1st from primary
S/2038(Burnham)01 was discovered in 2038.
Once thought only to be fictional, Miranda in fact was an experimental colony where the Alliance tried to chemically modify its populace to be peaceful. This worked too well; it eliminated violence, but in the process it had a fatal side effect. The inhabitants lost all ambition; they stopped doing any work, stopped talking to each other, stopped reproducing and eventually stopped even feeding. For 0.1% of the population it had the opposite effect and caused extremely violent behavior, beyond mere psychosis but animalism. The "survivors" of Miranda were the Reavers who started to menace the Rim planets.
The Alliance managed to cover up their mess fairly well, erasing all official records of the planet. Those who had heard talk of Miranda heard false tales that terraforming was attempted but ultimately failed, and that the planet was an uninhabitable Blackrock. Of course, being in the heart of what was to become Reaver space, not many people made the trip to see if it was true or not.
River Tam had knowledge of Miranda through gleaning it from the mind of one of Alliance Parliament officials who surveyed her during her training, which was one of the reasons the Alliance sent the Operative to retrieve her. When the Alliance recording was discovered, it became the perfect example of what would happen if the Alliance sought to interfere with self-determination. At risk of their lives from both the Reavers and the Operative, the crew of Serenity used Mr. Universe's broadwave equipment to transmit a recording of what the Alliance did on Miranda to every planet and moon in the system.
- Miranda is the name of the primary female character in "The Tempest". The etymology means "a source of wonder" or "a thing to be admired".
- Miranda is remarkably similar to the linked John B. Calhoun behavior experiment. Mice were placed in a large metal box and given all they needed. Eventually some of them lost the will to do anything. But most began to behave almost exactly like Reavers.
Behind the scenes
Miranda may be named after the heroine of William Shakespeare's The Tempest. While Ariel was known as the loyal servant, Miranda was the peaceful maiden of the play. The moon Caliban is named after an enslaved creature who lusted after Miranda. She is "Admired Miranda! Indeed the top of admiration, worth.", although given the layering in most of the Whedonverse there may also be 'mirage' elements at play.