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View Full Version : Serenity/Firefly Fans: How Smart/Advanced are the Reavers?


astorian
11-28-2008, 12:12 AM
I have never seen an episode of "Firefly," but finally saw "Serenity" this past weekend. I'm not (and never have been) a major sci-fi buff, but I enjoyed the movie quite a bit.

I'm not sure if this has been addressed in the TV show, but...

How smart are the Reavers supposed to be? Presumably, since they were human before the "Pax" gas was introduced into their atmosphere, they could have retained all their previous intelligence while becoming vicious, cannibalistic rapist-murderers. And presumably, a Reaver who had been a pilot of engineer in his previous life could still retain his knowledge and skills.

But it's hard to picture... are "people" who live to rape and devour other sentient beings REALLY content to do menial work on board their spaceships? Are such monstrous brutes REALLY capable of living in peace and cooperative harmony with other such monstrous brutes?

Do they breed? If so, who's doing the baby/child care and nurturing?

Have these questions been answered? Or am I just taking the movie waaay too seriously and giving these things far more thought than Joss Whedon has?

astro
11-28-2008, 12:28 AM
It was a giant plot hole and showed some (extreme) laziness in writing re the conceit that feral insaniacs would be piloting spaceships. It was about a bad as the Trek STNG episode with the mentally slow/retarded aliens that go around stealing other peoples technology to make themselves smarter.

Bryan Ekers
11-28-2008, 01:47 AM
It was about a bad as the Trek STNG episode with the mentally slow/retarded aliens that go around stealing other peoples technology to make themselves smarter.
Hey, they just wanted to make it go, cut them some slack.


But, yeah, while the Reaver origin story was interesting, they simply don't make sense as characters. They're rather like the rage-zombies from 28 Days Later - there wasn't any point fretting about them spreading around the world when anyone exposed turns into a mindless savage within seconds. There'd be no way of transmitting the disease beyond the British mainland because anyone on a plane or boat would go nuts, expose everyone else, and then none of them would know how to finish the trip to Europe. They be all spew-and-growl while the plane augers in and the boat circles until it runs out of fuel.

It's zombies, people. If' you're gonna attempt a serious approach to the idea, you have to recognize the limitations, i.e. piloting a spaceship isn't something a berserker would be particularly good at.

ExTank
11-28-2008, 02:36 AM
Warning: pure fan-wank!

I'm not attempting to hand-wave sloppy writing or poorly thought-out plot devices, but there's a couple of simple explanations.

1. The Reavers have only been around for about 10 - 12 years. No need for a "breeding population" of Reaver Moms raising little Reaver babies. It's not entirely inconceivable that the Reavers would have died out on their own eventually, although the series did seem to imply that new Reavers were being made out of certain victims. Whether this would have been enough to sustain (or even grow) the Reaver population is unknow.

2. The Reavers need not always be in full-out "Kill/Rape/Eat" mode; they may only go into such a frenzy the way a shark does when feeding.

The thing that causes me to seriously adjust my "Suspension of Disbelief" filter to "Way Fucking High" is that the Reavers still have the "Us vs. Them" filter working in their brains. That is, they don't seem to mindlessly attack one another, only non-infected humans.

Of course, no one knows exactly how "The Pax" affected the brains of the population of Miranda, just the symptoms: catatonia and rage. Who knows what biological and social filters got screwed up by the Pax.

The episode "Bushwhacked" from the series is the only one to deal with the Reavers, and what I took from that episode was that the Reavers worked from a kind of crazed, depraved, almost diabolical intellect. Think of an amalgam of every seial killer that ever existed, hopped to the gills on crank.

IOW, it implied (to me, at least) that the Reavers did operate at a higher level than just "Kill/Rape/Eat." As such, higher skills (piloting, engineering, other technical skills) could still be present, as well as group cooperative behavior.

Bryan Ekers
11-28-2008, 02:45 AM
Of course, in addition to being frenzied berserkers, they're clearly obsessive-compulsive. Why else would a particular group chase Serenity all the way to the planet's surface (right through a major space battle) and keep after them despite being gunned down and then hacked down? Geez, step back and take a breather, willya? What's the deal, they tasked you and you must have them?

Tapioca Dextrin
11-28-2008, 02:47 AM
Maybe they're the 'Verses version of the Borg with an (as yet unseen) Borg Queen?

audit1
11-28-2008, 03:28 AM
In the first episode, Wash mentions the reaver ship is operating without shields and says that's suicide. So maintaing shields is not a priority.

Raguleader
11-28-2008, 08:13 AM
Well, they were operating without Reactor Shielding. Not sure what Reactor Shielding is. Could be a forcefield, could be some bigass lead plates that their engineer left off because he couldn't be assed to bolt them back on when he was done reversing the polarity of the neutronium percolator. Or whatever it is that NukeEs do at work.:D

The Reavers work best the less explanation you give them. Their best episode arguably was the pilot ep, where we never got to see them at all, only how people reacted. ie: Jayne, who was willing to get into a suicidal gunfight over not being paid for a job, was about ready to piss himself and run at the mere suggestion that Reavers might be somewhere in the general vicinity. And that none of the smarter more balanced characters like Mal or Zoe seemed to have any problem with him having that reaction (aside from Zoe's "You'll scare the women." dig at him.)

That said, I loved the whole treatment in Serenity, because it was just cool, right down to the ballet-fight between Reaver and the Rivers. Er... River and the Reavers. Really, a lot of the sci-fi-er stuff on the show (like River being turned into a telepath, or something) didn't make sense if you leaned in to squint at it, but then again, it's a show where smuggling cattle by spaceship is a very profitable pasttime, so just sit back, drink your Mudder's Milk, and enjoy. :p

Cluricaun
11-28-2008, 09:27 AM
I took it in as that the Reavers were a current issue, but not something that was going to last forever. A temporary, if frightening phenomenon. They filled the role of scary monsters/ pirates / evil pretty well for the stories told, and like Raguleader said they worked better as a plot device than as actual characters.

I'll bet at Alliance halloween parties at least half of the attendees showed up dressed as Reavers. :D

JSexton
11-28-2008, 09:38 AM
And remember what Mal and the crew did to the Serenity to get her looking like a Reaver ship. It wasn't all cosmetic. It sounded like they had to make her only barely capable of flying. Of all the ships in the Reaver belt, very few looked spaceworthy. Most looked like empty hulls.

I'd guess that most reavers fly about as well as my four-year old on a Wii.

Mahaloth
11-28-2008, 10:17 AM
The idea seems to be that they are so committed to rage and violence, they can even organize themselves to create more chaos.

:sigh:

Yes, Joss Whedeon left the Reavers a bit underdeveloped. Then again, it was supposed to be more slowly developed than it was.

By the way, watch Firefly on DVD. It's worth it. There is another plot hole regarding how much knowledge Simon has about River's abilities, but that one is acknowledged by Whedon as a victim of cramming 2 seasons of story into one movie.

Elendil's Heir
11-28-2008, 04:13 PM
A similar thread that I started: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=364534

ExTank
11-28-2008, 04:16 PM
I remeber that thread.

I remember skipping posting in it due to your gratuitous political dig.

Mosier
11-28-2008, 04:46 PM
The Reavers are smart enough to set booby traps that caught the crew of Serenity off guard in one of the episodes. Reavers aren't stupid, just because they're crazy berserker cannibals.

control-z
11-28-2008, 04:53 PM
Maybe they or their ships come from a race of advanced beings, and their starship technology includes AI and though-driven interfaces that let the Reavers guide a ship without needing to know the nuts and bolts.

MEBuckner
11-28-2008, 04:56 PM
Maybe they or their ships come from a race of advanced beings, and their starship technology includes AI and though-driven interfaces that let the Reavers guide a ship without needing to know the nuts and bolts.
Not in the Firefly universe. No advanced aliens (also, no AI), and the Reavers are clearly flying around in (old, beat-up, downright dangerous) human-built ships they've gotten ahold of somehow.

control-z
11-28-2008, 05:18 PM
Not in the Firefly universe. No advanced aliens (also, no AI), and the Reavers are clearly flying around in (old, beat-up, downright dangerous) human-built ships they've gotten ahold of somehow.

It's been a while, but there's some pretty wild stuff in the Firefly universe, what about the blue-handed guys? And River?

chrisk
11-28-2008, 05:43 PM
Not in the Firefly universe. No advanced aliens (also, no AI), and the Reavers are clearly flying around in (old, beat-up, downright dangerous) human-built ships they've gotten ahold of somehow.

I'd say that when it comes to AI, the jury's still out, though we've seen no particular evidence of them so far in the series. A few brilliant AIVAS (artificially intelligent voice address systems) on the core planets would definitely seem to fit in with the Firefly verseview as far as I'm concerned. Maybe one is in use at the Academy, for instance.

Walking and talking battledroids are less likely. (Very simple menial mechs in the houses of the rich and powerful could go either way.)

Baldwin
11-28-2008, 05:47 PM
Y'know who the Reavers remind me of, a little? The denizens of the Sargasso Asteroid in The Stars My Destination. Okay, they don't behave the same, but I guess I like the idea of tribal savages in outer space.

(Wonder if Joss Whedon ever read that? Probably not a big reader. I think the show suffered a bit from his lack of familiarity with the past 80 years of written science fiction, as well as his admitted cluelessness about actual science. Still a good show.)

Chronos
11-28-2008, 06:05 PM
Not in the Firefly universe. No advanced aliens (also, no AI)No aliens at all, apparently: A carnie claims to have a genuine alien on display, but it's just an upside-down cow fetus. The verdict's still out on AIs, though: Mr. Universe's girl robot might have been what we would call an AI, and would almost certainly have been smarter than any computer we have now.

I think the show suffered a bit from his lack of familiarity with the past 80 years of written science fiction, as well as his admitted cluelessness about actual science.On the other hand, he had the good sense to know his limitations. Ever notice how few measurements or units we hear on the show? We're never told any distances between worlds, and only rarely travel times. We don't know what year it is. We don't even know what units are being used for the money, most of the time. And other details like the fuel used by the ships are also scant. All that says to me that Whedon knew the sorts of fans that he'd be drawing, and that if he gave too much information he'd screw up, and we'd catch him in a miscalculation.

MEBuckner
11-28-2008, 06:11 PM
I'm pretty sure I remember from one of the DVD commentaries that certain things--like aliens or robots--were deliberately left out, on the grounds that they were cliched and too easy to do badly.

I may have overstated on the AI thing, but I'm pretty sure Serenity wasn't going to acquire any cute, wisecracking crewdroids or anything like that. I think Whedon wanted to keep the dramatic focus on people.

Raguleader
11-28-2008, 06:14 PM
No aliens at all, apparently: A carnie claims to have a genuine alien on display, but it's just an upside-down cow fetus. The verdict's still out on AIs, though: Mr. Universe's girl robot might have been what we would call an AI, and would almost certainly have been smarter than any computer we have now.

On the other hand, he had the good sense to know his limitations. Ever notice how few measurements or units we hear on the show? We're never told any distances between worlds, and only rarely travel times. We don't know what year it is. We don't even know what units are being used for the money, most of the time. And other details like the fuel used by the ships are also scant. All that says to me that Whedon knew the sorts of fans that he'd be drawing, and that if he gave too much information he'd screw up, and we'd catch him in a miscalculation.

Reminds me of some of the technology in Elizabeth Moon's Vata's War series of books. The main character, a merchant captain with military training, knows all about firearms and tactics and maneuvers and supply and demand and things of that nature. But when the hyperdrive on her ship breaks down and she goes to inspect it, it is described quite literally as a black box with some wires coming out of it, as that's all she can make of it (other people on her ship know more about this thing, fortunately, but it's not their job to be the POV character in the book :D)

But yeah, Joss Whedon shows tend to gloss over details that he's unfamiliar with and doesn't need for the show. Kinda like how Buffy and friends can go through three years of high school, and yet we learn little of chemistry, math, or grammar that their lives presumably include quite a bit of (granted, Buffy and Xander arguably didn't learn much of this stuff either, while Willow probably knew it all before she stepped into the classroom).

WhyNot
11-28-2008, 06:22 PM
Oh, come on. Y'all are slackin'.

River and the Reavers

Band name!

Ephemera
11-28-2008, 07:17 PM
But yeah, Joss Whedon shows tend to gloss over details that he's unfamiliar with and doesn't need for the show. Kinda like how Buffy and friends can go through three years of high school, and yet we learn little of chemistry, math, or grammar that their lives presumably include quite a bit of (granted, Buffy and Xander arguably didn't learn much of this stuff either, while Willow probably knew it all before she stepped into the classroom).

Needless nitpick, but Buffy scored a 1430 on the SATs so she learned a bit. Xander, though . . .

Wheeljack
11-28-2008, 08:00 PM
Hey, they just wanted to make it go, cut them some slack.
They also deserve some credit for taking the initiative to look for things with which to make it go.

AllWalker
11-28-2008, 08:02 PM
No aliens at all, apparently: A carnie claims to have a genuine alien on display, but it's just an upside-down cow fetus. The verdict's still out on AIs, though: Mr. Universe's girl robot might have been what we would call an AI, and would almost certainly have been smarter than any computer we have now.


Another coming scifi element left out is faster-than-light travel. There is no mention of hyperspace, or wormholes, people seem to get about the solar system using good olf-fashioned, unspecified shiny propulsion. Even the ships that left Earth-that-was weren't necessarily FTL - they could easily have been arkships, or cryogenics, or even just really, really fast.

And I like it. Scifi waves away c when it is necessary, but it is not in the 'verse. Physics has not been pointlessly shat on.

Frostillicus
11-28-2008, 09:04 PM
I have never seen an episode of "Firefly,"

I assume you are going to remedy this situation after seeing Serenity.

maikai
11-28-2008, 09:29 PM
There is another plot hole regarding how much knowledge Simon has about River's abilities, but that one is acknowledged by Whedon as a victim of cramming 2 seasons of story into one movie.

Can you refresh my memory about this? It's been awhile since I've seen it.

Lobohan
11-28-2008, 09:38 PM
Can you refresh my memory about this? It's been awhile since I've seen it.I think he's thinking about how Simon got a very basic description of what they did to River at the Alliance facility he broke her out of.

Which isn't a plot hole by any stretch of the imagination. Having someone tell you they preformed brain surgery on your sister doesn't mean you don't want to do an MRI to find out the particulars.

And so far as I can recall Whedon never said anything like that. If Mahaloth could post a link to that I'd like to see it.

Raguleader
11-28-2008, 11:21 PM
The big conflict was that in the pilot episode, Simon, who was under some degree of duress to explain himself to a crew that he didn't know if he could trust, said that he paid someone a great sum of money to bust River out of the Academy and get her to him so he could get her to safety, while the movie showed that Simon himself snuck into the Academy and busted River out himself with someone else's help.

Not really a plothole, it's easy for me at least to assume that the guy who had been lying up until he was caught by Mal decided to lie a bit more rather than tell the whole truth, and then it just never came up during dinner conversation.

Darkhold
11-29-2008, 01:46 AM
I hate the explanation of the Reavers. They're made to sound like a looming ever present threat that's growing worse "They're pushing out ever farther" (or some words to that effect) but of course when you get the explanation the opposite would be true. Accidents, radiation poisoning, being shot on raids, poorly maintained ships, all this would be consistently reducing their numbers and given the rather small pool they had to begin with they'd be gone in a matter of years. Unless Joss planned on giving them a way to increase their population (other then occasionally finding a psycho among some crew who they don't even bother to take with them) they would be a non-issue.

I think this idea for the Reavers is better: Two major fleets left Earth-that-was one the Chinese, American group was well organized full of top of the line ships and people. The second was one cobbled together by desperate and in many cases shady people. This second fleet was filled with substandard living conditions and moved slower then the first fleet. As time went on more and more people began to suffer from various mental and physical problems due to the poor conditions and many ships began to attack one another to salvage supplies. Eventually a belief in the strongest survive develops among them. They also begin to have a code of laws and an insane violent society develops but it's still a functional society.

They reach Ariel destroy the local population in accordance to their own beliefs but enslave many. They start using their old ships (in poor repair) and ships looted from Ariel to attack local interests both to gather ever more resources but also because their vicious society demands territorial dominance. Soon their society splits the most violent savage members constantly raiding and destroying while the bulk of the population stays on Ariel building up resources planning to invade several more worlds and convert them to their way of life.

Now the hardest part would be not to make the 'civilized' bunch into some kind of crappy Ming the Merciless type villain or a Star Trek type villain that shows we're all people deep down. Instead they should be savage cruel fanatics that have just slightly less berserker fury in them but still nobody you can reason with or make deals with. However their society should make sense FOR THEM. Crazy, violent, savage, to an outsider. But stable in its way and able to increase the threat to the rest of the system.

Gukumatz
11-29-2008, 05:49 AM
I always interpreted it such that the Reavers were need-driven. For instance, in the flyby in the pilot, the Reavers are fully cognizant of Serenity passing by right beneath them. They don't turn around immediately and chase, which is remarked upon by Mal:

"I guess they weren't hungry.[Snip]"

Iteki
11-29-2008, 09:14 AM
There is a semifactual canon answer to this actually. Here are the stats of an average reaver as described by the core rulebook for the Serenity RPG.

According to the Serenety RPG gamebook info on Reavers:

REAVER

Agility. . . . . d8
Strength . . . . d10
Vitality . . . . d10
Alertness . .. . d8
Intelligence . . d6
Willpower . .. . d10
Life Points .. . 24
Initiative . . . d8 + d8
Unarmed Combat d6/Brawling d10.
Discipline d6


Jayne, by comparison has:

Agility. . . . . d6
Strength . . . . d10
Vitality . . . . d10
Alertness . .. . d6
Intelligence . . d4
Willpower . .. . d6
Life Points .. . 18
Initiative . . . d6 + d6
Unarmed Combat d6/Brawling d8.
Discipline d4

So they are smarter and more diciplined than Jayne (who knew!).
Mal however is twice as smart as Jayne, so smarter than a reaver and equally disciplined. Sounds fairly balanced to me.
To be honest, I think a combination of willpower, intelligence and discipline is what would count as smart/advanced.

Laudenum
11-29-2008, 09:15 AM
The big conflict was that in the pilot episode, Simon, who was under some degree of duress to explain himself to a crew that he didn't know if he could trust, said that he paid someone a great sum of money to bust River out of the Academy and get her to him so he could get her to safety, while the movie showed that Simon himself snuck into the Academy and busted River out himself with someone else's help.

Not really a plothole, it's easy for me at least to assume that the guy who had been lying up until he was caught by Mal decided to lie a bit more rather than tell the whole truth, and then it just never came up during dinner conversation.I always assumed that he had paid people a lot of money in order to bust her out, but that he had done it himself. eg, the ship waiting, the weapons needed etc

I hate the explanation of the Reavers. They're made to sound like a looming ever present threat that's growing worse "They're pushing out ever farther" (or some words to that effect) but of course when you get the explanation the opposite would be true. Accidents, radiation poisoning, being shot on raids, poorly maintained ships, all this would be consistently reducing their numbers and given the rather small pool they had to begin with they'd be gone in a matter of years. Unless Joss planned on giving them a way to increase their population (other then occasionally finding a psycho among some crew who they don't even bother to take with them) they would be a non-issue.
. They were pushing out further because they were wiping out more and more settlements, and needing to wander further afield to find food.

Darkhold
11-29-2008, 09:39 AM
I always assumed that he had paid people a lot of money in order to bust her out, but that he had done it himself. eg, the ship waiting, the weapons needed etc

They were pushing out further because they were wiping out more and more settlements, and needing to wander further afield to find food.But they weren't gathering food (aside from humans they ate while attacking I guess) in fact we never see them take anything from any of the places/people they attack. When they took over the colony ship filled with useful items that Mal couldn't wait to loot they didn't even take the 'meat' of the crew instead stringing them up.

Even so it doesn't matter. They simply have an unsustainable culture as the threat would grow quickly less. People know there's no point in running or surrendering so might as well shoot as many Reavers as you can before you go down. Suddendly no more Reavers as they can't replace what they lose.

Larry Borgia
11-29-2008, 09:39 AM
I look at their piloting as being similar to drunk driving. While drunk drivers have a much greater probablility of being in an accident, most do make it home safely. Probably there are tons of accidents and botched landings in the reaver fleet, but they can still keep it sort of together and most ships can go where they want.

Also, I agree that the reavers bloodlust is periodic and is fixated on non-reavers. Kind of like an exaggerated version of the way humans will commit atrocities against outsiders but will be moral and polite to members of the tribe. Also it grows in direct proportion to the proximity of non-reavers and to the amount of reavers in the mob. And the longer it takes them to get their pray the more frustrated and enraged they become, eventually changing from people who can more or less fly spaceships to mindless zombie hordes.

Looking up I notice Ex-Tank has made similar comments, but I'm posting anyway. :)

VoluntaryPlan
11-29-2008, 11:10 AM
If I recall correctly, there was even an episode where Reavers left a fairly advanced trap for anyone that attempted to dock with a ship they had victimized.

The trap didn't really do anything beneficial for the Reavers, though. It just damaged the ship as it tried to fly away, or that was the point, anyway.

Raguleader
11-29-2008, 01:29 PM
Figure you could have both the Reavers pushing farther out every year, and them having a finite limit before they can't do that anymore. Eventually, they'll hit a point where they can't push out further and they'll start to collapse inward from lack of resources and personnel, but they haven't hit that point yet (well, maybe they did after the shootup between the Reavers and the Alliance fleet at Mr. Universe's hideout, where it looked like the Alliance guys had the upper hand once they got over the initial shock)

Also, standing your ground and shooting the Reavers up sounds like a solid plan, until you consider that the majority of people flying around are probably minimally armed for self defense at best. Serenity's crew, being outlaws generally, are better armed than you'd expect many people on a transport to be, and even they would rather play possum than pick a fight with a Reaver ship, and indeed, the only times they ever fight with the Reavers (all during Serenity), it's either because they have nowhere to run (Mr. Universe's hideout), have no choice but to fight as they run (the bank heist in the beginning, running at this point only having a real chance of success because the Reavers are busy ravaging the town), or because they want the Reavers to give chase (Miranda, on their way to an Alliance ambush at Mr. U's hideout)

Other than that, the only guys shown to successfully fight off the Reavers are River and the Alliance forces themselves, more heavily armed than even Mal's crew could hope to be. It stands to reason that anyone who stood their ground and fought didn't get to shoot up a significant number of Reavers, or even worse, given that many folks debate the existance of Reavers, decided to run instead when confronted and were simply run down rather than putting a fight up at all.

Merijeek
11-29-2008, 02:25 PM
Also, standing your ground and shooting the Reavers up sounds like a solid plan, until you consider that the majority of people flying around are probably minimally armed for self defense at best. Serenity's crew, being outlaws generally, are better armed than you'd expect many people on a transport to be, and even they would rather play possum than pick a fight with a Reaver ship, and indeed, the only times they ever fight with the Reavers (all during Serenity), it's either because they have nowhere to run (Mr. Universe's hideout), have no choice but to fight as they run (the bank heist in the beginning, running at this point only having a real chance of success because the Reavers are busy ravaging the town), or because they want the Reavers to give chase (Miranda, on their way to an Alliance ambush at Mr. U's hideout)

Other than that, the only guys shown to successfully fight off the Reavers are River and the Alliance forces themselves, more heavily armed than even Mal's crew could hope to be. It stands to reason that anyone who stood their ground and fought didn't get to shoot up a significant number of Reavers, or even worse, given that many folks debate the existance of Reavers, decided to run instead when confronted and were simply run down rather than putting a fight up at all.

Even if they did, that logic is the logic of someone playing an FPS, not the logic of an untrained, poorly-armed civilian who is about to die.

Horatio Hellpop
11-30-2008, 11:33 AM
My impression is that they're like sharks or Whedon vampires: Perfectly functional until they get a whiff of what they're hungry for, which sends them into a feeding frenzy.

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