Firefly: The best failed show twenty years later


   Twenty years ago, the first episode of Firefly aired on Fox. It was revolutionary for its time. It blended sci-fi and westerns perfectly. It had a great cast, an amazing soundtrack, and interesting situations that made it exciting to watch every single week. The thing is, though, the first episode aired wasn’t the first episode of this show.

   Firefly is about Captain Malcolm Reynolds, also known as Mal, and his criminal crew going through space and doing jobs and deals for people. Before they were criminals, they were on the losing side of a civil war. When trying to recruit another crewmate, they find a doctor and a shepherd. Mal brings both of them along with the rest of the crew to a mission that they go on. While they are traveling, it is discovered that the doctor brought contraband with him: his sister. His sister was kept in an insane asylum because she is dangerously intelligent. The rest of the episodes involve the rest of the cast getting into different, exciting situations every week.

   The show had an average of 4.7 million viewers watching every week. It was critically acclaimed and even went on to win five awards, including a Primetime Emmy for its special effects. Despite the success, the show was canceled by Fox after eleven out of the fourteen episodes of the first season had aired. The last three episodes were available to watch when the DVD came out, a year after the show was canceled.

   Canceling the show before it saw the light of day was not the only thing that Fox did wrong with Firefly. They would air episodes out of order, including not airing the pilot episode “Serenity” first. They aired it in the wrong aspect ratio that caused characters to sometimes be cut off-screen, and they advertised the show as if it were an “out there” zany comedy show. In a similar fashion as to how Fox would screw up Arrested Development three years later, Fox mishandled Firefly. Fox has a reputation for butchering many shows, but that’s an article for another day.

   Despite how badly Fox handled the show, Firefly quickly brought in many new fans with the DVD that came out on December 9, 2003, one year after the show’s final episode aired. The DVD got everything right. It showed the episodes in the proper aspect ratios, it put all the episodes in order, and it had the extra three episodes that were never aired on Fox, which in my opinion are some of the best episodes of Firefly.

   The show became legendary after the DVD came out. Many people started to watch Firefly and appreciated how great the show was. People loved it, and its influence is seen in many future sci-fi shows. Ronald D. Moore, who has worked on many sci-fi shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, is such a big Firefly fan, that he digitally added Mal’s ship, Serenity, into the first episode of Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009). Nathan Fillion, who starred as Mal in Firefly, later went on to star in a show called Castle. In one of the episodes, he dresses up as Mal.

Serenity in the first episode of Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009)
Nathan Fillion dresses up as Mal in Castle

   Fans of the show wrote emails and letters to Fox and made many petitions to get the show back on the air. While the show never did get another season, Firefly was on the big screen one more time. Universal Pictures saw that Firefly on DVD was very popular and was frequently sold out, and they gave Joss Whedon, the creator of Firefly, a deal to make one movie. Two years later, Serenity (2005) was released in theaters worldwide and it served as a way to wrap up Firefly.

   Firefly would never be on television after this, but Whedon has made many comics that are part of the show’s canon timeline. Recently, there has been a series of Firefly novels, with six of them being released. The novels are still being released, with the most recent one being published on November 2, 2021.  

   Firefly was a show that was canceled far too soon. While I would love to see more live-action content, I am glad that we got what we did, and I am happy that novels are still coming out.

   Firefly is currently streaming on Hulu, and it also has a very high-quality Blu-Ray release that is worth checking out, for the picture quality as well as the bonus features. Both options have the missing episodes, all the episodes are in the right order, and they show them in the correct aspect ratio, which is the best way to watch the show.