Firefly in Five Lines

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Bindiya's Choice

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First aired: The Signal: Season 7, Episode 5
Written by Bindiya Dale
Read by Bindiya Dale
Edited by Andy King

I'll admit, I was afraid the lines I was thinking of would be taken by this point, but my fears were unfounded. There are a lot more memorable and meaningful quotes out there than I think we could ever pick through. With such a bounty still to choose from, I thought I would take a page from Miranda's book and choose a character to lead me through this. It's the same character who led me to the series in the first place, the character who I projected myself onto and cared most about in the course of things. His place in things makes him an unlikely candidate for the 'voice' of the series...but it seems fair, somehow. After all, everything starts getting a little more interesting once Simon Tam boards Serenity.

SIMON: Am I making you nervous?

Simon makes a lot of people nervous...he certainly makes the crew nervous when he first comes on board Serenity. He makes his parents nervous with his seemingly paranoid theories as to the danger his sister is in. He makes the Alliance nervous, having been able to slip in and steal something so valuable from them and keep it out of their reach for so long. Simon is a man driven by desperation and love, and the combination lends him this sort of cold ruthlessness that people tend to forget when he's getting socked in the face by Mal or taking potshots from Jayne. In this scene he seems almost in his element, despite the danger. It's wrong how right that Alliance uniform looks on him, and how easily he fits into this role, delivering this coldly-spoken line to a clearly-nervous Dr. Matthias. The people around him have good reason to be nervous. The actions that follow this line, after all, are central for the 'Verse-shaking revelations that follow. It is the catalyst for all that happens in the story as we know it. What would the series have been without him stirring the pot to start with?

SIMON: No matter what you do or say or plot, no matter how you come down on us...I will never ever harm you.

For all the trouble he brings down on Serenity, and all his determination to keep River safe, there is still a decency and a goodness to Simon that no amount of opposition seems to take away from him. Despite learning of Jayne's treachery, and having the man at his mercy paralyzed on the infirmary's exam chair...having every reason in the world to want to do Jayne even a little harm in retaliation or warning for the future...Simon's only response is a call back to the Hippocratic Oath he took as a doctor to never harm a patient in his care, and advising Jayne that the two will need to trust each other in the future. It's more impressive to me than if he HAD used that opportunity to get back, and a little inspiring as I walked away from the episode. How many of us would have done the same, in that situation? Sometimes your morals and standards are all you have to define who you are, especially when they're put to the test in such a way.

SIMON: I can't keep track of her when she'snotincorporeally possessing a spaceship. Don't look at me.

This scene never fails to make me laugh. It's certainly a tense moment in the series, with a dangerous bounty hunter holding a gun to our good doctor. But Simon, who has been tense all this time, chased 'round the verse by the Alliance, frustrated in his attempts to care for and protect River, and constantly ribbed by the crew, is finally not the only one dealing with the ramifications of trying to keep tabs on River. The Tam siblings finally have the upper hand for a moment. Early is clearly frustrated, having successfully dealt with every last detail of the abduction attempt, save this last wrench in the works, and Simon is confident enough in his sister's ability to give her pursuer a hard time that he visibly relaxes. He grows sarcastic and increasingly unhelpful. He actually seems to be enjoying the opportunity to do a little taunting of his own, even smiling at parts as River laughs in the background, while Early scrambles to retake control of the situation. Sarcasm might not be productive, but sometimes in a stressful situation with no alternative course of action, it sure can feel awful satisfying.

SIMON: My one regret in all of this is never being with you.

This strikes a particularly tender chord with me, as it holds a certain double meaning. On the surface, it reflects on a long-standing 'will they or won't they' situation concerning Kaylee and Simon, and at long last we understand where he stands on the matter. It seems like it might be too late to do anything about it, but it's enough to put some pep back into Kaylee and give them a reason to fight on, and see what might be if they live long enough. On a deeper level, however, this phrase speaks to the Browncoat in me. I joined the fandom only a year ago, and by the time I learned the whole sad story, there was nothing I could do. Here were all these passionate people who had fought and lost for something so dear to them, and now to me, and I had arrived too late to do anything about it. If nothing else, I wish I could have been there for the fight, and a part of me can't help wondering: if I'd known sooner what I was missing, could we have fought that much harder? Could that little bit have made a difference? Probably not. Still, I know what it feels like to watch that boat sailing off into the horizon and feeling like you'd never see it again. But even if the fight feels lost, some things are still worth speaking up for.

So, we've seen Simon being a threat, Simon as a doctor, Simon as a snarky snarker who snarks, and Simon being sweet. But we're missing a part, the most important one: Simon being a brother willing to sacrifice it all for his sister.

SIMON: Light it.

Two such simple words, and yet so powerful. My father and I had been watching together, and I believe this was the point at which he turned to me and said, "You know, this show is really starting to get good." I was on the verge of tearing up and couldn't answer, and a good thing too, or I'd have missed the awesome scene that followed.

I know what it's like to watch your dreams, your entire life, put on hold for the sake of family. It's something I've done myself, perhaps part of the reason I empathize with Simon so much. Still, I don't think I could ever show that kind of courage, the kind Simon showed when, all other options having failed, he stepped up onto that pyre to join River as the torch-carrying mob closed in on them. River IS his reason for living, and living with knowing he failed her in such a way isn't an option to him. That kind of pure, unselfish love, written into a scene that on paper could easily read as over-dramatic and silly and instead to this day still makes my chest heavy and my throat close up, is what makes Firefly to me more than just a good tv series. It's an inspiration, through strong yet flawed characters who make mistakes, who stumble and fall, who sometimes say the wrong things at the absolute worst times, and yet still find a way to carry on, for the sake of something more important than just themselves.

It's easy to see that determination, kindness, humor, wistfulness, and strength, even in just five lines.

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