Name: River Tam
Personal Quote: "I can kill you with my brain."
What's her background?
Even at a young age, River had an exceptionally intelligent mind. While her brother Simon was gifted enough to become a doctor in the top 3% of his class, River corrected his homework and even found errors in his textbooks. Clearly she was a gifted child, and belonged in an institution that could cater to her intellect, so she went to the Alliance-run Academy.
After her enrollment into the Academy, her brother began receiving odd letters from her. Words were misspelled and references made to events or individuals who did not exist. Simon recognized that the letters were coded, her way of telling her family "they are hurting us." He pleaded for his parents to take action on her behalf. They refused.
Knowing that things were very much "not right," Simon gave up his career as a trauma surgeon, and left family and fortune behind to forcibly liberate River (with extreme prejudice) from the Alliance-run Academy.
In search of a new home to care for his terribly damaged sister, Simon came to the planet Persephone, of a mind to book passage to a far-away place and keep them safely underneath Alliance radar. On Persephone, a lone Simon (transporting a large containment unit) pays for passage onboard the Firefly-class ship "Serenity," and thus begins their adventures.
So, what happened to River at the Academy?
She's too traumatized to speak coherently most of the time, let alone trying to recall the experiments. Clearly, she has been scrambled. Her conversation is erratic and at times she seems to have short-circuited...in short, a bit whimsical in the brainpan.
Why would the Alliance do such a thing?
The most common speculation is that the Alliance was attempting to turn her into a psychically assisted assassin or spy. In seeming support of this theory, as River has said herself, she can kill you with her mind. Not to mention, this girl is good with a knife and better with a gun. Hmmm.
River's state of mind is inconsistent and unpredictable. Her communication style seems primal, a type of verbalized stream of consciousness, which is alarming, confusing, and provocative. Her brother can administer medical treatments that seem to periodically improve her ability to cope, but these treatments come with some nasty side-effects.
And there is no time to sit back and contemplate current events. River and her brother need to keep running -- the Alliance wants their experiment back. Badly. And they don't play fair. Jerks!
You can see River and Simon (and the whole Firefly crew) in the TV series Firefly, available now on DVD, and their first big-screen movie Serenity, released on DVD on December 20th.