So it seems that most of my readers love Halo, so I should probably post some more content about it. This seems like a pretty good way of doing so, one of those ’30 day challenges’ that you see on places like Tumblr and whatnot. Without further ado, let’s get to it!
So this was a bit of a difficult decision for me because I love so many characters in the Halo universe. There’s 100 billion years of lore and that’s filled with quite a substantial number of people. But, in the end, it has to be this guy…
Born under the name Shadow of Sundered Star, the term ‘Didact’ was a nickname he earned while teaching at the College of Strategic Defence of the Mantle because his students found him to be incredibly demanding and encouraged absolute precision in his teachings. The nickname clearly stuck, as he still uses it over 110,000 years later during the events of Halo 4.
I am sure that anybody who has read Greg Bear’s awe-inspiring Forerunner Saga (especially the final installation, Silentium) will understand why I’ve picked the Ur-Didact as my favourite character. His backstory is one of the most detailed, interesting and just downright tragic that I’ve ever read about. Move over, Shakespeare!
The Ur-Didact starts out as a very noble, respectable and fun person – at times, he seems like a bit of a combination of Jack Sparrow and Walter White. He had an extremely sharp wit and the occasional clumsy moment, but those were saturated by a good deal of sincere and emotionally driven moments as well which really set his character apart from the others in this franchise. By the time Silentium rolls around, we can see just how tortured this character’s soul is. He’s captured by the Master Builder, his political enemy, and marooned in a Burn (a star system totally infected by the Flood) where he is then drawn into the clutches of the Gravemind who proceeds to mind-rape him until he is totally insane. The Gravemind imparts the rage, pain and torment of a near-extinct race of gods into his head in one of the most chilling ends to a chapter I’ve ever read.
“Didact, do you have a moment? Just a moment. That’s all it will take.”
There’s something that’s just so… horrible, so harrowing and repulsive about this creature, this amalgamation of millions of corpses moulded into a living abomination, speaking so kindly and so respectfully before committing such disgusting acts against another living being.
But then, instead of giving him a George R.R. Martin-worthy death, the Gravemind condemns him to an even more horrible fate by letting him go to allow the insanity to flower in his head in order to cause chaos for the surviving Forerunners who are on their last legs fighting against the Flood.
Everybody turns against him, they all look to his double, the IsoDidact (a young Manipular who the Ur-Didact gave his memories and experiences to before he thought he would die), for leadership and to commit the greatest atrocity of all time – the firing of the Halos. Even the Ur-Didact’s wife, the Librarian, grows resentful of her husband as his insanity makes him a hollow shell of his former self and he uses the Composer on the humans she’s preserved on Omega Halo.
Things started to look up for the Ur-Didact though, as the Librarian incapacitates him and places him in a Cryptum which will allow him access to the Domain (the information-sharing network of the Forerunners) enabling him to meditate on his choices and gradually heal his mind of the Precursor taint. Librarian intended for the Ur-Didact to become the guardian of humanity who would shepherd them to their rightful place as the Mantle’s new custodians, but things went wrong – horribly wrong. Just before the Halos were fired, the Gravemind sends the Librarian (who strands herself on Earth) a message. The Domain is actually a Precursor consciousness, it is the collection of 100 billion years (pre-dating the universe) worth of knowledge that was meant to be passed down to humanity. And when the Halos fire, the Domain will be destroyed because it is based off neural physics, the way the Precursors created things to be immortal that only Halos can destroy because they target specific neurons when fired.
Instead of being saved, the Ur-Didact is left inside his Cryptum for 100,000 years – fully conscious, while the Flood-induced insanity continues to stew around in his head, feeding off his hatred. Imagine being paralysed and forced to sit in a pitch-black room for 100,000 years… You’re not going to emerge from that sane, especially when the race of gods who created you poured all of their hate into your head.
This is why I find the Ur-Didact such a compelling character to read about, to experience the story of. It’s an emotional rollercoaster from page 1, both 343 Industries and Greg Bear did such a wonderful job in crafting his character over the course of the last 3 years and I look forward to seeing what role he plays in future media. We’ve not seen the last of him.