Firefly is a beloved television series that was cut down far too young. It was one of the most infamous cancellations of a promising TV show. It was a space-western that takes place centuries in the future. It had an incredible cast and brilliant writers. Unfortunately, Fox didn’t support the show. They aired episodes out of order and gave it terrible time slots. After 14 episodes (not all of which even aired), the show was pulled.
A few years later, a movie called Serenity was made picking up where the show left off. It wrapped up some of the biggest storylines left from the show and answered some of our biggest questions. Sadly, the show has been dead in the water ever since. That needs to change and Disney can do it.
This week I completed a re-watch of Firefly and Serenity. I love this show. I love the universe it takes place in. I adore the characters. This was my fourth or fifth time watching the series and it’s as compelling to me now as it was the first time. Naturally, this re-watch made me long for more. I want more ruttin’ Firefly, goramit!
If you haven’t seen Firefly, please stop reading here. It is an incredible show that you should see unspoiled. We will absolutely not shy away from spoilers here.
When Disney acquired 20th Century Fox, they acquired a massive amount of intellectual property in the process. As I understand it, they obtained the rights to Firefly as part of this. They now have the power to revive the show as they see fit but I would like to see them bring the series back as a Hulu Original. Hulu really needs more original content (and more is on the way, of course). One of the easiest ways to get people to subsribe (and stay subscribed) to your streaming service is to take advantage of a rabid fanbase. CBS All-Access has used Star Trek for this. Netflix used the MCU for this by creating Daredevil and the other Defenders shows. Disney+ used Star Wars to craft The Mandalorian. Looking to loyal fanbases is a tried and true approach toward original content, and you will never find a more devoted fanbase than the Browncoats (Firefly fans).
So, if you run a television network or a streaming service and you want to bring Firefly back, how would you do it? It’s not a recent show. Many of the actors and writers have moved on. The logistics would be very difficult, and you must find a compelling story to tell. Here are a few ways you might tackle this challenge. These are listed from what I consider to be the worst option to the best.
The “Serenity isn’t Canon” Method
One of the easiest ways to bring the show back would be to ignore the Serenity film entirely. Pretend it never happened. Pick up where the original series left off. Go back to small scale adventures aboard the ship. Bring back as much of the main cast as you can. Pretend that the show had never even been cancelled to begin with.
There are a few problems with this angle. First, Ron Glass, the actor who played Shepherd Book, has passed away. He couldn’t be part of the show. Even if you could somehow get all of the other actors on board at the same time, the family would be incomplete. Secondly, how do you deal with the plot points of Serenity? Do you just re-hash them over the course of the series? Or, do you try to come up with new answers to all of the mysteries and totally invalidate the film? Neither option sounds compelling to me, and I don’t think the fanbase would appreciate them.
The “Reboot” Method
You could always straight-up reboot the entire series. Erase all the stories and canon. Take the concepts, universe, and characters and start over. Re-cast the show. Tweak a few of the characters. If you were to do this, you’d have to try something fundamentally different to make this worth anyone’s time. If you don’t try something new, the fans will feel like you’re dancing on the grave of their beloved show.
I would wager that the simplest (and most probable) way to do this would be to add aliens. Firefly never had aliens. Everyone was human. This could easily change with a reboot. I fear this would too severely alter the spirit of the show, but it could work.
The “The Orville” Method
I love The Orville. If you’re unfamiliar with it, I can explain it simply. It’s Star Trek, but Funny but also serious. Seth MacFarlane is a massive Trekkie and wanted to make a show in the Star Trek universe. This was never greenlit, so he just made his own. The show is a blatant rip-off of Star Trek (at least in the first season). The Federation becomes the Union. Warp Drive becomes Quantum Drive. You get the picture.
This would be pretty easy to do with Firefly. Space Western that takes places across multiple planets. Don’t use the Chinese curse words. Come up with some new jargon.
The only problem with this idea is we pretty much already have this with The Mandalorian and a ton of other science fiction. Space-western isn’t exactly new territory and it isn’t what made Firefly special.
The “Old Man Logan” Method
If you’ve seen the movie Logan, you’ll understand what I mean here. This approach would a be a mini-series that is a direct sequel to Serenity, involving most of the main cast. Imagine that Zoe had just become pregnant during the events of Serenity. After Wash died, she was left to birth and raise a child alone. She gives birth to a girl. After delivery, she leaves the ship and takes up residence on a quiet colony moon. The girl is 14 years old when a mysterious person (played by Rob Lowe) shows up at their ranch and kills Zoe. The girl hides during this event, then she hitchhikes until she finds Malcolm Reynolds. He takes her in. They go on the run throughout the Verse, hiding from the stranger that killed Zoe.
Meanwhile, Simon Tam is running a hidden clinic where he takes care of the super-children they’ve rescued from the Alliance (children like River). River has been there to protect them, but frequently leaves for days or weeks at a time. All she will say is that she has been dealing with Alliance, using the memories trapped in her mind. Not much earlier than the time that Zoe dies, River goes missing. She had left on one of her missions and said she’d be back in a week, but she’s been gone for 4 months and no one knows where she is.
Inara is running a brothel. Kaylee and Simon broke up. She runs a small shipyard, designing and building ships for the mega-wealthy.
The Alliance was severely weakened after Serenity. They lost control over many outer worlds. But in the places where they still have control, they have tightened their grip. They’ve grown quite tyrannical. Rumblings of another insurrection are heard throughout the Verse.
One of the biggest plots involves the Alliance constructing a Time Machine. Their intention is to send an Operative back to prevent the Signal that was sent during Serenity. Malcolm learns about this machine and makes it his goal to find it and use it. He wants to go back to the Unification War and change things so that the Independents win. At the end of the show, he finds the machine. He has his chance. But, he realizes that going through with his plan would erase the girl he has been taking care of forever. He does go back in time. But the only thing he alters is that he prevents Wash from dying during Serenity. He also gives Wash a warning about the mysterious man that would one day come to kill Zoe. Mal ends up dying during this course of events. The show ends with a scene of Wash, Zoe, and their daughter living together in peace.
I think this route would be the most successful to fans of the series. However, it would be really tricky to make it comprehensible and compelling to new viewers. It would also be very difficult to get all of the necessary cast together. This would probably be the version I’d enjoy watching the most, but it would be the most challenging to create.
The “Star Trek: The Next Generation” Method
I love TNG. I grew up watching it from a very young age. It introduced me to Star Trek. I didn’t know about or see anything related to the original series until I was at least 10 years old. The Next Generation is one of the best television shows ever made. It took all the ideas of Star Trek and refined them. It was a totally new cast with a story about 30 years after its predecessor. Firefly could go the same route.
After the events of Serenity, The Alliance sort of crumbles. The verse is broken up into a bunch of City-States, many of which are in conflict with one another. The Alliance still exists, but they only control about 10 of the central planets. We find ourselves with a female Alliance officer of fairly high rank whom I’ll call Sarah (played by Anna Torv). After Serenity, she leaves the Alliance. Her parents are killed in retaliation. She flees to the outer worlds. She works and saves money to buy her own ship. Around 8 years after Serenity, she finally succeeds. She gets a revamped Firefly-class ship. The ship’s a little larger than Serenity was and actually has a few guns on her. Sarah names her Miranda.
Sarah gathers a crew. She takes on a Doctor. The man she recruits happened to be someone that worked on River for the Alliance.
She contracts a bounty hunter as a hired gun. His last name is Early. Turns out that he was the bastard child of Jubal Early. Jubal had raped a woman several years before Firefly took place and impregnated her. His son has grown up to follow in his footsteps. All his son really wants is to find Jubal and put him down.
Sarah hires an excommunicated Buddhist monk as a pilot. This person is very skilled in hand-to-hand combat.
She also takes on a prospector (played by Nick Offerman). He had a career mining platinum from asteroids and has more hours in space under his belt than the rest of the crew put together.
Those are just a few examples of characters that could be created for a TNG-style sequel series. The great trick is building interesting dynamics and conflicts between the characters. A gifted writer could definitely recapture the magic of the original show. Have adventures of the week. Have a few mysteries that periodically resurface. It’s a winning formula in my book. I think this would be supremely fun to watch, and have the best odds of success as a show.
I don’t know if we’ll ever see Firefly return. It seems like it would have happened by now if it was ever going to. But I won’t give up hope. And of course, I will continue to revisit the original show every few years. Remember, love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down.