Looking Back On Firefly and Serenity

Comic Books Signed by Joss Whedon
Image by Moresheth via Flickr

I’ve recently finished a re-watch of all the episodes of Fire­fly and the sequel movie Seren­ity. It’s certainly not uncom­mon for short lived sci-fi series to develop a loyal fan base that hangs on long after the series itself has finished.   But Fire­fly may be the most extreme exam­ple.

The Cult of Whedon

Of course Fire­fly was always going to have an enthu­si­as­tic follow­ing. It was the brain­child of Joss Whedon. A man revered in fandom since he was also the man behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

I’m a big fan of Whedon’s work myself. He has a unique voice and a real skill for char­ac­ter. However the first time I watched Fire­fly I wasn’t impressed. It wasn’t that the show was bad. It was compe­tently writ­ten and there were good actors, but it just didn’t resonate with me. The cowboys in space angle seemed over-played and I watched out of habit more than enthu­si­asm.

Fox Fumbles

There’s a simple reason for that and the reason is Fox. The network exec­u­tives had no confi­dence in Fire­fly and messed around with the order the show aired in. The result was an intro­duc­tory episode that was not only one of the weaker shows of the season, but also wasn’t actu­ally designed to intro­duce the char­ac­ters or setting.

Obvi­ously I wasn’t alone in fail­ing to connect with the show and Fox cancelled the show with­out even show­ing 3 of the 14 episodes. During it’s short run though it had managed to gener­ate some intensely loyal fans.

The Correct Order

In my re-watch I finally had the oppor­tu­nity to view the series in the intended order and I was quite star­tled at what a differ­ence it made. Where before I had trou­ble caring about the char­ac­ters and found the west­ern setting rather forced, this time round I was grad­u­ally seduced into it until by the end of the season I was disap­pointed to real­ize that was the last episode.

It’s inter­est­ing and a little surpris­ing, because of the face of it episodes of Fire­fly could be watched in any order. While there are some ongo­ing plot elements, each story stands on its own. But the signif­i­cance of those appar­ently minor plot elements in build­ing a cohe­sive universe turns out to be substan­tial.

In most cases I am accept­ing when a network cancels a show I like. Often they simply can’t find the neces­sary audi­ence regard­less of times­lot or adver­tis­ing. But with Fire­fly it’s clear that Fox fumbled things badly.


Whedon took another stab at fire­fly with his 2005 movie Seren­ity. Essen­tially what we got was a big budget Fire­fly episode that tied up a number of the dangling plot strands from the series. The entire cast returned although some got rela­tively small roles and the movie still had that Fire­fly feel to it.

There’s no doubt that it bene­fited from the larger budget and longer running time. But it’s really not a movie that’s newcomer friendly. There’s too much back­ground that people will miss if they haven’t watched the show. And with­out that back­ground it becomes a very run of the mill sci-fi flick.

The End?

There are still rumors about a Fire­fly revival. The most recent involved Netflix. Unfor­tu­nately, while I think there was a vast amount of untapped poten­tial in the show, I also think it’s time has passed. Better to wait long enough that it can be rebooted with an entirely new cast.

Or you could read the assorted licensed media…

About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of eoghann.com. You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?


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