In Firefly, it is implied that the shepherd is not entirely what he seems. In one episode this is especially so when an Alliance officer checks his ID and shows him great respect.

What I don't understand is from reading the Shepherds tale comic which tells the untold story of Shepherd Book, the last thing he did before becoming a shepherd was cause a huge disaster for the alliance resulting in him being dishonorably discharged.

So, why would the alliance show him respect at the time the Firefly events were taking place?


4 Answers 4


Many soldiers will respect a former comrade for whom things went really badly. Especially if it doesn't look like they earned the treatment they got. Word might be that Book was given the old Kangaroo Court treatment - rigged show trial, jury hand picked to ignore any exonerating evidence. And if that's how things operate (and the Agent implies this is, as does the backstory of Simon and River), then many will exonerate him in their minds and actions despite his "official" discharge.

They might not know the truth, they might not see his treatment as fair.

They might even think he's on a black op.

  • 1
    +1 for rigged trial but if he's a black op, they wouldn't want to jeopardize his mission by showing any signs of recognition as long as the rest of the crew can watch. Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 8:30
  • Not always, Aaron. If they think he's on a black op and in danger of failure, they're render any requested assistance in hopes of making the op successful. If they felt he was not clueless, they'd help based upon knowing he'd only break cover if it was vital to the op.
    – aramis
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 16:08
  • True but they wouldn't have saluted to him in front of the Firefly's crew. I'd think that they'd say "Oh, look at that", quietly carry him away, treat him and then return him saying "we couldn't prove anything you bastard, but we'll get you next time!" in order to protect his cover. Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 16:46
  • You misread me, Aaron. In coming to them, he'd already broken cover. No further worry about maintaining it would be worthwhile.
    – aramis
    Commented Mar 7, 2012 at 2:45

TL;DR: According to Book's official ident card, he was simply a retired Alliance Commander.

Officially, the man we know as Derrial Book was not dishonorably discharged - he was quietly "retired" after a massive defeat. Here's what we do know from The Shepherd's Tale:

As commander of the IAV Cortez, Book was responsible for planning & overseeing an operation that was supposed to end The Unification War in a single stroke. While we don't have details, the plan involved launching attacks on multiple targets at once, committing an enormous amount of resources into the attack. Since Book was actually

an operative for the Browncoats, they knew the attack was coming and used it to ambush the Alliance forces.

As a result, countless men & resources were lost, including the total loss of the Alliance Cruiser IAV Alexander and all 4000 people on board. The admiral in charge of the operation considered it the single greatest defeat in the history of The Alliance, and subsequently blamed Book - enough to strip the rank off his uniform and leave him stranded in an escape pod. The entire debacle was an enormous embarassment for The Alliance, so the operation was covered up as much as possible and Book was quietly "retired" from service.

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Since everything was "swept under the rug", Book was officially just a retired Alliance commander, and that's what his ident card would identify him as. Only the higher-ups of the Alliance military would know the actual circumstances under which he left the service, but without that information any other Alliance facility or officer would make sure he received the best possible care - as befitting an Alliance war veteran.

  • 2
    Good answer--I would just add that "they're going to discharge you without trial" presumably means it must have been an honorable discharge, since at least in the modern military I'm pretty sure dishonorable discharge requires a court-martial (or at least, it seems to be a controversial public issue in the rare cases where someone is given a dishonorable discharge without trial, as you can see from this legal paper).
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 4:15

Or maybe since the event he caused was so embarrassing to the alliance they covered the whole thing up as much they could, so very few know he was directly involved or that he'd been discharged. They just see the id card of a war veteran in a high position.

  • 1
    Not so sure about that. In the comic, the brother of someone who died in the battle easily recognises and confronts Book. There doesn't seem to be any evidence that the cause of the disaster was covered up. Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 22:46

The whole thing would have made more sense had he been working for the Alliance against the Independents. Then, it would have been the browncoats that threw him out after the (intentional) debacle that resulted in all those deaths. One might argue that he could not have resumed service with the Alliance after that because he had been "disavowed," and that it would have put him at risk for reprisals from the Independents. Also it seems to me eminently more plausible that his bionic spy tech came from the core than from the border worlds.

In any case, that would have meant he was a retired or inactive Alliance operative (or perhaps even Operative), which would completely explain the reaction of the Alliance cruiser's captain.

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