First aired: 12th May 2003
Nathan Fillion – Captain Mal Reynlolds
Gina Torres- Zoe Washburne
Alan Tudyk – Hogan ‘Wash’ Washburne
Morena Baccarin – Inara Serra
Adam Baldwin – Jayne Cobb
Jewel Staite – Kaylee Frye
Ron Glass – Shepherd Derrial Book
Sean Maher – Simon Tam
Summer Glau – River Tam
Carlos Jacott – Lawrence Dobson
Mark Sheppard – Badger
Synopsis: War has come to Serenity Valley, on an alien world in humanity’s future. The embattled independents are waiting on air-support. Led by Sgt Mal Reynolds, one squad is planning to take out an alliance skiff and with covering fire from Zoe, Mal’s good right arm, Mal manages to do just that. Cheering and full of hope, the troop are disheartened as the only air support are the alliance’s bombers, who slaughter their opposition. The war is done, the independents lost.
Years later, Mal, Zoe and their crewmate Jayne are breaking into a derelict space-ship for it’s cargo as their part of a deal. On the nearby ship, a ‘firefly’ class transport called Serenity, the pilot Wash, is playing with dinosaur toys, before he notices an alliance cruiser heading their way. The alliance ship Dortmunder initially ignores the derelict, but detects Serenity and prepares to investigate but Wash sets up a faux distress call and the Dortmunder follows that up instead and the Serenity collects it’s crew and escapes.
The crew (now including exuberant mechanic Kaylee) inspect the cargo and after hiding it, prepare to land on Persephone to drop the cargo with their contact Badger. Mal asks if the ‘ambassador’ has checked in, referring to the companion Inara, who at that moment is enjoying an intimate moment with a young client.
At the Eavesdown docks on Persephone, the Serenity lands and Wash heads off for supplies, Kaylee sets out their stall to get paying passengers, whilst Zoe, Jayne and Mal go to meet Badger across town. This meeting doesn’t go well, with Badger feeling angry over Mal’s disdainful attitude towards him, justifying his decision to back out of their deal, leaving the crew with cargo, but noone local to sell it to. After walking out of the meeting, the decision is made to sell the cargo to Patience on the moon Whitefall. Back at the docks, nondescript Dobson, wandering preacher Book and suspiciously well-to-do Simon and his cargo are also on the ship. There’s some character establishment stuff at a meal and some t&a with Inara before Book questions her about Mal.
A short time later, Mal is called to the bridge, a signal has been sent to a local Alliance cruiser. Everyone is summoned to the cargo bay and Mal goes after Simon, thinking it’s him who’s the fed, but actually he’s a fugitive and Dobson is the fed, who tries to arrest everyone. It goes badly and a stray bullet hits Kaylee. Book puts Dobson on the floor with a practised ease and prevents Jayne from killing him. Simon pleads with Mal not to sell them out, if they do, he won’t operate and save Kaylee’s life. Mal reluctantly agrees to the blackmail, but when Kaylee is stable they rush over to the large chest that Simon brought on board and opens it to find a naked teenage girl. It turns out that this is River, Simon’s younger sister, who is clearly traumatised. Simon explains that his sister is a genius, recruited by an Alliance training program. She eventually gets word that she was being tortured and Simon used every resource he had to find and rescue her and he intends to get her to safety.
Mal is in a tricky situation and doesn’t know what to do next, so simply carries on to Whitefall after Jayne informs him that after speaking to (and terrifying Lawrence Dobson) that the Alliance don’t know anything about the ship, it’s crew, or course. Things seem simpler, until a ship with the near mythical Reavers fly by. Reavers are feral humans, driven insane and who’s only contact with other worlds as they slowly creep further out into space is rape, cannibalism and murder. The Reavers pass by and Mal goes to check on Kaylee.
The Serenity lands on Whitefall. Mal, Zoe and Jayne await Patience, convinced it will be a trap. It obviously is, but as plans are made, Dobson is escaping. He gets to Simon and River. Wash (being left as always at the wheel) detects the Reavers having turned around and followed them to Whitefall. The doublecross happens, but Mal is ready and in the ensuing gun fight, Mal is able to get the upper hand and takes his money and leaves the treasure from the derelict, now revealed as food. Mal leaves and heads back to the ship after hearing from Wash. He shoots Dobson from outside the ship and then take off evading the Reavers with some fancy piloting and managing to get back into space.
The ship safe, money in the till and space beneath him, Mal is happier, Book seeks solace from Inara and Mal offers Simon a job as ship’s medic. Simon accepts and Mal sits back into the pilots chair, it was a good day.
Notes: There are less that 15 episodes of Firefly out there in the ‘verse. It had no mid run slump, no dodgy seasons or moments where the show seemed to lose it’s way for a while. The show’s criminal lack of success means that it’s perfect as it is. It’s not the best show ever made (thought it is very good) but it is one that never got messed with, or became stale and it never got anywhere near jumping the shark, so it’s hard to view this episode, or the series very objectively. Despite it being a 90 minute pilot, it’s narrative is quite economical. Within a couple of scenes at the beginning, we learn a hell of a lot about Mal, Zoe and many of the crew. Mal Reynolds is Nathan Fillion’s finest hour. He goes from gung-ho god fearing patriot to broken hearted crook, without losing his sense of loyalty, nor his sense of humour. He’s a good man, but has little time for law and order and even less for anyone between him and getting his crew paid. His best friend and the first at his back in a fight is Zoe, loyal to a fault and torn between her loyalty to Mal and her love for Wash, her husband. Gina Torres and Alan Tudyk are not new names, but together they flourish, with a cheerful opposites attract relationship that feels lived in enough to be real. Add to that the hilarious Adam Baldwin as Jayne and the sunshine filled Jewel Staite as Kaylee and it’s a crew that everyone is something of a favourite at some point. The dialogue is snappy and interesting and gives you a sense of a world greater than the one you can see on screen. There’s no desire to drip feed you information, no attempt to guide you into this new world (or worlds) which many shows like this will do. Despite leading you to the ideas that the Alliance are the bad guys, there’s no attempt to demonise most of them. Dobson is shown as a man out of his depth, who acts out of desperation, the crew of the Dortmunder are decent people who want to help people and the bad guys to them are the crew of the Serenity, robbing derelicts. This is a show about shades of grey, of bad guys who are the law and good guys who are criminals. The number of people who get shot in this is quite high and even the best of people do bad things.
The show is shot beautifully, desert views and bulkheads lit to give the sharpest focus to the cast, without it looking unfinished, or ill defined. The production quality is high and the universe of the show looks both interesting and yet also lived in. It is also one of the most quotable shows that I have ever watched.
“I can hear you.” “I’m right here.” “You’re coming in loud & clear.” “Because I’m standing right here.” ”
“We have done the impossible and that makes us mighty.”
“I do believe that woman is planning to shoot me again.”
“Can feed a family for a month, longer if they don’t like their kids much.”
I had a blast watching this show and am glad that 4 or 5 watches later, it’s still as fun as it ever was.
Does it work? Yes, many of the best space opera shows have a western tinge to them, this just takes it further.
Does much need fixing? No we have a cast, crew and story all set up and ready to go.
Does it stand up? Watched it at least 6 times and it still does.
Do I want to watch the next one? May wait til the new year but yes.
Did I enjoy it? Yes, both I and the MIGHTY Rosie had a ball watching this.
Overall: 5/5 It was cancelled before it’s time, making it a lost classic, but also a near perfect season of television.