HALO, News, TV Shows

HALO TV Series Timeline: What’s Canon vs the Games & Books?

Master Chief stares at the camera with fire in the background

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Newcomers and fans of HALO alike might find one element of the new TV series a little daunting; just how does the timeline of the TV show fits in with the canon timelines of the games and the books? There’s a lot of lore to understand, and knowing how it all fits together might get confusing — especially since some parts of the TV show might feel like they’re at odds with the games and books. Thankfully, the official HALO website stepped in to help us understand exactly what’s going on.

The TV Show Is in a Parallel ‘Silver’ Timeline

On the official HALO website, HALO Waypoint, Alex Wakeford of 343 Industries spoke with Franchise Creative Director Frank O’Connor about how the timeline of the TV show lines up with the games and books, along with what’s canon and what’s not. In a nutshell, O’Connor explained that the HALO TV series is in a parallel timeline that he calls the “Silver Timeline.” It mostly overlaps with the games and books, but not completely.

He said they did this on purpose so the TV show could have the freedom to change some things up based on what might play better on the TV medium, without damaging anything that’s canon in the games or books.

Wakeford started out by sharing the following:

“…We want to protect the integrity, simplicity, and future of the core canon, but also not be limited by it when faced with the realities of a new medium and the process of production. As a result, we made the decision to set the Halo television series in an authentic, but independent timeline.”

Four Spartans stand in a group
L-R Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief, Kate Kennedy as Kai, Bentley Kalu as Vannak and Natasha Culzac as Riz in Halo Season 1, episode 1, streaming on Paramount+. Photo credit: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

O’Connor elaborated on this by sharing that mapping games into a linear narrative for television can be tricky.

“…We wanted to think of the simplest and most productive way to make sure we didn’t ‘break’ either medium by trying to force square pegs into round holes,” O’Connor said. “The idea of the ‘Silver Timeline’ kept resurfacing… Basically, we want to use the existing Halo lore, history, canon, and characters wherever they make sense for a linear narrative, but also separate the two distinctly so that we don’t invalidate the core canon…”

He added that the game, novels, comics, and other narratives will continue to have an unbroken canon that is distinct from the TV series.

“To be clear: these will be two parallel, VERY similar, but ultimately separate timelines…” he said. “The TV show timeline – the ‘Silver Timeline’ – is grounded in the universe, characters and events of what’s been established in core canon, but will differ in subtle and not so subtle ways in order to tell a grounded, human story, set in the profoundly established Halo universe…”

A Spartan aims his assault rifle with smoke everywhere
Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief in Halo Season 1, Episode 1, streaming on Paramount+. Photo Credit: Adrienn Szabo/Paramount+

It gets a little confusing, to be clear. But the one thing O’Connor emphasized is that the TV timeline is, indeed, a separate timeline. Many of the events, he said, “will map to the Halo story fans know,” but added that there will be twists that are parallel but not identical to the canon that fans are familiar with.

He Shared Some Examples of Timeline Differences

An example of how this works is further explained by O’Connor in the HaloWaypoint interview.

“…the ‘coincidence’ of Chief and Cortana simply stumbling across the Halo ring is gone. Many of the same established events will drive the story to the same places and outcomes, but how they get there will feel markedly different, but logical to the events described. This means that for deep lore fans, there will be familiarity and surprise, but newcomers will end up with a very similar understanding of the characters’ origins, ambitions, and motivations – as well as places, names, and ideas.”

Another difference, O’Connor said, is that in the games we aren’t able to see the Spartan program through the eyes of the children in training. The TV show, thanks to the ability to shift perspectives and even time periods, will be able to explore core elements of the franchise in an entirely new way.

Fans might also notice that armor is sometimes different because in a TV show setting, it has to be more practical.

four spartans in a fort
Pablo Schreiber as Master Chief, Kate Kennedy as Kai, Bentley Kalu as Vannak, and Natasha Culzac as Riz in Halo Season 1, streaming on Paramount+ 2022. Photo credit: Paramount+

O’Connor added that although the timelines are distinct, some ideas that are presented in the show might still find their way into future game content.

    Stephanie Dwilson started Post Apocalyptic Media with her husband Derek. She's a licensed attorney and has a master's in science and technology journalism. You can reach her at [email protected].

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