How can Firefly Reavers be "smart" enough to drive spaceships? Why, then does their radio conversations sound like some EVP directly drawn from hell?

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    Welcome to the site. It is preferred that you post separate questions instead of combining your questions into one. That way, it helps the people answering your question and also others hunting for at least one of your questions.
    – amflare
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 14:58
  • As for the radio, perhaps they have some decrypter on their end so their transmissions are understandable. Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 15:23
  • They sound like an electronic viewfinder?
    – jwodder
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 23:14
  • Have you ever heard a fax message over a phone line? It certainly sounds like it came from hell, yet has an actual message that can be comprehended by the correct reciever (I.e a fax machine) Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 2:54

2 Answers 2


Reavers are psychotic, not stupid.

From the Firefly wiki: (potential spoilers if you haven't seen the movie yet)

Reavers originated from Miranda, the outermost planet in a distant solar system. The Alliance had been testing behavioral modification on this planet through the chemical G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate (a.k.a. "The Pax" (Latin for "Peace")), administered through the air recycling systems. The chemical was designed to weed out aggression and anger. The ultimate result was that 99.9% of the population stopped going to work, talking to each other, and eventually stopped moving, eating or breeding, and therefore died. However, the remaining 0.1% ("a tenth of one percent") of the population had the opposite reaction, with their aggression and primal instincts boosted beyond simple madness into murderous rage, sadism and savagery.

So they're crazy and filled with murderous rage pretty much all the time. That doesn't mean they're incapable of higher thought functions or doing things like flying space ships. It just means they're beyond reasoning with after they get you in a corner.

I don't believe the radio thing is explicitly addressed in canon, but the idea that they're using their own encryption scheme, as suggested in the comments, is entirely possible. Once again; psychotic, not stupid.

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    @SeanCondon True. Universal health care is clearly not at the top of their priority list.
    – Steve-O
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 19:06
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    @SeanCondon: And don't even get me started on their customer service!
    – djm
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 19:57
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    Not to be pedantic, but doesn't the Firefly universe all take place within the same solar system, and Miranda is just the farthest one out? It's been a while but IIRC, Firefly had no aliens, and no interstellar travel or FTL capabilities.
    – Wes Sayeed
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 22:48
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    That depicts a single solar system that just happens to contain multiple mutually-orbiting stars, like our more familiar binary or trinary systems (there appears to be five stars in their system!). As unlikely as such a solar system would be to harbour Goldilocks zones for livable planets, it does mean that long interstellar distances and FTL wouldn't be relevant. (The bit saying “distant solar system” in the Miranda article on the Fandom wiki appears to have been written by someone who misunderstood the Complete and Official Map of the Verse and chose the wrong astronomical terminology.) Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 7:39
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    @SevenSidedDie As for the distance, you could have saved yourself some math time with the planar view (also to scale), which clearly shows the orbit of Blue Sun to be about 180 AU from the central sun. If we assume the ships are capable of a constant acceleration of 1g (sounds plausible given that the colony ships reached the system in at most 250 years from now, in-universe), that would mean 40 days from the central sun to Miranda, at a pretty ridiculous delta-V of 35 000 km/s (~10% c) or so. Given that fuel tanks aren't prominent on the ship, this probably means e.g. antimatter beam drive.
    – Luaan
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 9:47

I've recently rewatched Firefly, and in Ep03 "Bushwacked" I had the impression that the Reaver had moments of clarity in between his attacks of murderous rage.
Maybe not a canon explanation, but when Reavers are around their own folks they'd possibly be calmer, as Reynolds explains. Then higher thought can still set in, until they get 'hungry'.

  • I'm pretty sure all the Reavers were created on Miranda (in Serenity) - so while there was talk in the episode about him becoming one, by not being subjected to the same chemicals in the air it's unlikely he'd behave the same as them, just the way he's observed them being while they were on his ship.
    – Rycochet
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 12:03
  • @Rycochet: You're arguing that he's not as far gone as the others by design. Probably true. Still either there is something going on with the original reavers like a) as described in those answers here or b) they're just magically able to fly those ships, just like the Orcs in the WH 40k universe. Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 13:12
  • It's a definite MacGuffin - the only time we see them in Serenity they are rage-attacking, but they also decide to leave one survivor and set a trap in this episode. While I don't think he has the same reasons to be gone (driven insane rather than chemically altered), it doesn't mean he's different, just that it's unknown. Saying that though - if they do that sort of "dirty implants", then they either have decent medical (antibiotic and anti-rejection) abilities, or some biological change that lets them not die from it...
    – Rycochet
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 13:56

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