Chariots of the Protheans

Bioware’s Mass Effect trilogy is part of a rich tradition of action, science fiction and horror narratives – the HG Lovecraftian elements of the Cthulhu-like Reapers, case in point.[1] Then there are the healthy doses of anthropology - the idea, for instance, that the technological superior Protheans ‘guided’ the Asari, passing themselves off as gods, in their early cultural development is straight out of Chariots of the Gods?

As Javik, the last member of the ancient Prometheans, remarks – “We were here in the beginning, watching you grow. Athame [the Asari god] was us.”

This of course is not a novel exploration of the idea – Babylon 5 explores it quite a lot, in very similar ways: the Vorlon ‘gifted’ various races with telepathy, for instance, early in their evolution so that they could be used as weapons in an inevitable war with their long-standing ideological antithesis, the Shadows. The Vorlon ambassador takes on the appearance (when he is out of his suit) of an angelic figures – his face matching the species of whoever is looking at him. The Shadows, correspondingly, are our demons.

Nor is this to say that the Chariots of the Gods itself is an original, well-written or researched book - it has been debunked, and arguably the idea was inspired by the Cthulu myth (Lovecraft again). However, the hypothesis alone is a very intriguing one – and, well, the Reapers do look have Cthulu’s eyes.

Image by dkenobi


[1] My arts degree gave me plenty of experience with writing about pop-culture artifacts with a straight face. In my literature studies major, for instance, we would happily discuss episodes of Hercules and Zena when talking about The Odyssey; Buffy would come up frequently in discussions of the nature of good and evil; and my writing classes was all about the latest Australian-Vogel award winner. Someday, we might well see games such as Mass Effect in a similar light as we now view The Iliad.