The Borealis: Past, Present, And Future [Part 1] - Database: Episode 7


Retired Lead Content Creator
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May 29, 2007
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After several weeks of teasing, we're finally ready to release our next episode of ValveTime Database! In the first of two huge episodes looking at the Borealis, we're examining the past, present, and potential future of this infamous ship from the Half-Life series.

In order to catch the second part of our discussion, don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. While you wait, check out previous episodes of ValveTime Database! Thanks for watching.


Space Core
Mar 27, 2014
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Why would anyone build dry-docks four kilometers below ground?

Why would anyone build a titanic vacuum system for transporting boxes?
Or buy seven million dollars worth of moon-rock when they couldn't even afford seven dollars of the stuff?
I don't think Aperture needs a reason to do what they do.


Party Escort Bot
Feb 8, 2014
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This is a great episode. Can't wait for part 2. Man that really do spell out the entire story for half life 3. Sure it's not confirmed but makes sense. -After losing their ability to get to earth, the only way to make this entire invasion not be a failure is to secure the technology with in the borealis. So gordon and pals are going to do their darndest not to let that happen.
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Dec 27, 2013
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pretty wall-of-texty but i love the borealis, okay

The Borealis device definitely has some kind of teleportation function, but I've always felt that it's a device that actually mucks around in spacetime specifically, and teleportation over extremely large distances is just one way that manifests. The Half Life and Portal games have always had a major focus on space (the way the shared universe and each individual narrative revolve around teleportation as a concept, the physics-bending gameplay mechanics used by the Gravity Gun and the ASHPD, the existence of alternate dimensions like Xen and the connection to literal space through all the aliens and moon rocks), but there's also been a distinct connection to time in each series.

Both Gordon and Chell spend extended periods in stasis that warp their personal understanding of time and throw them unchanged into eras where they don't belong anymore. Gordon's perception-based "time travel" into the future becomes the primary narrative drive of Half Life 2 and the episodes as he explores how the world has changed after years under an advanced alien dictatorship, whereas Chell's story is all about uncovering the sordid past of Aperture Science and picking her way through a facility that's long outlived its original creators. There are also plenty of ways in which the individual concepts of space and time potentially blend together, too - the as-yet-unrevealed true nature of the Vortessence, the Gman and his mysterious abilities, the multiple incidents where teleportation goes slightly skewed and the participants successfully find themselves in a new physical place, but somehow managed to be displaced in time by a week or so in the process...

Each series also has a heavy focus on examining the nature of reality in ways that don't necessarily relate to spacetime - what it means to be "human" is explored through augmentation and consciousness uploads, the truth of what's really going on is hidden behind layers of Combine propaganda and GLaDOS' outrageous lies, and the idea of what's "normal" for the world where these games take place is turned on its head more times then you can count.

Considering all this, I think it'd be awfully underwhelming if the Borealis cargo was just a device for teleporting huge loads great distances - that doesn't quite bring together all these distinct but related narrative ideas present in the series. Instead, I think it's something that somehow manages to alter the laws of reality itself, or at least our perception of it, and therein lies the enormous risk in using it for whatever purpose - if you push it too hard, you might break something that can't ever be fixed. It would be a catastrophe greater in scale than the Resonance Cascade, because it would be a RC affecting everything as opposed to just human society on Earth. It's also a device that a dying, mentally-degrading Cave Johnson would easily commission, especially if his near-death insistence that time had started "flowing backwards" can still be considered canon despite the retcons in Portal 2.