Firefly (television series)

From Academic Kids

Firefly is a science fiction television series, which was first aired in the United States and Canada on September 20, 2002. It was created by Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Whedon and Tim Minear were the executive producers.

Missing image
Firefly-class transport Serenity


The show is set in the year 2517, following the depletion of Earth's resources and an expansion of the human race into the frontier of outer space. The show takes its name from the Firefly-class spaceship Serenity that the central characters call home; the ship's tail section lights up during acceleration, causing it to resemble a firefly. Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds is a veteran of the Unification War: a war of resistance against the Alliance - an organization that attempted to achieve the unification of all of the colonized planets under a single government. A central core of planets is under Alliance control; settlers and refugees in the farther reaches enjoy relative freedom from the long arm of the government, while lacking many of the amenities of a high-tech civilization. Mal now owns Serenity, making cargo runs and performing various other tasks — legal or otherwise — to scrape together a way of life for himself and his crew.

Featuring a blend of elements from the space opera and western genres, the show depicts mankind's future in a way that is uncharacteristic of many contemporary science fiction programs. Unlike most traditional space operas, there are no alien creatures or space battles. Some fans have compared the show to Outlaw Star in its style and execution (and certain story content and plot devices) with a setting similar to Trigun.[1] ( Firefly takes place in a multi-cultural future, where the divide between the rich and poor is great. Chinese is a common second language for many people; it is used in advertisements, and characters in the show frequently use Chinese words and curses. According to the DVD commentary on the episode Serenity, this could be explained by the emergence of two dominant governments: China and the United States. This is supported by close examination of large labels on the crates from the episode "Train Job", where crates of Alliance goods are marked with a Chinese flag superimposed over a United States flag.

The dialogue and interplay between characters is central to the plot of the program, resulting in a story that is alternately serious and humorous. The show's visual style also differs from contemporary shows in that camera shots are often handheld, with deliberately misframed or out-of-focus subjects, in an attempt to give scenes an immersive and immediate feeling; computer-generated scenes mimic the motion of a handheld camera. Action taking place in outer space realistically lacks sound effects, an approach that stands in contrast to more popular science fiction shows such as the Star Trek spin-offs.


Missing image
The cast of Firefly. From left to right: Jayne, Kaylee, Book, Simon, Inara, Mal, Zoë, Wash, and River.
  • Nathan Fillion plays Malcolm Reynolds, Serenity's captain and former Independent sergeant in the pivotal Battle of Serenity Valley.
  • Gina Torres plays Zoë, second-in-command onboard the Serenity and loyal wartime friend of Reynolds.
  • Alan Tudyk plays Wash, Serenity's pilot and Zoë's amusingly insecure husband.
  • Morena Baccarin plays Inara Serra, a Companion, which is the 26th century equivalent of a courtesan. Like her Renaissance colleagues, Inara enjoys high social standing. She and Mal have a mutual love-hate relationship, with unspoken sexual tension playing a part in several episodes.
  • Jewel Staite plays Kaywinnit Lee "Kaylee" Frye, ship's mechanic. With no formal training, she keeps the ship, Serenity, running with an intuitive mechanical talent. As a result, she's extremely sensitive to insults (or even candid observations) about the ship's appearance.
  • Adam Baldwin plays Jayne Cobb, crew member. He's a dull-witted, violent, and self-serving bandit whom Mal bought off while in the very process of being robbed by him. Despite his personality problems and propensity for disloyalty, he's a mercenary worth having, fearless and skilled.
  • Sean Maher plays Simon Tam, a medical researcher and physician of the first caliber, on the lam after breaking his sister River out of a government research facility. His bumbling attempts to start a relationship with Kaylee are a recurring subplot throughout the series.
  • Summer Glau plays River Tam, a stowaway. River was a genius and child prodigy, but suffered from unspecified experimentation at the hands of Alliance doctors. As a result, she is psychotic and almost impossible to communicate with, but still undeniably brilliant.
  • Ron Glass plays Book, a holy man or "Shepherd", but fits the role of a whiskey priest. He has priority status in the Alliance, for unspecified reasons, and demonstrates a peculiar depth of knowledge about firearms and criminal activities. His full identity remains a mystery throughout the series.

The show's plot pits these characters against various criminals and schemers, Alliance security forces, the violently insane Reavers, and the mysterious men with "hands of blue" who are apparently operatives of a secret agency referred to in the DVD commentary only as The Blue Sun Corporation. The crew is driven by the need to secure enough income to keep their ship operational, set against the need to keep a low profile to avoid their numerous adversaries. Their situation is greatly complicated by the divergent motivations of the individuals on board Serenity. The show's brief run did not allow full elucidation of all the complex interrelationships of the cast and their external contacts.

Airing and cancellation

Though the show had a loyal following during its original broadcast, it was cancelled by FOX in December 2002 after 11 episodes shown in the USA and Canada. Low ratings were blamed for the cancellation. In the hopes of getting another network such as UPN to pick up the cancelled show, fans formed the Firefly Immediate Assistance campaign, but were unsuccessful in promoting the show's continuance. Fillion later appeared in the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, while Torres and Baldwin took on recurring roles in Angel.

Fans attributed the low ratings in part to some actions of the FOX Network. Firefly was promoted as an action-comedy rather than the more serious character study it was intended to be; episodes were occasionally preempted for sporting events, and the episodes were not aired in the order that the creators had intended. Most notably, the two-hour episode "Serenity" was intended to be the pilot episode, as it contains most of the character introductions and back-story. However, FOX decided that "Serenity" was not a suitable pilot, and so the second episode, "The Train Job," was rushed into production to become the pilot episode.

The sequence of episodes aired varied by locality:

  • In the USA and Canada, starting on September 20, 2002, Fox broadcast the episodes on Fridays at 20:00 (except for the second hour of the pilot which was shown at 21:00). The order was 2-3, 6-8, 4-5, 9-10, 14, 1; with 11-13 unaired in the USA.
  • In South Africa, starting on 2003-04-15, the SABC3 broadcast the episodes on Tuesdays at 19:30. The order was 2-3, 6-8, 4-5, 9-10, 14, 1a-1b, 11-13.
  • In Mexico and South America, starting on 2003-04-19, MundoFOX broadcast the episodes on Saturdays at 18:00. The order was 2-3, 6-8, 4-5, 9-10, 13, 11, 14, 12; the pilot episode was not shown.
  • In the United Kingdom, starting on May 12, 2003, Sci Fi Channel (United Kingdom) broadcast the episodes on Mondays at 21:00 (except for the first hour of the pilot which was shown at 20:00). The altered episodes of the first season were shown in the originally intended order.
  • In the United States, starting on July 22, 2005, Sci-Fi Channel will air the show on Fridays at 19:00 Eastern/Pacific. It will be taking the slot previously occupied by Gene Roddenberry's: Andromeda. [2] (


First season
D Code Name Writers Director Premiere Channel
1 1AGE79 "Serenity" (2 hours) Joss Whedon Joss Whedon December 20, 2002 FOX
2 1AGE01 "The Train Job" Joss Whedon,
Tim Minear
Joss Whedon September 20, 2002 FOX
3 1AGE02 "Bushwhacked" Tim Minear Tim Minear September 27, 2002 FOX
4 1AGE03 "Shindig" Jane Espenson Vern Gillum November 1, 2002 FOX
5 1AGE04 "Safe" Drew Z. Greenberg Michael Grossman November 8, 2002 FOX
6 1AGE05 "Our Mrs. Reynolds" Joss Whedon Vondie Curtis Hall October 4, 2002 FOX
7 1AGE06 "Jaynestown" Ben Edlund Marita Grabiak October 18, 2002 FOX
8 1AGE07 "Out of Gas" Tim Minear David Solomon October 25, 2002 FOX
9 1AGE08 "Ariel" Jose Molina Allan Kroeker November 15, 2002 FOX
10 1AGE09 "War Stories" Cheryl Cain Jim Contner December 6, 2002 FOX
11 1AGE12 "Trash" Ben Edlund,
Jose Molina
Vern Gillum June 28, 2003 MundoFOX
12 1AGE13 "The Message" Joss Whedon,
Tim Minear
Tim Minear July 15, 2003 SABC3
13 1AGE10 "Heart of Gold" Brett Matthews Tom Wright August 19, 2003 MundoFOX
14 1AGE11 "Objects in Space" Joss Whedon Joss Whedon December 13, 2002 FOX

DVD box set

Missing image
DVD box set.

A box set with the 14 completed episodes, including those unaired in the USA, was released on region 1 DVD on December 9, 2003, region 2 DVD on April 19, 2004, and region 4 DVD on August 2, 2004. The box features the episodes in the original order in which the show's producers had intended them to be broadcast, as well as several episode commentaries, outtakes and other features.

Nominations and awards

Firefly won the Emmy for Outstanding special visual effects for a series.

The pilot episode, "Serenity", won the Visual Effects Society's Best visual effects in a television series award, and was nominated for Best compositing in a televised program, music video, or commercial. It came second in the 2002 Hugo Best dramatic presentation, short form category; and was nominated for a Golden reel award by the Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA in the Best sound editing in television long form: sound effects/foley category.

Nathan Fillion won the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA's Cinescape genre face of the future award, male for his portrayal as Mal.

The DVD won the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films' 2004 Saturn award for Best DVD television release; and was nominated for a Golden satellite award in the Best DVD extras category.

"The Message" came 2nd and "Heart of Gold" 4th in the 2003 Hugos' best dramatic presentation, short form category; despite not being shown on television in the USA.


Whedon said in an April 2003 USA Today interview that he hadn't given up on the show, and hoped to continue it in any format. A movie, Serenity, based on the series has completed filming and is scheduled for release in the USA on 30 September 2005.


Fans speculate on many plot matters that are left unresolved in the series as well as several technical issues. These issues include:

  • The size of the inhabited planetary or star system in which the series takes place; it may take place within several solar systems (which would require faster-than-light travel), or just one. No faster-than-light travel is mentioned in the series, nor is there a precise allusion to the number of inhabited worlds or the distances between them. The introduction sequence to the episodes say that mankind found another solar system and colonised this and its mention of the inner planets of the alliance and the outer planets would seem to suggest a single star system; however, it would be next to impossible for the number of planets mentioned and shown in the series to be naturally supported by a single star.
  • Every planet seems to have an equal light source to the sun, both in intensity of brightness, and in color, leaving one in speculation as to how as many planets as are seen on the show could all have an equivalent light source while rotating around the same sun, yet not being in close enough proximity to disturb each other's gravity, tides, or even being seen in the sky of other planets (excepting the singular occurrence in "The Train Job").
  • Reavers are spoken of as men gone mad after having reached "the edge of the galaxy", though it is unclear whether this is meant literally.
  • Though the commercial entity known as Blue Sun is never verbally mentioned in the series, advertisements and billboards are present in several scenes, as are labels on clothing and food products such as canned food and coffee. In the DVD commentary for the pilot episode "Serenity", Joss Whedon noted "I hadn't one hundred percent figured out what I wanted to do with Blue Sun, how I wanted you guys [the cast] to approach it", going on to say that it was intended to be a kind of powerful corporate conglomerate, like Coca-Cola or Microsoft, and that "practically half the government was Blue Sun".
  • There is also speculation on the past of two featured characters in the show. The most notable is Shepherd Book, to whom ties to the Alliance have been alluded. Also, the character Inara Serra is hinted in the DVD commentary to have more in her past than was shown in the show's short run.

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