While it’s Throwback Thursday today, it was yesterday that marked 15 years since Firefly, the most beloved tv show of all time (amount of love, if not amount of people doing the loving), premiered on Fox. For Browncoats, you already know the story well. For the uninitiated, here’s the tale:
“You can’t take the sky from me.”
As Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off show Angel wrapped up, but before Joss Whedon was such a hot commodity in feature films, something very different was brewing in his mind. Whedon longed to explore an episodic adventure in space, but with the grit of real life and real struggles instead of the crisp and clean and idyllic halls and bridges of Starfleet – the visual hallmarks of Star Trek. Out from his brain folds came a space western epic with a giant cast of 9 main characters and an entire star system of planets and politics. It was full of heart, and full of great stories. In fact they even refer to the universe almost exclusively as “the ‘verse” in dialogue, which I promise you is no accidental reference to story-telling. And the show tells stories in a way I’ve never experienced before. The amount of heart it has, and the way it makes you desperately care for the fictional misfit crew alone in the vacuum of space will surprise you.
“Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!”
Sadly the show was embattled from the start. Fox execs were nervous about the double-length pilot, about introducing so many characters, and about how people would only ever be confused about a show that can have a herd of wild horses and a spaceship car chase in the same scene. So they started meddling.
“Don’t Run, don’t walk.”
Fox decided to start airing the show out of sequence. The second episode hit the airwaves first, despite the pilot being written to introduce us to the rich new world and the crew of the Firefly-class ship named Serenity. Casual audiences were all kinds of confused. This was followed by further scheduling mishaps and creative interference that ultimately killed the chances at getting good tv ratings in the traditional sense.
Then the other foot dropped. The show was cancelled midway through the first season, and only 11 episodes made it to Fox tv. 13 episodes were completed in total. Firefly was no more, and there was nothing any one person could do about it.
“We’ve done the impossible, and that makes us mighty.”
But it wasn’t just one person shouting against the show being axed. The reaction came from a legion of fans. People organizing community gatherings to marathon the DVD Box Set, fans sharing online petitions and starting mail-in campaigns. Then, two years and an ever-increasing cult fanbase later, Serenity was announced. The entire cast reunited to give us a feature film adventure, direct from the brain of Whedon. It’s not without reasons to criticize, but it is a great film, and for ravenous heartbroken fans it was a chance to share something new – together this time.
“No power in the ‘verse can stop me.”
So if you haven’t watched Firefly or Serenity yet, it’s been 15 years. Just do it already. I’d lend you my copy but it’s signed by Nathan Fillion. If you’ve already watched 1500 times, then just watch the bloopers again.