In "Bushwhacked", we get a look at the galley of the ghost ship where trays of half-eaten food remain on the table; someone (Zoe, I think) says there are no signs of a struggle. But there was a struggle, or ought to have been - they were attacked! By enemies not known for their ninja-like stealth and subtlety, I might add. Did everybody just get up and leave the galley to go hide in the cargo bay, while the Reavers went directly there without bothering to search anywhere else?
Reavers aren't exactly subtle, but they aren't stupid. The fact that they can fly ships and set up bombs to trap rescuers should be a clear sign of that. I wouldn't be surprised if the Reavers took pains to clean up after they got finished to lure in rescuers; the entire setup stinks of them acting to deliberately terrify the rescuers, possibly causing them to panic and flee and thus trigger the bomb that would disable them and leave them open for a follow-up raid.
The Reavers also tend to attack with melee/nonlethal weaponry, and the settlers probably lacked firearms to defend themselves with. That would have left few signs of a struggle, or at least ones that couldn't be cleaned up in short order.
They also don't tend to care about wrecking anything other than people. They're sadists.
Perhaps the passengers of the colony ship saw the Reaver ship coming and all immediately dropped what they were doing, locking themselves in the cargo bay, hoping the Reavers would be unable to find them / get to them.
This one assumes it was just to give a proper Mary Celeste vibe to the scene and try not to think too hard about how it fits with the Reavers.
This episode was our first real introduction to how the Reavers operate. It wasn't until the Big Damn Movie that we saw Reavers as Axe Crazy psychos, it very well could have been a Retcon since the show was so short.
It's hard to believe that the Reavers took the time to get a bucket, mop and scrub brush after brutally raping, murdering and skinning the whole crew. Even with melee weapons there would be blood stains.
See the Wild Mass Guessing section; my theory is that these particular victims were Paxed, and thus gave up without a struggle. The sole survivor may have been another kind of trap, a Reaver-in-the-making left behind to attack and destroy the rescuers and take over their ship as well.
Actually, I just realized the simplest solution to the entire thing. It's brought up in "Our Mrs Reynolds." The Reavers ran down the civilian ship, locked it in place, overrode their atmosphere, and gassed the crew into unconsciousness. Then they went aboard, hauled everyone to one spot, and did their thing once they woke back up. No signs of struggle, no blood, nothing to indicate what happened.
I find this likely as it is implied Reavers are highly methodical when not actually facing a human. Also, in the first episode they waited until Serenity passed to begin following them. The crew even had reason to hope they wouldn't be followed as long as they didn't run. Therefore, it is possible the Reavers are quite intelligent and in-control when not faced with the prospect of a chase or have a human directly in front of them (in which case they loose it and go into ax crazy mode).
Zoe's armor vest
Why is it that Zoe's bulletproof vest from the pilot is never seen again? Seems like it would be pretty handy, what with most of the crew ending up with gunshot wounds at one time or another.
She wears what looks like a bullet-proof vest in "War Stories," and considering how low-profile the thing is, its possible she's wearing it all the time underneath her regular clothes.
On a similar note, though, why don't they run into more people with these supremely useful devices? Sure, one can argue that the Operative might have access to expensive and rare technology via his Alliance connections, but if that's the case how did Zoe end up with one? And if she's got one, why hasn't everyone else on the crew?
Because it's wrecked ... that's the thing with modern armour. It stops bullets, but is permanently damaged in the process.
It was just a little dented. It could still be useful.
Cost, presumably. Also, most of the times when crew members have been injured by torso wounds, they've either been in situations where they weren't expecting combat (Mal facing the pirate smugglers, for example) or were noncombatants (Book being shot in "Safe," Kaylee in the pilot, etc) of note is that Jayne gets shot in the chest in "War Stories" yet his only reaction is an angry curse, so its possible that he was wearing some variant of a bulletproof vest as well.
It's heavy. It probably chafes a lot.
According to Word Of God, Zoe is an ex-soldier, not just a volunteer but a one time professional in her home settlement's military. She probably just kept the body armor afterward.
That makes sense, Mal probably sold his, but Zoe would be the one to keep it around.
Why are we assuming Mal doesn't have one? It's specifically mentioned in the pilot that the reason nobody on Serenity wants to deal with Patience is because she shot Mal. We never actually hear the story of how Mal survived being double-crossed and shot by Patience, but a bulletproof vest would answer it plain and simple, as well as explaining why being shot in the back by the Operative in the Big Damn Movie didn't seem to perturb him much either.
The gun the Operative shot him with was one of those fancy Alliance stun things, probably a handheld version of the one that Jayne tried and failed to blast a door open with in Ariel, not a slug thrower.
According to the official gaming guide, the armor is worth the equivalent of US$1150 today and would only regularly be available on the core worlds. There are only three other types of armor which are more expensive. Most likely, the rest of the crew simply never had the spare cash when they would have had the chance to buy armor.
That's a good explanation for why none of the crew would have had armor, but why not other characters who did have money or were opportunist (could steal it)? Surely, after the war, there would be a lot of surplus that people would just walk off with or sell.
Who said people don't have access to that armor? Niska's men seem to be wearing armor, and most of the rest of the people the crew fights seem to be either bandits or others who wouldn't have the money to buy the armor.
River's Combat Skills
Where on earth did River's butt-kicking prowess come from in Serenity? (the movie, that is.) The concept of River as a weapon makes no sense. In Ariel Simon discovers a lot of what they did to her mind, including the severing of... something, that meant River "feels everything." This just doesn't sound like a good design for a weapon. They put the "severe butt-kicking" program into her before making her mentally stable enough for even her beloved brother to control her?
And really, it was barely hinted at in Firefly, if hinted at at all, that River was a weapon. The stuff she displayed was telepathy, an aptitude for... well, everything mental, and precise around-the-corner aiming.
She was code-locked so that her butt-kicking would not come out until a specific code was shown to her. There are a couple of hints in the series, such as her aptitude with weapons.
Um, the series was kind of cancelled before they could do any of that hinting. Serenity had to compress a whole lot of plot points to fit into a 2 hour movie; plot points Word Of God stated would have taken a good couple seasons to fully flesh out. You wanna be bugged by something, be bugged by the existence of Screwed by the Network.
This still doesn't address the idea of the Alliance taking the brilliant mind of a 90lb girl and screwing it over, apparently having decided she's much more suited to Waif-Fu than, you know, putting her brilliance to use.
Presumably they decided that it was more important to study her telepathy, and then when she had her breakdown they had to do something with her.
The R. Tam Sessions strongly imply that River had latent psychic abilities before they upgraded her psychic abilities. All indications are that they were trying to turn her into a psychic assassin, using her abilities to hunt down targets and eliminate them, i.e. "She'll be ideal for defense deployment." Simon kind of slipped into the Academy and grabbed River while she was still "under construction" so to speak, and we never get to see what a "complete" Academy-created psychic assassin would be capable of.
There's also the strong probability that what the Academy was doing was generally new research, developing prototypes with new techniques. That would explain why River is so screwed up; if she's a prototype, then of course she's going to be unstable and unreliable. That would also go a long way toward explaining why they want River so badly, because she's the best product of the Academy, and losing her would mean losing their most promising prototype and thus years of research.
Further supporting the River-as-Prototype theory is what the Operative discovered in the Big Damn Movie, and the reason for the hunt: because key members of Parliament have been to see her. It's a small detail, but a critical one: why, exactly, have important people been looking at River? Because she is a new project. You don't call your bosses to say, "Hey, come have a look at yet another mass-produced drone, exactly like all the others we've made." You call them down to say, "Look at what I did, it's new and exciting and not like anything you've ever seen before."
The River-as-assassin theory raises the question of who they could possibly have intended to use her against. Sure, the Browncoats are probably still making trouble but if they were making enough trouble that the police, military and Operatives couldn't handle it we surely would have seen some hint of it. It's hard to see a government going to this much trouble (and especially this much risk of scandal) just in case. If the truth about the Academy got out (and were believed) it could spark off a second Unification War. That would seem to imply that the Alliance saw a very serious threat, and the Browncoats don't seem organized enough for that.
You don't have to be at war to want a really good assassin. The Alliance has some shady business practices—you don't think assassinating political rivals and opponents is on the table?
The 'Verse has a population in the multi-trillions with governments spread across about a hundred planets and moons and an equal number of space stations. The question isn't whether there would be troublemakers that the Alliance would want taken care of. The question is whether there would be enough assassins like River to deal with everyone they need to take out.
I think they were planning on stretching that out and slowly explaining it, but then the show got canceled and the movie was Joss's last chance to show everything he was planning so he had to rush it.
Its seemed pretty damned obvious to me that River wasn't finished when Simon rescued her. That's why she's mentally unstable; it seemed as if the Academy cared less about making sure she was sane than making sure she could kill on command, which is why they implanted all those control codes in her. She could be controlled by the Academy, but Simon just didn't know the control codes save for her knock-out phrase.
And besides, Firefly got canceled before the first season ended. It seemed pretty clear there was going to be some character development in this regard. A large part of "Objects in Space" was all about River's potentially dangerous nature. It seemed quite natural to me that all the speculation as to River's abilities and her unnatural combat prowess would translate into the combat skills she showed in the movie. The moment River gunned down those three men in "War Stories" should have been the moment anyone with half a brain should have realized what River was being conditioned into.
Its worth noting that River's combat ability and mental abilities only begin to really manifest after Simon begins treatment of her immediately after "Ariel" - see "War Stories" and "Better Days" for examples of River destroying things prior to the movie. It seems entirely possible that Simon's medications may have helped clear up her mind and in turn allow her to remember or have the mental clarity to use her combat abilities. The Big Damn Movie just showed what River is like when she goes on a full-scale rampage.
Even before "War Stories", we were already getting some subtle cues as to River's abilities. For example, watch "Ariel" and pay close attention to River while she's handcuffed. She's trying to slip out of the handcuffs, which is something we know she's capable of doing by the time of the movie. Not only that, but the camera is conspicuously positioned so we can see her hands while this is happening. Its subtle, but its there.
Despite what the movies would have us believe, it makes no sense for a spy (especially one who can find out things just by reading minds) to be trained in the high-exposure-risk job of an assassin. Spies are trained in killing and sabotage, but as a last resort means of protecting their identity, or for times of war (when it would be more difficult to send in a professional killer or saboteur). But the 'prototype' idea might explain this, or perhaps there was bureaucratic infighting between those who wanted River trained as an assassin and those who wanted a 'reader' (like one of those military weapons that end up costing vast sums because they're trying to fulfill too many requirements).
All indications are that she was intended specifically as an assassin, not a spy, i.e. "She'll be ideal for defense deployment." Presumably she would have used her psychic abilities to hunt down her targets, or would have been used in conjunction with Alliance special forces in that she would hunt down the target and they would eliminate it.
She would be the PERFECT assassin however. A target can't hide from someone who can find him with her mind, sneak up on him, and kill him in a second. The phrases were most likely used BECAUSE she was unstable.
Here's an idea. River's main function was to be a psycic, not an assassin, and the "butt-kicking" was intended as a defensive fail-safe mechanism. If River was ever captured by a group intending to use her psychic abilities against the alliance, they would activate the Waif-Fu, and either she would kill all of her captors or they would be forced to kill her in self defense.
I'm personally confused as to how anyone didn't see River's impending badassery coming. Between all the super secret stuff surrounding her experiments at the Academy, coupled with what happened in War Stories, and the crew discussing her being an assassin and a psychic, River turning out to be a Super Soldier seemed perfectly natural to me. It was very foreshadowed.
It seems as though there were some lost opportunities to give an earlier look into River's ass-kicking abilities, for example when she was being held at gunpoint (in "Serenity"), threatened with being burned at the stake (in "Safe"), or during the fighting in "Heart of Gold". I suppose the best justification is that she didn't like that side of herself and was too unstable to unleash her true fighting potential, but the gulf between her utter helplessness in those episodes and her Waif-Fu in the movie is almost irreconcilably huge.
Or it could be that the Operative's trigger code unlocked the full range of River's combat abilities, which is pretty much exactly what the movie implied. Prior to that she simply couldn't use her combat training to any real effectiveness beyond random spurts in her more lucid moments. The events of the movie almost outright show that before the subliminal code was released, she was unable to really use the combat training.
If you notice "Safe", she was absolutely calm even as the hill people were about to light her on fire- possibly because she could sense Mal and Zoe nearby, about to play Big Damn Heroes?
It should also be noted that even after River was activated by the Operative's code, she still didn't have constant access to her abilities. When the crew is trying to hold off the Reavers near the end of Serenity she sits helplessly in a manner reminiscent of the "Pilot" until Simon is shot in the chest. Then, as in "War Stories," the direness of the situation seems to make her lucid enough to force herself into activating.
I thought after she said "I'm fine" that the crazy went away, and that in that scene by the barricade it was as much a guess to her as anyone else if she could do it "on command". She could.
I think it has to do with what she knows and who is in danger. In "Safe" she knows that "daddy" is coming and even says "its time to go" right before the crew arrives. In "War Stories" when Kaylee is pinned down with her and Book and Simon are also in danger if those guards aren't taken care of she steps up. I think "War Stories" is important because she doesn't step up in the beginning by volunteering (not that they would have let her because of perceived mental instability and age) but only acts when there is no other way of saving someone else. The same goes for "Serenity" when she only gets into the direct action when her brother is shot and the others are pinned down and running low on ammo. She may be afraid of what she can do but willing to do it to help her brother and adoptive family.
I think it makes sense, you just have to assemble all the hints. We know River is telepathic and can use that as a targeting system when she shoots those guys with her eyes closed. We know she's got a good memory and intuition for physical activities, when she copied the local's dance in "Safe" (I think it was). At the end of all the hints we've got a girl with a great memory that could be used to remember martial arts techniques, she's graceful enough to pull them off and psychic enough to never get caught off guard. Not sure if someone's already said this but well done for figuring it out first.
Also, River can read minds, she's a very fast learner, and she was in the constant presence of spooky mad scientist types, the kind who would have highly trained guards in their employ watching over her (possibly the Blue Sun people). She probably absorbed the information from them, and the Alliance decided to roll with it and groom her badassery in case they need a badass telepathic Waif-Fu fighter. Alternatively, the mind reading abilities combined with her genius math skills makes her able to predict the exact movements of those she's fighting and counter them. IE, they didn't train her, she's just a naturally skilled combatant, similar to how Spider-Man's spider-sense makes him a highly capable of fighter despite never being formerly trained.
Fresh Food Being Valuable
Given that Serenity regularly lands on low tech planets, how come fresh vegetables are such a big deal and they all seem to live on processed food? Granted I don't remember seeing a fridge in the galley, but really they should be dealing with unprocessed food more often than not.
It's called "subsistence farming" for a reason. Most of the settlers in the setting barely have enough food for themselves, and it's made very clear that the Alliance is keeping a lot of the border worlds at that level intentionally. Low availability of food on the Rim = low supply, which increases price to the point that cheap processed food supplies are probably cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables.
According to the Roleplaying game, canned food costs the equivalent of US$125 per person per week. Fresh costs US$200, while "luxury" food cost US$50 for one "unit" - probably about what Book brought on board in the first episode. What the crew usually eats is a protein paste that costs US$75 per person per week, which comes in a tube and is often cut into different shapes and cooked to try to give it a different flavor. Given the state of cloning and technology in the 'verse, the paste is probably synthetic or cloned. There are no refrigerators because unless a crew is very rich, they will only be able to afford limited supplies of fresh food and will eat so quickly as not to need much refrigeration.
Probably also worth noting that it's stated in the series that the terraforming is imperfect, and that most Earth vegetables have very specific soil/environmental conditions needed to grow.
Even on Earth colonies in inhospitable spots (e.g. Antacrtica) have to wait sometimes months for the next shipment of fresh veg to arrive. Serenity spends weeks, sometimes months between systems where they can buy food (provided they have the money and it is available). Do the math.
And yet in "War Stories" there is apparently ice on hand to put Mal's sliced off ear in until it can be reattached. Plus when life support goes out in "Out of Gas" River mentions, in her creepy way, that they will all freeze to death before they suffocate. In short I'm sure there was some kind of cold place on the ship they could store refrigerated/frozen goods, it just didn't look like a refrigerator.
I think it is likely they have a freezer/refrigerator of some sort. In the pilot, Book comments that they should eat up the fresh vegetables he brought on board quickly because they just aren't the same once they have been frozen. Also, the infirmary seems pretty stocked and it is likely that some of the medicine they kept on board might have needed refrigeration.
Technically, stuff that's been frozen before cooking or consumption is not considered "fresh" the same way freeze-dried packets of protein aren't considered "fresh." Similarly, even if they did have some sort of cold-storage room or refrigerator somewhere, perishables put in a fridge don't last for weeks of transit time. Supply, demand, economics, and cost are still the big factor here.
Blue Gloves/Hands of Blue
Those guys with the blue gloves have this little wand that makes a high-pitched sound. That sound causes people to bleed from every orifice and die. Given they don't even have earplugs, why are the blue-gloved guys unharmed? It's not like a Neuralizer from Men in Black, either, since you can't really aim sound.
They seem kind of useless anyway. Slower than a gun or laser; just as messy; and (it would seem) more or less a dead giveaway as to who the killer was.
Works as a weapon of surprise. The Fed in the Ariel hospital didn't know what was happening until his blood started pouring out of his fingernails and eyes, and by that time it was too late. Plus it killed an entire room of men at once. Anyone who sees the weapon probably thinks its a recording device or something otherwise innocuous until the blood starts flowing from every orifice, and by that time they're already dead. Plus, if they've got Alliance sanction, then they don't need to worry about it being a dead giveaway who they were.
Why do you assume the futuristic instant-death device works by sound? It could produce nerve gas or, well, anything. Given the fold-out design it might create an arch of pure death energy for all we know.
You can aim sound. its called a reflector dish. granted they didn't have a reflector dish. Maybe it was the blue light that kills you, and the high pitched sound is a by -product. or maybe we are over-analyzing a plot device.
And who are those guys, anyway?
Its pretty bloody obvious that they're Mooks from the Academy as such we can assume that its not the little sticks that are killing people its the Mooks' psychic abilities.
It blatantly is the little sticks, otherwise why would they use them on their victims?
Perhaps they have some kind of immunity to the sticks, either as an inherent psychic ability or because it was trained/spliced into them at the Academy?
This troper assumed the stick was some kind of psychic amplifier.
You can't aim sound? well maybe it's highly focused microwaves or something. I mean, this is the future.
Technically you CAN "aim" sound. In that you can focus a sound wave into beam form...it's probably more high tech than is worth though and in reality is used mostly by physicists toying around with the notion of inducing cold fusion. Anyway it's besides the point since the sound "beam" wouldn't act at all like the blood melty weapon does. Look up Audioluminescence (I think that's what it was called in physics class) for more info.
Actually they ARE working on a weapon like that for riot control.
I would suspect that the device is supposed to be emitting ultra-frequency sound waves or some form of radiation from each end of the "stick," which would make it likely that it's intended to amplify or cause resonance at a focal point where the waves overlap. The "focal point" thing would also help explain how they can use such a device without damaging their own ears/brains.
Actually, the Word Of God states that they're mercenaries from the Blue Sun Corporation who were hired by the Alliance to get River (and eliminate anybody who came into contact with her). They were killed by the Operative, who picked up their duties (they simply failed one time too many). Check out the Serenity graphic novel for the complete story.
Not quite. They are with Blue Sun (though it's implied that Blue Sun also runs the academy), but in Those Left Behind, it is the crew of Serenity who kill the Blue Hands, by going full burn when the Hands' ship was right behind them. Ouch.
Basically, those aren't gloves, but full body suits. This is shown when they try to assault Kaylee and she rips one of their suits. Presumably, after talking to my med student friend, the sound is at the right frequency to cause aneurysms and the suit muffles/blocks the sound (although presumably it would need to cover their head too, but hey, it's a Sci-fi show)
Could be the suit-gloves just prevent the frequency/vibration/psychic wave/whatever it is from traveling up their own bodies to their brains.
The full-body blue covering convinced this troper that the Hands of Blue are at least part android. That would explain their blank faces and voices, their synchronous movements, and their immunity to their weapon.
There were more than just two of them. River's "two by two, hands of blue" tells us that these guys work in teams of two.
Or not, maybe there were just the two, and River communicated poorly. Not everything she says is significant, unless the Hands really did have Christmas presents hidden away on that little ship of theirs.
I'm fairly sure the Christmas presents had very little to do with the Blue Hands and everything to do with Jayne's greed. His greed lured him into dealing with the Alliance who then double-crossed him and took away all the presents. Particularly since she specifically warns Jayne not to look in the closet, it's greedy - she's clearly talking about him and warning him against his own greed, which got them into that mess in the first place.
Word Of God says there were supposed to be more than just the two. The commentary for 'Ariel' says that they wanted to get a different set of guys than those seen in 'The Train Job' but then they didn't.
I think the Christmas line was referring to Jayne and how, instead of getting the reward money, they were arresting him, too. Or the fact that the Blue Hand Group was about to kill the guy who thought he was getting the money.
That's exactly it. She's referring to Jayne's emotional state, and his situation; she knows what he's done because she presumably read his mind during the flurry of brain activity that the mediscanner picked up (that neither Simon or Jayne notice). He was expecting a 'present' - his reward money - but all he's getting is coal. Or, a jail sentence. Though when she further goes on to tell him not to look in the closet, she's presumably taunting him a little, or deliberately unnerving him.
Jail sentence? More like death sentence, since he's known to have spoken with River. In fact, so has the rest of the crew, making it strange that there aren't sonic assassins after them too...
Dude, there were Hands of Blue after them. Read "Those Left Behind."
Actually, you can aim sound, provided its wavelength is short enough. Low-pitched sounds seem omnidirectional because their wavelength is longer than your living room. High-pitched notes can be aimed very nicely. Ultrasonic notes can be aimed so precisely that they can be used to investigate the structure of a human body better than X-rays. And directional sonic weapons exist.
The Hands might have had countermeasures, such as white-sound generators in their suits to cancel out the sonic weapons frequency (or implanted in their heads for all we know.)
I thought it was obvious from the Hands' behavior, the ominous way they're presented, River's psychic awareness of them, etc. that they're something more sinister than normal humans. An early product of the project that made River. It makes perfect sense that the first thing Blue Sun did was make creepily emotionless operatives immune to a special brain-melting device that only works on regular non-messed-up brains.
They said that River was their "most promising student", but they never said that she was the first...
That makes a lot of sense to me. After all, their mission is to capture River, not kill her. It makes sense that they'd want a weapon that would kill the people protecting her and leave her unharmed.
Well if the Alliance already had the Hands working for them—who were possibly androids, cybernetic creatures, or advanced psychic ninjas—one wonders why they would bother with grooming an unstable 90-lb teenage girl.
Possibly she was an attempt to make a better assassin, or a more powerful psychic. As others pointed out, River was rescued before they were finished. It's possible that the induced mental breakdown is a part of the process, before they reprogrammed her. Maybe she would end up more like a psychic version of Cameron. Maybe they just felt that a small female assassin could have certain advantages, like appearing less suspicious to security personnel, or being able to fit into tight places like air ducts.
Why is the Alliance so Evil?
On a related note, why is the Alliance so evil? The agents of theirs we see are all dangerous, treacherous psychopaths. The Operative is the best of the lot because he feels bad about killing everyone (and see below), but Agent Dobson, Magistrate Higgins, the Blue Hands, the Academy, and Agent McGinnis all do awful things with no sign of remorse.
They aren't evil, per se. Basically just the embodiment of I Did What I Had to Do and Utopia Justifies the Means. The Operative and the Holograph Chick from Serenity basically say that word for word. There are always gonna be corrupt individuals in big organizations of course, but that doesn't mean the Alliance itself is evil just cause it has a few evil people working for them.
Just because they have the poor luck to come across the evil ones doesn't mean they are all scum. Besides even if they came across a saint in the alliance it wouldn't be that plot significant. Besides no one moral works with a project that involves experimenting on young girls over psychic powers.
I don't remember Dobson doing anything particularly heinous. He was doing his job, trying to bring in a pair of fugitives who were pretty clearly at the top of the Alliance Most Wanted List. He got a bit brutal, yes, but he was on a ship of a pirates who had captured him. For God's sake, Jayne, Mr. "Pain is scary!", was the one they sent to interrogate him! That's bound to make a man a mite jittery. As for Higgins, he was barely Alliance. His moon was on the Rim, the part of the system the Alliance explicitly doesn't pay much attention to. I doubt the Alliance much cares who the Magistrate of such a backwater world is so long as they pay their taxes and the ceramics keep flowing.
His beating Book around the head several times was pretty heinous.
He also trained a gun on and threatened to shoot Mal despite not having any evidence he'd done anything wrong, threatened to shoot Book for trying to talk him out of needlessly shooting an unarmed man, accidentally shot an innocent bystander because she walked into the room and startled him, later threatened to shoot her again in cold blood, and took an unarmed person hostage, fugitive or not. If a cop or federal agent did any of these things today, they would be in some hot water. If they did them all, it would cause a great deal of controversy in the media, and they would probably get some jail time. Also, the fact that the unarmed hostage was a mentally handicapped teenage girl is pretty bad morally if not legally.
Which brings up the fact that Book most likely could order him to stand down, being a former Operative and all.
He didn't have to worry about the media. He was free to do whatever he wanted. No one but the ship's crew to complain, themselves already in trouble for harboring fugitives for the Alliance.
You didn't see anything funny about the lying, nearly murdering-in-cold-blood, and utterly without concept of due process cop?
Lying: It's called "undercover." "Nearly murdering-in-cold-blood", if you're referring to Kaylee, that was clearly an accident because he was startled. And "without concept of due process"? He was trying to arrest River and Simon the whole time, up until Mal shot him in the face. As for why he beat up Book, well, Book was the one who beat him senseless in the first place.
Dobson knocked Book (who, it looked like, came to help him escape, fearing what the crew would do to him) out with the first blow then kept bashing him basically for shits and giggles.
"Without due process": Given the Space Western setting, he's a lawman on the lawless frontier, so that also gives him a good amount of leeway in his methods. Also, he's tasked with returning an incredibly sensitive military secret without its existence going public. So he probably has serious legal carte blanche.
The point people are apparently trying to make is that the Alliance willing to give legal carte blanche for these kinds of actions is evidence in favor of the Alliance being seriously amoral. Because while technically legal, these actions damn sure weren't 'good cop'.
You've also got to remember that in the series, most of the people who took extreme measures weren't working for the Alliance directly. If you want to compare it, compare it to America hiring Blackwater to handle certain combat situations in Iraq. Alliance tells Blue Sun to do the catchin' and Blue Sun takes their own idea as to how to go about that.
For Dobson in particular, don't forget he is most likely over his head. He has no training to resist torture, he gets highly anxious while trying to arrest Simon, and he is exceedingly clumsy when doing so adds little to his cover. The man got into trouble over his head, has no official backing besides seeing the wanted information on the Cortex and being a cop, and so he reacts to unexpected events badly. He shoots Kalee because he's jittery and he beats up Book because he can't tell if he knocked him out for long enough. The man's incompetent, not overly mean.
Joss said that hitting Book when he was down was meant to be his signal to the audience that Dobson deserves what's coming to him, but when I saw the episode for the first time, Dobson double checking that Book STAYS down was my initial impression as well.
In story-telling terms, it makes sense to have the alliance seem 99% evil for the first season then bring more complexity in later seasons. And realistically, the crew of the Firefly are largely going to come across arseholes anyway, because they will attract bounty hunters, government agents et al all the time. How "bad" are CIA operatives? Does that mean the US Government itself is "bad"?
I agree. Simon and River drag the Serenity crew into big trouble with a side of the Alliance that they may never have known existed otherwise, and it's not even as if they had a good opinion of it before.
The Alliance is neither good nor evil. It's a lot of people, who are themselves either good or evil, or a mix of both like most people. Miranda, and employing Blue Hands and the Operative, shows that some of those people are willing to do stupid or dangerous things to "maintain order"— making them WellIntentionedExtremists. Not evil, just the wrong kind of good. Or not quite clear on how to go about causing good.
While it's true that most of the Alliance people they meet aren't very pleasant, how many pleasant people do they meet at all in the first place? Most of the people they meet are either thugs, criminals, or both and, frankly, their not exactly saints themselves either. Mal and Zoe are appallingly casual about killing people, Kaylee for all her seeming innocence is completely unfazed by stealing and breaking the law, Simon is a criminal mastermind in the making, and Jayne is...well, Jayne. Desperate people aren't nice, and when you live on the edge of civilization, you're going to run into a lot of desperate people.
The simplest explanation is that Firefly isn't about good vs. evil so much as freedom vs. control/security or the individual vs. the establishment. After all, the goal of the Alliance isn't especially evil (even if it did cost the Outer Planets their autonomy, uniting the galaxy and bringing a sense of law and order probably saved millions upon millions of lives) and the goal of the Independents isn't necessarily good (I have to think that at least some of the Browncoats were actually criminals who only opposed Unification because they knew it would make it harder for them to operate). And of course, they did just recently finish fighting a long and costly war. It makes sense that there'd be a lot of antagonism still floating around which would account for why the Alliance acts so hostile towards Mal (a known ex-Browncoat) and vice-versa.
On top of that, there's the fact that Mal is harbouring a two known fugitives, which would tend to count against the crew's "just trying to get by" attitude.
Okay... allow me to rephrase: why is the alliance so bad at actually benefiting anybody? Joss talks in the DVD commentaries about how they bring medicine and other advancements, while the residents of Paradiso beg to differ.
To paraphrase Joss, "Medicine arriving on time makes for bad television". The Alliance was importing a significant amount of medicine into Paradiso, even if they one cowboy cop decided he had better things to do than track down the stolen shipment, it wouldn't even have been an option if the Alliance hadn't been shipping the stuff in.
Though the Alliance isn't out-and-out evil, they do strike me as being very corrupt. I mean, in "Bushwhacked," the commander of the Alliance cruiser tells Mal that his ship is going to be auctioned off to pay for his defense. That means that, if Mal had gone to trial and been found innocent, he still would have been left penniless as a result with his ship and property sold. Doesn't strike me as too terribly fair a legal system when simply getting arrested and taken to trial can ruin your life.
It's a Wild West setting. It takes place entirely in the "rim" worlds, the outer uncivilized territories barely held together by Alliance law and order. Of course the majority of authorities you meet out there will be corrupt, just as in the 1880s government authority in Wyoming was very different from government authority in New Jersey.
Actually... someone's assets can be frozen just because they're jailed in our legal system, and even with a free Public Defender, the trial will almost always have costs.
Frozen assets get unfrozen if the accused is acquitted. And there's a pretty big difference between costs like lost wages during the trial phase and the government seizing your property and auctioning it off without your say-so.
There's at least one decent Alliance character in the captain of the Dortmunder, who gives up on chasing Serenity for an apparent rescue mission.
Also, the commander in "Bushwacked" comes off as more inexperienced than outright malicious. Most of his hostility towards Mal is at first the reaction of a military officer encountering what he considered to be grave robbers, only to later come to the belief that they murder and mutilate ships full of settlers trying to make something of their lives. He's at least somewhat willing to let Mal help hunt down the Second Gen Reaver and listen to his advice, and when all is said and done, he lets the crew go unharmed. He doesn't let them keep any of the loot, but that wasn't theirs to take to begin with. When all is said and done, he is a Reasonable Authority Figure who catches them red-handed committing a crime, absolves them of another much worse crime they are accused of, and then lets them go.
Pretty much everyone was so busy saying that the Alliance isn't THAT bad, so nobody actually gave the answer. The reason the Alliance is the way it is, is because half of the people organizing were the future rulers of China and the other half were the future corporate bosses of the United States who then somehow moved a large part of their populations across interstellar distances. In the process, they abandoned old fashioned ideas like the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, the right to privacy. And then a civil war meant that half the 'verse ended up under long term martial law.
That's all neglecting to mention, we have seen "good" Alliance members. That lesbian chancellor that Inara serviced, for one, and that Cool Old Guy who protected Kaylee from the Alpha Bitch in "Shindig" was, if not a government official, at least a high-ranking member of society.
Eh, in the shooting script of War Stories, the chancellor indicates that she's part of the local planetary government, not the Alliance itself (so she's state government, not Federal), and even she's scared to do anything about Niska. The most she does is give the crew the dermal mender, which is why Inara makes a snippy comment to that effect, because she was turned away pretty rudely when she asked for help. The cool old guy in Shindig is "proof" that the Alliance isn't all bad about as much as Inara and Simon are, in that we have nothing to indicate that any of them have any particular connections to the Alliance government. They're decent people who have benefited from the security and services the Alliance offers (at least until Simon became a fugitive), but that's all we can say.
The Unification War hasn't been over for very long. With a large-scale conflict as substantial as that one was still in recent memory, we have a large military force suddenly finding itself with nothing to do but the occasional patrol around territory belonging to people they've been trained to recognize as the enemy and conditioned to believe will attempt to murder them and their buddies at the drop of a hat. Restless soldiers suddenly having to try and make nice with enemy combatants is a crapshoot, dependant heavily upon how traumatic the war has been for them personally, and can have any result from a perfectly nice evening with no problems, to somebody snapping and bullets flying, and everywhere inbetween. At the same time, the end of the war means that a lot of military guys are getting awarded for their service with positions in the higher government, which means that in addition to having projects like Miranda, the Academy, etc. still hanging around from the time leading up to and during the war, we're also going to see a lot of war veterans starting up new ones "just in case" those Browncoats get up to something. Just because the war has officially been declared to be over, doesn't mean a LOT of people in the Alliance aren't still going to be preparing to defeat their Browncoat enemies all the same. And that's not counting the government officials that began the war, presumably under the motivation of making the Rim "better" by civilizing them, from what we've seen, and thus combines the typical Imperial ignorance of cultural differences with an easily suggestible disposition that allows projects like Miranda and the Academy to be funded under the pretense of fixing people. Thus: Why is the Alliance so evil? Because half of them are still fighting a war that's been over for years, and the other half are the reason it started.
Christopher Hitchens did an interesting speech on how the world "evil" is not an exaggeration for some governments, and evil happens when said governments do more than they have to do to control the citizens, just because they can. The alliance already has a wealthy Core and a subsistence-level rim, but they exert control to the point that even people who aren't outlaws flinch when they see Alliance soldiers. The Academy, the Hands of Blue, the various operatives and bounty hunters keep the population in check, preventing another uprising.
And normal people in the states don't flinch when they see cops? No matter what society you're in Law enforcement makes people jumpy. This is partly because almost every society has some laws that most people habitually break (underage drinking, speeding, smoking pot etc...) and partly because the mere presence of cops, especially in an area far from civilization, usually means something bad has happened or is about to happen, or that they're coming to arrest someone who could be you. And every government from the PRC to the USA takes all measures necessary to prevent an uprising, uprisings are bad especially if you're the one in charge. If you don't think this of the US I suggest you ask Robert E. Lee or the indians at Wounded Knee.
The Operative Executing the Scientist
Why did The Operative kill that scientist? He only kills when he has to, which means when someone either presents a threat, or their death helps his mission. This was just a "you have failed me for the last time" revenge murder, which is far removed from his apparent character.
He felt that the scientist had failed so badly that his actions warranted ritual suicide, as he explains, which is completely within the Operative's vision of a perfect future.
Also, if the scientist is that careless with classified material, I can entirely see the Parliament ordering his death for the encouragement of others.
Exactly! It's strongly implied that he was slated for death by the higher-ups anyway. The Operative was actually trying to help him by giving him a more honorable death than he would have gotten otherwise.
This. T He Operative asks the scientist "Would you be killed in your sleep like an ailing pet?", which pretty heavily implies he's marked for death anyway. The Operative is just being in character - he has to deal with the scientist anyway to find stuff out about River , so why not give him a more honourable death than he would otherwise have while he's at it?
River's Gun in "Objects In Space"
Where'd River get the gun in the opening of "Objects in Space"? She doesn't seem to be carrying it before she gets into the cargo bay, and we never see her break into Jayne's room; we see her pick up a "branch" (from her perspective) once in the cargo bay, but who the hell just leaves loaded, safety-off firearms on the floor like that?
Jayne does, evidently.
"I don't leave my guns around, Mal, and I don't leave them loaded!"
Personally I vote for telekinesis or just plain theft on River's part at some earlier occasion. The one thing Jayne is * NOT* careless about is his weapons.
Given the number of firefights that have occurred in the hold, it easily could have been dropped and overlooked for ages.
Since what River (and thus the audience) gets to see in that sequence clearly isn't quite right, I tend to assume that she just walked into Jayne's room and took it, while accidentally reading the minds of the rest of the crew.
Yeah, pretty much. She had the gun in her hand all along, but only registered it once she got to the hanger. Jayne is careless about his weapons, because the only thing keeping them from being stolen is his room door (River is easily capable of picking/hacking locks) and a bit of curtain hanging up on the wall. In the worst case scenario, River could easily have grabbed some ammo and loaded it up herself without thinking.
More likely, Jayne keeps his door locked so people can't just go in and take his stuff. River likely raed his mind, got the password, took the gun, but didn't register conciously what she was doing (her Alliance training in action, getting her armed and prepped for violence), hence her confusion in the cargo bay.
"It was in my hand." She clerly doesn't know how she got it.
Alternate explanation: "War Stories" shows that Serenity has a fully-stocked weapons locker with enough guns to arm the entire crew even after Zoe and Wash take most of the weapons out. If the positioning of the staircase is correct (and my memory of the ships' layout is right), that weapons locker is right next to the cargo bay. River could have easily gotten it out of there.
Another alternate explanation: in "Out of Gas" we see that there's a gun in a holster attached to the Mule. A second gun if you had to fire a weapon from 'horseback' (when it would be difficult to reload) would make sense.
As shown in said episode, there is actually pretty good reason to have guns put in most unlikely of places in BDHs' line of work.
Inara and Mal Trading Barbs
Mal and Inara supposedly trade verbal barbs ('Believe me, I've called him worse') as part of their Anvilicious /UST-ic masochism tango - so when do we hear Inara actually insult him? I mean, she calls him a 'petty thief' - burn, baby, burn! - and then apologises; all other insults are faint-to-nonexistent. So did all of this cutting dialogue happen before the Tams boarded, or ...?
He makes constant comments about her being a whore, which she obviously bristles at. She views her job (as does the Alliance, which legalizes and, in fact, gives prostitutes high status) completely differently than he does.
That's an easy one: Inara lied. It's what she does, after all.
Hey now. I'm not sure she LIES. She has secrets she doesn't tell, and she has tact, which is what her claiming that she's "called him worse" seems to be. It's her, justifying his treatment of her to someone who doesn't know Mal well. Maybe if your name is Cordelia, you might see that as lying, it's possibly sadly delusional, but I think Inara thinks she's telling the truth. At the very least, she's trying not to poison Book's impression of Mal.
Inara calls him stupid all the time and they do trade barbs a lot. The thing with "petty thief" was more to illustrate the difference between "Mal and Inara ribbing each other" and "Mal and Inara fighting for real". There's a noticeable difference in tone between when they really fight and when they're just doing their daily dance.
On the DVD commentary Whedon notes that he intended Firefly to be much darker but Executive Meddling forced him to lighten it up a bit. So that particular quote by Inara may not be entirely canonical. Alternatively: It's possible that their relationship simply improved in the time between the first and second episodes.
Also, wasn't that "breakup" part of the deep cover necessary to con Saffron? I thought that Inara was doing that in order to set up something which Mal would later allude to in Saffron's presence, thereby feeding her the info that Inara wouldn't help. That was my rationale for the difference in tone between that fight and later sparring, especially as the grievance in question never comes up again.
Possible Fridge Brilliance: It may simply be that the insults need not be objectively even, because they are subjectively uneven; Inara, while offended by the denigration of her profession, is ultimately content with it, while Mal is deeply insecure about the morally ambiguous nature of his work and the people it leads him to associate with, and so wishes to avoid facing up to the reality of it, or at least not on somebody else's terms. Both "whore" and "thief" describe the obvious, but only Mal has a problem with people telling him what he is.
I agree somewhat, though I add that it seems to bother Inara more than she lets on, otherwise I'm not sure she would've gone all "sad-face Inara cleanses herself" in the pilot. It's possible that there's a difference between Mal is blunt and when her clients are blunt; when Mal is blunt she can simply be offended because he's not a client, but when clients are blunt, they make her feel like she is the insult. In either case, the insults ARE about equal, but only because both insults hit close to home about aspects of their work that bother them.
..."sad-face Inara cleanses herself"? What? She was bathing. You know, like you do in the shower when you're dirty? That had nothing to do with anyone's insults, she was just cleaning herself.
According to the commentary for the episode, it was symbolic of her having to clean herself of the insults.
That. Also, usually when someone washes themselves off after having sex with someone, that's not a sign of being happy with their partner. She looks sad, hurt even, while she's washing herself there. She's clearly upset, it's a great scene from Morena because she really tries to grab your sympathy there. Doesn't work for everyone but she sure got me on her side.
She never said she called him worse where anybody would hear it. Maybe she called him worse in her diary, or while angrily talking to her pillow, or while washing her hair.
When Inara says she's called him worse, she doesn't mean a 1-1 ratio of insults. He constantly calls her a whore. Despite her protestations, deep down, she no doubt knows that that's what she is, and is content with that. However, when she calls Mal a thief, that cuts right through his layers of justification about why he does what he does. He wraps the truth in excuses like revenge, economic necessity, or just For the Lulz, but when he is confronted with the fact that he is nothing but a thief, it cuts him deeper than when he calls Inara a whore.
It's actually the "petty" bit that Mal objects to. He doesn't have a problem being called a thief, it's the suggestion that he's bad at it that upsets him.
I'm not so sure. In the movie, at first he proudly tells River that "This is what I do," but when he repeats it to himself, he sounds pretty sad about it. Guy who's built around Honor Before Reason, who used to make an honest living as a rancher, might be inclined to think about how the mighty have fallen. And I'm also not so sure that Inara "knows" that's what she is. I think they both try to tell themselves that their professions are noble, when it's not always true. And it hurts when that gets thrown in their faces, like Inara helping and comforting people and not being at all whore-ish but then having a bad client treat her like one (and Mal being insensitive enough to point it out), or Mal hearing "petty thief" and believing Inara sees him as far beneath her.
I believe that "That's what I do" line was about Mal's inability to be a good leader. I mean, Ariel shown that Mal is perfectly aware that no plan goes smooth for a Serenity crew and he blames himself for that. The fact that he is a thief doesn't seem to bother him in any way.
But that wasn't the context of the conversation. Mal asked River if she was ready for a job of the thieving criminal persuasion. River pointedly asks him if HE'S ready. He's not asking River about her leadership capabilities and having her throw his own in his face, he's asking her if she's okay with stealing and she's throwing his own misgivings back at him. It's an Establishing Character Moment, setting up for the Operatives comments later about the dichotomy between Mal's moral nature and his roguishness. This is corroborated by the way he reacts to Inara needling him about thieving.
Jayne's Attitude in "Jaynestown"
Is nobody else bothered by Jaynestown? Actually, I should clarify —- I love Jaynestown, it's a great episode, but it seems like a really bad example of discontinuity. To wit: the amoral, devil-may-care Jayne is profoundly shaken by the Mudder's act of sacrifice, and it gives him A Lot To Think About. It's strongly implied He'll Never Be The Same Again. And then, one episode later, he's...the same Jayne we've always known. If I'm not wrong, we scarcely see any sign at all of a different Jayne until Serenity.
Actually, I am a little bothered by Jaynestown, for completely different reasons. About three days after I first watched the episode, it dawned on me that Stitch actually had a legitimate grievance. Jayne did kind of, you know, drop him three stories and abandon him to Boss Higgins' (non-existent) mercy. Four years in a box? I'd be torqued as well. Stitch never does anything that Jayne himself wouldn't have done if their positions had been reversed, and he winds up with death by blunt force trauma, mere hours after being let out of the box. I didn't necessarily feel bad for the guy, but it's awful tough for me to hate him.
Wasn't that sorta the point? That the Mudders were deluded in hailing Jayne as a hero, and that in reality he is, well, kind of an ass? He smashes his own statue to hammer the point home that keeping him a a symbol of goodness is stupid on the Mudders' part. That whole episode is about the uselessness of symbols, really. Jayne isn't a great symbol of righteousness, losing his virginity doesn't work as a symbol of young Higgins becoming a man, and then there's Book's poor Bible that River took to "fixing"...
In any sort of realistic context, someone who spent 4 years in a box that small would be too crippled to move. I assumed the box was a part time punishment, and he spent the rest of his time at hard labor.
Firefly is that good a show, to the extent that - much as in real life - events can inform a character's worldview without changing it completely. In the next episode, Ariel, Jayne is more concerned about River and Simon finding out about his duplicity than he is about dying - clearly this has been informed by the loss of his legacy in Jaynestown. I'd say it would be unrealistic for something like Jaynestown to turn him around immediately, and since they need to get the possibility of Jayne turning River in for cash out of the way at some point (after it was raised in the pilot), it makes sense to do it straight after Jaynestown.
Jayne isn't exactly the type to be introspective or openly emotional. I'm actually refreshed that the effects were subtle instead of the usual Anvilicious instant Heel Face Turn that most shows bash you over the head with.
I sort of took Jaynestown as less of a character change and more of a reaffirmation of Jayne's "screw everything" mentality. He starts to soften up, but then real life comes back and gut-punches him, and his reaction is anger and contempt for the mudders for being so naive as to think he's a hero. His speech at the end and his destruction of his own statue is Jayne's way of reasserting what's familiar to him. His little monologue at the end and his conversation with Mal were another scene where he shows how he's trying to cope with what doesn't make any sense from his rather selfish and nihilistic perspective. It instills a kernel of decency to his character, but doesn't change who and what Jayne really is.
And, of course, there was the fact that the show was cancelled long before Jaynestown's effects could be fully realized. Sure, he was the Token Evil Teammate, but his character development was canned long before it could fully blossom.
This troper always took this to simply be a stepping stone in Jayne's character development. He has this realization on an emotional level, but not being the brightest (OR DUMBEST— remember the pilot), he doesn't intellectually know what it means or what to do with it. There's a little bit more at the end of Ariel with the confrontation with Mal, but to this troper it was always the beginning of "The Message" that symbolized Jayne's next step. The wearing of the hat was symbolic of Jayne both wearing the "funny hat" (literally) AND the "family hat" it's just that he still doesn't think of Simon and River as part of his "family" until (likely) the very end of Serenity. Hats are symbols!
Another, fairly minor question raised by this episode is why everyone appears to believe Jayne dumped the money there out of nothing more than pure altruism. I can see people being shocked and dismayed that he threw his partner-in-crime overboard first, which is a dick move no matter how you look at it, but the fact that his aircraft was damaged and losing altitude should have been a broad hint that the pilot may have been merely jettisoning extra weight to try and save himself.
You're ascribing a rational response and thought process when the episode itself is entirely about irrational responses and beliefs. The mudders needed that money, and Jayne provided it, intentionally or unintentionally. Some people may have suspected the truth, but others would have believed a more positive interpretation of the events, and the mudders decided to go with the idea of an altruistic, romantic heroic-thief over a selfish thuggish robber because that simply makes them feel good and gives them hope for the future. Remember Mal's statement at the end: it's not about the truth; its about what people need. They didn't just need money, they needed a hero.
Companions and Swordfighting
Seriously, can someone explain to me why a Companion would be trained to swordfight in a 'verse where they're revered, therefore not in need of much protection, and where a gun would be a more practical weapon in a self-defense scenario, anyway?
Well, it's clearly a skill expected of the aristocracy, practical or not. It makes sense that people whose job description basically consists of socializing with the aristocracy would be trained in their pastimes. If aristocracy makes a habit of fox-hunting, Inara would probably know a few things about that as well. Alternatively, duelling is an art form that a lady of class is meant to know, like music or dance. Given that her swordfighting lessons are actually useful in a deathmatch, however, this seems unlikely, unless she picked up real instruction along with her fencing/kendo lessons.
It's not surprising that her knowledge would be handy in a duel, seeing as 1) the person she was teaching knew next to nothing about using a sword, so any lessons, even if they are based in a ritualized style, would qualify as "help," and 2) the guy Mal was fighting probably learned from the same people, or at least the same general school.
I seriously doubt Atherton Wing was trained at a Companion Academy. However, the style used by an aristocrat might be very similar to that taught at the Companion Academies.
And, of course, the lessons didn't turn out to be that much use anyway; the only reason Mal was able to parry for so long was that Atherton was toying with him.
As a practical matter, you can't teach someone enough sword fighting in one day to give them a chance against someone who's probably been practicing just about every day for their entire life. Even if Inara were the World's Greatest Fencing Master, Mal would still have been in a lot of trouble.
Besides, you don't think Atherton has a serious sword fetish? There has to be more like him.
Dueling is like fencing. In fencing, it's not dangerous or fatal, but the object is still to poke the other guy with the sword. And, from how the episode plays out, it's fairly obvious that duels to the death aren't exactly uncommon.
If duels to the death are common, it also explains why the style of sword fighting Inara knows is relatively practical. In aristocratic societies that really do fight duels with swords to the death, dueling is Serious Business. And the kind of people who teach dueling in that environment are likely to be very good at it. They will teach practical techniques as a matter of habit. If they don't, their students die and their reputation takes a hit.
Also, just because someone is revered doesn't mean that someone won't try to rape a very beautiful, elegant lady.
Yes, but a sword isn't the best weapon for that kind of self-defence, if for no other reason than you have to carry one around and they aren't that easily concealed. Besides, she has something else for that.
Except we don't know (and have no reason to assume) that fencing is the only form of self-defense Inara knows.
In fact, we know she does know other forms of self-defense, from the Big Damn Movie. She's shown wielding a bow, and even though he kicks her ass pretty handily, her attacks on the Operative seemed to be some form of martial arts.
She also owns an elegant little laser gun.
Or it's just a pretext for Inara to come to Mal's room the night before she thinks he's going to be killed. It's not like she actually shows or tells him anything terribly esoteric; it's equally likely she's bluffing the whole thing.
Her excuse to come to his room was to get him the hell out of there. He asked her to give him lessons, she didn't offer it.
Dancers and such sometimes take fencing lessons to make them more flexible/graceful. She probably took them for that reason.
Probably the best Swordswoman this troper knows happens to be an ex-ballerina.
Geishas were trained in calligraphy and flower arranging, among other non-job related skills, so there's precedent.
That and the fact that Inara is Buddhist. And since some branches of Buddhism practice martial arts for meditation and physical/mental conditioning, it makes sense that Inara might know a few techniques.
Sword-fighting apparently common among the upper class; remember that Simon, who came from an upper class, well-to-do family on a core planet, immediately assumed that Mal knew how to fight with a sword, based simply on the fact that he's a good fighter.
...Aw man, that just made me realize: Simon probably knew how to handle a sword. Damn you Fox, for canceling the show before we ever got to see that. Damn you.
Not only did I reach the same conclusions when I first saw the episode, but something else occurred to me at the time as well. Simon's already shown blade-wielding aptitude - surgically-speaking. What if that talent isn't just limited to his medical aptitude but is also part of a more generalised blade-wielding talent? That would result in him not just being trained in fencing because of his breeding but actually being good at it as well (I don't mean River-good, just good by anyone else's standards). Given Simon's personality, I would assume he'd only be interested in the fencing sport and not in death-duels, but then the rather Alexandre Dumas-esque feel of "Shindig" did leave me suspecting that death-duels would only occur on outer planets, leaving core planets to practice it for sporting purposes, and I could see Simon mastering it as a 'gentleman's sport' rather than for gritty fights-to-the-death. That would leave Simon with a general talent for blades but a preference for channelling that talent into healing rather than harming.
Whilst we're discussing Shinding and swordplay generally, and given that Mal is in a fight to the death against 'Ath', why does he observe duelling etiquette so precisely? For example, at one point in the duel they bind and go corps-a-corps, and then they break again like habitual duelists. Surely Mal's instincts would have lead him to do the smart thing and headbutt or guard punch 'Ath', rather than the 'correct' thing and break?
You know what happens when you break dueling protocol, right? The second shoots your ass and you lose by default.
The question, then, is how he knew what protocol to observe.
You mean besides having Inara tutoring him for a couple hours before the fight? That's the sorta thing she'd probably mention first off, along the lines of, "And if you think of attacking him while he's saluting, you're going to get shot." "Well darn."
A couple hours of tutoring may or may not be enough time to explain intricate protocols.
About a minute is enough time to demonstrate the salute and say, "Here's how you salute, and oh, if you try to attack him during this point, you'll be shot." It's not that "intricate".
I thought it possible that something requiring a handbook might have a few rules, and was just speculating on it. Also, I doubt it's strictly protocol to pummel one's opponent with the broken hilt of a sword, and it certainly isn't protocol in that instance to leave a beaten man alive, so Mal clearly does not know all the rules or protocols, which clearly can get pretty intricate and just plain strange. He could have easily made a slip that got him killed. Not to say I wish he had or anything, I'm always glad to see the Captain win the day, but come on, the man is constantly breaking the rules.
He is, yes, but in this case, this particular rule would've gotten him shot out of hand if he broke it. Inara, who knows that Mal's going to go for the advantage when he does fight, would very likely have told him that first off. I mean, "If you break this rule, you're going to get shot," is pretty important information. I'm not saying she taught him Everything You Need To Know About Dueling, I'm saying she gave him, at the very least, enough information on how to start the duel without getting himself shot, which is entirely reasonable.
Is it also possible that Mal might know a few things about how to duel someone, and not know how to use a sword? Granted, he didn't know striking Atherton was grounds for a duel on Persephone, but he does seem to have some spotty knowledge of upper class etiquette, i.e. how to dance. Maybe the reason the duel thing caught him by surprise is because he's more familiar with the "throwing down the gauntlet" gesture, or any number of social differences there might be between his homeworld and Persephone.
That's true. Mal isn't unfamiliar with the concept of dueling, it's just that the sword part threw him. Recall, when it's pointed out Mal's inadvertently challenged Atherton, Mal's reaction isn't, "Duel? What are you talking about?" it's "Okay, fine, it's a duel, get us some pistols." He's probably been in a pistol duel once or twice before.
Yeah, I noticed that line too, exactly what I was thinking. The rules about the second shooting you if you try something underhanded in the preliminaries probably apply here to a pistol duel too. Maybe, for once in his life, Mal simply knows better than to try something suicidal like attacking during saluting or taking a cheap shot when they bind then break. Unfortunately, he just didn't know ENOUGH to avoid challenging a master swordsman. When he started to get desperate, he started to fight dirty, but maybe in the resulting scrabble Atherton's second couldn't get a clear shot before it was over. By that point, it might have been in the second's best interest not to shoot so that Mal would spare Atherton.
Not sure if this applies in the duels in the setting, but in Real Life a lot of sword duels did, to a degree, involve some dirty fighting, at least once the duel actually began. Technically it wasn't allowed, but no one would fault you for punching your opponent or stomping his foot or gouging his eye in a fight to the death.
Dirty tricks during the fight proper would be a lot harder to spot for sure than dirty tricks during the initial ritual salute. That would make the second more cautious about intervening — if he's wrong, he might get shot or prosecuted as a murderer rather than a legitimate enforcer of the rules.
River Breaking Free From the Reavers/River's Physical Strength
Explain to me how River, who weighs 98 pounds soaking wet and whose fighting style is clearly shown to be heavily based on Not Being There, manages to start a fight already grabbed by folks who can't be dissuaded by mere pain and yet kill them all. I've got no problem with her killing them all; what bugs me is that she did it despite starting from a position which is the worst possible for someone who fights like she does. Kicking a Reaver in the head isn't going to make it let go...
River's fighting style isn't entirely based around Not Being There. Both her major fight scenes show her engaging opponents stronger than her by grappling and direct deflection as well as evasion, and in the Maidenhead bar brawl, she is grappled multiple times by opponents larger and stronger than her, and is able to break free. In fact, Jayne actually had her in an even worse situation than the Reavers did, and she easily defeated him. And its quite clear that the Reavers do feel pain, judging by how they react to being shot and stabbed and slashed; River manages to drop more than one of them with a single cut or stab to the chest, which generally isn't instantly lethal, yet most of them go down quickly, which would only be explained by feeling the agonizing shock of sharp steel slicing your body open. And blunt force trauma to the head would make an opponent let go, as, immunity to pain or not, a sharp blow to the head will stun and disorient the victim.
A precisely-aimed kick that causes the target's nose cartilage to shrapnelize into their brain will make anyone let go. The entire point of the scene is to illustrate how badly outclassed River's ability to "do the math" makes anyone, even Reavers.
There's nothing in the nose hard enough to go through the skull and into the brain.
Have you never seen a human skull? There's a bloody great hole where the nose goes. There's no skull for the shattering cartilage to penetrate if a blow is correctly aimed.
I guess you've never seen one because there is bone there. Your nose isn't just a hole into the inside of your skull, there's bone structures on the inside there, too. And cartilage doesn't shrapnelize. It's physically impossible to drive the bony structures around the nose into someone's brain with a palm strike or punch. You'd sooner damage your hand. You can fracture the area there, which might lead to eventual infection or contamination, but no, the whole "palm strike to the nose" thing being anything other than disorienting and incredibly painful is complete nonsense. Worst case is you fracture someone's skull slightly which would cause problems in the long run or you just hit them hard enough to give them brain damage anyway. The only special thing about the nose is that it hurts a lot when it gets destroyed.
A 98-pound mass striking the most vulnerable parts of your head at fifty miles an hour is a pretty significant impact, actually. (That's assuming the Academy didn't enhance her physically as well. Weapon X, anyone?)
Except the hardest it would be possible to kick in that position is, and let's be generous with this estimate, maybe 2000 Newtons, given the lack of kinetic linking while restrained, as well as River's apparent lack of muscle mass. This troper doesn't recall the scene accurately enough and is too lazy to check, but a direct hit to the head is much less lethal than an oblique hit (which will cause neck rotation, the real killer in such a head wound). That said, this troper does also recall a story told by an instructor at his dojo, wherein the instructor was being held against a locker at arms length, and escaped by kicking her assailant in the head from a foot away. That involved "being dissuaded by pain", however.
It's a sci-fi movie. She has uber-waif fu powers. Nuff said.
Also consider that the Reavers probably wanted to rape River. To do that, they have to let go at some point, and that's probably when she struck.
Just because someone doesn't appear to be muscled doesn't mean they aren't very strong. Elite military training, such as SEAL training, will often leave candidates looking less "body builder" but who are stronger than they were before.
River can do a lot of things real people can't, like read minds. She's superhuman, that pretty much covers everything beyond the normal that she can do. As someone suggests below, her attacks may have some psychic feedback aspect that can incapacitate or damage more than a mere physical blow alone could. Also, Rule Of Cool.
Some form of (very short range) telekinesis on top of telepathy?
And "apparent lack of muscle mass" means nothing when we're talking about the kind of modifications possible using Alliance medical science. Muscles are easily replaced with much stronger yet unobtrusive means of generating motion.
Muscle mass does not equate to power. Lots of bodybuilders have huge mass, but that doesn't mean they're more powerful in a fight. Speed and agility matter more in martial arts than muscle mass. Sure, power is necessary, but "muscle mass" has little to do with it.
Its also worth noting that in Serenity River has large and prominent surgical scars on both of her upper arms, and during the breakout at the beginning of the movie, the cut on her left arm looks very fresh. Its quite possible this was the aftermath some form of muscle enhancement.
The above explanations don't really make much sense, since Simon would certainly have noticed something as drastic as "muscle enhancement" in his first examination of her. Which brings up another thing that bugs this Troper. Through the course of the TV series Simon appears to have no clue that River has been programmed with any sort of combat ability, and becomes quite upset with Kaylee when she confesses to seeing River shoot three men with her eyes closed. Yet the Big Damn Movie makes it clear that Simon got the low-down on River's abilities just before freeing her, including her safe word. Though some discontinuity between the series and the movie is forgivable, it still bugs this Troper a bit.
Its not that odd, when you consider Simon's perspective on things. The very, very, very last thing he wants is for Serenity's crew to view River as a threat to them; to that end, he's probably not going to bring up any enhancements River has received in casual conversation, and Kaylee reporting River's lethality is going to make things a lot more difficult for him and paint her in a much more dangerous light. That reason alone is enough for Simon to become upset that her abilities are coming out into the open, and for Simon to not speak a word on River's combat abilities.
It's true there is some discontinuity between Simon's knowledge at the start of Firefly versus what we see in the flashback of Serenity. In the Serenity flashback he gets pretty detailed info from the scientist and is present while River is (almost literally) under the knife, complete with brain-skewering needles, pictures of brain scans on the monitors, etc. Yet later on in the episode "Ariel" when he finally gets her into some diagnostic equipment, he seems awfully surprised to discover that they "cut into her brain!".
Scanning someone's brain =/= mutilating it. I saw it as a bit of a retcon considering that Simon had seen her all needle-fied, but his surprise at the Alliance having actually gone and dicked around inside her head seemed reasonable, if a bit expected. That may have been outrage, not surprise.
Dude, I'm not sure that sticking a needle into her forehead qualifies as a passive brain-scan.
He also says in 'Ariel' that he wanted to find out "exactly what they did to her at the academy" with the scanning machine.
There's a difference between getting a vague explanation by a scientist in the middle of a covert operation (done by a complete amateur) where the primary objective is to ascertain the health of a prisoner before extracting them and getting a detailed, close-up look at the subject's brain with dedicated medical equipment while under no pressure. During the extraction in Serenity, Simon was too busy and the explanations the doctors offered too vague (the most they said was "she's supposed to be a psychic assassin" and mentioned "neural stripping") and intended for someone who was clearly a high-ranking government official and not what they believed was a scientist, let alone a doctor. He didn't have time to notice that they had been cutting into her brain and he didn't ask detailed questions beyond trying to figure out the gist of what they were doing and making sure she was healthy, and he had to cut that short once the doctors started asking questions about who he was and what his authorization was. In short, time and pressure meant he couldn't get the detailed information that he would have gotten in Ariel's hospital.
The series left me with a lot of suspicions. In "Objects in Space", watch Simon during that crew meeting. There are times when he's watching people like a hawk - tense, alert, cagey. When asked directly about her abilities, he becomes hesitant, vague and cagey. To me, he seemed to be deliberately downplaying her abilities - and I felt Mal sensed that, which is why he cut right through it to the 'reader' comment, after all, Simon had first-hand proof in "Safe" that River was reading minds. Even more interesting, while the locals reaction to it shocked him, he didn't seem particularly surprised by River's abilities. Even in the pilot, his initial speech seemed terribly vague - Zoe asked him directly how he got River out of the facility but he didn't actually answer her: money and luck, isn't an answer, it's a detail-free deflection. "Ariel" was an eye-opener for me upon seeing how familiar and good Simon was at breaking into Alliance-controlled facilities, it made me think that the criminal organisation, instead of simply being payrolled by him, was actually (if not put together by him in the first place) controlled by him. By the time "Objects in Space" came and went, I was utterly convinced Simon was hiding something about River's rescue and abilities. If anything, the film's version of events felt more like a confirmation of my suspicions than an actual contradiction of the series.
But why did Serenity's crew put themselves in that position to begin with? Kaylee said she could rig the blast doors to stay closed, so why not set up their defensive line behind the closed doors to begin with and let the Alliance troops deal with the Reavers? (And don't say it was to distract them from going the other way to get to Mal. The agent found the back door without tipping off the Reavers.)
The Reavers aren't animals (well they are, but they possess a human-like cunning). In the pilot it's said that "If we turn and run they'll have to follow, it's their way". From that we can guess they go after threats/challenges. In their worldview why continue searching the complex for victims if there's a whole bunch of them in this room here? The crew just needed to grab the Reaver's attention.
They can pilot space vehicles, they must have intelligence.
More practically, just because Kaylee could rig the doors shut, it doesn't mean she could do it permanently. They'd get through one way or the other, and then the crew would be stuck in a narrow corridor with no cover or room to fall back. I mean, River was able to open the door somehow, even with them locked; the Reavers would do the same.
River didn't open the door, she closed it. When the crew first retreated into the corridor, the blast doors didn't fully close. Simon's medkit and the manual controls to fully close the doors were on the outside, so River went through, passed back the medkit, hit the close button, and fought the Reavers. When the doors snap open, River is still holding two bloody blades, and there are Alliance grapnels in the outer wall. We can probably safely assume that the Alliance soldiers found a full override switch somewhere.
Also, the outer door was a much better bottleneck and they needed a clear shot at that to hold them longer.
River may also have some kind of psychic attack that she uses when she's truly cornered. After all, she does tell Jayne she can kill him with her brain.
I took River's comment as an intellectual observation, not a psychic one. In "Objects in Space" killing Early with her brain is precisely what she does. Intelligence, creativity and psychology are the weapons she uses to win the day. Yes, obviously being a reader gives her an edge, but I'm betting it's not having the psychic abilities that makes her so good, it's how she uses them that makes her so good - and the how comes from her creativity and her intelligence. In other words, she wasn't threatening Jayne with her psychic abilities, she was threatening him with her intelligence.
Actually, they address this in the movie. The crew isn't trying to stay safe while Mal does the work; they're trying to draw the Reavers away from Mal. If they closed the blast doors, the Reavers wouldn't hang around; they'd go looking for different prey.
The "Charging-up" Sound
This troper has been wondering why guns that are pretty clearly solid-shot weapons make a "Charging Up" noise. For example, Badgers' goons' guns in 'Shindig,' or "Vera" in 'Our Mrs. Reynolds.'
That bothered me, too. In Shindig it looked like an old German submachine gun being pointed at Mal.
The gun sound effects are really inconsistent all around. Mal's gun, for instance, which actually looks like a sci-fi ray gun (despite being a Taurus .38 with bits glued on), almost always makes a normal "gunshot" sound. So do all of the guns in the war flashbacks throughout the show. Other times, though, they decided to do the pew-pew noises, and the show just uses them interchangeably after the pilot. It's really jarring in episodes like "Safe" and "Heart of Gold" where big gunfights ensue and the props used are completely unmodified revolvers and lever-action rifles. "War Stories" avoids this nicely, the big gunfight at the end uses only standard gun sounds that I can recall.
That bothered me, too. It looked like a standard rifle being
Just because they looked completely unmodified doesn't mean they were. Maybe in the future it's considered fashionable for guns to have a "classic" look about them.
It turns out guns in the future use a futuristic "chemical reaction" rather than plain old gunpowder. At least that's the official explanation.
Because gunpowder exploding isn't a chemical reaction...
Obviously a different chemical reaction, then.
Official explanation be damned, this Troper formulated his own theory, in that the weapons used an ammo type similar to hybrid ammo from EVE Online, in where the weapon would either fire the slug itself or use the matter inside of the slug to create a beam. Of course, this still doesn't explain why Vera needed an atmosphere...
Vera could fire some sort of ramjet using, rocket-assisted projectile round. How practical that would be for a handgun, though, who knows?
Since it's Jayne we're talking about here, 'practicality' probably takes a back seat to 'power/coolness/overkill'.
I always thought it had something to do with the guns' odd recoil; the guns have enormous amounts of kinetic energy behind them but with very little recoil. This is easily observable just by watching how people wearing body armor are knocked off their feet by weapons that barely kick when their users fire them. I figured the "charging" was whatever fiddly bit in the weapons killed the guns' recoil.
The modern guns have the very same feat without any phlebotinum.
No, they don't. A gun capable of actually knocking someone completely off their feet and hurling them backward with the kind of force that we see Zoe get hit by is the kind of gun that would do the exact same thing to the person who fired it. It's basic physics. Recoil is a bitch with high-powered weapons like that. Especially considering the man who fired that weapon was not standing on the ground, but on top of a horse at the time, which means he would be pushed back and up by the angle of the shot. If he fired a modern weapon with that kind of power from that angle, the recoil would likely lift him completely out of the saddle. There's a reason why high-powered rifles are fired either prone or braced, and why heavier support weapons are mounted on vehicles. A gun that fires a solid bullet capable of knocking an armored person off their feet and tossing them backward, yet is light enough to be fired from horseback, and doesn't hurl its own wielder backward or break their shoulder or collarbone requires phlebotinum.
This troper always figured it was an enhancement of some sort - a basic weapon that perhaps uses energetic ammunition, perhaps feeding some sort of energy into the weapon's clip prior to firing. As for the 'pew-pew' noises, it might be the same but applying said energy-effect as it leaves the barrel.
The guns. I can't stand the guns. Okay, it's one thing if you go the Star Wars route and take existing weapons, frill them up, and try to pass them off as blasters. Stormtrooper rifles are really Sterling Submachine guns with doodads attached, just like Han's blaster is a Broomhandle Mauser with modifications. They didn't try very hard, but at least the silhouette was altered enough that only gun experts like myself would immediately recognize the original weapon. Also many of the weapons were mods of weapons dating from WWII or earlier, making them harder to identify for the layman. In the prequels they mostly had from-scratch blasters which looked pretty good too. That includes the battle droid blaster, which was actually a pretty cool piece. Then there's Aliens, where they made the M41 Pulse Rifle from an M1A1 Thompson submachine gun with a cutdown Remington 870 shotgun underneath, and spruced up with some SPAS 12 parts and other fabricated parts. Took some work I'm sure, but it looks pretty good. The Firefly crew mocked up a Saiga 12K shotgun to make Jayne's gun "Vera," which kinda looked gay in my opinion, but at least looked futuristic. Similar to his modified Le Mat revolver, which is a weapon dating from the late 1800s. Most people wouldn't recognize a modified Le Mat let alone one with a barrel attachment and rails on top. So that's another win. The vast majority of the rest of the guns are a range of real-world firearms. And it's uncertain whether they're lasers or projectile weapons. The same weapon will make "bang" sounds, spit out shells, and leave bullets in people (see the pilot, when Simon pulls bullet fragments out of Kaylee's wound) one episode, and then make "ptew ptew" sounds and shoot some kind of indistinct laser blast the next. When those guns shoot bullets, I roll my eyes, because I can't believe that in 500 years we'd still be shooting not only 1980's guns like Steyr AU Gs, but also 1880's guns like fucking lever-action Winchesters! Granted those lever-action guns are still in production, but that doesn't mean they'll be used as anything but hunting/sporting weapons in the future as they are now. I understand Joss was going for a Cowboys IN SPACE theme, but he went a little far. But then, when those SAME OBSOLETE REAL-WORLD FIREARMS are supposed to be LASERS, it's beyond eye-rolling. At that point I can no longer suspend my disbelief and I'm just gritting my teeth and waiting for the shootout to end. In a world with casual interstellar travel, hologram medical imaging with finger-fucking interface, a wierd little double lightsaber that drains the blood out of a human in a few seconds (which also kills my suspension of disbelief), and all that other bullshit, these guys are still using lever-action rifles and Uzis? C'mon. - Martello
They're all firing projectiles. We see exactly one laser weapon in use in the series, and that's during "Heart of Gold," and indications are that laser weapons are expensive and extremely restricted. Other indications are that possession of weapons are highly restricted, and that most of the characters are forced to rely on projectile weapons because of very tight laws regarding possession of certain types of firearms. The Alliance does not want potential insurgents toting energy weapons.
If that's the case, why do the weapons sometimes sound like "lasers?" Did you actually read what I wrote? - Martello
Because, as was noted in the discussion above your initial comment, they're some sort of futuretech guns with futuretech technology firing futuretech bullets. The precise technology involved is never really explained - probably has something to do with penetrating those low-profile suits of armor people like Zoe and the Operative wear. We know that whatever the guns do, they're powerful, as a single shot from one of them can knock a human off their feet from the full force of the blow, if there's armor to stop the bullet and absorb the force behind it (again, Zoe and the Operative) so there's obviously some manner of futuretech involved that makes the pew-pew.
Cheaper and more reliable come to mind? We have laser technology now, but there are more parts, more technology involved to create and maintain them. In an outerworld, guns would be easier made, maintained, etc. You go with the old faithful. It's like the AK-47. It was designed years and years ago, but the design works. Also, why aren't bicycles, ox drawn wagons, and rickshaws obsolete the world over? Because poorer nations find them more economical.
Given the future-tech that the guns are made of, they probably have some electronic parts inside, like a shot counter or some kind of railgun system, given that we rarely if ever see any puffs of smoke or empty brass/shells when the guns fire. The charging-up sound could be the systems inside the gun turning on, like the equivilent of turning off the safety.
Firefly Setting Space
I've often wondered what space exactly Firefly is set in. Not the literal co-ordinates or anything, but the setting was always kind of vague. Is is a single, really huge solar system? Is a a huge binary system? A bunch of stars all really close together that happen to have 'dozens of planets and hundreds of moons'?
It's a single solar system with many planets and moons. The inner worlds, which make up the core of the Alliance are in the inner solar system, while the rougher, more primitive worlds are on the fringe.
The "hundreds" line comes from the opening voice-over which also describes the FF 'Verse as "another galaxy", which it clearly isn't. Chalk it up to hyperbole by an Unreliable Narrator.
Unreliable narrator may well be the word - the voiceover at that point was being given by a character in one of River's crazy Miranda-dreams.
(Actually I was talking about the opening VO of the series. But you're right, the Serenity opening is equally iffy)
The problem with the single solar system idea is that there is no gradient based on how far a planet or moon is from the sun. In the real world, Earth is habitable because it is precisely the distance away from the sun where liquid water can exist. In the Firefly 'verse, the "inner" and "outer" planets are equally capable of life sustainment. Sure, they give the excuse of terraforming, but terraforming doesn't do jack when the singular energy source of the sun has radically different distances from different planets and moons.
Why assume the sun is the "singular energy source"? Maybe one reason terraforming is so dangerous is that other energy sources are needed, so radioactive isotopes must be mined to keep each planet livable. Or alternately, some means of focusing or collecting energy could be used— most of light or heat from a sun just goes to waste in empty space.
And "Blue Sun" might be more than a name— a Blue Supergiant star would have a much wider Habitable Zone than a dinky borderline-dwarf like Sol. Room for plenty of worlds, especially if they're not all in same orbital plane.
The official poster map that was recently released shows that the star system actually consists of five separate stars, four orbiting one giant central star. One of the stars is a blue giant, appropriately named Blue Sun. There's also 215 separate planets and moons. Assuming the "dozens of worlds and hundreds of moons" holds up, we're looking at maybe five to ten habitable worlds per star, with an average of about forty moons to each star's multiple worlds. A stretch, but with terraforming to explain it all, it works.
Having checked the official map, there are five regular stars and seven protostars. Most of the protostars have two or three planets (and their associated moons) circling them, while the main stars have anywhere from five to seventeen planets. The largest is the Kalidesa system, which contains seventeen worlds, but also has a protostar circling it in a stable orbit which could provide additional energy to the rest of the system. The Core itself is centered around a huge white star called White Sun, and contains eleven worlds and two protostars. The outermost protostar orbiting White Sun contains Persephone, whose elliptical orbit takes it close to the Red Sun and Georgia systems, which orbit on opposite sides of White Sun. Kaladesa and Blue Sun sit on opposite sides of White Sun, but much further out, with Blue Sun being the farthest from the Core. Miranda, incidentally, is in the Blue Sun system, orbiting furthest out, around its own protostar. That would explain why it was used for the Pax and why no one knew about it - it was pretty much the ass-end of nowhere, as far from the Core as a planet can potentially get. If the map's positions are an accurate rendition of what the state of the planets' orbits were as of the series itself (and we have no reason not to believe this) then Miranda's orbit had taken it as far from the Core as was possible for it to get at that point. If the distance is comparable to our solar system (Miranda's star is about fifty AU from Blue Sun, according to the map) then it would have been out there for half a century at least.
I'd like to point out with this that 50 AU in astronomical terms is tiny You essentially have a planet+protostar approximately 1.6 thousandths of a light-year away from a blue giant....yeah...sorry, but you can't have non-f* d up planetary orbits with stars in that kind of proximity. That's assuming that the planets/stars/protostars don't pull each other apart anyway. I have this great image of a planet sitting at the roche-limit of a couple of stars...
The Blue Sun can actually be an OB-subdwarf. Despite of what the name suggests, these stars can be larger and much brighter than the Sun (up to 1000 times), just not as rad-fryingly bright as the usual kind of blue stars, not to mention they last much longer.
50 AU might not be the most accurate distance on this map, as its shown from a rough overhead angle, and the 50 AU was just a very conservative guesstimate. Its more likely 70 to 100 AU. Blue Sun also doesn't appear to be a blue giant; they just call it "Blue Sun" for some reason, and it appears to be about the same size as most of the other stars in the cluster.
That's assuming that 1.) the map is accurate and 2.) it's to scale. Neither is a given. Also, note that in one episode (have to check) there's a background space shot what looks like a planet(oid) forming or collecting out of asteroids— maybe the reason there's so many worlds is that they build new ones.
The map is official, so I assume its accurate. And the map is to scale, as it has a scaling marker in the upper right-hand corner.
Any solar system with multiple suns is going to have a very different looking sky than the one seen from Earth-That-Was. Views of the sky from the various visited worlds in the series, both day and night views, show no evidence that I've seen of multiple nearby suns unless I missed something.
There doesn't need to be multiple suns seen. Q Mx white papers had solar masses listed next to all the stars involved (which yes, probably means blue sun is not a blue star by the main sequence understanding), and orbital distances for all the planets. So I ran some luminosity calculations on some of the outer planets versus their central star, and for most of them the star would look about like the sun does from Pluto. With the other stars being even further away than that, yeah, the multiple star thing wouldn't really come up. The most issue you could have might be in system when they've helioformed some gas giants, but with the respective radius of those so small and the distances in question, I'm not sure they'd be much brighter than another planet except to the worlds in their immediate orbit.
There's no really good shot of the night sky at any point in the series, and there's only a few actual shots of a star during daytime, none of which is particularly indicative - and a daytime star would have blotted out any other stars in the sky especially if they're dwarf stars. There are no binary or larger star systems in the 'Verse either (just single stars with a number of protostars circling them), so either way you aren't going to see a Star Wars-eque multi-sun sunset anyway. That being said, the "Official Map of the 'Verse" is called "official" for a reason; it is considered canon by Whedon.
If all these stars are large enough to support terraformable planetary systems and they are all in orbit around each other then these stars will be very prominent in daytime skies much less nighttime ones.
Not necessarily. We never see more than a single star at any time in the skies of any of the planets in the series, though that may have simply been a single star showing at any given point. Only two of the stars (Kalidesa and Georgia) are yellow stars, and the others are white, red, or blue ones, and we haven't seen any white, red, or blue star. Georgia and Kalidesa are on opposite sides of the 'verse, too, so we're only going to see one prominent yellow star.
Also, Kalidesa and Red Sun are on opposite sides of White Sun, so they'd be nearly impossible to see from each other's locations. The stars are also appear to be positioned so that, should the main star be visible in the daytime sky, the other stars will only be visible in the nighttime sky or will be masked by the main star of the system. For example, this applies to Whitefall, which is the only point in the series where we actually have an explicit shot of a star.
Not to mention that even though we don't see an explicit shot of multiple stars, it doesn't mean there aren't ever multiple stars in the sky. We just never saw any during the course of the series.
Doesn't much if not all of Firefly take place in the relatively unregulated peripheral areas of the star system, outside of the Alliance's attention? So from this, couldn't it be possible that while more centralized planets and moons may well have multiple suns, Serenity often happens to be so far out that they're only ever within the vicinity of just one star?
In the episode Trash, Inara holds Saffron up with the laser gun (lasiter) they pilfered from that rich guy. In true Firefly manner, the gun fails to work, but the way they present it, it's because the gun is unreliable piece of over-engineered fancy crap, instead of say, not kept loaded because it was a display piece.
Actually, Inara's commentary implies that the Lassiter didn't work because it was really old.
As she put it, 'I wonder if this still works.'
Doesn't change the fact that it shouldn't have been loaded anyways.
Just because it shouldn't be loaded doesn't mean it won't be loaded; after all, this is the private gallery of an ex-Alliance officer we're talking about; he doesn't have to follow the rules. Besides, it its an energy weapon, its possible that it could be "loaded" by plugging it into a power generator.
How do you 'load' it? It's a laser gun... As far as this troper's aware, those things are basically 'on' or 'off'. I figured it just ran out of energy.
I would guess you load it in the same way as the modern one in 'Heart of Gold' : 'Check Battery'.
I get the sense Inara just wanted to screw with Saffron. The first rule of firearm safety is "treat every gun as if it's loaded", and that includes ones pointed at you.
"Fancy"? How can it be "fancy"? It's valuable because it's the first functioning laser pistol ever made. (Presumably the one they have isn't * the* first pistol ever designed, but a member of the first production run ever made.) Not that looks mean anything, but it doesn't * look* fancy — it looks like a functional piece of high-tech equipment that's incredibly old and dusty. Inara's own pistol is far more stylized and artistically designed.
They didn't say it was the first laser pistol, just the first modern laser pistol.
It could simply be the oldest surviving one from Earth-That-Was, and a degree of Future Imperfect kicked in; it's old, it's a laser, if it ain't the first no-one'll know the difference. (Besides, wasn't it Saffron who told us it was the first? As in, the Saffron who's been married to at least three people under three different names and appears to have Chronic Backstabbing Disorder?)
I would disbelieve Saffron, except that Jayne immediately sat up and took notice at the word 'Lasiter.' Jayne knows guns.
In the pilot episode, it's heavily implied that all Simon did to break River out was pay "some underground group", who put her in cryo and handed her over. Yet in the movie, we see Simon personally infiltrating the Academy and kicking some ass.
Simon is probably somewhat reluctant to confess to capital crimes in front of total strangers. 'I hired some mercenaries to get my sister back, they didn't tell me how' incriminates you a lot less than 'I personally bribed Alliance officials, impersonated a high-ranking Alliance officer, forged top-secret clearance, and broke into a government black ops facility and started punching out the guy in charge and throwing stun grenades around.'
I think it's more that nothing about Simon gives you the impression he could pull off that kind of ass-kicking, given in the episode where they broke Mal out of that insane Russian guy's fortress, he says "I've never killed anyone before", and Book quips that he watched him shoot and his record is still intact.
What ass kicking? Simon's infiltration of that base is an epic feat of social engineering, in that he pulled off an exceptionally difficult con job to get as far as he did. This plays to one of Simon's strengths... his ability to convincingly act like an upper-class Core citizen (as he is one). His actual physical violence in that sequence is limited to dropping one stun grenade and punching out one unarmed scientist who's even wimpier than he is. Indeed, the entire dichotomy is an illustration for Simon's biggest limitation - his ability to adapt to unfamiliar social environments is virtually nonexistent. But as long as there's a set of rules on how one is 'supposed' to act in a given environment and he already knows what the rules are, then he's a calm, alert borderline genius. Witness his behavior when needed as a doctor, no matter how horrible the situation around him is - Simon is intimately familiar with 'the rules' on 'how a doctor should behave with his patients', and those rules have a subchapter on remaining functional during crisis situations. Or, ask him to try impersonating a member of the highest levels of Alliance society, in a situation where an unconvincing act will get him killed? He can do that, he knows exactly how such a person should act. But ask him to go to a frontier world and just try to talk to ordinary people? Nobody's ever formally taught him how to do that, and so, he can't.
Sadly, then, it seems the future has not remedied our own society's regrettable paucity on clear, formally-written-out sets of reliable rules for asking girls out.
Simon's probably entirely able to ask girls out — in the context of upper-class Core society formal courting rituals. Of course, such knowledge is beyond useless to him while on Serenity, given that the only other person who'd even recognize any of them is Inara and she's not the woman he likes.
He says in 'Jaynestown' that his way of showing respect is the only way he has of showing Kaylee that he likes her.
In the pilot, he specifically says he used money and luck to infiltrate the place, and that the underground group would help him smuggle River out of the Academy and get him to Persephone. That's exactly what they did; Simon simply left out the part where he took all the risks, which is in my opinion a mistake on his part; if he'd told Mal and the others the entire story, he probably would have earned some serious respect points from the rest of the crew for being that gutsy.
This is actually explicitly a retcon. They thought it would be a better way to introduce the movie to people who hadn't seen the series.
Even if its a retcon, it still fits in with what what Simon says in the pilot. He simply left out some details, or was not telling the exact truth.
Still, he was established as a Non-Action Guy, so seeing him kick ass like he did seemed so... out of character.
Not really; in the pilot we see him leap off a catwalk onto Dobson's back and fight with Dobson for his gun. In "Safe" he fights off half the witch-burning mob, and in "Ariel" he incapacitates one of the police officers holding them prisoner. In "Objects in Space" he attcks Early twice, the second time after he's been shot in the leg. In "Those Left Behind" he beats one of the Blue Hands over the head with one of Jayne's bench weights *
For those unfamiliar with weightlifting, the bar alone weighs 45 lbs.
. The common thread binding all these together is that he's protecting River, so it shouldn't be much of a shocker that when Simon is rescuing her, he proves much more dangerous than one would expect.
In the pilot, Simon actually says that he was never entirely sure that the box even contained River until Mal kicked it open, so this is in fact a retcon that functioned as a superior movie opening. However, Joss has given the simple explanation of 'Simon was lying to the crew in the pilot', which this troper finds totally buyable. To Simon, Serenity's crew is a bunch of hardcore outer-rim smugglers who are not currently looking upon him very favourably, so, letting them know that you had the skills, contacts and sheer balls to infiltrate a top-secret Alliance facility and steal their valuable experimental subject from them would most likely make him appear even more dangerous. Much safer to simply portray yourself as the rich kid who did nothing but pay the underground group.
Um, where, exactly, did Simon say he didn't know River was in the box?
He didn't. That would have been really, really stupid, to go to all the trouble of smuggling it around when you didn't even know if she was in there? Methinks that troper was sorely mistaken.
Seems I was partly mistaken - that line is real, but it's only in the shooting script. I must've been reading that and gotten it mixed up. It originally would have been in Simon's explanation scene, right before Inara saying "Will she be alright"? The exact dialogue was:
Mal: "How did you know it wasn't a scam?"
Simon: "I didn't. Until you opened that box."
In general, Simon isn't a very effective fighter because he's too much of a planner. That makes him brilliantly effective at things like infiltrating a military research facility or stealing medical supplies from a hospital ("Ariel"). But when he gets into a fight, his plan usually breaks down the first time someone hits him or does something unexpected. What makes him a Non-Action Guy isn't that he's incapable of violence. It's that he's only effective at violence if he can plan out his attack in advance. He's an ambusher, not a brawler.
Simon actually has a fantastic ability to manipulate people that goes far beyond what he presents outright. He tells the crew his story well enough that no one questions it and he presents exactly the kind of image he wants to present: a charming little rich boy who loves his sister but lacks the skills to protect her himself. Suddenly he has a group of bodyguards for River that already don't like the Alliance. Simon himself is Alliance, and as such has a similar mentality: sacrifices can be made for the greater good (in this case, River). Most of the crew is, relative to River, completely cannon fodder. He does his job with exceptional skill mostly so they'll keep him and River around and keep them out of danger. As time goes on, he becomes more and more part of the "family," while remembering his real goal: River. Which is why he's willing to pretend to buy mud for the sake of the crew, but doesn't display his acting skills, because they'll use him again, and then River might be in danger. In short, Simon is badass only when River is involved.
I think there might have been more about this during the series that was cut or whatever. Remember Wash's "What happened to the diabolical master of disguise" or something along those lines in Jaynestown when Simon is posing as a buyer. He almost certainly wasn't talking about his "disguise" in the pilot, but if Simon had filled them in on the details of busing river out (impersonating an Alliance official) it certainly would evoke that kind of response when he can't deal with the people on the mud planet (Jeebus, I almost said "mud people" there.)
Wash's line is a sarcastic "Who is this diabolical master of disguise?" He's not referring to any past disguise, he's just mocking Simon for being such a boob. It's like calling someone "genius" when they've just stapled their own tie to their desk.
Going Back to Mr. Universe's Moon
Why on earth was it necessary for the crew to go back to Mr. Universe's place at all? (Other than dramatic tension.) Why couldn't they have uploaded the contents of the disk from where they were?
Where to? The Alliance blew up all their safehouses, remember? And they'd be watching the ports and things. If they just went about transmitting it from place to place, the Alliance would have caught up and killed everyone who had seen it. They should have found an out-of-the-way place to store a copy in case the Mr. Universe thing failed, but there really was no way they could have easily propagated it through the entire system besides Mr. Universe's place.
"Why couldn't they just upload the contents of the disc from where they were?" The answer should be pretty obvious: "Its a fair bet the Alliance knows about Mr. Universe." Mal was expecting the Alliance had gotten to Mr. Universe in the first place; why else would he have goaded the Reavers into chasing him if he didn't believe the Alliance had already either copted or killed Universe? He knew he would have to go there and physically upload the data, because if he just transmitted it to Mr. Universe, the Alliance would have never allowed it to be distributed.
Mr. Universe was the only person with the technology to broadcast it far and wide simultaneously. The crew could have transmitted it, but the Alliance would have intercepted and shut down their transmissions after a few seconds. Mr. Universe have the equipment to put the message on "every screen for a dozen worlds." Everything from an iPhone to those big TVs in Times Square would be showing the message at the same time, making it impossible to intercept and coverup.
Mr. Universe's Moon in General
More to the point, why would Mr Universe set up his signal-interception station on a planet that blocks electronic signals? (eg. radar informing you that a massive fleet of pissed off Reavers is heading your way)
He didn't set up shop on a planet that blocks electronic signals; it seems obvious that it's all his broadcasts that create the ion cloud in the first place, from the sheer volume of signals going out.
How would broadcasts create a static ion cloud? Firefly may play a bit with physics, but the idea that transmissions would somehow generate a barrier of charged particles that block radar signals is kind of silly.
Is is explicitly stated that the cloud blocks radar signals? I thought from that scene that the Alliance didn't see the Reavers because their radar was off, as they were trying to set an ambush.
Yes, Mr. Universe explicitly states that the cloud blocks radar signals, when they're talking about going to his moon to deliver the message.
"You're gonna get caught in the ion cloud. It'll play mary-hob with your radar."
More likely, Mr. Universe chose that moon because of the ion cloud; he's a secretive hermit, so it would make sense that he'd set up in there. Presumably, his massive array of ground-based transmission equipment would give him the power he'd need to boost a signal straight through the cloud.
Honestly, if you're broadcasting that many signals at once, the last place I'd look for you is behind a signal-blocking ion cloud. He's secretive, and probably picked that moon to hide himself.
The novel of the movie has a semi-canon description of how and why Mr. Universe acquired his moon.
Causes for River's Insanity
In the movie, they say that River went insane after finding out about Miranda, and is healed when she learns of it again. But what about the tests- I thought that's what made her go crazy?
The experiments she went through drove her insane, due to both the trauma and the direct physical damage to her brain. Mal's comment that the Miranda secret "burned up" her brain is an off-hand comment by a man who doesn't know anything about the human brain or even what was done to her, and is just a guess on his part. The Miranda secret may have exacerbated her madness, but it wasn't the only cause.
The Operative does mention her 'deteriorating mental state' at the beginning of the movie, and the shooting script has him saying she got worse after being shown off to Parliament, but I didn't think that ever implied that her issues were caused exclusively by the Miranda secret. They stripped her amygdala, that's bound to mess anyone up.
The way I always saw it was that when River said "I'm okay" she didn't mean that her schizophrenia was completely cured, but that the immediate severe psychosis she had been undergoing for much of the film had been resolved, and she was back in the state that she was in during the series. In all likelihood, the use of her trigger, combined with the very recent and very close encounter with Reavers would have brought the memory of Miranda to the forefront of her mind, where it tormented her and drove her into deeper psychosis, and she was unable to repress it (mutilated amygdala and all). She was also not lucid enough to clearly enunciate her problem to the crew (if you listen to her statements, its clear that she was talking about Miranda and the Reavers all along). Once she made them know what she knew, it was no longer the focus of her entire mind, and she was able to return to her previous state (albeit with any mental blocks to her combat abilities removed). Quite possibly, River knows all manner of secrets that would render her incoherent if she were forced to lend all of her attention to them.
The experiments conducted on River clearly loosened her grip with reality, but "insane" is not a binary state of being. For most of the show her state of mind was generally a bit nuts, punctuated by some extended lucid periods from time to time, depending on what medications Simon was treating her with, and other internal and external factors. It seems pretty evident that the Operative's trigger (the subliminally-embedded Oaty Bar commercial) was a massive trauma (when she regains consciousness on Serenity, her first conversation involves begging Simon to kill her). That initially drove her even more crazy, but the jarring loose of the memory of Miranda (an unintended side-effect of the trigger) gave her something concrete to focus on to face and eventually resolve the larger trauma (though we don't know how "cured" she is, just that after the battle with the Reavers she experiences an unusually long lucid period).
The notion that River can never be cured is a little odd. The series established that most of her mental problems stemmed from what is basically a traumatic brain injury. The 'Verse has fairly advanced nerve regeneration technology (good enough for Mal to still be athletic after a spinal cord injury during the war) which could in theory heal the structural damage to River's brain. Post-Ariel Simon designed a new, unexplained, course of treatment for River that he was surprised didn't work. If he had her on some sort of regenerative therapy, it could be that by the time of the movie it was purely psychological trauma that River was dealing with (which she apparently worked through with lots of violence).
Mal didn't have a spinal cord injury that had to be regenerated that I'm aware of. He had a "nerve cluster" that was moved or by passed somehow that made kidney shots ineffective. I think the main problem with this theory is a question of where they can get the means for some kind of regeneration treatment, assuming that exists. There's a rather significant difference between psychiatric meds, which is what she was on based on their comments about the dulled efficacy over time, and regenerative medicine. Even in the future I imagine psychiatric meds would be quite a bit more cost-prohibitive.
A) The Operative's signature pressure point killing move wasn't messing with the kidneys. Those are located higher up. What he was poking was probably meant to be the base of the sacral nerves. B) When Mal explained why he was immune to the technique he said that he took a "shrapnel wound to that nerve cluster". Implying that he suffered nerve damage that was repaired. C) The cost of the drugs doesn't really matter since whatever River was on was stolen during the hospital job on Ariel. D) In the lead up to the hospital job Simon explained that whatever drugs he tried on River her body was "breaking down too quickly." Implying that whatever weird super soldier experiments were done on River rendered conventional psych meds ineffective.
The Operative's technique appears to work by hitting that nerve cluster to paralyze someone—Mal did not imply that the nerve damage was repaired, since if it was repaired, then the technique would have worked. I believe Mal says that the nerve cluster was removed or otherwise bypassed.
The cluster was specifically removed due to the shrapnel damage to it. It was never repaired.
Mal line was actually that he had the nerve cluster *moved* not removed. Check the CC on the scene. Either way it is pretty weird as any of the large nerve bundles in the lower back fall under the category of 'things you need to live and/or walk'.
Relying on drugs that can only be acquired, as far as we've seen, through an elaborate hospital heist is unreliable at best, and the drugs were only a temporary solution. There's no indication that the drugs were being affected by any supersoldier changes made to River's body. The human body simply reacts differently to different kinds of drugs, and the body develops a tolerance to drugs over time. It's quite clear, going by how the drugs only offer a temporary solution, that they are not actually repairing any damage, but instead simply proving a chemical correction to behavioral problems without actually addressing the underlying cause. River would more likely need actual surgery or extended, long-term care to replace damaged or removed brain tissue, neither of which would be available on the Rim or Border. Unless she gets her name completely cleared and be completely free of Alliance pursuit, she'd never be able to go to a Core hospital long enough for lengthy treatment.
Reavers in General
How do the Reavers ever think straight enough to keep a spaceship running? Piloting and maintaining ships seems to require a level of patience and book-knowledge that Reavers simply don't have. Even if they steal and redecorate ships from their victims, they'd have to keep one ship working long enough to find the next one. I'm not even going to ask how Reavers can cooperate and never do their thing on each other - I'm assuming that the Pax gas instills some kind of zombie-esque effect that makes Reavers taste bad to other Reavers.
Just because they're violently aggressive doesn't mean that they still don't retain a working knowledge of technology. They just direct that viciousness at other people. Besides, Reaver technology and weapons aren't that advanced, and they don't have overwhelmingly brilliant battle tactics beyond "ram, grapple, and board." That said, they seem more like brutal sadists than mindless berserkers. We don't really get a good look at any of the Reavers outside of a couple of close-quarters fight scenes, so we have no idea what their behavior is when they aren't attacking people.
As an aside, it also looks like a lot of the tech in Firefly is designed to be dummy-friendly; as the salvager in "Our Mrs. Reynolds" points out, Firefly-class ships are so well-designed that they can keep flying if the mechanic isn't even half-awake. Though that's obviously an exaggeration, it does look like a lot of civilian ships - which are almost exclusively what the Reavers use - are rugged enough to survive for a while even with all the abuse the Reavers put them through.
Also worth pointing out: What's one way to spot a Reaver ship? Aside from the whole "covered in the blood and bodies of their enemies" thing? They're running without radiation containment. The whole point is that Reavers, while capable of running their ship, don't do much of a job of maintaining them.
I always just assumed that, like the real-life berserkers, they drove themselves into a frenzy before battle. They're always highly aggressive sorts of people, but when the adrenalin high of combat/invasion/feeding/whatever hits them they completely lose control and become the slavering psychopaths depicted in all of the scenes where we actually see them.
You want to know what really bugs me about Reavers? They should be dead. <br/> <br/> They should all be dead from radiation. Forget "50% increased chance of cancer in 10 years' time" dead, I'm talking about "dose of hard radiation that cooks the body and poisons the brain" dead. And even if you assume ones like the moron from the ship they 'rescued' in Bushwhacked, who's not really a Pax Reaver and has never been exposed to hard rads; people go cutting on themselves like that, they get infected and die. <br/> Does the Pax give Reavers some kind of mutant immune systems? Does it miraculously render their bodies immune to the fact that hard rads like that should cook a person?
Depends on how much radiation is being released. No one ever said precisely how much radiation is put out by the Reavers' engines, and it could be low enough that they can survive long-term exposure. Wash says its suicide to run without core containment, but he never specifies what he means, so its likely that the radiation released from Reavers' cores is low enough to survive for prolonged periods of time.
As a general rule, Firefly avoids Startrekian Force Fields - the gun scanner in the super-rich shindig aside, shielding isn't generally a matter of "100% or 10%". It's either there, or it's not! More to the point, as a general rule, out of any kind of reactor, you don't get more energy by 'reducing shielding', you get it by running the reactor so hot it overcomes it's shielding. Either way; if they remove so much shielding from the core, presumably in the form of removing dampening plates that curb emissions and control the reaction, or if they run the reactor so hot that it's lack of containment can be detected from outside the ship - you know, through the hull, where most sane people like to have a lot of additional radiation shielding so they don't fry in space - they should be putting out enough rads to cook themselves. And even if the doses aren't lethal inside of a few days/weeks' time, they'd almost certainly be debilitating - even a Reaver's total lack of regard for their own pain wouldn't negate the fact that they have an atrophying body whose parts won't work.
No. Kaylee was able to modify the engines to release enough radiation to mimic a Reaver ship's engines without cooking the crew; in fact, Mal specifically orders her to do so. Quite clearly, there is some form of countermeasure to protect the rest of the ship from radiation if it gets released from the engines.
As for their body modifications, real-life humans have been cutting ourselves for cosmetic purposes longer than we've been writing— such body art includes tattoos, piercing, and scarification. Reavers have access to better medical technology than we have today. On the other hand, practices like that probably aren't sustainable since they're probably breeding up drug-resistant strains of infectious microbes in the process.
More likely than not, what we're looking at with Reaver ships is that they're old or damaged or worn out and are leaking radiation. Since the Reavers aren't dying of radiation poisoning, we can safely assume that they've got some countermeasure against it. Maybe they can't maintain the old ship very well but there's enough intervening decks and walls between the crew and the reactor that they don't have to worry about radiation and toss on suits before doing rudimentary maintenance. Don't pull that "but they're dumb berserkers" crap either; they can lay traps and fly starships, so they're smart enough to know to put on a suit before going into the high-radiation sections.
And here's another thing that really just bugs me about Reavers; Miranda had a population of thirty million. 30,000,000. 99.9% affected by the pax (which was 100% of everybody on-planet) turned mindless and just... Stopped. The other one-tenth of one percent became Reavers. That is, thirty thousand of the damn things! How do the logistics of that work? Even if we assume that Miranda had ships to bear them all to space, how do they survive? That many flying out from Miranda in a huge wave of cannibalism would be impossible to hide; and they pretty clearly didn't feast on the Pax-paralyzed people, as evidenced by dessicated corpses instead of a charnel house. (And before someone says "big planet, few Reavers," we know there were reavers in the area Serenity touched down when the Pax hit, since one of them ran in and ate the girl who made the recording.) Cleary, Reavers are insane, preferring to eat only prey that fights back, but even still, thirty-thousand psychotic, cannibalistic killing machines is pretty hard to hide.
WRT survival: Miranda had enough food supplies to sustain a thirty-million person population. Those kinds of supplies could sustain a thirty-thousand person population for a good long while. Unless you're honestly thinking that the only food source the Reavers have are canniablized colonists, which is just plain idiotic.
Food supplies, as a general rule, tend to be perishable things which need refrigeration and the like. Reavers ain't exactly known for their diligent maintenance of equipment, and stuff in the 'verse breaks down as well as everything IRL if you neglect it. Granted, emergency rations may not be very perishable, as would be canned goods, but Miranda was clearly an attempt to recreate a Core-world society on a non-Core planet; I doubt they had much of either on-hand.
Since Miranda was a non-Core planet, and a fairly new colony, it's quite possible that they had large amounts of emergency rations or canned goods around in case of agricultural failures. Also, Miranda has wildlife, right? You could probably feed thirty thousand people almost indefinitely by hunting alone, if you had the right technological advantages.
Modern canned food supplies can last many months or years without being opened. I have canned soup in my pantry that's good for two gorram years. Ordinary, average soup I can buy in any grocery. And that's not without factoring in five hundred years of food preservation and storage techniques. In the Firefly setting, a single bar of preprocessed solid food about the size of a brick is more than capable of feeding an entire family for a month. Acquiring food supplies to last a population of less than thirty thousand on a world of over thirty million would not be an issue in this setting, and once it becomes an issue, they're pirates and can raid other settlements for food.
WRT remaining hidden: who the hell said that the Reavers' existence was exactly hidden? Everyone knows exactly where the Reavers operate from; the Alliance simply covered up the existence of the planet itself.
There's a difference between something being an open secret, and being undeniable fact. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a good example of the former; people were getting worried, but until JFK had actually told everyone, there was always doubt. Once it was out of the bag, as a wave of 30,000 Reavers looking for dinner/sport would be... Well, even people in the Core would be pretty damn freaked out and would demand a military campaign be mounted to eradicate the madmen.
If they knew about it. The Alliance is deliberately suppressing information about the Reavers to a point where their own ship commanders do not believe they exist.
Also, the general population wouldn't be demanding a massive military campaign to eradicate the Reavers. You know why? The Unification War was happening at roughly the same time. Since the Reavers only attack out on the Rim, and the Alliance was fighting the Independents based in the Rim, there would be zero reason for them to target the Reavers. After the war ended, it would be trivially easy for the Alliance to pass off Reaver raids as savage Independents or pirates.
Also, according to the official "Map of the Verse," Miranda is the outermost planet of the Blue Sun quadrant of the Verse, which is the outermost region of the entirety of Alliance-controlled territory. Its also the backwater of backwaters - the entire Blue Sun system only holds about eighteen million people. Considering that the farthest the Reavers have ever expanded as of the main series is around Athens - which is in the next-closest system of Georgia, which its itself still pretty far out - the Reavers simply haven't gotten far enough to arouse major public suspicion. Sicne they're only raiding backwaters no-one in the Core cares about, it would be easy for the Alliance to dismiss them as rumors and hysterics.
Case in point: didn't Simon think Reavers were a rumor in the Pilot?
Thirty thousand? Thirty thousand? You think that's a big number? There's eighteen million people living in the Blue Sun system, which is the very backwater of the 'Verse. If even one in ten of those people were armed that would be 1.8 million individuals, or sixty times the total number of Reavers. The next closest system, Georgia, has six billion people living in it. If one in twenty are armed, then that's three hundred million armed personnel in that system alone. You don't seem to get scale here. The Reavers are a drop in the bucket. Realistically, they aren't a threat except to isolated towns and single ships.
And another thing, why the hell do they work together so damn well? Are they zerglings?! Is there some Uberreaver out there, the Overmind, driven mad by the Pax, in psychic command of all the others, compelling them to act with one mind, to slaughter and consume and destroy?
Considering that the Reavers are intelligent enough to set traps, actually fly their ships with some degree of competence, and are able and willing to force a man to watch them do their business until his mind snaps in order to convert him, Reavers seem intelligent enough to actually work together. They're sadistic monsters, but quite obviously not self-destructive.
They are quite self-destructive, just look at how they cut on one another. My point is, even if they are angry, why don't they attack one another? Why do Reavers cooperate? (Actually, this question applies just as well to 28 Days/Weeks later.) There is no reason that people driven to the very core of unthinking, unfeeling rage should give a crap about the fact that the guy next to you is the same way as you are; you'd attack them all the same, I would think. There is some force holding the Reavers together, and I'd like to know what.
You're doing a great job ignoring the evidence that Reavers aren't mindless. They can fly spaceships, they can set traps, they can cover up their presence, they can stalk and hunt and ambush, they can track a vessel to a population center, and they can deliberately expand their numbers via torture and psychological scarring. And most importantly, they aren't killing each other. All of these facts are clear evidence that Reavers are not "mindless" and are quite intelligent.
Think of them as a Brainwashed and Crazy cult instead of a bunch of individual psychotic rage-machines and it makes a little more sense. They don't attack each other because they are already members of the cult. They cut on one another as some sort of ritual, not because they're trying to kill each other.
We don't know the psychology behind the Reavers, or what they're thinking, or why they do what they do. The only explanation we have is the hasty, horrified words of a scientist who is about to die and knows it, talking in very general terms, talking about a drug that is obviously acting in a manner that she didn't expect it to. She says they've progressed "beyond madness" but all their observed actions point otherwise: they're smart, they're organized, and they're skilled enough to set traps, control spaceships, and generally not act like mindless berserk killing machines. That doesn't require some freaky supernatural force controlling them - all it requires is a strong leader and sense of direction and purpose. They may be savage and brutal in the extreme, but no more so than most ancient and Middle Age armies were.
I have what my neurologist calls "Paradox Reaction" to sleeping pills and sedatives. While the second one gives me panic attacks I become wide awake from the first ones. My doctor once prescribed me a very strong sleeping pill. Not only was I awake for 48 hours, I was singing "Yankee Doodle" and "We are the Champions" and other stuff all the time, while jumping around, reading high-speed or talking really fast to the point my boyfriend (who was desperately trying to sleep) thought I was deliberatly agonising him. I seemed crazy and even sadistic. Yet I knew all the lyrics, remembered what I had read quite well, and was, after desperate pleas from my boyfriend able to cooperate. (Imagine the look on his face, when we watched the scene Serenity where the origin of the Reavers is explained) It is of course a weak comparison, all I want to say is: you can act psychotic and reasonable at the same time.
You're assuming all 30,000 of them survived, and all 30,000 of them became Reavers. Maybe half of them reacted with such rage that, instead of mutilating others, they mutilated themselves to the point of suicide. Maybe a chunk of them did fight over the available food. There is absolutely no reason to assume so blindly that every single one of the "original" Reavers was completely unified from the start and survived to the "raiders in space" stage. It's likely the Reavers that are still around are the ones who, though still rage obsessed berserkers, realized on some level that in order to survive they had to work together and get off the planet.
I would presume that they don't kill/rape/eat each other because it would be no fun. They want fresh meat, not the overworked flesh/orifices of a like-minded space zombie.
That could explain WHY they cut on themselves so much. They know the others want fresh, unmutilated flesh, so they cut on themselves to make them unappealing to their brethren. This could also explain how their number shrank from 30,000. Many died in the beginning when they were all figuring out how they thought.
The core book of the RPG describes Reavers as being obsessed with pain - both feeling it and spreading it. That's why they stick fish hooks through their flesh and carve their own faces up with knives. Just a little window into Reaver psychology.
More on the rpg front, it also suggests a Reaver-PC game, by pointing out that mindless beasts would have a hard time flying and maintaining ships and weapons, so at the very least there must be some intelligent Reavers to handle those jobs to make for some good PC stories. Anyway, since they clearly don't attack each other (as far as we see), they probably have enough intelligence to regonise who is Reaver and not Revear. Or alternatively they are all intelligent as the normal person, they just get overwhelmed with the rage whenever they see something not-reaver, meaning that when alone they could concetrate enough to fly around. If they have more self-control then we seem them demonstrate however, I had the theory that whenever they regonise someone with skills they need (like engineers for example) they simply take them to wherever they need them and force them to work.
The End of "War Stories"
Why did the Big Damn Heroes leave Niska alive?
(facepalm) Because the only person in any position to actually kill him was being strangled by a barbed whip at the time.
Am I missing something here? He didn't teleport away. They apparently had taken over the entire space station (somewhat implausibly...) and could have hunted him down at their leisure.
Uh, no? There was an entire section of the station to the right of the dock that they hadn't secured yet, they had troops attacking the first team from behind ("Get behind us preacher, we need cover!") and it would be idiotic of Niska to not have a bolt-hole. The first team hadn't reached Niska's office by the time Mal was getting strangled by the barbed-wire whip, so Niska had plenty of time to get out of the office and flee. And there's no indication that they'd taken over the space station, as the scene cuts to Mal and Co. back on Serenity right after they save him, with no indication of the follow-up.
Remember: The series didn't even finish its first series. Niska, Saffron, and the Hands of Blue were the only 3 major villains set up (I'd say Badger was a minor villain), so he was probably kept alive to return another day. Joss loves recurring villains.
That would probably be fairly easy. All he'd need would be to have a recall device somewhere on his person that he could press to summon his ship back - almost like a homing beacon, if you like.
Mal and Tracy in "The Message"
Another thing that really, really just bugs me; in The Message, why, for the love of gorram, didn't Mal simply tell Tracy that the plan was to lure the Alliance feds into an ambush? Why all the darkness and acting like you're going to sell out your old pal? No wonder Tracy grabbed a gun and went off the deep end! They were all carrying the Idiot Ball there! >_<
At the beginning, in the cockpit, Mal and Book did not know Tracy was listening in on their conversation. Once he grabbed the gun, Tracy wasn't letting the crew explain the plan to him - he was ranting and raving and pointing his weapon and throwing out insults and generally not allowing them to talk. Then, he shot Wash and proceeded to take Kaylee hostage as a human shield. And if there's one thing that's going to piss Mal off more than anything, its shooting his crew and holding them hostage.
Also, when Mal shot Tracy, he was spinning and pointing his weapon at Jayne. At that point, Tracy had already demonstrated his willingness to shoot Mal's crew and otherwise put them in danger with zero regard for their lives, so Mal has no reason to believe Tracy won't shoot Jayne. Thus, Mal takes the most brutally pragmatic route he has available to them.
He's Captain Malcolm "Sarge" Reynolds. He damned well could have shouted "Shut up and put the rutting gun down, gorramit, we're not actually gonna hand you over! Instead, he kept telling Wash to call the feds. The whole scene was designed, frankly, to make it seem as if he was hardhearted and cold enough to actually hand over an old friend, and take the easy way out to save his ship. In fact, it did it so well that a character in the show was fooled, with Idiot Ball results; all it would have taken, frankly, would have been him shouting "Gorramit, I'm not actually going to hand you over! We're gonna get them in the ship by telling them we will, and then we will shoot them!" Instead, he gets all pissy, which frankly makes no sense, since we know that, given the choice between defusing gunplay with words, or shooting someone, he tends to prefer words if at all possible. Instead, in this sequence, he chose to antagonize someone holding a gun and pointing it at various members of his crew - an old friend, in fact, as well as a former subordinate infantryman, who almost certainly would have believed him (even had he been lying, which he wasn't) when he said the plan was to make it look like they were going to hand Tracy over, but only to lure the cops aboard.
Prefers to defuse gunplay with words? I'd like to draw everyone's attention to the last time someone shot a member of Mal's crew and then held another one hostage at gunpoint. Mal shot him in the face without a single word as soon as he walked into the ship. Tracy very quickly earned himself Agent Dobson treatment.
The infrantryman, who, as previously mentioned, was pointing a gun at the crew? There's more evidence Tracy would've thought he was lying. Also, Mal was reasonably pissed at Tracy putting Kaylee-who's basically Mal's little sister-in danger. You're expecting both of them to be thinking straight, contrary to the scene itself.
Well, it's not without precedent. Remember that scene in "Bushwacked" when the Alliance is bearing down on them and Mal tells Simon to get River? In front of both of them, Jayne announces that Mal is obviously going to give them to the Alliance. Simon gets upset, and refuses to bring her out. Instead of saying, "Of course I'm not going to turn the two of you over to the Alliance, you moron," Mal yells at Simon for not blindly obeying his orders. Unfortunately, the scene changes about then so we don't see how Mal convinces Simon to obey.
It wasn't Mal. Book says "Don't be a fool, son. Do as the man says". Simon seems to accept that. Scene change.
I always just assumed that this plothole was why it never made it to air.
Firstly, in the original shooting script, Book tells Mal that he's got an angle. Then Tracy shows up and starts waving guns around, which (to me) would provoke an immediate disinclination to be helpful to said person. He then immediately makes it clear that he was using Mal and Zoe. So. Not a plot hole there (shooting script's pretty cool. Give it a read by finding it on Google.). However, those lines didn't make it into the episode, so here's my reasoning. Mal expects his crew to, when the chips are down, do what he says, when he says it. He sends Tracy to hide in a cabin in part because he doesn't entirely trust him, and in part because Tracy's semi-competent, not entirely the brightest and best left out of the way. Tracy wanders up to the bridge and starts waving a gun around, which discinclines Mal toward further conversation. He interrupts attempts at explanation. He makes it clear that he isn't willing to rely on Mal and Zoe - that he doesn't really trust them. Which makes it pretty clear that he's just been using them in the first place. As Mal says "I'll go to hell before I see you turn and bite us for the favor." There is a brief window where Mal might have explained, but Tracy throws that away by waving a gun around and shooting his mouth off, and after that Mal's perfectly willing to push it until Tracy gets shot.
There is some commentary on the DVD to the effect of explaining this one. If memory serves, Joss Whedon says that Mal and Book can't just say, "Don't worry, we've got a plan," due to ego. While that explanation isn't terribly clear, I took it to mean either 1) that they couldn't verbally commit to having a plan, so that in case the plan were to fail, they wouldn't look bad, or 2) that not revealing your epic plan to rescue someone helps boost your Big Damn Hero cred, since the most exciting rescues are those that occur unexpected and just in the nick of time, or 3) a combination of the above motives, lumped together with the fact that they couldn't outright say that they had a plan because in fact they didn't really have one per se, but did had every intent of winging it as far as possible.
"The Message" plotline unfolding as it did felt like a direct comparison to "Bushwacked" especially since there seemed to be a lot of Simon/Tracey characterisation comparisons going on even though they barely had any scenes together. In both episodes, the captain is about to let the enemies of a fugitive on board and fully expects compliance without detailing his plan up front. Simon's bad at talking pretty, Tracey's good at it. Simon's actions prove him dependable and able to either stay calm, or calm down quickly, in a crisis; Tracey panicks easily and his panic increases. Simon didn't know Mal as well as Tracey did and yet found it easier to obey Mal than Tracey did. When panicking, Simon's first instinct was to run, Tracey's first instinct was to attack. If you view the episode as being more of a Kaylee-perspective episode, then it ends up being about the difference between what you dream for in a man and what you should realistically settle for - a man's ability to talk pretty, or his ability to be by your side no matter what happens? Neither Simon nor Tracey are both - one talks pretty, the other will be there when you need him. Which is the better option if you can't have both?
Mal's strongest character trait is the fact that he will defend his crew to the death. This is a man who threatened to throw Simon out of the airlock if Kaylee died, shot Agent Dobson in the face for being in the exact same position as Tracey, nearly DID throw Jayne out of the airlock for turning on Simon and River, declared war on a small backwoods village to rescue Simon and River, and countless other examples. Shooting Tracey for shooting one crew member and threatening another is completely in character for Mal; if you harm his crew, the man has zero mercy for you. As Jayne will testify, it doesn't matter who you are; even his own crew is not exempt from this.
This occurred to me on last watching, Tracy yells "Why're you hanging out with this bible thumper?". Surely the Mal he knew, pre-serenity valley, was still a religious man?
Because Tracy's been going by the reputation Mal's garnered after he left the army, where his dislike of religion is most pronounced, and he's left a trail of bodies wherever he's gone. Tracy knows Mal has drifted away from his previous beliefs and become a more hardened criminal.
Programmed to Defend Against Who?
River was programmed for espionage, assassination, defense purposes, whatever. The question is, against whom? The Alliance is the only recognized government in the system. You could say that she would be useful in the event of a Browncoat Uprising type deal, but that's less defense and more civil unrest. The only politicians left to spy on are regional governments, which would be like the NSA spying on a governor. Which, hell, they probably do. But given that they're already in control and seem to have no issues with squashing rebellion openly, what do they need a spy for?
The problem with squashing rebellions openly is that it creates martyrs. This may have been why the Browncoat uprising lasted for years and spread across many planets — the Alliance moves to flatten one group of rebels, only to tick off half a dozen more. They may have decided that assassinating the kind of people who serve as a nucleus for resistance is a better strategy.
Or maybe they're just trying to create the next generation of Operatives. Whatever they use Operatives for, it's clear that they do use them on a regular basis. Upgrading their Operatives to "psychic Operatives" would make them more useful, assuming they can get around the craziness problem.
The Alliance is consistently portrayed as being paranoid and wanting absolute control, so maybe they don't need a specific enemy to feel that they need spies/assassins. And the idea of using spies and assassins to nip any sort of rebellion in the bud seems fairly plausible.
Not to mention the Alliance is clearly headed down an Orwellian thought-control path, what with Miranda and all. River's mind-reading abilities were their real pride and joy. They complemented her psychic abilities with spy/assassin skills so that she could easily act on whatever dirt she dug up in the minds of whatever targets the Alliance was suspicious of.
And we're assuming that the Alliance isn't aware of, say, another colony project at the next star along?
For that matter, it's never explicitly stated that Earth-that-was has been completely abandoned. Maybe the Alliance is worried about a resurgent Earth trying to take them over, like the UED in Starcraft.
This troper always imagined that River was being created for a variety of purposes, one of which was to permanently dispose of all evidence that Miranda had ever happened by getting rid of the Reavers. Because while her intelligence is lauded a great deal she is quite specifically described as excelling at everything. Maybe a petite, ninety pound girl, isn't the ideal cleaner but the Alliance was hardly going to pass up a brilliant psychic who is capable of mastering any form of physical activity without effort. Even the Operative wasn't willing to fight the Reavers, but River was able to kill dozens of them without injury.
Every single one of you needs to read more world news. Go ahead, I'll wait while you find me an example of a country that calls its military admin branch the "Department of Attack" or the "Ministry of Fucking People Up". "Defense" is government speak for "military". Occam's Razor, folks.
The US government used to have the Department of War, though that was eventually split up into the Departments of the Navy, Army, and Air Force before all three got bundled up again under the Department of Defense. So it happens, it's just out of vogue now. But the point stands, "Defense" is a catch-all term for all affairs military, offensive and true-defensive.
In a setting where the government's control of frontier areas (i.e. the Rim) is spotty at best, the line between "defense" and suppression of "civil unrest" tends to blur a bit.
Miranda in General
Everything about Miranda bugs me, starting with the scene on Haven when they're looking at where it is relative to them, and the two planets just happen to be in the parts of their orbits where they're closest to each other. (Miranda could just as easily have been on the other side of the system.) Then they say the space directly between Haven and Miranda is "Reaver territory". Does this mean all the space between their two orbits? That's an awful lot of space for 30,000 people to occupy. Or is it another happy coincidence that the Reavers just happen to be directly between Haven and Miranda at that point? Then when they get there, Wash says there's no power signatures (except the one coming from the rescue ship), but while they're walking through the city, lights and advertising tickers come on. Where did the power for these come from? Also, why is everything in the city in pristine condition? Wouldn't the Reavers have done as much damage as they could before heading out into space?
Reavers don't seem to be into vandalism. Remember, the ship in 'Bushwhacked' was in pretty good condition after being visited by Reavers, too.
Trying to avoid the Reavers in such an obvious manner is more or less a flashing sign that says "hey, we're not Reavers!"
Well, yes it would be, if the Reavers knew they were trying to avoid them. The whole point of going around is so that they don't know you're there. As was stated above, the given space is a whole lot of sky for the relatively small Reaver population to occupy. If they flew far enough in any direction, they could get around the fleet (for want of a better word) of Reavers without said space zombies ever learning of their presence.
Space Does Not Work That Way. There is no Stealth In Space. Flying around the Reavers simply leaves a long thermal wake that you can easily track, and since Miranda is very far out in territory that no one goes to, no one will be out there but the Reavers. The heat trail can be easily spotted and followed, and if someone's projected path shows them circling around your large and obvious fleet, that means they're trying to avoid you. That's a surefire sign that they're not one of you.
Right then, I withdraw the question. I probably should have thought of that.
I assumed that the Reavers circle around Miranda. Therefore, any path towards Miranda is going to be 'Reaver Territory', and any where ever the planet happens to be in orbit is where the ships will be. Miranda and Haven just happen to be that close because of plot convenience, of course. My bigger concern in that scene was Haven and Reavers existing so close together. Surely the village underwent repeated, devastating attacks if that were the case, and if so you would assume they had some sort of warning system and safe place installed so they could make it through the raids and if not, well, that right there would prove that Shepard isn't just a Preacher, but an actual, miracle working saint.
Haven is equipped with an anti-ship cannon powerful enough to kill a well-armored Alliance ship. It's what Book used to shoot down the ship that hit Haven, and on the DVD, one of the extended scenes shows the cannon is regularly manned and was tracking Serenity when it arrived. Presumably, that gun is enough to keep the Reavers away, especially going by the firepower it exhibits in the movie; two shots from it blew a Reaver vessel about Serenity's size to pieces.
Reavers are likely smart enough to target relatively undefended areas. Remember that for all their scariness, there's only thirty thousand of them at most (likely far fewer now) and individual raiding parties seem to only have a few hundred per and a small number of ships. They'd have to target small towns that don't have large, powerful anti-air weaponry. If the Reavers attacked Haven they would have been shot down and any survivors would learn not to go back there.
The Pax really, really bugs me. I know the Alliance is supposed to be the Evil Empire and all, but are they also the Stupid Empire? Did they not do any testing whatsoever before sticking thirty million people on an extremely well-developed planet and pumping this stuff into their air? If they did any sort of animal or human trials before this, they should've known what would happen; and if they didn't, they'd have absolutely no basis for believing the Pax would do what they expected it, because they hadn't tested it!
Laboratory tests doesn't always produce identical results as field tests. Small-scale controlled testing doesn't always produce identical results as widespread everyday use. Off the top of my head, several possible explanations come to mind as to why even if they had tested it in the lab and found that it worked there, the first actual widespread use of it could have gone wrong. For example, the Pax could have had a bad unplanned drug interaction with some innocuous chemical present in Miranda's atmosphere or water supply. There could have been dosage problems caused by an excess concentration of it building up in the atmosphere, while the testing stuck to precisely measured amounts. The tests could simply have run only for X months and it takes X + 1 months of continual exposure before things start to go wrong. (The dying scientist's recording didn't mention how long it took for people to start shutting down mentally, after all.) Etc, etc.
This troper was under the impression that Miranda was the test, and if it worked, they'd start pumping it into the atmosphere of other planets. IIRC, the recording referred to Miranda as small and newly terraformed, and dude, they're the Alliance. One tiny planet in the middle of nowhere would be a perfect testing ground.
Yes, Miranda was a test. What I was getting at is that before you build up a highly technological planet and get 30 million people to emigrate to it and test a chemical on them, there are certain logical intermediate steps that would most likely have yielded results that prevented them from doing it in the first place.
I can think of a very good reason they didn't take the time to test the Pax on a smaller population: Unification War. Wars don't just magically happen, and if the Alliance was building up for a war (which broke a couple years later) they could have attempted to accelerate the development of a drug as potent as the Pax well past its safety margins. Then, when the Miranda project collapsed, they just covered it up and went about the process of Unification the old-fashioned way.
Off the top of my head, I thought the hologram woman mentioned that they tested the Pax there due to violence or a civil war or something on the planet, coupled with Miranda's isolation? I'm a little hazy and could be wrong, though.
Nope. She only mentions violence or civil war to note that's not what happened to the people on Miranda.
The Pax only induced rage in 1% of the population, didn't it? I'd say that, especially with the war, there might have been a push to get it from labs and into real world situations. It would be easy to miss a 1% side effect, and a short testing period would account for the lack of death (the way the scientist made it sound, the people slowly sank into complete complacency to the point of not even caring about surviving). Alternatively, in a lab, you might have doctors making sure that people ate, forcing them to go to bed and back to the tests which I assume would delay the suicide by sloth. There is also the (extremely likely, given what we have seen) possibility that the Alliance didn't create Pax but that it was yet another helpful product by the good people at Blue Sun. Companies in the real world put dangerous substances on the market, and even in our own system drugs sometimes slip through FDA approval only to be recalled when - oops, looks like the tests proved to be inaccurate and the product more dangerous than believed. The difference is that our government rarely dumps the drugs into the air supply, but on the other hand think of how many civilians were exposed to radiation before it's effects became entirely understood.
Point of interest (though it's nitpicky), only 0.1% of the population went all rage-y and Reaver-y. Also, since it was Blue Sun rather than the Alliance putting the Pax out there, it makes even more sense. How many times here on Earth have chemicals been released into environments that have had disasterous effects on the population? Answer: a lot. The fact that the Pax was intentionally introduced and meant to affect the people on Miranda makes this arguments all the stronger. Also, drugs today are recalled all the time when unwanted side-effects are discovered, which means that it is possible for dangerous side-effects to get past a testing period.
The fact the Alliance didn't do any testing of the Pax (that name, too...), that, might, y'know, catch the...side effects. Possibly handwavable as an interaction with Miranda's atmosphere, that skewed the results from the lab, but that would've needed to be stated. It wasn't.
It was stated. The series has already made it clear that when you introduce chemicals into foreign atmospheres, it can have unexpected effects, i.e. the lung diseases mentioned in "The Train Job." Mal also mentions the whole issue of "blackrocks" and terraforming not taking due to unexpected reasons. Miranda was simply another example of that happening.
See further up on the page. The Unification War was brewing at the same time. That leads to the rushing of devastatingly effective weapons like the Pax. And hell, for all we know, Miranda was a test - the WMD equivalent of a live-fire test. Gather a large but not significant population on a planet as far from civilization as possible and put your gas to work on a planetary scale to see the effects.
And where does it ever say the Pax was intended as a weapon? It was intended to create a world without sin—that is, as the next step up in social control over whatever the Alliance already had—not "to subdue the Independents." There isn't, if I recall correctly, word one about it having a military application. And actually, come to think of it, the Unification War only makes the lack of testing worse: they would have had a fresh supply of expendable Independent POWs to experiment on, à la Imperial Japan's Unit 731, and could've been nice and sure of how Pax would work.
And where does it ever say the Pax was intended as a weapon? It's a gas that renders an entire planet non-violent and cooperative, being developed just a couple years prior to a full-scale war. Do the math. And "no military applications"? It renders an entire planet peaceful and non-violent. Dropping Pax-laden bombs on a planet = instant pacification without a single shot fired. The Pax, if it worked as advertised, would have been the ultimate nonlethal weapon. And the Unification War hadn't started yet by the time Miranda occurred. Kinda hard to test your weapon on POWs when you don't have any because there's no war. And there's a difference between testing on POWs in controlled circumstances and testing on an entire planet - which, in Miranda's case, was controlled circumstances, just on a mind-bogglingly huge scale.
It's worth noting the Alliance's motivations in the war were to better the Border and Rim. The Pax would have really been useful during the Unification War, as it would have allowed them to pacify entire planetary populations without hurting either people or infrastructure. That kind of capacity would have been insanely valuable to the Alliance. They could defeat entire ground armies in a heartbeat, without killing anyone, which fits perfectly with the Alliance's vision of bettering the entire 'Verse.
Do we know how long it took the Pax to subdue/crazify the population of Miranda? Maybe it takes months to really take effect, which wouldn't be very usefull for weaponisation. This might explain why they didn't know it would have an adverse reaction to 0.01% of the sybjects - They tested it for X weeks, it takes X+1 weeks for symptoms to show.
Which would be another reason to have to test it on a planetary scale. It could have interacted with an atmosphere in an unexpected manner, and oh, hey, look, it did.
Yes, but, nobody in the movie ever alludes to it being a weapon. The recording said the chemical was put in the atmosphere generators. This implies that it needs to be constantly pumped into the atmosphere, and that just dropping "Pax Bombs" isn't going to get the job done. Every implication in the movie is that it was meant as social engineering. So, yes, there are military applications to it, but nobody in the movie ever alludes to or mentions it, so no, you cannot assume it's a weapon.
Where exactly do the rules of Fictionland say they need to outright state it was meant to be a weapon? Look at its capabilities. It renders an entire planetary population docile and compliant. Anyone with two brain cells should be able to tell you that such a capability is pretty much tailor-made to be a weapon, and the chemical is being developed literally months to years before the Unification War breaks out. When your butt gets plopped down in the movie theater's chair, that doesn't mean you instantly lose all capacity to read between the lines, does it?
I have several objects in my kitchen that have the capabilities of being deadly, horrific weapons, including ones that can cleave right through human flesh effortlessly, and can cause horrific, debilitating burns to anything that touch them. That doesn't mean my steak knife and my stove were meant to be weapons. You're talking about intent, not capabilities. Anything is capable of being a weapon, depending on how you use it.
No, but your steak knife and stove are based on principles that can make them useful as weapons, i.e. sharpened objects can kill people (knives, spears, swords, and every single standard-issue infantry weapon before gunpowder. Stove, heat. Flamethrowers and incendiaries.) The Pax can be used as a weapon, too, and the timing is far too coincidental.
And again, they explicitly state that the stuff was constantly pumped into the atmosphere. Not that it was dropped as a single package, like a bomb. If it's something that has to be constantly pumped into the atmosphere, that makes it rather impractical as a weapon to take a planet without firing a shot if you have to control the atmosphere processors first.
Except that once you control the atmosphere processors, you control the planet. And the Pax would be the perfect tool to contain popular insurgency - something the Alliance would really have to worry about.
Plus, if the war was brewing and it was supposed to be a weapon, why not test it on a planet where there was unrest instead of on your own volunteers? If it works, hey, there's one less planet that's gonna revolt, and if it's not, hey, just chalk it up to screwy environmental conditions and cover it up. "Every planet has its quirks," right? Plus, if it was supposed to be a weapon, don't you think a die-hard Browncoat patriot like Mal might've said something like, "They were going to use this on us, turn us into Reavers..."? The horrific thing about the PAX isn't that it's what the Alliance was going to do to its enemies, it's what the Alliance was going to do to its own people.
"Plus, if the war was brewing and it was supposed to be a weapon, why not test it on a planet where there was unrest instead of on your own volunteers?" What, and set off everyone's evil-plot-o-meter? You test the Pax on an established world that already has established trade and communication, and word will get out - at the very least, from people who had traveled to that planet or maintained regular communications with those people. With Miranda, they could establish a self-contained planet that they controlled from the ground up, instead of a potentially hostile Border or Rim world - remember, also, that those worlds were independent prior to the Unification War. The Alliance showing up at an independent planet and testing out a new weapon on it would set off a war anyway.
So, no, not everything in fiction has to be directly stated, but asserting that PAX was meant to be a weapon is less reading between the lines, and more WMG, given that the implication isn't hinted at in the slightest in the work itself.
I agree that it's mostly a WMG, but it's a conclusion drawn based on what I've observed in the series. it isn't said outright, but the evidence is there.
There is a False Dichotomy at play here, that either the Pax had to be used on the Alliance's enemies OR on their people. The reason this dichotomy is false is because the Alliance doesn't believe in any such distinction. As far as they're concerned, the border worlds are their people, just the same as the core worlds. The Unification War was about exactly that; it was Firefly's equivalent of the end of the Wild West, with the government bringing "civilization" to what they considered a savage part of their nation, through whatever means necessary. Why do they have to choose whether to use the Pax on the Border or the Core? If it had worked as advertised, they could do both; every world having the Pax everywhere, the Core Worlds living in what they expected to be peaceful utopia, and the Border Worlds never descending back into the savage, violent nature that the Alliance believes it rescued them from.
To expand on this point a bit, at the time the Pax was developed (a few years before the Unification War), friction was presumably already starting to boil over, probably with occasional skirmishes, terrorist attacks, and whatnot. Then somebody convinced the Alliance government that the Pax could "cure" such tendencies to misbehave, solving the problem without violence (and without creating martyrs that would inspire further incidents).
The real question ought to be, if this was a test of Pax, why wasn't there anyone observing the test? I mean, if you're going to be scientific, you don't just set up the experiment and leave. You at least have a contingent of scientists, either sequestered off from everyone else or otherwise protected from the effects, to observe and record, and send back some sort of message like, "Hey, listen, everyone here is just dropping dead, except for a few others that are going nuts and eating each other," rather than sending an investigation team months after you lose contact and have them all get eaten.
The Alliance may have deliberately cut off communications with the planet for security reasons. It's entirely feasible that they had teams on the planet observing operations but that couldn't communicate directly via Subspace Ansible to keep the project secret. (because, y'know, the whole brewing Unification War thing.) The fact that no one knew what happened on Miranda already indicates there was a huge information blackout about the planet anyway - you're not going to keep thirty million people from communicating with their friends and families across the 'Verse without some kind of blanket comms blackout anyway. If they made regular information drops about the progress of the Pax, bu then that information drop started to cease, then they'd likely send an investigation team to find out what was going on, and then....
The scientist in the recording was there to observe the experiment. It was well after the Pax was released, and she was neither asleep nor Reavery, and she knew the details (at least in broad strokes) of the experiment well enough to describe to whoever found her recording.
Of course there was. The Alliance bosses had an awfully complete report about the results of experiment. It was complete enough to give River (who read these bosses memories) nightmares. Apparently there were crews that escaped the planet and somebody should have monitored from the orbit. However, their reports were classified and all those people were silenced one way or another. Any surveillance left on Miranda were destroyed by Reapers.
If you mean the name, then I'd actually argue that calling it the Pax was a nice touch. It sounds sinister, means peace, has connections to the Roman Empire idea of the same name, and is overall a very ironic industrial name for the chemical. The chemical name itself just SCREAMS Bad For You, too, Paxilon is an actual name for a herbicide (as in crop dusting). Hydrochloride is a salt used in anti-depressants. Methinks Joss was sneaking in some social commentary and modern day conspiracy theory stuff here.
If memory serves, the Train Job mentions that every planet's terraforming project has a little quirk to it due to the makeup of the original atmosphere. Miranda's quirk+ Pax = millions dead and thousands of Reavers.
So, if everyone speaks bad Mandarin as a pillow langauge, and if China is the source for one of the two surviving cultures, why are there no Asian characters with speaking parts? With such a diverse bunch, you'd expect to see a few.
There is a subtle implication that interbreeding at some point in the past became fairly common, especially in the Alliance (Simon and River's last name is Tam, Atherton Wing is another example of an ostensibly Caucasian person with an Asian surname), but more than likely, Joss had ideas for this to happen sooner or later and something got in the way.
Also, just because they're one of the two surviving cultures doesn't mean they're necessarily going to be prevalent, unless you want to enforce some sort of equality.
But if Chinese culture is not prevalent in the Firefly 'verse, why do the cast pepper their conversation with Mandarin? I mean, it's pretty obvious from how badly they speak it that formal tuition was not involved.
Maybe there's another side of the 'Verse our characters don't visit where everyone speaks perfect Mandarin and crappy English, and our characters never go there because their Mandarin is so crappy.
So... all the planets settled by the surviving American culture on one side, and all the planets settled by the surviving Chinese culture on the other? That could make some sense if the two survivor cultures had some kind of power sharing agreement in place before they became fully, ah, Allied.
Pretty much, that's the case. Londinium and Sihnon were settled by the Americans and the Chinese, respectively, and are the primary Core worlds of the Alliance. As a result, there's a notable mixture yet separation of the two cultures.
I imagine the Firefly 'verse as a giant Canada: Founded by two cultures (French and British —> Chinese and American) and officially bicultural with laws requiring both languages on most packaging and labels, but with huge swaths of dirt(e.g. anywhere west of Manitoba) where one of the cultures is barely seen.
Yeah, but how much do English-speaking Canadians habitually sprinkle their conversation with French? Not at all in my experience.
More like the polar opposite of China, where people speak Mandarin or some dialect thereof, the young people habitually sprinkle their conversation with poorly pronounced English, many signs have both Chinese and English, and yet there are hardly any Western people.
Of course, besides Simon and Inara the crew's English ain't so good neither. We're just more familiar with it, so the hypothetical other side of the universe would speak somewhat-less-than-perfect-but-understandable Mandarin and bad English.
Also, the DVD Commentary on "Shindig" points out that the writers made an effort to mix in Asian names to characters regardless of how they were actually cast (Atherton Wing, for example, the Tams are also specifically cited in the commentary) in order to imply interbreeding and mixing between them.
Yeah, but that was a pretty obvious attempt at an Author's Saving Throw given the casting. None of the actors involved look the slightest bit East Asian.
Apparently, the character of Kaylee was originally meant to be Asian, but when the actress auditioned they decided to go with her. For as much as I love the show, however, I have to agree that they could have done a much better job with when dealing with the subject of cultural and racial diversity. As it sits, the whole facet comes off as appropriating the "foreign, mysterious ways of the Orient".
In Canada the French speaking population lives in one region, the English speaking in others. However, people in those regions still use words from the other's language. Perhaps the Chinese speaking populace have their own planets, or mostly their own...?
I am not sure why this bothers people so much, my native language had a lot of intermingling with Arabic, Persian, and French. Most of the words are poorly pronounced, or pronounced in a way that is closer to the underlying language than the language they are taken from. Also, very little of the populace looks Arabic or Persian (or French, for that matter).
Mal's apparent age. Especially in the pilot, he really comes off as being significantly older than the actor portraying him. I mean, he's a war vet, and the sort of war vet who still digs the principle involved, he's got the whole seasoned experienced respected smuggler vibe going on, and even his speech patterns kinda peg him as something of a grizzled old-timer. Is it just a case of Executive Meddling with the casting or what?
Mal is supposed to be significantly older than he looks. He's actually 51 years old. I blame really advanced medical technology.
Doesn't even have to be widely available today, either. Maybe back on Earth-that-was, people started monkeying around with genetics a bit? If so, then you'd expect some people to still be carrying the longevity genes their distant ancestors had engineered into their slightly less distant ancestors.
In 1900, Life expectancy was 48.One hundred years late, it is double that.I'm not quite sure how much in the future Firefly is set but why can't humanity just have kept moving up the graph,therefore making 51 rather young?
Flawed statistic. People do live longer on average nowadays, but life expectancy went up mostly because A LOT of people used to die young. As a general rule, if you lived past sixteen, your chances of dying of old age were almost as good as they are now. Saying that though, medical advancements explanation seems to fit best.
You can give better medical treatment and extend the life expectancy, but the problem is that really doesn't affect the RATE at which people age. To change the rate of aging, you'd need telomerase therapy. I dunno if they'd have that out on the Rim on Shadow. Plus, Mal doesn't seem 20 years older than Zoe (her given birthdate in the movie extras), and he also doesn't seem ONLY 8 years younger than Book (2460 is what I recall the movie extras gave, but I'm less certain here). I've always thought maybe Mal's birthyear was juxtaposed, and his birthyear is really 2486 instead of 2468. After all, the Alliance did spell his name wrong.
In the case of the rate of aging, I have two words: Time Dilation. When travelling at high speeds, which is always the case in space travel, time seems to slow down. So it could be possible that Mal is 51 but seems younger than Book because his relative time passed slower. Or maybe it's a case of difference of reckoning between planets.
He'd still only age by the amount of time that he's spent in his subjective reference frame, so it wouldn't explain him having an "older" personality (though it might explain old-fashioned attitudes and speech patterns.)
According to the Lorentz transformation, if Serenity spent its time taking 2 week long trips from one end of the 'verse to the other going about 1/3 of lightspeed, with half of the time spent accelerating or decelerating to that speed, the travel would seem to the crew to take 1.4 times as long. Seven years times 1.4 is 9.8 years. Mal would mentally be only 2.8 years older than he looks.
There's a much simpler explanation for this: He was on the losing side of a bitter and bloody civil war tends to induce premature ageing, then spent several years scraping a meagre living hauling freight, doing little better than breaking even except when they resort to outright theft; by the Big Damn Movie they've been reduced to armed robbery. That would leave anyone aged beyond their years.
Artificial Gravity in "Out Of Gas"
In "Out of Gas", when the Serenity's life support is failing—no oxygen, freezing temperatures—the ship's artificial gravity still works. I realize it would have been much more difficult and expensive to make it look like there was no gravity, but a handwave at it would have been nice.
The ship's atmosphereic processor may be out, but that doesn't mean the power is out. The lights, transmitters, etc. are still working, so why shouldn't the gravity be working too? Besides, in Those Left Behind we can see the exact opposite situation, where a ship has no gravity but the atmospheric processor is still working. Quite clearly, they are redundant systems that don't fail if unrelated systems go offline, which is just good engineering.
What bothers me about it is that canon and non-canon sources have shown that the main drive controls the gravity systems. The gravity systems are PART of the Gravitic Pulse Drive. If the grav was workin' then logically, the pulse drive should too so they could've pulsed to an orbit and then been towed in. Maybe, however, it was a matter of power. There was enough to power artificial grav, but not enough to rev up the pulse drive.
Perhaps backup power? Again, the ship still had lights and all other systems working except propulsion and atmosphere, so perhaps there was backup power or capacitors or something maintaining the gravity systems. It would make sense, if you consider that the Firefly-class ship is designed to run forever and be extremely durable.
It seems strange that they would have backup power for artificial gravity but not for life support.
The artificial gravity systems weren't damaged like the life support systems were. The catalyzer thingamabob was what was needed to get the life support systems running again.
From what I gathered, each system has a backup system that runs off its own backup power supply. The main systems run off the main reactor. When the main reactor went down, it took the main systems with it, but the backups kicked in - except the backup life support was damaged when the engine blew. The rest of the ship's systems are working on backups, but the life support isn't.
Jayne's Injuries During the Reaver Chase
In in the movie when the Reavers were chasing Mal, Zoe, Jayne and River out of the town and shoot Jayne in the leg, causing him to have to hang onto the craft, how come he didn't get any injury beyond the obvious spike-through-the-leg? Surely he would have at least dislocated one or more of his limbs as it seems that with the whole wieght of the Reaver craft pulling him back they could have torn his leg off.
Also, the Reavers wouldn't have wanted to tear his leg off; they want him alive when they eat him, remember.
Don't forget the raping.
The whole weight of the Reaver craft wasn't pulling him back; that would imply that Jayne was literally dragging the entire ship by his leg. The pulley mechanism that launches the spears was what was pulling him back; the craft itself was still speeding forwards, trying to reach the mule. It's like launching a fishing line from the back of a pickup truck into the car next to you; the similar momentum of the two vehicles means that the line doesn't need to be strong enough to pull the entire car, just the item you snagged.
The Other Academy Test Subjects
In the pilot, Simon mentions that River's letter/code boiled down to, "They're hurting us." This and other clues indicate that there were probably multiple teenagers being subjected to the same sort of experiments that River was. Why does the crew never seem to worry or even think about those unfortunate enough to not have a Simon?
In the opening of Serenity, the project director that Simon is talking to is boasting about River as if she's the only exhibit he has that's worth showing off to, or even mentioning to, the higher-ups. The simplest presumption is that by the time Simon was able to infiltrate the facility, River is the only one still alive or not a complete vegetable.
Because its a big 'Verse and they're small people. It might bother them that the Alliance is experimenting on children like this, but what the hell can they do about it? They have no real proof, and even if they did, who are they going to go to?
Also, it's not like they can just walk in to the Academy like Simon did, what with every gorram one of them (with the possible exception of Inara) being wanted fugitives.
In the River Tam Session recordings, it was implied that at least one subject died when the surgeon cut too deeply into his brain. But it's also possible that the underground group that Simon got help from was planning on rescuing them as well (either out of the goodness of their hearts or to simply screw up the Alliance's plans), which could explain how they were able to hook him up to get to River. Simon simply would have paid them to move his rescue of River to the top of the list.
Why Was Serenity Valley So Important?
Why would one valley (Serenity Valley) on one planet (Hera) make such a difference in an interplanetary war? I can understand Mal undergoing a Heroic BSOD from not getting any backup and losing everyone originally under his command except Zoe (The pilot episode, the movie and a deleted DVD scene between Zoe and Simon). But how did it lead to the Browncoats' defeat? We learn in "Bushwacked" that the Independents suffered a "crushing defeat" at Serenity Valley, but how did it end the war and lead to unification of the planet? Even if Hera was strategically important, how would one valley mean the difference of which side controlled the planet?
The battlefield of Waterloo is one square mile. Whatever the truth of history, the popular perception is that one day in that little valley determined the entire shape of Europe for the next century. This is on a much smaller scale, of course — but what are the effects of losing a major battle? The Independents would have been severely demoralised by a major defeat. If — as seems apparent — they took incredibly high casualties (Mal's unit would be about 99 per cent), their army would have been destroyed as a fighting force. They probably had multiple armies, but spread over multiple worlds. So having their army so thoroughly annihilated at Serenity could have cost them the planet, and the planet could have been strategically key.
Alternately, that could have just been the turning point of the war. The Browncoats' Gettysburg, at which it began to look like their defeat was guaranteed.
As said above, a single battle in a single location could turn the tide of an entire war if it is strategically valuable enough. See: Stalingrad. In Hera's case, the planet provided strategic access to the Georgia system, which opened up half of the Rim to the Alliance. Without topographical maps of Hera, we don't know how valuable Serenity Valley is to the overall campaign, though it is worth pointing out that the Independents surrendered before Serenity Valley was lost.
For example, let's take a hypothetical invasion of Earth. Assume strong anti-air/anti-orbital defenses, so surface topography is important and combat has to be waged overland, like it apparently was during the battle for Hera. There are at least two points on Earth that would be absolutely critical in any land war: Sanai Peninsula and Panama. Control of those two choke points could deny a land invasion access to entire continents. That's not even taking into account resources, population centers, logistics train, and locations of various forces. Its entirely possible that Serenity Valley could have been entirely useless strategically except that it would have provided Alliance or Browncoat troops access to the enemy's flanks or allowed a breakthrough into an otherwise strategically important location.
One thing that seems to hold true in the Firefly 'verse is that people aren't getting smarter (well, except River). History now a days often likes to look at the past and make broad sweeping statements. Almost every war you examine will have a single battle that "turned the tides" or "made defeat inevitable", sometimes years before the war even ends. It seems likely to me that the same is done in the 'verse. Serenity Valley was a devastating lost, and one that - in hindsight - clearly marked the defeat of the Browncoats. I'm willing to bet that if we ever heard of the original settlers who came from Earth-That-Was, they were all noble, brave, sober, and couldn't even cut down a tree without being forced to tell their father.
In the aforementioned deleted scene, Zoe mentions that they were dying for (I forget how long) in Serenety Valley while a peace was being negotiated. Wouldn't that tend to indicate that Serenety Valley was the straw that broke the camel's back, the point at which Browncoat "leaders" decided they had lost and finally came to terms?
"The wind blows northerly...."
Okay, so when Mal says "the wind blows northerly, I go north" — given that a northerly wind is a wind from the north, and would normally drive you south, is he misunderstanding and trying to say he follows the wind, or is he asserting his contrary nature in a surprisingly subtle way? I always assumed the latter, but it's recently been pointed out to me that there's no reason to assume Mal knows anything about meterology.
I believe he was saying that if the wind blows to the north, he goes with it. He just picked the wrong order of words to express this in.
Right. Mal isn't exactly what you'd consider a pillar of correct usage of the English language.
I'd go with the contrary nature cloaked by Cowboy English - let's face it, he deliberately wears a brown coat in Alliance-friendly bars on Unification Day.
He could be using "northerly" to mean "toward the north" — it's a perfectly acceptable definition. It's just more commonly used the other way; a northerly is a wind from the north, while a northerly, say, journey could be to or from the north.
He said "if the wind blows northerly, I go North" NOT "if it's a Northerly wind, I go North".
Vera and Oxygen
In Our Mrs Reynolds Jayne mentions that Vera needs oxygen around her to fire. This doesn't make sense. Firearm propellants in use today provide their own oxygen. They can fire quite well in atmosphere or hard vacuum. Why evolve a technology to the point where it loses a capability that would be very useful in a spacefaring culture? This statement becomes more confusing when Jayne fires the gun in burst mode after the spacesuit was breached and Vera was in hard vacuum.
One, Vera was specially modded and presumably this turned her into a bit of a diva. Two, it wasn't a hard vacuum yet, a fraction of a second after a bullethole appeared in the helmet.
After Jayne shot the net he would have had to shift his point of aim to hit the carrion ship's bridge. The suit would have evacuated virtually instantaneously after Jayne's first shot. Vera would definitely have been in hard vacuum by the time Jayne established his aim on the bridge.
Also, remember that this is futuretech; Vera may use a different method of firing that is dependent on oxygen.
Here's an easy answer: Jayne was wrong about it. He got his facts mixed up, and ended up just breaking a suit for no good reason. Simple as that.
Joss even admitted he was wrong about this point, so no reason Jayne couldn't be too.
I'll buy Joss being wrong, but Jayne being wrong is trickier; the guy eats, breaths, and sleeps weapons. He knows more about firearms than anyone else on the ship.
Maybe Jayne never had the opportunity/need to fire Vera in a vacuum, and he didn't think it would work. Remember, he took it off a guy who was trying to kill him, so he probably didn't get the operating manual to go with it.
Or maybe Vera uses liquid based lubricants and would likely jam without pressure. Having solid chunks of frozen oil inside the mechanism might have stopped Vera dead, but by firing it before pressure is lost, the oil might have been hot enough to vaporize instead. thus jam free. Oxygen might have been slang for pressure.
Close, except for one little detail. It's not that the lubrication would freeze, it's that it would flash evaporate. Hard vacuum does strange things to liquids, which is why NASA and other space agencies use specialized lubrication designed to work in hard vacuum for equipment that would be exposed to said vacuum.
Alternately, Vera, like many modern-day weapons, is air-cooled, and would risk overheating (possibly catastrophically) in a vacuum. As far as shooting a hole and depressurizing the suit, there may have been enough air stored in the suit's tanks to keep air flowing over Vera long enough to serve whatever purpose the design needed air around the gun for.
Inara's Shuttle in "Our Mrs. Reynolds"
In Our Mrs Reynolds Saffron disables the ship and flies off in a shuttle, leaving the ship very precisely aimed at a wrecking ring, with the navigation shut off. Why couldn't they just use Inara's shuttle to give a quick burn and change their course? Given that Safron's shuttle had enough fuel to move one shuttle to the nearest planet, Inara's must have had enough fuel to move one shuttle+one firefly a short distance.
If Saffron knows enough about shuttles and ships to disable Serenity like she did, it would be reasonable to assume that she was able to override/lockdown any shuttle from the bridge. Also, when a shuttle is locked in place beside the ship, its engines are actually partially locked inside the hull.
They couldn't use Inara's shuttle because Saffron flew off in it.
Saffron takes the second shuttle, not Inara's. Inara just happens to be leaving that one because her cortex shorted (thanks to Saffron) and went to see if it was working in the second shuttle. They did, in fact, still have one shuttle still docked. My only guess as to why they couldn't power it up to change their trajectory is that the shuttle simply did not have enough power, or is docked/programed in such a way that it has to disconnect before it can fire up it's engines. I'm pretty sure that when we see the shuttle detach, Serenity unlatches before the engines click on. Alternatively, I suppose everyone is too busy fuming, panicking, or trying not to act drugged to think up that solution. Although, now that you bring it up, I wonder why Mal didn't tell everyone else to get on the shuttle and detach. I mean, what if his plan failed? At least then the rest of the crew would have survived, instead of leaving them all to fry.
Maybe at the time he panicked a little, so that only occurred to Mal later, after it was already over. Then later on he used the idea in Out of Gas, an example of not making the same mistake twice.
Let's look at the situation; Saffron sabotaged Inara's shuttle. Her goal in doing so was to strand the Serenity crew onboard so they couldn't follow her, and so they would all die so that they couldn't come after her/spread the word about her. Presumably she did enough of a number on the shuttle so that there was no way they could use it to escape. Even if they detach it, it will essentially function as a floating coffin, leaving the crew to either drift inside until they starve/suffocate or until Saffron's friends come and shoot out a window to vent it so they can sell it as salvage. "Out of gas" is not a good example because they can use both shuttle's engines to fly away, something which Saffron would have made sure to take care of if she wanted not witnesses.
Good point. In the very least Saffron would probably be able to make the shuttles unable to undock from the bridge. According to Inara, she also shut down their Cortex connection so they couldn't call for help, which might also affect ship functionality and start up.
In "Out of Gas" its stated that the shuttles only support four people (five if they push it). The life support systems probably couldn't support all nine crew members. Plus Mal ain't about to give up his gorram ship without putting up a fight.
The most minor of things, but I had a "hey, wait a minute..." moment about this while I was watching "Serenity" last night. They're umpty-hundred years into the future, they have technology that can rebuild planets, all people to be used as living organ carriers, and make space travel about as common as air travel is now...and they still have an ugly-ass late 20th century font like Papyrus around? And use it in things like a ship's nametag? I guess one could say that yes, yes they do and it's just Mal's choice to use it, but it strikes me as being kind of froofy for him.
Maybe it's retro-cool? Or Mal just has no taste?
Could be worse. Could be Comic Sans.
Sound in Space
In Serenity, when they enter the space around Miranda with all the reavers and the spotlight comes on, you hear the sound of the light switching on. Yes, I know it is a dramatic sound effect, but they were consistent about the no sound in space thing for every other episode in Firefly and even for everything prior to that in the movie.
If you watch it again, it is not a sound effect, it is part of the soundtrack. The sound is of drums, not a light switching on.
The Operative's Violent Tendencies
Here's one. Why does someone as clever as The Operative is suppossed to be indulge in such mass slaughter. I thought his philosophy was not to avoid killing but rather not to kill if his mission is not advanced. How does this advance his mission? His mission was to cover up Miranda and surely doing things like this would make people kind of curious. Even the spacers on the ships assigned to destroy all those people would have at least someone who remembered and in any case they didn't kill everyone(I know, people will do a lot of things especially once they've already incriminated themselves; that isn't the point, the point is that every one was at least a potential and unnecessary witness). Wouldn't it have been better to simply hunt the Tams down personally? It's not so much that it seems to evil for him. It's that it seems to sloppy for him and so out of character.
Did you not even pay attention during the movie? Mal was protecting River, and Mal was hiding. "If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to." Mal was hiding among his associates, so the Operative killed his associates so he couldn't hide. And the crews conducting the raids were clearly Alliance special forces, and thus the kind of people who would do this thing routinely.
Yes I did pay attention to the movie and it still seems sloppy to me. It's like those contrived hit men like the Jackal that kill a ridiculous number of people even though there can always be one that can get away. It was out of character for the Operative-like killing people for the sin of pride with a crowbar instead of a sword. There was just as much probability of making a more elegant kill with a little patience.
And there's just as much probability that Mal could have used any of those places to hide and escape further. Destroying them gives Mal nowhere to run. Except Miranda, but the Operative didn't know about Miranda.
The only way there could be 'nowhere to run' is if the Operative destroys all of humanity. I doubt Parliament would be overenthusiastic, seeing as they at least want someone to rule over.
Uh, no? Mal can't run to the Core, and he has lots of enemies in the Rim and Border. Killing his allies gives him less places to hide. He can certainly still try to hide, but without his contacts he's stuck in a sea of strangers, mercenaries, thieves, and people who want to ventilate him.
In any case how in the world does the alliance learn all their contacts in the first place?
Information control. The Alliance has a lot of information; just look at how quickly they found Inara following learning who Mal is.
Remember, they fired off at least six decoy beacons to various points. Following all the beacons could certainly point the Alliance in the right direction.
Er...no, the six decoy beacons were just heading in random directions to lead them off. Why would you program a decoy to someplace you might go later?
I think he meant that they follow all of the nav-sat trajectories. Because one of them actually is Serenity.
Yeah, but he only had one ship there. Presumably, there's a range past which you can't track navsat, and by the time any other ships got there, the navsats would be out of range.
Mal knows his ship. I think he just shut down the real beacon. It's a capital crime, but given the amount of crap he is in already... However, if Alliance checked their logs for records of Serenity nav-sat trajectories for past years, they won't have any problems finding Mal's allies.
The Two Blue Hands were charged with killing everyone that spoke to River, I suppose it's possible that the Operative had a similar order put out. The people we see dead are people that saw River in action or know her enough to possibly have figured out that something wasn't entirely right about her.
River and the Academy
Why was River accepted into the Academy in the first place? Surely they knew that a family as influential as the Tams might have someone to go Papa Wolf or Mama Bear about it in a dangerous way-they were afraid even of Simon. Besides all that, most ruling classes exclude their own kind from that kind of thing as Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas. While Real Life counterparts to the Academy have existed(like the Jannisaries which were less hard on the patients but not on the families who saw their sons disappear), usually those were composed of people whose families could be ignored. By comparison, how many high-ranking Germans were really sent to a camp unless they were actual enemies of the regime or suspected of such? Didn't most just have their Aryan credentials fixed if necessary?
River is implied to already have had Reader powers before she went to the Academy in the R. Tam Sessions. It is also implied that Readers are rare. That's reason enough. Not to mention that while Simon may have gone after her, her parents didn't seem to care (or were in on the whole concept) And Simon had to spend his entire fortune to find River, ruining his life, in what the Academy doctors considered "madness." They clearly didn't believe Simon would go that far to save River.
There's also the fact that the Alliance appears to have developed a cultural emphasis on "making things better" whether or not the ones on the receiving end of the "better" want it or not. That's the entire reason the Unification War started, and the R. Tam Sessions indicate that its the belief of the Academy doctors and the Alliance government that what they do there is for the better of mankind as a whole. From that perspective, it might have been considered worth the risk to use the scion of a wealthy family if she has latent psychic powers.
One theory I've heard and find very plausible is that the Tams are in a lot deeper than is explicitely shown on the show. When you think about it, it is strange for one couple to have two unusually brilliant children (because let's not forget the fact that Simon is a genius in his own right, even if River's mental skills overshadow his somewhat). It's entirely possible that people like River were 'bred' specifically for this purpose. The Tams' reaction to Simon's attempts to convince them that River is in big trouble, and their efforts to keep Simon far away from the Academy, are a little strange to say the least.
To back up your point, the shooting script from "Safe" implies a certain level of knowledge on the part of the father, at the very least. There are hints that he knows he has pretty much sold out his daughter, possibly to protect his son. Couple that with the fact the first scene, and think of how much more interest Father Tam places on Simon's potential. Surely he must have noticed that his daughter was a freaking genius, but never once does he make any mention of possible careers or her future while constantly reinforcing that Simon is/will be a well-off, prominent doctor. Since we only have a few scenes dealing with Simon's parents it's almost impossible to say how involved they were in River's "education", but unless Word Of God says otherwise, I think it's safe to assume they knew something was up, at the very least.
The shooting script is pretty open to interpretation, it could also suggest the parent Tams are also worried about River, but too afraid to do anything or they might even have been outright threatened. Also not that rare for the same set of parents to have multiple unusually smart children, it's part nature and part nurture.
River volunteered to enter the program. The Alliance probably figured that once they got a hold of her, it wouldn't be too difficult to hide the fact that she was being experimented on. After all, it was implied that they had other supergenius subjects being held there and there weren't many signs of the scientists worrying about their families wanting them back.
River as Evidence of the Alliance's Misdeeds
Okay, here's something in Serenity that just occurred to me the other day: In the last act of film, Mal decides that he's going to get the recording they found on Miranda out to the public no matter what. Okay, I can buy that. He's been pushed pretty far at this point in the film, he's a decent guy overall, he has no reason to do the Alliance any favors. But at the same time, haven't they already been carrying around evidence of the Alliance's callous shenanigans with them the whole time? You know, River? Is it just the scale of what happened on Miranda, or the crap the Operative had been inflicting on them, that made him care so much about this particular thing when he didn't ever previously seem to feel the need to go all Warn the People about the government snatching and breaking children? He's a Big Damn Hero, sure, but it strikes me as a little inconsistent that he would care so much about one horror and not really at all about the other.
Well, it may be more of a matter of capability over the outright "value" of the horror involved. Mal simply can't do anything with River. All she is is an insane person with vague, erratic psychic powers with no actual proof to link her to the Alliance beyond Simon's own testimony - which is not going to be enough to implicate a government. Miranda, on the other hand, has proof - millions of bodies, and entire world destroyed, years of cannibal rape pirates rampaging about, etc. Mal can prove that they were behind that. He really can't prove anything regarding River.
There's also the issue of information control. The Alliance can control information quite well, so attempting to spread word of River with no demonstrable proof of what happened to her is destined for failure. It isn't until Mal has demonstrable proof that he can openly transmit across the entire 'Verse at once before the Alliance can squelch it that he has a chance to expose their crimes.
Wouldn't deliberately exposing River to use as a propaganda tool against the alliance be rather like Schindler taking a Jewish girl, driving around with a bullhorn and yelling through it "Listen up! Nazis ain't nice!" Any chance River or Simon are going to be enthusiastic about the idea? It's worse then using her for a bank robbery.
Also, I think that one of the major themes of the movie is that at the start, Mal is still simply self-centered and focused on himself and his crew. "I just want to go my way." It isn't until the Operative outright murders one of his family and destroys settlements filled with his friends that Mal is really galvanized into action. What we're seeing in the movie is a full swing with Mal's character arc - he starts out the Battle of Serenity as an idealistic fighter struggling against the Alliance, he collapses into an angry, tired, selfish thief just trying to avoid getting into trouble, and finally swings back around into the righteous warrior he was years ago. That's fairly realistic Character Development.
I think one of the strongest moments in the film is when Mal is giving his Rousing Speech to the crew, and talks about the Alliance making people "better" - and he stops and looks down at River. I always felt that there was a huge amount of unspoken communication in that short look, as if Mal was apologizing to River for never fighting for her, and at the same time saying "this is for you, too." The whole mini-crusade Mal goes on isn't just for the people of Miranda, its also for River.
"We had this girl in protective custody before her brother kidnapped her. As you can see from these tapes, she has random outbursts of violence and has on one occasion killed a psychologist during an interview. Her brother also suffers from paranoia and an unhealthy sexual obsession with his sister, being convinced (according to their father, respected physician Doctor Tam) that she was encoding secret messages to him."
It probably wouldn't have been too hard for the Alliance to cover up any involvement they had with River. Her parents had pretty much disowned her and Simon so no chance of them verifying anything. They had the brain damage, but it would probably be possible for them to say that someone else did it, even if they weren't able to just hush up any notions of performing a detailed examination of her (without which, she'd just be a crazy girl who couldn't even give a detailed account of what happened to her). In the case of Miranda, they had a lot of bodies and the recording from one of the scientists, openly admitting to exactly what happened.
Going from this, it would actually be REMARKABLY easy to explain away the brain damage. All they have to do is throw Simon under the bus. If they repaint him as an obsessed kidnapper who is manipulating his sister out of either jealousy of her potential future or a perverse desire for her that makes him unwilling to be apart from her, then all they need to do is remind people that Simon Tam is a surgeon, and would be fully capable of performing the operation in question. Hell, play their cards right, and they can send Simon to jail forever for everything they did to River, while simultaneously winning custody to bring her back home to the Academy, "where she belongs".
"Earth That Was"?
I've hardly seen more than ten minutes of Firefly at a time, but even so, I have to ask: why, why do they call Earth "Earth-that-Was", instead of something more natural like "Old Earth" or just plain "Earth"? I can't see or hear the phrase "Earth That Was" without thinking of Stan talking about "the Before Time" on South Park, or Miri's "the Before Time, in the Long Long Ago" on Star Trek, or the kids in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome talking about the apocalypse. In those cases, it's because they're children with a limited vocabulary, trying to describe things that they only dimly understand. But future humans have plenty of words to work with and they're adults, so why are they using that kind of muppet-babies language? Is it a literal translation of a Chinese term they use for Earth that I just haven't come across yet? Is it Joss Whedon being Joss Whedon? Why, why, I have to know!
Because there's countless phrases in the modern lexicon that don't terribly make a lot of sense that are used to refer to old places or times, e.g. The Middle Ages. All it takes is a phrase or word that sticks and people run with. "Earth That Was" doesn't sound terribly out of place to me - to the point that its a trope.
The quasi-poetic feel to it may be because it's actually from a poem. Many modern day words and phrases were either invented or popularized by Shakespeare and are still in use, despite the rules of grammar and so forth having changed significantly since the Elizabethan era. All you need is a playwright or a poet or someone describing "Our numbers were many, our graces were few | Our senses dulled by din and buzz | Our verdant home a duller hue | No longer our home, that Earth That Was."
Hmm, that's not a bad idea. I think I can save my sanity a little by just assuming "Earth that Was" gained traction through something like that, a poem or popular phrase that present-day viewers just don't know the context for.
It definitely feels that way when Saffron says it. She uses "Earth-That-Was" in context of mythology. In fact, I think there are a few mentions of legends regarding the Earth. It could be that it's simply become mythologized, and "Earth-That-Was" has a more mythical feel to it, something originated in stories and fables rather than real life.
The-Earth-That-Was pretty much sums up that it's well in the past and something bad happened in any instance of it's use. I mean, what would happen if they explained Earth was ruined in a certain episode someone missed and then they went back to talking about it like it was just plain Earth? Wouldn't have the same easy to access oompf and understanding.
River After "Ariel"
Anyone else bugged by everyone's reaction to River after "Ariel"? Yeah, Jayne's not well liked, and she is crazy, but she tried to kill a crewmate in cold blood and suffers no repercussions. Given this is the "You turn on any of my crew, you turn on me" episode, it seems off.
Tried to kill a crewman in cold blood? If she'd wanted to kill Jayne, she could have - all she did was slash him across the chest with a relatively shallow cut. She could have done a lot more damage. And no repurcussions? "She's to stay confined to her room at all times. You take her to the infirmary, the kitchen, you come to me first, understand?" This appears to be fully in effect in that episode, as the only times we see her on the ship outside of Mal's presence, she's confined to her room. There's also the fact that she's mentally unstable, so Mal seems willing to forgive quite a bit for that, and its quite clear throughout the series that he has a very soft spot for her. Also, a major part of "Ariel" is that Simon is finally developing a real treatment for River, which comes out in the subsequent episode, and it makes sense that Mal would lessen up on River if she starts mentally improving. There's also the issue that Jayne betrayed them, and Mal developing his suspicions about River's powers, which might give Mal a good idea of why River may have attacked him.
Mal being "soft" on River is definitely a consistent part of his character. Note how he treats her in the movie. He brings her back on the ship even after she goes on a psychotic rampage, though he takes steps to confine her, which matches his reaction to her violent outburst in "Ariel" - she's effectively locked in her room and Mal gives Simon a stern reminder of what his responsibilities are. Mal does treat her differently than he does Jayne, but that's because while River's actions aren't really her fault due to her insanity, Jayne's were premeditated acts of betrayal. That's why Mal reacts so violently to Jayne. Once Simon's medications start taking hold, River is released in "War Stories."
It's also worth noting that Mal is fairly lenient when it comes to attacks on Jayne in general. He didn't object to Simon drugging Jayne in "The Train Job" nor did he respond to Zoe actually drawing a weapon and threatening to shoot Jayne in the pilot. Both of them had good reason to turn on Jayne at those points in time. River's attack on Jayne was unprovoked, but not really her fault, so Mal had her locked up for the safety of the rest of the crew. As the above troper pointed out, Jayne's betrayal of the Tams was a premeditated act of treachery done solely for his own profit. There's a world of difference.
Its the "diminished capacity" defense. Any other crewmember trying to kill a shipmate would be punished severely, but River can't be held responsible for her actions because she's batshit insane. Mal's deal with Simon is that for as long as Simon keeps patching up the crew, Simon and his mentally ill sister get free passage. Since Mal's agreed to keep a crazy person onboard, he's tacitly accepted that that's going to involve a certain amount of inconvenience. So long as Simon is making a good faith effort to keep River under control, the occasional lapse will be tolerated.
Plus there is the fact that River is a girl, which sounds horrible but, well, let's face it. If Inara or Kaylee were to hit Jayne, I doubt either of them would face more than a talking to and, in Inara's case, some really underhanded comments. Hell, Mal doesn't even try to appear fair and balanced, and Jayne is definitely downward on his list of favorite people. Do you really think he would have thrown Zoe in the airlock for slashing at Jayne?
River wasn't attacking Jayne, she was defacing his Blue Sun shirt.
WHOA. That blew my mind right there. I actually went back and watched the scene the moment I read that comment, and you're 100% right. River even says right after, "He looks better in red." You think she's being 'morbid and creepifying,' going on about blood being 'pretty' or sumesuch, but what she means is she doesn't want to see him in Blue! You, sir or madam, are ruttin' brilliant.
Still River was frickin' crazy and a potential danger. As Jayne said: What if it was Kaylee next, or Inara? What if Kaylee wore a Blue Sun tshirt? I think Mal was wrong on that one, and I really like River.
What exactly is Mal going to do? He knows that she's mentally unstable, but at the same time she and her brother are victims of the Alliance and it is quite clear that despite his hardass and uncaring exterior, Mal is a good guy and simply tossing Simon and River off the ship would not sit well with him. So Mal aims for a compromise between security for his crew and his conscience regarding the two: River can stay in the ship but is confined to quarters up until she demonstrates she is not a danger anymore. And with Simon's development of drugs that improves her lucidity, she's released.
If it had been anyone else on the crew who had worn the shirt, River could probably have restrained herself to something less... dramatic. Tearing it up later perhaps. Keep in mind that not only was she defacing the Blue Sun shirt, she was hurting Jayne, a man who had openly disliked and taunted her and her brother since they joined the crew, and was probably already thinking of selling Simon and River off to the feds, even if he hadn't decided on it yet. Also in that scene, at that moment, Simon and Jayne had just had an antagonistic interchange and Jayne was probably thinking some choice things about her big brother. Add to that that due to Mal's soft spot for her, she knew she could get away with it, and...
Well, yes and no. She was defacing his Blue Sun shirt, but it's hard to say whether or not she would have done it to, say, Kaylee wearing that shirt, because Kaylee hadn't made a deal that would bring the Blue Suns down on her head. She was attacking "Jayne wearing a Blue Sun shirt", because Jayne had gone to bed with the Blue Suns, whether he knew it or not. "He looks better in red," is River's own incomprehensible admission that she wants to see Jayne stay a part of their crew, and not go down the road he'd started on.
I read it as her having her berserk button of having her brother insulted, which Jayne just did.
Mal and the "Special Hell"
Book warns Mal about the 'special hell', and claims he'll end up there if he takes sexual advantage of Saffron. But Saffron is his wife. If there's a special hell for people who have sex with their wives (and people who talk at the theatre), it must be very crowded.
Everyone is very much aware that Saffron's story involves her being married off as tribute and as an essential sexual slave to Mal. Book here is clearly meaning that if Mal takes advantage of her by forcing her into having nonconsensual sex by virtue of him being her husband and thus her having to do what he says, he's raping her. Whether or not she's his wife, if she doesn't give consent he is raping her. Note that at the beginning of the scene later on in Mal's bunk, Mal is of the same mind, and is refusing to have sex with Saffron because she seems to be implying she's doing it because it is expected of her. Mal's inhibitions and objections disappear once she gives consent. There's a difference between consensual sex between a husband and a wife, and a wife having sex with her husband because it is expected of her, whether she wants to or not and the husband knowingly taking advantage of that to force it out of her.
Think about what you just wrote. Book said Mal would go to the "special hell" for taking sexual advantage of Saffron. Sounds like a hell-worthy trespass to me.
"Taking sexual advantage of her" is more or less a cleaner and less crude way of saying "raping her." If she doesn't give knowing consent it's rape, and if she's pressured into having sex simply because she's his wife, that's not really consensual either.
His objections and inhibitions don't "disappear" because she gave consent; she was offering herself to him the whole time. She was actively seducing him; she went way beyond simply saying, "Yes, I want to have sex with you." He was resisting up until she actually kissed him.
The thing was that Saffron (or so her story goes) was sold against her will to Mal for the purpose of being his own personal sexual slave, a fate that she appeared to accept as only worthy of her. Even though she wanted it, it still would have been taking advantage of her. Since her story turns out to be untrue, we know that this isn't the case, but the point is that Saffron isn't able to give true consent if she's been forced into the marriage and is too ignorant to recognize that she isn't just somebody's sex toy.
At this point in the story all the crew knows about Saffron is that she appears to be a very naive, very submissive young woman given to Mal in the place of payment. She's hardly even his wife so much as she is a slave. Pretend that Saffron has not been lying. Then the facts of their relationship would have been this: Saffron is in subservient to Mal, she has been raised to believe she must do what her husband wants, and part of a wife's duty is to please her husband sexually. Can a woman who has been told "you were created for the pleasure of men, are to always be submissive to men, and in the eyes of God are incomplete until you have fulfilled your wifely duty of giving your body to your chosen husband/owner" really ever consent to sex with the person she was given to?
The above argument is a bit of a slippery slope- given that it was the culture into which Saffron was supposedly raised. It's close to the implication that all arranged marriages are legalized rape, which is a bit much even for Joss Whedon. Saffron's own (false) explanation about the kind of horrible men she watched other women married off to shows that in "the reality of her lie" she felt herself fortunate enough to have Mal. Even if their culture in general is filled with unpleasant arrangements, she gives ZERO indication that she's not pleased with the pairing. From her (fictional) point of view- Saffron sees Mal as her husband and from her (pretend) point of view there's nothing wrong with them having sex. But, our culture is superior (and the one true culture). Of course.
Also, she might happen to believe (some form) of whatever she's saying at the exact moment she's saying it (because sometimes it REALLY seems like she might). She might be planning to knock Mal out, steal his ship, and roll her eyes at all the crew while at the exact same time as she's a vulnerable (and quite crazy) woman who is attracted to Mal.
Though I'm not sure the argument about arranged marriages is a slippery slope... It's a generalization, and sometimes right and sometimes wrong. Someone who consents to their own arranged marriage can be said to be in a consenting relationship. But if they don't, well, then that simply isn't a consenting relationship, where consenting is also awareness of what they're getting into and the understanding that they can say "no" to unwanted advances.
Wasn't the driving issue when all this was going on was that Mal had no intention of keeping Saffron as a wife?
Point the first: Saffron was on the ship because she had (evidently) been married off to him without his informed consent.
Point the second: As his wife, Saffron saw it as her duty to submit to him in every way, in particular in the bedchambers.
Point the third: Mal had every intention of having the marriage undone and dropping Saffron off somewhere convenient.
Thus, if Mal had sex with her within the bounds of their marriage, only to break it off and dump her the next day, that would be him sexually taking advantage of her, as opposed to keeping her as his wife and caring for her as a husband should.
Where did River get her clothes? I doubt Simon thought to pack a bag for her in the midst of 'omg River needs me', and they don't look like the ultra-fancy clothes she would have had anyway. I doubt that Simon would have had the time to pause in his Alliance-fleeing to go on a shopping spree, nor do they appear to be borrowed from any other crew members; the style of outfits are unique to her.
I wondered about that too, since her clothes are so unique, mostly consisting of waifish dresses and combat boots, not exactly the kind of thing you'd expect of a fugitive or a rich kid. And while we're talking about her clothes, (not sure if this was mentioned above) why did she have to be naked when she was in that box that Simon brought her in? I mean, besides the obvious reasons. Who removed her clothes in the first place?
Cryo freezing in the Firefly setting apparently requires you to be naked to go through it. The Applied Phlebotinum may make it painful or uncomfortable to wear clothing after getting out of the box (for example, like it works in Halo), or it could just simply get in the way of the process.
That one may actually be perfectly justified: if the freezing process turns clothes hard, the folds could turn into dangerous sharp edges; it also probably isn't terribly good for fabric (since it can't be injected with whatever anti-freezes humans presumably are). As for who removed them, probably Simon; it's not actually all that weird under the circumstances (plus he's a doctor).
River could have simply gotten them on loan from Kaylee, at first - I wouldn't be surprised if Kaylee has some hand-me-downs she's holding onto that River could have worn. After that, it would be a simple issue of Simon asking Kaylee to buy River some clothes the next time they're in port, and Simon paying with his own money from his cut.
This troper always figured that River had just taken over some hand-me-downs from Inara and Kaylee (none of her clothes [excluding boots when she wears them] seem particularly Zoe-ish.) But this troper is pretty sure she remembers Inara taking off her gold robe thing in the pilot for the recently awoken River (who wears it for at least the extent of the episode and one of the promotional cast photos.
I rather assumed that as well, that River just gathered up what fit and was already on the ship. Being out in the middle of nowhere all the time, and not having a steady income, one of them must know a few sewing tricks to make clothes last as long as possible. Surely that person could take in a few hand me downs so they fit. That only leaves the question of who the hell was wearing tight black shorts before giving them to River?
According to an interview with Shawna Trpcic, the costume designer, "River's clothes were supposed to be like Kaylee rejects. As if Simon in his rush did not pack anything, he was just planning his escape with his sister." Those shorts look like something that might be worn under a short skirt, such the pink one in "Safe" that River complained looked like a "gorram doll", suggesting that it's not the kind of clothing she would have picked out for herself. The interview's here, if you're curious.
Given the rough nature of life in the outer rims, it's not unreasonable to think that some basic sewing/cloth making would be a skill some members of the deep space crews would have. River's clothes wouldn't necessarily have to be hand me downs from from someone, but could be made from left over or discarded clothing.
The Salvage Pirates in "Out of Gas"
In "Out of Gas", why does the salvage crew back off when Mal pulls a gun on the leader? He's outnumbered, outgunned and injured, so why did they even take his threat seriously?
Seriously? Because Mal has a gun on their leader. I'm not sure if you've ever been in a situation where someone is holding a gun on someone else, but it's generally a bad idea to provoke someone who has their finger on a trigger. No matter how fast you move, there's almost no chance you'll be able to move faster than they can pull the trigger. That and Mal is gutshot and they've already made it clear they have intentions to kill him, so he's got no reason to not pull the trigger if they provoke him. If any of them so much as twitches, Mal will put a bullet in their boss and probably will hit one of more of the others. There's a reason why most people back down when a gun is leveled at them.
Ah, I see. And I guess it makes Mal even more awesome if he's able to get an entire salvage crew to back off with one gun while gutshot.
Well, the fact that they shoot him is one of the important parts. They've already shown intent to kill, so Mal's literally got nothing to lose if they don't take him seriously, and you know he's going to put at least one of the enemy crew down before they kill him if that's the case.
In the commentary, Tim Minear said that he wished he had Mal pull out a bigger gun such as a shotgun instead of a pistol, just so Mal seemed a little more intimidating to the salvage crew.
Also, it makes sense for them to back off. Mal is gut shot and they probably figured he would die soon enough anyway. Then they could come back, fix the ship, and take it without a fight.
Which then leaves the question of where they went. If they simply were just waiting for Mal to bleed out so they could take the ship without risk, which granted wouldn't have been a horrible plan given the situation, where did they go? I doubt they would have been scared off by the returning shuttles.
Why wouldn't they be? For all they know, the returning shuttles are laden with a dozen heavily-armed piratical types. Also, being scavengers and salvagers, the other ship's crew is probably headed somewhere to sell their haul for money. They're probably not likely to be willing to chance a gunfight if they can avoid it; note how one man with a pistol put them all on the backfoot. I'm fairly certain that the only reason they shot Mal and tried to take his ship was because he was the only one on board. Even a shoot-out with a couple of people is probably too much of a risk for these guys.
There's also the fact that they may not have been prepared for such things. Yes, they were armed, yes, they shot Mal, but they went through great trouble to make sure the ship was empty and he was the only one on it, and then gut shot him by surprise. This is not the act of a person used to killing or fighting, but the act of an opportunist, and a cowardly one at that. So they intended to take a ship easily with one act, a shot that was meant to kill, and the man they tried to kill stood up and held a gun on them. There's both the "crap, gun!" reaction *and* the "Holy s***, he's standing up with a wound like that!" The captain of the salvage crew expects that other people would react like he did (shown by his line of "You would have done the same"), which shows that he is thrown off because Mal is *not* reacting the way he is expected.
Serenity's Docking Position
Serenity (the ship) is repeatedly shown docking upside down relative to what they're docking with because of the design of a Firefly. How does the Artificial Gravity changeover work, since Serenity's gravity would be oriented towards the "ceiling" and the other ship or space station would have theirs oriented towards the "floor."
Presumably, the passage between the two ships allows for a change in gravity. For exampe, docking with the Alliance ship or the scavenger ship shows an umbilical collar connecting the two ships. Another possibilty is magnetic boots that would allow you to step off of your ship's gravity onto another ship's "floor". They can probably also alter the gravity inside the airlock itself. Step through, adjust the gravity in the airlock gently so you can transition to the other ship, step out.
This. Recall that in the pilot when they return to Serenity with the cargo, they are shown in the airlock in zero G, anchored by magnetic boots with the carge floating next to them until Zoey hits a button and turns the gravity back on, causing the cargo to crash to the floor. Presumably when they transition to other ships, the same happens. Zero G-> move to other ship->other ship's gravity takes hold.
Artificial Gravity in General
What's the deal with the gravity on the ship? The series seems very well educated on other space issues, among them being sound, but there's still gravity. Now, I'd be perfectly willing to believe that they have some kind of generator. But in Out of Gas, they lose power and yet Mal is still struggling across the floor. And, now that I think about it, what's the advantage of having gravity on the ship anyway? It seems to me that it would make it harder to move around, and also increase the risk of injury by falling.
This was already discussed further up on the page. Gravity systems and atmosphere processors are operating on different systems. (The comic Those Left Behind shows the opposite; a derelict ship has no gravity but has working atmosphere) Having the vital two systems operating separately just makes good engineering sense. Also, the ship isn't out of power; if it was, then none of the ship's systems would be on, and everyone would be stumbling about in pitchblackness, they wouldn't have working transmitters, etc. And they use gravity on the ship for the same reason every sci-fi series uses Artificial Gravity: filming in the Vomit Comet is expensive.
Additionally, there is a perfectly good reason to use artificial gravity if you've invented it - it prevents bone and muscle decay. It's a very serious problems for present-day astronauts. They spend a few months in space and then proceed to spending a few months rehabilitating from loss of bone density. Without a need for it, your body will not automatically stay equipped for the stresses of gravity.
It's also probably a comfort issue. Humans evolved and are built for moving around in an environment that includes gravity. Thus, having gravity would be a priority for people who are going to be spending most of their lives living in space, assuming they have the technology for it. Also, gravity is useful for dealing with sudden movements, accelerations, and decelerations; if you didn't have it, then everytime the ship changed course anyone not secured would be smashed against a wall. Instead, they're consistently rooted to the "floor" and damage is mitigated.
The gravity screening also plays a significant role it the mobility of the ship itself by reducing the inertia as they travel. Since they're already messing with gravity, why not create a separate field inside the ship itself for convenience?
Objects in Space in General
A couple things about "Objects in Space" bother me. First being what looks like an error in continuity. When Mal, in the episode, brings up the possibility of River being psychic, Simon seems confused by the idea. Yet, in "Serenity" (The film), when Simon is posing as a Fed to rescue River, he says something along the lines of "What use do we have for a psychic if she's insane", so he obviously was told of her psychic abilities by those at the academy.
Incorrect. Watch "Safe" - when River reads everyone's mind, note Simon's reaction; he isn't confused or surprised at all. At best, he's terrified. He knows she's psychic, but he's hiding this from the crew because he's already got enough issues with her mental instability. If the crew learned she was psychic, they'd be even more nervous around her, and worse still, Mal would want to exploit her abilities - which he does pretty quickly once he learns exactly what she can do. Simon was acting confused and skeptical because he was trying to hide her abilities.
Aaah, I see. I should have gone back and rewatched "Safe", your answer makes sense. Something similar was on my mind, the question of why Simon seemed so surprised to find that the academy had breached River's skull in "Ariel" when he had seen them stick that big frakkin' needle into her head in the movie. Would there be a similar explanation for this; He didn't want to let on to Jayne that he knew? I don't really see why he wouldn't though, Jayne's knowledge that Simon had been the one to let River out surely would have only increased the man's respect for the doctor. Then again, due to my extremely limited knowledge of this kind of thing, perhaps the needle thing wouldn't actually count as a breach of the skull.
That issue was discussed further up the page. There's a difference between the two scenes, as when Simon is rescuing River, he's in the middle of maintaining a cover while trying to rescue River, and his first priorities are going to be making sure she's healthy and then getting her out. There's probably also emotional issues there, too, as Simon is likely terrified and worried about River, and this is also the first time he's seen her in nearly three years. By comparison, when he's in the hospital on Ariel, he actually has time to observe and analyze without worrying about distractions like maintaining his cover and preparing an escape. Thus he can spend time being careful and noting everything they did to her.
The second thing that just bugs me is this one line by Early. When he discovers that River has hijacked his Slave 1, he says something like, "You're not in my mind, you're on my ship!" Um, yeah, Early, she is, but there's no way she could have found out all that stuff about you from being in your ship. She's in your mind too buddy. Also, she can kill you with hers.
Actually, she very well could have found that by being on his ship. There's a thing people keep called "journals," after all. Early clearly keeps some momentos of his past around the ship, so him having a journal - even if it is something stored on a computer - makes perfect sense.
Or, she's just figured some things out based on his behavior, paired it with some facts she found on his ship, and then messed with him. Of course, it's established that she's a reader, which is how she knows Early is coming (she hears a strange voice in the montage of thoughts and goes looking for it in the beginning of the episode) so yes, she is also in his mind. Whether she can kill him with hers might be up for debate.
At the start, River is walking around the ship reading everyone's minds. What's up with what Book says? 'I don't give half a hump if you're innocent or not! So where does that leave you?'? I can figure out a context for everyone else, but even knowing that Book was an Operative doesn't help.
Book wasn't an Operative. He was a double agent working within the Alliance to aid the Browncoats. He did a bunch of jobs, including murder and interrogation; the line from Book about not caring about innocence comes from that.
Book doesn't care if you're innocent. He'll pray for you and care about you regardless.
It seemed like Book wasn't talking about River, but about Jayne. Jayne was talking to Book about him not being allowed to have sex, because he's a shepherd. Then Book brings up if Jayne would like to become one (sarcastically). But in his mind he doesn't care at all about Jayne's sexual history (being innocent) and that's what River picks up. The "so where does that put you" line could show his contempt for Jayne being a dumb brute.
"The world"/"The Verse"
Ludicrously trivial, but hey, that's the spirit of this section, right? "Plus, every other girl I know is either married, a professional, or closely related to me, so you're pretty much the only girl in the world." For some reason, my brain briefly went "Dwa?", and I had a thought that "the world" should have been "The 'verse".
"World" and "'Verse" are interchangable, i.e. "The turning of the worlds." Plus 'Verse is a more colloquial phrasing used by people farther out, while "world" is likely used more often by "proper" people from the Core.
But wouldn't 'Verse be simply slang for 'Universe'? Why then would that be interchangable with 'World'? I apologize, I'm obviously missing something, as I don't quite understand your quote. You're quite right though, those from the Core likely would never use such slang.
Because they're not using 'world' to mean 'planet'. They're using 'world' to mean 'everything', as a linguistic holdover from when one planet was everything.
Wrong way around. "World" to mean "planet" is a linguistic holdover from when one planet was everything. But aside from that, yes.
"Out of Gas" and Spacesuits
Out Of Gas just bugs me. Ok, life support is out. Legit problem, if you didn't have space suits with their own ability to give you air. But you do. So the problem is non-existent, hence OOG is an Idiot Plot.
The suits don't create air out of the firmament — they carry an air supply. So if you put on a suit you get a couple more hours to live in your freezing, airless, ship.
Those things are sealed, AKA, no freezing (same reason why you can go into space in one)
... and? They'll still run out of oxygen.
"Sealing" the suits probably has more to do with not letting what oxygen you have escape than it does with heating the things; I'm not sure what the suits are made of, but I find it hard to believe that they wouldn't dissipate heat fairly quickly in the black. More likely, they contain a heating element, which would eventually run out of power if it couldn't be recharged.
Also, at the end of the episode, Jayne mentions he "prepped" a suit for Mal as a backup once he started running low on air. Implications of course being that the suits don't have much air, probably only enough for a couple of hours.
Mal point blank stated he had no intention of using it. I think he was thinking of having a dignified death - going into a suit and dying that way does smack of having panicked at the last. I therefore saw it as an issue of pride.
Getting a suit prepared presumably means giving it a fresh tank of air, like with an aqualung. If they get said air from the ship, there'd be no practical difference to using a suit or not.
"You're afraid we're going to run out of air. That we'll die gasping. But we won't. That's not going to happen. We'll freeze to death first."
Sexuality in "Shindig"
I'm not really sure this counts as a Headscratchers, but was anyone else bothered by the "What a vision you are in your fine dress — it must have taken a dozen slaves a dozen days to get you into that getup. 'Course, your daddy tells me it takes the space of a schoolboy's wink to get you out of it again" line? I mean, yes, knocking the Alpha Bitch down a peg when she's being mean is cool, but did it have to be through slut-shaming? Issues like that aside, it also doesn't really make sense for a place where Companions are considered a part of upper-class society, though I suppose that could be justified.
There's a difference between a Companion and a simple prostitute. Companions don't just provide sex, they provide counseling, advice, and spiritual assistance. There's the difference, and even then, there's some indications Companions aren't as respected by some, judging by how Atherton Wing treats Inara. Also, one needs to consider that the upper-class ball in that episode was partially inspired by Victorian society, where, on the one hand, upper-class courtesans very similar to Companions were common in aristocratic circles and highly respected. At the same time, the society also had some intense social taboos on sexuality, especially for women. To a degree, that episode reflects the exact same social taboos and hypocrisy that existed in Victorian society - a refined, trained, and educated prostitute is respected, whereas a noblewoman who is promiscuous is disrespected.
Short version: World of difference between being a high-class, registered companion and being a slut.
Well, to an extent. There's suggestions that a companion might be treated with respect to his or her face, but might be subject to prejudices and judgments from the noblewomen and men behind their back. In the Serenity RPG handbook, it's mentioned that there's a bit of a double standard, in that companions are looked at as suitable escorts for a party, or even long term arrangements like Atherton proposes, but are not looked at as acceptable marriage partners. Short version: they both get looked down on a little. Hence why even Inara has to endure receiving poor treatment and insults sometimes from her clients, but Inara doesn't conduct herself in public in any way that would have call for anyone to try to shame her whereas The Libby was being particularly rude.
I might be alone on this one but it bothers me that the blonde rich girl is seen as the Alpha Bitch. Her introduction, making small talk about Kaylee's dress, seems nice enough and her second comment, saying that Kaylee's dress looks like it was bought in a store, was snobbish but didn't seem particularly mean spirited and in a weird way almost trying to be nice. The other speaking member of the group was the really mean one.
It was actually a brilliant piece of showcasing how girls bully each other, tearing apart someone's self-image and self-confidence and making them feel like the dirt beneath your feet, all the while under the pretence of being 'helpful' and 'compassionate' - it's an absolutely vicious form of bullying that's a very common form among females of all age-groups. Whoever wrote those lines was probably very familiar with real-life female bullying. It was well scripted and both the bullies and victim played it very well.
It's implied that they're mocking Kaylee's lack of privilege, because she doesn't have a personal tailor. Just because someone says something in innocent dulcet tones doesn't mean someone is being nice.
Chain of Command
What's up with the chain of command on the ship? I mean, Mal, then Zoe, that makes sense. But why is JAYNE third? I mean, the only person I'd give the guy higher priority than is River on a bad day.
I don't think he actually is. He just tried to take command while Mal and Zoe were away.
Pretty much. Jayne asserts that he's in charge, and waves his giant, hard....chain....of command around when Mal and Zoe aren't around, but one look at how everyone else acts and its pretty clear that he's not really in charge. Remember, Mal doesn't even seem bothered that Jayne got doped; in fact, he actually compliments Simon for thinking fast and doping Jayne when he got too big for his boots. Chain of command simply appears to be Mal -> Zoe -> maybe Wash or Inara -> everyone else -> River.
And then Jayne. Maybe.
I think it's Mal -> Zoe -> Wash -> Kaylee -> Jayne. Book, Simon, River and Inara aren't in the "Chain", so to speak. Since Jayne is almost always with Mal & Zoe, Wash & Kaylee keep things running when the others are away.
It's likely situational. If everything's running smoothly there's no need for a chain of command, just follow whatever orders Mal and Zoe left when they headed out and wait till they get back. If there's an emergency, who's in command is probably who's best suited to deal with it. Wash or Kaylee for technical emergencies depending on the nature of them, Simon for medical, and Jayne for any combat related situations. Even then, it's probably less "chain of command" than "everybody shut up and listen to the only person here who knows what they're talking about", and Jayne is a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass when it comes to combat.
Because KAYLEE or INARA is the one you want to take orders from should something happen to Mal or Zoe? If Mal & Zoe are gone there's a pretty good chance they are in a combat setting. And while Book would be the correct next choice, nobody KNOWS that (though they suspect it). Jayne would lead in a crisis— once the crisis was over the crew would likely disband (if they survived).
What TV show did you watch? Because in the actual show, when a crisis situation hit, Jayne was not trusted by anyone with command, and was in fact drugged unconscious - an act that Mal approved of. So judging by how everyone acted in the series, yes, they would rather listen to Inara or Kaylee than trust Jayne to be in command.
What's more, in Objects in Space, Mal specifically advises Inara to not let Jayne take over, implying he trusts her more with command than he would Jayne, as she's more levelheaded. Of course, she's also probably a much better pilot than Jayne, and they were escaping in the shuttle. But yes, it does appear that Inara is higher in the chain of command than Jayne, and it can be assumed that absent Zoe and Mal the skilled members of the crew (doctors, pilots, mechanics) would also likely be higher in the chain of command in a crisis situation than Jayne, and this seems to bear-out in series.
Mal's Character Derailment
The movie has been bugging me a bit, mainly because of what strikes me as Character Derailment. In the series, Mal views the Tams as full-fledged members of Serenity's crew (as is evident by his awesome speech to Jayne in 'Ariel'), yet in the film, as is evident by his talk with Simon at the beginning, he sees them as simple passengers who are paying their way through Simon's doctoring. That, and when they're letting the Tams off the ship, Kaylee criticizes Mal for "keeping him [Simon] from knowing I was there." Uh, what? At no point in the show did Mal ever try to hinder Simon and Kaylee's budding relationship. He didn't necessarily try to strengthen it, but he didn't seem to mind them getting close.
For Simon, keep in mind that A) Mal does not like him and B) Simon was outright going against his authority by refusing to let River be taken on the job. Being a member of Mal's crew is a two-way street; he'll cover your ass and keep you safe, but he expects you to follow his orders, or he'll come down on you hard. A good example of this was in "Out of Gas" - Wash refuses to obey Mal's order to go to the bridge and assess the damage to the ship. Mal's response is to slam him against the wall and force him to follow orders. Simon is refusing to let Mal take River with him on the bank job, so Mal is turning hostile toward him.
For River, as was just said, being on the crew is a two-way street: You have to contribute something, and that's what he wanted River to do, use her natural abilities to help keep them safe on a job. Mal can be a jerk sometimes, but he probably wouldn't have actually put her in harm's way on purpose; no way he could've foreseen the Reavers, and if it weren't for them, they'd have gotten home without any sort of hassle. Mal has been, in the past, equally hostile toward any of the other crew when they went against him or refused to contribute, like the aforementioned instance with Wash, or Jayne on occasion.
Actually, there may be some Fridge Brilliance in that. During the series, Mal never asks River to help because he does see her as a load, or at least not able to contribute because of her mental state. But in "Objects in Space," the episode ends with both Tams being accepted as part of the crew and as part of the family. And since now they're both fully part of the crew, Mal expects both of them to do their part.
As for Kaylee, keep in mind she's angry and upset that he left, and may not be perfectly rational; hell, she's probably looking for someone to blame and making up reasons for it - something that, while not terribly nice of her, is perfectly human to do.
Another thing to consider: Book's gone. Inara's gone. Who knows how recently these things happened? It's entirely possible that both events were fairly recent and put Mal in a foul mood, and seeing as he isn't exactly fond of Simon found it easiest to take it out on him, and Simon arguing with him is even more frustrating. In fact, the Tams—being the one left Mal's known for the shortest amount of time—could be viewed as potentially the next ones to leave. Mal, by distancing Simon and River in his mind from the rest of the crew, could be trying to make the idea of them leaving less potentially painful.
Also Simon was the one who made the move to leave, not Mal kicking them out. So Mal may still have seen him as crew but had to belittle him because he was in a foul mood.
Mal said in the show that taking the Tams onboard meant working harder to stay under Alliance radar, meaning that the crew was having a harder time finding work. Add 8 months of the Alliance expanding it's grip, and it's no wonder that Mal might start seeing Simon as the reason that Serenity is running on fumes and the crew is eating leftover scraps.
In the pilot episode, Serenity has a close encounter with a reaver ship. I know it's supposed to be a tense, suspenseful experience, but I couldn't get past how slow both ships were moving. The reaver ship is within grappling range for something like twenty seconds. I could maybe accept the wild unlikelihood of two ships passing that closely to one another in the great vastness of space without any course corrections, but there's no way these vessels would be crawling through the black at ten miles an hour.
Its for the same reason ships move so slowly in a variety of other science fiction TV shows/films; showing them moving at actual speed and at actual distances would have them moving too fast for the viewer to actually see them moving in relation to each other.
No, actually. Space is so huge that things in it seem to move relatively slowly. It also screws with depth perception. Things that are miles apart can look very close together in the vastness of space.
It is kind of the same convention we see in Star Trek, where characters describe very long ranges in the hundreds to thousands of kilometers but when we cut to the visuals the ships are very close together. They've got to fit both ships on screen, so speeds and distances are fiddled with to get a good visual.
It's also possible Mal had Wash slow down so it didn't look like Serenity was "running away" from the Reaver ship, since they point out that Reavers practically have to chase you if you run. It was the outerspace equivalent of, "Okay, everyone just act natural..."
Other Colonized Systems?
This has been bugging this troper: are any other star systems in the 'verse colonized by humans? Or, when they left Earth-That-Was, did the entire human population just pack up in a bunch of giant ships and all decide to head to the same star system? To this troper, it seems like the show implied that the latter was the case.
Probably the latter. It's possible that they had scouted out the 'area' beforehand, and the star system seen in the show was the only one they believed they could reach and could support life, so that's where everyone went.
Zoe's Last Name
Zoe taking Wash's last name. It just seems so out of character for a strong, independently-willed woman like that to give up her own name. This troper imagines it should have gone more like this:
Wash: So, honey, after we're married, how about you taking my last name?
So, a real woman can't take her husband's last name? Look at their relationship. Zoe loves him, and Wash loves her. I mean real, "You are my world, I want to spend every moment from here on out with you, I want to be your wife and have your children" love. That is one of the big constants through the whole series is how loving and devoted those two are to each other. Why wouldn't she want to take his name? It's not some show of submission, it's a symbol of how strong their relationship is.
Also, yes, she is a very strong woman, but her "independence" is sorely in question to begin with, given her relationship with Mal in the first place; would someone who's so "independent" still be following her old army superior, and taking orders like they were still enlisted?
So a woman who doesn't want to take her husband's name doesn't really love him? Good to know. Regardless, she probably changed her name for the same reason most Western women change their name: it's a cultural norm where she grew up, and she didn't care enough to question it. Possibly if she'd grown up on a different planet, she'd have kept her last name.
Alternately, Wash could have taken hers.
Okay, fair enough, I may have gone a little too far in the other direction. But the point stands that there's no real reason for her not to take the name of the man she loves beyond the OP thinking she's too "strong and independently-willed" for it, which, as I mentioned, is fairly unfounded.
Being as he's the captain of her ship and thus still her superior, yeah, she would still be following his orders. As an ex-military, it's probably engrained in Zoe—and Mal too, for that matter—to follow the orders of their superiors. It just so happens that Zoe's superior is the same as during the war, and Mal doesn't really have any superiors anymore.
...maybe because Zoe clearly doesn't share the viewpoint that the wife's taking the husband's last name in any way robs her of her strength or independent will. It's a custom, and it's clearly one she believes in. Some people juggle geese.
If anything Zoe's continuing use of "sir" to refer to Mal, combined with a general stubbornness, part of what makes her a strong character is a resolve to follow the culture she's part of and grew up with. This also ties into what the Independants fought for in the first place.
Counterquestion: My partner thinks about taking my name, cause he likes mine better. Does that make HIM henpecked, dependent or weak?
It's not inconceivable that Zoe and Wash wanted to have the same last name, especially if they were planning on having kids at some point, and as Wash goes by his last name—or rather a nickname based on his last name—it would be more practical for Zoe to give up hers.
Maybe Zoe's maiden name was stupid and she didn't like it. I'm a strong, independent woman, whatever that means, and I dislike my unpronounceable, ugly last name. I don't want to go to the trouble of changing it, but if I get a socially acceptable, commonplace excuse—like getting married—it's gone.
The fact that Dobson, Simon, and Book were brought aboard in the first place bugs me. No mention is ever made after the pilot episode about bringing in more passengers, not even an offhand mention in the movie about passengers after Book and Inara left.
The answer to that is fairly simple — River Tam. A crazy girl is hard to hide on a days- or weeks-long voyage on a small ship, and the kind of people who would choose to take passage on a rim worlds smuggler would probably not be the kind who could be relied upon to keep schtum when offered a reward or threatened with arrest. Looking after the Tams forced Serenity (and her crew) to stay further off the radar than normal; that included not taking passengers. They just happened to have already got seriously lucky in finding first Inara and then Book.
Also, Serenity has limited bunk space. Book, Simon, and River each take a bunk. That leaves, at best, a couple of bunks for passengers to sleep in. Keep in mind also that carrying passengers is unusual (they were only taking on passengers on Persephone because they needed the money desperately) and passengers don't pay much ("Our fares don't pay a tenth of what you make on one of your 'jobs'" Book notes.) Short version, unless a passenger is paying a ton of money, then they're not getting on - and a passenger willing to pay that much to move on a civilian freighter like Serenity is likely not up to any good, as they can afford better accommodations.
Given that carrying passengers was just about more trouble than it was worth, I tend to imagine that they take on passengers partly (or mainly) because they like to have new faces aboard Serenity on occasion, especially faces which might take their minds off their shadier dealings — in other words, to improve crew morale. Kaylee mentioned that she loves bringing on new passengers, hearing about their lives, and so forth. There was also the fact that the Tams became permanent passengers, with Simon joining the crew. Book had expressed intent to stay on Serenity for a long time, to have a chance to see the border planets and possibly keep an eye on other things. That said, they must have had at least one vacant bunk (Dobson's), and probably once matters calmed somewhat with respect to the fugitives they were harboring, they would have picked up additional passengers in later seasons. And hell, Inara was threatening to leave Serenity, which would have left them with two vacant shuttles to rent out, making it all the more likely that future seasons would have seen new passengers.
They might not have had a vacant bunk; Dobson died, but they weren't anticipating River, so they lost a passenger and gained one.
Mal also mentioned that passengers will help them cover some of their smuggling operations. Given that their ship characteristics were broadcasted by Alliance cruiser, they desperately needed some coverstory.
Why Didn't Mal Shoot Saffron?
It bugs me that Mal didnt shoot Saffron/Yolanda/Bridget/whatever in the face, at some point. Perhaps he has some kind of fetish about redhead double-crossing women undressing him and dumping him naked in the desert ?
Why would he shoot her? Mal doesn't ride the VENGEANCE! train, and he doesn't kill people who don't represent an immediate threat to him. Crow was the exception, because he'd made it explicitly clear that he was going to hunt down Mal and by extension the rest of his crew and then kill them. He's perfectly willing to let people who cause trouble for him go, as long as its not personal. Saffron tried to kill him, but it was mostly just business, nothing personal and she didn't show any inclination to hunt Mal down.
Mal isn't some kind of pacifist. Saffron tried to get him killed several times, and he knew damn well she couldn't be trusted. At the very least, he could have tied her up to something in Trash, once they were back in the shuttle, and he'd have avoided the waiting-naked-in-the-desert.
At the time they were in the shuttle, she was still more or less on his side. He didn't know for sure she'd rigged his ship, and aside from going a little crazy while they were in the house, they still worked together to escape. He had no more reason to tie her up when they got to the shuttle than he has to tie up, say, Jayne. After that, he wasn't in any position to do anything, and Inara—the only person who saw her after that point—certainly isn't a cold-blooded killer.
Don't forget that Mal also has a chivalrous streak and he's very vulnerable to women who are, well, vulnerable. That's a major part of why he allowed River on his ship even after she proved dangerous, and it's why he was so susceptible to Saffron's charms the first time. Saffron affected her vulnerable, emotionally-damaged woman mode, and Mal walks right into it - and Saffron says straight to his face that he walked right into it and he's one of the most gullible saps she's ever seen.
The lockdown in "Objects in Space"
In "Objects In Space", Early locks most of the crew in their quarters when he infiltrates the ship. Two problems: Firstly, he locks everyone in from the corridor. Why does Serenity, being a small cargo ship, even have this holding-cell function? Secondly, why are they all going to bed at the same time, there being no day or night in space? Who's flying this thing?!
The problem in having day-night shifts like on the nautical ships of Earth-That-Is is that first, Serenity only has maybe four people who have any responsibility delegated to them in regards to keeping the ship on course and collision free. Two of them are married and wouldn't go for being on different shifts. The second is that they're landing on worlds with different local times compared to ship time and standard time. As they travel they have to adjust their sleeping schedules for the space equivalent of jet lag. Much like modern airline crews, when it's time to sleep, they all go to their hotel rooms, or in this case, their bunks. Just makes it easier if everyone is on the same sleeping schedule when they have to take off, maneuver, land, and etc. Wouldn't do to have the pilot nodding off because he took the night shift.
And as for the lockdown, I assume it's an electronic override that's available in case of hull-breech.
The lockdown itself probably isn't a regularly used function. Its likely an emergency function for extreme circumstances. As for the day/night cycles, they're in the middle of extremely deep space with nobody anywhere nearby and nothing they can potentially run into. They don't need to have someone awake because there's nothing that the ship could encounter (save bounty hunters hiding in their thermal wake) and even then, they've got proximity alarms, Wash, Mal, Jayne, and Zoe are a ladder and a five-second dash from the cockpit, and Kaylee is still up and about in the engine room and Book is still awake down below. They don't need to have someone in the cockpit, and if something happens, their sensors will pick it up and alert the rest of the crew long before it gets close.
I think it was a case of easy logistics. Wash isn't needed to pilot the ship at all times and it helps the plot if everyone is asleep at the same time, even if that's not how you would pilot a ship, considering the in-universe dangers, like poachers and the government officials that are looking for Serenity and her crew, not to mention the dangers of traveling in space.
Its probably relatively safe for them to leave the ship on autopilot. Remember that, as Mal himself put it, they're "in the middle of no and where" and there's no Stealth In Space - if anything gets relatively close, the sensors can alert them. Two crewmembers are still awake (Kaylee and Book), and all of the main crew are a short ladder and a half-dozen steps away from the cockpit.
This "alerting them" thing worked really well for the incoming spaceship with a bounty hunter. Makes you wonder if this episode would have happened at all if someone had been up on the bridge that time.
Keep in mind that Early came in by following in the ship's heat wake, which requires equal amounts of skill and suicidal disregard for one's own safety, by essentially tailing them through the trail of superhot gases that they're pumping out of the ship's engine. I certainly wouldn't be looking for anyone approaching that way, and judging by the crew's rather stunned reactions, they certainly didn't expect it either, considering how far out they were.
Also remember: Mal was in the corridor when Early came in, after he had been down in his bunk. It could be he was going to watch the helm.
If you look closely, you can see Mal going into his quarters before the camera pans back to Early coming in through the airlock. Given that Mal was back in the corridor a moment later, it seems likely that he was just grabbing a book/Game Boy/iPod to help pass the time while he was on watch.
With regards to the holding cell functionality, it's important to remember that Serenity is a criminal ship, piloted for criminal purposes. In some cases, these purposes may make it necessary to incarcerate one or more individuals, such as an Alliance officer on board the ship who knows too much (like Agent Dobson), or one of the crew having a psychotic episode (River, multiple times), or etc. In the event of such, being able to put them in a room and lock the door from the outside is a very useful function. We see them use this a couple times throughout the series; it's just that Jubal Early managed to slip onto the ship and turn it around on them.
They weren't all in bed at the same time. Mal was roaming around, and Kaylee was in the engine room. If they operate any sort of shift pattern, presumably Zoe and Wash would be the ones to swap with them (due to their own expertise and 'rank'), and they were both in bed.
Ok...no FTL space travel in the Firefly Universe...I got that. But even if Earth somehow became uninhabitable in a manner that wouldn't also cause human extinction,why would leaving our own solar system be the first choice? Or even seen as being a "good" choice? One of the reasons that Star Trek and other sci-fi programs w/ FTL "work" for me is that it would take YEARS to get to even the nearest star w/o FTL even for the robotic ships that would have to precede you before you made the voyage. No FTL means that humanity would be confined to our current solar system w/ perhaps smaller expeditions sent out to look for additional worlds. Also,"generational ships?" Really? Humans can make vessels in the future that could survive a trip through space that would last multiples of years and contain enough resources to support anything other than a tiny crew? If they have that level of technology,why wouldn't they simply use it to heal the damage caused to the Earth? Or to terraform Mars? Or to build cities deep INSIDE Earth?
For all we know, they did. We never really get the whole story regarding why they left Earth; the only explanation comes from the Alliance, and we have no reason to trust their claims. It is quite possible the Alliance was made up of exiles or people who set out to leave Earth for other reasons, and settled down on new worlds outside of the solar system.
We already have the technology necessary to build "generational" colony ships. The reason we don't do so is that it's prohibitively expensive — many billions for a single ship — and we have no place to go. Terraforming Mars would actually require more technological advancement than colony ships, due to the fact that it lacks the magnetic fields that protect Earth from ionizing solar radiation. Underground cities are feasible on both Earth and Mars; but would by necessity limit the population to a mere fraction of what it is currently. And who said Earth was damaged? Perhaps it was simply over-population that was the problem. Perhaps they were fleeing a potential disaster, such as impending catastrophic interaction with a rogue asteroid. Something that could be soon enough to plan their escape; but outside their capability of preventing.
Well, the shadow puppet show in Heart of Gold has a script in the companions. I seem to recall something is mentioned about a rain of fire, which to me suggests either war, extreme pollution, and maybe both (especially if it was nuclear war). Saying that it was "used up" might mean that it was not able to support human life anymore.
Most of what we know about Earth-That-Was, why they left it, and how they left comes from a school lesson taught to young children—they looked about 10 or so, which would be grade 5 in the real world. The history you learn in grade 5 is pretty simplified. Maybe if River were a 20 year old college student majoring in Earthly History in that flashback, we would have gotten a more detailed, logical answer to these issues.
The Alliance: So nobody from the Alliance...hundreds of years in future...sees that they are wasting valuable resources and fomenting the next series of conflicts by continuing to oppress the people they conquered? There are no diplomats,philosophers,writers,etc that would protest the Alliance's shortsighted policies? Even Stalinist Russia,the worst regime in Earth's history, had protesters and moderating influence. Why are none shown in Firefly?
We don't see protests or moderating influences because A) the series focuses on a small band of thieves who operate in the lawless areas around the Border and Rim, where the kind of educated people who you're talking about are in short supply (the only Core world they visit is Ariel, and that is extremely briefly) and B) the series only lasted fourteen episodes. We likely would have gotten a better look at the Alliance's educated elite if the series had continued, but as it was, the series was focused on the little guys working out on the fringes of the system.
The Alliance sure is oppressing those folks, considering they did such horrible things as transporting medicine to territories that were facing plague and conducting rescue missions. Those bastards. The Border and Rim were already like they are in the series before the Unification war, and they're still busy rebuilding after the war ended. Post-WWII Europe didn't recover in a few weeks, after all, and they already had infrastructure to rebuild on. The Border and Rim don't have much in the first place. Not to mention that we are seeing things from an anti-Alliance perspective in the series itself. Even then, Alliance personnel run the gamut from corrupt to trustworthy (if opposed to the heroes because they're already enemies).
Technically, according to the RPG manual, the Alliance doesn't actually send out medicine or charity aid that often. Lots of members of parliament are still miffed about the Independents rejecting the initial offer to join the Alliance, and despite a number of border and rim worlds actually supporting unification, the outer reaches in general kinda got painted with the stigma of being Independent by the core. This is very similar to the reconstruction era of the South after the civil war, when a number of people in the north actually wanted to punish the south for the perceived betrayal. And if that wasn't enough, there were the corrupt carpetbaggers that flooded in to government positions and started looting money and resources, since former confederates weren't allowed to take office. Rim world resources are FAR from being wasted; arguably the real point of the war was obtaining those resources FOR the core corporations. The one decent thing the north did try to do was uphold law protecting the former slaves, that is to say human rights issues; unfortunately the Alliance doesn't even have that to its credit, as the Alliance military and core corporations (especially terraformers) are the biggest buyers into slave trade of anyone in the Firefly 'verse. Won't hear about THAT in the core, for sure.
As noted on the main page, we're dealing with a Protagonist-Centered Morality here. The Alliance comes off as oppressive and corrupt because we're looking at it through the lens of people who've ended up on the wrong side of the Alliance; if the story had been told from the viewpoint of someone from the Core who didn't run afoul of the Alliance, we'd see a much different portrayal. It's kind of how things would look different if you were seeing stories told from different sides of a real life war. For example, a story told from the perspective of a French or British soldier in WWII would have a dramatically different perspective on Germany than a story told from the perspective of a German soldier.
Look at the Middle East. Has "Western Policy" of Democracy and Corporatism endeared themselves to people there? How about our other attempts to "help" people by bringing them our wonderful way of life? It is ego and hubris at its best to try and impose a one-size fits all on everyone, not to mention...well, evil. Controlling people, even for their supposedly own good is evil.
It is worth noting that there does indeed seem to be some kind of opposition force within the Alliance's Core Worlds. When Simon is looking for River, he was in a "blackout zone" and trying to contact someone who could get him information on River's whereabouts. And he mentions that he did contact an organization that knew enough about the Academy to help him get inside. So there is definitely someone within the Core that is powerful enough and well-informed enough to be aware of both what the Academy was up to and how to help Simon get in. But as noted above, the core of the storyline is focused on the outlaw reaches of the 'Verse and the little guys in the morally gray world of smuggling and other criminality instead of the educated upper-crust of the Alliance. You don't get a look at the upper crust of the Alliance for the same reason that a story set in the American West doesn't focus on the power-politics of Washington DC. Its outside the scope of the story.
it's been bugging the hell outta me that pool is played with holograms. i Mean: Why? WHY?
Santo used to have a thriving economy based on resorts, but the economy was devastated by the war. Pool balls might be more of a novelty item in the future, and cost more than they do nowadays. If so, there's some casinos on Santo that might be able to afford them (and real dice), but poor operations like the bar in Shindig, maybe not so much.
Pool I can understand. Keeps people from knocking them off the table and into someone's beer. My question is why the windows are.
I got the impression that there's a low-grade forcefield that keeps air out while letting airborne bar patrons through. Depending on the bar, it might be cheaper than constantly replacing glass windows, and you can use the hologram to display advertisements for extra money.
It's a bar in a space western. Of course people are going to start bar brawls and get thrown through the window. Having it a hologram instead of window—which would need to be replaced—is just the bartender being Genre Savvy.
Plus a big open window would help keep the air circulating, especially if they didn't have air conditioning or fans to blow away smoke.
Why not? The pool table is difficult to damage, and simple tech that's readily available in the setting. Plus, holographic displays can be easily custom-modified to alternate playing styles. Want to mix up the game? Adjust the balls' relative weights, the direction they move, arrangement, etc.
Stops drunks, idiots and/or miscreants nicking the balls. Speaking as a former bartender, this is a bigger problem than you may think.
No reason it has to be just a pool table, just a giant iPad type thing with Hard Light projectors, so the same table can easily be used for snooker, bar billiards, air hockey, SimCity...
What denomination is Book? And why does it require that he let his hair grow out of control?
Probably one that doesn't exist right now. More likely than not, it developed over the five centuries between now and the time the series is set in.
It's almost certainly a fictional sect (this troper is not aware of any Christian order that requires adherents to adopt that particular hair style). And it seems to be some peculiar combination of a mendicant order and a monastic order, since Book mentions spending his previous years both on the road and at a monastery. As for the rules about his hair, plenty of religions have peculiar rules about what hairstyles believers are allowed to wear, but in Book's case it's probably a reference to tonsure.
It's also possible that it's based on Nazirites, who weren't allowed to cut their hair, eat certain foods, drink alcohol, or handle dead bodies. I'm pretty sure Book buries and prays for the dead, but it's possible that he wasn't permitted to do the other things. Thank you,Other Wiki!
"Shepherd" is not just what they call pastors and ministers in the 'verse. Book is a member of the Order of Shepherds. From pages 206-207 of the Serenity RPG:
One group of Christian missionaries, the Order of Shepherds, still follows the monastic tradition. These men and women take vows of poverty and chastity similar to those of a priest or monk of old. They may live and work in an abbey or travel the Black to find a flock in need of a Shepherd. Their peaceful order is generally respected throughout the system. Shepherds look to Christian scripture as their faith's grounding. They do not claim to have all the answers, but are here to help spread the word to those that need it told to.
Inconsistent Timeline from "The Shepherd's Tale"
Slightly annoyed by the inconsistent timeline in The Shepherd's Tale when compared with the one given in both the series and Serenity. According to the comic, Book was on Serenity for two years, while the movie makes it explicitly clear that he'd only been there for eight months (River and Simon joing at the same time, and Mal stating they'd been on for that long), and Inara stated she was on the ship for a about a year in "Bushwhacked." Its just a minor inconsistency, though, and I'm willing to ignore it.
Well, it's that, or there's a much longer space between the movie and the series than speculated. Statements about when the movie was after the series often conflict, I hear two or six months most often, and it could conceivably be longer. Based on how the comic book is set up, Book could leave Serenity after some time, and stay on Haven for the rest of the two years. Technically, though, it's Inara I recall saying "eight months" and that's in The Train Job, it's when she's talking to Book and he says he feels bothered that he can't help the crew, and Inara suggests he pray for them. In Bushwhacked, yes, Inara says she's been on the ship for about a year.
In the film, Mal explicitly says to Simon, "Eight months you've had her (River) on my ship."
Hmm, okay, and the Operative also says "eight months ago." Maybe it's a turn of phrase and a nod to Chinese culture, in which the number eight is considered auspicious?
Most likely it's just an error. Zack Whedon was the one who wrote the comic, not Joss, so he can't know every detail that obsessive/compulsive fans like us about the setting.
The Message should be the last episode, not Objects in Space. If the Message comes before Objects, then Jayne referring to River as a "mind-reading super-genius" (or whatever) in the Message makes his utterly gobsmacked reaction in Objects in Space more than a little incongruous. Plus, the Message segues better into the movie.
It is. I mean, it was the last episode shot. Objects in Space was actually shot before The Message and Trash, if I remember correctly. OiS was the last episode to air on Fox (aside from the pilot, which actually aired last...anyway...) and it is Joss's personal favorite episode, so he decided it should be the crown of the box set. But The Message was the last episode shot. Listen to the commentary and they'll talk about how the scene with Mal and Zoe laughing riotously was filmed right after they'd gotten the news of cancellation, and how amazing it was that they could go in and do that when they were so heartbroken. The funeral scene was also the last scene ever shot, so the mourning you see there is real, and the gorgeous sad music for it is for the show itself.
Keep in mind River made her famous "Also, I can kill you with my brain" threat to Jayne in "Trash" which is indisputably set prior to both "The Message" and "Objects in Space." So Jayne would have that to consider even with out the events in "Objects in Space". I always took that to be a joke in part because the idea of River being a psychic, at the time, would seem silly to him. He reacts with surprise later when others take it seriously and he presumably started looking at that event (and probably others) in a different light.
It bugs me that Mal shot that guy climbing out of his spaceship on Haven. I know Mal's mad, but IIRC, it's the only time he's killed someone who wasn't an immediate threat to him without giving them a last chance. He let the Operative, Saffron, and the salvage captain in Out of Gas live, he gave Jayne a second chance, but he kills some mook just because he's in a bad mood? Maybe Joss could give the mook a Greedo edit at some point.
Said mook had participated in a war crime, and Mal is angry. The entire point behind that scene was to show just how utterly and completely enraged Mal was. It ties in with Mal's warning that if he starts to fight the war again, we're going to see something new. That scene was a significant foreshadowing of just how far Mal is willing to go if he gets truly angry.
It's supposed to bother you on at least some level. The intended audience reaction is supposed to be, "Oh fuck, Mal isn't playing around anymore." He wasn't just "in a bad mood." "In a bad mood," would be the understatement of the bloody year. Mal is enraged beyond the point he's ever been enraged before. As the troper above me stated, this was the "something new" he promised to show if he started fighting a war.
Also, no, it's not the first time Mal killed someone who wasn't an immediate threat to him. The DVD commentary notes it's the third "Mal shoots an unarmed man" scene in the movie.
Yes. Recall that immediately before Mal shot the guy he was ordering his crew to cover the ship with the corpses of their freshly dead friends. And immediately afterward he threatens to shoot them as well if they question his orders. It's an intentional Kick the Dog moment that's supposed to show the gravity of the situation and the depth of Mal's anger at the Alliance.
He is not just threatens, but it appears that he is actually going to shoot.
Maybe I wasn't clear enough in my definition, but the mercy killing during the payroll job doesn't count, because it was for the guy's own good. Mal also shoots the Operative unarmed, but the Operative is definitely a threat to him — Mal doesn't do it out of spite or revenge, but because it's the safest way to get Inara out of the trap.
Remember what Mal told Simon in the pilot: "You don't know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you'll be awake, you'll be facing me, and you'll be armed." Him shooting an unarmed surrendering enemy is meant to show just how far Mal has sunk into his despair and rage over the death of Book and their other allies, along with the desperation he feels at being pinned the way they are by the Operative.
Okay, so I get that Mandarin is a major language in the Firefly 'verse, which is why everyone speaks at least a little of it. What I don't get is when they speak it. Characters seem to blurt out Mandarin words and phrases during tense moments, especially when profanity is called for, which would make perfect sense if Mandarin was meant to be everyone's first language. But if it's everyone's first language on a small ship full of freedom-loving Independents, why not just speak Mandarin?
It happens if you're around a lot of people who curse in a foreign language. I personally spent a lot of time around Spanish speakers at the various jobs I've worked, and while my primary language is English, I picked up and started frequently using Spanish curse words. Its a minor quirk of linguistics; the phrases get lodged into your brain, metaphorically. If the crew is around people who speak Mandarin regularly, and they hear a lot of cursing in Mandarin, they'd naturally pick up some of it.
Swearing is particularly likely to be Gratuitous English. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it: if you want your swearing to have an impact, there should be some kind of novelty to it, and a foreign language offers that. Pop Cultural Osmosis takes care of the rest.
Guns on Spacecraft
There's probably some neat Technobabble explanation for this, but it really strains my suspension of disbelief when people are running all over spaceships and space stations firing off guns. And not just guns, fully automatic machine guns. In a show with no FTL Travel and no Sound In Space, I really would expect that this would have the result it would in Real Life: hull gets breached, ship depressurizes, everyone dies.
The ships and space stations are engineered to handle bullets hitting the hull. This is stated by Jayne in "Objects In Space" when Mal worries about Jayne's Hand Cannon potentially breaching the hull. "Bullets is soft lead, Mal. Vera's the best I got, she can barely breach the hull." Implication there is that Jayne's own personal BFG, with enormous rounds (which we can see on the gun itself are about the size of .50 caliber) barely poses any threat to their cheap, lightweight, barely-holding-together civilian ship. Besides, depressurization from bullets is an overblown hazard; if a section of the ship is compromised by bullets, it can be easily sealed off and the hull can be quickly patched. Not to mention that it would take time for a section of the ship to lose air from a hull breach from bullets; at least enough time for the crew in the compromised section to get to another compartment and seal it off. Besides, if you've got ships that are moving so fast they're going to be crossing interplanetary distances in hours/days, you've pretty much got to engineer them so they can withstand micrometeorite/space debris impacts at that speed. A ship capable of routinely withstanding that kind of impact isn't going to blink at slower, less energetic impacts like those caused by bullets fired by small arms. You'd probably need something very powerful and likely tipped with armor-piercing and explosive rounds (i.e. the AA artillery gun from Haven that they bolted onto the ship) to get through the hull of any decently-designed spacecraft in this setting. In short, the ships were built and engineered by people who expected that somewhere along the line, someone was going to be firing a gun inside the ship and didn't want everyone to get killed by a stray bullet. The vessels and space stations are built with this in mind. You don't need any kind of Technobabble explanation for that - just good hull engineering.
nBSG shows what realistically happens when a bullet breaches a hull: the pilot/crew grab a sealable patch, slap it over the bullet hole in the hull, and carry on with their lives. No threat of instant depressurization. Not to mention that, as noted above, every compartment on the ship seems to have a sealable hatch, so if there ever is a hull breach, they just close that hatch.
Minor thing and understandable that it was omitted, but why aren't there any (visible) female reavers? Yes, I know the reavers are a little rape-happy, but they're not picky about the gender of their rape victims, and they generally don't turn on each other as referenced elsewhere on this page. Did the Pax only go all Hate Plague on men?
In the series, at least, there're no visible Reavers at all. You just see their ships. Even in the movie, there's only brief glimpses of any of them. Probably has more to do with available stunt people than anything else.
Its not even made clear if the Reavers we see in the movie are male or female. We rarely get a good look at them, and those we see are horribly mutiliated to the point where gender becomes difficult to resolve.
Some of the screaming and moaning in the transmissions between their ships in the movie sounded distinctly feminine; for all we can tell, some of the Reavers were women.
Why, in the pilot, would Mal refer to Inara as "our Ambassador" to Zoey and Wash? In front of the new passengers it makes a modicum of sense, as Companions are less than revered by certain people. But In front of his first mate and pilot who are good friends with Inara?
Perhaps he was being Bitchy McBitchface due to his own discomfort with her work. Think of it as a sarcastic nickname used to mock what she does.
It's one of the nicknames Mal has for her, recognized by the rest of the crew. There's no real reason why he wouldn't refer to her by that nickname, especially considering that's her role on the ship, too.
It has a ring of truth as because of her status as a Companion, and a pretty in demand one at that, if they have a chance of being introduced to dignitaries and non-outlaws, especially in a lawful setting, it would likely be through her. He probably also does so jokingly and in front of strangers to mock her profession (just as he calls her a "whore" to irk her).
Shouldn't River's feet be really sore from walking around the ship a lot barefoot? Admittedly she didn't go barefoot as much as most fans remember her doing, but you watch Objects in Space, and wonder how she can walk down those stairs (which were also probably very cold) without eventually feeling discomfort.
It depends on how tough your feet are. Walk around a lot on your bare feet and you'll develop a thicker skin on them that can take it. And keep in mind that River is combat conditioned; you don't get that way without doing a lot of work on your feet, which will build up toughness. Regardless, I think River honestly doesn't care if her feet are cold or hot; she seems to care less about physical discomfort and more about making constant tactile contact with the ship.
She's also a dancer. There are few things that will toughen your feet up more than dancing.
Physics defying badassery
In the movie, during the bank job, someone tries to run outside. Jayne clotheslines this person, who proceeds to flip a full 180 with a halt for forward momentum, where Jayne proceeds to catch him by his legs, where he stops completely, and slam him down on his head. Now, I'm not an expert, but I'm fairly sure that's at least three kinds of impossible. Rule Of Cool aside, sup with that?
Not impossible, just really hard. Jayne would have to do more than just clothesline him, he'd have to hit him really hard, enough so that he'd be knocked into a backflip. Considering the guy is running at full speed, it would take a hell of a whallop. After that, he just needs to grab his legs as he flips backward from the blow. Not physics defying, but in order to pull it off Jayne would need to hit the man in the right spot with enough force to do it without breaking his neck or shattering his ribs.
Also, they might be on a planet with slightly less gravity than when we're used to. Say its 99% of what we think it should be, I'd say what Jayne did was possible.
From what I remember, the world that was taking place on was an actual moon, not a planet. So gravity likely is somewhat lower on that world (that also means that the mule is likely even cheaper and shoddier than previously estimated, which fits the Perpetual Poverty theme).
In "Jaynestown", the town boss has the "port authority" activate a "land lock" on Serenity. For starters, the idea of a "port authority" in this circumstance seems a bit questionable, but that isn't my biggest issue here. The place where Serenity lands doesn't appear to be anything I would call a space port, just an open field somewhere near the mud bogs. The "land lock" does not appear to be anything external to the ship, analogous to a wheel lock for cars. Even if it was, I'm having trouble imagining something external that would be able to hold the ship in place. All evidence indicates to me that it is something in the ship's electronics, activated by a signal from the "port authority". I see two major problems with this:
if you have purchased a ship whose express purpose is to carry cargo of any kind without regard to legality, why would you not have your genius ship mechanic remove or inactivate anything that could remotely immobilize said ship? and
if such a thing really exists, what is there to prevent any bad guy from sitting at a spaceport, recording signals until some poor soul has a "land lock" applied, then using the signal to immobilize some rich target later on in a hijacking?
Regarding why they would allow a land lock to be imposed on them, it's probably a requirement to even land on the planet. If you don't submit to a landlock from the port authority, then your ship won't ever be allowed to land on that planet.
If it had been referenced, even in passing, in other episodes, I would be more inclined to buy this theory. Among other things, a ship immobilizer would have been really handy for the alliance officer that wanted to retrieve the "dead" body in The Message. As it is, I think I'm going to have to go on letting it just bug me.
They almost certainly do slave up their nav computer to port authority as a requirement. It does't need to be referenced in other episodes, in the other episodes either Serenity wasn't suspicious enough to draw a landlock, the Sheriff of Paradiso decided to let them go, or, in The Message and Womack's case, he didn't have the authority or jurisdiction to call in a landlock. Which was discussed IN the episode.
Again, it's likely something that is specific to landing on a planet, i.e. in addition to docking fees and what-have-you, you have to sync up your computers to port authority. It's not likely to be something that can be forced on your ship directly, but required for landing and doing business. Womack also likely does not have the authority to use that kind of technology in space, considering that he's outside of his jurisdiction anyway.
I think we can all agree Womack didn't really much care what he had the authority to use. I think my point stands.
No. Womack has very specific areas of authority (the Silverhold colonies) In fact, this is a plot point. The fact that Womack is way, way, way out of his jurisdiction is how the crew is able to get rid of him without firing a shot, by simply pointing out that he has no authority over them and they could kill him without any repurcussions as long as they hide the bodies. So Womack clearly can't exercise any authority he might have that doesn't come fromt he barrels of his guns.
So you're just going to ignore my point about land-lock being unlikely to be forced on someone without voluntary consent while coming into port. That's nice. I mean, it's kind of hard to use a signal to force a state on a computer system unless your system is specifically set up to receive that signal, and anyone with a modicum of competence and the vaguest sense of system security is never going to allow a general signal to be broadcast that shuts down the ship. It is vastly more likely that land lock is something specific that one does while coming into port by voluntarily connecting to the port authority.
No, not ignoring all that, in fact I agree with everything you said in that paragraph. I have trouble believing it is the true for the Firefly 'verse, because I just think that if it were the case that every time a ship lands on a somewhat civilized planet it would be required, in the process, to allow for a "land lock" that could immobilize the ship, I just have to think that, for a ship that habitually carries questionable cargo and frequently seems to desire a hurried exit, it seems odd that it would only ever come up in a single episode. It's also true that computer hacking has not been eliminated in this 'verse, which to me would indicate that a smuggler would be able to make a port authority think consent had been initiated for the land lock, and still be able to bypass it, or that someone wishing to immobilize a ship with a "land lock" feature could find a way to do so without the backing of a port authority. Not saying it would be easy — hacking shouldn't be easy anyway — just saying possible.
Why should they mention it any other episode where it isn't really a plot point. It likely would have been referenced in a later episode if the series had gone on further. There probably is a way to bypass landlock - Wash looked as if he was doing exactly that when he was locked - but these aren't plot points so they aren't referenced at any point. As noted above, the series barely got half a season, so land locks and methods to get around them might have been mentioned later.
Regarding potential hijacking, I suspect that there would be any number of countermeasures to prevent that sort of thing from happening. For example, a simple automated routine from the ship's computer to authenticate the signal would avoid that issue. Shorthand would be "receive land-lock" -> "query port authority" -> "port authority confirms sending signal/port authority denies sending signal" -> "land-lock applies/ignored." Add in standard port authority encryption codes. Of course, any area that would likely be using land-lock codes would likely have a well-patrolled port area to avoid hijackings in the first place. The actual signals used to initiate each land-lock would also likely be changed routinely to avoid someone hijacking a ship by broadcasting the same signal. Other security measures would likely be used, i.e. high-level encryption, point-to-point laser transmissions (can't record a general signal if it's not broadcast), continuous authentication processing (having to continuously send the signal with cycling changes to it would trip up a single transmission), automated signals intercept (trivially easy, as the port authority can easily listen in and pick out land-lock signals that they didn't send) and, worst comes to worst, the crew can exercise their forebrains by calling up port authority and telling them they've been landlocked, at which point security can be dispatched very quickly if they weren't the ones to send the signal.
Which brings me back to the idea of the port authority on the planet in this episode. There doesn't seem to be any particular port facility as such, nor any specific port security as distinct from the town boss's thugs. Aside from the central worlds, which this does not appear to be, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of a force that could prevent someone from landing in a rural area.
Higgin's Moon is company-owned and implied to be extremely corrupt anyway. I mean, it's a planet owned by a guy who runs a slave-labor ring. So whatever tech they're using is likely small-scale, without the kind of extensive security one would expect on another planet. They just don't care about security that much.
...Which strikes me as all the more reason to find it odd that this is the only episode in which "land lock" is referenced.
Why? If it's not plot-relevant, they don't need to mention it. It's background tech.
Aside from the central worlds, which this does not appear to be, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of a force that could prevent someone from landing in a rural area. Not necessarily. This is a spacefaring society with long-range communications/sensor technology. Such a society would easily be able to track incoming ships coming in for a landing anywhere on the planet if they're willing to pay for a proper satellite array, and thus force any ships coming in to submit to a landlock or dispatch security forces to deal with them. The more rural world likely won't have this kind of tech base, but even the backwards planets seem to have some capacity to track incoming ships; the sheriffs in "The Train Job" were able to backtrack Serenity, for example.
It's likely that the landlock is a standard part of landing at a spaceport. Since Higgin's Moon is heavily trafficked by people buying mud, it makes sense that he would install a landlock. We don't hear about the landlock until it becomes a plot point. Note that in the movie, we only hear about the primary buffer panel when it falls off, but is apparently important enough a piece of equipment that without it the ship will "experience some turbulence and then explode."
Simon's Importance as a Bounty
In "Ariel," Simon's dialogue with the police chief reveals that he is very definitely wanted alive. In his first (shirtless) conversation with Early, he is clearly specified as wanted "dead or." And then at the end ... he just dumps Simon. While Sean Maher isn't that short, Simon is generally force-perspectived as a tiny little guy whose combat reflexes in series are ... well, Simon tries hard. And this is Early, the guy who took out Mal. Early could have disabled Simon and tossed him over his shoulder with little trouble. And River has not been seen to do any bargaining — i.e., there's no, "I'll be your bounty, just leave my brother on Serenity."
When exactly did Simon cease to have value to the Alliance? He's a certified genius, the shooting script for "Safe" suggests that the Tams were more deeply in on the Academy project than he realized, and he would be a very effective tool against a recalcitrant student (River) for the Academy. He either successfully found and paid someone to break into or actually broke into a secure Alliance facility and just knows too damn much. Not to mention that he would have given Jubal a.) additional bounty and b.) a very effective victim/tool for the mental/emotional/sexualtorture that he is clearly shown to revel in. So why on earth does Simon's importance as a target steadily decline throughout the series?
It's not complicated. River is clearly more valuable than Simon; when Simon is talking to the police officer on Ariel he guesses that the police want both of them alive, but the reality is that River is simply more important; Simon is just a secondary concern. That and police have a major aversion to killing in general; paperwork aside their job is to keep people alive, so Simon's guess about the police's orders/preferences is not inaccurate. Plus he's making a reasonable request and the officer would infinitely prefer a cooperative prisoner over an resistant one. Early, on the othe rhand, is a bounty hunter and doesn't possess such limitations/requirements. He can afford to kill. Also, Early can't exactly force Simon into a suit. Early also points out that he's on the clock; while the rest of the crew are locked in their cabins, he can't guarantee they'll not escape. He doesn't really have the time to wrangle a resistant Simon, so he's perfectly content with letting Simon go and taking River specifically. Simon makes the issue easier by forcing Early to shoot him. Early takes the easier and more valuable bounty, and leaves Simon behind. Besides, River does have the advantage over him, being in possession of his ship, so he's not in any real position to argue.
"Early can't exactly force Simon into a suit ..." So the headscratcher here changes to, "What the hell was his original plan, then?" He can't have predicted them coming quietly, unless OP is figuring he was planning to use them against each other — in which case it does make sense he'd dump the difficult, snarky one when the valuable one started to cooperate.
Well, to be more accurate, Early probably could force them to wear a suit at gunpoint, but wrangling them both at the same time would be difficult, and moreso as time passes and it becomes apparent that Simon is doggedly resistant and especially after he wounds Simon. I suspect Early's plan was "Hold Simon hostage, find River, use Simon to force River to cooperate, get them both into suits, get them on his ship, lock them up, get paid." He improvises as things progress and when he shoots Simon, he just decides to hell with it and leave him behind.
Simon is a genius, but not Academy level genius, I'm sure the Alliance's preference for wanting him capture too is because he has been in charge of River's medication for the last few months.
While medication can actually make a permanent impact on brain chemistry, the fact that Simon says River metabolizes her medications and he has to switch them up suggests this is probably not why they're after Simon. Rather they're after him because from their point of view he's committed a crime and stolen government secrets. Basically he knows too much. But until the Hands of Blue fail and before the government realizes the implications of exposing Members of Parliament to a psychic, they want to recover River to put her back into the program and wouldn't mind if Simon wasn't recovered alive. After, they want to kill them both.
Note that the Operative actually still wants to recover River rather than kill her. He indicates during the confrontation with Mal in the Companion temple that he wants to "bring her home" so its likely the Alliance would prefer her alive and useful to dead. However, by the end of the movie he seems content with willing Mal and River and the rest of the crew to contain the situation.
Garbage collector droid programming in "Trash"
The plan for the heist is to dump the loot into the trash container, which the automatic droid routinely carries to the incinerator, and then reprogramm the droid so that it instead delivers it to the desert. They do it by hacking some circuit boards (navigational, perhaps)...in the container itself. Huh. Why would the designers put the navigational boards in the container? It's not a mailing service - the droid normally delivers all the containers to the same destination, and even if there are several incinerators, certainly the droid can be directed to the specific one from an external control station. The way it is, they had to increase the cost of the containers and provide some kind of interface between the droid and the container, and for what? There doesn't even seem to be any way to programm the delivery from inside the house, which would make at least some sense, so what's the point?
Actually, it makes sense when you consider the drones' range. Those drones can apparently transport materials to and from any location on the planet. Whatever company or government service is operating the drone is likely working across the planet, servicing hundreds or thousands or even millions of sites. They're going to be transporting many different kinds of garbage, whether it it would be regular civilian trash to nuclear waste to chemical byproducts to recyclable material to animal waste and everything in between. Different types of trash are going to go to different areas. It would be easier just to insert a destination in each container than code up a fairly complex system in each drone that has the drone determine where everything is supposed to go - plus that cuts back on manpower costs. And to be honest, for a society of the scale and tech sophistication of this type, loading containers with a simple interface containing transport coordinates is would be pretty cheap and easy; they can make flying cities and terraform entire worlds, so putting in a cheap computer interface less complex than a modern cell phone would be trivially easy.
In short, the navigation circuits on the trash containers are like the tags the airport puts on your luggage.
Corpses on the derelict ship in "Bushwhackled"
When the crew is removing the corpses, they cover their faces with masks, because the bodies must be stinking pretty badly. Makes sense. However, in that case how could they not feel the stench the moment they entered the chamber where all the corpses hang? They spent some time looking around the room before Mal looks up and sees the bodies.
A combination of reasonable ventilation and elevation would mitigate the worst of the smell. Also keep in mind that bodies become really smelly when they begin to seriously rot, and those corpses hadn't rotted that much. Moving a body tends to disturb the gases inside, and that does result in a hellish reek, so they likely only wore the masks due to the smell that would result when they moved the corpses. They may have also been wearing the masks more to avoid possible exposure to disease than avoiding the smell.
Also, when moving dead bodies, there tend to be... fluids that you do not want to be touching your flesh. Lowering said bodies towards your face without a mask on can be unpleasant.
This is supported later on after the bodies are actually down on the floor. They're only wearing masks while lowering the corpses. Once they've got them on the floor and covered the masks come off. Its obvious that it isn't smell that prompts them to wear the masks. Moving the bodies is what prompts them to wear them, so disease and avoiding...fluids....seems to be the dominant concern.
The bodies have also been dead for about a week at least (Zoe says the lifeboat launched a week ago). That might be enough time to mitigate the stench.
Tracey's plan in "The Message"
So Tracey had his organs removed and replaced with lab grown ones so he could smuggle the lab organs for his employer. He then turns on his original employer and agrees to deliver the lab organs to a new buyer for more money. However, Tracey's original employer still has his original organs. Even if the plan hadn't gone south on him, how was he supposed to get his organs back?
The other buyer likely would have cloned and supplied Tracey with organs. Baseline cloned organs don't appear to be that expensive. The meats and tubes that Tracey had in him were apparently extremely high-end organs; in the commentary, they mention that the reason why Tracey is able to run around with a bullet in the middle of his chest without really slowing down (especially when other characters are shown going down from individual bullets in much less lethal areas) is because the high-end stuff he was carrying around was keeping him going. So, whatever buyer he was meeting would give him new, baseline organs after extracting the supersoldier stuff he was carrying. Alternately, Tracey was an idiot and didn't think his plan through all the way. Either probability is supported by the episode.
Nothing about the organ smuggling plan as described in the episode makes sense. The idea is Tracey transports the "product" organs from point A to point B, where his original parts are presumably waiting for him. But if the group(s) he works for can transport Tracey's organs to the destination, why do they need Tracy to smuggle the product organs? Why not just transport the product organs the same way they transported Tracey's organs? And if cloning organs was an option all along, why is this organ smuggling scheme even necessary? Why not just grow the organs on the spot?
Fridge Brilliance here: Tracey's a moron who doesn't think before he acts, and this is an early indicator of such. He didn't think the plan entirely through. The smugglers he's working with had no reason to give his organs back, and the moment he arrived they'd put him under, cut him up, and let him die.
Another possibility is that, well, he's smuggling the organs. Regular organs can likely be transported through regular channels. But million-credit supersoldier organs are a different matter. They remove his regular organs, which would pass through inspection with no trouble, while Tracey carries the special ones inside his body, which wouldn't be searched, to the destination. Then they swap them out.
Yeah, about that whole "supersoldier organs" thing. I don't remember it ever being stated in the episode that the organs were some sort of uber-parts. True they were running "hotter" inside Tracey's body but that could have been part of the rapid growth process (I do remember it being stated that Tracey was also incubating the organs). But it seems that everybody on this thread except me and the OP agrees that these were super-organs he was smuggling, so where did this idea come from? Is it mentioned in some Expanded Universe material or something?
The commentary on the DVD. Joss confirms that the only reason Tracey was still moving after being shot the first time was because of the special organs.
I seem to remember that Tracey mentions they're suped up in response to Simon thinking he's in cardiac arrest from the accelerated heartbeat.
Shepherd Book's past
The comic book A Shepherd's Tale completely contradicts the one clue that we get towards Book's shadowy mysterious past in the series. In Safe, as soon as the Alliance see Book's ID they grant him urgent medical attention and free passage for the Serenity, implying he was formerly a respected high-ranking Alliance office or something. The comic shows that he was a high-ranking Alliance officer...who was dishonourably discharged without trial and dumped out of an escape pod after masterminding the worst defeat the Alliance suffered during the war. An Alliance officer who runs into him after the event beats the crap out of him. So why were the ones on the show so respectful? Massive cover-up?
Most likely what we're seeing is that the identification card triggers a flag that identifies Book as a former Alliance officer, which qualifies him for immediate medical care, regardless of whether or not he was discharged. Even if that officer completely loathes Book, he would still be obligated to help him. And most likely, the officer in question never met Book personally (he doesn't recognize him when he first enters the cargo hold) so all he knows when he pops the card in is that this guy was at one point a big cheese in the Alliance military. Remember that the Alliance military is a massive organization encompassing many millions of soldiers and naval personnel at minimum (the Official Map of Verse puts the Alliance population at the hundreds of billions); it is exceedingly unlikely that even a small number of Alliance officers and enlisted ever actually knew who Book was, and in the intervening years a lot of new officers and enlisted will have cycled in and out of the military. Very few people, if any, would know him or care about the specifics. They'd just see a flag that this guy was a very high-ranking officer before discharge and hustle him off for treatment.
And to be fair, it probably wasn't their worst defeat in the war, but more the first major defeat. Only 4,000 lives were lost. Compare to Serenity Valley or Sturges. It's strongly suggested that they booted Book out while the Alliance still figured that their opposition was a bunch of country bumpkins throwing rocks and would roll over in a few weeks. It's also potentially suggested that the command Book was given was a set-up intended to pour fuel on the fire, and it may have only been Book's status as an Independent mole that saved him and his flagship.
There was indeed an element of a cover up. Book's superior explicitly states they are discharging him without trial in order to "sweep this under the rug as they are so fond of doing with their embarrassments." So we can see that they don't want Book's crime advertised
After he is discharged, doesn't he steal another officer's identity?
No, he kept the name. He stole the real Book's identity earlier in his life, but because the book tells the sequence of events in reverse we see that close to the end. As for why his card works, I got the impression he was never properly stripped of everything, he was just shoved into an escape pod and kicked off the ship.
Cancelling his credentials would create another record pointing to something the Alliance wanted to cover up (anyone who learned that he had been kicked out might wonder why).
Harpoon Penetrating Bridge Windows
This is inspired by the answer to the "guns in space" complaint, namely that a hull rated to take a micrometeorite at .33 c won't even blink at a mere bullet. There are windows on Serenity. They must be rated for meteorites, too. So...how did the Reaver harpoon penetrate it?
If the weapon is rated for ship-to-ship combat, then it would be rated to penetrate hulls and bullet-proof windows. The harpoon is just a longer projectile with more power behind it. No reasonably competent gunner will be firing a weapon not rated for hull penetration at a ship. Its the difference between a navy crewman's sidearm and the anti-air and anti-ship weapons the ship carries.
Apparently it uses the same principle as all the armor piercing projectiles compared to non AP projectiles. It moves faster, has more mass, its shape is more optimized and material is more durable. Just choose any possible combination of those.