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The show is set in the year 2517 A.D., following the depletion of Earth's resources and an expansion of the human race into the frontier of outer space. The show takes its name from the "Firefly-class" starship operated by the central characters; the ship's class name is itself a reference to the appearance of the ship, whose tail section blinks during acceleration. Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds is the veteran of a war of resistance against "The Alliance"—an organization that attempted to achieve the unification of all mankind under a single imperial government. A central "core" of planetary systems have fallen under Alliance control, while settlers and refugees in the farther reaches of space enjoy relative freedom from the long arm of the government but lack many of the amenities of a high-tech civilization. Mal now owns a small Firefly-class starship called Serenity, making cargo runs and performing various other tasks—legal or otherwise—to scrape together a living for himself and his crew.
Featuring a blend of elements from science fiction and western genres, the show depicts mankind's future in a way that is uncharacteristic of many contemporary science fiction programs. The dialogue and interplay between characters is central to the plot of the program, resulting in a story that is alternately serious and humorous.
- Nathan Fillion plays Malcolm Reynolds, Serenity's captain.
- Gina Torres plays Zoe Alleyne Washburne, crew member and wartime friend of Reynolds.
- Alan Tudyk plays Hoban Washburne, the pilot of Serenity and Zoë's husband.
- Morena Baccarin plays Inara Serra, a Companion (an honored profession in this society, with much in common with a renaissance courtesan or Japanese geisha curiously combined with traditionally male roles of the medieval knight or the Japanese samurai) with special status on the ship and a mutual unspoken crush and love-hate relationship with Mal.
- Jewel Staite plays Kaywinnit Lee "Kaylee" Frye, ship's mechanic. With no formal training, she keeps the ship, Serenity, running with an intuitive knowledge of mechanical things.
- Adam Baldwin plays Jayne Cobb, crew member. A straight-forward (some might mistakenly say dull-witted), violent, and treacherous bandit that Mal bought off while in the very process of being robbed by him.
- Sean Maher plays Simon Tam, a surgeon and physician of the first caliber, on the run after breaking his sister River out of a research facility.
- Summer Glau plays River Tam, originally a stowaway on the ship. Previously suffered exploitation in medical experiments for unspecified reasons (but with strong hints of brain tampering to bring out a natural psychic ability), presumably by the agency whose operatives include the "Hands Of Blue".
- Ron Glass plays Shepherd Derrial Book, a preacher, holy man, or Shepherd, though there are hints that he has a mysteriously dark past.
The show's plot pits these characters against various criminals and schemers, Alliance security forces, the violently insane Reavers, and the mysterious men with "hands of blue" who are apparently operatives of some rogue secret agency within the Alliance. The crew is driven by the need to secure enough income to keep their ship operational, against the need to keep a low profile to avoid their adversaries. Their situation is greatly complicated by the very divergent motivations of the individuals on board Serenity. The show's brief run did not allow full elucidation of all the complex interrelationships of the cast and their external contacts.
Airing and cancellation
Though the show had a loyal following during its original broadcast, it was cancelled by the Fox Broadcasting Company in December 2002 after only 11 episodes shown in the USA and Canada. Low ratings were blamed for the cancellation; it was also suggested that Whedon's additional responsibilities on Angel after co-creator David Greenwalt's departure from that show was a contributing factor. In the hopes of getting another network such as UPN to pick up the cancelled show, fans formed the 'Firefly Immediate Assistance' campaign, but were technically unsuccessful (though Universal did decide to pick Firefly up as a movie project, see below). Fillion later appeared in the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, while Torres and Baldwin took on recurring roles in Angel.
Fans attributed the low ratings in part to actions of the Fox Network. Firefly was promoted as an action-comedy rather than the more serious character study it was intended to be; episodes were occasionally preempted for sporting events, and the episodes were not aired in the order that the creators had intended. Most notably, the two-hour episode Serenity was intended to be the pilot episode, as it contains most of the character introductions and back-story. However, FOX decided that Serenity was not a suitable pilot, and so the second episode, The Train Job, was rushed into production to become the pilot episode.
The sequence of episodes aired varied by locality:
- In the USA and Canada, starting on September 20, 2002, Fox broadcast the episodes on Fridays at 20:00 (except for the second hour of the pilot which was shown at 21:00). The order was 2-3, 6; 7-8, 4-5, 9; 10, 14, 1; with 11-13 unaired in the USA.
- In South Africa, starting on 2003-04-15, the SABC 3 broadcast the episodes on Tuesdays at 19:30. The order was 2-3, 6-8, 4-5, 9-10, 14, 1a-1b, 11-13.
- In Mexico and South America, starting on 2003-04-19, MundoFOX broadcast the episodes on Saturdays at 18:00. The order was 2-3, 6-8, 4-5, 9-10, 13, 11, 14, 12; the pilot episode was not shown.
- In the United Kingdom, starting on 2003-05-12, Sci Fi channel (United Kingdom) broadcast the episodes on Mondays at 21:00 (except for the first hour of the pilot which was shown at 20:00). The altered episodes of the first season were shown in the originally intended order.
- The Sci Fi Channel in the United States began airing the series on 2005-07-22 in its originally intended broadcast order.
||Serenity (2 hours)
||Dec 20, 2002
||"The Train Job"
||Joss Whedon, Tim Minear
||Sep 20, 2002
||Sep 27, 2002
||Nov 1, 2002
||Drew Z. Greenberg
||Nov 8, 2002
||"Our Mrs Reynolds"
||Vondie Curtis Hall
||Oct 4, 2002
||Oct 18, 2002
||"Out Of Gas"
||Oct 25, 2002
||Nov 15, 2002
||Dec 6, 2002
||Ben Edlund, Jose Molina
||Joss Whedon, Tim Minear
||"Heart Of Gold"
||"Objects In Space"
||Dec 13, 2002
A box set of the first season's episodes, including those unaired in the USA, were released on region 1 DVD on December 9, 2003; and on region 2 DVD on 2004-04-19.
Nominations and awards
- Firefly won the Emmy for Outstanding special visual effects for a series.
- The pilot episode, "Serenity", won the Visual Effects Society's Best visual effects in a television series award, and was nominated for Best compositing in a televised program, music video, or commercial. It came second in the 2002 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, short form category; and was nominated for a Golden reel award by the Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA in the Best sound editing in television long form: sound effects]]/foley category.
- Nathan Fillion won the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA's Cinescape genre face of the future award, male for his portrayal as Mal.
- The DVD won the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films' 2004 Saturn award for Best DVD television release; and was nominated for a Golden satellite award in the Best DVD extras category.
- In 2003 the episodes "The Message" and "Heart of gold" were nominated for Hugos's in the Best dramatic presentation, short form category, despite not being shown on television in the USA.
Whedon said in an April 2003 USA Today interview that he hadn't given up on the show, and hoped to continue it in any format. For information on the movie, based on the series, see the Serenity Movie page. You can also visit the official website at http://www.serenitymovie.org/(approve sites)