Ask fans and they'll tell you. The network skipped the pilot, missed on marketing, aired episodes out of order, and switched up air dates.
The critics were less than kind. Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle called it a "corny disaster." Carina Chocano of Salon said "the cast is as vast as space itself, though sadly not as deep."
Yet, as many people know, this unexpected offbeat, oddball space western found a foothold with fans. They fell in love with the witty dialogue, the richly diverse universe, and the abundance of less-than-perfect protagonists who made up the 5-member crew (and four passengers) of Serenity, a Firefly-class spaceship traveling on the outer edges of civilization in 2517.
Their fan campaign inspired creator Joss Whedon to shop a film, which was snapped up by Mary Parent, shortly after she watched the DVD series, for Universal Pictures. The movie fared well and went on to win several awards, despite being a bit disconnected from the series as Whedon had tasked himself with writing a story suitable for series fans and new viewers.
Why The Firefly Story Fired Up Fans.
As much as Firefly is a scrap-metal science fiction frontier story, it borrows some of its discourse from the post-American Civil War Reconstruction period, with Whedon inspired partly by The Killer Angels. As mentioned, some critics said the space-western blend was too literal for its own good. But they were far from right. Here's why...
As the back story goes, humans began settling other planets after the Earth was depleted. And much like the English colonies, American frontier, or even the urban-rural disconnect we sometimes see today, the people furthest out tended to have freer but admittedly much rougher lives.
Eventually, the central planets organized and decided to save the outer planets from themselves, sparking a civil war between the Alliance and the Independents (better known as Browncoats). After the war, our five anti-heroes, led by Captain Malcolm 'Mal' Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), find freedom by eking out an existence as cargo runners and, sometimes, as smugglers and semi-honorable bandits.
Add four more eclectic passengers, two of which are wanted by the Alliance they are trying to avoid, and the contrasting characters are enough to entertain as they bounce around the outer planets looking for work. It's not all dissimilar from how Han Solo's life might have been with a larger crew and no aliens.
And, while some high-tech weaponry exits in this universe, most people are still reliant on common firearms. Of course, that's all part of the rustic charm. It's believable.
"We've done the impossible and that makes us mighty." — Mal
A few days from now, Firefly fans, also better known as Browncoats, are back in the business of pioneering. For almost two years, some of them have been working on a not-for-profit fan-made film called Browncoats: Redemption. The premiere will be shown to 1,800 people on Sept. 4 in Downtown Atlanta as part of Dragon*Con, the largest pop culture convention anywhere.
Spearheaded by writer/director Michael Dougherty and producer/creator Steven Fisher (with a blessing from Joss Whedon years ago), the fan film introduces the crew of Redemption, a Firefly crew engaged in similar trade as those aboard Serenity. The plot line places this crew in between the Alliance and Independents. Proceeds from the DVD go to five charities that are aligned with the original cast and crew. Here's a quick clip.
Based on this clip and others, the fan film is likely to be amateurish but with a whole lot of heart. The passion of everyone involved is apparent everywhere. You have to appreciate their spirit. Diehard Firefly fans are likely to find redeeming qualities. We're pre-ordering a copy to show support.
You can learn a bit more from the Browncoats: Redemption movie site. The film is currently available for pre-order.
Naturally, we can't review a film we haven't seen, but the very idea that fans would seek permission and then produce a full-length feature film speaks volumes about the original Firefly series and Serenity. So does the fact that Firefly and Serenity DVDs permanently reside on the International Space Station thanks to NASA "Browncoat" Astronaut Steven Swanson.
Firefly Takes The Sky With A 9.7 On The Liquid [Hip] Richter Scale.
If you've never seen the series, you can find Firefly on iTunes and Serenity, the movie. On Amazon, check out Firefly - The Complete Series and Serenity (Collector's Edition).
If you have to pick one, start with the series. I'm torn whether to tell you to start with the pilot or dive right in. Most fans feel the pilot is critical.
If you like the originals well enough, you can find fellow Browncoats on Facebook. Browncoats: Redemption also has a Facebook page for the film. There are dozens of active fan sites too.