TV - Firefly: Memories of a Browncoat


Steve Taylor-Bryant takes a look back at his favourite show, Firefly...

What do you mean it's cancelled?

Gail Berman, the former president of entertainment at Fox Broadcasting Company, spoke about why she had to pull the plug. She said in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that -

"Cancelling 'Firefly' was as difficult as anything I'd ever been involved in because Joss and I had been creative partners at one time ... I worked with him very closely on this particular show and when it didn't perform [in the ratings], having to cancel it was very difficult. If I had to do it over again, I might have reconsidered it but I'm not sure it would have changed anything," she said. "It was a numbers thing. It was a wonderful show and I loved it and I loved working with him on it but that was a big show, a very expensive show and it wasn't delivering the numbers."

Oh FOX you do annoy me! You have the best talent spotters in the business but executives that balk at the first sign of a cent missing from budget. Yet again decent television gets ripped from our grasp in its prime.

In case you were wondering, yes, after all these years I am still bitter. Serenity The Movie wasn’t enough. I didn’t want some loose ends tied up, I wanted a second season. You see Firefly was clever. It couldn’t be pigeon holed in a genre. Whilst V was science fiction, Firefly wasn’t, but it was. Whilst Whedon's other behemoths Angel and Buffy The Vampire Slayer (and all those spin off type shows we’ve had for over a decade) were Vampire/Horror shows, Firefly wasn’t, but it was. You see Firefly was everything. Horror, sci-fi, western, political, war story, relationship tale, comedy show. It had a bit of all things and you never knew episode to episode what you would get. It was clever, perhaps too clever for FOX.

The writing was smart, witty, shocking in its realism sometimes but never did it pander to its audience. Certain things along the way went without explanation with Whedon trusting the viewer to be smart enough to see things without being spoon fed facts. When Captain Mal lost his religion over time it wasn’t told to you that losing the war had played its part, impacting on his life in a strong way, Whedon hoped we as an audience would see that, which for the most part we did. It was a very political show without preaching politics. Good versus Evil, Libertarianism versus Totalitarianism, Left versus Right. Just enough to drive the story and get even the most ardently anti-political viewer to just think for a moment what impact politics plays on our lives. But the smartest part of the whole show was its casting.

Normally in a show, you have one or two BIG stars and a crew of bit part players but Firefly was ensemble acting at its very best. Each player took their turn to shine and each actor approached the role they had in such a way that the entire group took on a life of its own. Captain Malcom 'Mal' Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres), Hoban 'Wash' Washburne (Alan Tudyk), Innara Serra (Morena Baccarin), Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite), Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher), River Tam (Summer Glau), and Shepherd Book (Ron Glass) all played off each other, the script, and an obvious chemistry and produced television like we hadn’t had before.

Flawless in its execution, beautiful to look at and clever enough for writing nerds but simple enough for a casual viewer. Shows aren’t made like this any more and it’s a real shame. I would sell my children for Firefly to return but maybe leaving it untouched and perfect is the best thing.

Just for information my Top 5 Episodes...


Ariel (Episode 8).

Mal: The next time you decide to stab me in the back, have the guts to do it to my face.

When the crew of Serenity arrives on the heavily populated, industrialized Alliance core world of 'Ariel', where Inara is to undergo an annual physical examination for her clean companion medical record, Simon realizes it is the perfect opportunity to sneak River into an Alliance medical facility and find out what they did to her. In return for the crew's help in getting them in to the facility, Simon helps Mal, Zoe and Jayne organize an operation to steal valuable medical supplies. But Jayne has other ideas when he learns about the reward for Simon and River and contacts the local authorities, leading to another appearance of the two, sinister-looking agents known as "Hands of Blue". 


Out of Gas (Episode 5).

Inara: And just so we're clear, under no circumstances will I be servicing you, or anyone who is under your employ.

On Simon's birthday, Serenity's engine stops turning and an explosion knocks out auxiliary life support, severely wounding Zoe. With few options, Mal orders the rest of the crew off the ship, but he stays behind hoping for a miracle. The story is told in multiple time frames shifting from Mal's time alone on the ship to the events prior to the crew's departure. Flashbacks to Mal's initial meetings with many of his crew members are also a part of the narrative, showing how and why Mal and Zoe decided to buy the old Firefly-class ship, as well as revealing it wasn't love-at-first-sight for Zoe and Wash when he was hired as the Serenity's pilot, as well as how Inara charmed her way into letting Mal rent out one of the Serenity's shuttles for herself, how Mal met the mechanic/engineer Kaylee in a compromising position, and how the crew met Jayne who was an tough, but dumb, interplanetary bandit.


Our Mrs. Reynolds (Episode 3).

Saffron: I thought last night during the ceremony that you were pleased. 

Mal: Well, yeah, last night I was. Had some mulled wine, pretty girl gave me a hat made out of a tree. Nobody said I was signing up to have and to hold.

A woman claiming to be Mal's wife appears aboard Serenity. Everyone is shocked by Mal's new wife, Saffron, and reacts differently for Jayne is jealous, Inara is outraged, Kaylee is happy for Mal, while Zoe, Wash, Book, Simon and River don't know what to think.


Jaynestown (Episode 4).

River Tam: So we'll integrate non-progressional evolution theory with God's creation of Eden. Eleven inherent metaphoric parallels already there. Eleven. Important number. Prime number. One goes into the house of eleven eleven times, but always comes out one. Noah's ark is a problem.

Mal and the crew of Serenity land to pick up some contraband In Canton, a township on Higgins' Moon, where labor is provided under servitude run by the local magistrate. Jayne had once robbed the boss with a partner but barely escaped by jettisoning from their getaway vehicle his partner (now waiting for revenge) and the money boxes (who have made him a legendary hero). Jayne is recognized by all and "welcomed" accordingly. Sub-plots show Simon and Kaylee face their growing romantic feelings, River first tries to "fix" the Bible and is later traumatized by seeing Book's hair. Meanwhile, Inara is "making a man of" the magistrate's resentful son who helps the crew escape out of spite to his father. But there has been a confrontation with Jayne's abandoned partner whose vengeful shotgun kills one of Jayne's young hero-worshipers, bringing Jayne to verge of philosophy with Mal.


The Train Job (Episode 1).

Jayne: You know what the chain of command is? It's the chain I go get and beat you with 'til ya understand who's in ruttin' command here. Now we're finishing this deal, and then maybe, *maybe* we'll come back for those morons who got themselves caught. You can't change that by getting all... bendy.

Captain Mal Reynolds and his motley crew of space traders get a job that seems to be right up their alley. Gangster Adelai Niska wants them to rob a train and deliver the goods to them. Mal and Zoey have little trouble getting the job done and even convincing the local authorities that are just a married couple who have come looking for work. When the overhear that the stolen cargo was urgently needed medical supplies, Mal reconsiders whether he wants to do Nishka's dirty work. Back on the ship, Dr. Simon Tam continues to worry about his sister River who is still having nightmares about her institutionalization.

Quotes, Synopsis and Image - IMDb.

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