It’s been a few days since Ron Glass died at the age of 71. He was known to many as Detective Harris on Barney Miller, but to sci-fi fans he was the mysterious Shepherd Book on Firefly. Book had been living in an abbey and was wondering what to do next. A girl in a parasol suggested he take a ride in a space ship called Serenity and his life, her’s and the ship’s crew would never be the same.
When Ron died last weekend, many people tweeted their favorite Shepherd Book quotes, especially his final words to Mal in the movie Serenity.
I had seen Ron three times, at San Diego Comic-Con, a Creation Con in Burbank in 2010, and the famous Browncoat Cruise to Cabo in 2007. I was able to find the three DVD set that cruise passengers got as a memento. The 2nd DVD had the big events, including concerts by Sonny Rhodes (who sang the Firefly theme song) and the Bedlam Bards.
It also had Glass being joined on a panel by Michael Fairman (Niska), Jonathan Woodward (Tracey in “The Message”) and Nectar Rose (Lenore in Serenity).
While watching the DVDs to prepare for this article, I wiped away a tear when I saw Ron at the panel, stunned that five years after the show had ended no one there asked him what he thought Book did before he became a shepherd. Actually, he had admitted he had no idea, and later Joss would finally provide Book with a past. That would eventually become the hardcover book The Shepherd’s Tale, which would be released in 2010. I shed another tear when I heard the fans cheer the announcement of the new story.
Ron talked about other things, such as giving Nathan Fillion the shirt off his back because Nathan asked (he apparently has that power), and an embarrassing moment that involved photos and a scary invite. Then Ron read a question from someone who wondered why he would always talk about Firefly even if it was considered a flop. The answer was simple: “There was something really powerfully special about the experience. And so, it was difficult to let it go, and you guys continue to make it very, very alive, and so, you know, we’re just happy to continue to participate in that experience with you guys.”
And that’s when he asked the cruise and con staff to come forward, so Jeremy Neish (who helped produce and direct the Firefly documentary Done the Impossible) could call him Grandpa.. and then propose to his girlfriend.
Why isn’t this panel on YouTube?
Well, at least there’s this video, which condenses the cruise to nine minutes and includes the proposal at the 6:54 mark.
Ron also mentioned a favorite moment from Barney Miller, when Harris had to go undercover as a woman… which meant shaving off his mustache. He mentioned the other men were impressed, while he responded he looked good, but didn’t want to look that good. He also had comments about Lawrence Olivier as Othello, mainly the makeup.
It was a wonderful memory that was thankfully preserved on DVD. There’s already a Facebook page on the cruise, and likely also memories about Ron.
Ron had a small but key role in the first season of Agents of SHIELD. In the pilot, he was Dr. Streiten, who helped send Phil Coulson to T.A.H.I.T.I after he died in The Avengers. He warned his staff never to tell Coulson was happened, but Coulson figured it out in “The Magical Place.”
Ron Glass will be missed by Whedonverse fans, Browncoats, and anyone else who enjoyed quality TV in the past 45 years.
If you wish to honor Ron Glass’ memory, he was very involved with The Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center in Los Angeles, CA, a nonprofit youth center which provides free after-school and low-cost summer programs for boys and girls in grades 3-12.