Space Marines are psychopathic lunatics who like to call each other brother a lot.
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I’ve been holding off on making this episode for like 2 years. But today is the day. I’m going to nerd at you about Warhammer 40,000 for 5 minutes.
Before I begin though:
*Insert a mental image of one of those all registered trademarks are owned and property of Games Workshop disclaimers or whatever.*
I have been obsessed with the universe of Warhammer 40k since I got the 2nd edition boxed tabletop miniature war game for Christmas in 1994.
I had already read my Tolkien, Robin Jarvis, Alan Gardner and what not, but nothing prepared me for what this game was about at the age of 9. It corrupted my understanding of what a sci-fi universe ‘could be’ forever.
In the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium, there is only war.
So grim dark in fact that the whole genre takes its name from that tagline on the box.
And that war is Humanities last war.
This war costs the lives of countless billions of human soldiers of the Imperial Guard. They march gladly into the meat grinder with fanatical religious fervour In the name of the God Emperor of mankind. They are fighting for the survival of the species against the alien, the mutant and the heretic.
The God Emperor of course sits upon the Golden Throne. Deep under the imperial palace in the Himalayas. For 10,000 years the Emperor of Mankind has been trapped in unending psychic torture. His life sustained by a massive life support machine that utilises ancient and advanced technology. During those 10,000 years of agony, his physical body has withered to a corpse.
He is attended by Tech Priests of the Cult of Mars. Passionate cyborgs who believe the flesh is weak and the Emperor is the living embodiment of the Omnissiah or the Machine God. Unfortunately for everyone, after 10,000 years of being wrapped up in the theology of technology no one really knows what is going on with the golden throne or how it works.
What they do know however, is that to keep the Emperor’s soul alive 1000 psychic humans need to be sacrificed every single day. Their psychic life essence sucked out to sustain the bag of bones upon the carrion throne.
Meanwhile, the Emperor guides the psychic beacon or lighthouse known as the Astronomican. More psykers are sacrificed next door by psychically singing songs of humanity into The Warp. The psychic dimension parallel to real space. Until they become burnt out husks of chard bone.
The Astronomican is a light in the Warp. A mirror dimension of pure energy adjacent to our own. That energy is fuelled by all the emotions of all sentient beings that have ever lived. Time, space, and matter are irrelevant there. It is the world of nightmares made manifest.
To cruise around space humanity conveniently has evolved mutants called Navigators. Humans who can see the currents of the Warp and navigate it guided by the emperor’s psychic beacon. To travel between the stars in 40k is to plunge oneself into the realm of literal nightmare.
10,000 years ago the Emperor launched the great crusade from terra to reconquer the previous human empire that existed during what is now known as the dark age of technology. The big man knew about the nature of the Warp though but didn’t tell anyone. Instead he insisted everyone be really rational and atheist.
Around this time he created 20 OP beings known as The Primarchs to serve him as sons, generals and convenient plot devices. Unfortunately lying about the existence of demons doesn’t really protect anyone and these infant Primarchs were spirited away by the four Chaos Gods.
After this disaster the Emperor creates Games Workshops poster boys:
The Space Marines.
Badass genetically uplifted super soldiers clad in power armour. Genetically programmed to obey their Primarchs due to an implant known as the gene seed. Eventually the Emperor finds his sons one by one and inexplicably gives these emotionally damaged genetic superbeings their own legions to conquer the galaxy in his name.
Anyways, to cut a long story short, there is a big civil war when the Emperor’s favoured son Horus turns against him in what is known as the Horus Heresy. 60 something books later the Emperor strikes Horus down but is mortally wounded. Moments from death he is installed on the afore mentioned Golden Throne to drown in psychic pain for eternity.
Everyone keeping up so far?
As I mentioned Space Marines are genetically uplifted super soldiers they literally humanities own Angels of Death.
Space Marines are essentially what happens when you take prepubescent boys from brutal hell planets, and make them fight each other to the death for the chance to become one. If successful then they go through puberty being hypno-indoctrinated whilst having 22 new organs implanted inside of them. Eventually they become 2 and a half meters tall with the physique of MMA fighters crossed with Biffa bins who literally know no fear.
Then they become warrior monks who fight with spaceguns AND swords. They fly around in huge enormous space cathedrals and only care about honour and doing their duty. Space Marines are for all intents and purposes psychopathic lunatics who call each other brother a lot.
They aren’t a human trained to be a weapon, but a weapon with a human soul.
Speaking of souls, in the 41st millennium all technology has what is known as a Machine Spirit. Even the lowly lasgun has one. Humans now make weapons with machine souls for the defence of humanity.
AI is bad because it turned against humanity at some point in the Dune series. Instead complex tasks that need doing are done by lobotomised humans called Servitors who are stripped of their faculties and have their brains put to work operating gun turrets, delivering drinks, opening doors or whatever. Imagine if all the droids in Star Wars were replaced with the drooling cyborg corpses of criminals.
The vast galactic empire is run by the Highlords of Terra and the bureaucratic machine known as the Administratum. Imperial bureaucracy is so bad armies may be dispatched in response to a distress call only to arrive and realise they are over a century too late.
At some point due to the fact that fully half of the Emperor’s sons became literal demons, everyone ditched the atheism of Imperial Truth and started worshiping him as a god because faith in him somehow protects humanity from demons.
The Imperium is a theocracy run by the space catholic church known as the Ecclesiarchy. Who praise the Emperor and keep the existence of demons secret from the galactic population with the aid of the Inquisition. Who will sometimes murder billions of people on a planet to keep that fact a secret.
Humanity is at war with many foes, Aliens like Orks, essential green skinned barbarians modeled on 1980’s football hooligans, Space elves, space robots, space bugs, space gundams, space demons, and of course with itself. The space marines and members of humanity that have fallen to the dark gods of the warp.
The whole thing is a gigantic grim parody of what space opera should look like and it cracked my head open on that Christmas day. The whole universe is grim and depressing as hell.
I still find it a welcome palate cleanser in contrast to real world current events.
The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in audio due to time constraints.