“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.”
The Didact did not die at the end of Halo 4.
The Didact did not die during the events of Halo: Escalation.
Contrary to the impression many have, he is, in fact, still out there… somewhere. Where is he? What’s become of him? When might we see him next, and how might he return?
These are the questions we shall be interrogating in order to form a complete account of what happened to him – both in-universe and behind the scenes – after Halo 4. In doing so, we may divine the character’s future and the role he has yet to play…I miss the Didact… a lot.
His is a story I have been following since 2007, with the Iris ARG and Halo 3’s Terminals, through the Forerunner Saga (where the character’s identity diverged into two entities), to Halo 4 – and beyond.
A really tremendous job was done in crafting this titanic character, exploring his backstory and bringing him into the ‘mainstream’ form of Halo media in the games.
He’s a stand-out presence and antagonist in Halo with some of the rawest lines in the series. From the moment he’s awakened, where he says:
“So fades the great harvest of my betrayal…”
Chills, every time.
But now, he has been absent from the narrative for a number of years, much to the disappointment of many who were looking forward to seeing how the conflict between him and the Master Chief (who found, in the Didact, his first true ‘nemesis’) would evolve as it was set to become much more personal after Halo 4.
Yes, despite what some believe, we did not ‘kill’ the Didact at the end of Halo 4 – a misinterpretation that I am honestly surprised people ever made.
There is more to his story, maybe not in the present, but in the past and – as we will explore – the future as well.
So, what actually happened to the Didact after Halo 4?
THE NEXT 72 HOURS
It’s been quite a remarkable time for Halo…
343 has closed a deal with Gallery Books, who will be publishing all Halo books from this point. The Kilo-5 Trilogy mercifully comes to an end with Mortal Dictata (many of us breathe a sigh of relief at finally being free from Traviss’s crushingly dire misanthropy).
On the horizon, Broken Circle is announced to be released towards the end of the year, exploring the founding years of the Covenant, penned by John Shirley (please come back and give us more, I cry at the end every time).
E3 has come-and-gone, but the passage of time has lost all meaning because you’re rewatching all of the footage for The Master Chief Collection for the twenty-seventh time and trying to wrap your mind around the bevy of content coming with it. Halo 1 through 4 with the complete suite of features, Halo 2 being remastered and getting the Blur cinematic treatment, new Terminals, the Halo 5 beta to round out the year…
Following the success of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, 343’s next live-action production Halo: Nightfall is also dropping later in the year (which I ardently maintain Is Very Good And Underappreciated Actually, and I have the dissertations to prove it!)
The Catalog quasi-ARG has started up on the Waypoint forums and answers to our long-asked nerdy questions are coming (such as ‘How the hell did High Charity get to the Ark in Halo 3 when it literally can’t fit through the portal?’)
Between all of that, we are getting monthly releases of the Halo: Escalation comic series, continuing the story of Halo 4’s Spartan Ops, with the issues following E3 picking up on the Master Chief’s story after the death of Cortana.
While your mileage may vary on the quality of each of these releases, there has seldom been a more exciting time to be a Halo fan.
There have, however, been far, far better times to be a Didact fan…
They confirm Cortana’s death, after she sacrificed herself aboard the Mantle’s Approach to save the Chief one last time, but note that the Didact is a more complicated case. He fell into slipspace, the kill was not confirmed.
The Didact ended up back on Installation 03, the ring we saw in Halo 4, where the UNSC discovered the Composer. This was recovered from an underground structure on the ring called ‘The Composer’s Abyss’ – a hellish repository that stores the victim essences gathered by the device.
Incidentally, this was originally intended to appear in the final level of Halo 4 aboard the Mantle’s Approach, where the Chief and Cortana would have witnessed the horrifying process of how the Promethean Knights are ‘made.’
Unfortunately, like so many fantastic ideas in Halo, there were time, budget, and space restraints that left this on the cutting room floor (RIP Porky). A shame, as it’s a brilliant concept, but it’s great that it got to appear in some form.
The Composer’s Abyss also houses a portal that connects to an artificial planet known as (wait for it…) ‘The Composer’s Forge,’ or ‘Clinquant,’ where the Composers are constructed.
After dispatching four random Spartan-IVs who were definitely just cosplaying as Black Team (their legendary Spartan-II idols), this is where the Didact went.The Didact met with 859 Static Carillon, the Forge’s Monitor, who was distressed that Installation 03’s Monitor (049 Abject Testament) hadn’t responded to his requests for information as to why the portal between their installations had suddenly reactivated.
Static had a pact with the Didact, agreeing to bring Installation 03 to the Composer’s Forge (for reasons that will become clear later) on the condition that no more Prometheans are created from human essences, viewing these war machines as abominations.
Naturally, the Didact had no intention of staying true to his agreement and sought to send the newly-created Knights – containing the victim essences from New Phoenix – back to Requiem.
While this was going on, the Master Chief was reunited with Blue Team – his oldest friends.
This reunion was definitely given the full emotional weight and impact it deserved and absolutely was not limited to two short pages in this comic.
As a further aside: one could certainly be forgiven for thinking that the story of The Next 72 Hours would have been much more appropriate a story for Sequence to tell for Halo 5, rather than doing yet another retelling of The Fall of Reach (which was itself an adaptation of the comic, which was an adaptation of parts of the novel…)
Blue Team was sent to Installation 03 after the science team there sent a distress call to the UNSC, leading them to discover the Spartan-IV cosplayers who they understandably mistook to be Black Team.They also enter the Composer’s Abyss, going through the portal to the Composer’s Forge, where they then discover six other Composers (goodness me!) have been built.
Upon encountering the Didact, Installation 03 emerges through slipspace at the Forge and he declares his intention to “repair” the ring.
Some people may understandably be a bit confused here, as the Didact’s whole ‘thing’ was that he didn’t want to fire the Halos; he was against them from the very beginning and was sent into exile for it (twice).
There are two explanations here, one of which I will hold back for later.
Within the context of this comic, it is implied that a Composer can function in-concert with a Halo installation. The UNSC removing it from Installation 03 caused some kind of “damage” to it.
It seems that this device can alter the firing method of a Halo ring, effectively turning it into a ‘mass Composer,’ which is why the Didact has six new ones – he intends to take one to each Halo.
Static Carillon reveals that the Didact’s plan is to repair the ‘damage’ to Installation 03 with the newly-created Composers and take the ring to Earth, where he will fire it. In doing so, billions of humans will be imprisoned in the Composer’s Abyss; the Didact will effectively have a limitless supply of essences to run his Promethean war machines.
This isn’t explicitly confirmed, but it does seem to be the implication. As I said, we’ll get to the other explanation later.Blue Team returns to Installation 03 through the portal and the Chief manages to stab the Didact in the eye. At this point, he is well and truly tired of the Mantle of Parental Responsibility his wife charged him with for humanity…
(It also became clear that the ‘new’ skull on Halo 4’s legendary difficulty symbol – where one eye is blacked out – is the Didact’s.)
Static intervenes as the Didact overpowers and prepares to kill Blue Team, shooting the very grumpy Forerunner in the back and using the ring’s translocation grid to trap the Didact in the most secure possible location.
The control room.
The Chief then confronts the Didact, having acquired the Activation Index after Static’s intervention, and we get a pretty great scene where the two characters finally get to talk to each other on the same level.
He states that he would fire the ring just to kill the Didact, until Static reminded him that it would wipe out all life in a twenty-five [thousand] light year radius, suggesting an alternate plan. (Gosh, Static must be experiencing some issues, or the Chief must’ve been a bit forgetful about the effective radius of a Halo ring!)This really effectively articulates the scale of the lengths these two are driven to in order to combat one-another. The conflict has scaled up to using Halo rings, the consequences of which are cosmic.
The Chief uses the Index to disable the ring’s security protocols, a function that is alluded to in an audio log in Halo 4 when you find the Index aboard Ivanoff Station.
“Key component in the activation and firing of the Halo weapon, a few of us have been speculating lately if it has secondary and tertiary purposes as well.” [Halo 4 – Composer]
As a result, Static Carillon is able to jettison the part of Installation 03 that they’re on – sending it crashing to Clinquant below.
The Chief is teleported out, reappearing in the Longsword with Blue Team and Static, and we see the Didact disintegrate with a comical “NOOOOOOO!”
Static bids the Spartans farewell and says that he will take Installation 03 for repairs and to be hidden. Fred questions where he’s taking it, but receives no answer (indeed, this led many to speculate that this would be the ring present in Halo Wars 2).
Back at Earth, while talking with Lord Hood, the Chief notes that it is best to call the Didact “contained.”
And this is where it gets complicated…
TO COMPOSE, OR NOT TO COMPOSE?
“I think it’s funny how a few folks have suggested we’d bring the Didact back in the comics just to kill him off 2 issues later.”
Reed regularly wipes his tweets (and has recently deleted his account – genuine congratulations to the man for freeing himself from social media hell, I wish I had his strength), so there is no source tweet to reference here – but searching that quote will return many results.
Naturally, people thought that this was some kind of set-up for the Didact’s return in Halo 5.
Well, Halo 5 came out a-year-and-a-bit later, the Didact’s name was mentioned three times and he was entirely absent from the proceedings.
It later emerged in the commentary of the Library Edition of Halo: Escalation that the Didact had been deemed “extraneous” to the story, after having been present in its earlier forms. The purpose of The Next 72 Hours was to dispose of him.
We are, by now, all familiar with this infamous quote…
“When [The Next 72 Hours was] first conceived, we thought maybe the Didact was going to be in Halo 5. He was certainly present in the story early on, but as the plan for the next few years of the franchise (books, comics, other games, etc.) took shape, Didact became extraneous to the story we were telling.
We still wanted the Didact alive in our extended lore, because he’s a useful character and we have a dearth of viable named bad guys for our Halo rogues’ gallery. But how to dispose of him for the time being?” [Halo: Escalation Library Edition, page 293-294]
At the end of The Next 72 Hours, the visual depiction of what happens in the control room clearly resembles Composition. Before the Composers were destroyed, they were used on the Didact – disintegrating his biological form and turning him into a digital essence.
This much is verified by the Didact’s official Universe page on Halo Waypoint:
“…the Spartans were able to band together, and with the help of 859 Static Carillon they tricked the Didact into using the Composers on himself. Effectively turned into a digital essence, the Office of Naval Intelligence currently considers the Didact ‘contained’, though it remains to be seen if his threat to humanity is truly at an end.” [Halo Waypoint, Universe – Didact]
But, in the fifth Terminal of Halo 4, there is a specific line of dialogue that apparently contradicts this being a possibility.
Didact: “The procedure is a failure. I am still susceptible to Flood infection.”
Promethean: “That leaves only the Composer…”
Didact: “It will not work on my new form.” [Halo 4, Terminal 5 – ‘Knights’]
So… is the Didact immune to the Composer, or isn’t he?
We do, as a matter of fact, have some sense of an answer from Brian Reed (who has previously stated that he wrote this Terminal for Halo 4) in the commentary of Halo: Escalation’s Library Edition.
“In Halo 4 we explicitly state the Composer has no effect on Didact or Chief for that matter – thanks Librarian. What we see here isn’t a standard Composer usage by any stretch of the imagination. This is six plus Composers detonating all at once, their energy expelled in an uncontrolled manner. He’s not ‘Composed’ in the traditional sense because there is nothing there to process him.
What he is… well, what he is is a surprise. But he’s out there. He’s alive. We’ll see him again.” [Brian Reed, Halo: Escalation Library Edition, Vol. 1, p. 297]
This explanation is one that came with limited satisfaction, given that this single paragraph of out-of-story clarification came two years after the fact.
It also seems quite muddled with the explanation given on the Waypoint Universe page, stating that he has been “Effectively turned into a digital essence.”
I have written my own ‘solution’ to this particular conundrum, but the facts of the matter remain – for now – unclear.
These are among the closing words of Halo: Primordium, the second book of the Forerunner Saga, from Chakas – who has reawakened from within the heavily damaged shell of 343 Guilty Spark.
On his quest to find the Librarian, Spark (as he now calls himself) comes into contact with a Catalog unit who denies him access to the Juridical network.
For those who don’t know, or perhaps need a refresher: Catalog is a collective in Forerunner society, comprised of many individuals who all refer to themselves as the same entity. They are evidence-gathering agents who record and observe events, then pass that information to the Juridical network.
At least one Catalog survived the firing of the Halos and has become active in the ‘modern’ timeline. This is who Spark encounters.
Catalog denies Spark’s request for access, stating that the Didact, too, was rebuffed.
—Give me access immediately.
—I did not give the Didact himself access. Why would I give it to you?
—The Didact requested access? When?
—What does it matter? He was liberated. And now he is gone again. [Halo: Renegades, p. 227]
This occurred in late-July-to-early-August 2557, which is within mere days of Halo 4 and The Next 72 Hours, but it is not clear whether the Didact attempted to access the Juridical network during the time of these pieces of media or afterwards.Looking a little further back, to 2014 once again, Catalog appeared as a sort of quasi-ARG on the Waypoint forums.
This is interesting because another reference to the Didact was made for an event that occurred March 3rd 2558, over seven months after the events of The Next 72 Hours.
Query: What is the current status of the Ur-Didact?
Result: Case records sealed on authority of Master Juridical.
Revoked ecumene [control] authorization requested [July 22, 2557] bears [sigil] Shadow-of-Sundered-Star.
Revoked ecumene [control] authorization requested [July 23, 2557] bears [sigil] Shadow-of-Sundered-Star.
Revoked ecumene [control] authorization requested [July 24, 2557] bears [sigil] Shadow-of-Sundered-Star.
Unauthorized [slip stream space] portal activity in Erde-Tyrene [airspace] [July 25, 2557] bears [sigil] Shadow-of-Sundered-Star.
Ecumene [control] authorization requested [March 3, 2558] bears [sigil] Didact. Identity contested. Unauthorized communication channel noted. [Halo Waypoint – Catalog Interaction (6/7/14)]
The first four dates align with the events of Halo 4, no surprises there…
…but March 3rd 2558 is set after the events of Spartan Ops. This date is concurrent with the events of the Ealen IV peace talks between the UNSC, Swords of Sanghelios, and Lydus’s Jiralhanae clans – the first arc of Halo: Escalation.
The phrasing of the latter instance is somewhat ambiguous, as it notes the it bears the sigil of the Didact, whereas the other instances refer specifically to the sigil of Shadow-of-Sundered-Star – the Didact’s true name.
Was this the Didact, or another entity?
We know that Jul has used the Ur-Didact’s sigil, it would appear to be how he was able to access Requiem’s systems so freely; the sigil looms ominously over the penultimate cutscene of Spartan Ops, where he orders the Shield World’s destruction.In this scene, we see Jul hesitate before he inputs the final order to send Requiem into the sun. As he walks away, the camera pans up to reveal the Didact’s sigil dominating the frame, the Didact’s theme (Nemesis) blaring over the scene…
Now, we obviously can’t speak to what the actual intent of things were. We’re not privy to that information and no commentary has been offered from 343 on the matter.
But you don’t have to perform a particularly in-depth analysis to get a sense of the Didact’s very overt influence here.
Even the positioning of Jul and the Didact’s sigil, aligned with the two pillars, feels like it’s saying “This is who and what we’re up against.”Jul’s Covenant was winning the battle for Requiem. Jul had a large fleet and countless thousands of Prometheans at his disposal, as well as the advantage of having been six months to set up inside Requiem and prepare while the UNSC played their War Games.
The act of sacrificing a whole planet – a Shield World, at that! – to take out a single UNSC ship, even if it is humanity’s best, simply does not speak to the scale of tactical thinking Jul would have.
This is arguing from the perspective of in-character logic, which is not necessarily reflected in the writing process (I say that in-general, not exclusively to this), but the value of having a Shield World as your ‘home base’ – along with millions of Prometheans – vastly outweighs destroying one ship.
Jul knew at this point that he didn’t have the whole of the Janus Key, as Halsey threw one half to Thorne in front of him, so what strategic value was there for the Covenant in giving up Requiem?
It’s important to note that characters can make mistakes and act contrary to how we know them, but there has to be a believable reason behind that which drives their actions…
From the ‘outside’ perspective of a fan viewing this story, it seems clear that these orders came from the Didact himself – just like the Durance (‘The Didact’s Gift’) which Jul had acquired earlier.
Regardless, from the direction that these narrative threads went, it would seem that this was not the case.At the end of Renegades, when Spark does finally reunite with the Librarian, they speak of her husband – of the Didact.
“Champions of the Mantle are so few… and there is still much to do. At Requiem, I was awoken, along with my husband.”
I recoil. “The Didact is alive?” The Catalog claimed as much as well, I remember.
Her expression grows forlorn and she sighs. She does not answer, but it is clear his threat is not worrisome. [Renegades, p. 294]
During the time this conversation takes place, the events of The Next 72 Hours have occurred; the Didact is considered “contained,” as referenced earlier.
And if the Didact was running the show from behind the scenes at Requiem, his threat would be deemed more worrisome (though some logical wiggle room does exist here, as the campaign for Requiem had not yet begun at this point).
Later in the conversation, he is referenced once again.
I want to ask her what it is that she wants. Not what she hopes to achieve or the responsibilities she has taken upon her shoulders, but her own desire, her heart’s wanting. But I realise I do not have to ask this. I already know. “Can the Didact find peace?”
The sorrow that flashes through her eyes instantly pains me.
“I fear my husband is beyond redemption.” [Renegades, p. 297]
No definitive statement is made as to where he is or what he’s up to at this time, and while it seems his threat is pacified for now, he is still out there.
FIFTH FLOOR: FORGE TOYS, COLOURING BOOKS, OTHER MISCELLANEOUS CANON…
It is noted in the Spartan Field Manual that, in 2558, the Office of Naval Intelligence is still keeping an eye out for the Didact – encouraging their Spartans to stay sharp, as if he might be found shopping in 26th century Walmart with a large hoodie to disguise himself.
Fans have likewise done so, with notable instances of the Didact appearing in miscellaneous franchise media.
An update to Halo 5’s Forge mode added – among other things – the toy figures that can be found in Halo 2 Anniversary’s campaign, one of which is the Didact.
The object’s description reads:
“Not all visitors to the Domain are strangers.”
In 2017, the Halo: Adult Colouring Book was released with a new piece of art for the Didact. This, too, stated that he’s in the Domain.
“After his defeat by the Master Chief and imprisonment in the Domain, the Didact reflects on memories of his wife, the Librarian.” [Halo: Adult Colouring Book, p. 41]
The extent to which we should take this as ‘serious’ canon is… debatable.
Personally, the best way I think to take it is that it could become relevant if 343 chooses to go this route with the character, but they are not necessarily beholden to it as a definitive statement.
In other words, it’s probably not something worth freaking out about.
If nothing else, though, it is the most… consistent ‘answer’ we’ve had regarding his fate?On the Universe page for the Huragok (more commonly known as the Engineers, who were the subject of my last article), there is an additional mention of the Didact that proves to be quite curious…
[The Huragoks’] continued use is perpetually under scrutiny due to the limited knowledge the UNSC has of these ancient organisms and any hardwired directives that may be exploited by the Didact or other threats. [Halo Waypoint, Universe – Huragok]
It doesn’t necessarily mean anything in particular, but one is led to wonder what kind of “hardwired directives” there might be within the Huragok that somebody like the Didact could exploit (an additional seed of potential for the future).
Another interesting mention of the Didact is depicted above, in concept art for Atriox – leader of the Banished – in Halo Wars 2.
This concept sheet has several variations of Atriox’s face paint, once of which is named ‘Didact Hunter.’
Again, this is concept work and is perhaps not best read into as anything more. After all, it doesn’t even appear in the final game.
On the subject of concept art, though, there are a number of intriguing exploration pieces from Halo 4 which depict early ideas for the Didact (click to enlarge).One such piece depicts the ‘Mega Didact,’ which has him appear as a more mechanical entity – encased within a floating sarcophagus, along with other more abstract designs.
It certainly is possible that these could be revisited in the future, when the character returns. 343 has historically shown their proclivity for revisiting old concepts left on the cutting room floor, and this makes clear that the idea of a ‘mechanised’ Didact has been thrown around in the past.
But it is also good to remember that the design process for the Prometheans in those early years of 343’s formation for Halo 4 was very long, with a number of complete redesigns.
Given that this is from those earlier days, it is – again – best to set expectations accordingly. This is a possible direction they could go, not necessarily a given.
So, having covered what happened to the Didact after the events of Halo 4… how might he return?
HOUR OF VICTORY
Before we proceed, we must – of course – define what the purpose of an epilogue is.
An epilogue comes at the end of a dramatic work, it is the final note of the story that serves an important purpose in satisfying three main points:
- It focuses on addressing further aspects of the plot, character, setting, and theme. What happens in the aftermath of great destruction? What are the fates of the characters we’ve been following, who have they become? And where do they go from here?
- It makes explicit the ‘point’ of the story. Unless you think that themes are for “eighth grade book reports,” you’ve probably constructed a story that has a point by tying your narrative pillars – character, setting, and plot – to thematic motifs. This is where you can focus on a big pay-off for that.
- It sets up the possibility of a sequel. This is essentially the primary purpose of an epilogue in a lot of genre fiction, by showing that the ‘monster’ that has plagued the main characters isn’t quite dead.
Halo 4 satisfies each of these things.
We see the Master Chief found by the UNSC, returning to the Infinity as a hero, conversing with Captain Lasky (leaving the Chief to ponder his perceived separation of ‘soldiers’ and ‘humanity’), followed by a very literal ‘deconstruction’ as his armour is prised from him.
It is also stated by the Didact that “The Reclamation” has begun.
“In this hour of victory, we taste only defeat… I ask why.
We are Forerunners, guardians of all that exists. The roots of the galaxy have grown deep under our careful tending, where there is life the wisdom of our countless generations has saturated the soil. Our strength is a luminous sun, towards which all intelligence blossoms, and the impervious shelter beneath which it has prospered…
I stand before you, accused of the sin of ensuring Forerunner ascendancy – of attempting to save us from this fate where we are forced to… recede.
Humanity stands as the greatest threat in the galaxy, refusing to eradicate them is a fool’s gambit. We squander eons in the darkness, while they seize our triumphs for their own. The Mantle of Responsibility for all things belongs to Forerunners alone.
Think of my acts as you will, but do not doubt the reality. The Reclamation has already begun… and we are hopeless to stop it.”
This is the full transcript of the Didact’s speech in the epilogue of Halo 4.
We are going to go through key parts of this dialogue, exploring the context that is attached to these words in how they apply to the present – and why they cannot apply to the past.
The first half of the speech isn’t particularly important in this regard, as the Didact is simply extolling the virtues of the Forerunners’ rule and how he thinks things were when they enforced the rule of the Mantle.
It is, however, useful in that it tells us exactly who the Didact is talking to.
“Humanity stands as the greatest threat in the galaxy, refusing to eradicate them is a fool’s gambit.”
During the Human-Forerunner war, the Didact invoked the Mantle and advocated for humanity to be brought back into the fold – not wiped out.
This much is evident from the second Terminal of Halo 4.
Librarian: “Our enemies move deeper into our territory with abandon. They must be eradicated.”
Didact: “Shall we take revenge? Abandon the Mantle and all that is philosophy has given us these thousand generations?”
Librarian: “All our plans have been torn asunder.”
Didact: “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.” [Halo 4 – Terminal 2, ‘War’]
Note the parallel usage of the word “eradicate” with Halo 4’s Epilogue here. The Librarian initially takes the stance that humanity is a threat that must be wiped out (an opinion she would later come to reconsider, after the battle of Charum Hakkor).
The Didact, however, argues in humanity’s favour.
This is corroborated in Halo: Cryptum, where he considered Riser’s people – the Chamanune – to be wise and intended for them to be teachers for Manipulars (Forerunner youth).
He pointed to Riser. “Little human, I know your kind. You are of ancient form. I asked you be preserved, because you are peaceful yet full of cleverness. Worthy pets to amuse and by low example to instruct our young. But you…” He swung his finger around to Chakas. “You are too much like the humans who nearly wrecked my fleets and murdered my warriors. My wife has taken liberties. She provokes me.” [Halo: Cryptum, p. 82]
This much he says throughout Halo 4 as well.
“Humanity’s imprisonment is a kindness.” [Halo 4, Midnight]
“Humanity’s loss of biological form will serve as final payment for their crimes. It is a kindness they do not deserve.” [Halo 4 – Terminal 6, ‘Justice’]
It serves to accentuate the point of how easily ‘The Mantle’ is exploited. An absence of killing is not benevolence, this method of rule still demonstrates an excess of depravities.
Further, we can turn to comments by Greg Bear and Jeremy Patenaude of 343 for their insight into the Didact’s motives here:
Jeremy Patenaude: “Didact’s fine with humanity existing, as long as they know their place.”
Greg Bear: “It’s washed down, devolved, kept where they’re going to be. And the Librarian keeps allowing them to rise up again, and he does not understand that. It’s irritating.” [Sparkast #17 (18/3/13)]
The point we get to at the end of Halo 4 pushes the Didact beyond his limits with humanity. His perspective changes to saying that humanity must be eradicated.
Not imprison into subservient war machines with the Composer.
Not knock down the evolutionary ladder.
Remember when I said that there were two explanations for the Didact using a Halo ring in The Next 72 Hours? This is the second reason.
This is the Didact’s arc in Halo 4, tying in with the function of an epilogue as a literary device to set up a sequel.
It becomes clear that the Didact has been holding back thus far, due to both his belief in the Mantle and because he has not recognised the true nature of the threat – until the Master Chief and Cortana defeat him.
Next time, the conflict is set up to be more personal, with the stakes raised due to the fact that the Chief has lost Cortana, who was the one to turn the tide.
In order to deal with this threat, he can no longer be bound by the ‘rules’ of the Mantle. That part of him, which was so integral to the nature of his being, is destroyed.
Closing cinematic of Halo 4 because it is actually telling two separate stories, but uniting them under the Reclaimer perspective. Both the narrator and the Chief are candidates for that “position” and both of them are diminished, both of them have had a very real part of themselves destroyed. [Frank O’Connor, ‘Texas Toast’ (9/4/2015)]
“We squander eons in the darkness, while they seize our triumphs for their own. The Mantle of Responsibility for all things belongs to Forerunners alone.”
Can we name any other period in the Halo timeline where the Forerunners have been gone for eons, during which time humanity has risen to prominence and has been using Forerunner technology?
Because that’s… literally the premise of the post-war era, informing many of the technological developments that humanity has had the latitude to enjoy (such as the UNSC Infinity, which utilises Forerunner technology in its engines).
The Didact makes reference to this several times in Halo 4.
“You are a fool. Even now your kind tinkers with the Composer in the shadow of the third ring. Children and fire who disregard the welfare of the galaxy!” [Halo 4, Shutdown]
Humans were not seizing Forerunner triumphs in the Human-Forerunner war, when they were their own interstellar empire allied with the San’Shyuum. They were far more concerned with tapping into the Precursor structures – the inert star roads, unbending filaments – that littered the surface of Charum Hakkor.
Humanity certainly wasn’t seizing Forerunner technology during the millennia they were reduced to a pre-industrial state, nor had the victorious Forerunners squandered “eons in the darkness.”
But humanity is doing it in the present, where the UNSC has become aware of humanity’s status as Reclaimers, declaring:
“The rest of the galaxy was bigger than us – stronger than us. We were mice hiding in the shadows, hoping the giants would not see us. No more. Humanity is no longer on the defence. We are the giants now.” [Thomas Lasky, Halo 4 – Infinity Multiplayer cutscene]
…while the Forerunners have squandered “eons in the darkness,” following the firing of the Halos, in their self-imposed exile…
“Think of my acts as you will, but do not doubt the reality. The Reclamation has already begun… and we are hopeless to stop it.”
The Didact’s acts regarding humanity were entirely supported and sanctioned by the Ecumene Council during the Human-Forerunner war, and after the war he is sent into exile for ten thousand years (for opposing the Builders’ Halo strategy).
It has been suggested that the Didact delivers this speech to justify his actions to the Ecumene Council when he uses the Composer on the humans on Omega Halo… but at that point there was no Ecumene Council left.
In fact, there were few surviving Forerunners left at all when the Ur-Didact started this initiative. The last remnant of the Forerunner resistance was wiped out by Star Roads at the Greater Ark.
The Ur-Didact is purposefully noted to have recused himself from the final meeting at the Greater Ark and dropped out of contact.
The spacious chambers of the Ark’s Cartographer now host five commanders, all Builder Security but for the IsoDidact.
The Ur-Didact, whose ship remains at bay, near Omega Halo, has recused himself from this meeting. He has not responded to any outside communication, Juridicals are informed.
[…] However, three of the five in attendance used to be Warrior-Servants and once served under my original; that much returns a little confidence. I have to wonder how he would handle his former commanders – and why he’s chosen to abandon us in our time of greatest need. [Halo: Silentium, p. 243-4]
We have pretty full accounts of what the Ur-Didact and the Ecumene Council were doing at that time.
There is no room for them to have communicated, let alone for the Ur-Didact to have made a speech to them about the threat posed by humanity (who are, at this time, cavemen), when the concern was regarding the imminent arrival of a nexus of Star Roads.
Having eliminated what cannot be possible, all that remains is the certainty that this group of Forerunners he is talking to – who clearly do not approve of the Didact’s actions – are in the present.
That is further made clear by an earlier line in his speech.
“I stand before you, accused of the sin of ensuring Forerunner ascendancy – of attempting to save us from this fate where we are forced to… recede.”
The function of the Didact’s speech here is comparable to having the dialogue of Thel ‘Vadamee’s trial at the beginning of Halo 2 play after the credits of Halo 1.
This is where we bring in Catalog, the quasi-ARG on the Halo Waypoint forums that was a major source of information about Halo lore directly from 343 in 2014 and 2015.
According to Catalog’s first statement, the Didact’s speech happened 100,000 years ago:
Query: Is there any information on the potential identity of those whom the UR-Didact was addressing “after” the events of the Requiem event?
Query Answer: Selected quote is part of [evidential] proceedings recorded in local [cache] prior to loss of Domain contact.
“Prior to loss of Domain contact” indicates that this took place before the firing of the Halo array, but we’ve already covered why that isn’t possible.
Over the course of the next year, as this topic would crop up from time to time, Catalog further addressed the situation (you might note the identity of the one interrogating it!) on two occasions.It has been admitted on a couple of occasions by various writers at 343 that Catalog was a bit of an error in judgement that seemed like a cool idea at the time, a fun way to communicate with fans by answering lore-based questions and prompting lots of discussion.
With that canonical framing, however, comes a bit of a dilemma in the long-term because it is essentially locking you into a series of somewhat arbitrary facts that may impose limits on future stories, or lead to contradictions.
The question of ‘When did this speech take place?’ intersects with another: ‘When did the Reclamation begin?’
As we have established, the Didact’s speech – where he declares that the Reclamation has begun – cannot take place 100,000 years ago.
Catalog stated, however, that the speech took place 100,000 years ago, later acknowledging “difficulty” in interpreting it before settling on a somewhat ambiguous answer.
Halo 5 then contradicts that on multiple occasions, where “The Reclamation has begun” is declared in the ‘present.’
The Warden Eternal says it during the first boss encounter in Genesis; Exuberant Witness and Cortana both say it at the beginning and end of the final mission, Guardians.
Indeed, the final chapter of the game – when the letterbox borders appear with an in-mission chapter name – is even called ‘THE RECLAMATION’.
So… when did the Reclamation begin?
Did it begin 100,000 years ago when it makes no sense for the Didact to have made that speech, or did it begin in the present where it’s actually happening?
How can we bring the Didact back?
(Note, for the record, that I am exploring this only as a possibility for the future, not stating that this is the course 343 must take. Let us keep our minds open to [hopefully pleasant] surprises!)
For this, let us turn to Halo: Silentium, where the Didact admits in a conversation with the Librarian that he has communicated – in some fashion, through the Domain – with Forerunners in the future.
“I wandered through all the corridors… so they appeared, anyway. Centuries of wandering through hallways and caverns and even deeper, darker places, lined and fitfully aglow with ancestral records and memories, upwellings of past visits, rarely by me, sometimes by our ancestors… on occasion, our descendants.”
“Descendants?” I ask.
“The Domain keeps its secrets only with difficulty. It wants, it needs, to spread knowledge. It wants to tell us when we’re being foolish, but it can only replay the emotions and memories of those who came before. Still, rarely, it violates its own rules.”
“What about our descendants?” I persist.
“I felt their touch, their love. And yet, they were fading. The Domain is filled with sadness. A deep shadow has fallen over everything Forerunner.” [Silentium, p. 255-6]
This occurred during his first exile, following the political battle between the Warrior-Servants and Builders at the end of the Human-Forerunner war.
The Domain violated its own rules, as it is sometimes known to do, to show the Ur-Didact the future.
It showed him that, in some way, the Forerunners do go on and survive.This thread was picked up on in Halo 5, which introduced us to a Builder who survived the firing of the Halos and (after digitising himself) managed to gain access to the Domain.
Here, he searches for Bastion – a Forerunner installation that, impossibly, appears to have disappeared.
In his final log, at the end of the game, it is discovered.
Bastion still lives.
For those in need of a refresher, Halopedia has a complete record of Halo 5’s mission intel, which can be read here.
(It could be said, as an aside, that Halo 5 missed a trick by not making the Forerunner in the intel logs the Didact himself, discovering the fate of Bastion.)
Returning to Renegades, Bastion is another thing that is referenced during the conversation between Spark and the Librarian.
“This imprint will join the others already gone to the Absolute Record. Humanity must be given the tools to hold the Mantle of Responsibility. And the knowledge – they must have the knowledge to tend the Domain…” She stares off into nothing for some time before gracing me with a soft look. “Then, perhaps…”
“Bastion?” I ask. Her tender smile fills me with love and finality, and I see that she does not believe she will ever make it there, or perhaps anywhere she might recover and rest and find peace at last. [Renegades, p. 296]
It is curious to note that the Librarian, too, is a digital entity – like the Didact, like the Builder in Halo 5… she is an echo, a personality imprint, and referred to by Thomas Lasky in Spartan Ops as “The Librarian AI.”
Before parting, the Librarian gives Spark a ‘coordinate key’ and an instruction:
“Find what’s missing,” she says. “Fix the path. Right what my kind has turned wrong.” [Renegades, p. 297]
What this refers to is not exactly clear, it is left quite open-ended so Spark’s story can effectively continue in whatever way 343 sees fit – after all, the Forerunners turned many, many things wrong.
Rion Forge later inquires as to what the nature of this key is.
“What did the Librarian give you?”
“A coordinate key.”
“A safe place.” Among other things. At this time, she does not press further.
“Will you use it?”
“Perhaps. In time.” [Renegades, p. 325]
Whether this key leads to Bastion or somewhere else is, for now, unknown.
One thing that is known, however, is that Spark has not yet seen the last of the Librarian, as she tells him that they will meet again.Halo 5 doesn’t exactly tell us what Bastion is, but gives us a few hints – such as the fact that moving it would require “an impossible act of reconciliation.” From this, we can infer that it is a very large construct, and the fact that it has been moved would seem to imply that it’s inhabited.
Cut dialogue from the game tells us that it is, in fact, a Shield World.
“Confirmation of dormancy. Guardians are stored and prepped for eventual Reclamation. I make my way now to Shield World 983. Designation: Bastion.” [Halo 5, cut intel]
That this was cut from the game leaves its canonical status up in the air. When this narrative thread is picked up on, it may well turn out to be something altogether different (again, with writing, especially in franchise-building, you don’t want to lock any important doors years in advance).
While this doesn’t give us anything concrete, it is interesting to know that this is what was in the minds of the writers at the time.
Whatever it ‘physically’ ends up being, it would seem to be a kind of safe haven for Forerunners who survived the firing of the Halos (and did not follow in the footsteps of Bornstellar and Chant-to-Green, who departed the galaxy).
We’ve known for many years that there are still Forerunners out there – something I have extensively documented in this article: ‘Mantle’s End – What the Forerunners Did AFTER Halo (And Where They Are Now)’ – but Bastion is something of a narrative powder keg that’s just waiting to go off.
There are other ‘living’ Forerunners out there, and they’re closer to home than anybody knows…
If we are to follow on from Halo 4’s Epilogue, where the implication is that the Didact has found a group of surviving Forerunners and is pleading his case to them, then the door is very much open for him to return in this manner.
BUT FOR NOW, SILENTIUM
I have already said that I do not believe the Didact will be in Halo: Infinite, as I think his presence in a game demands the telling of a very particular kind of story that 343 does not appear to be aiming to tell in this game.
It’s possible that a future game may cover it, or a novel (Spark’s own story was beautifully resolved after eight years and given a new beginning in Renegades, it is worth noting).
A wealth of potential remains for this character. What’s important is that it’s done right, which necessitates asking the question “Can we do this in a game, or is something else more appropriate?”
While there’s a lot laid out in this article, by no means is this the full picture, nor does it have all the answers. Part of the fun comes from the unexpected, as we saw with Spark’s journey in Halo: Renegades, and there are a lot of questions that could really make for quite an unpredictable continuation of the Didact’s story.
At the same time, it’s worth mentioning that the narrative around the Didact at-present is… well, a bit of a mess (which you might have gotten a sense of from what this article has documented). Intentions with the character changed; 343’s writing staff has seen various changes over the last few years; the direction of the Halo universe is very different now than it was in 2012…
While there’s a lot left to do with the character, there remains a lot that has to be ‘fixed’ around him too. Until we circle back around to him, we have many questions to consider.
Will he remain a foe, or will certain circumstances cause him to pivot to the role of begrudging ally? After all, the Flood still remains Halo’s endgame, I’d dare to wager…
They are afraid. Of what we know. Of what we might share. Of where we go, and what we might bring back.
They know what is still out there. What could return.
Their fear is justified. [Renegades, p. 331]
The Librarian hoped that the Domain would heal his mind, cleanse him of the Gravemind’s malediction. Is that possible now that the Domain has returned to the modern setting?
Or is this – as Spark once said – combat eternal, enmity unslaked?
Whatever comes, I think we’re just getting started…