No Power In The 'Verse: The Making of Firefly

No Power In The 'Verse: The Making of Firefly

This year mark the fifteenth anniversary of the single-season and movie hit "Firefly" - so how did it even happen in the first place?

20th Century Fox

We all have that one thing we loved, yet it didn't catch on so it quickly disappeared. For some, it's an indie band that had one or two good albums, or a product that you bought on impulse, but never saw again in the stores. For others, it's a TV series – more specifically, Firefly. This year marks fifteen years since the show was first broadcast on Fox, and also fifteen years since the unjust cancellation. The production wasn't difficult, nor was it an accidental success. The show and the movie sequel, Serenity, became what they are today because of the fans, and out of the desire of the creator to make his story complete, no matter what it took. From studios getting in the way to being continued in several comic book titles, a series that didn't even make it a completed season in the first run has become a major sci-fi franchise beloved by many.

Firefly was created by Joss Whedon, then known for the hit shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. This new idea was to combine the classic Western genre with the science fiction world, in such a way that it would be up to the individual episode to fit into either side. Whedon had an interest in writing a series about a losing army in a war, and with a name for himself already in the industry, set out to make this possible – by writing a two-hour character driven pilot episode introducing our main cast and the iconic ship, Serenity. Several then-unknown actors were cast in the show, including Nathan Fillion (who went on to star in Castle) and Alan Tudyk (K-2SO in Rogue One), along with television veteran Ron Glass. The story was simple - a group of smugglers, led by a soldier from the losing side in a galactic civil war, travel from planet to planet, with the "aim to misbehave." The pilot was filmed, edited, and screened before the executives at Fox – and as per many projects proposed to the studio, they demanded Whedon write a more action-focused pilot, to be aired in place of the two-hour one, along with adding more villains to be closer to their recently-ended X-Files (the pilot would eventually be aired as the final episodes on Fox). Following the weekend writing, a new episode was turned in and Fox gave the go-ahead to make an additional eleven episodes (not including the pilot “Serenity” and the second pilot “The Train Job”). However, it was becoming increasingly obvious that Fox did not like the way the series was being handled by Whedon, as they wanted something more along the lines of X-Files science fiction and not Gunsmoke in space – and during filming on the episode “The Message,” the crew received the cancellation notice. It was over before it could even start, causing Fox to air only eleven episodes – and not in order, which in turn caused confusion on the part of the home audience. Whedon attempted to get other networks to buy the show, but none were interested, and the first season of the planned seven became the only one.

Despite the few episodes and little care from the network, Firefly grew to having a large amount of fans, who bought the DVD releases in droves to prove to Fox that there was an interest. Whedon himself was done with dealing with network demands, and upon realizing he owned the rights to the story and characters (just not the name), he began work on a sequel movie – also thanks to the “Browncoats” that showed there was more than just a few people tuning in. Universal greenlit the film for a Fall 2005 release, and despite giving a lot of creative freedom to the crew, the studio did come in and make some demands, such as killing off the characters of Wash and Shepard Book, as Alan Tudyk and Ron Glass could not commit to doing an immediate sequel. The script was written down from a three hour epic into a much more manageable two hour film, and the intention was reworked to act as a series finale, over a sequel to create more movies out of. The film, titled Serenity, was released in September 2005 to positive reviews, and reignited the Firefly fandom. However, due to being a September release and not getting an awful lot of advertisement, Serenity bombed at the box office, and hopes for a sequel were put down – until the DVD sales came in, and even then, Universal was not too interested in a full-budget film. And so, like the show it continued off of, Serenity stands twelve years later as a single film, made to finish a story the fans needed closure on.

Since then, Firefly has been held up alongside Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica as one of the all-time great science fiction franchises, as well as often topping lists of shows canceled too soon. Roleplaying games, editions of Clue, toys, Funko Pops, and comics have been made, all continuing the story. But what makes it still have such a large group of dedicated fans when the series has been over for years now? Simply put, it's because the show was never given the time to get to the point where you go “oh great, another season.” Every episode and every moment hold up, and they're all there for a reason to serve the greater story. It started the idea of using a movie to finish up a canceled series, something that Veronica Mars, The X-Files, and possibly even Community have done or are rumored to be doing. People from all walks of life enjoy the series, from those who can't get enough of space cowboys to those who hate most science fiction but like Westerns. As with anything, the fans keep the series going and keep the story alive, passing it on to others who in turn, tell more people about it – a fifteen-year word of mouth campaign. Every now and again, the cast reunites, and rumors circulate over a relaunch. For now though, we only really have the fourteen episodes and the movie as the main points in the franchise, and with the occasional comic or short story sequel, there is still plenty of room to explore the 'Verse.

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