Emily Watson in 'Dune: Prophecy,' the new prequel series from Max
(Max)

‘Dune’s Latest Heroine Has Her Work Cut Out for Her

The trailer for Dune: Prophecy has dropped, and it introduces a formidable new character to the world of Dune: Valya Harkonnen (Emily Watson). But if you’re looking for one of the terrifying Harkonnen cannibals of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune films, you’ll find that Valya doesn’t quite fit the mold.

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Dune: Prophecy, a new series hitting Max in fall 2025, is a prequel set 10,000 years before the events of Dune: Part One and Dune: Part Two. The series tells the story of the sisters Valya and Tula Harkonnen (Olivia Williams), who are the founders of the Bene Gesserit.

The Bene Gesserit, of course, is the all-female holy order that controls the Imperium through a centuries-long program of carefully selected bloodlines. But every holy order has to come from somewhere, and Dune: Prophecy explores the Bene Gesserit’s beginnings.

In the trailer, we meet Valya. Even in the Bene Gesserit’s nascent days, Valya is clearly determined to rise to power by installing a sister on the Imperium’s throne.

But Valya isn’t an original character created for the series. Like other major Dune characters, she has her origins in the books.

Valya Harkonnen in the Dune novels

Readers first met Valya Harkonnen in Sisterhood of Dune, written by Frank Herbert’s son Brian Herbert. Like Dune: Prophecy, the novel explores the early days of the Bene Gesserit and Valya’s role in shaping it.

In Sisterhood of Dune, Valya is one of the first Reverend Mothers in existence, and one of the original architects of the Bene Gesserit. However, she starts off as a member of the Sisterhood of Rossak, which she eventually transforms into the Bene Gesserit.

But that’s not all. Valya also develops the Voice, the mind-control technique that’s used multiple times in Dune: Part One and Dune: Part Two. She’s also partly responsible for the 10,000 year feud between House Harkonnen and House Atreides.

Will Dune: Prophecy follow the same trajectory as the book? It’s hard to say. If Valya is anything like her counterpart on the page, though, the Imperium is about to see some seismic changes.


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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>