March 18th, 2004

  • bimo

Deconstructing the Sheperd

Hi there :-)

Since I came up with this entry anyway, I thought it would make little sense not to share it with others *g*


Watching the additional bonus featurettes on disc four, I was somewhat puzzled by actor Ron Glass' comment about his character, Sheperd Book, serving as a moral conscience for Serenity's crew.

From his very first appearance in the show's pilot episode onwards, I always perceived Book as a character not so much representing a distinct and well reflected moral point of view, but rather as embodying the desperate search for such a kind of guideline.

Unlike the fugitives River and Simon, Book enters the ship as a stranger on walkabout, the very image of a person in search of his self. Although the Sheperd's past can only be object of speculation based on the various clues given throughout the existing episodes, his behaviour clearly is that of a man in transition, trying to shake off one former (most probably "non-ethical") identity for the sake of another, "ethical" one; namely an identity determined by the principles of his Christian faith.

The closer one examines Book's actions, however, as well as the religious positions he advocates, the more obvious it becomes in my opinion, that the core of his spiritual belief is a fragile one at best.

Especially during the early episodes, Book often appears like somebody trying to act like he assumes a true Sheperd should be acting if he were in that particular situation; completely regardless whether this kind of behaviour is in fact appropriate or not. Two very good examples for this are his initial disapproval of Inara (solely based on Inara's profession)and the wonderful "Special Hell" speech he gives Mal in Our Mrs Reynolds. One should think that by that point of the series, Book has been on board Serenity long enough to realise that Mal, though having turned his back on God, surely lives by his own, rather strict moral codex and also feels a strong need for protecting the innocent (just think of Mal's behaviour towards Kaylee). Therefore, at least in these scenes, Book's "moral highground" attitude seems shallow and rather superfluous.

Whereas, in War Stories, the Sheperd's readiness to take another human's life might also be interpreted as an act of biblical(?) self-justice combined with the wish to spare others, especially Simon, the experience of killing and guilt, Out of Gas reveals the full scope of Book's spiritual doubts. When the crew is confronted with the life-threatening situation on board Serenity, it is he who, unable to find any solace in the Scriptures, of all characters clearly shows the most apparent fear of dying.

Regardless how much Book is presented as a person wanting to embrace religious faith as guideline for his change into a man different from the man he used to be, in the end he still appears as drifting as everybody else on board Serenity.

Probably even more.

Thoughts, anyone?