctor at one point addresses the Lord President as "Rassilon", the name of the founder of Time Lord society from the classic series, although the character is only identified in the credits as 'The Narrator / Lord President'. In the accompanying episode of Doctor Who Confidential, Russell T Davies stated that the character's name was indeed Rassilon.[5]

Other appearances

Rassilon's rise to power was explored in the Virgin New Adventures novel Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible. It is revealed in the novel that Ancient Gallifrey was ruled by the Pythia, who controlled the population through prophecies and superstition. Rassilon, whose followers believed in science and rationality, led a revolution against the Pythia, eventually causing her to kill herself, and send her followers to the planet Karn. However, before she died she cursed Rassilon and all future Time Lords to sterility. Rassilon's unborn daughter was one of the deaths. In later New Adventures we are introduced to the concept of the genetic Looms, from which new Time Lords were created. This leads to Rassilon becoming part of a ruling triumvirate with Omega and a mysterious figure called the Other. Together they rebuilt Gallifrey and re-ordered the universe along rational and scientific lines, outlawing superstition and banishing magic. The latter novel Lungbarrow shows Rassilon becoming increasingly tyrannical and violently crushing resistance to his reforms, which ultimately leads to the Other breaking with him and throwing himself into the genetic looms, leading to his later apparent reincarnation as the Doctor.

In the last three stories of Alan Moore's run on Doctor Who Monthly we see the first Time War in Time Lord history, where the Order of the Black Sun make a pre-emptive strike on the Gallifreyans' experiments with time travel. In the first story, "Star Death" (Doctor Who Magazine #47), we see Rassilon gaining the equipment to control time travel thanks to the failed initial attack. In the DWM comic strips, Rassilon is shown existing in the Matrix as part of a council of "Higher Evolutionaries" acting as the guardians of Time (The Tides of Time Part 2, DWM #62, among others).

In the Doctor Who audio plays produced by Big Finish Productions, Rassilon is voiced by Don Warrington in Seasons of Fear, Neverland, and Zagreus. In those plays, he was also shown to continue to exist in the Matrix. He is also portrayed, not as a benevolent figure, but a master manipulator willing to preserve Time Lord history and society as he knew it at all costs, transforming the Doctor into his assassin- a being of pure anti-time that identifies itself as Zagreus- to defeat the Divergents, a race who would have evolved to surpass the Time Lords if reality had progressed as it should have, only for his plans to fail when the Doctor proclaims that he does not kill and Zagreus refuses to be Rassilon's puppet.

At the end of Zagreus, the Doctor was exiled to the Divergents' universe, having previously cast Rassilon into that reality to end his actions but unable to return to his universe as he is still contaminated by anti-time. He eventually tracked down Rassilon in that universe, and discovered that he had been manipulating an entity called the Kro'Ka to observe and control the Doctor and Charley's actions. At the end of the events of "The Next Life", the Doctor and his companions escaped the timeless Divergent universe- Rassilon having previously filtered the Zagreus energies out of the Doctor upon his arrival in this universe without the Doctor's knowledge-, but Rassilon and the Kro'Ka remained trapped in a permanent loop.

In Doctor Who: The Adventure Games, Rassilon's Final Solution is mentioned when Amy Pond looked at a Time Lord Staff that the Eleventh Doctor kept in his study.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Time Lord Origins". Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide. BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/classic/episodeguide/timelordorigins.shtml. Retrieved 2010-01-02. "Only when Omega was brought into the picture did Rassilon perceive that together they could create fully functioning time travel craft." 
  2. ^ Paul Cornell, Martin Day, Keith Topping, David J Howe, Stephen James Walker. "The Two Doctors". Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide. BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/classic/episodeguide/twodoctors/detail.shtml. Retrieved 2010-01-02. "... in order to find the Rassilon Imprimature - the symbiotic nuclei within a Time Lord's genes that are the key to time travel." 
  3. ^ Lee, Tony (2009). Don't Step On The Grass. IDW. 
  4. ^ DOCTOR WHO "The End of Time, Part 2", Original Airdate 1/1/2010.
  5. ^ Russell T Davies (1 January 2010). Doctor Who Confidential. BBC. Event occurs at 15:15. "Right at the end, the Master has found a greater enemy than the Doctor in Rassilon, the Lord President..."