Saturday evening brought the sad news that Ron Glass had passed away at the age of just 71. Glass has a storied enough career with plenty of notable roles, but of course I and many others associate him almost entirely with the part of Shepherd Book on Firefly and on Serenity.
Book was as vital a cog in the overall narrative machine as anyone else, which didn’t have to be so. In the hands of someone less professional, emotive and engaging, Book could really have been the odd one out, the old man on a crew of the young, just sort of there. But instead, Book was a charming, vital and altogether fascinating member of the crew, thanks to Glass’s performance. From the moment you first see Book looking at the ships instead of looking at the destinations in the Eavesdown Docks, to the moment of his death at the hands of the Alliance, Glass gave us Shepherd Book, the preacher, the badass, the mysterious enigma with the shady past. Glass was good enough of an actor to make this all fit together, to resent to us this sympathetic charitable and friendly Shepherd who could turn as hard as steel and cold as the void in a moment. Watch that switch in the opening moments of “Objects In Space” again to see what I mean.
And when the time came for Book to go, Glass again succeeded, imbuing his performance in Serenity with all of the wisdom, the guidance and that continued air of tantalising mystery, all the way up to when Book “kills the ship that killed us”. Book’s dying words are the final catalyst for Mal’s most fateful decision, and Ron Glass, playing a man bleeding to death in a desert planet, nailed that perfect mix of desperation, knowledge and spiritual insight.
“So how come you don’t care where you’re going?”
“Cause how you get there is the worthier part.”
RIP Ron Glass.