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In the Firefly movie Serenity, they find a planet full of dead people. It's later revealed that the retrovirus that killed everyone on Miranda is the same that caused the Reavers. Now we know the Reavers are that way because of a disease; so, do we know if this disease is contagious, and if so in what way?

In Bushwacked we see a man become a Reaver, and it's hinted that he was just "driven mad". But in light of the movie, did he catch something, or did he just go nuts?

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I checked the Firefly wiki for this one.

In the entry on Reavers, it says, under Origins and Infection:

Reavers originated from one of the outermost planets in the solar system named Miranda. The Alliance had been testing behavioral modification on this planet through a chemical known as "Pax." Pax being Latin for peace. The chemical was designed to inhibit aggression and anger, and was administered through the air recycling system on the planet. A tenth of a percent of the population had the opposite intended reaction, with their aggression and primal instincts boosted beyond simple madness and into the realm of animalism, robbing them of their humanity.

Reaverdom does not seem to be exclusively chemical in origin. Some victims of Reaver attacks are left alive and forced by Reavers to view the tortures they inflict on others. When this happens, the person's mind is so damaged by what they were shown, that the only way to cope with it is to begin to act as a Reaver does, eventually becoming one themselves. This was witnessed on one occassion by the crew of the Serenity when they found one such victim on a derelict ship (Bushwhacked). (Mal's knowledge of this indicates that he either has heard of such things before or witnessed it himself.)

So the actual origin is not a virus, it's chemical and the way it "spreads," in the few times when it does, is by people being driven insane by the torture from Reavers.

(Note: For those who saw this when I first posted it, it's been edited so the links now go to the Firefly Wiki at Wikia, which is up and working, so there's no need for the Google cache.)

  • Right I have no idea why I thought it was a virus. Good answer. – AncientSwordRage Jan 14 '12 at 15:54
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    Beat me to it. The initial cause was the chemical, but the effect of a reaver attach on the survivors - if any - is to turn their minds so that they become reavers. – Schroedingers Cat Jan 14 '12 at 15:57
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    Yeah, when I was typing that up, I thought, "I better find that link and cut and paste that passage and finish typing in a hurry, before @SchroedingersCat gets to this!" ;) – Tango Jan 14 '12 at 16:06
  • there's another firefly wiki: firefly.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page – HorusKol Jan 14 '12 at 21:33
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    @JayBazuzi Mal explained to the officer what was going to happen before the survivor exhibited any symptoms - he's definitely seen or heard of it happening before. – Izkata Apr 15 '13 at 3:09

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