The broadcast of Firefly is considered one of FOX network’s greatest programming mishaps and one of the greatest tragedies suffered in nerd-history. From the pilot, it was never given the care and attention a new show requires. Shoved into the graveyard slot, episodes aired in the wrong order and a failure to even broadcast the final episodes pretty much shot the series in the face. If FOX represented the impaling spike, then Firefly was Wash in his final Serenity moments.
Like all of Joss Whedon’s works, it’s a franchise filled with beautifully flawed characters, meaty back stories and blistering one-liners. Any Whedonite having watched this year’s Avengers Assemble will have has seen his penmanship running through Marvel’s beloved characters and, as the box office and the reviews proved, all for the better. Every character in Firefly feels as if they have truly lived; personalities clashing and binding in Mal’s battered ship like a true band of misfits. Every setting, from the “civilised” Alliance cityscapes to the beaten-up, old prairie landscapes of the outer planets feel real. Universal’s enthusiasm for these characters and this world was what made Serenity a reality, after the fans (the self-titled Browncoats) had campaigned for years to get some sort of closure for the series.
Yet still, ten years later, and with no renewed hope of a television comeback, the Firefly franchise still fills seats at Comic-Con; something which only really occurs for huge, ongoing cult programmes like Star Trek and Doctor Who. For the rest of us unable to make it to San Diego however, a showing of the silver screen farewell, Serenity, was recently filling seats at Nottingham’s own Broadway cinema.
It’s unlikely the Impact Film team could have out-nerded themselves anymore for a first unofficial social, sat at the front like giddy school children as we realised that nearly all of our group would have been too young to watch Serenity at the cinema during its original release. A man celebrating his 30th birthday, who kindly offered us a better row of seats, had definitely been a fan for the full decade as he excitedly recalled the first time he saw it, his friend meanwhile bellowing out the hymn to Jayne Cobb from the episode, Jaynestown. The boys sat around me apologised in advance for their ensuing nerdgasms as I made no promises that I wouldn’t squee like a hysterical fangirl; let’s not beat around the bush here, Nathan Fillion is the geek culmination of the phrase, “men want to be him, women want to be with him”.
Between the whole team and indeed the majority of the room, it became apparent that we’d all seen the film hundreds of times. Watching the film on DVD is always such a bittersweet experience, as there are still so many questions that may not ever be answered, although the comics have shed some light on characters such as Shepherd Book. Seeing it on the big screen though was an entirely surreal but spectacular experience; the buzz was so palpable being surrounded by other fans that it felt fresh all over again. The further questioning of River’s persecution by the Alliance and the mystery surrounding the Reavers were the two big threads left at the end of the series, and the two tied up by the end of the film. The sounds coming from the seats were not human most of the time; a symphony of squeaks and woops as I tried to divert from my normal M.O. by not sobbing into my sleeve during the last five minutes. The claps and satisfied sighs as the credits rolled to David Newman’s sweeping score made me appreciate the gift this film was when FOX had all but killed the creator himself.
Although Firefly still lives on in the comics, Whedon is a busy man now with people clamouring for his pen and his eye at the lens, so it seems unlikely that these characters will be returning to the screen anytime soon. He’s never said never though and I think with the love the cast and crew hold for the franchise, they’ll never say never either.