FIREFLY EPISODE DISCUSSIONS

Why I now think Book was an ex-Operative

POSTED BY: ASARIAN
UPDATED: Monday, December 27, 2010 18:23
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Monday, December 31, 2007 4:34 AM

ASARIAN



More and more peeps -- including my own self -- are backing away some from the idea that Book was high military, in favor of him having been a bad cop. I, for one, have always found that the more credible past to begin with. The man knows things. And I ain't just talking about his proficiency with fire-arms. For instance, Book knows Womack got his command stripes at the Silverhold colonies. And that this puts him about eight sectors away from his jurisdiction. Little people (to borrow a Bladerunner term) wouldn't know that; nor necessarily a high ranking military officer. But an ex-cop would. Or an Operative (you can't very well track peeps if you don't know the field).

I've always been happy with the cop thingy, until now. Because there are two statements that bother me.

EARLY: That ain't a Shepherd.

And,

BOOK: I don't give half a hump if you're innocent or not! So where does that put you?

Starting with the first, it got me thinking: was Book a bounty-hunter also? In other words, does Early know/recognize Book? I don't get the impression he actually knows him personally; but he does seem to be fair certain what line of work Book really was (had been) in. So, that leaves two options: either he knew Book had been a fellow bounty-hunter, or he knew Book from a field of employ rather adjacent to it: like an Operative.

So, let's examine the Book's OiS statement. Who would say a thing like that? It's a bit of a silly line for a high ranking purple-belly. And, for that matter, even for a cop. But it's a PERFECT line for a bounty-hunter! Because such a person would indeed not care, and also have cause to mention (!) that he don't care half a hump whether the 'package' he's to deliver is innocent or not. A perfect line for a bounty-hunter or... an Operative!

Still with me? In "Safe," Book gets the royal treatment. Would a bounty-hunter receive that? Not likely. But an (ex) Operative? Most like. And the longer I think about it, the more it makes sense. To summarize:

1): An Operative is someone Early might know (of); their fields of operation, after all, overlap in part (though bounty-hunter would probably deal more with the 'public' segment of the criminal population, I would say it's entirely plausible for Operative and a bounty-hunter to have crossed paths on a given job). Point just being, in terms of likelihood, Early would naturally recognize either a fellow bounty-hunter, or someone with a similar kinda job. But a high ranking military person would be out of his league.

2): It's as plausible they'd roll out the red carpet for an (ex) Operative, in "Safe," as it is ulikely they'd do the same for a bounty-hunter. Maybe they'd also do it for an (ex) cop, but...

3): Neither a cop, nor a high ranking purple-belly, would really have occassion to say they don't give half a hump if you're innocent or not! But a bounty-hunter would, as would an Operative. And since 2) goes against Book having been a bounty-hunter...

Also, the "I don't give half a hump if you're innocent or not" mentality apparently fits an Operative like a gloove:

MAL
Do you even know
why they sent you?

OPERATIVE
It's not my place to ask.

So, all-in-all, I now lean more towards Book having been an Operative. :)


--
"Mei-mei, everything I have is right here." -- Simon Tam

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Saturday, January 5, 2008 5:46 PM

SCHOOLBOYSWINK


Certainly the "Book as ex-Operative" theory has some legs, and I think you've offered more concrete proof than anybody. I disagree on a few points, though, and in so doing have found some more concrete issues to add to my previous gut feeling that Book is NOT an ex-Operative. Here goes...

Jubal Early is a chump. Yes, he is tough, and somewhat clever (somewhat), and fast, and he has some very fine armor, but at the end of the day he is just a sadistic scumbag who uses a semi-legitimate profession as an excuse to satisfy his psychopathy. His dime-store philosophical musings remind me of Simon's characterization of Shan Yu: "Sadistic crap justified by florid prose." (Don't get me wrong, I love the character; he breaks the typical villian mold in every way.) My point? This guy is about as far from an Operative as Dog the Bounty Hunter is from Ender Wiggin. Or a moral version of James Bond, I guess, for anybody who doesn't get the Ender's Game reference. So, the notion that he might "cross paths" with an Operative is not too convincing to me. In fact, I'm not sure ANYBODY "crosses paths" with an Operative, for the reason that I don't think Operatives have paths so much as they have places where you thought they were a minute ago, but now can't seem to find. I don't think they have acquaintances so much as they have people they haven't been ordered to kill yet. Remember, the Operative didn't say he was "special forces" or "classified," he said he "didn't exist." So if you do meet one, you don't know he is one, and if you do know he is one, it is likely to be the last thing you ever do know. (Obviously people in Alliance circles would know some things, but even their info I think would be very "need to know." I've wondered if the feds under his command were told what he was, or just told by their actual superior officer that they had to follow his orders, period.)

That said, I don't think Early knew Book wasn't a Shepherd due to any prior encounter. He knew he wasn't a Shepherd for the same reason that he knew the name and habits of every other person on Serenity: Research. He clearly had done his homework before the job. Now, had Book been an ex-Operative, would Jubal Early have been able to dig that info out? I doubt it. I highly doubt it. Even if somebody disagrees with me as to Early's level of intelligence, I think we can agree that it would take someone with Mr. Universe-level skills to unbury information that was THAT classified. That makes me shy away from the ex-Operative theory.

Another thing that makes me wary of the ex-Operative theory is...well...the "ex" part. I just don't see a person being allowed to QUIT being an Operative and then get to sail the black like a normal person. I think the Alliance would keep tabs somehow, if they let an Operative quit at all. The Operative in the BDM implies that he's doubtful the Alliance will leave him alone. Maybe we would have gotten to see an example of that had the show gone on, but all we got is what we got. Plus, if that is what Book was, why not try to "activate" him, call him back to active service since he's already inserted into the situation, a perfect mole, rather than send somebody brand new to start from scratch?

In response to the above, I've even toyed with the idea that Book isn't "ex" at all, that he's actually some kind of deep cover Operative who is on some bigger mission. But it would have to be something HUGE for him to ignore River's fugitive status. Also, Book's faith, as well as his caring for the crew, have to be genuine; if they aren't then there is no reason for him to exist as a character at all, and his genuine faith and caring go against his image as a current sleeper Op. His leaving the ship and taking up residence on Haven goes against that further still.

I don't have a good theory of my own, so I guess I'm kind of a jerk to disagree with anybody who does. What I do have is a completely unfounded hypothesis, a notion, a question that, so far as I know, hasn't been asked, based on a line which, perhaps, hasn't piqued anybody else's interest the way it did mine. Simon: "Some men, some underground movement..." Does Book know so much about the Alliance because of working FOR them, or AGAINST them? Could Book have learned so much about the Border planet criminal underworld from the Alliance, an Alliance that we are taught at every other turn has little to no interest in that world, except to bust smugglers and tax-dodgers? Could Book have formed philosophical theories about Reavers in the Alliance which denies that they exist? We know from Safe that Book must have had some kind of Alliance access, but was it REAL access, or could it have been forged? So much of Book's past has been assumed based on that one scene, and all based on the assumption that the ident card he handed them had anything to do with who he REALLY was. The captain uses forged papers in that very same scene, but nobody I have come across has ever thought that Book could have forged an identity as well. Such a forgery would be of great use to an underground freedom fighter. And if such an organization helped Simon, maybe it was no accident that Book wound up on Serenity...

Like I said, I have no proof to back this up, certainly less proof than asarian has provided, or any of the other "ex-Operative" proponents. I just see some inconsistencies with that theory, and, frankly, something about it just seems too obvious...and therefore not too Joss. All IMHO of course.

"When you can't do somethin' smart, do somethin' right!" -Jayne Cobb quotes Shepherd Book

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Saturday, January 5, 2008 5:59 PM

CHRISTHECYNIC


I don't think Jubal had crossed paths with Book, I think Jubal was just that good at reading people.

[Added] I think it should probably be pointed out that just because he knew Book "ain't no shepherd" doesn't mean he knew what Book was.

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Saturday, January 5, 2008 6:22 PM

ASARIAN


Quote:

Originally posted by SchoolboysWink:

Certainly the "Book as ex-Operative" theory has some legs, and I think you've offered more concrete proof than anybody. I disagree on a few points, though.


I love a good discussion. :)

Quote:


That said, I don't think Early knew Book wasn't a Shepherd due to any prior encounter. He knew he wasn't a Shepherd for the same reason that he knew the name and habits of every other person on Serenity: Research. He clearly had done his homework before the job. Now, had Book been an ex-Operative, would Jubal Early have been able to dig that info out? I doubt it. I highly doubt it. Even if somebody disagrees with me as to Early's level of intelligence, I think we can agree that it would take someone with Mr. Universe-level skills to unbury information that was THAT classified. That makes me shy away from the ex-Operative theory.


Ok, you make a solid point here. But please consider, that if Book's status as former Operative really requires a level of clearance and/or skill only Mr. Universe has access to, then why, by the same token, would Early find out anything about Book, BUT him being a Shepherd? So, whatever homework Early did -- which I'm sure was extensive: after all, he needs to know who he's up against -- he DID discover something about Book that made him say, with certainty, that he ain't a Shepherd.

I had actually considered what you say here -- sans the Mr. Universe part -- but concluded that the alternative, that Book was just a dirty ex-cop, simply could not construe with the royal carpet treatment he received in "Safe."

Quote:


Another thing that makes me wary of the ex-Operative theory is...well...the "ex" part. I just don't see a person being allowed to QUIT being an Operative and then get to sail the black like a normal person. I think the Alliance would keep tabs somehow, if they let an Operative quit at all. The Operative in the BDM implies that he's doubtful the Alliance will leave him alone.


Well, couldn't Book simply be a retired Operative? I reckon you have to be in pretty good physical condition to remain on the active Operative list, and not be a "grandpa" (though he never married). Under conditions of honorable retirement, I'm not so sure about tabs; surely the man has proven his loyalty to them, no? Years of faithful services and all. I mean, if he simply did retire. They would look a mite silly suddenly not trusting him. Though I'm sure Alliance personnel is never really entirely not under some sort of scrutiny, even if just the routine kind, I think he'd have enough room to walk the world for a spell without being overly interfered with.

Your forgery theory has merit, too. :) It would, for one, solve a discrepancy I got stuck on; namely the inexplicable difference between the royal treatment he received in "Safe." and the idea that he was a dirty ex-cop. Your ID forgery theory offers a plausible way to reconcile the two.


--
"Mei-mei, everything I have is right here." -- Simon Tam

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Saturday, January 5, 2008 6:45 PM

SCHOOLBOYSWINK


Good point about the retired Operative concept. I guess what I was thinking was that in order for Book to go from being an Operative to a man of Faith in something other than the Alliance, and to seem at most points to have no great love for them, that he must at some point have had the kind of world-view-altering experience that the BDM Operative had, and not simply taken his gold watch and gone on his merry. But that may be assuming too much on my part.

"When you can't do somethin' smart, do somethin' right!" -Jayne Cobb quotes Shepherd Book

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Saturday, January 5, 2008 6:51 PM

BIONICBATMAN


I'll keep my answer short.
The more i think about it, the more i think he was NOT an operative.
When the Alliance patched him up the look at his ID card to show who he was. And just like the Operative from Serenity said, "Like this place, I dont exist." They would not have known who he is then

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Saturday, January 5, 2008 6:58 PM

ASARIAN


Quote:

Originally posted by SchoolboysWink:

Good point about the retired Operative concept. I guess what I was thinking was that in order for Book to go from being an Operative to a man of Faith in something other than the Alliance, and to seem at most points to have no great love for them, that he must at some point have had the kind of world-view-altering experience that the BDM Operative had, and not simply taken his gold watch and gone on his merry.



Also, a good point. But I figured that if a person really wanted out, there be not so many roads one can take. It's not like you can walk up to them and say: "Hey, I now think you folks are the bad guys, and I don't wanna play with you no more." :) Cuz that would be inviting trouble he'd never seen before... or worse, had. So Book's age might have been a good pretence for him to not just take the easy way out, but also ensure for himself that he would thereafter actually be in a position to do something worthwhile with his life.

Still, the more I think about it, the more I like your the fake ID theory. :) The stuff Book knows about Womack's little operation on the side, that, to me, is the strongest 'evidence' pointing in the direction of him having been a bad cop. Your fake ID theory would really solve a lot.


--
"Mei-mei, everything I have is right here." -- Simon Tam

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Saturday, January 5, 2008 7:16 PM

ASARIAN


Quote:

Originally posted by BionicBatman:

I'll keep my answer short.
The more i think about it, the more i think he was NOT an operative.
When the Alliance patched him up the look at his ID card to show who he was. And just like the Operative from Serenity said, "Like this place, I dont exist." They would not have known who he is then



Possibly you're not recalling the convo in full. :)

WOMAN
Parliamentary override.
Full access.

DR. MATHIAS
Apologies.

An operative of
the Parliament will, of course,
have full cooperation.

I'm not sure what...

I see no listing
of rank or name.

OPERATIVE
I have neither.
Like this facility,
I don't exist.

His ID reveals no name or rank, but DOES state his current status as Operative. Nowhere in "Safe" is it said, either, that the Alliance recognized Book by name. But their reaction, upon seeing his ID is, well, actually pretty much like that of Dr. Mathias. :)


--
"Mei-mei, everything I have is right here." -- Simon Tam

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Saturday, January 5, 2008 7:28 PM

ASARIAN



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Saturday, January 5, 2008 7:45 PM

BIONICBATMAN


He has Parliament codes to get him access everywhere.

He has no rank or name, but has entry to any facility with his Parliament pass. Book could be the same.

Now back when Book is helped out it could very well be because of his status of a priest or Shepherd.

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Saturday, January 5, 2008 7:53 PM

ASARIAN


Quote:

Originally posted by BionicBatman:

He has Parliament codes to get him access everywhere.

He has no rank or name, but has entry to any facility with his Parliament pass. Book could be the same.


Yes. But my point was that his ID *does* list him as Operative, even if it lists nothing else.

Quote:


Now back when Book is helped out it could very well be because of his status of a priest or Shepherd.


Well, it's certainly what Book tries to pass off at Mal; but Capt'n ain't bying, either:

MAL
They let us come and they let
us go. What kind of ident card gets
us that kind of reception and send
off?

BOOK
I'm a shepherd. Folks like a man of
God.

MAL
No they don't. Men of God make
everyone feel guilty and judged.
That's not what I saw. You like to
tell me what really happened?


--
"Mei-mei, everything I have is right here." -- Simon Tam

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Sunday, January 6, 2008 12:48 AM

PIRATECAT


I have always thought at first he was an operative. But reading all the theories over the years maybe a fed. Comes across like a proffessional. Like a DEA or ATF agent. Maybe has done some undercover or was an appointed official like a federal district attorney. Not a local cop. Early reads people pretty good so he suspects the rev is not who he pretends to be. In the begining he says he swore to protect the G man. Book is definitely the mystery man.



"Battle of Serenity, Mal. Besides Zoe here, how many-" "I'm talkin at you! How many men in your platoon came out of their alive".

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Sunday, January 6, 2008 1:50 AM

AMDOBELL


I get the feeling that Book has led a very colourful life, done a great many things in the wide 'verse that makes him both knowledgable and expert in many disciplines. Much of his past I suspect would not make comfortable reading, or confessing, especially as by the time we first meet him he seems to be seeking atonement. An inward peace between himself and God or the 'verse. Or maybe just a quiet place, a retreat from the world, to regroup and recover from some trauma or emotional extenuation caused by the work he did. Now rested, he wants to walk the world again.

I also have a sneaky suspicion that in his youth he was a follower or fan even of Shan Yu. Not because the man was so brutal but because of his philosophy, when Book made those quotes to Simon about Shan Yu in "War Stories" he did not sound disapproving or disgusted but more like someone with a professional interest in Shan Yu's thoughts and motivations much as anyone studying history might have. I also wondered at the time whether Book's staying on Serenity was in some way an echo of Shan Yu's notion of living with a man for forty years, talk to him on every subject then hold him over the volcano's edge until you meet the real man. Not that I am suggesting he would have done that to Mal but he did seem to be studying the Captain, watching and learning to read him as well as understand him. Which is why I suspect when Simon gets mad at the Captain for wanting to put the goods they took off the derelict ship in plain view for the Alliance boarding party Book is the one who stops Simon's little tirade about putting River in plain view too and tells him just to do it. Book knows his man by now, knows that whatever the Captain has in mind giving up the Tams isn't part of it.

Lots of interesting notions from everyone, really loved reading them all. The 'was he, wasn't he' an operative thoughts made me wonder whether Book was the equivalent of an operative but for the other side, the Independents. I definitely think his ID was faked and I also think his name is not Book, just the last of a long list of aliases he has adopted over his life. I think his knowledge of operatives comes not from being a former Alliance one but from studying them as his nemesis, the level of an operative being one he was most on a par with himself. I also think that if he was the equivalent of an operative or even a high ranking policeman or other official, he may not have been able to retire from such a position. His only option may have been to 'take to the cloth', ie become the ultimate non combatant.

One of the sad things about losing Book in the BDM is that so many mysteries surrounding the man will never now be explored (unless Joss does so in graphic novel form).

Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me...

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Sunday, January 6, 2008 6:25 AM

NEWBROWNCOAT


In the Serenity pilot, Book is nearly in tears when he says "I think I'm on the wrong ship" and he is being comforted by Inara.

In Out of Gas, River says to Book who is currently reading the bible - "Don't be afraid, that what its says. But you are afraid." and Book says "yes".

The idea that someone with the strength and fearlessness to be an operative can be so completely changed as to be truly fearful when in danger and so troubled by finding himself on Serenity with outlaws, etc. Well, that just don't sit right. A high level cop, or perhaps a government interrogator, would be possible. Neither of those kinds of characters would necessarily be in conflict with Book's actions during these scenes I mentioned. Nor would the scenes mentioned in this thread like "I don't give half a hump if you are innocent or not". But an "operative" ? Can you see The Operative (from the BDM) acting like that. Just don't make no sense.

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Sunday, January 6, 2008 6:51 AM

CHRISTHECYNIC


Quote:

Originally posted by NewBrownCoat:
In the Serenity pilot, Book is nearly in tears when he says "I think I'm on the wrong ship" and he is being comforted by Inara.

In Out of Gas, River says to Book who is currently reading the bible - "Don't be afraid, that what its says. But you are afraid." and Book says "yes".

The idea that someone with the strength and fearlessness to be an operative can be so completely changed as to be truly fearful when in danger and so troubled by finding himself on Serenity with outlaws, etc. Well, that just don't sit right.


I disagree. The operative in Serenity completely lost his cool and seemed genuinely terrified when the Reavers showed up. Why? He's smart enough to know that the odds of him being eaten alive and raped are effectively nil, since his ship would probably be destroyed in the ensuing battle instead of boarded. (In fact the Reavers didn't appear interested in boarding anyone at all.)

The only thing that he really had to fear was death, and he certainly did fear it. Book was likewise faced with death in Out of Gas, though it seemed more inevitable for him than the operative, and he reacted with fear.

As for Serenity, I think that if he went to the abbey to get away from his past and the first thing he did upon leaving was beat up a cop and then watch that same cop get shot I can see why an ex operative would react as he did. He's hardly leaving his past behind, his repentance could be for nothing. Think about what it feels like for someone who deeply believes in god to see their own soul slipping away. I have, and I don't see why an operative, part of a group whose members get scared frantic by a minor armada, wouldn't be deeply troubled by that.

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Sunday, January 6, 2008 9:54 AM

NEWBROWNCOAT


I guess we'll have to agree to disagree The only thing I saw in The Operative when the Reaver armada showed up was frustration, not fear. His mission to eliminate the Tams was being interfered with in a way that would set him back, possibly prevent his success from ever being able to happen. He was yelling out in anger and frustration, certainly not fear. I also don't see why he should have been unnecessarily afraid for his life, not with full knowledge of the existence and use of the escape pods.

Also, to be an Operative (i.e. a "Monster") I think the idea of worrying about his sole would have been lost past him, if he had ever worried about such a thing. I strongly disagree with the concept of someone with such worries ever being accepted as an operative of the Parliament in the first place.

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Sunday, January 6, 2008 3:24 PM

SHINYSEVEN2


It's possible that Book turned against his past as an Operative, but was allowed to live long enough to resign because he pointed out that he wouldn't be able to do much damage holed up in an Abbey praying 24/7. Of course, once he decided to walk the world awhile, all bets might have been off...and somebody probably got into big trouble for honoring his Get Out of Jail Free card.

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Monday, January 7, 2008 8:46 AM

SHEPARDBOOKEM


Quote:

Originally posted by NewBrownCoat:
In the Serenity pilot, Book is nearly in tears when he says "I think I'm on the wrong ship" and he is being comforted by Inara.

In Out of Gas, River says to Book who is currently reading the bible - "Don't be afraid, that what its says. But you are afraid." and Book says "yes".

The idea that someone with the strength and fearlessness to be an operative can be so completely changed as to be truly fearful when in danger and so troubled by finding himself on Serenity with outlaws, etc. Well, that just don't sit right. A high level cop, or perhaps a government interrogator, would be possible. Neither of those kinds of characters would necessarily be in conflict with Book's actions during these scenes I mentioned. Nor would the scenes mentioned in this thread like "I don't give half a hump if you are innocent or not". But an "operative" ? Can you see The Operative (from the BDM) acting like that. Just don't make no sense.



In the pilot, Book also asks Inara - "is this what it's like, out here?". I can't see an ex-operative ask that question - more like a retired cop, someone who'd likely spent most of thier time on one world or around just the core planets.

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Monday, January 7, 2008 3:50 PM

SCHOOLBOYSWINK


Replying to several points from above:

In the "is this what it's like out here" line, the "out" could refer to the outside world in general, not just to the outer planets. Given the genuine nature of Book's faith, the food he brought aboard indicating true access to a garden, and the zeal with which he was telling a story about a former monastic brother, I feel strongly that Book did spend a length of time cloistered in an Abbey (i.e., whatever other secrets his past included, this part of it was not an act). If he was an Operative-type person, whether for the Alliance or Independents, when he went into that cloister he did it with the belief that the dark things in his past were motivated by certain ideals. I believe his reaction may have been less to the violence itself and more to the arbitrary nature of it, how people are forced to do all this for mere survival and not some higher ideal. Also, Book has knowledge of the existence of Reavers and so on, as well as the "net," which I don't see operating around central planets, since it is an object purely of piracy and illegal salvage to boot. So we can verify he does have knowledge of the outer planets, in spite of this line.

As for Book being a student of Shan Yu, I think this is one of those moments where we are well served to take a step back and observe the show from outside it, thinking of the conventions and needs of writing, rather than assuming that EVERYTHING said within the show fits perfectly and has a purpose within the show. The teachings of Shan Yu were something Joss wanted us to see about Niska's character, a window into the way he thinks, as well as the way he justifies himself. (Also sets up one of the show's shiniest lines: "You wanna meet the real me now!") Joss knows the vast majority of his audience however, bright as we Browncoats are , has never heard of Shan Yu, so he needs to have a few sentences of exposition. If Niska says these lines, it weakens him; for us to see him explaining his philosophy to his victims takes away from his cold brutality. The line "Are you familiar with the writings of Shan Yu?" seems much less sadistic if he then spends the next couple of minutes explaining them to the guy he is cutting on. So, Book, being the Point of View character for all things involving moral philosophy, describes it, bouncing off Simon, since he is the only other historically-minded character available. The audience at this point will accept Book's knowledge, since as a Shepherd we assume he probably has a decent grip on comparative religion and philosophy. Now, Joss is Boss, so could he have decided to bring this back up later with a tie-in to Book's past? Naturally. But since all we've got is what we've got, I think the evidence available supports the literary necessities of the scene moreso than Shepherd being a student of the torturous pyschopath himself.

Finally, a word on the fake I.D. I can see a dirty cop having one, but I think such a man would want to have an I.D. that diverted as much attention, esp. legitimate legal attention, away from him as possible, the I.D. of a nobody. An I.D. that gets you Alliance clearance, on the other hand, would be of great use to a former Independent-Operative or underground freedom fighter. So, I'm sticking with that theory. (A lot of you folks have really helped me flesh that theory out throughout this thread. Thanks a lot for that!)

"When you can't do somethin' smart, do somethin' right!" -Jayne Cobb quotes Shepherd Book

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008 3:20 AM

ASARIAN


Quote:

Originally posted by christhecynic:

The operative in Serenity completely lost his cool and seemed genuinely terrified when the Reavers showed up. Why? He's smart enough to know that the odds of him being eaten alive and raped are effectively nil, since his ship would probably be destroyed in the ensuing battle instead of boarded. (In fact the Reavers didn't appear interested in boarding anyone at all.) The only thing that he really had to fear was death, and he certainly did fear it.


Yes, of course he's afraid. Only a fool or Reaver wouldn't be. You can play it as cool and composed as you like ("You can't make me angry,") but when you're floating out there in your bitty blue ship, smack down in the middle of Reaver territory where nobody ventures, not even Alliance, and an Armada of thoroughly pissed-off Reavers suddenly pops out of a cloud, looking to pass right thru you on their way to whoever they're planning to sign up to be the banquet du jour, being scared shitless, I assure ya, is as sure as the turn of the worlds. :)

Also, as to being "so troubled by finding himself on Serenity with outlaws, etc. Well, that just don't sit right," I think it sits just fine. :) If we recall, at the end of the BDM the once overconfident Operative is now a shadow of his former self:

MAL
Like to kill you myself,
I see you again.

OPERATIVE
You won't.
There is nothing left to see.

I won't go so far as to say the Operative already fully switched teams by that time, but I reckon being a "monster" is actually easier said than done -- especially over time; and that (like once Book?) he IS at long last beginning to give half a hump.

Quote:


As for Serenity, I think that if he went to the abbey to get away from his past and the first thing he did upon leaving was beat up a cop and then watch that same cop get shot I can see why an ex operative would react as he did. He's hardly leaving his past behind, his repentance could be for nothing. Think about what it feels like for someone who deeply believes in god to see their own soul slipping away.


Indeed. And, lest we forget, Joss recently revealed a perky detail about Book's past: the preacher man has killed a person (and took his ident card?). And suddenly we can neatly fit some of the pieces of the puzzle; like, for instance, the way Book reacted in Serenity, the pilot:

BOOK
I've beaten a Lawman senseless, I've
fallen in with criminals... I watched
the captain shoot a man I swore to
protect.

This, of course, he swore on the inside. I had always chalked it off as it being a natural, general reaction for a preacher man. But seen in the light of someone who (recently) killed someone, it suddenly makes much more sense. Killing someone no doubt had a dramatic impact on him; so much so even that it was the catalyst for him to break with his former life and become a man of God. So, naturally he's now in shambles over the Captain having shot Dobson, and his indirect participation in it. He reacts in panic, almost; his new life seems to be falling apart before it good and well started even. There's still the question on how much time Book actually spent at the abbey, but at least that convo with Inara sits a lot clearer with me now.

Looking at the "I've beaten a Lawman senseless" bit, Book DOES seem to have an affinity with the law; or rather I should say, an affinity with the side of the law. Like in his little stunt of trying, yes, what? to rescue/warn Dobson? "Lawman, it's Shepherd Book." I say these reactions are at least indicative of a person who spent some time on the side of the law (and is used to seeing things from their side).

Okay, my mouth is talking too much. I might wanna see to that. :)


--
"Mei-mei, everything I have is right here." -- Simon Tam

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008 4:28 AM

ASARIAN


Quote:

Originally posted by SchoolboysWink:

As for Book being a student of Shan Yu, I think this is one of those moments where we are well served to take a step back and observe the show from outside it, thinking of the conventions and needs of writing, rather than assuming that EVERYTHING said within the show fits perfectly and has a purpose within the show. The teachings of Shan Yu were something Joss wanted us to see about Niska's character, a window into the way he thinks, as well as the way he justifies himself. (Also sets up one of the show's shiniest lines: "You wanna meet the real me now!") Joss knows the vast majority of his audience however, bright as we Browncoats are , has never heard of Shan Yu, so he needs to have a few sentences of exposition. If Niska says these lines, it weakens him; for us to see him explaining his philosophy to his victims takes away from his cold brutality. The line "Are you familiar with the writings of Shan Yu?" seems much less sadistic if he then spends the next couple of minutes explaining them to the guy he is cutting on. So, Book, being the Point of View character for all things involving moral philosophy, describes it, bouncing off Simon, since he is the only other historically-minded character available. The audience at this point will accept Book's knowledge, since as a Shepherd we assume he probably has a decent grip on comparative religion and philosophy. Now, Joss is Boss, so could he have decided to bring this back up later with a tie-in to Book's past? Naturally. But since all we've got is what we've got, I think the evidence available supports the literary necessities of the scene moreso than Shepherd being a student of the torturous pyschopath himself.


A well thought-out, lucid and coherent expose. :) I fully concur.

Also, I think Book himself answers the question:

SIMON
Sadistic crap legitimized by florid
prose. Tell me you're not a fan.

BOOK
I'm just wondering if they were. The
people who did this to River.

(...)

BOOK
I'm just wondering if they put her
through this just to see how much she
could take. To "truly meet her", as
Shan Yu would have said.

I think Book brought up Shan Yu because he's still struggling with his own past. Not that I think he was a torturous pyschopath his own self, but being confronted with the brutality visited upon River, and having been on the 'wrong' side a good while himself, as part of dealing with that, he's genuinely wondering why people could do such a thing. It is as if he's telling himself: "There must have been a reason why I once did the things I did." He's trying to make sense of why people (including himself) do cold-hearted things like done unto River.

Now a good human being, Book is not looking to excuse himself per se -- he's too honest for that. Rather, he likes to learn causes, so he can distance himself from them. Like I once heard a German historian say about Hitler: "Wenn wir uns ihm nähern, wird es sich entfernen." Meaning: the closer we examine him, the farther we can distance ourselves from him (lit. "When we near him, he will distance from us.")


--
"Mei-mei, everything I have is right here." -- Simon Tam

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008 5:35 AM

PIRATECAT


Ya know in Bab 5 they had brain wipes for murderers cause they out lawed the death penalty. The Blue Sun Corp is pretty high tech maybe they messed with Book. In the begining Book is the holy rev but as time goes on hey this ain't no preacher. So he has been undercover in the abby. Or his memory is coming back. Who knows. Joss does. hmmm


"Battle of Serenity, Mal. Besides Zoe here, how many-" "I'm talkin at you! How many men in your platoon came out of their alive".

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Monday, April 26, 2010 5:00 AM

TRONS


I'm a newer browncoat and haven't studied the shows nearly as much as some here, so my opinion should be taken with an ocean of salt. Having said that, I actually agree with the notion that Book is an ex-operative and some of the arguements that state he was an ex-cop or something along those lines, don't add up. I'll try to answer why I feel that way below.

Before I begin, I apologize for bringing up an old thread.

Quote:

Originally posted by SchoolboysWink:

That said, I don't think Early knew Book wasn't a Shepherd due to any prior encounter. He knew he wasn't a Shepherd for the same reason that he knew the name and habits of every other person on Serenity: Research. He clearly had done his homework before the job.



I believe that Jubal did do his homework. My take on it though, was more, "I know everything there is to know about all of you, except this guy. If he was a shepherd, his past wouldn't have been hard to hash out, since I couldn't, I know he's not a shepherd, but I'm not sure what he is."

I say that because I think that had Jubal known what Book was, he would have said. You don't have to know what a Bear is to know it's not a fish.

There have been several comments about the Alliance not letting an operative go, however that doesn't need to be the case either. In the BDM, we see an operative that has failed his task and made some tough decisions that may bring down the anger of the Alliance, that may not be the only way to leave that line of work. Book is somewhat older and it may be that he's retired, or maybe succeeded in a particularly tough operation but something that really strained him and he was seeking solitude in the monastery.

Book:
"is this what it's like, out here?"

I've read several places that this isn't something that an ex-operative would say. However if you take in to account the fact that he may have spent his career as a "domestic" operative, opposed to a foreign operative, it's perfectly reasonable to assume that he has no idea what life on the outer rim would be like.

We can also extrapolate that statement a little to something like:
"is this what it's like, out here, without the back-up of the alliance and the reputation of an operative to get things done?"

Most of the other reasons, including the ones listed above, have already been mentioned.

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Monday, April 26, 2010 5:44 AM

BYTEMITE


I've never necessarily thought that being an Operative might PRECLUDE Book from being a Bad Cop. Especially if the members of Parliament represented are completely happy with extortion, bounty hunting, smuggling, confiscation and re-sale, and any number of other corrupt cop activities. Heck, they might even have encouraged it when he got assigned and he just grew into the role.

Our good Shepherd also knows his way uncanny around machetes and other swords, at least in the comic books. I think the connection between that and the Operative's favoured wakizashi is intentional.

Also, I was sniffing around, and I saw this on wikipedia:

Quote:

Whedon has stated that if a sequel [to Serenity] is made, he hopes to address the character Book's backstory and deal with Jubal Early, a bounty hunter character in Firefly.


So I think there may really be some connection between the two characters. The question is, what is it? If Early's as bad as we are told, and they were enemies or rivals, then you'd think Early would have killed Book rather than incapacitate him. Character designs for Book for the new comic coming out seem to be that of a young man, so it's hard to imagine that Early might know of Book beyond reputation.

There's also a little hint that Asarian I think brought up that Derrial Book "took his name" from a man he killed. Operatives are nameless, you know.

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Monday, April 26, 2010 7:08 AM

ZEEK


Personally I think more of the evidence leans toward ex-operative. Just because Book has so many things going for him. He's got the ID. He's got knowledge of nets. He knows Niska's full name and his reputation. He knows how operatives like to operate. He knows police procedures.

He just seems to have too much detailed knowledge of too many things to be just a cop or just a fed or just a resistance member. All of those could pull off that knowledge with enough tweaking. They'd still be exceptions to the rule.

Like the ID being fake. That's cheating the audience IMO. Anyone could have a fake ID technically. It's especially underhanded when the reaction to the Operatives identification is extremely similar to the reaction to Book's ID. (*shit a brick* Do anything and everything for this person)

Also no one has mentioned the Serenity novelization. I never read it, but someone posted some conversation between Book and the operative. The operative knows who Book is and seems to hold him in high regard or he used to. From what I recall. Of course it's still totally vague and doesn't answer anything, but it doesn't seem like it would fit the dirty cop notion. Unless he was the head of some huge organized crime syndicate.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010 3:37 AM

GLYWYSING


I don't like the theory that he is an ex-cop, Early's "That aint no shepherd" line suggests his past is far more sinister than simply being a cop. And why would Alliance care that some retired cop was dying so much as to immediately change their attitude and treat him with urgency?

For me, Early's aforementioned line confirms that Book was a very shady character, and an Operative seems to fit the bill perfectly.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010 5:56 AM

TWO

The Joss Whedon script for Serenity, where Wash lives, is Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly


It is nearly time for Joss Whedon to publish Book's biographical story. We might soon know if Book was an ex-cop or an Operative with the Dark Horse release of "The Shepherd's Tale" in November, 2010. "According to Scott Allie, the three-year delay was because no appropriate author could be found to write the story from Whedon's outlines, until Joss brought his brother Zack in on the project in late 2009." - http://firefly.wikia.com/wiki/Serenity:_The_Shepherd%27s_Tale



The Joss Whedon script for "Serenity", where Wash lives, is
Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/two

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Sunday, November 21, 2010 11:28 AM

TOASTERPIMP


Just a side point, in case no one has raised it yet:

Book is almost certainly an alias, since "Bible" is from the greek "biblos" meaning "book."

So yeah, probably not his real name.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010 11:34 AM

TOASTERPIMP


http://www.amazon.ca/Serenity-Shepherds-Tale-Zack-Whedon/dp/1595825614
#reader_1595825614



huh. So i guess i'll have to pick this one up now.

no more interesting discussion.


Although somehow i feel like firefly makes a whole lot more sense without the movie.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010 11:17 PM

NVGHOSTRIDER


Sticking with my initial theory:

Book is The Operative from the BDM who discovered a way to travel back in time and wishes to fulfill a vow of atonement by assisting the crew and to provide Mal with all the emotional/spiritual support he is capable of offering. Of course I am probably wrong and just need to order the gorram book already.


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The country is making a big mistake not teaching kids to cook and raise a garden and build fires.
-Loretta Lynn

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 1:04 AM

TOADSMOOTHY


Great discussion!

Book is a mystery and repeatedly makes it known that he intends to keep it that way. Why? I assume because Mal, Jayne and the crew would be uncomfortable if they knew the truth about him.

This angle shoots down the idea that his ident was a forgery. Certainly he would have no problem telling Mal that. Also I think he was higher rank than bounty hunter or mere cop, bad or otherwise. I don't think he would get such royal treatment by the Alliance were that the case.

Given all that Book knew about the Alliance and the criminal underworld, given the violence he was capable of, I'd say he is ex-military, perhaps Intelligence, an agent or operative of some kind.

Yet, he had clearly renounced that life, or was trying to.

I think he saw or was forced to do something in the line of duty that so shocked his conscience that he dropped out and sought refuge at the abbey to repent his life and change it to something positive.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 4:19 AM

LILI

Doing it backwards. Walking up the downslide.


Well, as they say on tvtropes, this theory has been thoroughly Jossed by the Shepherd's Tale comic. Unfortunate, because I think it's an interesting one. Not to say that the canon backstory (though vague) is not interesting, but with his speech about how Operatives believe hard and the seemingly intimate knowledge of how they think, this was a poetic theory.


Facts are stubborn things.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 8:02 AM

MSA


Shepherd's Tale was so unexpected... and now I must rewatch all the episodes and Serentiy and ponder.

To love someone is to see a miracle invisible to others.
--Francois Mauriac
It's fuzzy-minded liberal thinking like that that gets you eaten.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 9:37 AM

BYTEMITE


Quote:

Originally posted by LiLi:
Well, as they say on tvtropes, this theory has been thoroughly Jossed by the Shepherd's Tale comic. Unfortunate, because I think it's an interesting one. Not to say that the canon backstory (though vague) is not interesting, but with his speech about how Operatives believe hard and the seemingly intimate knowledge of how they think, this was a poetic theory.



Technically we don't know WHAT Book was still. A spy, yes, but rank, position, who's side he was on, none of that. He could potentially have been an Operative.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 9:56 AM

STORYMARK


Its interesting to see how tightly some will cling to their own ideas when they don't get the story they wanted.

"I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him."

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 10:01 AM

BYTEMITE


Actually, no, Storymark, I LIKED Shepherd's Tale. But the fact is all we know about Book is that he was a runaway then a thug then a spy and that some deaths happened in association with him. We don't know ANYTHING, like I said, about what his rank was or who's side he was really on.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 10:18 AM

TOADSMOOTHY


Quote:

Originally posted by Bytemite:
But the fact is all we know about Book is that he was a runaway then a thug then a spy and that some deaths happened in association with him.



Interesting! I really need to get the book! I was just speculating off the series and movie. So many books, so little cash. haha

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 1:35 PM

LILI

Doing it backwards. Walking up the downslide.


Quote:

Originally posted by Bytemite:
Technically we don't know WHAT Book was still. A spy, yes, but rank, position, who's side he was on, none of that. He could potentially have been an Operative.


Actually, he is referred to as 'Officer Book.' He also clearly didn't outrank the officer who relieved him of his duty, where we're shown that Operatives... Well, they have no official rank, or name, and yet they can override anything. He was clearly a commander in the war, not a covert assassin. The deaths associated with him came from what they thought were his poor command choices, but really it was a massacre because the Browncoats knew what was coming.


Facts are stubborn things.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 1:54 PM

BYTEMITE


Quote:

Actually, he is referred to as 'Officer Book.'


Hmm. I'll have to double check this.

Though we still don't know what side he was on. His reaction to the counter attack very much suggests he never expected them such a retaliation. My sense is Book was used by both sides, and discarded when no longer needed.

Even still, "Officer" technically isn't a rank. This could mean "Executive Officer in charge of the mission" (no rank necessarily required) though it could also mean Executive Officer in charge of the specific ship, or the task force (meaning Commander, Captain, or Commodore). We also don't know the rank of the guy who discharged him; and Operatives do have people they answer to, if Those Left Behind is any basis.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 2:58 PM

STORYMARK


Quote:

Originally posted by Bytemite:
Actually, no, Storymark, I LIKED Shepherd's Tale. But the fact is all we know about Book is that he was a runaway then a thug then a spy and that some deaths happened in association with him. We don't know ANYTHING, like I said, about what his rank was or who's side he was really on.



There is a difference between not knowing the details - and not knowing ANYTHING.

Like saying we don't know who's side he's really on - you'd have a point if he wasn't aware of the implant (trying to go spoiler-lite here, should someone stumble in), but he did know about it. If his true loyalty was to the Alliance, he would have done something about that, rather than let what transpired in the comic happen.

It may not have been spelled out for us, but it seemed pretty clear to me.

Now, how he felt about the side he was loyal to, or his feelings towards those he was betraying.... that I would agree is quite wide open, but his loyalty didn't seem ambiguous to me in the least.

"I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him."

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 3:00 PM

STORYMARK


Quote:

Originally posted by LiLi:
He was clearly a commander in the war, not a covert assassin. The deaths associated with him came from what they thought were his poor command choices, but really it was a massacre because the Browncoats knew what was coming.



Yep and yep.



"I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him."

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 3:05 PM

STORYMARK


Quote:

Originally posted by Bytemite:


Though we still don't know what side he was on. His reaction to the counter attack very much suggests he never expected them such a retaliation.




He may not have suspected that degree of retaliation, no. And being that he was serving with the Alliance, I'm sure he was filled with a lot of mixed emotions over many acts. And this is setting aside the fact that he would be expected to react in such a way - that to do otherwise would endanger his cover, and he had clearly been undercover for a while, which indicates he would be quite practiced at "acting".

But the main point is: he still knew he was feeding that info, so we're left with two real choices - he's ultimately loyal to the Browncoats, or he's a naive fool.

Only one of those options strikes me as consistent with the Book we saw on the show, or in the comic.

"I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him."

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 3:15 PM

LILI

Doing it backwards. Walking up the downslide.


Quote:

Originally posted by Bytemite:
Operatives do have people they answer to, if Those Left Behind is any basis.


True. Those people seemed to be more shadowy parliament types, rather than military guys. It was clearly a military guy reprimanding him and stripping his rank and ordering his dishonorable discharge (in a death-trap escape pod.) We didn't see any consultation with higher government officials, there.
It seems most likely that Book encountered an Operative or a mention of them at some point in his Alliance Military career. Maybe while he was doing his whole Jack Bauer Interrogation phase.


Facts are stubborn things.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 5:28 PM

BYTEMITE


The Book I saw in the comics was a man with no loyalties who was constantly in over his head and trying to stay afloat. He might have been bitter, cynical, and things we don't associate with naivety, but that didn't mean he couldn't be played.

My feeling is he most certainly was, and by both sides. Look at how he is selected by the Alliance officers, and then discarded; it's even outright said the military never really thought his operation would work, so why go through with it? Unless the intention was to have a nasty loss to sway public opinion against the Indies and pour fuel on the fire. Considering the war is stated to have started at about the same time Miranda was reported a blackrock in the movie, I don't see this as coincidential.

Similarly, he didn't go back to the Independents, because they basically were prepared to throw him to the wolves from the moment they made him a spy. There was no extraction planned, this was always a suicide mission for Book, but he never realized it.

As for the Officer thing, I double checked, and yes, he is called Officer Book on the bridge of his command ship, and the guys who select him say he caught the eye of the Officer Corp.

We still don't know what that means. I admit this does suggest strongly a military route, but do we know the Operative isn't military? He IS given a military command at one point in the movie.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 5:43 PM

LILI

Doing it backwards. Walking up the downslide.


Quote:

Originally posted by Bytemite:
As for the Officer thing, I double checked, and yes, he is called Officer Book on the bridge of his command ship, and the guys who select him say he caught the eye of the Officer Corp.


I do carefully cite my facts.

Quote:

We still don't know what that means. I admit this does suggest strongly a military route, but do we know the Operative isn't military? He IS given a military command at one point in the movie.

As I said, the Operative could override just about anything. Whatever he needed for his search was granted to him. Commanding ships was not his job, but a privilege he could invoke. The military would have no authority over him, as he has authority over the military. He might have been reprimanded for the fiasco if he had gone back, but the reprimand would not come from a commanding officer in the military, it would come from the deepest reaches of the Parliament. I also don't imagine that it would have ended in a similar "discharge," but in the Operative throwing himself on his sword. Actually, I imagine that happened, regardless.


Facts are stubborn things.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010 8:47 PM

TOADSMOOTHY


So, actually, we know quite a bit about Book. I SO need to get Shepherds Tale!

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Thursday, December 16, 2010 5:41 AM

STORYMARK


I'll just reiterate my original statement at this point.

"I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him."

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Thursday, December 16, 2010 5:56 AM

BYTEMITE


Your original statement is presumptuous and offensive, so I wish you wouldn't.

I don't really care either way if Book is an Operative or not. But some people hear spoilers from Morena, or read something in the comic books, and say "this explains everything/ completely Josses this theory!" when the one thing the Whedons are good at is not telling you the WHOLE story so they can twist it on you later.

Because of this, I'm firm in my belief that any spoilers we hear, about Inara, about Book, or any of the other characters with long standing mysteries, that we don't really know enough to know anything for certain. We have a few pieces of a puzzle, and yes, I myself am guilty of taking those pieces and speculating (wildly even!), but I'm not so proud as to say I know everything, you don't, or to assume that if you disagree with me, well, you must just be irrationally clinging on to some pet theory.

My only point here is be cautious in ruling ANYTHING out.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010 6:43 AM

STORYMARK


Well, sorry if you find it offensive, but your defensiveness tends to support my thesis. You think he was an operative, fine. But the comic suggests, quite strongly, otherwise. You've given reasons why you think the comic doesn't, and as this thread shows, others find those reasons thin at best.

NO ONE is saying we know all about the character - but as I said before, there is a big difference between not knowing the details, and not knowing ANYTHING as you claim is the case. It's simply not true, we don't know everything - but we know a fair bit now. And what we know indicates that he was not an operative. For him to be one would take a fair bit of mental gymnastics, which goes back to my original point - which I stand by. And as you yourself admit - your theory takes a lot of speculation, and even bending of what we know about the 'verse to fit it - saying he's not an operative is supported outright by the available text - no speculation required.

You say I'm holding onto a pet theory.... when I have not floated one (unless you count the comic as a "theory"). You, on the other hand, DO have a pet theory. Nor did I claim to know "everything" as you imply - all I did was dispute your (clearly erroneous) claim that we know "don't know anything". I just offered up an analytical view of what's in the story - all points you want to disregard to stick with your pet theory. Sorry, but that's projection right there.

You don't agree - that's your prerogative - but I calls 'em as I sees 'em.

"I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him."

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Thursday, December 16, 2010 7:22 AM

BYTEMITE


Quote:

but your defensiveness tends to support my thesis.


It's not defensiveness. It's FRUSTRATION. You made an unwarranted assumption, an offensive one, that you're continuing to carry through. Which, by the way, it pissed me off the first time you did it above, but I decided not to make a big deal about it then. Now, though? Doing it twice means you're doing it on purpose, because you don't want to discuss, you want to WIN the argument.

I don't want to quibble over whether or NOT I believe something, thanks. I have no interest in playing that game with you. It's a waste of both of our time.

Quote:

You think he was an operative, fine.


And I DON'T. You = assuming.

Quote:

You say I'm holding onto a pet theory...


I didn't say YOU were, I said you were accusing ME of it.

So because you're ignoring everything I'm saying, we're done now.

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