“We have done the impossible, and that makes us mighty” – Mal Reynolds
The TV junkyard is littered with dozens if not hundreds of gems that are shows that were killed off too early by dim-witted TV executives. Everyone’s got a favorite show that they loved but apparently no one else did, hence the quick cancellation. Firefly is a prime example. But unlike many of these forgotten gems, Firefly continues to shine 20 years after its debut on television.
Created by Joss Whedon, the man behind the Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and of course, the first two Avengers films, Firefly premiered in the 2002 fall schedule on Fox and was quickly canceled after only fourteen episodes were filmed (fifteen if you count the original pilot episode “Serenity” as a two-part show). In fact, not even all the episodes were aired. But the show found a new life after cancellation in the world of home media. Word of mouth quickly spread and a cult following not seen since Star Trek blossomed.
For the uninitiated the show is basically a science fiction western taking place in 2517, showcasing a group of renegades and smugglers who eke out an existence on board a Firefly-class space freighter called the Serenity. This is the back story; humanity has used up Earth’s resources sometime in the future. Eventually, people abandoned Earth, traveled to another solar system and terraformed dozens of planets and moons to make them habitable. Now the original terraformed planets are the Core Planets and have the latest in technology and resources and are considered the center of the universe or ‘verse as said in the show. The outer planets in the system are known as the Border Planets or Outer Planets and don’t have access to the latest technologies. The people living there are left to fend for themselves with basic tools. In these backwater worlds, the highest level of technology is on the level of the nineteenth century with horses being the common mode of transport. This is why the show has that dusty and rustic Western look. Basically, the show is set in an interplanetary society of haves and have nots.
In the pilot’s opening scenes, viewers witnessed a brutal battle in the civil war between the Alliance (the main governing body of the Core Planets) and the Independents, which was comprised of the Outer Planets. The Alliance won the aforementioned Battle of Serenity Valley and the war. During that battle the show introduced one of the soldiers who fought for the Independents, Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (Nathan Fillion). According to interviews, Whedon stated that this was an allegory to the American Civil War with the main characters standing in for former Confederate soldiers.
Several years later and now a jaded cynic, Mal owns a beat-up freighter ship that he uses for smuggling operations. His crew is comprised of loyal first mate Zoë Alleyne (Gina Torres), another Independent war veteran; carefree pilot Hoban “Wash” Washburne (Alan Tudyk), who is married to Zoë and loves Hawaiian shirts, dinosaur figures and his wife; Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite), the whimsical ship’s mechanic and Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin) a greedy and not-too-bright muscle man. The rest of the cast are the passengers on board the ship for various reasons. Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin) is a beautiful and cultured prostitute who rents a small shuttle on board and is attracted to Mal and vice versa. Their unrequited romantic tension was a major sub-plot. Reverend Book (Ron Glass) is a spiritual wanderer with a mysterious past with hinted ties to the Alliance. The final two passengers provided much of Firefly’s conflict; Simon (Sean Maher) and River Tam (Summer Glau), two sibling fugitives on the run. River was a gifted student who was forced to undergo deadly experiments by the Alliance and became a deadly psychic killing machine masked under the guise of a gentle and mildly mentally challenged teenage girl. Her brother Simon, a successful rich doctor, risked everything (including his wealth) to free her from the Alliance. In the pilot, Mal decided to allow them to remain on board, provided Simon took a job as the ship’s medic, and kept an eye on her.
Throughout the series, they faced dangers in the form of cannibalistic savages called Reavers, other smugglers, criminals, the unscrupulous upper class and the Alliance itself. The stories were usually about capers and the mishaps they would get into. They were well written with witty dialogue that had an interesting touch; the characters would often speak Mandarin. Whedon surmised that in the future both western and American culture will blend with Asian cultures and great pains are taken to show this in the series. Signs and view screens show Asian and English script, while many crowd scenes had a multicultural ambiance with people wearing outfits influenced by various cultures.Continue reading