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Shepherd Meria Book

 

From FireflyWiki.org:

Shepherd Meria Book - The Preacher with a Past (played by Ron Glass)

We first meet Shepherd Book on the Eavesdown Docks on Persephone. He had just left the Southdown Abbey and decided to get out into the world... bring the word to those as need it told...

Less than two days later... "I've beaten a lawman senseless, I've fallen in with criminals. I watched the captain shoot the man I swore to protect... I think I'm on the wrong ship."

He wasn't, but was he even a shepherd; a man of the cloth? Jubal Early surely didn't think so (Objects In Space). There's a lot of history there that doesn't have much to do with being a preacher.

Book signed on to Firefly as a passenger before Simon did, which on the surface appears to rule out his being there specifically because of the Tam siblings. Kaylee could read his body language rather well, and her intuition told him he was a good soul who was more interested in the ships than in the destinations. He admits to her that he had once sailed on a Firefly ("Long before you were crawling.") He admitted to having been "out of the world for a spell."

So, who was (or is) Book?:

We first meet Shepherd Book on the Eavesdown Docks on Persephone. He had just left the Southdown Abbey and decided to get out into the world... bring the word to those as need it told... Less than two days later... "." He wasn't, but was he even a shepherd; a man of the cloth? Jubal Early surely didn't think so (Objects In Space). There's a lot of history there that doesn't have much to do with being a preacher. Book signed on to Firefly as a passenger before Simon did, which on the surface appears to rule out his being there specifically because of the Tam siblings. Kaylee could read his body language rather well, and her intuition told him he was a good soul who was more interested in the ships than in the destinations. He admits to her that he had once sailed on a Firefly ("Long before you were crawling.") He admitted to having been "out of the world for a spell." So, who was (or is) Book?:
  • An undercover agent for the Alliance?
  • A double agent for Independents who had infiltrated Alliance trust?
  • A retired Alliance officer (or Alliance Federal Marshal) who 'got religion'? (My personal theory. -Doyce)
  • An operative of Blue Sun, keeping an eye on River and Simon?
  • Perhaps a ex-con? Perhaps at one time worse and more sadistic than Adelei Niska, but who had since found religion?

What do we really know?

Was being a shepherd just a cover or had Book joined the Abbey for a few years, perhaps immediately after the end of the war, and sincerely set out to live a life of moral and spiritual enlightenment, only to find himself fall into this "den of thieves"?

He's definitely not what meets the eye. On the surface Book appears to be an ordinary man of God in an extraordinary situation, dealing with people straddling the fine line between good and evil, but there are other indicators that, while inconclusive, do persuade one to believe he may have ulterior motives. For one thing, when Book finds himself suffering from lead poisoning without a medic on board (in Safe), Malcolm Reynolds orders Wash to the nearest Alliance outpost for medical help, expecting to eat crow. Just as the Alliance officers deny medical assistance, Book has them check his Ident Card. He's almost immediately wheeled into the operating room, no more questions asked. (Not common Alliance treatment even for men of the cloth.) Also take note of the teaser of War Stories and his pro-active stance towards rescuing Mal.

  • He knows a fair bit about the criminal element of the 'verse.
  • He knows how to shoot (and well), and can identify relatively rare weapons merely from the hole they leave in a man.
  • We know he never married and therefore has no children or grandchildren. (Or so he says.)
  • We know his religious order requires he not cut his hair.
  • We know he studies a version of the Christian Bible (which apparently survives another five hundred years relatively intact) but we don't really know the name of his denomination.
  • He knows his way around a spaceship, especially a Firefly class. He's been on one before, but it was an older model.
  • We know that he felt prepared to take up arms to defend a friend. He implied, though we do not know for sure, that he would not go as far as cause another's death.
  • He will sometimes resort to foul language (in Chinese).

And that's about it.

Played masterfully by the venerable veteran actor (and, ironically, Buddhist) Ron Glass, Shepherd Book is one of the more cryptic and puzzling characters of Firefly's basic nine (which is really saying something about a ship full of people with secrets). If he was a pretender to the cloth he played the role remarkably well. If he's serious about his faith, he may have a long path ahead of him towards self-enlightenment.

 

  -   Last Edited on: September 29, 2005
                                                                                                    

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