R. Tam sessions
The R. Tam sessions are a series of five short videos released by Joss Whedon over the Internet, which were set within his fictional Firefly universe. They chronicled several of the early in-universe interviews with the emotionally troubled Firefly character River Tam.
Although released unofficially, the videos were meant as a form of viral marketing for the 2005 film Serenity. The sessions were released on the Internet between August 16 and September 5 of 2005. They are included on the Collector's Edition DVD for Serenity.
Set before the events of the Firefly television series and the film Serenity, the R. Tam sessions depict excerpts of counseling sessions with the character River Tam while she is held at an Alliance "learning facility" known only as "The Academy." The counselor in these sessions is played by Joss Whedon himself, while Summer Glau appears as River. The videos shed some light on the experiments and torture "The Academy" conducted on River. They "document" her change from a shy child prodigy to the mentally unstable character of the television series.
The five clips are listed here in the order in which they were released, but the actual chronological order is indicated by the numbering, session 1 being the first clip and session 416 being the last.
R. Tam, Session 416 – Second Excerpt
We see a man sitting in a chair by a table. After a few seconds of silence, he puts his hands to his throat and begins to cough violently. We see him pull out what is apparently a pen, and throw it onto the table. After a few seconds of struggling, he falls out of his chair onto the floor. With blood on her hand, River then appears on screen, looks directly at the camera, and whispers, "I can see you."
R. Tam, Session 1 – Excerpt
We are introduced to a young girl named River. She is being interviewed by the same man who was murdered in the first clip. The setting is apparently the same room by the same table. This clip takes place before the previous one, as indicated by the numbering and River's personality. The interviewer begins to question River about her life, such as how school is going, and asks her if she would be interested in joining what is presumably "the Academy." This clip establishes River as being extremely intelligent, and hints at her having extremely intuitive, or possibly psychic, powers.
R. Tam, Session 22 – Excerpt
River is having second thoughts about how she may not be "the right subject" for the treatments being done to her. She requests a transfer back to a normal school, despite it being "too slow." The video then cuts to another conversation. River says "it's the Pax" (a reference to the events of Serenity), and makes another non sequitur about a patient who died on the table while the interviewer (apparently a doctor) was performing a surgery which points toward her being a mind-reader as it was something she did not see and was not told but that the interviewer was aware of. She desires very much to see her brother (Simon) in person, but the interviewer obliquely denies this request, suggesting that she write to him instead.
R. Tam, Session 165 – Excerpt
In this excerpt, River has experienced a psychotic break and is pacing around instead of sitting down as in the previous excerpts. She is rambling (with the occasional stutter) about how she apparently cut up her mattress for reasons unknown to anyone else but herself, making a reference to the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea. She claims that she has no "mission," apparently seeking the purpose to why she is at this institution. Suddenly after a video cut, she shrieks and bends over on the table, and claims that something in the mattress is "sticking in [her]" and screams repeatedly at the interviewer that "they cut it out" (a reference to the Firefly episode "Ariel").
River's reference to The Princess and the Pea is a typically double-sided remark, referring to the story of a Princess that could not get to sleep because of a pea under her mattress. Likewise, in Serenity, it's implied that River's psychosis is caused by a similar 'pea' – a secret so important that her mind fragmented simply to keep itself safe.
R. Tam, Session 416 – First Excerpt
River says that Dr. Mathias "gave [her] a mission" and is apparently aware that her brother Simon is looking for her. She says she cannot tell the interviewer what this mission is, and that she will have to write it down, extending a hand for the pen the interviewer is holding.