Serenity

Comprehensive Storyform

The following analysis reveals a comprehensive look at the Storyform for Serenity. Unlike most of the analysis found here—which simply lists the unique individual story appreciations—this in-depth study details the actual encoding for each structural item. This also means it has been incorporated into the Dramatica Story Expert application itself as an easily referenced contextual example.

SYNOPSIS: "The crew of the ship Serenity tries to evade an assassin sent to recapture one of their number who is telepathic."  Synopsis source: IMDB.com

Story Dynamics

8 of the 12 essential questions

Steadfast
Main Character Resolve

Mal’s status as an opponent of all the Alliance stands for is sorely challenged. He fought for the rights of individual’s and continues to do so. When the Operator challenges Mal directly on this issue, Mal determines he is still willing to die for his stance. In his substory with Inara, he remains ambiguous about his feelings toward her: Mal: “So what are you going to do?” Inara: “I don’t know.” Mal: “Good answer.”

Stop
Main Character Growth

Mal struggles to outlast the conflicts with the crew and others caused by River’s presence, especially the pursuit by the Operative. On a more personal level, Mal waits while hoping for Inara to change her mind about their relationship.

Do-er
Main Character Approach

Mal’s crew needs money…he robs a bank. Inara is in trouble…he goes to rescue her. Mal needs to get past the Alliance armada…he picks a fight with the Reavers and let’s them chase him into battle, and so on.

Linear
Main Character Mental Sex

Cause and effect…Mal’s crew needs money…he robs a bank. Inara is in trouble…he goes to rescue her. Mal needs to get past the Alliance armada…he picks a fight with the Reavers and let’s them chase him into battle, and so on.

Action
Story Driver

The inciting event is the kidnap/escape of River from Alliance control. The closing event is the broadcast of the Miranda recording. Other action driven key events include River’s reception of the hidden broadcast message and subsequent rampage, the destruction of Shepard Book’s outpost, etc.

Optionlock
Story Limit

Serenity has only a limited number of places it can go to ground before the Alliance will capture and destroy it.

Success
Story Outcome

River’s message is broadcast to all available outlets. The Alliance’s dirty Miranda secrets are exposed.

Good
Story Judgment

Mal’s over his past complications with Inara. He no longer feels his reputation is tarnished by his connection with the “losers” in the Alliance war.

Overall Story Throughline

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Physics
Overall Story Throughline

A secret human weapon named River has been kidnapped from Alliance headquarters and takes refuge on Serenity, a raider space ship.

Obtaining
Overall Story Concern

The Alliance will do anything to retrieve or stop River, including sending out a ruthless assassin willing to destroy entire villages of NCOÕs to get her back. River wants to get rid of her nightmarish Òvisions.Ó The captain wants money to fund his crew. The unseen rebels what RiverÕs secrets revealed. And so on…

Self-Interest
Overall Story Issue

The Alliance is looking out for it’s own best interests. The captain and crew of Serenity constantly argue over doing what’s best for them or for others. Simon’s willingness to risk the crew’s life for the safety of his sister, River.

Morality
Overall Story Counterpoint

Getting the word out about “Miranda” in spite of the Alliance threat. Using the “calming” chemical to make better people. River’s concern for the others’ safety with her aboard the Serenity. Shepard Book’s willingness to harbor the Serenity fugitives.

Overall Story Thematic Conflict
Self-Interest vs.Morality

Should Mal have pushed the townie off their vehicle into guaranteed death at the hands of the Reavers (Self Interest) or kept the man and chucked the stolen money overboard (Morality)? Should the captain and crew of Serenity get rid of River (Self Interest) or take her to Miranda and reveal its secrets at any personal cost (Morality)?

Control
Overall Story Problem

The Alliance’s efforts to control it’s populace killed everyone on Miranda. Their efforts to control their human assassin makes her unstable and a threat to all, including the Alliance. The captain’s efforts to control his crew creates greater conflict among them.

Uncontrolled
Overall Story Solution

Freeing the information found on Miranda will undo the Alliance’s hold and warn the populace about the dangers of the Alliance’s efforts to control human evolution. Unleashing the frenzied Reavers allows the Serenity to break through an otherwise overwhelming Alliance armada.

Pursuit
Overall Story Symptom

The Operatives chase after River results in hundreds of innocent deaths.

Avoid
Overall Story Response

Run away, run away—the Serenity tries to hide from the Operative and the Alliance.

Approach
Overall Story Catalyst

The Operative’s emotionless and ruthless approach to finding and retrieving River gets him closer to her faster than he would otherwise. Serenity’s captain and crew approach of meeting conflicts head on (“It’s a trap. Let’s go in.”) speeds the eventual conflicts with the Operative and the Alliance.

Delay
Overall Story Inhibitor

The few tmes the Serenity ducks out of sight or the captain puts off making a decision about River slows down their conflict with the Alliance.

Understanding
Overall Story Benchmark

The more the crew of Serenity understands who and what River is and the nature of the secrets she holds, the closer they get to their ultimate destination.

Additional Overall Story Information →

Main Character Throughline

Malcome Reynolds — Serenity's captain

Universe
Main Character Throughline

Mal is captain of the Serenity and haunted by the fact that he enlisted with and fought for the losers in the battle against the Alliance. ItÕs not so much a stigma as a dubious badge of honor.

Future
Main Character Concern

Mal is deeply concerned with his crew’s future well-being, and the fact that he doesn’t seem to have much to look forward to (on a personal level) since Inara left.

Delay
Main Character Issue

Mal prefers to put off conflicts rather than to address them directly. Shepard chastises him for fence-sitting.

Choice
Main Character Counterpoint

Mal doesn’t understand why others may choose him (as lover or leader), but is reluctant to fight it. On the other hand, he is quick and willing to make choices that may be unpopular.

Main Character Thematic Conflict
Delay vs.Choice


Support
Main Character Problem

Mal gets riled up with bad things happen to those who support him.

Oppose
Main Character Solution
Pursuit
Main Character Symptom

Mal got the short end of the stick when he signed up to fight with the rebels against the Alliance and the Alliance won. Mal believes chasing after Inara won’t solve anything.

Avoid
Main Character Response

Mal steers clear of Inara and other personal entanglements to keep peace.

Openness
Main Character Unique Ability

Mal’s openness to River’s special qualities makes him take her back on board even though he knows how dangerous she can be. Mal’s openness to River’s certainty of the importance of “Matilda” gets them to find out River’s hidden secret. Mal’s openness to go against the odds and think outside the “box” lets them get past the Alliance armada and lets them broadcast the secret to the populace at large.

Self-Interest
Main Character Critical Flaw

When Mal acts in his own self interest, he loses credibility as a capable captain—his judgment is called into question. For example, when he chooses money over the villager during their bank robbery, and when he chooses to dump River and her brother off at the outpost because she’s a threat to Serenity’s safety.

Past
Main Character Benchmark

We see Mal’s personal development as both Inara and his role as anti-Alliance fighter come more and more into his every life.

Additional Main Character Information →

Influence Character Throughline

The Operative

Mind
Influence Character Throughline

The Operative is a single-minded assassin blindly adhering to the AllianceÕs world view, even though he knows that is no place for him in it.

Subconscious
Influence Character Concern

He finds faults in others through their “sins” but works to relieve them of their fears (to the opposite effect) as he kills them. For example, he kills the technician responsible for River after she escapes because the technician suffered the sin of “Pride” He rationalizes the technician’s death as a “good death” while the paralyzed technician slowly falls on the Operative’s upturned blade.

Hope
Influence Character Issue

The Operative hopes to help bring about the Alliance’s “perfect” future even though he knows he is damned and that there is no place for him in it.

Dream
Influence Character Counterpoint


Influence Character Thematic Conflict
Hope vs.Dream


Control
Influence Character Problem

The Operative’s absolute control of his actions and ideologies blinds him to behavior that occurs outside his influence. For example, his belief that he has absolute control over Inara blinds him to her planting a bomb in his presence. The Operative’s control over Mal using the “stun” move is critically ineffective because Mal had that nerve relocated after receiving a war wound.

Uncontrolled
Influence Character Solution

The Operative lets the crew of Serenity go and goes on the lamb himself once the broadcast of Miranda’s secrets have been broadcast.

Logic
Influence Character Symptom

The Operative finds logic to be incompatible and cumbersome to maintaining his fanatical beliefs. This is one reason he does NOT worry about the rationale behind the Alliance’s plans.

Feeling
Influence Character Response

The Operative exists in almost a fanatic’s calm fueled by an unassailable feeling of righteousness. This makes him a most effective killing machine.

Closure
Influence Character Unique Ability

The Operative impacts Mal by killing any known associates of his. This produces severe doubt in Mal’s efforts to help River.

Commitment
Influence Character Critical Flaw

The Operative’s fanatic willingness to do whatever is necessary to bring about the Alliance’s new world order undermines his effect on Mal because it there is no room for negotiation.

Memory
Influence Character Benchmark
More Influence Character Information →

Relationship Story Throughline

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Psychology
Relationship Story Throughline

Mal and the Operative play a game of psychological cat and mouse as hunted and hunter. The Operative tries a variety of psychological pressures (threat, fear, guilt, intimidation) while Mal counters with his own feints and unexpected reversals (knowingly enters traps, etc.).

Becoming
Relationship Story Concern

Mal is quite content to continue being his independent self, but the Operative thinks all those that can should be “evolved” per the Alliance’s plans—that or erased.

Commitment
Relationship Story Issue

The Operative is committed to the Alliance’s cause even though he will never be a part of their new world. Mal is firmly committed to his crew, even though their support of him is sorely tested.

Responsibility
Relationship Story Counterpoint


Relationship Story Thematic Conflict
Commitment vs.Responsibility


Faith
Relationship Story Problem

The Operative pity’s Mal because Mal does not share the fanaticism of his faith in the Alliance. The Operative’s faith energizes Mal to prove the Operative wrong which Mal ultimately does when he challenges the Operative’s faith by forcing the Operative to watch the Miranda broadcast.

Disbelief
Relationship Story Solution

The Operative’s eventual disbelief in the Alliance brings the former foes into their own tentative alliance.

Pursuit
Relationship Story Symptom

Though the Operative’s directive is to pursue and procure River, his growing hunter/hunted relationship with Mal makes it more personal.

Avoid
Relationship Story Response

Mal does his best to keep away from contact with the Operative.

Rationalization
Relationship Story Catalyst
Hope
Relationship Story Inhibitor
Conceptualizing
Relationship Story Benchmark

We can see the tightening of Mal and the Operative’s relationship as hunted and hunter as the cat and mouse game plans become clearer. While Mal is completely unaware of his hunted status at the beginning, he is nearly completely aware by the time he tries to warn his friends to leave before they’re attacked-too late.

Additional Relationship Story Information →

Additional Story Points

Key Structural Appreciations

Obtaining
Overall Story Goal

River (and the knowledge she holds) is clearly the object of desire by the Alliance. The foes of the Alliance (the Ògood guysÓ) want her secrets exposed. The Story Goal is to make known the secret hidden within River.

Becoming
Overall Story Consequence

The lesson of Miranda will not be learned and a likely repeat of the Alliance’s efforts to “evolve” mankind may result in extinction of most of the human race.

Subconscious
Overall Story Cost
Future
Overall Story Dividend
Past
Overall Story Requirements
Conceptualizing
Overall Story Prerequisites
Memory
Overall Story Preconditions
Past
Overall Story Forewarnings

Plot Progression

Dynamic Act Appreciations

Overall Story

Learning
Overall Story Signpost 1
Understanding
Overall Story Signpost 2
Doing
Overall Story Signpost 3
Obtaining
Overall Story Signpost 4

Main Character

Progress
Main Character Signpost 1
Past
Main Character Signpost 2
Future
Main Character Signpost 3
Present
Main Character Signpost 4

Influence Character

Memory
Influence Character Signpost 1
Preconscious
Influence Character Signpost 2
Subconscious
Influence Character Signpost 3
Conscious
Influence Character Signpost 4

Relationship Story

Conceptualizing
Relationship Story Signpost 1
Being
Relationship Story Signpost 2
Becoming
Relationship Story Signpost 3
Conceiving
Relationship Story Signpost 4

Plot Progression Visualizations

Dynamic Act Schematics

OS: MC: IC: RS:

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