You Willing To Die?
Thursday, September 28, 2006

Why did Mal leave alive the Operative, murderer of Shepherd Book and Mr. Universe?


Inara saves Mal's life when he turns his back on The Operative. Mal makes that same mistake again in Mr. Universe's generator room. What would happen if Mal does not make the same mistake twice? Quoting the audience - “You turn your back on him, he'll kick your ass!” The audience is opinionated at my neighborhood theatre.

The answers to these two questions follow. About two-thirds of this alternate script is based on the shooting script from “Serenity, The Official Visual Companion” by Joss Whedon, page 142 to 152.

My “secret” motivation: In the movie theatre, I wanted Mal to kill the Operative at Mr. Universe's headquarters. It seemed to be justice. Three minutes later, I was thinking it was lucky that Mal didn't. But at the moment Mal spared the Operative, there wasn't a good reason other than Mal wants to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Finally there is another reason:


Mal has reached it and surveys the situation. Before him is a hand rail, and he can look down on the generator shaft. It's deep, with the machine rotating and grinding, and arcs of electricity ricochetting around it. On the other side is a platform, with the broadwave console sitting next to the edge of the platform. Cables and chains run along the ceiling, around a series of ladder rungs.

MAL: Hard to get to. That's a fact.

Mal gets on the railing, reaches for the 'rungs' on the ceiling just above him. He can almost get them - one wrong move and he pitches into the jaws of death...

A laser shot nails him in the lower back - he arches, legs sliding off the rail - he falls and hits the rail with the backs of his legs, flipping painfully onto his face as he falls, mercifully, back onto the platform.

The Operative comes around some equipment for a closer shot as Mal gets shakily up.

MAL: (in pain) Shot me in the back. I haven't... made you angry, have I?

THE OPERATIVE: There's a lot of innocent people in the air being killed right now.

MAL: You have no idea how true that is.

There's no wise-ass attitude in him now. They stand, facing off at ten paces.

MAL: I know the secret. The truth that burned up River Tam's brain. Rest of the 'verse is gonna know it too. 'Cause they need to.

THE OPERATIVE: You really believe that?

MAL: I do.

THE OPERATIVE: You willing to die for that belief?

MAL: I am.

The Operative raises his gun - but Mal is the quick draw master, shoots the gun out of the Operative's hand and gets two hits to the chest (armored) before he makes it to cover.

MAL: Of course, that ain't exactly plan A...

The Operative hides behind some machinery. Tries to peek out at Mal - And more shots sends him scrambling back to cover.

Mal drops out the ammo magazine from his gun.

The Operative sees his moment, dives for his laser gun, aims at Mal and pulls the trigger - but it's been ruined by Mal's shot.

Mal slams another ammo magazine into his gun. The Operative is beginning to stand up while pulling the sword from the scabbard. Mal's bullet hits the Operative's armored elbow; he loses his grip on the sword. Mal tackles the Operative. They crash to the floor in the midst of tool boxes, chains, pieces of pipe, compressed gas cylinders. The Operative strikes his head and is knocked out. Mal doesn't look so good, either.

The Operative is face down. Mal puts the gun to his head, is about to kill the unconscious Operative, but thinks again. Mal looks disgusted at what he almost did. He holsters his gun and ties the Operative's legs together and then his arms together behind his back.

CLOSE UP ON: ROPE, KNOT and OPERATIVE'S HANDS, which are bound very well.

Mal loops a chain through the Operative's arms to a pipe.

Mal runs and leaps onto the railing. He jumps for the rung above him, starts going hand over hand to the platform, moving as fast as he can.

Several loops of chain hang down in front of Mal, blocking his path to the next rung. Mal grabs one of the chains and puts weight on it. It holds. He releases the rung he is holding, putting all his weight on the chain. He reaches out for the next rung. One end of Mal's chain comes loose - Mal is falling into the generator.


Jayne is still firing continuously as he drags Zoe back to the barricades. Simon moves to help - Kaylee firing now, squinting with effort - and pulls open the cut back of Zoe's shirt, checks the wound.

SIMON: Spine's intact -

ZOE: Just give me a bandage.

Simon pulls a spray can from his bag, sprays the wound with a foam that hardens instantly into an elastic covering.

There are a few gun shots (as well as nail-balls and blades) from the Reavers. Jayne switches weapons, tossing another to Zoe and opening fire -

JAYNE: Oh, now you're likin' guns, huh? Cheaters!

He takes a hit in the shoulder, grimaces and keeps firing.


Mal holds tight as the chain goes swinging. He smacks into the wall six feet below the platform. To keep from swinging back again, he grabs the ladder on the side of the platform. When he takes his weight off of the chain, the other end of the chain starts falling. Mal watches the chain and its steel travelling block being chopped up by the generator.


River watches, the gun limp in her hand. Kaylee grabs it and starts another round - but she's peppered with dart-like projectiles. She screams and drops the weapon, pulling the projectiles from her - Inara helps her up, pulls her back as Zoe shouts:

ZOE: Everybody fall back! Fall back!

Everyone stumbles or is dragged into the inner corridor. For protection while retreating, they had already built a low barricade from crates inside the corridor. Inara hits the controls and the doors start to close, from each side and above and below. Then, when the hole is maybe four by four, they stop.

ZOE: Jayne! Grenade!

JAYNE: Very last one...

He tosses it through the hole. Zoe doesn't even flinch from the blast as she thinks.

ZOE: They're gonna get in -

KAYLEE: Can close it... from outside...

ZOE: No one's coming back from that...

Kaylee tries to stand, fails.

ZOE: How much ammo do we have?

JAYNE: We got three full mags and my swingin' cod. That's all.

Inara is by the elevator, pounding for it to come.

INARA: Lift isn't moving...

ZOE: When they come, try to plug the hole with 'em...

Kaylee cries out and Simon moves to her.

KAYLEE: I'm starting to lose some feeling here... I think there's something in them darts they throwed at me.

SIMON: Lie still. I'm gonna give you something to counteract the -

He stands, looks around him. His bag is on the Reavers' side of the blast doors.

SIMON: My bag.

And SHKOWW!, the bullet takes him in the belly - everything suddenly moving very slowly as he spins slightly, one foot lifted, a confused expression on his face - then speeding right back up as he slams down on his back, gasping for air.

River's mouth opens in a scream she doesn't make.

Blood spreads from Simon's belly. Inara rushes to him, grabs cloth and puts pressure on the wound, puts Simon's hand on it.

INARA: Keep pressure here...

SIMON: My bag. Need... adrenaline... and a shot of calaphar for Kaylee... I can't... River...?

She is by his side, takes his hand. She has a kind of serenity to her, like she understands something now.

SIMON: River... I'm sorry...

RIVER: No. No.

The lights go out. Everyone looks about them. Jayne fires again, but all the sound has bled out save these two.

SIMON: I hate to... leave...

RIVER: You won't. You take care of me, Simon. You've always taken care of me.

She stands as the emergency lights come on, giving her face an unearthly glow as she looks down at him.

RIVER: My turn.

She's running so fast, nobody has time to react til she DIVES through the hole in the doors into the Black Room where River lands in a perfect roll, comes up and punches a Reaver in the belly.

She grabs a spear from one Reaver and bashes another in the head, breaking the spear's shaft. She dodges a blade, weaves around a couple of Reavers to make it to the panel. Without a moment's hesitation she gets the doors closing. She throws the medical bag through the doors and follows it but at the last second her ankle is grabbed.

The last thing we see is her being dragged back as they swarm over her.

ANGLE: THE BLAST DOORS, as they shut with a shuddering KLUNG.


Mal climbs the ladder to the platform. He gingerly touches the laser burn on his back with his fingers. He goes to the broadwave console. Mal hits the 'forward' pushbutton on a motor control station. The horizontal boom of a maintenance crane slides from underneath the platform. The crane has a catwalk on top. As he watches the crane extend to the far side, he notices that the Operative has turned over. Mal swears a vile oath and draws his gun, gets on the catwalk. When the end of the moving crane is close enough, jumps the gap then walks to the Operative, squats down beside him.

MAL: You should've put a scout ship out. Would've seen the Reavers coming.

THE OPERATIVE: I asked for reconnaissance... Knew you'd do the unorthodox... The military didn't want to setup a passive array and they thought that you'd run if you detected the recon ship radar. So they did... nothing... I'm outside of the military hierarchy. I ask; Others are in command.

That's an unexpected answer. Mal thought the Operative was running the show.

MAL: How'd you get here so fast?

THE OPERATIVE: Escape pod. You can't leave. Fuel tank's nearly empty.

Mal removes the chain.

MAL: Stand up.

THE OPERATIVE: Untie my legs. I'll walk peacefully.

MAL: Up!

The Operative gets awkwardly up on his knees. Mal touches the gun barrel to his head. Mal grabs the straps holding the Operative's armor and raises him to his feet, points him toward the catwalk.

The Operative takes one jump toward the catwalk. Another. All tied up, he looks pitiful and ridiculous doing his little kangaroo hops.


Mal makes the connection between this sword and Mr. Universe. He picks it up; puts the gun in the holster. He follows the Operative out on the catwalk. There isn't any hand railing on either side.

Mal is impatiently cutting the air with the sword. He's thinking about pushing the Operative over the side of the catwalk.


The gang is subdued - because they are all of them injured and Simon is slipping away. Jayne looks at Zoe.

JAYNE: You suppose he got through? Think Mal got the word out?

ZOE: (almost convincingly) He got through. I know he got through.


The Operative is on the platform. The console is next to the catwalk.

MAL: Lie down.

The Operative squats down then falls on his side and straightens. He is lined up with the catwalk, feet toward the center of the platform, head toward the catwalk. Mal steps on the platform.

Mal touches the sword to the Operative's neck.

MAL: Why'd you stab Mr. Universe?

THE OPERATIVE: I was holding the sword on him as he spoke to you. After, he said, “Toss me my thirty pieces of silver...”

Mal kicks him in the belly. The Operative rolls on to his back. Mal squats down.

MAL: If Mr. Universe called himself Judas Iscariot, that makes me Jesus Christ. Nobody calls me that except when they're swearin' at me. (pause) You lost your temper... What happened to 'You can't make me angry'? THE OPERATIVE: You know what your sin is, Malcolm?

Mal puts the sword on the floor. Mal has one hand pushing down on the Operative's chest.

MAL: Aw hell, I'm a fan of all seven. But right now I'm gonna have to go with Wrath.

Mal hits the Operative with his fist.

MAL: You could've caught me without killin' my friends.

THE OPERATIVE: I requested they be detained for suspicion of harboring fugitives.

Mal removes his hand from the Operative's chest.

MAL: Then why was Haven destroyed?

THE OPERATIVE: The military still hates the Independents. And sympathizers. But it wasn't only hate. The military was given an additional request from certain... practical men... They want killed anyone River Tam spoke to... (He looks away from Mal) 'The final enigma of history is therefore not how the righteous will gain victory over the un-righteous, but how the evil in every good and the un-righteousness of the righteous is to be overcome.’

MAL: So... doubts that God is firmly on your side. (mocking) You might be on the wrong side but at least it's the winnin' side.

THE OPERATIVE: You've done remarkable things. But you're fighting a war you've already lost.

MAL: Well, I'm known for that.

Mal stands and goes to the console, two steps away. The end of the catwalk is next to the console.

In a quick and fluid movement, the Operative sits up and stands and springs backwards like an frikkin' acrobat, driving his back into Mal's back, sending Mal over the side of the catwalk. With his legs and hands tied, the Operative lands hard on the catwalk.

Mal has a desperate moment catching the horizontal boom of the crane beneath the catwalk.

Mal gets his feet onto the bracing and it's an easy climb back up. Mal is thrilled to be alive; his blood is singing. It's a fine moment, then -

Mal is quick. He puts his boot to the Operative's head. Mal slams him face down on the platform then falls on top, knocking the wind out of the Operative. Mal bends the Operative's arms too far in the wrong direction. The Operative's mouth goes wider as his shoulder joints are dislocated.

Mal drops him sitting against the platform railing, picks up his sword. He squats down, looks the Operative in the face, saying:

MAL: Sorry. Expect you'd wanna say your famous last words now. Just one trouble.

He reaches over the railing, pulls the straps which hold the Operative's armor and shoves the sword through the straps, pinning the Operative in the sitting position.

MAL: I ain't gonna kill you.

He moves to the console, starts prepping it.

MAL: Hell, I'm gonna grant your greatest wish.

He inserts the disc, turns it slightly. It hums to life.

MAL: I'm gonna show you a world without sin.

He hits “send all”. The cylinder lights up and the broadcast begins. Here it is projected as a two-dimensional image, right in front of the Operative. Mal begins to cross the catwalk. Never even looks back.

There are images first of the city - of bodies, on the street, in homes and offices... image after image, just as we saw on the research vessel - and in River's mind. The Operative watches in growing horror...

DOCTOR CARON: (voice over) These are just a few of the images we have recorded, and you can see it isn't... it isn't what we thought. There's been no war here, and no terraforming event. The environment is stable. It's the Pax. The 32 Paxilon Hydrochlorate that we added to the air processors. ... it was supposed to calm the population...


CLOSE UP ON: A Reaver in EXTREME SLOW MOTION. Face full of fury, he is swinging his blade in a frenzy of hate.

And a small hand smashes that face so hard that teeth fly - the Reaver clearing frame to reveal:


She is bloodied and very alive. She's as she was in the bar - moving faster and more efficiently than anyone can, ducking and weaving and cutting and kicking and there are piles of Reavers already, she never breaks concentration as she uses their own blades against them, throws them, does everything in her power to stay one step ahead of - or above - the mob.

Just in time, she slams herself backwards into a wall opposite the blast doors. Over her head, flames enter through the windows broken by Reavers. A burning Reaver falls into the room.


On the other side of the wall, an Alliance military ship is clearing Reavers from the landing zone by scorching them with the exhaust from its engines.


DOCTOR CARON: (voice over) ... We meant it for the best... to make people safer... Oh... God!

Doctor Caron's screaming doesn't stop til something is shoved in her mouth. The Operative watches the end of the broadcast.

This screenplay continues at


Thursday, September 28, 2006 9:22 AM


Wow...this is some mighty interesting alternative plot progression here, two;)

Not really sure if Mal (and the audience) finding out the Operative has less power than assumed would really make things better different. To me, knowing that a seemingly all-powerful, high-ranking Operative of Parliament can have such a sudden change in POV from seeing the Miranda Wave means a lot more when he is the one in charge of all the massacres of the BDHs' friends.

Still...mighty impressed with what you wrote here. Definitely would make things a bit more worrisome for the crew at the end of "Serenity," knowing that there are people higher than the Operative still out for River's head:D


Friday, September 29, 2006 9:03 AM


River and friends are safe after “Serenity”. Once everybody in the 'verse knows about Miranda, keeping Miranda secret is no longer a reason to kill River or her friends.

To quote Joss Whedon, the Operative is “the gentlest, kindest, most thoughtful person who ever killed a bunch of people there ever was.” He was one of those villains with “this very strong conviction about who they were.” Chiwetel Ejiofor was picked to play the Operative because the actor can play a villain that has a heart. An example of heartlessness is blasting Haven from a spaceship. Very effective but very dishonorable and impersonal. (And if Book and his anti-aircraft gun had not been at Haven, it would been the most lopsided slaughter possible.) The Operative wouldn't order Haven blasted because that would break his personal code of honor. The Operative does his killing face to face. The military destroyed Haven because of orders direct from Parliament, bypassing the Operative, based on intelligence gathered by the Operative. That griped the hell out of the Operative. And when he learns that Parliament had been a million times more dishonorable on Miranda than on Haven... Well, it is time to turn in his resignation.


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Analyzing and Improving: Firefly
This is an essay by "jarredspekter."

The original was published tonight at

There is one place in the essay where Jayne is called a "hired good." I vehemently disagree! Jayne is a goon! I had to fix that. There are other disagreements. You are encouraged to disagree with your own comments.

I posted the essay under fiction, instead of community, because will automatically put a blank line between paragraphs. I think that improves readability.

You Willing To Die?
Why did Mal leave alive the Operative, murderer of Shepherd Book and Mr. Universe?

Do We Have An Order?
In the movie, River massacres the Reavers. Immediately after, Alliance soldiers surprise the crew. What would happen if the crew has five minutes of warning?