Firefly (TV series)

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Television

Genre Science fiction
Space western
Camera setup Multiple-camera
Picture format NTSC 480i
HDTV 1080i
Audio format Surround sound
Running time 45 minutes
Creator(s) Joss Whedon
Developer(s) Joss Whedon
Executive producer(s) Joss Whedon
Tim Minear
Starring Nathan Fillion
Gina Torres
Alan Tudyk
Morena Baccarin
Adam Baldwin
Jewel Staite
Sean Maher
Summer Glau
Ron Glass
Opening theme The Ballad of Serenity
Country of origin United States
Original channel FOX
Original run September 20, 2002– December 20, 2002
No. of episodes 14 ( List of episodes)
Official website
IMDb profile summary

Firefly is an American science fiction cult television series that premiered in the United States and Canada on September 20, 2002. Its naturalistic future setting, modeled after traditional Western movie motifs, presents an atypical science fiction backdrop for the narrative. It was conceived by writer and director Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, under his production tag, Mutant Enemy. Whedon served as executive producer, along with Tim Minear.

Firefly was originally broadcast on the FOX network but was cancelled after only eleven of the fourteen produced episodes were aired. Despite the series' relatively short life span, it won an Emmy in 2003 for "Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series", received strong sales when it was released onto DVD, and had impressive fan support campaigns. This led Whedon and Universal Pictures to produce a film based on the series, titled Serenity after the fictional spaceship featured in the show.

The series is set in 2517 AD and follows the adventures of the renegade crew of Serenity, a Firefly-class spaceship. The ensemble cast portrays the nine characters who live on Serenity. The show explores the vicissitudes of people who fought on the losing side of a civil war, as well as the pioneer culture that exists on the fringes of their star system. In addition, it is a future where the only two surviving superpowers are the United States and China, which formed the central federal government called the Alliance. The joining of these two cultures caused a cultural fusion. According to Whedon, nothing has changed in the future: there are more people with more advanced technology, but they still have the same problems politically, morally and ethically.



Whedon developed the concept for the show after reading The Killer Angels, a novel chronicling the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. He wished to follow people who had fought on the losing side of a war and their experience afterwards as pioneers and immigrants on the outskirts of civilization, much like the post-American Civil War era of Reconstruction and the American Old West culture. It was intended to be "a Stagecoach kind of drama with a lot of people trying to figure out their lives in a bleak and pioneer environment." Whedon wanted to have a show that was about the tactile nature of things, when life was physical and things did not come easy to people like they do today. After reading The Killer Angels, Whedon read a book about Jewish partisan fighters in World War II that also influenced him. Whedon was also very interested in the science fiction genre and wanted to create something for television that was character-driven and gritty. He felt that science fiction, as created for television, was getting too pristine and distant.

As far as the name of the show, Joss Whedon wanted something that had strength and motion and felt that the word " firefly" had both. The fact that it was also something insignificant with a powerful name added to its allure. From there, it naturally progressed to creating the ship in the image of a firefly.


During filming of the pilot episode, Whedon was still arguing with FOX that the show should be displayed in widescreen format. Consequently, he purposely filmed scenes with actors on the extreme edge of both sides so that they would have no choice. However, the pilot was rejected by the FOX executives, who felt that it lacked action and that the captain was too "dour." They also disliked a scene in which the crew backed down to a crime boss, since the scene implied the crew was "being nothing." Thus, FOX told Whedon on a Friday afternoon that he had to submit a new pilot script on Monday morning or the show would not be picked up. Whedon and Tim Minear closeted themselves for the weekend to write what became the new pilot, " The Train Job". In this new pilot, the captain was more "jolly" and, at the direction of FOX, they added "larger than life" characters. These characters manifested themselves in the henchman "Crow", and the "hands of blue" men, which also introduced a X-Files-type ending.

For the new pilot, FOX made it clear that they would not air the episodes in the widescreen format. Whedon and company felt they had to "serve two masters" by filming widescreen for eventual DVD release but keeping objects in frame so it could still work when aired in pan and scan full frame. To give the audience an immersive and immediate feeling, the episodes were filmed in a documentary style with hand-held cameras, giving them the look of "found footage," with deliberately misframed or out-of-focus subjects As Whedon related: "...don't be arch, don't be sweeping - be found, be rough and tumble and docu[mentary] and you-are-there." Computer-generated scenes mimicked the motion of a hand-held camera. This style was not used, however, when shooting scenes that involved the central government, the Alliance. Tracking and steady cameras were used to show the sterility of this aspect of the Firefly universe. Another style employed was lens flares, harkening back to 1970s television. This style was so desired that the director of photography, David Boyd, sent back the state-of-the-art lenses, which naturally compensated for light flares, for cheaper ones.

Exterior shots of action occurring in outer space realistically lack sound effects, an approach that stood in contrast to many science fiction films and television series. This style of special effects was developed by Zoic Studios, the company responsible for the special effects in Firefly. After Firefly was cancelled, Zoic Studios worked on the special effects for the re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica, where they reused these techniques. In the introductory mini-series for Battlestar Galactica, Serenity can be seen flying overhead in an early scene.

Set design

Production designer Carey Meyer built the ship Serenity in two parts as a complete set, with ceilings and practical lighting installed as part of the set that the cameras could utilize, along with moveable parts. As Whedon recalled: " could pull it away or move something huge, so that you could get in and around everything. That meant the environment worked for us and there weren't a lot of adjustments that needed to be made." There were other benefits to this set design. One was that it allowed the viewer to feel they were really in a ship. For Whedon, the design of the ship was crucial in defining the known space for the viewer, and that there were not "fourteen hundred decks and a holodeck and an all-you-can-eat buffet in the back." He wanted to convey that it was utilitarian and that it was "beat-up but lived-in and ultimately, it was home." In addition, each room represented a feeling or character, usually conveyed by the paint colour. Whedon was also keen on utilizing vertical space; thus, having the crew's quarters accessible by ladder was important. Another benefit of the set design was that it also allowed the actors to stay in the moment and interact, without having to stop after each shot and reset up for the next. This helped contribute to the documentary-style Whedon strove for.

The set had several influences, including the sliding doors and the tiny cubicles reminiscent of Japanese hotels. Artist Larry Dixon has noted that the cargo bay walls are "reminiscent of interlaced, overlapping oriental designs, cleverly reminding us of the American-Chinese Alliance setting while artistically forming a patterned plane for background scale reference." Dixon has also remarked on how the set design contributed to the storytelling through the use of colour, depth and composition, lighting, as well as its use of diagonals and patterned shadows.

Their small budget was another reason to use the ship for much of the storytelling. When the characters did go off of the ship, the worlds all had Earth atmosphere and coloring because they could not afford to design alien worlds. "I didn't want to go to Yucca Flats every other episode and transform it into Bizarro World by making the sky orange," recalled Whedon. As Meyer recalled: "I think in the end the feel was that we wound up using a lot of places or exteriors that just felt too Western and we didn't necessarily want to go that way; but at some point, it just became the lesser of two evils -- what could we actually create in three days?"


The theme song, "The Ballad of Serenity", was written by Joss Whedon and performed by Sonny Rhodes. Whedon wrote the song before the series was greenlit and a preliminary recording performed by Whedon can be found on the DVD release. The soundtrack to the series was released on CD on November 8, 2005 by Varèse Sarabande. The musical score expressed the cultural fusion depicted in the show. Cowboy guitar blended with Asian influence produced the atmospheric background for the series. As one reviewer stated:

Old music from the future — the music of roaring campfires and raccous cowboys mixed with the warm, pensive sounds of Asian culture and, occasionally, a cold imperial trumpet, heralding the ominous structural presence of a domineering government. Completely thrilling.

Greg Edmonson composed the musical score for the series. He stated that he wrote for the emotion of the moment. However, one reviewer averred that he also wrote for the characters. She went on to further state: "...Edmondson has developed a specialized collection of musical symbolism for the series..." To help illustrate the collection, she gave key "signatures" various names, noting that "Serenity" recalls the theme of the show and is used when they return to the ship, or when they were meeting clandestinely; it was "the sound of their home." The slide guitar and fiddle used in this piece are portable instruments which fit the lifestyle of the crew: "...the music they make calls up tunes played out in the open, by people who were hundreds of miles away yesterday. "Serenity" conjures the nomadic lifestyle the crew leads and underlines the western aspect of the show." Another emotional signature was "Sad Violin". It was used at the end of the Battle of Serenity Valley, but also helped set up the joke for when Mal tells Simon that Kaylee is dead in the episode " Serenity". The most memorable use of "Sad Violin, however, is at the end of " The Message", when the crew mourned the death of Tracey. This was also the last scene of the last episode the actors shot, and so this was seen by them, and Edmondson, as Firefly's farewell. To denote impending danger, "Peril" was used, which is "a low pulse, like a heartbeat, with deep chimes and low strings." The reviewer also noted character signatures. The criminal Niska has his own signature: Eastern European or Middle Eastern melodies over a low drone. Simon and River's signature was a piano played sparsely with a violin in the background. This is in contrast to the portable instruments of "Serenity": the piano is an instrument that cannot be easily moved and evokes the image of "the distant house and family they both long for." The various signatures were mostly established in the first pilot, "Serenity", and helped enhance the narrative. "In every episode, the musical score intensified my experience of this intelligent, remarkable show. Using and combining all these signatures, Greg Edmondson brought out aspects of Firefly's story and characters that were never explicitly revealed in the other elements of the series."


In casting his nine-member crew, Whedon looked first at the actor and their chemistry with others. Cast member Sean Maher recalls, "So then he just sort of put us all together, and I think it was very quick, like right out of the gate, we all instantly bonded". All nine cast members were chosen before filming began. However, while filming the original pilot "Serenity", Whedon realized that the actress initially cast as Inara Serra ( Rebecca Gayheart) was unfit for the role. He shot her scenes in singles so that it would be easier to replace her. Morena Baccarin auditioned for the role and two days later was on the set in her first television show. "Joss brought me down from the testing room like a proud dad, holding my hand and introducing me."

Whedon approached Nathan Fillion to play the lead role of Malcolm Reynolds; after explaining the premise and showing Fillion the treatment for the pilot, Fillion was eager for the role. Fillion was called back several times to read for the part before he was cast. He noted that "it was really thrilling. It was my first lead and I was pretty nervous, but I really wanted that part and I wanted to tell those stories."

Alan Tudyk auditioned through a casting office and several months later was called in for a test audition, where he met with Whedon. He was then told to come back in to test with the possible Zoes (the character's wife) and that it was down to him and one other candidate. The Zoes did not work out and Tudyk was sent home, but received a call on his phone informing him he had the part anyway.

Veteran science fiction-fantasy actress Gina Torres ( The Matrix Reloaded, Xena: Warrior Princess) was not at first interested in doing another science fiction show, but "was won over by the quality of the source material." As she recalled, "So you had these challenged characters inhabiting a challenging world and that makes for great storytelling. AND NO ALIENS!" For Adam Baldwin, who grew up watching westerns, the character of Jayne Cobb was a role that resonated with him.

Canadian actress Jewel Staite has been an actress since age nine. She videotaped her audition from Vancouver and then was asked to come to Los Angeles to meet Whedon, when she was cast for the role of Kaylee Frye, the ship's engineer.

Sean Maher recalls reading for the part and liking the character of Simon Tam, but that it was Whedon's personality and vision that "sealed the deal" for him.

The veteran television actor Ron Glass ( Barney Miller, All in the Family), has said that until Firefly, he had not experienced or sought a science-fiction western role but he fell in love with the pilot script and the character of Shepherd Book.

Staff and crew

Tim Minear was selected by Whedon to be the show runner, who serves as the head writer and production leader. According to Whedon "[Minear] understood the show as well as any human being, and just brought so much to it that I think of it as though he were always a part of it." Many of the other production staff were selected from people Whedon had worked with in the past, with the exception of the director of photography David Boyd, who was the "big find" and who was "full of joy and energy."

The writers were selected after interviews and script samplings. Among the writers were José Molina, Ben Edlund, Cheryl Cain, Brett Matthews, Drew Greenberg and Jane Espenson. Espenson wrote an essay on the writing process with Mutant Enemy. A meeting is held and an idea is floated, generally by Whedon, and the writers brainstorm to develop the central theme of the episode and the character development. Next, the staff meets in the anteroom to Whedon's office to begin "breaking" the story into acts and scenes. The only one absent is the writer working on the previous week's episode. For the team, one of the key components to devising acts is deciding where to break for commercial and ensuring the viewer returns. "Finding these moments in the story help give it shape: think of them as tentpoles that support the structure," wrote Espenson. For instance, in "Shindig", the break for commercial occurs when Malcolm Reynolds is gravely injured and losing the duel. As Espenson elaborates: "It does not end when Mal turns the fight around, when he stands victorious over his opponent. They're both big moments, but one of them leaves you curious and the other doesn't."

Next, the writers develop the scenes onto a marker-filled whiteboard, featuring a "brief ordered description of each scene." A writer is selected to create an outline of the episode's concept — occasionally with some dialog and jokes — in one day. The outline is given to showrunner Tim Minear, who revises it within a day. The writer uses the revised outline to write the first draft of the script while the other writers work on developing the next. This first draft is usually submitted for revision with three to fourteen days; afterward, a second and sometimes third draft is written. After all revisions were made, the final draft would be produced as the "shooting draft".


Firefly's original costume designer — Jill Ohanneson — brought on Shawna Trpcic as her assistant for the pilot. When the show was picked up, Ohanneson was involved in another job and declined Firefly, suggesting Trpcic for the job. The costumes were chiefly influenced by World War II, the American Civil War, the American Old West, and 1861 samurai Japan. In wanting to convey the feeling of "home" with the costumes, Trpcic used deep reds and oranges for the main cast, and contrasted that with grays and cool blues for the Alliance. Since the characters were often getting shot, Trpcic would make up to six versions of the same costume for multiple takes.

For the character of River, Trpcic used mostly jewel tones to set her apart from the rest of the Serenity crew. She also had River wear boots, to contrast with the soft fabrics of her clothes, "because that's who she is — she's this soft, beautiful, sensitive girl, but with this hardcore inner character," recalled Trpcic. Trpcic also wanted to contrast the character of Simon, River's brother, with the rest of the crew. Whereas they were dressed in cotton, Simon wore wool, stiff fabrics, satins and silk. He was the "dandy", but as the show progressed, he loosened up slightly. For Kaylee, Trpcic studied up on Japanese and Chinese youth, as originally the character was Asian. Other inspirations for Kaylee's costumes were Rosie the Riveter and Chinese Communist posters. Trpcic designed and created the clothes for the minor character of Badger, with Joss Whedon in mind, since he was slated to play that part. When Mark A. Sheppard played the role instead, he was able to fit into the clothes made for Whedon. For the Alliance, besides the grays and cool blues, Trpcic had in mind Nazi Germany, but mixed it with different wars, as the first sketches were "too Nazi".


Back story

The series takes place in the year 2517, on several planets and moons. The TV series does not reveal if these celestial bodies are in one star system, and does not explain if Serenity's mode of propulsion was faster-than-light. The film Serenity makes clear that all the planets and moons are in one large system, and production documents related to the film indicate that there is no faster-than-light travel in this universe. The characters occasionally refer to "Earth-that-was" and in the film, it is established that long before the events in the series a large population had emigrated from Earth to a new star system in multi-generational spaceships: "Earth that was could no longer sustain our numbers, we were so many." The emigrants established themselves in this new star system, with "dozens of planets and hundreds of moons." Many of these were terraformed, a process in which a planet or moon is altered to resemble the Earth. The terraforming process was only the first step in making a planet habitable, however, and the outlying settlements often did not receive any further support in the construction of their civilizations. This resulted in many of the border planets and moons having forbidding, dry environments, well suited to the Western genre.


The show takes its name from the Firefly-class spaceship, Serenity that the central characters call home. It resembles the lightning bug, Firefly in general arrangement, and the tail section, analogous to an insectoid abdomen, lights up during acceleration.

Throughout the series the Alliance are shown to govern the star system through an organization of "core" planets, following its success in forcibly unifying all of the colonies under a single government. DVD commentary suggests that two primary "core" planets comprise the Alliance, one predominantly Occidental in culture, the other pan-Asian, justifying the series' mixed linguistic and visual themes. The central planets are firmly under Alliance control, but the outlying planets and moons resemble the 19th century American West, with little governmental authority. Settlers and refugees on the outlying worlds ("out in the black" or "heading for the black") have relative freedom from the central government, but lack the amenities of the high-tech civilization that exist on the inner worlds. In addition, the outlying areas are rife with Reavers, a cannibalistic roving race.

Into this mix are thrown the protagonists of the show. The captain of the crew of Serenity is Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and the episode " Serenity" establishes that the captain and his first mate Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres) are veteran " Browncoats" of the Unification War, a failed attempt by the outlying worlds to resist the Alliance's assertion of control. A later episode, titled " Out of Gas", reveals that Mal bought the spaceship Serenity in order to continue living beyond Alliance control. Much of the crew's work consists of cargo runs or smuggling. One of the main story arcs is that of River Tam ( Summer Glau) and her brother Simon ( Sean Maher). River was a child prodigy, whose brain was subjected to experiments. As a result, she displays schizophrenia and often hears voices. It is later revealed that she is a "reader", one who possesses psychic abilities. Simon gave up a highly successful career as a surgeon to rescue her from the Alliance. They join the crew in the original pilot "Serenity", and as a result of this rescue they are both wanted criminals. As Whedon states in an episodic DVD commentary, every show he does is about creating family. By the last episode, " Objects in Space", the fractured character of River has finally become whole, partly because the others decided to accept her into their "family" on the ship.

Signature show elements

The show featured a blend of elements from the space opera and Western genres, depicting mankind's future in a different manner than most contemporary science fiction programs in that there are no alien creatures or space battles. Firefly takes place in a multi-cultural future, where there is a significant division between the rich and poor. As a result of the Sino-American Alliance, Mandarin Chinese is a common second language; 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 was explained as being the result of China and the United States being the two superpowers that expanded into space.

The show also features slang not used in contemporary culture, such as adaptations of modern words, or new words altogether (e.g. "shiny" as a synonym of "cool"). The Japanese katakana and an Old West dialect are also employed. As one reviewer noted: "The dialogue tended to be a bizarre puree of wisecracks, old-timey Western-paperback patois, and snatches of Chinese."

Tim Minear and Joss Whedon have pointed to several scenes that they believed articulated the mission statement of the show. One scene is in the original pilot "Serenity", when Mal is eating with chopsticks and a Western tin cup is by his plate; the other is in the "The Train Job" pilot, when Mal is thrown out of a holographical bar window. The DVD set's 'making-of' documentary reveals the series' distinctive frontispiece (wherein Reynolds' ship, Serenity, soars over a corral of unshod horses) as Whedon's attempt to capture "everything you need to understand about the series in five seconds."

One of the struggles that Whedon had with FOX was the tone of the show, especially with the main character Malcolm Reynolds. FOX pressured Whedon to make his character more "jolly", as they feared he was too dark in the original pilot. In addition, FOX was not happy that the show involved the "nobodies" who "get squished by policy" instead of the actual policy makers.

Episodes and broadcast history

Firefly consists of one two-hour pilot and thirteen one-hour episodes. The show originally aired in the United States in 2002 on FOX, although FOX aired the episodes out of the intended order and did not air three of the fourteen episodes.

Although the show had a loyal following during its original broadcast, low ratings resulted in cancellation by FOX in December 2002 after only eleven episodes had aired in the United States and Canada. Prior to cancellation, some fans, worried about low ratings, formed the Firefly Immediate Assistance campaign whose goal was to support the production of the show by sending in postcards to FOX. After it was cancelled, the campaign worked on getting another network such as UPN to pick up the series. The campaign was unsuccessful in securing the show's continuation.

Variety magazine cited several actions by the FOX network that contributed to the low ratings, most notably the fact that FOX aired the episodes out of chronological order, making the plot more difficult to follow, and occasionally preempted the show for sporting events. For instance, the two-hour episode "Serenity" was intended to be the series' premiere episode, and therefore contained most of the character introductions and back-story. However, FOX decided that "Serenity" was unsuitable to open the series, and the episode, "The Train Job", was specifically created to act as a new pilot. In addition, Firefly was promoted as an action- comedy rather than the more serious character study it was intended to be.

DVD release

A box set containing the fourteen completed episodes (including those which had not yet aired in the United States), 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 seven episode commentaries, outtakes and other features. The DVDs feature the episodes as they were shot in 16:9 widescreen, with anamorphic transfers and Dolby Surround audio.

By September 2005, its DVD release had sold approximately 500,000 copies and was one of the top movers at for months. At the DVDs had average daily rankings of between 1st and 75th in 2003, 22nd and 397th in 2004, 2nd and 232nd in 2005, and 2nd and 31st in 2006 as of June 27, 2006.

FOX has recently remastered the complete series in 1080i Hi-Definition for release on UHD.


Main characters

Firefly maintained an ensemble cast that portrayed the nine crew members of the ship, Serenity. These characters fight criminals and schemers, Alliance security forces, the utterly psychotic and brutal Reavers, and the mysterious men with "hands of blue" — who are apparently operatives of a secret agency which is part of the mega-corporation 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 their need to keep a low profile to avoid their 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.

  • Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds, played by Nathan Fillion, is Serenity's captain and former Independent sergeant in the pivotal Battle of Serenity Valley.
  • Zoe Alleyne Washburne, played by Gina Torres, is second-in-command onboard Serenity, loyal wartime friend of Captain Reynolds, and wife of Wash.
  • Hoban "Wash" Washburne, played by Alan Tudyk, is Serenity's pilot and Zoe's somewhat timid husband. He expresses jealousy over his wife's "war buddy" relationship and unconditional support of their captain, most particularly in the episode " War Stories".
  • Inara Serra, played by Morena Baccarin, is a Companion, which is the 26th century equivalent of a courtesan or geisha. Like her Renaissance counterparts, Inara enjoys high social standing. She and Mal have a strained relationship, with unspoken romantic tension playing a significant part in several episodes.
  • Jayne Cobb, played by Adam Baldwin, is the hired muscle. He joined the crew for mercenary reasons, is often the "main gun" for jobs and is someone that can be depended on in a fight. He is a "lummox" but thinks he is the smartest guy in space. As Whedon states several times, he is the person that will ask the questions that no one else wants to talk about.
  • Kaywinnit Lee "Kaylee" Frye, played by Jewel Staite, is the ship's mechanic. In the episode " Out of Gas", it is established that she has no formal training, but keeps Serenity running with an intuitive gift for the workings of mechanical equipment. A carefree and bubbly young woman, Kaylee has a crush on Dr. Simon Tam. Kaylee's character is the soul of the ship: according to creator Joss Whedon, if Kaylee believes something, it is true.
  • Dr. Simon Tam, played by Sean Maher, is a medical researcher and trauma surgeon of the first caliber (top 3% in his class at a top core planet institution), who is on the run after breaking his sister River out of a government research facility. His bumbling attempts at a relationship with Kaylee are a recurring subplot throughout the series, and at every turn he seems to find a way to unwittingly foil his own romantic desires. His life is defined by caring for his sister.
  • River Tam, played by Summer Glau, was smuggled onto the ship by her brother. River was a child prodigy of unparalleled genius, but she was experimented upon at the hands of Alliance doctors, leaving her delusional and erratic. Her personal journey of self-discovery is a running theme throughout the series and the movie.
  • Derrial Book, played by Ron Glass, is a "Shepherd" (equivalent of a reverend, minister or pastor). In the episode " Safe", it is revealed that he has priority status in the Alliance for unspecified reasons. Throughout the series, he demonstrates a peculiar depth of knowledge about firearms and criminal activities, such as an electromagnetic field ("net") that disables ships and leaves them vulnerable in space in the episode " Our Mrs. Reynolds".

All nine major characters appear in every episode, with one exception: Book is absent from " Ariel".

Three members of the Firefly cast appeared on Joss Whedon's other TV series as villains. Fillion was cast as Caleb in the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, while Torres and Baldwin took on recurring roles on Angel in its fourth and fifth seasons respectively (characters Jasmine and Marcus Hamilton). Summer Glau had appeared in the third-season Angel episode " Waiting in the Wings" before she was cast in Firefly. In addition, Jewel Staite appeared in several episodes of the Tim Minear-produced Wonderfalls.

Recurring characters

Despite the short run of the series, some recurring characters emerged from the inhabitants of the Firefly universe:

  • Badger, played by Mark Sheppard, is an established smuggling middleman on the planet Persephone. He provided jobs for Serenity on at least two occasions. In the DVD commentary for the episode "Serenity," it was revealed that this part was originally written with the intention of Whedon himself playing the part. Badger appeared in the original pilot "Serenity" and in " Shindig", with a return in the comic book series Serenity: Those Left Behind.
  • Adelei Niska, played by Michael Fairman, is a criminal kingpin who has a reputation for violent reprisals, including severe, prolonged torture, against those who fail him or even irritate him. He appeared in "The Train Job" and "War Stories".
  • "Saffron", played by Christina Hendricks, is a con artist whose original name is unknown. In the series she also used the aliases "Bridget" and "Yolanda", leading Mal to jokingly refer to her as the compound "YoSaffBridge" in the episode " Trash". She has a habit of marrying her marks in order to achieve her scams. She first appeared in the episode "Our Mrs. Reynolds".
  • "The Hands of Blue": Two anonymous men wearing suits and blue gloves who pursue River, apparently to return her to the institute she escaped from, as shown in "The Train Job", "Ariel", and the Serenity: Those Left Behind comic. They kill anyone, including Alliance personnel, who had contact with her, using a mysterious hand-held device that causes fatal bleeding to anyone in its proximity.


Critical review

On the day it premiered, Boston Globe ran a story that was positive, stating that Firefly " a mess - a wonderful, imaginative mess brimming with possibility. About a dysfunctional family of space cowboys, the sci-fi series arrives not fully formed, like an elaborate photo that's still clarifying in developing fluid. While many shows burst onto the scene with slick pilots and quickly deteriorate into mediocrity, I'm thinking "Firefly" is on the opposite creative journey." However, Tim Goodman with the San Francisco Chronicle panned it. He felt that the melding of the western and science fiction genres was a "forced hodgepodge of two alarmingly opposite genres just for the sake of being different." He summed up his scathing review with this statement: "To call "Firefly" a vast disappointment is an understatement. Whedon has proven he's capable of brilliance, but this is mere folly." Other critics appeared to dismiss the show after the first two episodes, "The Train Job" and " Bushwhacked". In its October 3, 2002, review, stated:

...Whedon's new relativist characters seem a little lost. Admittedly, this is the point, but the show lacks the kind of psychological tension that makes "Buffy" snap. As much as the space and western genres have in common, "Firefly" could have probably done without the western soundtrack and the vague "Bonanza" look too. It's not just that the "space as Wild West" metaphor is somewhat redundant, but that neither genre binds the series to the present.

The reviewer conceded, however, that with only two episodes, it was worth giving Whedon the benefit of the doubt and that the inability to resonate with its viewers could be the fault of FOX for not airing the original pilot. By the time the show was cancelled, however, subsequent episodes had drawn more favorable reviews:

Firefly is an absolutely brilliant show, perhaps the best sci-fi show on television today — and certainly the one with the most potential for future brilliance. In the weeks since its weak opening episodes, the series has run off a string of seven strong shows that would be the envy of any other TV show on the air today.

When the DVD was released in time for Christmas the following year, The New York Times had this to say:

the show featured an oddball genre mix that might have doomed it from the beginning: it was a character-rich sci-fi western comedy-drama with existential underpinnings, a hard sell during a season dominated by 'Joe Millionaire.'"

Another reviewer commented:

Despite its brief run, Whedon-aholics embraced it and fought to keep it on the air. After watching the DVD box set, it's easy to see why. All of Whedon's fingerprints are there: The witty dialogue, the quirky premises and dark exploration of human fallacy that made "Buffy" brilliant found their way to this space drama.

Cult status

In 2005, New Scientist magazine's website held an internet poll to find "The World's Best Space Sci-Fi Ever". Firefly came in first place, with its cinematic follow-up Serenity in second. Also, as of September 2006, it is the highest rated Sci-Fi show of all time according to an online poll conducted by

On May 9, 2006, the Firefly episodes were added to the iTunes Music Store for download as part of FOX Television Classics along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lost in Space. The episodes were initially listed in the order FOX originally aired them, but due to comments from fans in the Store, the episodes were listed in the order in which Whedon originally intended.

Brad Wright, co-creator of Stargate SG-1 has said that " 200", the 200th episode of SG-1, is "A little kiss to Serenity and Firefly, which was possibly one of the best cancelled series in history." In the episode, "Martin Lloyd has come to the S.G.C. because even though " Wormhole X-Treme!" was cancelled after three episodes it did so well on DVD they're making a feature [film]."


The show generated a following during its short lifetime. The original fans, self-styled Browncoats, first organized to try to save the series from being cancelled by FOX. Their efforts included raising money for an ad in Variety magazine and a postcard writing campaign to UPN. While unsuccessful in finding a host network, support for the show led to a release of the series on DVD in December of 2004. Eventually, enough interest was shown to convince Universal Studios to produce a feature film, Serenity. Numerous early screenings were held for existing fans in an attempt to create a buzz and increase ticket sales when it was released widely.

June 23, 2006 was considered Serenity Day, on which fans bought — and got others to buy — copies of the Serenity and Firefly DVDs in hopes of convincing Universal that creating a sequel was a good business decision. On this day, Serenity and Firefly were ranked second and third, respectively, on the DVD Best Sellers list. June 23, 2006 also saw worldwide fan-organized charity screenings of Serenity, dubbed Serenity Now/Equality Now.

In July 2006, a fan-made documentary was released, "Done the Impossible", and is available on The documentary relates the story of the fans and how the show has affected them, and also features interviews with Whedon and various cast members. A percentage of the DVD proceeds are donated to Whedon's favorite charity, Equality Now.


  • Won the Emmy Award: Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series, 2003
  • Won the Visual Effects Society: Best visual effects in a television series, 2003 (episode "Serenity")
  • Won the Saturn Award: Cinescape Genre Face of the Future Award, Male, 2003 (Nathan Fillion)
  • Won the Saturn Award: Saturn Award for Best DVD Release (television), 2004
  • Won the SyFy Genre Awards: Best Actor/Television Nathan Fillion, 2006
  • Won the SyFy Genre Awards: Best Supporting Actor/Television Adam Baldwin, 2006
  • Won the SyFy Genre Awards: Best Special Guest/Television Christina Hendricks for "Trash", 2006
  • Won the SyFy Genre Awards: Best Episode/Television "Trash", 2006
  • Won the SyFy Genre Awards: Best Series/Television, 2006
  • Nominated for Visual Effects Society: Best compositing in a televised program, music video, or commercial, 2003
  • Nominated for Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA, "Golden Reel Award": Best sound editing in television long form: sound effects/ foley, 2003
  • Nominated for Hugo Award: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, 2003 (episode "Serenity")
  • Nominated for Hugo Award: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, 2004 (episodes "Heart of Gold" and "The Message", which at that time had not been shown on television in the USA)
  • Nominated for Golden Satellite Award: Best DVD Extras, 2004


Joss Whedon said in an April 2003 USA Today interview that he had not given up on the show and hoped to continue it in any format. As a result, several spin-offs from the television series have been released in the years following its cancellation, spanning various forms of media.

Feature film Serenity

When attempts to have another network pick up the show failed, creator Joss Whedon decided to try and sell his concept as a film. Through a connection, he was introduced to Mary Parent with Universal Pictures, who immediately signed on after watching the episodes on DVD. By June of 2003, actors Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin confirmed this on the official Firefly forum, as did Whedon in several interviews. Serenity was released in Australia on September 29, 2005, the United States and Canada on September 30, 2005, and the United Kingdom and Ireland weeks later. It received generally positive reviews and opened at number two, taking in $10.1 million its first weekend, spending two weeks in the top ten, and totaling a domestic box office gross of $25.5 million and a foreign box office gross of $13.3 million. Serenity won film of the year awards from Film 2005 and FilmFocus. It also won IGN Film's Best Sci-Fi, Best Story and Best Trailer awards and was runner up for the Overall Best Movie. It also won the Nebula Award for Best Script for 2005, the 7th annual 'User Tomato Awards' for best Sci-Fi movie of 2005 at Rotten Tomatoes, the 2006 viewers choice Spacey Award for favorite movie, the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form and the 2006 Prometheus Special Award.

As a form of viral marketing for the film, Whedon released the R. Tam sessions, which are set before the television series. They were released unofficially by Whedon via the internet from August 16, 2005 to September 5, 2005.

At a preview screening for the film, Whedon indicated that he would consider reviving the series if a network purchased the broadcast rights from FOX Television as he will not work with FOX again.

The film takes place around two months after the events of the final episode and focuses on the character arcs of River and her involvement with the Alliance, and Mal. As Whedon stated, the film is "Mal's story as told by River."


A three-issue comic book miniseries titled Serenity: Those Left Behind was written by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews, illustrated by Will Conrad and Laura Martin, and published by Dark Horse Comics. It serves as a link between the final episode of the series (" Objects in Space") and the film Serenity. Each issue featured three different covers, depicting one of the nine main characters. In turn, each version had a different illustrator, including Joe Quesada, Bryan Hitch, Tim Bradstreet, John Cassaday and Jo Chen. The first issue was published in July 2005, and the final one appeared in September of the same year. The story focuses on the crew of Serenity taking a salvage job from Badger following a botched theft on a backwater planet, and the pursuit of River by the ominous blue-gloved men. The story is considered part of the Firefly canon and bridges the television show and the movie. The comics quickly sold out on release and both #1 and #2 issues went to second printings. A compilation trade paperback was released in January 2006. It has been recently confirmed that Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews will write more Serenity comics for Dark Horse. The new comics are expected to be released sometime in mid-to-late 2006 or early 2007.

A role-playing game entitled Serenity, published by Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd, was released in 2005. The first adventure, Out in the Black by Laura and Tracy Hickman, was released on March 15, 2006.

Following the motion picture release of Serenity and its subsequent novelization, a Firefly-based book series of original stories will be released. It is not yet known if they will be considered canonical, as is the comic book series, although it is unlikely considering Whedon's comments regarding the film novelization: "I don't have much involvement … I just whistle and look the other way." Keith R. A. DeCandido, author of the Serenity movie novelization, said in an interview in November 2005 that two novels are definitely going to be published. Additional books may follow, depending on the success of the franchise. There is no news on who will write the novels, although DeCandido and Steven Brust hope to publish one. In fact Steven Brust has both completed and submitted his novel and has done readings of his manuscript at various conventions since November 2005. Details on when in the Firefly time-line they will be set, who will be in the novels, or what the plots will be are also not forthcoming. According to, DeCandido is set to write a 304-page novel known as Mirror Image, which will be set in the Firefly universe, and is to be released on July 1, 2009. However, DeCandido has denied this in several interviews.

A non-fiction book about the series, Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's Firefly, was edited by Jane Espenson with Glenn Yeffeth, and was published in paperback on April 1, 2005. Its collection of essays analyze the various themes and ideas of Firefly. Another book of essays has been proposed, however, these would be scholarly essays about Firefly and Serenity. More information can be found directly at Critical Studies in Television. No specific publisher has been declared for the proposed book. As a follow up to his Serenity: The Official Visual Companion, Joss Whedon has written a two-volume book known as Firefly: The Official Visual Companion. The first volume is 176 pages, published by Titan Books and released on September 1, 2006.

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