Dead or Alive is the script for an episode that never made it to production and whose elements were partially incorporated into other episodes, including "The Message".
The crew of Serenity attend a fair on the barren world of Verbena, after dropping off twenty passengers for which they were paid. During the festivities, the entire crew (save for Simon and River), have gone their separate ways, Mal with Inara, Jayne off by himself, Book with Kaylee, and Wash with Zoë when an Alliance factory is bombed. In the aftermath of the explosion, everyone gathers and, after helping Book move an injured man to the triage center, Mal attempts to get the crew off the planet. However, Simon enters and begins treating anyone he comes across.
Mal decides to bide his time, and allow Simon to treat the injured, delivering orders to the rest of the crew to be prepared for take off the moment Simon is finished. A local Alliance Officer, Lieutenant Quillan, commandeers several civilian ships, including Serenity, to search for the suspected bomber, a former Independent named Declan Everton, whom Mal and Zoë recognize as a private they used to serve with. Quillan herself takes control of Serenity, bringing three others with her as Serenity and several other ships set off to find Everton. Mal and Zoë, meanwhile, conspire to figure out how it is they can reach him first.
While the group of ships continue to follow a shuttle that Everton is suspected of using to attempt escape, Wash realizes that the course corrections and repetitive patterns are far to precise for a Human to be at the controls, leading Mal and Zoë to determine that Everton had long ago abandoned the shuttle. Serenity is diverted to the area where Mal and Zoë think Everton is located without telling the rest of the ships, informing Quillan that everyone on the ship has a fairer chance in capturing Everton without other people also on the chase. Quillian seems to agree and Serenity lands, where Jayne heads off into the woods, diverting the other individuals who are searching for Everton, including Quillan.
Mal and Zoë manage to find Everton, and discover that Quillan had not believed anything that Mal had been saying, and diverted from the path that Jayne was following, instead following Mal and Zoë. A tense stand off ensues as the other ships arrive, while Mal manages to disarm one of the bounty hunters, and Quillan arrests Everton, informing Mal that the other ships were going to "escort" Serenity back to town.
While on the ship, Mal questions Everton, who claims innocence and that, while he was an Independent and understood the war was over, he had been struggling to find work. Everton explains that employment in the factory's construction was the only thing that he could find. Quillan enters and questions Mal about his apparent lies, including not mentioning the fact that he knows Everton. Mal is then ordered to leave, and neither he nor anyone else may visit Everton again.
Later, when Everton is making his escape attempt after being attacked by one of the bounty hunters, Mal stops him and through conversation gets Everton to admit that he really did bomb the factory. The two struggle, with Mal ending up victorious, and later turning Everton over to Alliance authorities, as Everton tries to hit close to home, using the words Mal once used to train him. Mal and Quillan exchange quips, and the crew return to the ship, with Serenity leaving the planet.
- "It ain't war when they're not shooting at you. Then it's just plain murder." - Mal, to Everton
Behind the Scenes
- A production code for this episode, on the writers draft dated August 16, 2002 is listed with the episode number of 1AGE06, suggesting its development around the time of "Jaynestown"
- Elements of this scrapped episode can be found in others, particularly "The Message", although with some vast differences.
- Alliance officers commandeer, and take charge of several civilian ships, including Serenity, something Malcolm Reynolds indicated the Alliance was capable of doing in the pilot episode "Serenity".
- The script indicates that, even without hard evidence, the Alliance had more or less already rendered a guilty verdict, or at the very least, one would be pretty much guaranteed due to the "color of his coat"
- River continues to show her ability to combine the truths into distracting scenarios, when she tells her tale (that is, her life's story within Alliance custody) to children, presenting it as a fairy tale that becomes more and more disturbing.