‘Member when I told y’all I was going to get my geek on regarding the Firefly ‘verse (including the movie Serenity)? Hi. How ya doin? I’m a big geek.
And despite the best efforts of my fellow geeks, there are still some people who don’t know about the show. So, I’m providing this as a little background, so you’ll kind of know what I’m talking about. And I promise to keep it under 500 words, which means it’s going to be the most basic overview ever.
Once upon a time, this guy named Joss Whedon and his writing/producing buddy Tim Minear got together and created a (uni)verse. And this is how they explained it in the brodcast pilot:
Here’s how it is: Earth got used up, so we terraformed a whole new galaxy of Earths. Some rich and flush with new technologies, some not so much. Central Planets, them was formed the Alliance, waged war to bring everyone under their rule; a few idiots tried to fight it, among them myself. I’m Malcolm Reynolds, captain of the Serenity. Got a good crew: fighters, pilot, mechanic. We even picked up a preacher, and a bona fide Companion. There’s a doctor, too, his genius sister from some Alliance camp, so they’re keeping a low profile. You got a job, we can do it, don’t much care what it is.
There are ten characters in the show, all of whom are referenced in that speech.
- Malcom Reynolds, Capitan, member of the Browncoats, i.e. the Independents, i.e. the guys who lost the war.
- Zoe Washburne, XO, who was Mal’s XO in the war.
- Hoban Washburne, Zoe’s goofy husband who also does the piloting.
- Kaywinnetlee Frye, the mechanic.
- Shepherd Book. He’s like a cross between a priest, a monk, and a deus ex machina.
- Inara, the Companion. Read: high-end, legal, semi-religious prostitute.
- Simon Tam, the doctor/fugitive
- River Tam, the ‘genius sister’, who’s also nutbunnies.
- Serenity. That’s right, the ship. No, she’s not alive, but she’s got a personality.
Joss and Timmy worked together on Angel and Buffy, so it’s really no surprise that similar themes populate Firefly: redemption, freedom, and women kicking ass. It also operated in large story arcs, where each episode could stand alone but if you missed one, you might get lost. This format is currently enjoying a renaissance with shows like 24, Lost and Heroes. However, the show premiered on FOX during the height of reality TV mania, and suffered low ratings due to a lack of advertising, showing the episodes out of order, and a magically bouncing timeslot. The show was canceled after eleven episodes had aired.
But the show had fans in high places at Universal, and lots of noisy fans like me who kept pushing for more of this amazingly rich ‘verse we’d grown to love. So Joss got the call and made Firefly into the movie Serenity. For obvious reasons, it had to stand alone, but it also ties up some of the arcs in the show, specifically the Reavers and River’s whackadoodleness.
It also creates other mysteries, because Joss Whedon is a bastard and his fans all dance to his tune. Although the actors all signed three-film deals, the movie did not do well at the box office, and Joss and Timmy have gone on to other projects (Right now, Joss is doing Wonder Woman, and Timmy is doing Drive with Nathan Fillion, who played Malcom Reynolds on Firefly).