Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds… Nathan Fillion
Zoe Washburne… Gina Torres
Hoban “Wash” Washburne… Alan Tudyk
Jayne Cobb… Adam Baldwin
Inara Serra… Morena Baccarin
Kaywinnet “Kaylee” Frye… Jewel Staite
Shepherd Derrial Book… Ron Glass
Dr Simon Tam… Sean Maher
River Tam… Summer Glau
Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
WASH: Psychic, though? That sounds like something out of science fiction.
ZOE: You live in a spaceship, dear.
— “Objects in Space” (S01E14)
Firefly seemed an abrupt departure for creator Joss Whedon. Previously best-known for Buffy’s teen-friendly cultishness, Firefly was Whedon’s first foray into proper network television; a science fiction adventure series set in a vaguely disturbing future, on board a vaguely ramshackle ship, featuring a group of vaguely disreputable individuals. It was, quite simply, the best original sci-fi show of the decade. Funny, of course, but also a very true allegory, and an allegorical truth. It was Western-esque, with the lawlessness and the men on horses and the cathouses and all that dirt, but it was also very science fiction, with themes like Galactic Empire and Space Pirates and Pscyhic Enhancement and… well, the spaceship. Everything was kind of familiar, yet so vivid and unexpected and mind-bendingly awesome that it was hard to believe it was really happening.
Why It’s Must-See: Are you crazy?! It’s Firefly! Go watch it! If you’ve already seen it, go watch it again! Buy copies for your friends and then watch it with them! Start watching it while reading this review!
UST Factor: It’s there, certainly, but never really had time to develop into a full-blown Whedonian angst-fest.
Cancellation: Unfortunately for us all, Firefly struggled to find the expected audience right out of the gate – Whedon’s Buffy fans weren’t necessarily sci-fi fans, and sci-fi fans weren’t necessarily interested in anything touched by Buffy – and after being haphazardly aired out of order by a confused network. the show was cancelled after only 11 episodes went to air.
And Then What? In 2005 came a triumphant big screen return to this future ‘Verse, with Serenity becoming arguably the very best installment of a very great show. With a bigger budget came a bigger canvas on which to paint his complex, elaborate and somewhat alarming future, and Joss Whedon definitely made hay while the stars shone. He brought back his stellar cast, wrote the script himself, and created a film that is both an exciting celebration of, and satisfying conclusion to, the tale he had been forced to cut short. There are also several comics, that effectively bridge the gap between the TV show and the movie, as well as the 6-issue Serenity: Leaves on the Wind, which follows on from the film.
Fandom Hall of Fame: When released on DVD, in a set that included the three unaired episodes, Firefly sold close to a quarter million copies, huge for the DVD market and even huger for a cancelled television show. It was on the strength of these sales that the movie Serenity was funded. Something to remember, in these piratical times.
Fan Collective Noun: Browncoats, or occasionally Flans, in tribute to that one time Nathan Fillion tripped over the words “Firefly fans” at a Convention. The internet has a very long memory.
Notable Merchandise: When niche marketers ThinkGeek released a licensed version of Jayne’s Hat (a knitted orange and yellow beanie replete with a pom pom and ear flaps, as seen in one episode) in 2016, little did they realize that it would be the beginning of a war on knitters, as Etsy stores that had been in business for years were suddenly shut down, Fox’s lawyers claiming copyright infringement. Some months later, after much upset in the fan community, ThinkGeek announced the decision to donate all proceeds to a Firefly charity, and the “Jayne Hat”s reappeared online as “Not a Jayne Firefly Hat,” and in crocheted rather than knitted versions. Elsewhere, a role-playing game, Firefly Online, has been in development since 2014.
On the Page: As well as the comics this is a dictionary, three illustrated companions (available collected and gorgeously bound in a book entitled Firefly: A Celebration), and more than a few collections of essays on the subject, including two in the venerable Smart Pop series, Finding Serenity and Serenity Found.
Did You Know? In Nathan Fillion’s long-running detective series Castle, references to his Firefly past are prevalent, including a Malcolm Reynolds Halloween costume, and a reference to learning Chinese – a big part of the Firefly lexicon – “at his last job.”