I’ve written about Firefly on other occasions.
Like all fans of the show, I’ve bemoaned the fact that this science fiction series, created by patron-nerd-saint Joss Whedon, was cancelled after only a single season. The show was so richly drawn, with compelling characters and potential plotlines that could have easily sustained five additional seasons, perhaps more. I also feel confident in saying that the series would have gotten only better as time went on.
Since the series didn’t continue on, it’s easy for me to write this. It’s pure conjecture, and entirely my opinion. You can’t prove me wrong. Of course, if you’re a fan of Firefly as I am, you don’t want me to be wrong.
What’s that you’re telling me? The show did go on?
Please, tell me more.
Oh yeah, sure. The movie. It was called Serenity, which was the actual name of the midbulk transport, standard radion-accelerator core, classcode 03-K64 Firefly spaceship that was the main setting of the television series, the way the U.S.S. Enterprise is the main setting of Star Trek.
The Fox series Firefly was cancelled after only 11 of the 14 episodes had aired back in 2002. The movie was released only three years later in 2005. There’s at least one other movie called Serenity that came out in 2019, starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway; that’s not the one we’re talking about. This was an actual continuation of the series.
It’s been years since I watched the movie. I’ve said before, when talking about Firefly, that I didn’t really want to discuss Serenity. It’s not because it was a bad movie. No, not at all. It was not a special-effects laden big-budget blockbuster either, although there was considerably more action and violence than on the television series. The movie was filmed on a relatively modest budget; it was never designed to compete with the likes of Star Wars. That’s okay, because Firefly‘s strength was always in its interesting characters and the emotional content of the stories. The rest of the sci-fi trappings was merely icing on the cake.
It occurs to me that I can only recall bits and pieces of the plot of the movie now. I’m overdue for a rewatch of Serenity. However, after watching it the first time, I decided that I hated it.
Not because it was a bad movie, though. Allow me to explain.
The differences between the television and movie versions of our favorite characters and science-fiction universe was minimal. The dialogue was still witty and quick. In all, it was like a very-special double-length episode of the series, with the violence and action pumped up, just a little. Overall, it was a pretty good representation of the science-fiction/fantasy/action genre. Maybe not as good as the first Star Wars, but certainly better than Star Wars: Episode I.
There’s only one reason (maybe two) that I hate this movie . . .
. . .Joss Whedon killed off two of our nine main characters in this movie. Shepherd Book and Hoban “Wash” Washburn. Killed ’em. Dead. Canonically dead beyond this point. I loved all of these characters by the time I watched the movie, and killing off a couple of main characters was a gut punch.
Whedon had pulled this stunt on me before, though. I should have seen it coming. He had killed off several main characters in both Buffy and Angel. In hindsight, it was easier to understand the story choices that led to these deaths. Still, something like Buffy coming home to find her mother unexpectedly dead took me a long while to process. Maybe I’m still processing it.
But, why would you kill off two of your main characters, especially when it wasn’t clear if the franchise would live on in sequels? Or maybe I’m asking the wrong question. I’d like to believe that, if Joss thought this franchise would continue in some fashion, he would have been more hesitant to kill off two the way he did. Alan Tudyk and Ron Glass were—as far as I know—great guys to have on set. It looks more like Joss knew this was going to be the crew’s last appearance on screen. That’s when you give main characters the hero’s death scene. I mean, if Walter White had died in the first season of Breaking Bad, where would we have been, story-wise?
There may be another reason that the two characters were killed off. I’ve heard rumors that Tudyk and Glass had refused to sign a multi-movie contract that would have had them playing their characters in a sequel for the same amount of money. If the first movie had been a monster hit, that would have been a profitable deal for the studio, but not so much for the actors. I really hope that’s not the reason the characters were killed off. That’s too cold and impersonal, too real.
So, that’s why I hated this movie. Book and Wash, gone. No other reason, really. I know that makes me sound a little silly and emotional. I’ll admit to occasional sillyness and emotionality (if that’s a word) when the fictive dream created for me is a strong one. And, Whedon knows what he’s doing.
Someday, I’ll watch the movie again. Maybe I will be a little more objective this time.
The prematurely cancelled series was able to live on, however briefly, in another medium: motion pictures. Other franchises that I like have done the same, such as Star Trek and The X-Files. Star Wars, which began its life in motion pictures, has doubled back into serialized television content with its various animated series and now two seasons of The Mandalorian; more serialized content in different series is coming, we’re told.
Television and movies aren’t the only storytelling media available. One other viable visual medium is comic books. Graphic novels, if you’re fancy; sequential art, if you’re a snob.
Joss Whedon is no stranger to the world of comic books. As most fans know, Buffy the Vampire Slayer had additional seasons, in comic book form, after the series went off the air. I’ve read Seasons 8 and 9. There were at least three additional seasons after these, also including the characters Angel and Faith. I understand that Season 12 was, in reality, the final season of Buffy.
But, fans had been the happy recipients of seven whole television seasons of Buffy. There was already a lot of story there. Fans of Firefly had only one short season. There was a veritable motherlode of story that had yet to be mined.
I own the Dark Horse Comics trade paperback collections for two three-issue miniseries, Serenity: Those Left Behind and Serenity: Better Days. Both of these are set in the time between the end of the television series and the movie, so all the characters are alive. I liked that. The stories felt like Firefly stories, and the art was amazing.
I also have the hardbound graphic novel The Shepherd’s Tale, which focuses on Shepherd Derrial Book, as you might expect. I didn’t like this story as much as I did the previous two, and the art was not as good. But, it was still Firefly, and that’s something.
These were the first three comic book collections from Dark Horse featuring the characters from the show, the last one published in 2010. Since that time, there have been at least two six-issue miniseries, set after the events of the movie, and several one-shots and short stories. Beginning in 2018, Boom!Studios began publishing a series of Firefly comics, which are said to be a continuation of the series. I haven’t read any of these yet, either, although I understand that the events depicted in the Dark Horse Comics stories are treated as canon.
Fans of genre television are familiar with media tie-in novels as well. Oddly, Firefly doesn’t have that many novels yet. Keith R. A. DeCandido—an author familiar to genre fans—wrote the novelization of the movie Serenity. I’ve read a couple of Keith’s Supernatural tie-ins, and they were pretty good. My friend Maddalena recommends the Titan Books series that started in 2018. The fifth book in the series is scheduled to be released in March 2021. Three of the five novels were written by James Lovegrove. Maddalena was reading the second novel when recommending the series to me. I haven’t read any of them yet, but am looking forward to doing so.
Another friend, Jack “Blimprider” Tyler, recommended Firefly: The Game, a board game for 1 – 4 players in which you navigate the ‘Verse of the television series, captaining your own ship and hiring your own crew, finding jobs along the way to keep flying. Jack says this game captures the spirit of the source material like no other game he or his family has played. I am intrigued by the game, which has several expansion packs available also. I haven’t purchased it yet. The lure of creating my own stories in the Firefly universe may be difficult to resist.
There have been rumors of video games based upon the series for years. To the best of my knowledge, none exist in reality. Yet. It still could happen, though.
The point I was attempting to make in this post—inasmuch as I was trying to make a point at all—is that one truncated season of Firefly was hardly enough to quench the thirst of its fans. But, here in the Nerd-O-‘Verse, there are plenty of other media in which to tell our stories. The television series is an eighteen-year-old footnote at this point, but the setting and characters were so richly imagined that their story continues. Their story is still being written.
Find a crew . . . find a job . . . and keep flying.