The Firefly and Serenity Database
Session 416 first title large.jpg
R. Tam sessions

The title card to one of the segments


Joss Whedon


Joss Whedon


Summer Glau
Joss Whedon


August 16, 2005 - September 5, 2005 (internet)
August 21, 2007 (DVD)


8 min.


United States



Followed by:


The R. Tam sessions are a series of five short videos released by Joss Whedon over the internet, which were set within his fictional Firefly universe. They chronicled several of the early in-universe interviews with the emotionally troubled Firefly character River Tam.

Although released unofficially, the videos were meant as a form of viral marketing for the 2005 film Serenity. The sessions were released on the internet between August 16 and September 5, 2005.


Set before the events of the Firefly television series and the film Serenity, the R. Tam sessions depict excerpts of sessions with the character River Tam while she is held at a "learning facility" known only as "The Academy." The counsellor in these sessions is played by Joss Whedon himself. The videos shed some light on the experiments and torture "The Academy" conducted on River. They "document" her change from a shy child prodigy to the mentally unstable character of the television series. The clips can be found in this quicktime movie.


River (left), upset with the interviewer in Session 165.

The five clips are listed here in the order in which they were released, but the actual chronological order is indicated by the numbering, session 1 being the first clip and session 416 being the last.

R. Tam, Session 416 - Second Excerpt[]

We see a man sitting in a chair by a table. After a few seconds of silence, he puts his hands to his throat and begins to cough violently. We see him pull out what is apparently a pen, and throw it onto the table. After a few seconds of struggling, he falls out of his chair onto the floor. With blood on her hand, River then appears on screen, looks directly at the camera, and whispers, "I can see you."

R. Tam, Session 1 - Excerpt[]

We are introduced to a young girl named River. She is being interviewed by the same man who we were introduced to in the first clip. The setting is apparently the same room by the same table. This clip takes place before the previous one, as indicated by the numbering and River's personality. The interviewer begins to question River about her life, such as how school is going, and asks her if she would be interested in joining what is presumably "the Academy." This clip establishes River as being extremely intelligent, and hints at her having extremely intuitive, or possibly psychic, powers. Her personality is shown to be slightly shy but certainly pleasant and nice. No hints of psychological damage are observed.

R. Tam, Session 22 - Excerpt[]

River is having second thoughts about how she may not be "the right subject" for the treatments being done to her. She requests a transfer back to a normal school, despite it being "too slow." The video then cuts to another conversation. River says "it's the Pax" (a reference to the events of the film Serenity), and makes another non sequitur about a patient who died on the table while the interviewer (apparently a doctor) was performing a surgery which points toward her being a mind-reader as it was something she did not see and was not told but that the interviewer was aware of. She desires very much to see her brother (Simon) in person, but the interviewer obliquely denies this request, suggesting that she write to him instead. She reluctantly and sadly dropped the request. In this clip, we notice her to be significantly unhappier (she never cracks a smile, as opposed to smiling cheerfully in the last excerpt, and she even sounded close to tears near the end of the session), and quite troubled. Despite being so, she is still reasonably sane, and was apparently able to control her emotions. That can't be seen as clearly after the video cut, however.

This clip also introduces a Dr. Mathias as the person who is apparently in charge of whatever is being done to River. Mathias plays a role later on in the film Serenity.

R. Tam, Session 165 - Excerpt[]

In this excerpt, River has gone into one of her psychotic moods and is pacing around instead of sitting down as in the previous excerpts. She is rambling (with the occasional stutter) about how she apparently cut up her mattress for reasons unknown to anyone else but herself, making a reference to the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea (This hints at the premise of the film Serenity; River has a 'pea' of information in her head, and it's causing a mental breakdown). She tries once to control her emotions, but is quite hysterical and deranged. She claims that she has no "mission," apparently seeking the purpose to why she is at this institution. Suddenly after a video cut, she shrieks and bends over on the table, and claims that something in the mattress is "sticking in [her]" and screams repeatedly at the interviewer that "they cut it out" (a reference to the Firefly episode "Ariel"). We now witness the full change in River, from a bright, cheerful girl to an emotionally broken-down, insane person. In this excerpt she retains little of her original personality, and is very nervous, sometimes angry and says things that are quite difficult to comprehend.

R. Tam, Session 416 - First Excerpt[]

River says that Dr. Mathias "gave [her] a mission", and is apparently aware that her brother Simon is looking for her. She says she can't tell the interviewer what this mission is, and that she'll have to write it down, extending a hand for the pen the interviewer is holding. We know now that River is going to kill her interviewer with the pen she is about to acquire.


  • The song "Girl in a Box" by the band 76 features a disturbing mash-up of dialogue from the R. Tam sessions and music used in the Firefly episode "Bushwhacked."
  • The mission Dr. Mathais gave River appeared to be to kill her interviewer, judging by her asking for the pen that she killed him with.

DVD release[]

The sessions were released on the "Serenity: Collector's Edition" DVD.

Notes and references[]

External links[]