The Sunday Magazine: Firefly

I don’t think you can be a card-carrying geek if you don’t have something you are very passionate about that the rest of the world is not quite as passionate about. Coupled with this is an often Quixotic need to tilt at the vox populi windmills trying to find people to join you. For many geeks my age our first quest to resurrect Star Trek saw success beyond our imagination. Once Star Trek took off we mostly found a world where things geekly were more accepted. Even so there were still pockets of resistance. I decided that there was a little show called Firefly which I wanted to champion.

Firefly

Firefly is a story of how a broadcast network sometimes just doesn’t understand what they bought. Fresh off of producing Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel the Fox network picked up Joss Whedon’s next series. The series was pitched as a western in space. Following a band of space cowboys who worked on the fringe of the known universe and the legal system. Mr. Whedon created a rich universe and nine well-drawn characters. With Mr. Whedon’s television series there is a build up throughout the run of episodes which leads to a crescendo. It is slow building at first. That slow build was not appreciated by the overseers from Fox. They insisted on showing episodes out of order. Getting viewers to watch a serialized science-fiction show is tough asking them to fill in missing pieces that they hadn’t had the opportunity to see was not a recipe for success. Firefly could not be rearranged as if it was a police procedural with a crime of the week. Mr. Whedon’s universe was more intricate than that. To show you how bad it was the pilot episode the one which introduced the relationships between our nine characters was shown as the eleventh (!) episode. It wasn’t until it was released to DVD that we were able to watch the episodes in the correct order.

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Then a funny thing happened once people had the chance to watch this quirky little series of fourteen episodes in one sitting it started to thrive. In what was a forerunner of binge watching a series Firefly was just short enough to reward a few nights of watching. All of a sudden our little corner of the universe was getting more populated. It got so populated that Universal the studio that produced the series took a chance on a movie version just two years after it was canceled. That movie called Serenity was unable to make enough money to break even at the box office. It showed that even though there were more fans there weren’t enough to sustain a movie franchise.

Since Firefly many of the creative people involved have gone on to greater success. Nathan Fillion who played Captain Mal has found his niche playing detective fiction author on Castle. Joss Whedon of course is the director and writer of the two Marvel’s The Avengers movies. Morena Baccarin who played Inara was in three seasons of Homeland. Adam Baldwin would take much of his Jane personality to his five season stint on Chuck. That’s just a few credits. The cast regularly talks about how much fun and camaraderie was present on the set. They have also embraced the fans called Browncoats. There are none of them who shy away from the fan community and that makes all of us band together more tightly.

If you’ve run out of things to watch in your streaming queue give Firefly a try and if you want to come be a Browncoat, you know where to find me.

Mark Behnke

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