Virtual Firefly: New Episodes of a Cancelled Series

How does one revive a favorite TV show after it had been cancelled and is not likely to be revived? Fans of a show called Firefly seem to have hit on a partial solution with a web site called Virtual Firefly.

Once upon a time there was a science fiction TV series called Firefly. On the surface, it had everything going for it. It had an original premise, a cast of very interesting characters played by a troupe of skilled actors, and was helmed by a producer, Joss Whedon, who had already produced two hit TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. The scripts were well written, with crackling good stories filled with witty dialogue.

Unfortunately Firefly was cancelled after just eleven aired episodes. A bad time slot, the insistence by the network that episodes would be aired out of order, and an unwillingness to allow the show time to find a mass audience were blamed for the cancellation. However, fan interest and higher than expected DVD sales did cause a sequel movie, entitled Serenity, to be made. While, when the combined box office, DVD sales, and cable royalties were added up, Serenity likely did make money, it did not achieve blockbuster status.

The cast and crew are now scattered about, working on other projects. A revival of the TV show is not very likely. A second film is certainly possible, but the logistics of bringing everyone back together and getting the movie greenlit make the enterprise formidable.

No problem, suggest a group of fans, who call themselves “Browncoats” after the name for the former rebels who resisted forced unification by the galactic central government in the TV show and film. They have put together a web site with a group of episodic TV scripts based on the premise that Firefly the TV series continued and was even approved for a second season. The scripts, available for reading on the site, are actually very well written for a group of writers who have not actually written professionally for television.

For those who have yet to see the TV show and film, Firefly can best be described as the “anti Star Trek.” Like Star Trek’s Enterprise, Firefly has a ship, the Serenity, and a crew that flies around the universe. That’s where the resemblance ends. Firefly, far from being the pride of some Star Fleet, is a ramshackle tramp freighter which is forever breaking down and in need of new parts. It is crewed by a group of people who are as motley and as disreputable as any who have set sail on the airless sea.

The Captain is Mal Reynolds, a combination Han Solo and Jesse James, who fought in the Galactic civil war on the side of the independents or “Browncoats.” His second in command, ZoÃ?«, is the last survivor of his old unit in the climactic Battle of Serenity Valley. Wash is his somewhat lunkish and good natured pilot, who for some reason is married to Zoe. Mal’s “chief of security” (i.e. chief enforcer) is Jayne Cobb, dumb as a stump, but rather good with fire arms and things that explode. Simon Tam is the ship’s doctor who, with his sister River, seem to be on the run from the authorities. River is not only insane, but has strange powers, both conditions caused by secret government experiments. Rounding out the crew is the engineer, Kaylee, a woman who is not only skilled enough to keep Serenity flying, but is so heart breakingly cute that no one can give her a cross word, and there a plenty of cross words spoken between members of this crew.

Serenity has a couple of passengers. Shepherd Book appears to be a monk/minister of an order of latter day Christians. He also has a dark past, which may have involved being an operative for the government. The other passenger Inara, a very high class, expensive “companion” (i.e. courtesan.)

While Star Trek’s Enterprise “explore strange new worldsâÂ?¦”, etc, etc, Serenity flies around the universe trying to make a buck. Many of these jobs are not overly burdened by concepts of legality, even though Mal and most of his crew do have their own code of honor that sometimes gets in the way. The crew of Serenity is in constant peril from disreputable business partners, people whom they have ripped off in the past, and the government. The latter is interested in the Serenity folks not the least of which because of their two fugitives, who seem to have some dangerous secrets.

Thus things stood when Firefly was cancelled in late 2002. The film Serenity wrapped up a lot of story lines that had been started in the TV series, albeit in a two hour movie and not over about twenty two TV episodes as planned. The creators of Virtual Firefly ignore the movie and attempt to recreate the original vision of Firefly. Their plan, partly completed, is to continue the first season episodes, with a final episode that mirrors the events related in a graphic novel, Serenity: Those Left Behind, that bridged the TV show and the movie. These episodes continue the escapades of the crew of Serenity, involving dubious jobs, clashes with crime bosses, slavers, government agents, and other shady types.

Typical of the extra “Season One” episodes is Property Rights, which takes place on Kaylee’s home planet. We meet Kaylee’s parents, finding out why they were so open to having their daughter run off to be chief engineer on a tramp freighter. Mal Reynolds also tries to unload the Lassiter, the antique laser weapon that the crew of the Serenity purloined in the episode Trash. There’s an accidental killing and then things get really complicated, as they tend to do on an episode of Firefly.

The Season Two episodes, yet to be all written, are suppose to unfold the events and the themes that were related in the film Serenity, but over twenty two hours of television. Why is the government so interested in River Tam anyway? What secrets are locked away in her damaged brain? What does this mean for the crew of Serenity? The story will no doubt unfold over the planned twenty two episodes.

Virtual Firefly is an interesting look into what might have been. It is unlikely that any of these episodes will ever be produced, but reading them will expand ones understanding of the universe of Firefly and provide hours of entertainment.

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