There is no discussion about science fiction television without talking about Firefly. This was the brainchild of Joss Whedon, the man who created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, spinoff Angel, and more recently Dollhouse. Following nine people on a small spaceship on the outskirts of civilization, it was essentially what Star Trek was originally intended to be: "cowboys in space." Firefly arguably did a much better job. Their captain actually rode horses and transported cattle on a regular basis.
That captain was Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds. Played by Nathan Fillion, who is currently on ABC's Castle, he was a rough and sometimes unlikeable guy. He was super protective of his crew, and often risked his life to make sure that they were safe and got their "jobs" done — mainly so they had food on the table so they could eat. By his side was his first mate Zoe (played by Gina Torres who had a rather villainous streak in early episodes of Alias). Both Mal and Zoe were war veterans, fighting for independence from "The Alliance" — a governmental body that seems to be mostly in control of the not-so-far-off future that Firefly takes place in. Mal and Zoe were "browncoats" fighting to be free of Alliance control. They lost the war, and Mal bought a ship so he could survive slightly beyond Alliance control.
Rounding out the crew is:
A shuttle is also rented out to Inara Serra, a "Companion" — which is a type of future courtesan. Inara is ironically the most respectable one on the ship. In the first episode of the series, the ship also takes on paying passengers. They include: Book, a preacher who seems to be struggling with his faith. Simon Tam, a young doctor who seems to be hiding a secret. Eventually, it's discovered that his secret is his sister River. Simon rescued her from an Alliance "school" where she was experimented on and driven to the point of insanity. Despite the fact that Simon and River are high profile fugitives, Mal allows them to stay on with the crew provided Simon serves as the ship's doctor.
Several elements made the show extremely unique, notably the inclusion of the characters randomly speaking Mandarin Chinese (often to curse). The looming threat of savage, deformed space pirates known as "Reavers" was often an unseen threat during the television series. Only eleven episodes ended up airing before the show got cancelled. A total of fourteen were produced, which are all included in the DVD set of the entire series. The show lacked a proper ending, so Joss Whedon made a movie to conclude the show. It is not until the movie that we actually see Reavers and learn their terrfiying, tragic origin. There have been a few follow up graphic novels to further tell the story of Serenity and her crew, including a new story detailing Book's mysterious origin. Once you find yourself in the extraordinary world of Firefly, I promise that you'll find it hard to leave.
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