On September 20, 2002 the TV show “Firefly” made its debut on Fox. Created by Joss Whedon, already creator of successful series such as “Buffy” and its spinoff “Angel”, it’s a mix of science fiction and western.
“Firefly” is set in 2517 in a colonized solar system after Earth, overpopulated and exploited to exhaustion, has been abandoned. Planets and moons in the new solar system have been terraformed but with different results. The rich have taken the best planets, where they live in cities where they have the most advanced technologies. Instead, the poor had to go live on moons where conditions are at the limit of habitability and technology is limited so in many ways they look like the old west.
A few years before the events of “Firefly”, there was a civil war for the control of the solar system and Malcolm Reynolds fought on the side that lost along with Zoe Washburne. After the war, the two of them and her husband started a more or less legal trade of any goods are required on the various planets and moons on a Firefly class spaceship called Serenity in memory of the Battle of Serenity Valley which marked the defeat of the “Browncoats”, the nickname of the Independents.
“Firefly” cast consists of:
- Nathan Fillion as Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds
- Gina Torres as Zoe Alleyne Washburne
- Alan Tudyk as Hoban “Wash” Washburne
- Morena Baccarin as Inara Serra
- Adam Baldwin as Jayne Cobb
- Jewel Staite as Kaywinnet Lee “Kaylee” Frye
- Sean Maher as Simon Tam
- Summer Glau as River Tam
- Ron Glass as Derrial Book
The double episode “Serenity” was shot to be the series pilot introducing the other members of the spaceship crew, Jayne and Kaylee, and the passengers, the high-class prostitute, Inara, the Shepherd Book and Simon Tam, a doctor who brings with him a mysterious baggage that’s revealed to contain his sister River.
The Fox executives weren’t satisfied with “Serenity” and decided to use the episode “The Train Job” as a pilot. However, this episode contains no introduction of the characters and their back-stories as that was done in “Serenity” so it proved weak for the debut of the show. A few other episodes were broadcast out of order too and that didn’t help.
The audience of the show was unsatisfactory, also because it was advertised as an action-comedy giving a very limited idea of its contents. As is typical of the Joss Whedon’s shows, “Firefly” is a mix of drama and comedy, as you can see very well in the episode “Jaynestown” which superficially is a comedy but contains elements which are really deep.
The insufficient audience convinced Fox to cancel the series without even airing all the episodes. Three of them were in fact broadcast only in 2003 by Sci Fi Channel.
Generally, cancellation represents the end of a TV show but the “Firefly” fan group that had formed promoted the series on the Internet. No other channel was willing to buy it to continue it but many found the episodes on the Internet and the reputation of the series gradually increased over time. In 2003, “Firefly” was released on DVD in the U.S.A. and eventually in other countries.
“Firefly” ended up becoming a cult series, so much so that Universal Studios produced the movie “Serenity” (2005), not to be confused with the pilot episode of the series, a sort of wrap-up of the story. Books and comics connected to “Firefly” and the role-playing game “Serenity” were also published. Obviously, the TV show and the movie were published in Blu-ray as well.
Over the years, more people kept on discovering “Firefly” and appreciated the show and the movie. You just have to read the Reddit’s science fiction section – but there’s also a specific section for “Firefly” – to find some even very recently, yet another demonstration of the value of a product that in a few episodes has been able to express a wealth regarding its fictional universe, its plots and its characters. It’s also the testimony of the short-sightedness of Fox executives, who haven’t been able to promote “Firefly” in an appropriate manner and didn’t believe in the show.