“Here’s how it is: The Earth got used up, so we moved out and terraformed a whole new galaxy of Earths. Some rich and flush with the new technologies, some not so much. The Central Planets, them’s formed the Alliance, waged war to bring everyone under their rule; a few idiots tried to fight it, among them– myself. I’m Malcolm Reynolds, captain of Serenity. She’s a transport ship; Firefly class. Got a good crew: fighters, pilot, mechanic. We even picked up a preacher for some reason, and a bona fide companion. There’s a doctor, too, took his genius sister outta some Alliance camp, so they’re keepin’ a low profile. You understand. You got a job, we can do it, don’t much care what it is.”
— Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), opening narration for the Firefly episodes “Safe,” “Ariel,” “War Stories” and “Heart of Gold“
Firefly is a short-lived, yet critically-acclaimed television series created by writer/director/producer Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, The Avengers). The show debuted on September 20, 2002 on the FOX television network.
The series, a space-western which takes place roughly 500 years in the future, follows the adventures of the crew of Serenity, a Firefly-class transport ship captained by Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), a former soldier who fought for the losing side in a civil war that resulted in the entire galaxy being united under the Alliance government of the system’s central planets. Reynolds, unwilling to submit to Alliance control, finds himself a ship and a crew and takes up a life of smuggling, theft and illegal salvage among the frontier planets on the outer edges of the galaxy. He names his ship Serenity, after the Battle of Serenity Valley, the decisive victory for the Alliance in its war against the Independents and a crushing defeat for Reynolds, his first mate Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres) and the rest of the so-called “Browncoats.” Life aboard Serenity becomes even more tricky and dangerous than usual when the crew takes on passengers, only to discover that two of them, Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher) and his sister River (Summer Glau), are fugitives from the law. Although they are gradually accepted as part of the crew, their presence on board means Serenity must always fly faster and further out to avoid the ever-increasing presence of the Alliance and the vicious, cannibalistic Reavers that inhabit the far reaches of space.
Firefly, which lasted just one season before being cancelled, was plagued by a difficult Friday-night time slot and a number of poor broadcast decisions by FOX, which included showing the episodes out of order and putting the show on a long hiatus during the Major League Baseball playoffs. This did not affect the show’s popularity however, and its cult following continued to grow even after it was no longer on the air. Sales of the series’ DVD set were phenomenal, and the fan base, taking upon themselves the name “Browncoats,” became one of the most vocal and active in all of science-fiction fandom.
Whedon and the cast of Firefly were given the opportunity to continue the adventures of the ship and her crew in the feature film Serenity, which was released by Universal Pictures in 2005. The film focused primarily on the government’s pursuit of River Tam, and provided answers to most of the unanswered questions and unresolved plot threads from the series.
In recent years, Firefly has returned to television in syndication on the Science Channel, new adventures of Serenity and her crew appear regularly in a series of comic books published by Dark Horse Comics, and a video game starring the original cast reprising their roles is currently in development. To this day, Browncoats continue to organize charity fundraisers, the most notable of which being Can’t Stop the Serenity: Under agreement with Universal Pictures, Browncoats stage screenings of the film Serenity in locations all over the world each year and donate the proceeds to support Equality Now, Kids Need to Read, and other noble causes.