The sci-fi cult hit Firefly remains one of the greatest short-lived tv series to date. Limited to just 14 episodes (only 11 of which originally aired on TV), its long-standing fan base has held steadfast since 2002. Revolving around the lives of the crew of the ship Serenity, show creator Joss Whedon created an interesting mix of space western action and sharp, witty banter his shows have been known for.
Since its cancellation, Firefly has found new life on the SyFy channel as well as on online streaming sites. Along with the release of movie Serenity, Browncoats everywhere have been able to continue to enjoy the stories of the crew through various mediums including comic books and games. To this day, the cast and crew still speak fondly of their time on the show, continuing to attend comic cons and Firefly central events across the country. There is no end to the cult status of the show as it remains a beloved fixture in both pop culture and sci-fi history.
Despite its short lifespan on television, Firefly still managed to rack up quite a few secrets even the most dedicated Browncoat may not be aware of. The Firefly series may be over buts its underlying mysteries and truths continue to expand its legacy.
Here are the 16 Dark Secrets Behind Firefly You Had No Idea about.
16 Fox Refused to Pick Up the Show Because of Wash and Zoe
The producers of Firefly continuously bumped heads with the executives of Fox over various elements of the show. From character direction to the overall tone of the show, there were numerous times when the two parties didn’t see eye to eye.
In the case of character Wash and Zoe, Fox was simply not onboard with this coupling. With Zoe’s long-standing history with Captain Mal as his first mate during the Unification War, Fox wanted to establish a romantic relationship between the two. In fact, they were so set on this idea that they refused to pick up the show over this conflict. Thankfully, Whedon stood his ground on the issue and insisted that he would not change Zoe and Wash’s marriage. Eventually, the executives backed down and their relationship remained intact.
15 Rebecca Gayheart was Originally Cast As Inara But Got Replaced
At its start, the cast of Firefly was initially compromised of only five characters. However, as Whedon continued to build upon the story and its plots, he found the need to expand the crew to nine people. With such a large cast of characters, he found it essential to establish a genuine bond between the actors that would transfer onscreen. While casting for the show, he ensured that all selected members worked well with each other. All members were chosen before filming and included actress Rebecca Gayheart in the role of Inara. Unfortunately, Whedon did not feel she had the right chemistry with the rest of the cast and was eventually removed from the part. Actress Morena Baccarin eventually auditioned for the role and was selected. Her part as Inara become her first acting role on television.
14 Wash Would Still be Alive If The Show Hadn't Been Canceled
Longstanding fans of the vast Whedonverse have had their share of heartbreak when it comes to his romantic pairings. Fans have fallen in love with various couples throughout his shows and movies only to have them break up in the end. Leave it to Whedon to continue to play with our hearts.
However, Zoe and Wash seemed to have a special place in his heart and, supposedly, would not have ended in tragedy. Whedon has even said that they one couple he would never have broken up - provided the show had not been canceled. However, after its cancellation, Whedon was no longer obligated to stick to that promise. Fans suffered through the tragic end of their favorite couple with the death of Wash in Serenity.
13 The Original Pilot for the Show Was Rejected
Being a new series with no background or fan base, the creative team behind Firefly had to establish their universe to draw viewers in. The two-hour episode “Serenity” was the perfect introduction to the audience. Within the storyline, each character was properly introduced, and their subplots were established. Sounds perfect, right? Unfortunately, Fox had other plans for the series.
After viewing the first pilot, Fox rejected its airing, stating it was not a strong premiere episode. Show producers were forced to create a new pilot for the series. The show premiered with “The Train Job” as its pilot instead which focused more on action sequences (because who really cares about establishing characters, right?). The original pilot was then pushed to the end of the series and aired as the final episode of the show’s initial run on Fox.
12 Fox Thought The Show Was Too Dark... But Mal Should Kill More
Over the years, Fox has become notorious for canceling great shows that hold dedicated fan bases. Usually due to low ratings and confined to horrible timeslots, these fan faves inevitably meet their end of days preemptively. Going into the project, Whedon had hoped to produce seven seasons over the course of the show’s run.
However, executives struggled even to allow one season of Firefly to continue due to their concerns about the direction of the show. They found the overall feel of the show to be too dark for audiences. Although known for its biting sense of humor, some of the more somber content seemed to be a turn-off. Interestingly though, Fox executives were okay with more violence: they wanted Captain Mal to shoot more people.
Between the low ratings and lack of requested content, Firefly met its end after airing only 11 of the 14 produced episodes.
11 Inara was Planned to have a Terminal Illness
With the early cancellation of the series, many of the characters were left with incomplete backstories and histories. Inara, the Companion and unofficial member of the crew, hinted at several interesting elements in her backstory that could have added to the depth of the show. Notably, she was set up as a romantic interest for the Captain Mal, complete with moments of sexual tension and close encounters.
However, Wheadon had other long-term plans for Inara’s backstory that took a much grimmer turn. Fans noticed some elements in the show that hinted that she was hiding a more significant truth from her past. As confirmed by actress Morena Baccarin at DragonCon 2008, there were plans in place for Inara to be suffering from terminal illness during the course of the show.
10 Deleted Scene: River Asks Her Brother to Marry Her
With one of the most loyal and dedicated fan bases around, Firefly still manages to attract new viewers despite its untimely cancellation in 2002. Although there are no plans for further episodes or new movies, viewers still manage to discovered unknown facts about the show. From unproduced episodes to side-splitting gag reels, many secrets have been revealed in the behind-the-scenes content for the show.
In fact, it is within these bonus features that fans found a deleted scene between the Tam siblings that hinted at a controversial topic: incest. In a deleted scene from the episode “Our Mrs. Reynolds," Summer decided to ask Shepard to marry her and Simon in an effort to copy Mal’s marriage to Saffron, seemingly unable to distinguish between romantic and familial love. She even put a pillow under her stomach to mimic a pregnancy.
While this type of misguided assumption falls in line with River’s character, writers decided against including the scene given its incestuous implications.
9 "The Summer Curse"
If you have ever heard a dedicated Firefly fan yell “Summer!” after making a mistake, you may have been confused by its meaning. Glau, who rarely flubbed a line, had messed up a long take while the cast were shooting Firefly. In frustration, Fillion cried out "Summer!" and it became a running joke to yell out her name when anything wrong on set. Reportedly, Fillion even carried the tradition on to sets he's worked on since Firefly and Serenity.
Since then, Glau’s legacy has expanded to include the urban legend of the “Summer Glau Curse.” Glau has worked on several shows that have been inevitably canceled. Her past shows have included The Unit, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, The 4400, and Chuck. In all, seven shows have been canceled that included Glau as a cast member. However, fans hope that her latest role on the CW series Arrow has finally brought an end to this urban legend. Fingers crossed!
8 Shepheard Book Killed Thousands Of People
Due to the popularity of the short-lived series, Firefly found new forms of media to continue its story. Though the release of Serenity gave some conclusion to the original series, more background stories have been expanded upon in novels, videos, games and comic books.
In particular, the series Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale added more details to the mysterious background of Shepherd Derrial Book (portrayed by the late Ronald Earle Glass). Readers learned that Book served as an undercover operative for the Browncoats. Pretending to be commander in The Alliance, Book executed on a plan that killed over 4,000 members of his “comrades.” After the great loss, he “retired” from the military quietly, with the Alliance viewing the event as the most significant defeat in their history.
7 Controversy over Fans Selling Jayne Hats
As with any fandom, Firefly fans find unique ways to connect with and celebrate their favorite shows. From inside jokes to incorporating famous phrases into their everyday language (ex: shiny, gorram), viewers found new ways to connect with Browncoats around the world.
One particularly beloved article from the show was the infamous Jayne hat, a gift from he received from his mother. Iconic in its cute and un-Jayne like appearance, fans everywhere clamored to create their own version of the adorable chapeau. For years, fan created and sold their own DIY version of the hat to share with other fans. However, after an officially licensed version was released in 2012, online sellers began to receive cease-and-decist letters from the licensed producers and were banned from selling their wares online.
However, the cast was not pleased with these actions and did what they could to show their support for the fans through social media. Browncoats united!
6 Adam Baldwin's ranting about fathers marrying their sons
Playing the gruff but lovable Jayne Cobb, actor Adam Baldwin became a fan favorite throughout his time on the series. Many Firefly fans continue to follow and support his career as he moved on to roles on The Inside, Day Break, and Chuck.
However, some fans ceased their support of the actor after he made some very critical comments on the subject of gay marriage in February 2014. On Twitter Baldwin began to tweet about sons and fathers wanting to get married, equating incest with gay marriage: "What’s wrong, now, with a father marrying his son for love & to avoid tax penalties?" and "Why would #SSM advocates H8 the idea of fathers & sons using marriage exemptions to avoid governmental tax confiscations?"
He later tried to clarify that he never compared the two topics and was speaking on tax avoidance only. Oh Jayne.
5 Inara's Disturbing Assault Storyline
The cannibalistic group known as the Reavers served as a constant, looming enemy throughout the Firefly series. Known to kill, rape, and consume their victims, their presence at the edge of “the black” served as a constant fear for everyone in The Verse.
Wheadon actually had a disturbing plan for how Inara would fight back if she were ever attacked. According to the Firefly: Browncoats Unite TV special, show writer Tim Minear shared Inara possessed “a mysterious syringe [that’ contained a drug that would kill her rapists in case of assault.” Fans caught a glimpse of the syringe in the first episode of the show, in fact. There were even plans for a future episode that involved her being abducted and raped by Reavers only to have they all die from the drug. Understandably, Fox immediately rejected that episode idea and the plot was never used in the show.
4 Mismarketing attracted the wrong crowd
While Fox had its vision for the show, Whedon stood his ground to ensure his plans would not be changed. With its space opera feel and clever dialogue, Firefly had the makings to be one of the best new sci-fi shows of its time. Unfortunately, Fox decided to market the shows to a completely different audience.
Fox promoted the show as “the most twisted new show on television.” Several promos strung together jokes about a “flighty pilot” (Wash), a “space cowboy” (Mal), a “cosmic hooker” (Inara), and a “girl in a box” (River, referencing a plot point from the pilot episode the network refused to air), tied together with the tagline “Out there? Oh, it’s out there!”
This poor marketing attracted the wrong audience (which hated the show) and ignored the sci-fi audience (who would have watched and supported it). What a waste.
3 Whedon Didn’t Get the Formal Goodbye That He Wanted
In the course of its airing on Fox, Firefly suffered lots of mistreatment from the network. Notorious for handpicking the airing of its episodes, the original broadcast of the show was not aired in the correct order. While unknown to fans at the time, the producers of the show were not pleased with the treatment of their show.
When the cancellation of Firefly was announced, cast members and fans were heartbroken. However, in its final few episodes, Whedon planned out a special goodbye for the show. The final episode filmed was “The Message” - the crew said their goodbyes on set and the score that played during the funeral scene in this episode was also a funeral song for the series. Unfortunately, fans never got this closure from the show as Fox ended the series before the episode could ever air.
2 There was More Asian Culture Than Actual Asian Characters
One of the most exciting elements of any sci-fi show set in the future lies in its unique take on its world. From establishing life on new planets to trying to save the future of Earth, each show focuses on creative elements to incorporate into their set universe.
For Firefly, writers envisioned the merging of two of the largest superpowers in the world: The United States and China. These two cultures merged over time and created a world that reflected elements of both countries including the two languages - but some how just one major ethnicity. It really doesn't make sense that the far more populous China would be seen in Firefly's culture, but not its people. Sadly, most of the Asian characters were limited to stereotypical background characters and parts only.
1 Baldwin's Involvement with Gamergate
Baldwin’s very public controversies continued into 2014 with his involvement in the utter catastrophe that was Gamergate. Not only was he embroiled in the controversy but he seemed to have a hand in spreading its popularity online. As detailed by the Washington Post, the hashtag #Gamergate “only took off once it was tweeted by the conservative actor Adam Baldwin and blurbed on Breitbart.”
Initially referred to a “quinnspiracy”, named after Zoë Quinn, the independent game developer at the center of the controversy, Baldwin effectively gave the movement a formal name and pushed its agenda. Continuing as one of the long-standing debates between the “traditional” white male game types vs the growing diverse community of gamers everywhere, Baldwin’s legacy is forever entrenched as a “founder” of this controversial debate.
Do you have any other dark Firefly secrets to share? Leave them in the comments!