The ruling body of the Alliance. Presumably democratically elected, but no details are ever given.
- Big Bad: They're the governing body of the Alliance, and are responsible for the 'Academy' that River was sent to, the Blue Gloves, Jubal Early's contract, the Operative and - indirectly - even the Reavers.
- Big Brother Is Watching: Surveillance is very common on the Core Worlds.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Alliance tends to favor shades of blue and grey.
- Control Freak: One reason why they forced the Outer Planets into the Alliance. They saw their independence as a threat to their civilization.
- Evil Is Petty: EU materials state that the former Independent Planets are in such bad shape becuase the government refuses to give them the necessary resources to rebuild from the war out of spite because they were "rebels". Likewise the former Browncoats (and their supporters) are not allowed to vote in elections since they are not "full citizens" because they fought on the wrong side and so "logically" they can't be trusted to vote for the right candidate (although it's only supposed to be a 10 year ban, there is no oversight to prevent them from extending it).
- The spinoff comics set after Serenity reveal that they are hell-bent on killing Mal and his crew for revealing the truth about the Miranda to the world; the damage is done so there's nothing motivating this other than sheer spite.
- The Government: It's who they are.
- Hypocrite: An elected body of government that thought the outer worlds should be part of their Union.... whether they wanted to or not.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: They began as an effort to squash conflicts over trade and resources on the Core Worlds by forming a union in order to regulate such matters. Then they began to think that everyone should be part of this union, then they began to think of ways to "improve" life by controlling it....
- Medieval Stasis: They intentionally keep the Rim in a frontier state to keep them in line.
- The Unseen: Not a single member of Parliament is ever seen in the series or film.
- Vestigial Empire: Despite what they think, they only have real control on the Core worlds, they just don't have the manpower to maintain full control on the Rim Worlds. The RPG also states the economy is about to collapse and they are doing their gorram best to cover it up.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: Their general philosophy.
- War for Fun and Profit: Another reason for the Unification War was to have access to the land and resources of the Outer Worlds, which would've otherwise been off limits to them (the idea of setting up a trade agreement was apparently ruled out).
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Whedon says they aren't evil or malevolent, just "meddlesome". An example of a bureaucracy so vast that horrendous evils are being done through sheer lack of oversight.
Blue Sun Corporation
A contractor for the Alliance, the Blue Sun Corporation is an organization of scientists. They are responsible for Simon and River Tam's plight and the Blue Gloves.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: They screwed with River's mind a lot.
- Greater-Scope Villain: Strongly implied that much of the Alliance answers to them and not the other way around.
- Hidden Agenda Villain: We still have next to no idea what their ultimate goals are.
- Mega-Corp: Likely the most powerful entity in the 'Verse.
- Mind Rape: What they did to River.
- One Nation Under Copyright: According to Word of God, at least half the Parliament is under their command.
The Blue Gloves
A pair of mysterious men who wear suits and what appear to be blue gloves. They work for the Blue Sun Corporation and are in pursuit of River and Simon Tam. They will not hesitate to kill anyone who has had contact with River, even Alliance personnel, using a handheld device that induces fatal hemorrhaging to anyone near it (except themselves).
- Badass in a Nice Suit: They are dressed formally, and they're here to gather the evidence and kill all witnesses.
- Brown Note: The mysterious weapon they use, which appears to be sound-based.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: What generally happens to those said weapon is used on.
- Cyborg: If the metallic parts in one of them in the comic is anything to go by, which might explain their immunity to their own weapons.
- Death Ray: Though not so much a ray as a sonic emitter that causes catastrophic internal bleeding. The blue gloves they wear extend to cover their chests under their suits, so they're not affected.
- Government Conspiracy: They appear to be the wet-work men for Parliament.
- Implacable Man: They're always in pursuit. They will never stop.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: The first people we see them kill are the same Alliance crew members that were going to turn River and Simon back to the Academy - the ones who double-crossed Jayne (though Jayne probably had it coming.
- Kill It with Fire: Killed in a comic that was set between the film and the movie: they were trying to board Serenity from another craft, and caught the full force of her thrusters.
- Mysterious Mercenary Pursuers: We know next to nothing about them, except that they want River, and anyone that came in contact with her dead.
- The Quiet Ones: They barely say anything, making their pursuit somewhat more unnerving.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Always a pair.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: They don't appear in the movie. Spin-off material eventually explains that they were killed in deep space while trying to board Serenity, thus forcing the Alliance to call in a new agent - the Operative.
An undercover Alliance agent with an itchy trigger-finger. He was intended to be a recurring character before the show was cancelled. He returned in the spin-off comic 'Those Left Behind'.
- Character Death: In the comic, his revenge scheme goes awry and Mal kills him with a Double Tap.
- Dirty Coward: He shoots Kaylee by accident when he's scared, beats up his only (somewhat, anyway) sympathetic party, Shepherd Book, in order to escape, and uses River as a hostage and human shield.
- Double Tap: When confronted by Dobson a second time in a spin-off comic, Mal makes absolutely sure of his death this time.
- Eyepatch of Power: He resurfaces in a comic (set between "Objects in Space" and Serenity) with an eyepatch and an obsession.
- Eye Scream: Dobson survived his pretty little headshot, but one of his eyes didn't.
- The Farmer and the Viper: In the pilot episode, after Dobson accidentally shoots Kaylee, Shepherd Book protects him from Mal and Jayne's retribution. When Dobson breaks free, the first thing he does is beat Book unconscious in a fit of rage.
- Jerkass: For starters, he beats up Shepherd Book for no reason, after Book protected him from Mal and Jayne.
- Kick Them While They Are Down: After he ambushes Shepherd Book and knocks him to the ground (and presumably unconscious), he smacks him two additional times before running off. On the DVD Commentary, Joss states that they added that scene just to emphasize that Dobson was a psychotic bastard who deserved to get shot by Mal.
- Kubrick Stare: He does it in the picture.
- Meaningful Name: LAW-rence.
- The Mole: He's actually at least working with the Alliance and only pretending to be a normal passenger while he tries to reclaim River for them. He discards his cover after he flags an Alliance ship to the crew's location.
- No One Could Survive That!: To be fair, Mal was in a hurry. After getting shot in the eye, Dobson is unceremoniously tossed out the hatch and left for dead.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Before showing his true colors, he appeared bumbling and indecisive.
- Revenge Before Reason: He was kicked off the force, mutilated, and stuck on Patience's little backwoods moon, but he was still breathing. But if he hadn't decided he was 'owed' something, he could have gone on breathing.
An Alliance Commander whom the crew encounter in the episode "Bushwacked." He discovered and arrested the Serenity's crew after catching them in the midst of pillaging a derelict spacecraft. He falsely believed them to have killed the crew, and correctly believed that they were robbing it.
- Anti-Villain: Essentially, he represents many of the Alliance's good traits: Harken is responsible, firm, compassionate and capable. He's an antagonist to the main characters, but that's because they're criminals and he's trying to maintain law in a lawless region of space.
- Agent Scully: Somewhat. He doesn't believe in Reavers, but he does come around by episode's end. Of course, seeing is believing.
- By-the-Book Cop: He grills all the members of the crew according to procedure: their reactions range from Wash's cheerful (but irrelevant) blather to Jayne's contemptous and silent glare.
- Everyone Has Standards: When he discovers the sole survivor or the vessel has been horribly mutilated, he's quite shocked.Harken: I haven't seen that kind of torture since... well, since the war.
- I Owe You My Life: After Mal saves him at the end, he releases the crew without pressing any charges, but he does confiscate what they stole, because it was Alliance property.
- Pet the Dog: When the tortured victim succumbs to his madness and begins killing members of his crew, his first order was to post guards at the nursery note .
- Punch-Clock Villain: He's pretty much just a regular policeman doing his job - frustrated by a lack of information from the higher-ups and trying to do what's right.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He just wants to figure out what happened, and has no evident corrupt or fascistic traits. Most of the evidence available to him suggests the Serenity crew murdered the colonists in order to rob them, and that some or all of them are sadists. He dismisses their claim of "Reavers" because (as Simon demonstrated in the pilot) people much higher up in the Alliance have kept everyone ignorant of the Reavers' creation - and it seems other criminals caught red-handed have used such excuses before.
- In the boardgame, he's even a source of missions, and sells you fuel and helps you get around customs if you're on good terms with him. His missions tend to be Boring, but Practical - transporting settlers or running supplies isn't as flashy or valuable as pulling the big mine job, but you don't have to rely on the tender mercies of the Misbehave deck.
- Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Harken won't be winning any personality contests anytime soon, but he's far from a bad person even if he is on the opposing side to Serenity's crew.
A corrupt Alliance federal agent who pursued Tracey and the crew of Serenity. Although he claimed to be chasing Tracey because he was a criminal, which was true, he actually wanted to catch him because he was smuggling Womack's goods. He was supposed to be a recurring villain, but due to Firefly's cancellation, he became a one-off villain.
- Badass Longcoat: As opposed to other uniformed Alliance-types we see, Womack favors a long duster-like coat.
- Deadpan Snarker: Womack is deeply sarcastic and snarky to just about everyone he meets.
- Dirty Cop: He's an Alliance agent involved in a spot of organ smuggling on the side, and God knows what else.
- Jerkass: He's not just a crooked cop, he's a repulsive sadist who enjoys taunting others.
- Jurisdiction Friction: Played With. Book does some research on Womack, and learns that he has wandered far from his own legitimate area of authority in pursuit of Tracey. He points out that if Serenity's crew shot him and left his corpse where it landed, nobody would care.
- Kick the Dog: Womack is the one to tell Jayne that his hat makes him look 'like an idiot'. Sure, perhaps it needed to be said, but c'mon Womack...
- There's also the Prison Rape threat that he issues to that postal worker to intimidate him into betraying Mal.
- Kill It with Fire: Threatens to set a poor guy on fire. He relented at the last moment, but informed him that if word got out about this, he'd be back.
- A Nazi by Any Other Name / Putting on the Reich: Sports a leather black trenchcoat and shoulder harness very reminiscent of an SS uniform. The fact that he's part of the Alliance's secret police division and is shown rather cruelly interrogating a Jewish postal worker doesn't do him any favors either.
- Spiteful Spit: When forced to leave Serenity, he spits in the cargo bay in frustration.
The primary villain in Serenity. A special agent/assassin of Parliament, sent out to keep government secrets and take care of loose ends. While he technically represents their interests, they are never seen, making him The Heavy.
- Affably Evil: For a man who's possibly the most dangerous assassin the Alliance has, he is impeccably polite, willing to negotiate, and seems genuinely saddened by the measures he's forced to take in capturing River Tam.
- Ambiguous Ending: In post-Serenity comics, he's last seen holding a gun and staring down Zoe, who has politely informed him that she blames him for Wash's death. Zoe's seen afterwards, but he is not.
- Anti-Villain: Type III.
- Berserk Button: He is clearly miffed when Mal calls him an assassin.
- Big Bad: The closest that the film gets to one, although he's technically The Heavy with nameless, faceless conspirators in the Alliance as the Greater-Scope Villain.
- Catch-Phrase: "Do you know what your sin is?"
- Combat Aestheticist: He seems to relish using exotic weapons and elegant tactics. But make no mistake, he's also a...
- Combat Pragmatist: Despite his veneer of 'honor' there is nothing - nothing - this man won't do to win.
- Cool Sword: He likes swords way too much for a guy living in a sci-fi world with laser guns. Lampshaded by Mr. Universe.Mr. Universe: Guy killed me, Mal. He killed me with a sword. How weird is that?
- Corporate Samurai: His Establishing Character Moment involves forcing Seppuku on an underling for screwing up.
- Deadpan Snarker: On occasion: "I am impressed that you came for her yourself, and that you made it this far... in that outfit."
- Determinator: Practically to a Mal Reynolds degree.
- Villainous Valour: It makes him borderline unstoppable in a straight-up fight.
- The Dreaded: All of his kind are.
- Enemy Mine: In the post-film comics, he joins with the crew of Serenity at Mal's request in order to help them rescue Zoe and deal a blow against the Alliance.
- Evil Brit: His actor keeps his normal accent for the film.
- Finishing Move: A particularly cruel one where he effectively paralyzes his victim, then places his sword at such an angle that the victim slowly overbalances and is impaled.
- The Fundamentalist: The Operative never expresses any particular religious beliefs, but is driven by a single-minded crusade to exterminate all human vice and folly.
- Genius Bruiser: The Operative is a powerful man, but also very eloquent and clever.
- Godzilla Threshold: Calling in the Operative is itself a sign that the Alliance parliament is getting desperate. He has complete freedom to break any laws he likes and commandeer any forces necessary, and his methods are expensive and messy.
- A Good Way to Die: Shows a fascination with this. When he kills Dr. Matthias, he tells him that falling on his sword is a good way to die, rather than be murdered in his sleep like a sick pet. When he faces Kalista, who he knows he can't beat, in Leaves on the Wind, she asks him how he would chose to die, and asks that he be allowed to fall on his sword.
- The Heavy: Of The Movie.
- HeelFace Turn: After Mal shows him the recording of what the Alliance did to the planet Miranda.
- Hypocrite: The Operative overlooks his own pride and his masters' outright hubris; yet he's always chastising others about their sins.
- Inspector Javert: The crew of Serenity are criminals, and they're associating with someone who has information that could shatter the Alliance. He has been assigned to fix the problem.
- Katanas Are Just Better: His preferred weapon.
- Kick the Dog: The Operative kills people whose deaths are not necessary for the completion of his mission, including Mr. Universe.
- Killed Offscreen: His implied fate, at the hands of Zoe, in post-Serenity comics.
- Knight Templar/Well-Intentioned Extremist: He really does believe he's helping to create a better world, even if, in Joss Whedon's words, it "does involve a certain amount of genocide."
- Necessarily Evil: He is himself disgusted by his own actions.
- No Name Given: Although in earlier drafts he was given the name 'Jude'.
- No Place for Me There: The Operative is the Trope Namer. He speaks with conviction of a future utopia in which he, and men like him, will not exist.
- The Paralyzer: His signature move is to paralyze his victim by striking a nerve cluster in their lower back and making them fall on his sword.
- Pet the Dog: In a Right for the Wrong Reasons way. Dr. Matthias needed killing, but the Operative was killing him for his stupidity and failure, not his many sins.
- Pride: That would be his sin.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He was quite understanding about Dr. Mathias' failure to anticipate Simon breaking River out of the facility. (He did execute the doctor, but for other reasons.) His methods are extraordinarily brutal, but he did try to negotiate in good faith as his opening move. And at the end, when Mal manages to broadcast the horrible truth about Miranda, he immediately commands his forces to stand down, recognizing that he's failed and more killing won't help.
- Scary Black Man: An unusual example, because he is invariably soft-spoken.
- The Unfettered: The Alliance's utopian goals require he work his hardest and kill anyone who gets in his way, and he's fine with that.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: His reason for existence; he seems to regard the idea that he will have to be destroyed before the universe can achieve peaceful perfection as a Heroic Sacrifice.
- Villainous Breakdown: He cracks a bit when he realizes the Alliance fleet has been cornered by the Reavers, but pulls himself back together. The final one inflicted on him by Mal is an ironic, thematic defeat; by the end, he himself says that he's a shell waiting to die, bereft of purpose. In short, exactly what Mal took steps not to become after Serenity Valley.
- Villain Respect: He is openly respectful of his targets' potential. This, unfortunately, only drives him to greater ruthlessness.
- Warrior Poet: Though he misquotes a few poems from time to time, he fits the bill.
- Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: He takes steps to defy this trope as it applies to him by means of a Bulletproof Vest.
- Worthy Opponent: Seems to think this of Mal.
- Would Hit a Girl: He slams Inara to the ground when she tries to assist Mal.
- Would Hurt a Child: One of the people on Haven is a little kid Kaylee plays with. The kid was killed in the Operative's attack. Many more such dead children are implied, and the Operative - with regret - makes it clear that this is not a first for him.Mal: I don't murder children.
Operative: I do. If I have to.
- You Monster!: A variation, in that he believes himself to be a monster. He acknowledges that Just Following Orders is not redemption, and he will have to pay once mankind is on its way to perfection.
The Academy technician in charge of taking care of River. He had an odd encounter with a doctor 'sent by the Alliance' who had some questions about that experiment. Subsequently, he was visited by a real government agent who gave him lessons about the customs of "certain older, civilized cultures".
- Bio-Augmentation: What he was researching.
- Character Death: The Operative paralyzes him, forcing him to literally fall upon a sword in forced penance.
- Dirty Coward: He makes a run for it and leaves his guards to die.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: He thinks Simon's decision to throw away a promising future in medicine to free his sister was "madness."
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: By the Operative, and... gravity.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Paralyzing a government scientist and then leaving him helpless to stop himself from being impaled would normally be a Kick the Dog. But Dr. Matthias is a specialist in mutilating brains and implanting subliminal programming in innocent youngsters. Let's just say nobody was going to miss him.
- Organ Theft: Particularly parts of the brain.
- Playing with Syringes: Directly into the forehead.
- Pride: His sin.
- Mad Doctor/Mad Scientist: With Parliament approval!
- Seppuku: Involuntarily, thanks to the Operative.
- Torture Technician: He's not a sadist, and isn't out to intentionally cause pain, but he doesn't give a single damn if he does. River is put through outrageous torture at his hands, and his only concern is avoiding blame about the breakout.
- You Have Failed Me: Why the Operative kills him.
A member of the research and rescue team that investigated the strange happenings on Miranda.
- Apocalyptic Log: She leaves one behind, which is found by the Serenity crew.
- Better to Die than Be Killed: She tries to shoot herself before the Reavers get to her, but she isn't quick enough.
- Character Death: Dr. Caron is grabbed by the Reavers. What happens after that is only implied, not shown, but she's definitely dead.
- Fate Worse than Death: Subjected to this by the Reavers. Ending in death, which was undoubtedly a relief.
- Mr. Exposition: She provides a straight-forward explanation of Miranda, the Pax and the Reavers.
- My God, What Have I Done?: She's horrified by the effects of the Pax.
- Posthumous Character: Appears only in a holographic journal.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: She meets a horrible fate she certainly didn't deserve... but she still participated in using a pathogen on a civilian population without their knowledge or consent. Once she realizes how badly it's gone wrong, she's horrified.Caron: We meant it for the best!