Firefly and Serenity

Warning: Spoilers Are Coming

In talking about the plot and characters of the TV show and subsequent movie, spoilers cannot be avoided.
If you plan to watch anyway and want your viewing pleasure free of spoilers, close this page now and go watch!

At present Firefly can be watched on Hulu in the USA (free if you have a subscription) or bought on Amazon. It's also available on iTunes, Vudu, Google Play or Youtube. DVD copies can usually be picked up cheaply on ebay and the like. In other countries it may be carried by Netflix.

Firefly

Firefly was a short-lived mix of western and space opera that ran on the FOX Network in the USA in the season 2002-2003. The show was cancelled after 11 out of 14 episodes had aired, but managed to garner a loyal fanbase during its brief run. In late 2003 a DVD set containing all 14 episodes was released, helping Firefly to win new fans worldwide.

The unique setting of Firefly was a galaxy far far away (no, not that one) known as “The Verse”. Its backstory is as follows: “Earth had got used up” in the 21st century, making the planet uninhabitable. However, a new possibly habitable star cluster had been discovered and the remaining humans left Earth behind on huge spaceships to start over on newly terraformed planets. Our Timeline can be found here.

The TV show is set in the 26th century, four hundred years after the creation of the new worlds. The inner-most planets of the star system, orbiting White Sun, are called The Core now. They are well-off futuristic cities, not unlike those seen in many other science fiction movies, all neon glow and flying vehicles. The planets further out in the system though, known as The Border and The Rim, are far more basic, their appearance resembling dusty villages and farmsteads in the Old Wild West. With electricity and technology costing a premium here, life is simpler. Horses are the main mode of transport and people live off the land. The law is mostly absent, it’s every man and woman for themselves here.

The story begins in 2517, six years after the end of the Unification War, in which a group of Independents (colloquially known as Browncoats) fought against the almighty central government, known as the Alliance. It charts the adventures of a ship’s crew filled with misfits, who live on smuggling and other dodgy jobs. Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds and his first mate Zoe Alleyne were Browncoats and thus on the losing side of the war. While pragmatical Zoe seems to have moved on, Mal has turned into a bitter cynic. Their crew is made up of Zoe’s husband, slightly dorky pilot Hoban “Wash” Washburne, chirpy young ship’s mechanic Kaylee Frye and mercenary gunslinger Jayne Cobb. Also present is Inara Serra, a Companion (something of a 26th century geisha/escort girl) with who Captain Mal has a strange on-off-friendship as both hide their feelings.

In the first episode they pick up four passengers: a peaceful shepherd (a 26th century version of today’s priests/pastors) named Derrial Book, a nervous fellow named Lawrence Dobson, and a posh Doctor from the Core named Simon Tam, who has smuggled his sister River on board. River, it turns out, had been kidnapped by the Alliance and her mind experimented on, leaving her with amazing abilities and a broken brain. Dobson is actually an agent trying to track and recover the Tams for the Alliance government, but ends up at the wrong end of a bullet from Mal's gun. They dump his body on Whitefall.

Throughout the 14 episodes the crew have some wild adventures on their various jobs in the Verse, a mix of wild west capers and science-fiction heists. The unique mix of those two genres and the dynamics between the crew (and excellently written characters and setting by Joss Whedon) turned Firefly into something very fresh and fascinating.

Those Left Behind

Due to the abrupt cancellation by FOX, many backstories remained untold and plots unresolved. Thanks to the persistence of Firefly’s loyal fans, Joss Whedon was able to produce both a comic book series with Dark Horse Comics, and a movie with Universal Pictures.

The first comic - titled Serenity: Those Left Behind - was written to bridge the gap between the TV show and the movie, and released in three installments between July and September 2005. As it opens, Mal's crew tangles with another group of criminals led by Ott, who steals their haul from a bank heist. Lawrence Dobson is revealed to be alive and bent on getting his revenge against Mal.

Back on Persephone, Badger insists that he didn't set up the Serenity crew, and offers them a new job: locating a horde of cash which he claims was the reason for the Battle of Sturges - the bloodiest and shortest of the war - and conveniently still there on the battlefield. The crew takes the information and heads to Sturges, which is orbited by a debris fields of numerous destroyed ships. They spacewalk onto one of those ships to find the treasure, only to be ambushed by Dobson and his associates. They barely prevail and escape the ensuing fight.

Serenity reaches an unnamed planet, where Inara makes her farewell. Shepherd Book also announces that he is leaving the ship. The comic ends with a new government agent - a Parliamentary Operative - being assigned the task of tracking and recovering River Tam.

Serenity

That setup leads us directly into the movie: Inara and Book are gone from the ship, and the Operative is on their heels. The story focuses more on River and Simon's backstory and the Alliance's experiments on the planet Miranda… which created the Reavers, some sort of ultra-violent bogeymen of the Verse. The ship's crew have to face down the Reavers and the Alliance (in the form of the dogged Operative), before they ultimately reveal the details of the Reavers' creation to the rest of the Verse.

The movie opened in autumn 2005 and thanks to a worldwide release garnered Firefly many new fans who hadn’t been able to see the TV series in their countries. Although it didn’t do terribly at the US-American box office, it wasn’t a huge success either and failed in most other territories where the TV show wasn’t known and people thus felt no pull to pay for cinema tickets.

The Legacy

Even so, Firefly (and Serenity) managed to develop a cult status helped by the advent of streaming services that made it even more readily available. Based on further ideas by Joss Whedon, several more comic books were released to spin the story further. A Serenity tabletop RPG followed as well as countless merchandise.

Most recently, new stories telling new adventures of the Firefly crew and providing further information on their backstories have been released in book form with three books so far – Big Damn Hero (written by Nancy Holder), The Magnificent Nine (by James Lovegrove) and Generations (by Tim Lebbon).

While it may be too late now to hope for any resurrection of the TV series, the spirit of the show and the fan love live on and we hope to contribute a little bit in our own fashion here.

Please Note

We only use the background of Joss Whedon’s Verse and his planets to tell our story. You find more information on our own setting here and on the Verse page.

As we cannot expect everyone to buy and know every piece of merchandise ever released and some of the information in those is even contradictory, we only treat the TV show, the comic book "Those Left Behind", and the movie as canon. In other words: The Eavesdown Docks as seen on the TV show and described by the protagonists are our Eavesdown Docks.

Storylines laid out on screen, such as the Alliance experiments on Miranda and of course the War, cannot be changed. If you bring in additional knowledge from the novels, graphic novels or tabletop game, you are welcome to use it. And if a planet hasn’t been properly described anywhere, you are welcome to make up your own idea for what at least a part of it looks like (desert? jungle? mountain?) - just run the ideas past us first, as noted in our Theme Policy.

The same goes for every other aspect: Look at how the characters on the show are dressed to get an idea of what people in the Verse generally look like in 26th century. But if you decide that your char comes from a planet where blue hair is all the fashion, or golden catsuits, be our guest.

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