Rassilon

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Doctor Who character
Glove of Rassilon.jpg
Timothy Dalton as Rassilon in The End of Time
Rassilon
Affiliated Time Lords
Species Gallifreyan
Home planet Gallifrey
Home era Rassilon Era
Time War
First appearance "The Five Doctors"
Last appearance "The End of Time"
Portrayed by Richard Mathews (1983)
Timothy Dalton (2009/2010)
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.

Character history[edit]

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), and ready to go take drastic measures to protect his people, nearly destroying all of time once.

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 Sash of Rassilon allows the wearer to be in close proximity to the singularity that is the Eye of Harmony, providing protection from the Eye's gravitational and energy forces, and preventing the wearer from being drawn across the event horizon of the captured black hole. Use of the Sash in this way is cited as having a regenerative effect upon the wearer.
  • The Crown of Rassilon (or matrix circlet) gives full access to the Matrix, providing a direct mental link to the computer network that serves as the repository of all Time Lord knowledge and their personality prints, captured at death in the Amplified Panatropic Computer (A.P.C net) that is a subsidiary part of the Matrix itself.
  • The Key of Rassilon allows physical access to the Matrix, for maintenance of this 'micro-universe' repository of Time Lord knowledge. Confusingly, this is a separate artifact from the so-called Great Key of Rassilon, that provides direct tapping of the near limitless energies of the Eye of Harmony, and is cited as a vital component part of the demat gun (a weapon of mass destruction); it is also hinted that this 'key' is essential to accessing the other relative dimensions in time, in The Invasion of Time.
  • The Rod of Rassilon (referred to as "the Great Key" in the Book of the Old Time in "The Deadly Assassin") allows the user to physically access the containment/control apparatus of the Eye of Harmony itself, that was historically hidden beneath the Panopticon central dais.
  • The Coronet of Rassilon gives the user the ability to amplify and to project their own will to dominate others, but its effects can be defeated, if recognised, by a co-ordinated resistance of many minds.
  • The Harp of Rassilon is a musical key that unlocks a secret room within the High Council chambers. This hidden compartment held the controls for the Time Scoop - a rudimentary `time corridor` technology, used presumably before time travel was perfected by Rassilon after the installation of the Eye of Harmony on Gallifrey.
  • The Ring of Rassilon ostensibly grants the wearer immortality, but seemingly is keyed to Rassilon's DNA only, so that any other seizing the artifact is locked in perpetual imprisonment as a stone carving relief on Rassilon's bier.
  • The Black Scrolls of Rassilon are parchment documents containing forbidden knowledge from the Dark Time, not recorded in the Matrix.
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[edit]

In "The Five Doctors", 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 the majority of his incarnations (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[edit]

Rassilon (portrayed by Timothy Dalton) appears as the villainous mastermind of "The End of Time", the two-part finale of the series' 2009 Specials. Though referred to by name by the Tenth Doctor, Rassilon is credited as the 'The Narrator / Lord President' with Russell T Davies confirming his name in a Doctor Who Confidential episode.[3]

During the Time War, Rassilon became ruthless and determined to avoid death at any cost, motivating his formulating of the "The Final Sanction" which would destroy all creation while elevating himself and the Time Lords into beings of pure consciousness. Implicitly, the War Doctor learned of this and decided to end the war using the Gallifreyian super weapon called "the Moment".[4] With the prophecy deciphered that the War Doctor will destroy Gallifrey to end the Time War, Rassilon refuses to accept his fate and killed one of his advisors when she spoke out her mind that they should be wiped out after how far they have transgressed.

Though the Doctor actually found a way to save Gallifrey while making it seem like the planet was destroyed, Rassilon attempted to break the planet out of the Time Lock that blocked most temporal manipulation on the Time War, placing a drumbeat in the mind of the Master when he was a child. As a result, Rassilon is the cause of the Master's insanity and indirectly responsible for the Time Lord's actions. When the Master turned all of humanity into copies of himself, the now-amplified drum beat acts as a signal that, with a White Point Star diamond, allows Rassilon and Gallifrey 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, who based on the looks they exchanged could be the Doctor's mother, among Rassilon's entourage, the Doctor shot the White Point Star to destroy the link. Rassilon attempts to kill the Doctor before being sucked back into the Time Lock, only to be attacked by a vengeful Master as he follows him and the other Time Lords into the last day of the Time War.[5] In The Day of the Doctor, the Time Lords are revealed not to have been destroyed at the Time War's conclusion, as all incarnations of the Doctor united and used their TARDISes to freeze Gallifrey out of time, into a pocket dimension. The species therefore survived, but the fate of Rassilon remains unknown.[6]

Other appearances[edit]

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 later 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. According to this Rassilon developed the power of regeneration from the Vampires, who were apparently peaceful until the Time Lords attacked them. He transforms 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 Sanction is mentioned when Amy Pond looked at a Time Lord Staff that the Eleventh Doctor kept in his study.

Rassilon features in the War Doctor novel Engines of War by George Mann, which looks at the events that led to the War Doctor's decision to use the Moment, including the discovery that Rassilon has resurrected Borusa as a possibility engine to help him decide what actions he should take during the war.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Time Lord Origins". Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide. BBC. 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. 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. ^ 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..." 
  4. ^ Lee, Tony (2009). Don't Step On The Grass. IDW. 
  5. ^ DOCTOR WHO "The End of Time, Part 2", Original Airdate 1/1/2010.
  6. ^ DOCTOR WHO "The Day of the Doctor", Original Airdate 23/11/2013.