That fate wasn’t acceptable to the many fans of Firefly – or Browncoats, as they’re known. Their campaigns eventually helped lead to the feature-length film Serenity, so they could keep flying with Captain Mal Reynolds and crew for just a little longer. So what is it that made Firefly so worth fighting for?
Well, for one thing, the world-building is immense – spread over a thousand small worlds. The universe Mal and his crew drift through is very unlike our own, and yet it seems so natural that you’ll stop noticing the weirdness within about ten minutes of the iconic opening titles in the first episode. The alien slang and the quirky customs that come with the cowboys-in-space theme are seamlessly woven into the story, helped along by the talents of the main cast.
The crew of Serenity – a Firefly-class spaceship – form the cast of regulars . Chief of the bunch are Captain Mal, a former sergeant in the Browncoat Army, now pretty much just drifting around defying the Alliance, his trusted second-in-command Zoe, her husband and top pilot Wash, Kaylee, the Verse’s most adorable mechanic, and Jayne, who’s so terrifying that very few people dare to tell him he has a girl’s name. They’re joined by Inara – a companion who sub-lets one of the ship’s two shuttles, Shepherd Book – a man of the cloth, and Dr Simon Tam, along with his sister River, who are on the run from the Alliance.
Crazy Odd Couple-style adventures in which this unlikely crew just live with each other in a small space would probably be enough to make this an engaging show. The characters are dynamic and believable, and no flaw or awkward moment is hidden away – but that’s not what the show is about. No, this show is about cowboys in space, with a little bit of smuggling on the side. Dramatic peril and death-defying spaceship-flying stunts (who can forget the Crazy Ivan in episode one?) flow seamlessly into touching relationship moments and hilarious one-liners as Serenity glides through the ‘verse, causing trouble wherever she goes.
A word of caution, though: if you’re annoyed by abandoned fanfictions or books with the last few pages torn out, you’ll be gnashing your teeth when you reach the end of the series’ DVD box set. Firefly was cancelled in the middle of its first series, and the story doesn’t really come to any kind of logical fulfilment or end. The last episode produced is clearly a mid-season episode and there are hints at what would have been a great continuation of the series that will have you shaking your fist at the heavens and calling the people responsible for the cancellation all sorts of names you wouldn’t want your mum to hear you using. Perhaps that’s why the Browncoats felt so strongly about the way their beloved series ended.
Whatever the reason, the Browncoats lobbied for some time for another series to be made, and even had a whip-round to raise the cash themselves. Due to a complication with the ownership of the rights to the show, there never was a second series – or an end to the first – but the Browncoats did manage to get the cast and crew back together again to make the feature film, Serenity. Admittedly, it doesn’t pick up exactly where the series left off, but it’s definitely set in the same ‘verse and you’re flying with the same crew. It was a triumph of fan organisation, and the film was fantastic in itself. Since then there have been fan-made spinoffs, official graphic novels, and constant meetups and parties. The Firefly fandom shows no signs of slowing.
The show’s been off-air for about ten years now, but at San Diego Comic-Con earlier this month, around 10,000 fans camped out overnight in order to get their place at Firefly’s 10-year anniversary panel. That’s pretty shiny. And if that’s not enough evidence that you should check out the show and the film – if you haven’t already – I don’t know how to convince you. Did I mention space cowboys? Yeah. Go and check it out.
I’d give this show a 5 out of 5, and its fans would still probably call me a harsh critic.
Eleanor Musgrove (You can’t take the sky from me)