This topic appears in the TV series. For information about the game version, see Catherine Halsey.
Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey created the Spartan super soldiers. In recent times, this brilliant yet inscrutable mind has been more conflicted, likely about her creations.
Creating the Spartan Program
Dr. Halsey is a scientist with the UNSC. Her work to create the Spartan super soldiers has made her a critical member of the organization. She is also responsible for the inventions of numerous technological advances. Halsey was in a relationship with Jacob Keyes and they had a child together, Miranda Keyes.
She created the Spartan program for the United Nations Space Command to serve as a solution to what she viewed as a lack of evolution in humanity. She manufactured humans to be stronger, smarter, faster, and better than average humans. For her creations to be superior, she had to begin their training at a young age, beginning recruitment at age six. She traveled to different planets under the guise of starting a family with Jacob, and ultimately kidnapped these children from their homes and replaced them with flash clones of themselves who later died.
Halsey suppressed the children's memories of their lives before the UNSC intervened, effectively sealing away the memories of their families and loved ones. The Spartan origin files were mysteriously "lost", as the children were deemed orphans who were adopted by the UNSC and became Spartans voluntarily. Halsey knew that John-117 was exceptionally special and was sure to keep a close eye on him over the years.
The Keystones and Cortana System
Halsey monitors her Spartans as they fight on Madrigal against Covenant forces. She watches Master Chief's video feed of him discovering an object in a cave. When he touches the artifact it activates, sending blue energy across the cave walls. Halsey watches in awe until Admiral Margaret Parangosky arrives in Halsey's lab. Parangosky cryptically reminds Halsey that her rebellious nature is nearing annoyance. Halsey wants the artifact to be taken back to her lab immediately upon arrival, though Parangosky notes that Miranda handles all Covenant objects. Halsey insists so Parangosky concedes. As she's leaving, she hears noises on the the other side of a door and peeks in. She the reprimands Halsey that her project has not been approved, as she was meant to cease all progress on clones. Dr. Halsey lies that she did pause the programming, but Parangosky sees through her lie and orders her to shut it down.
Halsey makes contact with John and learns he's been having visions when he touches the artifact, visions that feel like memories. She tells him to stay away from the artifact for now. When she ends communication, Adun vocalizes that he's not supposed to remember anything as she sealed them away. John later breaks protocol by ignoring a kill order against the sole Madrigal survivor, Kwan Ha. He disables the ships surveillance systems, causing a mass panic amongst the UNSC. Admiral Azmi demands answers from Halsey, as the worlds largest weapon shouldn't be misbehaving. Halsey explains that she thinks John is having memories, which shouldn't be possible. Azmi orders the marines on base to contain Master Chief when his ship lands. They watch as John seemingly removes his helmet and gives a gun to Kwan. Azmi takes this as an act of defiance and potential danger, instructing his marines to shoot the ship out of the sky if they have too. Halsey protests but he snaps that she's there as a courtesy and will be remanded to her lab.
Halsey secretly orders her Spartans to protect Master Chief and the artifact at all costs, even if it means firing upon the marines. This confuses Kai-125 at first, though Vannak-134 knows that friendlies wouldn't fire at the Chief. Their efforts are unneeded as Master Chief escapes from the base by using the artifact to repower his ship and fly into slipspace.
In the day that follows, Halsey speaks with Fleet Admiral Hood about her plans for the artifact and Master Chief. They want the artifact because the Covenant wants it, which is good enough for them. Halsey has a plan to keep Master Chief in-check, though Hood doesn't want to know the specifics. Halsey tries to pitch the Cortana system to Parangosky, though she once again shuts Halsey down.
She attends a meeting with other high-ranking officials, including Hood, Parangosky, and Halsey's ex-husband Captain Jacob Keyes. Hood isn't sure punishment for Master Chief is fit since he's a symbol of hope, a heroic statement, and a punishment would be bad for morale. Halsey undermines Admiral Parangosky by pitching the Cortana system to the council. She explains that it will overwrite Spartan consciousness and replace it with an artificial general intelligence. She believes it to be the next state in human evolution. The Spartans were the first step, while Cortana is the upgrade. Cortana represents the sum total of every available date point, holding the intelligence of the galaxy in her mind. She hopes to use Cortana to create Spartans who are more lethal, their judgement error-free, their performance upgradeable, and controllable. Captain Keyes reasons that Spartans such as John are people, but Halsey disagrees as he's much more than that. She thinks the Cortana system can help them win the war against the Covenant. Jenma points out that Halsey's previous theories depended on biological substrates derived from the illegal practice of human cloning. Halsey, however, has found a way around that. Parangosky reluctantly authorizes a trial of the Cortana system.
Master Chief turns on his beacon and allows himself to be arrested by the Spartans. He is taken through FLEETCOM where he watches Halsey drive off with the artifact. She takes it back to her lab where she admires it in its full glory. Chief, who is put into a holding cell for his actions, discusses the importance of the artifact with Halsey. He opens up about the emotions the artifact is bringing him, emotions he hasn't felt before, coupled with memories. Halsey assures him that she has a plan to fix everything. She returns to her lab where she removes the barrier around her clone, making the being open her eyes.
Halsey's clone is now awake and aware that Halsey created it to obtain vital organs from herself without harming her true body. Halsey collected samples of her tissues and used them to create the clone. The clone retains emotions, thoughts, memories, and feelings that Halsey had during the time the tissues were initially taken. It has no active memories beyond her point of inception, as it did not inherit Halsey's new memories or thoughts. It inquires about the children used in the Spartan programming, learning that 35 survived the original augmentation, meaning more than half died. As it compiles the Sorvad solids before it, the clone deduces that Halsey is after its brain. Halsey explains that she has perfected the method of real-time neuroelectrical imaging, meaning the Cortana system is viable and can be integrated into a working Spartan. They catch up on John and how the Cortana system will help him out of this current predicament. The clone asks about Miranda, their daughter, but Halsey ignores this question. The clone reminds Halsey of when she was its age and the uncertainty she felt about killing a living breathing version of herself and asks what has changed since then. Halsey admits that progress has changed things.
Adun and Halsey work together to activate a scanner that digitizes the clone's facial features, then holds open the eyelids while a needle pierces the eyeball. When the neural substrate acquisition is complete, the clone has died, and they use another machine to implant the needed mechanisms and information into John's mind. Adun destroys the clone in a tub of acid that effectively disintegrates the body. While John remains in stasis, Halsey calls Cortana who appears before Dr. Halsey.
As they are acquainted with one another, Halsey explains that she's going to run some tests on the artifact John found on Madrigal to determine its provenance and functionality. Cortana changes the subject - her neural implant is working perfectly, but she can't take full operational control of the subject. Halsey has limited her access to the reticular formation, which upsets Cortana, as that goes against her directive. Halsey recommends she use John's downtime to familiarize herself with the trove of human knowledge available to her. Cortana reveals that it will only take her 7.6 minutes out of the hour given. Halsey assures Cortana that she'll be kept very busy.
When John awakens, he has little interest in meeting Cortana or interacting with her. He does, however, comment on her resemblance to Halsey. Cortana states that it's nice of him to say, as her features were made to feel familiar with her voice and accent designed to be pleasant. She contains a hollow particle elixir that allows her to appear in an environment. Cortana views this as a partnership, while John wants to command her. She is coolly dismissed by Halsey. John doesn't approve of the new partner but Halsey is certain it is a great leap forward for everyone.
She then runs more tests on John with the artifact, and he reluctantly makes contact again. He is flooded with more jumbled memories as Halsey and her assistant Adun marvel at the physical impact the artifact has on John. Cortana shuts John down to access control of the object, which inadvertently ceases John's connection to it, and it becomes inactive. Halsey stays apprised to John's activities through Cortana, who reports to her throughout the day. Cortana contacts Halsey to warn her that John is removing his emotion regulator. Halsey wants Cortana to help him so he'll see her as an ally and not a spy. Cortana reluctantly agrees and helps John remove the pellet. This spurs John to explore Reach without his pellet, then he decides to contact the artifact without the pellet so he can properly experience the visions.
He returns to the testing bay and demands Cortana open the door, which Halsey allows her to do. Halsey visits John later while he's speaking with Cortana about his parents, a conversation that stops when she arrives. He tells her of his latest antics and she feigns surprise over his regulator being removed, his second contact, and discovery of his home planet Eridanus II. She offers to fly drones over the planet to explore it, but he insists to going on an exploration mission. Halsey decides to join him and brings Adun along. As Adun and Halsey privately discuss the dangers of John's memories, Halsey admits that if John remembers too much, that Cortana was created for just that reason.
John, Halsey, and Adun arrive on Eridanus II where they locate John's childhood home. They begin to excavate the burial of the case. John thinks the keystone might be within the case, but it's only dozens of repetitive sketches instead. Halsey suggests returning to Reach to examine the sketches and catalog them, but John is already heading for his former home. He asks Cortana to recreate what his home looked like before its destruction. The longer she projects the images the more his memories begin to return. He physically interacts with his younger self as he watches memories unfold before him, his actions causing curiosity from Halsey. Cortana explains that she stopped the projection so whatever John is seeing, he's seeing by himself. He sees Halsey playing a game with him as a boy at the counter while his parents watched. He then remembers the cave in which he discovered the larger keystone for the first time. He is suddenly stricken with the knowledge of where it is, and hurries off to find it. Halsey and Adun follow him outside the Reach For Life installment to a cave. John and Halsey marvel at the large keystone encased in a boulder.
Exile From the Program
The UNSC rallies to excavate the object, which is not only encased in a boulder, but sealed behind a crystal substrate. Master Chief confides in Keyes about his memories of Halsey visiting him as a child, something that Keyes promises to look into. Keyes tells Halsey and Parangosky about the revelations. Parangosky wants to cease all the operations including the Spartan protocols by bringing everyone back to Reach immediately, with the artifact. She wants to terminate Master Chief. Halsey admits they could but leverages the fact Parangosky knew the true origins of the Spartan program. She kept all the files and will release them if Parangosky doesn't keep the program going. The woman concedes angrily. Keyes wants Miranda removed from the artifact studies to keep her hands clean. Halsey quips this is the only parenting issue they can agree on.
When Adun ruptures the substrate containing the keystone, it emits an energy blast followed by a high frequency sound that cripples everyone in the vicinity. Master Chief touches the larger artifact and remembers being kidnapped by Halsey and replaced by a clone. When he breaks connection, Halsey arrives and sees his anger. She offers to explain but he's overcome with anger. He angrily lunges at her so she commands Cortana to shut him down. He falls to the ground in a limp state of unconsciousness. Halsey retreats to her ship for her safety and refuses to let Cortana tell John her location.
Suddenly, slipspace is breached by the Covenant and a viscous fight ensues, with Halsey demanding that the Spartans get the artifact to her. They struggle to reach her ship so she redirects them to Miranda's ship, which explodes in fire, forcing her to redirect them to herself again despite the dangers. Master Chief witnesses Kai in danger and diverts from the plan despite Halsey's screaming orders to keep with the plan. Master Chief tries to fight the brute but is knocked across the field. The artifact is ultimately stolen by the Covenant.
The survivors of the battle return to Reach. Once the ship is empty except for himself and Halsey, John seals her inside the UV decontamination room. Cortana tries to understand why he's acting out, initially believing it to be a result of the artifact. John clarifies that he's never felt better. He activates the decompression chamber which will release a high dose of radiation that will burn and liquidate Halsey. Cortana pleads with John to release her while Halsey screams out for him, the clock ticking down. John demands that Cortana take control of his body and force him to open the door, otherwise her creator dies. Cortana doesn't have that ability as she can only overload his neuro pathways to place him in a temporary stasis. He doesn't believe her. The clock runs down and the radiation begins, so John saves Halsey before slamming the door shut. He needed to test the limits of Halsey's AI system but doesn't play to save her from what's next.
Halsey is questioned by a representative from the Judge Advocate General. Parangosky and Keyes watch in secret, with her admitting to Keyes that she's made Halsey the scapegoat for the entire operation. The general has been instructed to limit his questions to cloning. John interrupts the meeting and makes the general leave. He asks why she did it. Nothing she says will make sense until the benefits manifest. She's accepted that he will hate her. She was planning the future of their species since natural evolution is failing them since humans are still hardwired for conflict and selfishness. If they were going to survive they needed a force that would intervene and prevent conflict before it started. She created the Spartans to protect humanity from itself. He wants to skip to the part where she kidnapped them. She needed children, no older than six, so their training and augmentation could be carried out properly. They were too young to volunteer and parents don't give up their children very easily. The thing she replaced him with was a genetically compromised clone that began exhibiting signs of illness before passing away. It allowed the parents to properly grieve the loss of their child and give them closure. She views this as a reasonable, a statement he throws back at her. She lied to them for years while they fought and killed for her. She corrects that it wasn't for her.
Any challenge to the status quo is always thought to be mad until people see the benefits. He asks who knew about the truth so she covers up for her partners by saying everyone looked the other way. She thinks it was worth it to unlock the mystery's of the artifact. They have upended everything she thought she knew about their place in the universe. He's the key to unlocking more secrets. He has a confection to the thing they're calling the Halo. She knows he will take them there to lead their species beyond its current limitations. He needs her to do it and ensure their sacrifices aren't in vain. He plans to finish what they started without her.
Halsey meets with Parangosky and is a little annoyed after being interviewed by the representative. Parangosky reveals that she needed a scapegoat and so did the council, so they chose Halsey. She doesn't' believe her at first but Parangosky reveals her plan to send Halsey to a new lab on the Burial Mounds, away from the UNSC base. It will frame her as the reason for the failing Spartan program and give Master Chief a bit of justice. The Spartan program and Cortana will be transferred to Miranda, who is finally getting the promotion she deserves now that Halsey isn't holding her back. Halsey tries to use her blackmail but knows it will only land them both in jail, which isn't good for either of them. Parangosky calls for two MPs to escort Halsey back to her quarters where she will begin packing for her next day departure.
As she packs, Adun visits ready for his next order now that his mission is complete. They can't access Cortana as she's been black boxed, something he is partially responsible for as he solidified the UNSC's firewalls and database. Halsey thinks Cortana will find her way back now that she's alone and untrusted by John. Cortana won't just give up because of Adun's systems.
Miranda gets Halsey's message to come see her, so she obliges. Miranda sees through Halsey's manipulations of a goodbye tea. Halsey relents that Miranda can't conduct studies on the artifact without her. Miranda lashes out over her mothers attempts at concern. Halsey tries to appeal as a scientist, but Miranda retorts that she kidnapped, mutilated, and murdered dozens of children. Even if it was to save billions others, she tried to save humanity at the cost of her own. Halsey apologizes for letting her daughter live with such anger for so long. She doesn't believe in the concept of family but should have explained herself to her daughter when she was old enough. It was never her intention to hurt Miranda, becoming emotional over the admittance. She's had enough emotional baring and walks across the room. Miranda leaves shortly after, unaware the entire thing was a rouse for Halsey and Adun to obtain Miranda's biometric identity via a contact lens.
By evening, Cortana has broken through the UNSC's restrictions, systems, and fixed Adun's system. She reveals that John is about to touch the artifact again, offering to place him in stasis, but Halsey refuses as she needs to see this happen. She shows Halsey both John and Makee's vitals during the connection and they learn how the pair are inexplicably linked during contact. Halsey and Adun prepare for the next stage of their plan with help from Cortana. Cortana reluctantly shares that John and Makee haven taken their relationship to a physical stage, being closer than ever. As such, Halsey successfully accesses Makee's entertainment systems when the refugee is alone.
She wants to talk about John, a person she knows better than anyone. She's raised him since he was six. She knows they are fond of each other which makes her happy. John is in great danger, they both are, as the artifacts must never be delivered to the UNSC. Makee rebuttals that John thinks they are safe in humans control, so Halsey asks if she has the same opinion after living among them. Halsey loves humanity but views humans as being the problem as they're stuck. They're venal, selfish creatures who create misery and pain wherever they go. She knows humans will use the artifacts as weapons to destroy themselves. Makee doesn't think John would let that happen. Halsey presses that John does not exist and hasn't for many years, as only Master Chief is there as a product of the species who made him. Their gifts are to previous for either side, so they must control the Halo with Halsey's help. She thinks John will listen to Makee. They are cut off by a visiting guard who heard voices. When he leaves, Halsey reappears to ask her to convince John to remove the artifact and bring it to her where she'll be waiting. They can tap into the intelligence of the Halo to unleash the trios full and true potential as a species. Makee realizes Halsey wants to become like a god just as the Covenant and has heard enough.
When Makee turns her down, Halsey invokes "Zed Protocol". She tells the Spartan members of Silver Team that the UNSC cannot be trusted. Kai questions the orders so Halsey instructs the other Spartans to eliminate her so they tie her up. Cortana becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the situation as Master Chief is walking into a trap set by Riz and Vannak. Cortana's discomfort increases when Halsey reveals that she doesn't need John as Makee can activate the artifacts. Cortana can finally fulfill his creation place to place John in stasis and completely take over his body. She belives that Cortana, operating through Master Chief, will be the very best of everyone. Cortana, disagreeing with the ethics of the plan, betrays Halsey to warn John of the trap. She cuts the ships connection to the FLEETCOM base. She leaves Halsey and Adun stuck on their plane without a method of escaping Reach. Halsey is in awe of her AI developing empathy and emotional connections. Adun frantically suggests they leave without the Spartans, but Halsey refuses. A blast from the keystone renders all technology obsolete.
Behind the scenes
- Halo: The Television Series
- Halo: The Television Series - Season One, Contact
- Halo: The Television Series - Season One, Emergence
- Halo: The Television Series - Season One, Homecoming
- Halo: The Television Series - Season One, Solace
- Halo: The Television Series - Season One, Reckoning
- Halo: The Television Series - Season One, Unbound
- Halo: The Television Series - Season One, Allegiance