Halo: Nightfall – Five things you may not know

Did you know why it's called Nightfall? Or that it's filmed in Iceland? Here are some little-known facts about the webseries

Halo, a best-selling first-person shooter game with a sci-fi twist, was created by Bungie and is now managed and developed by 343 Industries. The franchise started with Halo: Combat Evolved, released in 2001 and received several sequels (Halo 2, 3 and 4) and spin offs (Halo: Wars, Reach, Spartan Assault). The latest of which being Halo: The Master Chief Collection. The series focusses on an interstellar war between humanity and the Covenant, a theoretic alliance of aliens. The Covenant are led by religious leaders known as the Prophets and worship an ancient civilisation known as the Forerunners, who died out during combat with the Flood. The experiences of Master Chief aka John-117 and his A.I companion Cortana are the central focus of the franchise. Master Chief is one of a group of Spartans (supersoldiers).

The games have been praised as being among the best first-person shooters and the huge popularity and strong sales led to the franchise expanding to other media; novels, graphic novels, and even film. It was announced on April 3, 2014, that Ridley Scott and his production company, Scott Free Productions, were working on a Halo digital feature with Scott as the executive producer and David W. Zucker and Sergio Mimica-Gezzan as directors. It was finally announced at E3 2014 that the feature was titles Halo: Nightfall and would be included in Halo: The Master Chief Collection as its launch in November 2014.

Halo: Nightfall is the newest live-action Xbox Originals webseries. It consists of five episodes and had an incredible budget of $10,000,000 which is a considerable amount more than the previous Halo series project, Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn. Nightfall introduces a new character into the franchise, Agent Jameson Locke who is played by actor Mike Colter and is considered the origin story for this character. Locke is featured on the cover of Halo 5: Guardians and is set to have a huge part in the series. Agent Locke will be a secondary playable character in the newest instalment of the series, Halo 5: Guardians. Nightfall therefore, serves to bridge the gap between Halo 4 and Guardians, filling in audiences on what has occurred between the two games.

Nightfall follows the story of ONI unit leader Agent Locke, who is deployed on the distant human Outer Colony of Sedra to investigate terrorist activity. During the investigation, a city in Sedra is attacked by a Sanghelo terrorist with a biological weapon which when activated, only affects humans. Locke’s team is then forced to work with Commander Randall Aiken of the Sedran Colonial Guard and his troops in order to track down the origin of the bioweapon. During this search the unit is drawn to a section of Installation 04 which was previously destroyed by Master Chief in the game Halo: Combat Evolved. Soon after a threat is discovered which proves deadly, and the mission turns into a fight for survival.

So, now you have the information, here are five things you may not know about Halo: Nightfall:

  1. Halo: Nightfall had horrible working conditions, making it incredibly hard on the cast.
“…it was beautiful but it did nothing but rain! We were literally soaked playing characters on the hottest planet in the universe, and the rain gets into your armour and there is nothing you can do.” – Steven Waddington

The crew filmed some of the scenes for Nightfall in Belfast in June 2014 but the largest part of filming tool place in Iceland to portray the locales of the Halo fragment. While the rugged landscapes made it an ideal location it also made it incredibly hard on the actors. Steven Waddington (who plays Aiken) commented “Iceland is not very flat so you were constantly twisting your knee, or your ankle.” On top of this, while the cast were working in the below freezing temperatures of Iceland with frequent strong winds and rainfall, they had to pretend as if they were in a vastly different environment. The environment in the series is supposed to be uncomfortably hot and humid at 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the cast were required to have fake sweat applied to them which would freeze, making it incredibly uncomfortable for the actors. These extreme working conditions had cast falling over and passing out quite frequently, but to keep morale high the cast would place bets on each other as to who would pass out first. They would also nominate a “chief of molare”. Steven Waddington would also keep cast and crew entertained between takes by giving them fun riddles and puzzles to complete.

  1. Why is it called Halo: Nightfall?

The reason this series was named Nightfall cleverly relates to the circumstances of the main characters’ mission aboard the Halo fragment. Once aboard the Halo fragment the team have to complete their mission in just sixteen hours while the habitable side remains in the ‘night’ side of the star it is orbiting. 343 Industries Jeremy Patenaude came up with the idea of the series being set on a fragment of a Halo, the concept of having the largest portion of the plot being set on this dying fragment of Alpha Halo only came in when the script was halfway through its writing process. The team decided together which one of the rings the Halo fragment would be and how its nature and location work in context with the Nightfall story. The team worked to think about the size and shape of the fragment as well as the logistics of moving it into a different system, going as far to include a ‘”forensic analysis” of Installation 04’d destruction scene that happened in the first Halo game, Combat Evolved. The novel Halo: Primordium by Greg Bear first introduced the concept of the Halos being equipped with an emergency slipspace capability.

  1. Not all of the cast members were familiar with Halo
“I had of course heard of it but I had never played it…. We played it during rehearsals and were introduced when we started filming – it was exciting.” Steven Waddington

Although Halo is a hugely successful video game franchise and one of the best-selling first person shooter games, it doesn’t necessarily mean everyone has played it. The cast were introduced to it during rehearsals and during filming to give them a chance to get a feel for what their characters were like, what sort of things they faced and what things they had possibly gone through. Not only were they given the chance to play the games, they also needed to physically and mentally get a feel for the type of characters they were going to be playing. Boot camps were set up for the cast when they arrived in Iceland to get them in shape physically as well as mental boot camps, which included reading the script with all of the cast present and learning about the key characters that exist in the Halo universe.

  1. There are interactive features.

As the series is included in the Master Chief Collection it will incorporate interactive features with the Halo Channel application for Xbox One. On the channel, viewers will be able to complete challenges related to the series to unlock special features which can be used in the Halo games themselves. Each episode will have several challenges and ‘Second Story’ videos that will expand on other events that won’t be shown in the series itself. Nightfall will also have narrative connections to Halo: The Television Series.

  1. Aiken used to be a Spartan.
“My character has had a traumatic experience that pushes him forward to do what he does, and changes his outlook on life. He doesn’t mind so much being the last one on the planet as it is a kind of redemption for him.” – Steven Waddington

The character Aiken played by Steven Waddington is my personal favourite. I don’t want to dig too far into the character of Agent Locke as we will be seeing more of him in the upcoming Halo game, but Aiken is one I can rattle on about. The personal trauma Steve mentioned in the quote is a result of the terrible ordeals he suffered whilst being a Spartan. Colonel Randall Aiken was formally known as Randall – 037, a Spartan II super-soldier who fought during the human-covenant war, the same program of which John – 117 was subject to, who we all know in the Halo universe as Master Chief. Aiken character is briefly explored in the novel Halo: Ghosts of Onyx.

“There is a lot of tension between my character and commander Locke played by Mike Colter.” – Steven Waddington

If you’ve watched Nightfall already you will realise that the relationship between Aiken and Locke is complicated, what it doesn’t tell you is why. When Aiken was a child of only six years old he was abducted from Earth by ONI for the SPARTAN-II project where he was subject to augmentation and a lot of training to become a super-soldier. It doesn’t stop there, though. Once Aiken qualified as a Spartan-II and had finished his training he participated in military operations and missions, one of which was the Battle of Vodin in 2532. During this mission Randall was thought lost when he had fallen into Vodins atmosphere and was declared ‘MIA’. Randall had survived the fall, however, and was found by some survivors of the assault. They took him in and Aiken lived with the community for a decade, eventually marrying one of the colonists.

Eventually contact with UNSC was regained but Aiken’s ties to his new life were too strong for him to return to his duties and he denied going back. His wife had become pregnant during this time and died during childbirth in 2545.ONI found Aiken a year later and made plans to reintegrate him into the project, thinking him a good asset. Aiken again refused this and ONI deemed him compromised, making plans to decommission him. Aiken managed to successfully resist this through force and a deal was negotiated between the two. ONI reversed many of Aikens’ augmentations and in return he was released where Aiken decided to move with his daughter to Sedra. Once in Sedra he enrolled in the Colonial Guard and had advanced to leader as a Colonel by 2556.

All the bad history between Aiken and ONI is obviously going to have an influence on the views Aiken has about members of ONI, and furthermore his deep mistrust. However, through the events of Nightfall things change, Aiken and Locke in the beginning are opposed to each other and regrettably work together but as said by Steve who plays Aiken “There is a mutual respect that grows throughout the film, as we need to work together to get off the planet.” Aiken starts to see Locke more as a person, rather than a member of ONI who is not to be trusted, based on the decisions he has to make and the honour he shows making them.

Halo: Nightfall is available now on VOD and DVD.

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