Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds is the Serenity's captain. He has a sharp sense of humour and yet suffers under the belief that the destruction of the existing political and social institutions (i.e. the Alliance) is necessary for future improvement of life the universe and everything. His opposition to the unification of the planets was met with failure and he and Zoe (his right hand girl) are members of a lost cause that fought a sort of rebel Anti-Alliance - and lost.
Mal was rasied by his mother on their ranch (on the planet Shadow). He always considers that ranching is a good life and with 40 ranch hands, they must have been fairly prosperous.
Book is the ships moral guidance. He’s older and supposedly wiser than the rest of the crew. It’s not yet known if his mission on Serenity is to use the ship to help spread the word of God throughout the universe or if he’s just on a walkabout?
Unfortunately it seems that he’s the worst of both, a moral dude who also needs to find himself! As yet, he has an irritating personality and far too many 'put the gun down son' lines.
This is a big, tough thug. He’s been billed as thoroughly unpleasant and who the hell can blame him!? This poor, ruthless, mercenary, thug-geezer has a girlies name! I mean, yer hardly going to grow up to be effeminate with a name like Jayne are you? It’s like Fred in Angel, she’s hardly masculine.
River is a borderline psychic although she’s more likely a borderline psychotic. She can read minds and has the annoying habit of not only telling people what is on her mind, but also the thoughts of others! That’s a very inconvenient skill!
Simon Tam is the argumentative (at least with the Captain) ships doctor. He is a fugitive after he used all his resources to rescue his sister (River) from those no-good hoodlums, the Alliance.
This is a real shame for Simon who was raised in a wealthy household. He is used to all the good things in life and now finds himself part of a bunch misfits on a transport ship.
However, he has demonstrated very clearly that he is totally devoted to his sister. He placed his own life in danger to save her from the Alliance. He once explained his relationship and why he sacrificed his wealthy lifestyle:
Wash is the all seeing and competent Serenity driver. He’s also the lucky git who’s married to Zoe. Despite this he is unassuming, quiet and pretty easygoing which is a complete load of bollocks in my book! Lets face it, if we were the pilot of a spaceship and married to someone who is drop-dead-lovely, would we have such a personality? I know I wouldn’t. I’d be strutting around posing in my spaceship telling everyone how it can do 0-60 in less than a microsecond and proudly showing off my wedding wallet-picture of Zoe to my mates.
Zoe is the drop dead gorgeous right hand girl of Captain Mal. She served with him during the war and apparently he saved her life so I guess she feels partly indebted. She’s not just a pretty face, she’s also pretty capable of kicking ass when needed. She’s resourceful, loyal and dependable. Unfortunately guys, she’s not single, she’s also married to Wash, the ships pilot.
Although loyal, Zoe is not frightened of voicing her opinion if she believes the Captain is wrong. She does this regularly and their interaction is very nice to watch.
Joss Whedon describes Reevers as:
"On the other side he has mindless savages called Reavers, which are a lot less complicated. You see them and you run. They're not monsters. What they are, are people who went out into space, saw the extraordinary nothingness and went completely out of their heads. They've become cannibalistic marauding savages. They're kind of like the Comanche in the old movies except without playing it as a racial thing at all, or even a cultural thing. It's a very personal thing. These are men who just gave up on the concept of humanity and are the scariest, worst, most awful serial-killing pirates who ever sailed around in burnt out ships in space. Everybody is terrified of them — Yeah, they're really fun."