This topic appears in the TV series. For information about the game version, see John-117.
Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, more commonly known as, Master Chief, is a member of the UNSC's Spartan program. He is a member of FLEETCOM, the Asymmetric Warfare Research Group, and leader of the Silver Team. John is Earth's most advanced warrior in the 26th century and the only hope of salvation for a civilization pushed to the brink of destruction by the Covenant, an unstoppable alliance of alien worlds committed to the destruction of humanity. While fighting to obtain the keystones, Master Chief allowed Cortana to assume full control over his body.
Childhood and Spartan-II training
John was born on the planet Eridanus II, as the only child of two loving parents. He had a childhood dog that he cared for deeply. He spent his days exploring the forests and caves, going on picnics, laughing with his family, and drawing. He sketched vivid images of artifacts and spoke on how they fit together. During a picnic, he explored past the Reach for Life Installation to discover a cave. Within the cave was a large artifact that fascinated him. He reached out and made contact with the object, which caused him to collapse. His father took him back to the home where he remained unconscious for some time. John's obsession with the artifacts increased to the point where his father became angered by them and nonsense that they brought. He forced John to bury the sketches in the backyard.
When John was six, Dr. Halsey visited him in his childhood home to play games with him, all of which John won. One night, UNSC operatives kidnapped John from his home, drugged him, and took him from the planet. Halsey replaced John with a flash clone created by his genetics and the clone later perished as scheduled, allowing John's family to grieve the loss of their son.
According to UNSC records, the Reach For Life program that funded the creation and support of Eridanus II was abruptly terminated after an unauthorized transport ship carried in a plague that spread quickly, killing off most of the population. The survivors were evacuated to Ehilend and John was later adopted from the planet of Ehilend. All records pertaining to his adoption were lost.
John was recruited into the Spartan program by the UNSC and Dr. Catherine Halsey. Once in the training program, John trained to be an elite soldier. He underwent mental programming that eradicated his memory of his life prior to his enlistment. The programming made him compliant with orders and averse to disobedience or questions. One of his close friends in the program, Soren, became aware of the mental programming and wanted to defect with John. On the night they were meant to escape, John changed his mind. He threatened to shoot Soren if he left, but Soren appealed to what little emotion John still had. John faked that his weapon was defective and gave Soren a five minute head start before he awakened the entire camp.
Discovering the Artifact
Master Chief leads the Silver Team of Spartans in a mission on the planet Madrigal, where a team of Covenant Elite are attacking. After defeating the alien creatures, he and his team examine the perimeter for signs of the Elite ship. They discover a man-made cave in which the Covenant were excavating an artifact. When Master Chief interacts with the object, the cave comes to life with energy. He has a vision of a family playing, a mother, a father, and a dog. He breaks protocol by flying back to Reach alone with the object and the sole survivor of Madrigal, Kwan Ha. Dr. Catherine Halsey notices anomalies in Master Chief's scans and learns of his visions during a conversation. He admits that he felt the people in his visions were a family. She secretly believes these visions are memories she had previously sealed away, as the artifact somehow unlocked these memories.
Master Chief spends time with Kwan as she attempts to learn more about him. She tells him that they had met before - the day he killed her mother. Kwan's mother was an insurrectionist attending a conference when Master Chief and the other Spartans arrived under the impression a bomb threat was imminent. The orders changed as the attendees were deemed a threat. She questions each of his statements which confuses him, and she realizes he was told that questioning things is bad. As they talk, a direct order for an Article 72 against Kwan comes to him. Instead of killing her as ordered, he disables the surveillance of his ship. He goes to extreme lengths to protect Kwan by manually restoring the air flow after the UNSC alters it. When she holds a gun to him, he removes his helmet to gain her trust, and they work together to manually override the ship by disabling the AI system. Once they arrive at Reach, they are shot down by the UNSC with the military having orders to terminate both Master Chief and Kwan. He touches the artifact once again, receiving more visions, and the artifact emits an energy wave that turns off the power in the UNSC base. It also recharges his ship as the energy courses through the framework, allowing Master Chief and Kwan to escape Reach unscathed.
Master Chief takes Kwan to the planet of Rubble, where he reunites with his former Spartan friend Soren, who defected from the program 22 years ago. While he's met with resistance from the people of Rubble, Soren is forgiving and takes John in, allowing him to come into his home where his wife and child live. Soren and John slowly reconnect despite the secrets that John keeps from him, and the animosity that Soren still holds for John only giving him five-minutes to escape the Spartan training center. John meets Kessler, Soren's son, and is surprised as he thought the treatments that the UNSC gives them made it impossible for them to procreate. Soren jabs that he still calls them treatments, though Laela reminds Soren that John might still view them as such. Soren explains that the hormone pellet in the Spartan's back prohibits them from feeling the world fully, experiencing emotions, taste, and even procreation. Once he removed the pellet he experienced the world for the first time. That night, Kessler gives John a stamp of a smiley face as it's his way of saying that they can count on each other.
The next day, Soren convinces John to show him the artifact in the case, and John reveals that he found it on Madrigal during the Covenant attack that orphaned Kwan. She explains how the object powered Master Chief's ship and lit up by his touch. Soren grabs the object but he doesn't react to his touch, surprising Kwan who insists it worked before. Soren takes them and the object to see a Covenant abduction survivor, Reth, who knows about Covenant artifacts.
Reth examines the artifact that John and Soren bring him. He explains that the Covenant's whole religion is based on objects like this. They are things from another time, things that were left behind. They roam the galaxy looking for pieces or clues. While Reth was a guest, they asked to see if he could activate them, but he could not, as he's not a Blessed One. He tries again with the artifact but fails to activate it. A Blessed One is a human, but more so. They have an obligation, a responsibility, a moral imperative. John asks what it can do, with Reth ensuring that John doesn't want to help the Covenant destroy the human race. He then grabs the object and swings it at John, making the Spartan grab the object. He activates the object and it sends out a blue energy wave that fills the refuge. A symbol appears on the artifact and a ring of symbols around it. As the electricity crackles, John is mesmerized by the artifact and experiences memories of his childhood once more. He returns the artifact to the box after the visions pass. Reth questions who John is as he can bring it to life but is different than the one the Covenant has. He realizes that John doesn't know what he is, mentioning it's in his eyes. John, overcome with anger, slams Reth into the gate as he demands to know what he is. Reth explains that the ring John made appear is what the Covenant wants. It's a door to the end of life as they know it, a weapon. Reth asks John if he felt the darkness and he did. That means John can stop it by destroying the artifact and then himself.
John promptly leaves the cell followed by Soren and Kwan. John is returning to the UNSC despite both his companions' protests. He needs the other Spartans, but Soren thinks he's running back to Halsey as he always does when there's a problem. John's seen what the Covenant does to planets by turning planets into glass, and if they're going after something bigger he doesn't have a choice. He makes Soren promise to look after Kwan, who is upset to see him leave and have another choice taken from her. He apologizes as this was the best he could do. Once in the airspace and away from Rubble, he activates his beacon and allows himself to be arrested by the UNSC. Once returning the FLEETCOM, Master Chief hands over the keystone to Halsey. 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.
Remembering His Past
Halsey initiates her plan to implant the artificial intelligence Cortana into John's mind. She tells John it will make him a better fighter and is an upgrade to his existing software. She puts him to sleep and 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. Cortana views this as a partnership, while John wants to command her. 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.
After the tests conclude for the day, John returns to Spartan Headquarters where he gives the team permission to ask him questions. Riz assures him that the team has fought with him since they were children and trust him completely. Cortana materializes to introduce herself to the team, surprising everyone. John snaps that he didn't summon her and tries to dismiss her, but she only questions his vernacular before politely excusing herself, looking forward to working with them all. John remarks to Silver Team that the new A.I. is not permanent.
John attempts to search for the place in his visions, and Cortana offers her help, much to his annoyance. He relents and she finds potential matches, 23 of which he's visited on Spartan deployments. He recognizes Mamore as the place where they lost Nora-098. He remembers losing her but doesn't feel anything over the loss. She explains that the hormone pellet in his spine suppresses adverse emotional responses and protects his mission readiness. When he touches the artifact he doesn't just see the memories - he feels them. He retreats to the Spartan bathroom where he attempts to remove the pellet. Cortana reluctantly helps John remove the pellet. He even thanks her for the help and she reminds him that she's here for him.
John explores Reach without his pellet with the help of Cortana. He admits that he went to the park not only to hear the music differently, but hear the music the way everyone else does. He returns to the testing bay and demands Cortana open the door, something she does reluctantly. Cortana warns him not to touch the artifact as it stresses his heart and nervous system. He ignores her as he grabs the artifact, triggering a vivid memory. When it ends, he asks Cortana how many planets on her list have visible ice rings from the surface. She shows him the place from the barracks, and it's Eridanus II - a planet that wasn't always uninhabited. From Cortana's holograms, John learns about the Reach for Life project and a plague that desolated the inhabitants of the planet. He was evacuated and adopted at age six. He wants to know about his parents, with Cortana admitting that the remaining population were sealed off on the planet to contain the virus. She is surprised by the emotions he feels over his parents, but they are interrupted by Halsey. He quickly explains the situation to Halsey, who decides she will accompany John on the mission.
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. He makes his way into the home where 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 marvels at the large keystone encased in a boulder.
The UNSC rallied to excavate the object, which was not only encased in a boulder, but sealed behind a crystal substrate. Master Chief notices Kai's new hair color, with Cortana chiming in that she likes it even if it is an act of rebellion. John pulls her aside to question her about when she removed her pellet, which was shortly after he did. She marvels in the new experiences she's had since and he subsequently benches her from the fight, telling her to stay in the plane with Miranda. She quips that if she's such a liability, what that could make him, then. Cortana agrees with Kai but Master Chief snaps at her to stay quiet. John confides in Jacob the memory he unlocked of Halsey being in his home while his parents were alive. He's not sure what it means yet, except she's been lying to him. Jacob asks if John has spoken to Halsey about it, but he hasn't as he came to Jacob first. Jacob's his captain who has always been there for him. He needs to know the truth now. Jacob admits they've fought alongside one another for many years, with none of them being alive if it weren't for John. His concerns are Jacob's concerns. He promises to look into the matter personally, but wants to get the artifact home first.
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 hears the sound but isn't affected by it. He rushes to the object where he stands until the noise passes. He returns to the main base where he asks Cortana, who is still there, to access his adoption records. However, all the records from the plague were lost, but there's nothing in the database about him or the other Spartans. The entire records regarding the origins of the Spartan program are lost. Now angry and intent on knowing the truth, he touches the keystone again. He is overcome with memories and answers to his questions, including the fact Halsey kidnapped him as a child and replaced his body with something that resembled him but wasn't quite right. As he recovers from the contact, Halsey emerges from the cave tunnels. He angrily lunges at her so she commands Cortana to shut him down. He falls to the ground in a limp state of unconsciousness.
When he wakes up, he's confused and learns of Cortana's capabilities to shut him down. He demands Halsey's location but Cortana refuses to give it. Slipspace is breached by the Covenant and a viscous fight ensues, though Cortana's helpfulness on the field is indisputable. John disobeys orders to deliver the artifact to Dr. Keyes' ship and instead, saves Kai and the marines from the Covenant ambush happening below them. His diversion from the original plan results in the Warthog with the Spartans and artifact inside crashing. The Covenant dispatch a large brute with a gravity hammer. Master Chief tries to fight the brute but is knocked across the field. The artifact is ultimately stolen by the Covenant, though they leave behind who Cortana identifies as a human woman.
Connecting with Makee
The survivors of the battle return to Reach. Kai's injuries have her screaming in agony as the pain injections aren't quelling her pain. Master Chief sits next to her as he holds her hand, obliging to Vannak's request to keep her still while Riz injects more medicine. She finally passes out. Cortana urges John to seek medical attention as the connection with the larger artifact caused quite the strain on his physical status. He tells her to shut up and tries to ignore her foreboding warnings and disagreements over his health. Jacob shares with John that the girl they rescued came too long enough to say she was kidnapped by the Covenant as a child and raised by them. She's willing to talk but only to the Master Chief.
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.
Once inside FLEETCOM, John meets with Makee per her request. He presses her for information but she doesn't have any to give. She tells him the location of where the Covenant might take the object, but has never been there herself. She wonders why he doesn't trust her, and he intimidates her as he reveals the bloodshed of his people at the hands of the Covenant. He sees Makee's arrival as convenient. He questions why he should trust her. She reveals that she can activate the keystones as he can as they are the same. She comes to realize that he does know of his role as a Blessed One, but not everything that it entails. He leaves before she can elaborate. He tells Jacob about the location and he launches a full-scale investigation into the planet.
John interrupts Halsey's meeting with a representative from the Judge Advocate General. 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.
Cortana continues to press John to seek medical attention but he angrily lashes out at her to leave him alone. She's trying to help and can help him find what he's looking for, but he doesn't believe she can. She tries to discourage him from touching the smaller artifact, which they refer to as the Halo, but John is stubborn. She asks what she's supposed to do now and he tells her to go fix a problem - the galaxy is full of them.
He visits Kai to tell her what he learned of their pasts and Halsey's involvement in kidnapping them as children for the Spartan program. Their bodies were swapped out with genetically flawed flash clones so their parents could grieve the death of their child. Kai is mortified at the reveal as her whole life has been a lie. She wonders if her parents are still alive, but all the files pertaining to the creation of the Spartan program were lost. John will tell the other Spartans when they are ready but not until then. He wants Kai to get better as he'll need her for what's coming.
He visits Makee once more, this time while she's getting blood drawn from Miranda. His hand begins to twitch which she notices. John heads to the ship for a health diagnostic, where he hallucinates Kwan asking if he's going to live. His status is critical and he must report to medical immediately. John heads to Miranda's new lab, as she's taken ovr for Halsey, where he learns that he and Makee have an identical genetic anomaly that Miranda believes contributes to their connection to the artifact. This anomaly occurs twice in a billion.
He visits Makee and shares that his search for the planet she gave up bears no results. As he spirals, Makee notices his declining condition and attributes it to his connection to the keystone. She suffered the same fate when the Covenant shoved lesser stones into her hands. At first, the visions were beautiful and alluring, drawing her back to unlock more about herself. The visions became darker and more gruesome but she went back still, drawn to the mysteries it held even as it killed her. She believed herself to be dying until the Prophets told her to embrace the visions instead of fighting them off. When she did, she was freed from the pain. She encourages John to reconnect with the keystone as he will be at peace when the two keystones are one.
John recruits Miranda's help in reconnecting with the smaller artifact. She remarks that she's been in charge a day and already has broken a dozen rules. There's more Halsey in her then she cares to admit. He thinks that's true for everyone. She asks him not to die before he connects with the smaller artifact when he has a visceral reaction, seemingly killing him. Makee mimics these symptoms on the other side of the FLEETCOM. From afar, Halsey monitors both their vitals, which are both out of control. As they reach the brink of death, their vitals suddenly return to a normal state, albeit their consciousness reuniting in another dimension, the Halo. The Halo is beautiful and serene. They make their way to one another as their vitals become identical, their bodies completely synching. As they stare at one another, Master Chief touches her cheek before ending his connection with the stone.
John visits Makee the next day, offering to take her into Reach City. He urges her not to be afraid, offering his hand at the shuttles. She is taken with the greenery and the way humans interact with one another. She recites a passage from a book a friend read to her as a child. He always said their places with tree, green grass to walk on, and lights in the sky. She remembers her friend and the kiss they shared. They walk to a group of trees that he uses as cover from the MP's and drone monitoring them. He reveals that he saw her on the ring, as she saw him too, but wonders how he did it. He just let go as she told him too. He wonders if that was the Halo, and she believes it has to be. She's felt a connection to it her whole life, like a yearning for home. He brought them there. John asks what it is and why the Covenant want it so badly. She shares the Covenant's prophecy that a great wind will take all those worthy to the sacred ring, the Halo, where they will be as gods. Those who are unworthy will be cleansed. She believes human life isn't worthy of this great journey, or anything, for that matter. John disagrees with her assessment. The visions he saw of of his childhood were filled with goodness, a capacity for hope, and love, as there's something special in humans that is sacred and worth protecting. John is called away by the MP's, leaving Makee alone. He learns that the Covenant glassed a planet with a population of three million.
He returns to FLEETCOM where he talks with Captain Keyes, as everyone is devastated by the loss. Master Chief thinks Makee can make contact with the keystone to find the Covenant planet, though Keyes and Parangosky are skeptical. Chief reminds them that he overcame decades of indoctrination so she can too. He trusts Makee, a sentiment that holds weight for everyone. John visits Makee to relay that the UNSC will let her touch their artifact to locate the Covenant planet. They trust Master Chief, who trusts Makee in return. He gives her the book she described to him. He pulled it from the archives and notes that others are there too that she can read whenever she wants. Even though this isn't the exact replica of the book she read, he hopes she likes it. She is touched by the gesture and places her hand on his chest to thank him. They kiss before having sex.
John comes for Makee later that evening to take her to the secure room for the artifacts testing. She asks what they will do when they find the Halo. He wants to destroy the covenant to end the war. She wonders what comes after with the Halo, and he isn't sure yet. As they approach the doors to the next hallway, Cortana speaks to John privately, which confuses Makee. He stops her and tells her to run to safety and look for a marine to stay with before he comes for her. She's confused but runs off. John faces the Spartans who want to apprehend him and bring him back to Halsey, believing him to be compromised. John tries to explain they are being manipulated but they don't listen. They don't need to take him back alive. Cortana helps John fight against Vannak and Riz, though he's underequipped for the fight and badly beaten. Kai arrives and helps John until they reach a stalemate. Before they can continue the battle, Makee makes contact with the artifact and sends an energy blast across FLEETCOM. John, badly beaten by the Spartans, is taken to the Halo where he sees Makee. She says goodbye to him despite his protests.
Fight For the Halo
After waking up, John is in a stalemate with Vannak and Riz, forcing both him and Captain Keyes to tell the truth about the Spartan progam. Keyes confirms the stories are true and his involvement in the kidnappings. This is enough to break through to Riz and Vannak. The Silver Team splits up, with John, Riz, and Vannak heading to the ship bay to stop Makee from escaping with the artifact. They are ultimately too late as they watch her leave the planet. Meanwhile, Kai tries to stop Halsey from escaping but doesn't succeed, nearly dying in the process. The Spartans recoup as they try to carve out a plan, with Cortana and John figuring out the location of the Covenant planet High Charity. Silver Team dispatches instead of the marines as they can handle the Covenant forces. The trip there is rocky as they are almost "spaghettified" by the atmosphere surrounding High Charity. Cortana also tells John of Halsey's plans for Cortana to take over John's body forever. She concedes to waiting for the less beat up version. They arrive with a stealth plan to a nearly vacant area. As they advance their cover is eventually blown, triggering thousands of Covenant forces to emerge from the grounds to attack them.
An intense battle ensues as Silver Team is quickly overwhelmed. John sees Makee but faces an onslaught of attacks from the best of the Covenant. Makee makes contact with the now-assembled keystones to save John. She succeeds as the blast knocks the Covenant to the ground and they proceed to kneel as they watch the event unfold. When she touches the artifact both she and John are rendered unconscious and taken to the Halo. He tries to convince her stop what she's doing, to let go of the keystone, but she believes this is the right course of action. She asks for his help but he refuses, knowing it's wrong and will kill billions. He continues to try and persuade her but she is set that this is where they're meant to be. She then collapses before him from a bullet wound, dying in front of his eyes as Kai stands several feet away. She doesn't think she had a choice. As the Covenant shift focus to killing the Spartans and capturing John, the Master Chief is forced to make a choice - save the Spartans or steal the keystone.
He surrenders his body to Cortana as she can save both the team and the keystone. She is reluctant she isn't sure she can pull him back or repair his psyche once she resumes control. He relents that he trusts her and gives himself over to the Covenant to attack, which forces Cortana's hand. She resumes control over him and demolishes the Covenant forces. Master Chief carries out the artifact and leads the Spartans aboard their ship where they take-off into the sky, having won this battle. Riz is severely injured so Master Chief silently cauterizes her wound before assuming control over the ship as the pilot. Kai joins him and reluctantly asks John if he's in there. Master Chief silently stares out into space.
As a child, John was a curious, empathic, quick-witted, and intelligent boy. He saw things in a way that others didn't and was dutiful. He had a special connection to the keystones that impacted his childhood as they swarmed his mind. He discovered a large keystone when he was young, and eventually, his father forced him to bury all the sketches, forbidding him from visiting the place again. John was later kidnapped by the UNSC and Catherine Halsey and subjected to dozens of mental and physical alterations. They put a block in his mind to prevent him from remembering his childhood, thus, making him a dutiful soldier. He questioned the antics but remained incredibly loyal to Halsey. This loyalty, bravery, resilience, and strength carried into his adulthood. His natural leadership skills helped him excel into becoming as Master Chief and leader of the Silver Team of Spartans.
Behind the scenes
Master Chief is based on the titular character of the same name, who exists in the multi-franchise Halo series. His character draws inspiration from the video games and novels.
- Halo: The Television Series
- Halo: The Television Series - Season One - Emergence
- Halo: The Television Series - Season One - Homecoming
- Halo: The Television Series - Season One - Reckoning
- Halo: The Television Series - Season One - Solace
- Halo: The Television Series - Season One - Unbound
- Halo: The Television Series - Season One - Contact
- Halo: The Television Series - Season One - Allegiance
- Halo: The Television Series - Season One - Transcendence