This is an amazing television show, which unfortunately failed to last even a single Season. The writers had created enough background material for years of storylines, and it shows. The characters are deeply layered, the performances are great, and the production values are very high for a short-run TV show.
This story starts with an interplanetary Civil War. Mal (Nathan Fillion - Dracula 2001 ) and Zoe ( Gina Torres ) are on the losing side, like a glamourised version of the Confederacy (without racism, sexism, etc).
A few years later, Mal and Zoe are the Han Solo and Chewbacca of a Firefly-class bucket of bolts named Serenity. They have a small crew - not unlike the crew of the Betty in Alien Resurrection , also written by Joss Whedon . Sometimes they do jobs for a fence named Badger (Mark Sheppard - Medium ). And when the job inevitably goes bad, they end up taking paying passengers as well as cargo. Unfortunately, one of the passengers may be a Federal Marshal!
The show's Western-style setting becomes more apparent. For example, instead of a racist caricature of Native Americans in Space the spaceship risks ambush by Reavers - the equivalent of a 1980s movie's mixed-race street-gang. Yes, the violence and mayhem that they wreak on travellers is presented as mindless and without context. In all fairness, the Reavers' backstory will be explained in Serenity (aka Firefly:The Movie)
Also important to the setting is the location shooting, a dusty desert scrubland that the locals cross on horseback. The outer worlds, recently colonised on the cheap, are the equivalent of the American frontier (AKA the Wild West). However, this hatchet and a blanket image of the homesteaders owes more to Hollywood than to historiacl reality.
The Doc and his sister ( Summer Glau ) are adopted as semi-permanent crew members. The preacher (Ron Glass) also makes himself useful, so likewise is allowed to stick around.
[Season 1, Episode 3]
The Train Job
Original US Air Date: 20 Sep 02
Shown November 2003
The crew are hired to steal medical supplies by a German OAP.
It is nice to see how everyone pulls together. They are not just a bunch of smugglers, they are a well-oiled heist crew.
The matter becomes more complex, and Morality comes into play. We get to see Mal's double-standards. At the end of the Pilot double Ep, he gives a much-quoted monologue: If I ever kill you, you'll be conscious, facing me and armed ... but now we learn that he can be every bit as vicious as Jayne (Adam Baldwin - Angel: Season 5 )!
Serenity encounters a ship that has been bushwhacked by the cannibalistic Reavers. The crew discover a survivor.
However, before they can get to safety they are boarded by an Alliance ship. The Alliance are on the lookout for the Doc and River ( Summer Glau ) ...
Mal (Nathan Fillion - Dracula 2001 ) finds out that he is married to Saffron ( Christina Hendricks ). Among other things, this gives us an opportunity to explore his relationship (or lack thereof) with Inara the courtesan ( Morena Baccarin ).
The crew arrive at a remote settlement where Jayne (Adam Baldwin - Angel: Season 5 ) pulled a job once. Strangely, the locals regard him as some kind of Robin Hood figure!
Stranded in space, alone and without hope, Mal (Nathan Fillion - Dracula 2001 ) has flashbacks to how he met the crew. As ever, the scenes are witty and concise. Every encounter is both funny and in character.
Inara the courtesan ( Morena Baccarin ) is hired to go to a dancing ball. Mal (Nathan Fillion - Dracula 2001 ) gets possessive over her (apparently his version of the Confederacy was anti-slavery) and fights a duel for her .... honour? Surely not!
Meanwhile, they make a deal with Dodger. I mean, Badger (Mark Sheppard - Medium ). He is a nice enough bloke towards Mal, and it is not his fault he seems to have wandered in from Oliver Twist.
The Shepherd needs surgery.
Unfortunately, the Doc and his sister ( Summer Glau ) are kidnapped. We get flashbacks of their parents.
The crew go to a Core World, because Inara ( Morena Baccarin ) has to do her annual physical check-up. Not a monthly, like the Nevada brothels demand. Ah, standards have slipped.
The Doc plans a hospital robbery for the crew. Yes, he is a criminal mastermind in the making. His secret agenda is to help his sister ( Summer Glau ).
Jayne (Adam Baldwin - Angel: Season 5 ) has a secret agenda of his own. He is sick of the Doc and River, and there is a reward on them ...
Jayne (Adam Baldwin - Angel: Season 5 ) spends part of his cut from the previous mission on a crate of fresh apples. This is a smart idea, because scurvy is probably a big issue on long space voyages. Also, it shows that despite being a violent and untrustworthy man he is capable of genuine remorse for his misdeeds. Ironically, the theme of this episode is that you can only really know a person if you hold them over a volcano. That is what Mal did to Jayne - but now it is Mal's turn.
This is the aftermath of the Train job, and the ensuing doublecross. The German OAP wants revenge. Wash and Mal (Nathan Fillion - Dracula 2001 ) try to fence some of the swag they stole last week, but end up getting caught and tortured. Luckily they have their own bickering to distract them. Wash was jealous because Mal and Zoe had lots of great war stories. Now they get to know each other better, as the German holds them over a volcano (metaphorically speaking).
River ( Summer Glau ) finds out what she can do in a life-or-death situation, as she and Kaylee have to defend the ship from three gangsters. Meanwhile, Inara ( Morena Baccarin ) is busy with a politician - the first female client we have seen her with.
As ever, we get great character development. Jubal threatens to rape Kaylee, and the Doc obviously returns the girl's affection. River, crazy as she sometimes seems, is the smartest of the bunch.
It is ironic to have an African-American play a character named after a Confederate General. Beyond that, and the fact that Nathan Fillion is apparently a distant relation of Earlie, it is difficult to decipher Joss Whedon's hidden allusion.
This was the last ep to be aired in the UK.
The whores are OK with unprotected intercourse, but will not do oral. They deny a father his rights, but give Jayne (Adam Baldwin - Angel: Season 5 ) free goes. They also murder people and make orphans. Are they the best people to raise a young boy that they orphaned? Well, if he is lucky he can end up like the protagonist of Sweet Sweetback's Badass Song, but how likely is that? He would probably have been better off growing up in the big mansion on the hill with his father.
A recurring villainess is back. Yes, we get to see what happened to Saffron ( Christina Hendricks ). She ropes the crew into doing a heist. The booty is the prototype of the standard hald-held energy pistol. Yes, despite the show's Wild West aesthetics and blanket and a hatchet view of homesteaders, everyone apparently uses high-tech energy-blasters instead of good old-fashioned revolvers.
River's telepathy is in high gear, and she knows about Jayne's misdeeds in earlier episodes. Serves him right for spending time in the same room as an insane telepath.
Mal (Nathan Fillion - Dracula 2001 ) and Zoe get a coffin mailed to them. It contains the body of a war buddy of theirs ( Jonathan Woodward ). Their job is to take his body home, so his family can bury him.
Meanwhile, Jayne (Adam Baldwin - Angel: Season 5 ) gets a woolly hat from his mom.
Kaylee gets a love interest. However, the ending is a non-sequitor.
Serenity (aka Firefly:The Movie)
Released September 2005