Fifteen years ago today, Joss Whedon’s cult classic science-fiction series Firefly premiered.
Comprising of just fourteen episodes, (three of which went unaired during the original Fox broadcast), Firefly was cancelled, transforming what was the cast’s Christmas party into their wrap party.
No-one was more surprised than Joss Whedon who had been working simultaneously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel. Unfortunately, Firefly was subjected to an unfair budget, unreasonable deadlines, and Fox refused to air episodes within a regular timeslot or even in the right order.
Despite this, Firefly earned its pop-culture stripes and its cult status and sheer brilliance has garnered more fans with each passing year, becoming one of the most written about phenomena within film and television academia.
Responding to Firefly’s cancellation, Browncoats (fans) rallied together in a letter writing campaign of epic proportions to convince Fox to reverse its decision. The campaign was unsuccessful, but this support from fans convinced Universal Pictures to buy the rights and commission Whedon for a big-screen spinoff. Serenity was released in 2005 to critical acclaim and financial success.
What makes Firefly so special is hard to define. It’s a genre-bending bonanza; a Western in space with all the trimmings. Whedon’s storytelling is singularly brilliant, peppered with big ideas like notions of people as property, free-will and one’s right for expression. Not to mention the instantly quotable dialogue such as Shepard Book’s (Ron Glass) famous quip about “The Special Hell” and River’s (Summer Glau) promise that she can kill Jayne (Adam Baldwin) with her brain. And let’s not forget Captain Mal Reynolds’ (Nathan Fillion) infamous ‘I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, I will end you.’
Like Whedon’s other work, Firefly follows a group of misfits across space as they try to make an honest living on the frontier, away from the rule of the Alliance through a mix of smuggling and honest labour.
Mal is a charismatic veteran who despite being on the losing side isn’t convinced it was the wrong one. Zöe (Gina Torres) is his right-hand-woman, battle-scarred and lover of slinky dresses. Alan Tudyk is wonderfully memorable as Serenity’s pilot and Zöe’s goofy husband, Hoban “Wash” Washburn, who decorates his station with toy dinosaurs. The only thing more adorable than engineer Kaylee (Jewel Staite) is her relationship with medic Simon Tam (Sean Maher) who boarded Serenity hoping to protecting his child-prodigy sister from the Alliance. As River Tam, a supremely intelligent young woman stolen from her family and experimented on, Glau is incredible. The late, great Ron Glass as the spiritual Shepherd Books is an achor from the crew who embraced everyone from “man-ape” Jayne Cobb to Inara Sara (Morena Baccarin), an elegant Companion.
But perhaps what makes Firefly so wonderful and memorable is its fans; that ever growing population of outcasts and misfits that, much like Mal Reynolds and his crew, can’t help but aim to misbehave and do the impossible.
Firefly will be re-released on special fifteenth anniversary edition blu-ray September 11th.