“Burn the land and boil the sea, you can’t take the sky from me.”
Unfortunately as it turns out, Fox can take our Firefly from us. Coming in at number 11 on the best cult shows of the past 25 years, Firefly is arguably the best show to have been cancelled before its time. It only managed to air 11 of 14 episodes before Fox made one of the worst decisions in television history. If you haven’t seen Firefly yet, I implore you to get hold of a copy and thank me later.
Firefly didn’t redefine a genre, it created one; I guess the best way to describe it would be a space western. The show is set in 2517 where mankind has arrived in a new star system and follows Captain Malcolm Reynolds (played by Nathan Fillion) and his renegade crew. The two remaining superpowers of mankind, the United States and China, have formed a central government called The Alliance who seek to forcibly unify all planets under their control.
Created by Joss Whedon, he pitched it as nine people looking out into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things. Try as I might, I won’t find a better way to sum up the show. Despite only having one series, the range and depth of characters keeps bringing me back. I just find it heartbreaking that all of the television episodes ever created fit onto 3 Blu Ray discs. It is even more heartbreaking when you realize Whedon had created the series to spin out gloriously across 7 or 8 seasons.
So how can a show with such wonderful characters and cleverly crafted storylines be cancelled after only 11 episodes? Enter the villain of this piece the Fox network. When you know how they treated the show, you will understand why the show never stood a chance.
Fox promoted the show as an action comedy, seriously underselling the true nature of the show as a serious character study. The show’s strength was always the characters and how they develop, reveal their hidden backstories, interact and bond with the others. But flakey Fox spent all of 2 seconds promoting it as a comedy. Don’t get me wrong, there are funny bits in the show and they are some of the best moments. But there is so much more to it.
What really killed the show was the airing order of the episodes. I will assume you understand what a pilot episode is. The episode that introduces the characters and concepts of the show that is ALWAYS shown first. Well Fox decided that the two-hour pilot episode wasn’t a suitable way to open the series, so they threw the audience into the show with the second episode because it had more action.
I was gobsmacked to find out that the pilot “Serenity” was actually the final episode to be aired by Fox. How can you expect an audience to understand what the hell is going on when you leave it to the end to explain it? The actual original airing order was as follows: 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 4, 5, 9, 10, 14 and ended the series with the pilot. The three remaining episodes weren’t aired until 7 months later on a different network. To add insult to injury, Fox also shifted and dropped shows in the schedule to accommodate baseball and other sporting events.
When the show was released on DVD and Blu Ray showing the episodes in the intended order, unsurprisingly it was a huge success. I have watched my copy so many times I’ve lost count. If you want to rate a tv series with a ratio of awesomeness to number of episodes, Firefly would be up there with the likes of Faulty Towers (only 12 episodes). Joss Whedon eventually got to direct the feature film Serenity, what is effectively the second series, to try and tie up some loose ends for the fans. But the prospects of Firefly ever returning seem inexplicably slim.
Nathan Fillion said that if he were to win $300million on the California lottery, he would buy the rights to Firefly and start making new episodes to distribute to fans on the Internet. This lead to many fans trying to raise the money themselves, but unfortunately it takes more than just the money from fans to get a show made. The cast and crew loved each other and still do, they love the fans and their fans love them. So there is always hope, slim as it may be.
“We’re not gonna die. You know why? Because we are so… very… pretty”
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