Firefly: How the (Space) West Was Won

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This column accommodates spoilers for Firefly.

A captain, a primary mate, a pilot, a mercenary, a mechanic, a companion, a preacher, a health care provider and a telepath stroll right into a bar. In it, they make up the shiniest rattling present that you simply ever did see. They usually did so regardless of the hurdles that they confronted. These hurdles existed each within the present and out, with the crew of Serenity combating to maintain a tiny nook of area as their residence whereas the collection’ community, Fox, seemingly did all the things it may to maintain the present from succeeding.

Mockingly, the struggles in Firefly — outcasts simply looking for their very own area within the ‘verse — mirror the struggles the series faced during production. Fox’s record of quibbles with Firefly was not brief. Nathan Fillion’s Captain Malcolm Reynolds was too darkish a personality; they didn’t need the collection to air in widescreen because it was shot; the primary two episodes had been aired out of order; it was marketed by the community as a “wacky genre comedy”… for a corporation that paid to provide the rattling factor, they positive went out of their option to see it fail.

And “fail” it did. At the least in case your grading system begins and ends at scores and community belief.

Firefly adopted the crew of the spaceship Serenity as they struggled to construct a life out within the black exterior of Alliance rule. Some lived at peace below the Alliance, however those that discovered themselves at odds with the authorities — at the very least within the case of Serenity’s crew — did so not as a result of they thought that authorities was dangerous, however as a result of the Alliance needed complete management of area and those that occupied it. Besides, after all, the ugly elements. In search of freedom from the Alliance and begrudgingly defending those that discovered themselves on the outer rim made up the vast majority of Firefly’s core conflicts. That and the thriller surrounding the lady within the field (that’s River Tam, performed by Summer season Glau) and the way she may learn minds.

The collection can be cancelled earlier than its first season even ended, leaving the solid and crew devastated and the thriller of River Tam’s powers unanswered. Whether or not you watched the extras on the field set or have been at a conference with any member of the solid within the final 20 years, you’ve heard the tales of the crew persevering with to shoot regardless of understanding the announcement was coming, and the heartbreak that got here when it did.

That cancellation ended up being Firefly’s personal Battle of Serenity Valley. However, slightly than finish a conflict, it largely simply began one.

“We’re still flying.”
“That’s not much.”
“… It’s enough.”

Firefly had all the things working towards it. Had it been made immediately, it most likely would have joined the regarding and rising record of reveals that turned tax write-offs earlier than viewers even had an opportunity to determine in the event that they had been for them or not. However, 2002 was a special time, and followers did get to see the collection (even when they noticed it within the improper order), and lots of of them by no means let it go.

Solely 11 of the produced 14 episodes aired on Fox because of the premature cancellation. However, what twentieth Century Fox’s tv division couldn’t have predicted was that fan demand for the collection was so excessive that the DVD pre-sale offered out in 24 hours. The scores struggled, however many have identified that was as a consequence of Firefly being trapped within the Friday evening dying slot slightly than a scarcity of curiosity within the collection. The present’s goal demographic merely wasn’t residence on Friday nights. (DVR was nonetheless in its early days, with the tech having debuted in 1999.)

Fox and different networks didn’t take that as an indication to capitalize on the love for the collection, however Common did. Due to early assist from Common studio government Mary Father or mother and the robust DVD gross sales, the Firefly crew would see second life within the function movie, Serenity. The film would go on to promote out three premiere screenings at its debut competition, obtain robust early reactions from critics and open to a large amount of fan pleasure because of a grassroots advertising and marketing marketing campaign.

It will then go on to underperform on the field workplace.

“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

From a financial perspective, Firefly was a failure. From that very same perspective, it was resurrected a yr later simply to fail once more. But when a failure is all it was, then how was it nonetheless part of the cultural dialog once I first noticed it a decade after it first aired? How does it proceed to fill panel rooms at cons? Why can’t the solid do something with out being requested about Season 2? Why am I writing a column about it 20 years later, and why are you right here studying about it?

Firefly might have been set as much as fail in the identical manner that the Browncoats of Serenity Valley would, however in a manner that makes the collection really feel all of the extra particular to these of us who adore it. All of us discovered one thing we may join with within the present, whether or not that’s a love for bands of misfits who find yourself as discovered household or a connection to the concept that nobody can take the sky from us regardless of how arduous they fight. Watching the collection stay within the cultural dialog regardless of all the chances stacked up towards it solely makes its followers like it tougher.

Star Trek might have pioneered the ultimate frontier, however Firefly gave us our first live-action area western. It married the beliefs of the previous west like “I look out for me and mine, that don’t embrace you ‘less I conjure it does,” and brought us a hardened old vet who just wants to live in peace without being bothered by the sometimes tyrannical government or having to take care of all these orphans who keep landing in his lap. By centering on Malcolm Reynolds and the misanthropy that tried to hide the fact that he can’t not be a hero, Firefly set the muse for what might need been simply any previous western.

As an alternative, the present managed to marry the long run motif with historic themes and supply an amalgamation that might showcase that regardless of how far civilization progresses, there’ll at all times be tyrants. And, as long as these tyrants exist, there’ll at all times be people who would a lot slightly be consuming strawberries however will most likely assist shield these in want anyhow.

Browncoats by no means let go of Firefly as a result of tales are extra than simply greenback indicators. It’s overly romantic to say that the (area) west was gained by cranky cowboys with hearts of gold and weird-ass discovered households as a result of that’s what folks join with, scores and {dollars} be damned. Regardless of what number of instances I discuss artwork being extra vital than cash, the folks presently in command of our media will at all times make choices based mostly on {dollars} and cents. Moreover, isn’t romanticism type of the purpose of westerns anyway?

There’s nothing extra timeless than an influence wrestle between a quietly evil authorities and those that search freedom from it. It’s that truth, coupled with Firefly’s eclectic and complex crew, that has saved the collection afloat 21 years later. We’ll by no means see a Season 2, however the one-hit surprise lives on the dvd cabinets of browncoats internationally; to stream on hulu; and has even been to area as soon as.

Why? Nicely, as a result of you may’t cease the sign.

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