Serenity: goof or promotion

Was watching the movie on disc for about the fourth time and noticed an oddity. When the Operative is checking Mal’s electronic dossier, it flashes on the screen Captain/Independent Army/57th Brigade.

Captain? IIRC (I’ve seen the Firefly eps. only once each) we see him as a sergeant at Serenity Valley which was pretty much the end of the war of independence. Did he get a promotion later or did the movie goof?

Goof. In an episode of the series an Alliance officer talks about his “promotion” from sergeant to captain of Serenity.


If he were Brevetted, would that have made it into the record?

Mal was promoted by virtue of none of the actual officers being left alive after the battle of Serenity Valley. This is shown to an extent in the episode “Serenity” with the “congratulations on your promotion” bit while fighting the Alliance.

Also, the Alliance is known to have little regard for Browncoats, so the accuracy of their war records is certainly questionable.

Even with inaccuracy of war records, it seems strange that one Alliance officer would have one record, and later on, an (albeit far more important) Alliance operative has a record saying a different thing. It’s possible the first guy was just trying to get under Mal’s skin by refering him to his rank before his promotion, as if excluding him from the universal brotherhood of men who wear shiny stuff on their shoulders.

The officer soon did go onto talking about something else (torturing prisoners, IIRC), so it’s possible he just saw his original tactic wasn’t working, or that I’m just emplying unsafe degrees of fanwank.

Continuing down the fanwank trail, it’s theoretically possible that the listing of his rank as “Captain” was some custom refering to captains of merchant vessels, perhaps granting them some theoretically equivilant officer’s rank for various purposes, and the listing of his commanding the 57th was unrelated, but in that case, that’s some very confusing style of recordkeeping they have.

So yeah, a goof probably, unless he was promoted during Serenity Valley, and the promotion was never confirmed, thus sending him back to Sergeant.

That was always my assumption, captain of a ship, not a military title

Wasn’t the “congratulations on your promotion” line spoken by Zoe to someone else? They were trying to call in an airstrike and there had to be an officer’s authorization, so Mal handed the radio to some buck private and called him “Lieutenant” and Zoe gave the “promotion” line. Been a while since I watched the ep but that’s my recollection.

Actually, it’s Mal. He hands the guy the patch off the lieutenant with the codes on it and says, “You’re Lt. Baker. Congratulations on your promotion. Now get me some air support!.”

Incidentally, I like how the Browncoats put authorization codes for things like tha ton the inside of easily-ripped-off patches. Shows that someone, somewhere has some foresight as to what’s gonna happen in a pitched battle. Might have just been the LT with a sharpee marker during a lull in fighting.

I didn’t recall any authorization codes; I thought it was just the magic words of saying “I’m an officer” that cut through the beaurocratic red tape. The ripping off of the patch was just for dramatic effect.

(00:00:50 - 00:01:02 of the pilot episode)

Zoe: That sciff is shredding us, Sir.
Redshirt: They won’t move without a lieutenant’s authorization code, Sir.
Mal: <rips off patch with writing on it> Here. Here’s your code. You’re Lt. Baker. Congratulations on your promotion. Now get me some air support!

Resurrecting zombie thread because I was almost 10 years late to the party. I attempted to watch *Serenity *when it came out on DVD without ever having seen Firefly, and I soon got lost and turned it off. About 8 months ago, for no particular reason other than the fact that most of my friends are fanatical Browncoats, I bought the complete series of Firefly and got totally hooked. With the backstories firmly established, I had no trouble following the plot of Serenity.

This being said, though the thread has been inactive since 2006, I can answer the OP.

Among the Serenity DVD extras is an extended scene of The Operative analyzing the wave showing the aftermath of River’s rampage at the Maidenhead. As Mal lifts River off of the floor, his identity is established via retina scan. Upon learning that Mal captains a transport ship called Serenity, The Operative orders a sweep of his military record, confirming his role in the Battle of Serenity Valley. Mal’s rank as a sergeant, his status as a volunteer, his commendations for valour, and the fact that he was one of the last surviving holdouts are all noted. These factors provide The Operative with sufficient insight to deduce that he is facing an intelligent, resourceful, and passionately anti-Alliance adversary. Cross-checking records of Firefly’s registered passengers is what leads The Operative straight to Inara.

For whatever reason, this scene was trimmed from the theatrical release. In the shorter version, since the importance of his rank was no longer a factor in need of emphasis, Mal’s bio was altered to read “CAPTAIN” instead of “SERGEANT”. Joss himself admits in the commentary that this was a sloppy attempt to simplify the backstory for those watching the film who had not already seen the series.

See people - THIS is how you resurrect a zombie.

By answering the question and killing it for good?

Dude, you can’t stop the signal.


How about some cool Firefly swag, then?

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