The Ur-Didact was, as we all know, the central antagonist in Halo 4’s story. The insane Warrior-Servant manipulated John and Cortana into opening up his Cryptum to release him after 100,000 years of imprisonment and that enabled him to pursue his agenda of upholding his twisted version of the Mantle of Responsibility. He believes that the Mantle belongs only to Forerunners, and that all suspect races who could contend the Forerunners for power (like humanity) must be punished and imprisoned through the use of the Composer which will transform those it assimilates into one of his deadly Promethean Knights.
In a race against time, John and Cortana pursue the Didact to Earth and manage to destroy both his ship and the Composer – though not before the device assimilated over seven million people in New Phoenix.
But what exactly happened to the Didact after his defeat?When we saw him last, John had managed to plant a Pulse Grenade into his armour with help from Cortana who had him bound to the light bridge they were on, resultantly falling into the slipspace portal underneath the Composer.
Right off the bat here, it is obvious that he is not dead. Let’s look at what a Pulse Grenade actually does from a canonical standpoint.
“A field-effect-generating attenuation device used to overload both simple and complex power networks, forcing them temporarily offline.” ~ The Halo Bulletin, (29/9/2012)
So, canonically, we can ascertain that the Pulse Grenade’s function is somewhat different to how it’s depicted as a gameplay device. It’s used as a device which overloads power networks and force them offline, and that’s exactly what we see happen to the Didact’s armour when it detonates and causes him to fall off the bridge.
Indeed, even the original storyboards for the final confrontation with the Didact supports that element of ambiguity about his fall.Now there are obviously a lot of differences between what happens here and what happens in the game, that’s why it’s a conceptual storyboard, but even here it’s said that he simply “falls in the slipspace abyss”. Where was this slipspace portal going? Well, it was placed under the Composer as a conduit for the composed essences of the humans assimilated by it to be sent back to Requiem’s Promethean factories which we see in Halo: Silentium when the Librarian infiltrates Requiem and discovers what has become of his loyal Warrior-Servants and her humans.
I spend fully three hours moving through half-finished levels where Warrior-Servants might have once been quartered, but where now I see only ancilla-guided factories working at full speed to produce – what? Machines shaped like warriors? At last, I begin to see the faintest glimpse of his cruel scheme.
It is then that I understand why those ships were empty and realise, with horror, what happened to his most loyal Prometheans. “Slaves implanted in machines!” ~ Halo: Silentium, String 34
Therefore, the logical conclusion to draw here is that the Ur-Didact too was sent back to Requiem along with the composed essences of the humans he’d assimilated. The Didact himself is immune to being composed, as a result of the mutation he botched in an attempt to attain immunity from the Flood, so he is still very much ‘intact’ and himself following his defeat.But the main thing which tells us that the Ur-Didact is still alive is his speech in Halo 4’s Epilogue. Many have misinterpreted this speech to have been spoken 100,000 years ago either during the Human-Forerunner war, or as justification for composing humans at the climax of the Forerunner-Flood war. Both of these assertions are untrue, and I’ll [lengthily] explain why.
During the Human-Forerunner war, never did the Ur-Didact push for humanity to be wiped out, as a matter of fact it was the Librarian who believed that they should be killed at the time.
“Our enemies move deeper into our territory with abandon, they must be eradicated!”
“Shall we take revenge? Abandon the Mantle and all that its philosophy has given us these thousand generations?”
“All our plans have been torn asunder!”
“More reason not to abandon our beliefs. The Mantle is our guidepost in times such as these, we must not falter in following its teachings. The enemy must be sent home and taught to stand with the galaxy, rather than rail against us and take what they desire. The Mantle shelters all!” ~ Librarian & Didact, Halo 4 Terminal: War
This is the polar opposite to the Ur-Didact’s statements in the Epilogue that “refusing to eradicate them is a fool’s gambit”. Ergo, it’s not being said during the events of the Human-Forerunner war. Likewise, it has been suggested that this is said to justify his actions when he first composes humans, but at that point there were almost no surviving Forerunners left at all. The last remnant of the Forerunner resistance was wiped out by Precursor Star Roads at the Greater Ark, leaving only Bornstellar (the IsoDidact), Librarian, Endurance, Chant to Green, and the few Forerunners already at the Lesser Ark accounted for. There was nobody for the Ur-Didact to justify his actions towards, except for his wife, and we have a complete transcript of what was said between them in Halo: Silentium and it wasn’t that.
Additionally, even during Halo 4’s campaign we see that he does not want to destroy humanity, he wants to imprison them which is why he’s using the Composer. Librarian herself says to John that the Composer would “provide the Didact his solution and his revenge”, he gets the means through which he can uphold the Mantle and he gets to imprison those he deems suspect by forcing them into becoming his own army.
Therefore, there is no way that this speech takes place in the past – it simply can’t be canonically reconciled with what was going on at the time. Humanity was never seizing Forerunner triumphs for their own 110,000 years ago. The Human-San’Shyuum alliance at the time was primarily concerned with unlocking Precursor constructs, and yet we have a perfect reflection of humans seizing Forerunner triumphs for their own in Halo 4 and its surrounding fiction – the UNSC Infinity, for example, is heavily based off Forerunner technology gathered from Trevelyan, and Librarian gives Halsey the Janus Key which reveals the real-time location of every piece of Forerunner technology in the galaxy which will propel humanity’s advancement. This being the principle theme which the Reclaimer Saga revolves around.The Ur-Didact also mentions squandering eons in the darkness, which is essentially what the IsoDidact says to Riser the Forerunner will do in Halo: Rebirth.
“We will do what we can with what we are given,” Riser said. “But what of you? Where will the Forerunners live?”
“I do not know,” Bornstellar said, “Not yet. All I know for certain is that we cannot return to these places. We have already meddle too much in the affairs of others.”
Riser grimaced. “Forerunners refusing to meddle? Is that a promise?”
“A promise,” Trial said.
“Truly this will be a different place,” Riser said.
Following this, the surviving Forerunners go on the Great Journey and are not seen again. That is, until around 2559 (two years after Halo 4’s campaign) where Chakas (343 Guilty Spark) says that he has finally tracked down the “elusive Lifeshaper” (believing her to be the Librarian, not knowing that she passed the title of Lifeshaper to Chant to Green) and states that they are in perpetual combat with the Ur-Didact.
“You and I are brothers in many ways, not least in that we faced the Didact before, and face him now, and perhaps ever after. This is combat eternal, enmity unslaked, unified by only one thing: our love for the elusive Lifeshaper. Without her, humans would have been extinguished many times over. Both I and the Didact love her to this day. Some say she is dead, that she died on Earth. But that is demonstrably untrue. One of you almost certainly carries Vinnevra and Riser’s old spirits within. Only the Lifeshaper can find them and coax my friends back to life. And after a hundred thousand years of exploration and study… I know where to find her.”
So, it is clear that the Epilogue speech is set post-Halo 4 and has the Ur-Didact justifying his actions to what seems to be a surviving group of Forerunners. Endurance of Will tells Librarian that the Ur-Didact believes the Forerunners will survive the Flood conflict and will one day regroup with one-another, at which point he will have raised an army using the Composer to uphold the Mantle under the rule of the Forerunners.
“He believes he will defeat the Flood with these new Prometheans, that the scattered remnants of the Forerunners will survive, and that they will eventually reunite. He will summon them, then govern and reorganise. Requiem will become the centre for the Forerunner resurgence, the foundation upon which we will rightfully claim the Mantle. […] He will begin a program to eradicate all suspect species. Purge all dangerous planets. Wipe the galaxy clean of threats. Never again allow the galaxy to rise up against Forerunners.”
The phrasing – as if the entire galaxy in itself is a threat – is hauntingly familiar. The clarity of expression; the perversion as well as demonic purity. ~ Halo: Silentium, String 36
The Ur-Didact has ultimately failed this goal and states that “the Reclamation”, the Mantle now seems to be squarely up for grabs since the Ur-Didact has failed his mission. Librarian wants humanity to have it, the Ur-Didact believes it rests solely on the shoulders of the Forerunners and is now calling not for humanity’s imprisonment, but their destruction.
So what does this mean for the role of the Ur-Didact in future fiction? Frankie himself said that the Ur-Didact will have a pivotal role in “subsequent media” following Halo 4, and we’ve seen the beginnings of that with the recent announcement of Issue #9 of the comic series Halo: Escalation which depicts the Ur-Didact fighting with John.Whether this is an actual event in the comic itself, a flashback to the battle on Mantle’s Approach at the end of Halo 4, or something else along those lines is currently unknown – and the comic is slated for release on August 27th, so we have a long wait before we find out anything concrete. However, it is worth noting the description for the upcoming instalments which are building up a great sense of mystery about this place John is heading towards on his journey in the Reclaimer Saga.
“The Fall of New Phoenix” — eight months ago, an attack on Earth left seven million dead, including the family of Spartan Gabriel Thorne. Today the city has been opened from quarantine, and Thorne is going home to see what’s left… and what it has to do with the Master Chief.
The Master Chief returns in “The Next 72 Hours: Part 1”! After defeating the Didact, John-117 joined the crew of Infinity… but why did he leave? The mystery begins here. Halo lead writer Brian Reed reveals the secret events that immediately follow the end of Halo 4.
In the days following the events of Halo 4, the Master Chief faced one of his greatest challenges. Halo lead writer Brian Reed takes the Master Chief from the fires of Halo 4 to the pages of Escalation in “The Next 72 Hours” Part 2! ~ Halo: Escalation, Issues 7-9
It’s interesting to note how the Ur-Didact happens to be on the cover of the issue which is describe as “one of [John’s] greatest challenges”. It certainly would be if he did end up going up against the Ur-Didact again, since the only reason John was able to beat him last time was because of Cortana – since she’s no longer around, he no longer stands a chance. But this is simply speculation, whatever role the Didact has yet to play we know that he’s still out there and he’s still very much a threat.But let’s consider the Didact’s arc itself, the events of the Forerunner Saga which leads to his transformation from a noble, respected general and teacher into an insane shadow of his former self.
It was his encounter with the Gravemind in a Burn (a star system which has been completely overwhelmed by the Flood) that drove him insane, as his mind was imprinted with all the madness and rage of the Precursors who the Forerunners had driven to extinction. The Librarian imprisoned him inside a Cryptum so that his mind could be connected to the Domain and cleansed of the Gravemind’s malediction, but it was revealed just as the Halos had already fired that the Domain is a Precursor consciousness that will be destroyed by the Halos. The Librarian had wanted her husband to rise up as humanity’s champion who would teach them how to be better, how to not succumb to the mistakes the Forerunners had made as stewards of the Mantle, but instead he was condemned to 100,000 years of stewing in his own insanity.
“[The Didact] comes from a fairly mythical place in the universe, almost. He was the most powerful general, the most powerful military leader in the entire galaxy – in the entire history of the galaxy, but that was 100,000 years ago. His persona is kind of a mixed bag. He’s a heroic figure, he’s a noble figure in history, and he’s someone who feels like a ‘good guy’, but he’s much more complicated than that.” ~ Frank O’Connor, GTTV (21/09/2012)
For me, I’d very much like to see the Ur-Didact’s story become one of redemption. He’s been through so many horrible things over many thousands of years, and he’s come out all the worse for it. This would feed into the idea of Cortana still being alive and occupying the Ur-Didact’s suit, as you see her copies bind him to the hardlight bridge at the end of Halo 4, one copy forces him to bend down while the final one jumps into his helmet. Cortana’s potential survival is a whole post in-and-of itself though.
So let’s hypothetically say that a part of her does still exist and does occupy the Ur-Didact’s suit, what kind of dynamic would that bring? Well, these are two characters who are extraordinarily alike. Cortana is described by Frankie as “an instrument of war”, like the Didact. Both have been subjected to the malediction and torture of a Gravemind. Both have experienced insanity. In terms of major life events, Cortana and the Ur-Didact have a lot of common ground to share.
Cortana is likewise quite a nurturing figure, because of her we began to see John come out of his shell in Halo 4 and become more independent – uncover a greater sense of humanity. Personally, I’d love to see this happen with the Didact and have him made better the way John was made better. Halo is a very dark universe with very little in the way of happy endings, but this is the one happy ending I could certainly do with – to see the Ur-Didact ‘reclaim’ himself and be the person the Librarian wanted him to be by helping humanity attain the Mantle.In my head, I like to imagine what it’d be like if John sought out Mendicant Bias who’d fill Cortana’s sort of role, and ultimately lead to a convergence point where John, Mendicant, Cortana and the Ur-Didact all had their stories converge at the same point. If only for the dynamics between them, for the Didact to see that Mendicant (who he actually created) was able to overcome the Gravemind’s influence and atone for his betrayal, and so can he.
After all, in the Didact’s very own words, you are what you dare…
That’s about all I have to say on this topic right now. Just trying to pass the time with some contribution to the E3 hype train as we get closer to finding out more about Halo 5: Guardians.
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