Niska's Torture is a lot like Multiple Sclerosis...

Niska's Torture is a lot like Multiple Sclerosis...

firefly-niskas torture is a lot like multiple sclerosisIn the tenth episode, "War Stories", of the science fiction television series Firefly, the audience sits though some intense torture scenes of the beloved heroes, Mal and Wash, by one of the most dangerous enemies, Adelai Niska.

Niska was the leader of a criminal syndicate that dealt in murder, extortion, robbery, and drug dealing in the Firefly verse.


Angered at Zoe's unshakable war connection to Mal, Wash demands a shot at a field assignment. Unfortunately, crime lord Niska chooses this moment to exact a brutal vengeance for Mal's failure to complete an earlier job.

What is having Multiple Sclerosis like?

While comparing MS to something you see on TV may seem trite, this unpredictable, incurable, disabling disease is often super hard to explain as the symptoms affect the nervous system and don't generally start with any visible symptoms, but rather affect the patient from the inside out.

I thought comparing the visual torture to what's happening inside the bodies of someone with MS who "looks fine" might bring a bit more of an impact and understanding to just what someone with MS is suffering through, even though they may never tell you about it.

MS can be torture... 

After being kidnapped, Mal and Wash are blindfolded, handcuffed and shuffled into the torture chamber.

Mal Blindfolded

  • The MS Comparison:
    • My first symptom was completely losing vision in my left eye due to swelling in my optic nerve
    • Optic Neuritis It is TERRIFYING, despite the doctor saying your vision should return, it is sooo hard to believe that to be true. And while most of my vision did return, it has not ever gotten back to 100% in colour, brightness or clarity, and goes fuzzy when overheated or stressed.

In the show, Niska appears and begins his Xiang Yu-inspired torture, but Wash and Mal spend the entire time continuing their bickering, all the while refusing to acknowledge the torture.

Mal and Wash resisting torture

  • The MS Comparison:
    • When you are first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, many people try to fight it, this was true with me, I still tried to do everything I still did before, and some days, I still do...but this usually never works in my favour in the long run, and I end up crashing and burning.

Niska enjoys attaching some jolt educing electrodes to the heroes, and continues to randomly shock and brutalize his captives.

  • The MS Comparison:
    • From nerve pain, numbness, tingling, burning sensations in ANY or ALL parts of your body, for moments at a time, or for hours, days or forever.
    • No wonder folks with MS are not occasionally not in the mood to head out and party with you as it has taken all of their focus and energy of the day just to get done what they needed to get done despite the pain.

After Mal has endured further torture without breaking down, Niska has a device affixed to Mal's chest which forces thin tendrils underneath his skin, causing extreme pain. 

  • The MS Comparison:
    • There is also a part of the condition called the "MS Hug", a contraction of the ribcage that feels like it is squeezing the life out of you, not a friendly hug at all.
    • There can also be an electric shock feeling that shoots down your neck, stinging like a son of a b...

Zoey goes into offer Niska money in return for Mal and Wash, though she is only allowed to choose one, and immediately chooses Wash, who collapses.

what MS fatigue feels like

  • The MS Comparison: 
    • MS fatigue is NOT JUST BEING is like being unable to be concious, like you cannot remain upright for one second longer, no matter how much sleep you have gotten, and naps don't generally solve it.
    • If we say we're too tired, or fatigued, please, please, don't tell us we just need "more sleep". 

Deep inside the skyplex, the intrusion alarm distracts Niska. Mal uses the distraction to take out the torturer with the same tendril-producing device used on him earlier. As Mal starts to beat the retreating Niska, the torturer recovers, giving his boss a chance to escape.

fighting the villain

  • The MS Comparison: 
    • MS is sneaky and can cause damage that fades and then reoccurs with powerful vigour. It never completely repairs, though research is looking into repairing the lining on the nerves.
    • At certain points, or with certain progressions, it can just continue to progress, never getting any remission in symptoms.
    • Now of course, while we do try to get to sleep, we could be tired for poor quality sleep, as the nerve pain, tingling, bowel or bladder issues, can keep us up and make the fatigue issues worse.

MS is truly a torturous enemy that I have to learn to live with on a daily basis. It can steal your ability to walk, use your hands, swallow, see, control your bowels, strength, cognitive function, flexibility, steadiness, confidence, financial security, and sense of self. 

Part of the Crew

The rescuers arrive to find Mal being throttled by the torturer. Though Zoe initially suggests Mal must face his torturer alone, he exclaims in the opposite, and the crew guns the torturer down.

Serenity-Firefly crew

  • MS Comparison:
    • Just like the Serenity Crew rushing in headlong to rescue Mal, partners, family, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, donors etc. are all important members, each with special skills.

Anytime folks donate to my MS Walk efforts or join an MS Walk or MS Bike Team, you join a part of the team that helps to strengthen those connections between the patient that has MS and their crew. 

Hopefully, one day, on account of the help from each and every crew member, a person with MS will be able to exclaim, "No power in the verse can stop me!"

Also-I can kill you with my brain!






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