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Doctor: All my life I've known of you and honoured you as our greatest hero.
Omega: A hero? I should have been a god!
Omega twice featured in the world's longest-running and most popular1 science-fiction television series, Doctor Who (1963-1989, 2005+). Despite only having two appearances, these were in episodes celebrating the series' tenth and twentieth anniversaries.
A tragic Gallifreyan stellar engineer, Omega founded Time Lord society with his partner Rassilon, only to be trapped for all eternity in an antimatter universe contained within a black hole with no hope of rescue. The millennia of being imprisoned alone left him raving mad, unsure whether he wanted to escape from his prison or vengeance on the universe for his fate.
Though perhaps the most important Time Lord in Gallifrey's history, his life history is shrouded in mystery. He lived in the dawn of Gallifrey's history as a stellar engineer2 who was studying a star near his home world of Gallifrey with his partner, Rassilon3. Omega, using a device called the Hand of Omega, discovered that by causing a supernova, he could channel and manipulate the star's power to create the Eye of Harmony, the key to being able to travel through time.
During this moment of triumph, a black hole was formed, sucking Omega into an antimatter Universe. As antimatter is deadly and will obliterate anything not composed of antimatter, Omega constructed a mask and armoured suit to protect him. Over time, the antimatter gradually corroded his physical body until only his powerful will remained. Omega ruled this anti-matter world alone, planning how to escape, accompanied only by blobs of antimatter he could command called Gel Guards who acted as his servants, as well as a strange, wobbly, bird-like creature called the Ergon.
The laws of space and time do not apply in the antimatter singularity in the heart of the black hole. Omega is able to use his Mind over Antimatter and has learnt how to manipulate his surroundings, but is still trapped inside the black hole. Isolated and frustrated, he is unsure whether he longs for freedom or vengeance. Although he discovers a way to breach the gap from the antimatter universe, he cannot cross the bridge to the real universe as the instant he leaves his domain, the bridge will collapse. Only if another Time Lord stays in the antimatter universe to keep the bridge intact does he believe he can escape, a task he believes he can accomplish with the Doctor's help, not realising that his physical existence has long since ceased to exist. Omega remains an ethereal being with no physical form capable of crossing into the real world.
The character of Omega was inspired by Aldous Huxley's novel Time Must Have A Stop, written from the view of a dead person who insists he still has experiences. Arc of Infinity was heavily inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, with the Ergon intended to be the equivalent of Igor.
While Rassilon founded Time Lord society4 Omega was revered as a martyr who had made the ultimate sacrifice for his people. Rassilon completed Omega's experiment, channelling the black hole's energy into the heart of Gallifrey and containing it within the Eye of Harmony. This allowed the Time Lords to power their time machines, called TARDISes5.
Once he had finished creating the Eye of Harmony, Rassilon enabled a select group of Gallifreyans to become Time Lords, capable of regeneration and travel through time. Rassilon led the Time Lord High Council and created the Time Lord's strict, orderly society in which interfering with other species was forbidden. He also created the two great artefacts of Gallifrey - the Sash and the Great Key6. These artefacts, when brought together, can be used to fully access the Eye of Harmony and unleash unimaginable amounts of power for purposes either good or ill. Rassilon led the High Council for centuries, gaining a reputation for having discovered the secret of immortality, until his apparent death. He was then entombed in the Dark Tower in the middle of Gallifrey's Death Zone
Omega's name and his remarkable vision became part of myth and legend. His sacrifice remains the basis of Time Lord existence and their ability to travel through time and space.
Listed below are the two Doctor Who stories to date to feature Omega.
'The Three Doctors' (1973)
When a hostile gel-like creature is detected invading Earth, the Third Doctor and UNIT, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, are unable to cope. The creature seems to be hunting the Doctor, apparently destroying his laboratory and Bessie, his yellow roadster, in the process. The Doctor calls upon his people, the Time Lords, for help. The Time Lords, though, are under attack from a mysterious force draining their energy. The President of the Time Lords feels the situation is serious enough to warrant transgressing the laws of time, by sending the Doctor's previous two incarnations to help him. However the First Doctor is caught in a time eddy and does not make it to UNIT headquarters, though he can communicate and advise his two other selves via the TARDIS scanner screen.
As more and more of these strange, hostile creatures invade Earth via a Time Bridge, the Third Doctor and his companion Jo Grant cross into a strange antimatter world, where they discover Bessie, not destroyed after all but merely transported. Soon UNIT is completely overpowered by these creatures, later revealed to be Omega's Gel Guards. Sergeant Benton and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart enter the TARDIS for their first time, accompanied by the Second Doctor, in order to shelter from the attack. On the advice of the First Doctor, the Second Doctor deactivates the TARDIS' force field, resulting in the whole of UNIT HQ being transported to the antimatter universe, and not Cromer after all7.
It is revealed that the creator and controller behind these events is Omega, who plans to swap places with the Doctor to escape from his antimatter world. He believes he should take his rightful place as the supreme ruler of the Time Lords. When confronted by the Second and Third Doctors, Omega flies into a rage, threatening to destroy the Universe. He seeks vengeance as he feels that he was sacrificed for the good of other Time Lords
Will the Second and Third Doctors be able to defeat one of the greatest of all Time Lords armed only with a recorder? Will they return everyone else home? Will the Doctor's own exile on Earth be ended?
The Time Lords, free of their energy drain, released the Third Doctor of his exile and restored his TARDIS' dematerialisation circuits so that he may be able to travel through time and space once more.
'The Three Doctors' was written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin and directed by Lennie Mayne. The story consisted of four 25-minute episodes broadcast between 30 December, 1972 to January 1973 as the first story in Doctor Who's 10th Anniversary year. The first ever multi-Doctor story, it featured William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee as the First, Second and Third Doctors. Although it had been intended for William Hartnell to play a more prominent role, his ill health prevented him from doing more than sitting and reading his lines. Omega was played by Stephen Thorne. It was repeated in 1981.
'Arc of Infinity' (1983)
Omega had not been utterly destroyed by the supernova as originally though. His will remained and as his need for more protection (not from the antimatter but from any physical dangers he might encounter on his eventual emergence into the world of matter) increased, he created a stronger, different new-look version of his armoured suit and mask, wanting to look more like a walnut. He discovered that another black hole near Gallifrey, called the Arc of Infinity, provided a link between the antimatter world where he was trapped and Gallifrey itself.
Omega planned his next escape attempt more carefully than before, communicating with Councillor Hedrin, a member of the Time Lord High Council who wished to help the founder of Time Travel escape from his prison in the world of antimatter. Omega plans to take over the Doctor's body, wishing to have it host Omega's will, using Hedrin to murder any who stand in his way. Hedrin also passes on vital information about the Doctor to Omega from the Matrix, where the Time Lord's greatest secrets are kept. Without this information, Omega would be unable to control the Doctor's body.
The High Council of Time Lords uncovers this plan and, though ignorant of who is behind it, decide to execute the Doctor to prevent this bonding. They fear that should a living being to combine with antimatter, the result could potentially destroy the universe. Doctor's TARDIS is recalled to Gallifrey and the Doctor is shot by Commander Maxil8 (played by Colin Baker, who later played the Sixth Doctor).
Yet Omega had devised a backup plan that was already in effect when the Fifth Doctor arrived on Gallifrey in his TARDIS, accompanied by his companion Nyssa. Tegan Jovanka, meanwhile, is wondering where her cousin is in Amsterdam, and why he has been turned into a zombie. She's captured by Omega, who threatens to harm her unless the Doctor does what he is told. Although the Doctor is apparently executed, it is a deception allowing Omega to link the Arc of Infinity to the Matrix to gain infinite power. Despite Councillor Hedrin's attempt to frame Lord President Borusa as the traitor, the Doctor discovers that Omega is escaping from his confinement to materialise in Amsterdam and travels there to stop him.
Omega uses the Doctor's body print to turn into an impermanent copy of the Doctor, retaining his own deep booming voice. Omega than wanders around Amsterdam glaring at people and murdering them, slowly converting back into antimatter (an experience which manifests as Rice Krispies stuck to his hands and face). The Doctor is forced to use Omega's antimatter converter on him and Omega vanishes. The Doctor is left unsure whether Omega has been erased or expelled back to his confinement in his antimatter prison.
When writer Johnny Byrne was assigned to write this, the first story of Doctor Who's 20th anniversary year, he was given a long task list to tick off. The story had to be set in the streets of Amsterdam for no apparent reason other than provide Doctor Who with its second foreign location shoot. The story, too, had to re-introduce Tegan, who had been written out of the last story in order for her re-appearance in this story to be a surprise. A last-minute addition was that the story should also have Omega as the principal villain but without revealing that Omega was the main baddy until the surprise, climactic revelation at the end of part three. The trouble with this was, as Omega had only appeared once previously, ten years earlier when he wore a different costume and was played by a different actor, only a small percentage of the audience actually knew who he was. True, having had 'The Three Doctors' broadcast two years earlier helped, but he still was not in the same league as the Daleks, Cybermen or Master.
Ron Jones directed the four episodes broadcast in January 1983. Omega was played by Ian Collier.
The Hand of Omega
The tool that Omega used to create the Eye of Harmony out of a star was the Hand of Omega. Semi-sentient9, it survived the process and was presumably kept on Gallifrey. In the 25th Anniversary series episode 'Remembrance of the Daleks' (1988), it is revealed that the First Doctor had taken the Hand of Omega to Earth shortly before the events of the very first episode 'An Unearthly Child' (1963). There he buried it – quite literally, placing it in a casket in a grave marked ω, the sign for Omega.
Later the Seventh Doctor returns to the area only to discover it is a battleground in the Dalek Civil War, between the Imperial Daleks and Daleks loyal to the Dalek Supreme. The Doctor uses its power to turn Ace's baseball bat into an anti-Dalek weapon. He also ensures that the Dalek Supreme's forces10 do not get hold of the Hand of Omega, though it is captured by the Imperial Daleks. These Daleks take the Omega Device to their leader, revealed to be Davros, who is now the Dalek Emperor. He plans to take it to the Dalek's homeworld, Skaro, and use it to convert their sun into another Eye of Harmony to give them the same power as the Time Lords.
However this was a trap. Instead of creating another Eye of Harmony, the Hand of Omega causes Skaro's sun to go supernova, leading to the complete destruction of Skaro and the entire Dalek race11.