|Ship(s) captained or crewed|
- "I've been out of the abbey two days. I've beaten a lawman senseless, I've fallen in with criminals. I watched the captain shoot the man I swore to protect. And I'm not even sure if I think he was wrong. I believe…I just…I think I'm on the wrong ship."
"Maybe. Or maybe you're exactly where you ought to be."
- ―Derrial Book and Inara Serra
Derrial Book was a shepherd who provided frequent spiritual advice and perspectives for the crew of Serenity.
To the crew of Serenity, Derrial Book's past was a mystery. He indicated early on that he was a shepherd who had been living in the Southdown Abbey and that he never married. In truth, "Derrial" was not even the shepherd's real name, but rather the name of a man he had killed.
Book frequently made references to Christian theology and consulted and quoted the Bible. But Book later expressed concern that he was being corrupted by living on Serenity and he left the ship and moved to the planet Haven. There he was killed by an Alliance soldier sent to destroy Haven after Serenity managed to shake an Alliance assassin known only as "the Operative". However, he was not a passive figure in the events leading up to his death; he defended Haven and "killed the ship that killed them." After taking down the ship, Mal told Book that he did the right thing, to which Book replied "Coming from you, that means almost nothing."
Behind the scenes
- Malcolm Reynolds - Glass approached the relationship with this character as a reflection of his former self. He felt that it was Book's desire to have Mal see the brighter side of himself, but knowing he could not confront him directly, he instead has to do this obliquely. It was a confrontation with Mal, in which Book lost his temper to the point of striking him, that cemented the Shepherd's decision to leave Serenity.
- Jayne Cobb - Over the course of the series, especially in later episodes, Book and Jayne are often seen chatting and joking, or working out together. Despite their very different characters, they appeared to have become good friends, sharing conversations on such topics as their various reactions to death ("The Message").
The character is almost always referred to as "Shepherd Book" and is a Christian of an unknown denomination. The original script for pilot episode "Serenity" includes this scene establishment:
"We see, passing through frame, Shepherd BOOK. […] His clothes are plain and instantly identify him as some kind of Protestant minister."
Book's character during the series is that of a preacher, and though Glass discussed with Whedon about making him more Buddhist, Whedon explained that the character of Inara Serra was to be the Buddhist-type and Book more of the "fundamentalist Christian guy." Glass, himself a Buddhist, found it intriguing to play this role:
"What I was able to bring to the Christian part of it was the humanism and the humanastic point of view. It was the hook in terms of being able to make that adjustment. I wasn't born Buddhist, so I do have some other traditions to pull from."
Whedon conceived the character because he felt that faith was important to people dealing with being that far out in space. As Whedon states, "Shepherd Book is somebody I would probably get along famously with, except we don't agree about anything." He also wanted to give "a voice for the other side."
One of the underlying aspects of the show is Shepherd Book's secret past. He holds some sort of priority status within the Alliance, and on numerous occasions has demonstrated a depth of knowledge in a number of fields one would not expect a clergyman to be familiar with, including space travel, firearms, hand to hand combat, and criminal activity. Glass enjoyed this aspect of the role as well: "Though rather mysterious, it was absolutely clear that he had had a very full life before he went off to the monastery and took on that responsibility. I loved the fact that he could save your soul but he could also kick your ass. That's a really great combination to play."
In the fourteenth and final episode of Firefly, "Objects in Space", Simon berates the bounty hunter Jubal Early for assaulting Book, a Shepherd. Early only replies, "That ain't a Shepherd." In a DVD commentary of Firefly, Whedon states this is due to Early's intuition and ability to quickly size people up. He also comments that Early's methods for dealing with each crew member are custom-tailored to their personalities. Early disposes of Mal in a straight-forward manner; Joss then notes that Early's method for taking out Book is equally straight-forward, alluding to a similarity between the two otherwise different characters.
Another hint to Book's mysterious past is shown in the episode "Safe". When Book is accidentally wounded, Mal is forced to seek medical help from an Alliance cruiser. The commanding officer, after tersely dismissing Mal, changes his attitude once one of his officers shows him Book's identity card. Though the exact information on the card is never shown, the crew does note that it affords Book access to the medical facilities on board.
On the 2007 Browncoat Cruise, Ron Glass revealed with Whedon's permission that Derrial was not in fact the shepherd's real name, but the name of a man he had killed.. It was also announced that a comic book mini-series about Book's past is to be released called Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale.
While pure speculation, there is some hint in the Serenity film that Book was an "Operative" before his time, due to his extensive knowledge of how the Alliance would react, as well as the know how of The Operative despite said character theoretically "not existing." This is further supported by the fact that the Operative has full access to secret Alliance files and classified documents, while Book's identity card affords him priority access to Alliance facilities (as seen when he was wounded)
During production of the film Serenity, Book's first name was Meria,[source?] and it appears as such in the documentary "Re-Lighting the Firefly". However, by the time the film was completed, Joss Whedon changed his first name to Derrial, which is the way it appears in all printed official works based on Firefly.
Glass, a veteran actor well known for his role as Detective Ron Harris in the television sitcom Barney Miller, had never tackled the science-fiction genre and was hesitant about this role when his agent approached him. However, once he read the script he "...fell in love with it." As Glass notes:
"The thing that was galvanizing for me was the characters, so the environment was secondary. I was happy to see how Book would unfold in that kind of environment and it worked really, really well."
Glass states that Whedon and the costume designer Shawna Trpcic "had a pretty clear idea of how they wanted him to look," and how he appears in the pilot with a distinctly priestly collar and scant possessions "was a strong reflection of the character..." For the role in the film "Serenity", Trpcic changed her decision to have Book in loose, baggy clothes when she saw what great shape he was in, so she designed a tight tee-shirt to show off his chest.
- The Shepherd's Tale
- Firefly – "Serenity" (First appearance)
- Firefly – "The Train Job"
- Firefly – "Bushwhacked"
- Firefly – "Shindig"
- Firefly – "Safe"
- Firefly – "Our Mrs. Reynolds"
- Firefly – "Jaynestown"
- Firefly – "Out of Gas"
- Firefly – "War Stories"
- Firefly – "Trash"
- Firefly – "The Message"
- Firefly – "Heart of Gold"
- Firefly – "Objects in Space"
- Better Days
- Those Left Behind
Notes and references
- ↑ Firefly – "Serenity"
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 SerenityStuff » Blog Archive » Ron Glass announces “A Shepherd’s Tale” comic, reveals (some) secrets
- ↑ Firefly – "Out of Gas"
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Serenity: Those Left Behind
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Serenity
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Serenity: The Official Visual Companion
- ↑ The Official Companion Volume One
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 The Official Companion Volume One
- ↑ "Objects in Space"
- ↑ "Objects in Space" commentary
- ↑ "Safe"
- ↑ Serenity: Director's Commentary, "Re-Lighting the Firefly"
- ↑ Serenity Role Playing Game
- ↑ Ron Glass - Barney Miller/Serenity chats with Judyth Piazza