|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... think I'm on the wrong ship."
"Maybe. Or maybe you're exactly where you ought to be."
- ―Derrial Book and Inara Serra
Shepherd Derrial Book (born Henry Evans) was a passenger aboard Serenity, and a friend and spiritual teacher to its crew. Before his time aboard the ship, he led a life marked by violence and conflict, both inside and out, which remained a secret from the crew.
Biography[edit | edit source]
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, whose birth name was Henry Evans, lived as a young boy in dread of his highly abusive father. He would listen to music to take himself to a peaceful place in his mind, only to be beaten. Ten years after leaving home, he had established himself as a successful thief adept at avoiding law enforcement, but this was not what he had envisioned for himself. He was then recruited by the Independence Movement after a representative became impressed at Evans' excellent combat potential. In four years he honed his fighting skills, easily defeating heavily-armed federal agents single-handedly. Evans was not known among his Independence peers to attend their meetings, but he showed up for one and there he volunteered to take part in a highly-sensitive mole operation. Since the Independence organizers had learned that the Alliance was creating warships, they plotted to plant a long-term mole to rise through the ranks of the Alliance and subvert them at every turn. Henry's left eye was extracted and replaced with a biorobotic camera and transmitter, which would provide excellent surveillance. To join the Alliance, he needed a new identity. So he lured an unsuspecting young man named Derrial Book into an alley, murdered him with a garrote, and took on this name permanently.
In four short years, he orchestrated a "meteoric" rise through the Alliance ranks and was selected for the officer corps from the law enforcement on Jiangyin. He used brutal beatings on captured Independence members—men and women alike—which impressed his superiors. After six years, he was an officer aboard the I.A.V. Cortez, where he directed the final movement of an Alliance operation to ambush Independence transports on a massive scale: six installations on different planets and at least one space-borne transport convoy were raided by Alliance forces at the same moment, but each was ambushed. It was the "single greatest disaster in Alliance history". The most prominent loss was the destruction of the I.A.V. Alexander and the loss of all 4,000 souls aboard; elsewhere, about 300 soldiers were captured. Book was immediately discharged without trial and thrown into an escape vessel in disgrace.
He lived as a derelict for six years after until he experienced an epiphany about his place in the universe while staring into a bowl of chicken soup. He was suddenly seized with purpose, and joined the Southdown Abbey where he remained for a decade, until he finally chose to leave the abbey—on good terms and with encouragement—and become a missionary. He then joined the crew of Serenity.
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". He was not a passive figure in the events leading up to his death; he defended Haven and shot down the A.V.-Sparrow that attacked the settlement. 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."
"I don't care what you believe. Just believe it!"~ Book's dying words to Mal
Relationships[edit | edit source]
- 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. Book and Mal also seemed to share deep mutual respect for one another; while Mal had lost his faith after the Battle of Serenity, he welcomed Book's counsel when he found himself unsure of what to do. 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. This did not hamper their relationship in the long run, as it seemed to be Book's death at the hands of an Alliance soldier that pushed Mal to go to Miranda, which led to him exposing the Alliance's role in the creation of the Reavers.
- Kaylee Frye - Book and Kaylee got along well. Book took immediate action against an Alliance agent who shot her, looked over Kaylee during her subsequent gunshot wound ("Serenity"), and she returned the favour during Book's own near-fatal wound ("Safe"). Like many of the younger crewmembers, Book was grandfatherly and protective of her.
- 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"). When the crew of the Serenity discovers the origins of the Reavers after Book's death and Mal addresses the crew, Jayne gives his consent to the mission to expose the Alliance by quoting something Book once said to him, showing that Jayne held a deep respect for Book (Serenity).
- River Tam - Book had a good relationship with River, possibly better than anyone else on the ship with the exceptions of Simon and Kaylee. Book never lost his temper with River, even when she would have one of her "episodes" ("Shindig", "Jaynestown"), nor on an occasion in which she annotated and tore pages from his Bible to make it comply with science. He also seemed to enjoy spending time with River as he volunteered to look after her for Simon while he went with Mal on a job ("Jaynestown"), and once again when Serenity was docked at a space station so Simon could go spend time with Kaylee ("The Message").
- Simon Tam - Book held respect for Simon, or more specifically Simon's decision to give up his family's wealth and a promising future as a doctor to rescue and protect his sister from the Alliance. He also volunteered to look after River on at least two occasions, presumably to let Simon have a chance to unwind.
- Inara Serra - Despite the incident of their first meeting, Book showed no disdain for Inara based on the fact that she was a Companion. He quickly warms to her, bringing some of his cooking to her shuttle and seeking her advice when his faith is tested due to his involvement with criminals.
- Mika Wong - Book and Wong served together in the Alliance military on the I.A.V. Cortez, as his superior officer. He was present during the I.A.V. Alexander disaster.
Denomination[edit | edit source]
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."
Background[edit | edit source]
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 straightforward manner; Joss then notes that Early's method for taking out Book is equally straightforward, 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 the I.A.V. Magellan, a Tohoku-class cruiser. The commanding officer, after tersely dismissing Mal, changes his attitude once one of his officers shows him Book's IdentCard. 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.
Around the time of the Serenity film, fans speculated 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," believing that the theory was 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)
Readers learn in the 2010 comic Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale that Book was an Independent fighter who joined the Alliance before the war began, to serve as a mole. He moved quickly through the ranks and was known for his single goal: to end the war by whatever means possible. He was discharged from the Alliance in 2498 after an operation he oversaw resulted in a massive ambush and the deaths of 4,000 people; the Alliance covered up the incident. Book later found religion and became a wandering preacher.
Behind the scenes[edit | edit source]
Production details[edit | edit source]
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". 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.
Casting[edit | edit source]
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."
Costume design[edit | edit source]
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.
Appearances[edit | edit source]
- 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 – "Ariel" (Mentioned only)
- Firefly – "War Stories"
- Firefly – "Trash"
- Firefly – "The Message"
- Firefly – "Heart of Gold"
- Firefly – "Objects in Space"
- Better Days
- Those Left Behind
- Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale
- Firefly - Big Damn Hero
- Serenity movie
- Serenity novel
Sources[edit | edit source]
Notes and references[edit | edit source]
- Firefly – "Serenity"
- SerenityStuff » Blog Archive » Ron Glass announces “A Shepherd’s Tale” comic, reveals (some) secrets
- "Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale"
- Firefly – "Out of Gas"
- Serenity: Those Left Behind
- Serenity: The Official Visual Companion
- The Official Companion Volume One
- "Objects in Space"
- "Objects in Space" commentary
- Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale
- Serenity: Director's Commentary, "Re-Lighting the Firefly"
- Serenity Role Playing Game
- Ron Glass - Barney Miller/Serenity chats with Judyth Piazza