It only lasted 15 episodes, quite often aired out of order, and was met with lacklustre ratings and network apathy, but managed to become a modern classic. And as usual it took me almost a decade to discover it.
I am talking about Firefly. For those of you in the know, let the squealing begin. For those who have no idea, prepare to be educated.
Firefly is a gem created by genius writer/director Joss Whedon of The Avengers and Dr Horrible and Buffy fame. Savour that resume, it speaks volumes of his greatness. Joss pitched this idea to Fox of doing a space western, complete with horses, gunplay and spaceships. They said yes, and then trounced the show endlessly to ensure cancellation. Wagging my finger of shame at them! Still wagging!
Starring Nathan Fillion as Captain Mal Reynolds, Firefly is set in the future where the human race has expanded itself out into space, colonizing and terra-forming worlds all over. Mal grew up on a frontier planet and when these worlds fight a war of independence against the central government, he readily enlists to keep out of the clutches of the Earth. And his side loses. This shakes Mal, and we pick up with him years later as he carves out a meager living doing legal and illegal activities. But his mindset is still very much of the war. Us Versus Them.
Mal goes about his business in an old Firefly style cargo ship called Serenity, crewed with an assortment of characters sporting various temperaments. His first officer is war buddy and tough-ass Zoe, who is married to fun loving pilot Wash. Hired muscle Jayne is as tough as he is stupid while spunky engineer Kaylee keeps the patchwork ship together. Finishing off the seasoned crew is Inara, an Ambassador of an entirely different sort. By the end of the pilot, more restless souls come aboard. Shepherd Book is a preacher trying to help wherever and whomever he can, not always an easy task. And the fugitive brother sister pair of the repressed Dr Simon and the offworldy River.
With this crew in place, assorted adventures and peril awaits. Getting jobs, keeping the ship moving, completing jobs, avoiding the Alliance, fighting duels, and surviving pirates are just some the gist of their travels. Oh and keeping a gazillion miles of space between them and the Reavers. With good reason.
Whedon and crew blend dramatic moments, snappy lines, and great fight scenes together with expert skill. One early episode gives us Mal’s way of dealing with a new arch villain, which is funny in the blackest humour kind of way. Besides the pilot two partner, called appropriately Serenity Part 1 and 2, my other favourite misadventures were Shindig, Out Of Gas, Ariel, and Objects In Space, the final episode.
After Firefly ended a premature death, fans were left to mount campaigns for its return. Much pressure from the devoted resulted in everyone reuniting for the major motion picture Serenity. Things happen, oh so many things happen, with secrets revealed and a last hour filled with insane battles of all types. Whedon creates this show, breaks it into a million pieces, and rebuilds it before our very eyes. The ending should have the warning sign of “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here” prominently displayed, just to give us all proper bracing for it. Still on the edge of my seat thinking about it right now. Maybe after the success of the Avengers, Whedon will be given the keys again to provide us with a sequel. We can always hope.
Shortly after I finished viewing all of Firefly, Serenity, and every single extra available on the dvds, I stumbled upon The Toronto Browncoats annual public worldwide charity showing of Serenity. So on Saturday June 23rd 2012, my friends @AinslieKeith, @Taliana83 and I attended this screening with all proceeds going to Equality Now, followed up with an auction of geek items. My first immersion into Firefly fandom was exhilarating and wonderful.
With that first bastion now complete, I am slowly looking into the comics, books, and woolen caps that populate the wonderful expanded Firefly universe. Who is Shepherd Book really? What is River’s true potential? Can Kaylee keep Serenity up and running? Will Dr Simon someday completely unclench? And will Mal finally put his ghosts behind him? All valid questions that I can’t wait for the answers to.
As the amazing theme song says, also written by the immortal Joss himself, you can take many things from Mal, but not Serenity. The skies are his home now.
P.S. Firefly and Serenity is copyright 2012 to Universal Studios. Special thanks to my brother Mark for loaning me his copies.
P.P.S. You can read about the Firefly Comic-Con reunion panel here.