Kaylee: “So how come you don’t care where you’re going?”
Book: “‘Cause how you get there’s the worthier part.”
– Kaylee Frye and Shepherd Book, Firefly, “Serenity, Part 1”
This weekend, we bid farewell to Ron Glass, remembered by all of us Browncoats as Shepherd Derrial Book in Firefly and Serenity. Mr. Glass had a decades-long career in television, including a starring role in Barney Miller, but it’s as Shepherd Book that he became a legend. Tributes have come in from Joss Whedon, his fellow cast members, and fans all over the world, and now it’s my turn.
This hit me, hard. I was late getting on board with Firefly, but once I did, it became one of my favorite series ever. I felt the pain that every fan feels when I learned how such a brilliant series was cut down so quickly by idiots that didn’t understand it, and I’ve told countless people about the miracle that was Serenity, the movie that shouldn’t have happened. I love Firefly more than my words can express, and Book was a key part of what made it so different: in keeping with the space Western theme, he was the man of faith in a lawless frontier, a classic archetype given a new twist. There were the numerous hints and signs that he hadn’t always been a Shepherd, of course, with a later graphic novel confirming his checkered past, but that’s mostly background material. In the series and the movie, Book was a counterbalance to Captain Mal’s cynicism and lost religion, a decent man trying to apply the lessons of the faith that saved him to the family he found himself with. He had some of the greatest moments of the series’ brief life: the “special hell” line in “Our Miss Reynolds”, his admitting to Zoe in “War Stories” that while the Bible had some specific things to say against killing people, it was “somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps”, accidentally terrifying River by unleashing his hair in “Jaynestown”, his heartbreaking death scene in Serenity, and his first meeting with Kaylee in the pilot, which I’ve quoted above. I can’t choose a favorite.
Of course, as I’m preacher’s kid, Book has always reminded me of my father. My pop is a constant reminder of the good things about faith and religion, and how they can transform people for the better. It would have been easy to show Book as a stereotype, a cheap metaphor, or a way to spout pseudo-profound lines to the audience, but no. Book was flawed and layered, as all good characters are. He struggled with his faith, just as I know my dad has struggled with his… but in the end, he always refused to let any ugliness he witnessed change him for the worse. Just like my pop.
Mr. Glass was a practicing Buddhist. As such, I feel it’s appropriate to try to focus not on the sadness of his passing, but the new journey he’s been sent on. That’s part of why I quoted that particular scene up above in tribute; I think he would have approved. Go well, sir. Thanks for sailing with us for a while.
More news can be found at the link below.
- Tasakeru Book II Chapter 6: 7 pages done
- Shattered Skies Chapter 22: 7 pages done
- Photo projects: Effects/background