Note: Glove of Rassilon // Seal of Rassilon // Rassilon
Note: Glove of Rassilon // Seal of Rassilon // Rassilon
|Doctor Who character|
Timothy Dalton as Rassilon in The End of Time
|First appearance||The Five Doctors|
|Last appearance||"Hell Bent"|
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 and its first leader, as Lord High President. After the original television series ended in 1989, Rassilon's character and history were developed in books and other media.
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. 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 and, to date, only Lord High President, his successors taking the title 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 a cruel dictator, opportunistic and ambitious who seized power in the wake of his friend's death (for which some suggest he may have been deliberately responsible), and ready to 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.
Several other Time Lord artifacts named after him have a technological function, in addition to their ceremonial roles:
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 is not certain. However, it is established that a TARDIS derives its power primarily from the Eye of Harmony.
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 rumoured 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".
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.
People with major involvement in the Doctor Who television series, Doctor Who spin off media and in Doctor Who Magazine, when asked in The Essential Doctor Who magazine, were divided over whether the image of Rassilon seen in The Five Doctors is actually alive or an artificial intelligence or if he had ever died prior to The Five Doctors. According to DWM editor Tom Spilsbury, it hadn't occurred to him before that he was anything other than being alive, and that "it might come down to semantics over what being alive means". Doctor Who scriptwriter Gareth Roberts believed that Rassilon is dead and the face that appears is "a clever AI". Head writer and executive producer Russell T Davies believed that Rassilon is "clearly alive", with his big face in the story being "A projection from the Matrix. A mental life extending beyond the body's death." Spin-off writer George Mann believed that Rassilon was dead, but the Time Lords had figured out a way of "resurrecting dead people in extreme circumstances", doing "something horrible and timey wimey". Spin-off writer and DWM columnist Jacqueline Rayner described his condition as "a permanent sleep which is pretty much indistinguishable from death", and that "He's immortal, but he has no awareness," and when the trap inside the Tomb of Rassilon is triggered, "he becomes semi-aware so he can oversee or judge what's going on, before going back into his eternal sleep again". DWM deputy editor Peter Ware believed that Rassilon is dead by the time of The Five Doctors, and his dead mind is speaking from the Matrix to the Doctors and Borusa. He mentions the line from the episode "Hell Bent" (2015)—"Rassilon the resurrected", as further proof that he had died. Doctor Who scriptwriter Mark Gatiss quipped that Rassilon is "biding his time until he regenerates into [actor] Daniel Craig". Head writer and executive producer Steven Moffat, who also wrote "Hell Bent", understood that Rassilon was "alive, but in 'eternal sleep'", having got up from his eternal sleep to participate in the Time War, "And got killed. And resurrected. Because that happened a lot in the Time War." According to scriptwriter Terrance Dicks, who wrote The Five Doctors, Rassilon has "gone to a higher plane where he's a benevolent being who can, if he feels it's a big enough crisis, intervene".
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, Dalton is credited as the 'Narrator / Lord President' with Russell T Davies confirming his name in a Doctor Who Confidential episode.
During the Time War, Rassilon became ruthless and determined to avoid death at any cost, motivating his formulating of the "Final Sanction" which would destroy all creation while elevating himself and the Time Lords into beings of pure consciousness. The Doctor in his War Doctor incarnation learned of this and decided to end the war using the Gallifreyan superweapon called "the Moment". With the prophecy deciphered that the Doctor would destroy Gallifrey to end the Time War, and told he would die on that day, Rassilon refuses to accept his fate and killed his advisor for speaking out against his plans.
Anticipating Gallifrey's complete annihilation in The End of Time (2009–10), Rassilon attempted to break the planet out of the Time Lock implemented in the latter phases of the Time War to block creative attacks involving time travel, 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. Destroying the White Point Star, the Doctor severs the link between Gallifrey and Earth. Rassilon's attempts to kill the Doctor in revenge are blocked by the Master, vengeful owing to his manipulation by Rassilon, who then follows him and the other Time Lords into the last day of the Time War.
In "The Day of the Doctor" (2013), the Time Lords are revealed not to have been destroyed at the Time War's conclusion; all incarnations of the Doctor united and used their TARDISes to send Gallifrey into a pocket dimension. In "Hell Bent" (2015), the Twelfth Doctor arrives on Gallifrey and learns that a regenerated Rassilon was responsible for his imprisonment and torture for four and a half billion years, as well as indirectly responsible for the death of his companion, Clara. On arriving on Gallifrey, he leads a military revolt against Rassilon, deposes him, and sends him into exile. Timothy Dalton was asked to reprise the role for the episode, but was replaced by Donald Sumpter as a regenerated Rassilon when he became unavailable for filming.