One of the greatest tragedies in TV history is Joss Whedon's sci-fi western Firefly being cut way too short. Despite its now cult following, Firefly only lasted one season as its viewership numbers failed to impress the executives at Fox. It's a crying shame that this television series wasn't given its fair dues at the time, as its plotlines, actors, and directing certainly deserved more acclaim than it got when aired.
Well, hindsight in always 20/20, as Firefly has since grown into one of the most iconic TV series, and its legendary history is now looked upon with both awe and sadness. Joss Whedon is a masterful director and, with his history of producing great shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer , it's a wonder that this show didn't garner the same attention.
Most fans of Firefly will be aware of its tense and fraught history with FOX network and will probably be aware of some of the struggles Whedon faced while trying to get this show off the ground. However, there's a whole lot of behind the scenes action that took lace during Firefly's filming, from forgotten storylines to hidden Easter eggs within the show. If you're a Firefly fanatic, you'll definitely want to know these little known facts about the show.
Here are 20 Secrets About Firefly Only Browncoats Know.
20 The Serenity Crew Originally Just Included Five Members
When Joss Whedon originally conceived the idea for his show Firefly, he had foreseen Serenity only having five main crew members. However, as Whedon developed the ideas for the series and started thinking about casting, he decided to increase his primary cast to nine members.
Although it hasn’t been said who the original five were going to be, it’s safe to assume Malcolm Reynolds was safely in the lineup from day one.
Then it’s a toss up between Inara, Jayne, Kaylee, Wash, Zoe, River, Simon, and Shepherd, although it’s hard to imagine a concept for Firefly without any of these fantastically varied characters who each bring something special and singular to the show. We all have our favorite characters, but let’s be honest, we need all of them in order to be the Firefly crew we know and love.
19 Rebecca Gayheart Might Have Been Inara
Inara Serra is a much beloved character in Firefly, and actress Morena Baccarin is without a doubt the perfect for the role. Trying to picture anyone besides Baccarin playing the beautiful, sassy, and mysterious companion aboard the Serenity is nearly impossible, but believe it or not, she wasn’t the only lady up for the part.
Before Morena Baccarin was secured to play Inara, Rebecca Gayheart of Jawbreaker fame was the first to land the role.
She even started filming alongside the rest of the cast. However, her Firefly career was short-lived as she was fired after the first day of filming. Apparently she lacked chemistry with the other cast members, which is why Baccarin was then cast only two days later and began shooting that very same day.
18 Neil Patrick Harris Was Almost In The Firefly Universe
Neil Patrick Harris is known for a lot of TV and film projects, but he was very close to being able to add Firefly to his resume.
Before Sean Maher was cast as Dr. Simon Tam, Neil Patrick Harris auditioned for the role and was considered for the part.
If you’re having trouble picturing the legendary Barney Stinson as a medical professional, let us never forget his days as Doogie Howser. However, despite having played a medical prodigy back in his early career, Harris was ultimately turned down for the role, which was then given to Maher. Sean Maher did an undeniably great job as Dr. Tam, and even though we love watching NPH on screen, this part was definitely given to the right guy.
17 The Iconic Theme Song? It Was Written By Joss Whedon
Love it or hate it, the Firefly theme song is certainly memorable. Who among you didn’t get that jangly, Western song stuck in your head at one time or another? Iif you’re wondering who you have to thank for it, well, look no further than Joss Whedon himself.
Whedon wrote both the music and lyrics to “The Ballad of Serenity” and it stand as one of the greatest Whedon TV theme tunes ever.
The lyrics in the song echo the importance of freedom in the show, signalling independence and liberty as one of the central themes in Firefly. The words “You can’t take the sky from me” really demonstrates the core feel of the show, reinforcing that although the land may have been taken, the sky will forever remain a refuge of freedom and a haven away from the control of the Alliance.
16 The Show Uses Star Wars Spacecraft
It may not come as too much of a surprise, but Star Wars was hugely influential on Joss Whedon. In fact, in many ways, Captain Malcolm Reynolds is similar to Han Solo and it’s not hard to see how the Milenium Falcon inspired Whedon’s creation of Serenity. However, even more tangible than just these influences and sources of inspiration, pieces of Star Wars can actually be found in the show, namely the spacecraft we see flying around.
In the episode called “Shindig”, if you look closely, you can spot a Starlight Intruder as the crew lands on the planet called Persephone, and in the pilot episode, when Inara’s shuttle docks alongside Serenity, you can see an Imperial Shuttle flying around in the background.
15 Han Solo Also Pops Up in Firefly From Time to Time
Okay, so Han Solo himself doesn’t make any guest appearances in the show, but his carbonite silhouette certainly does on a number of occasions. Again unsurprisingly, Nathan Fillion is a big Star Wars fan and has a particular affection for Han Solo. Knowing this, the prop department working on Firefly made Fillion a 12-inch replica of Han Solo in his carbonite casing.
If you look closely, you can spot this mini replica in the background of a number of scenes, as the prop department enjoyed joking around by adding it to sets whenever they pleased. This sneaky game soon became a running joke on set, and the replica often wasn’t spotted in time for it to be taken out of the background. Oh props department, you do know how to joke around, don’t you?
14 Alien Gets A Firefly Nod Too
Clearly Joss Whedon likes to give some cheeky nods to his favorite movies in Firefly, but we wouldn’t be surprised if some of his sneaky film and TV references might go unnoticed by the casual viewer. If you rewatch the pilot episode of the show, you’ll see that Whedon has included a reference to the Alien film franchise.
The opening scene of this first episode features the iconic Battle of Serenity Valley between the Browncoats and The Union of Allied Planets, and we see Captain Malcolm Reynolds handling a cannon bearing the Weyland-Yutani logo. This was the large conglomerate corporation in the Alien films, and as we all remember, Joss Whedon penned Alien: Resurrection back in 1997.
We can’t blame Whedon for giving his previous work a shoutout, and it makes for a fun Easter egg to hunt for too.
13 The Uniforms In Firefly Are Recycled
As we’ve seen, Joss Whedon likes to include elements of some of his previous projects and favorite films into his TV series, and Firefly especially has an abundance of nods to other legendary screen moments. While we’ve had spacecraft and props referencing other movies and TV shows, we only have to look at the costumes used in Firefly to see more obvious examples of this happening.
The Alliance officers’ uniforms we see in the show are actually the same outfits used in the 1997 sci-fi film Starship Troopers and which were again repurposed for its sequel. These are great costumes, to be fair, so why not recycle them? Clearly Joss Whedon had a vision for the costumes he envisioned the officers wearing and Starship Troopers was the answer to his imaginings.
12 Firefly Took A Trip To The International Space Station
If anything truly gives Firefly a golden stamp of approval, it’s the fact that real-life spacemen, aka astronauts, are huge fans of the series.
Clearly Joss Whedon’s space-based creation was loved by many, but the fact that astronauts were fans of the show gives Firefly a real edge.
Steven Ray Swanson, an American astronaut, was such a big fan of the series that he decided to bring along DVDs of both Firefly and its subsequent feature film Serenity along with him when he set off on his first mission to the International Space Station in 2007. To make things even better, the DVDs are now a permanently preserved in the space station’s library. If that doesn’t make Joss Whedon proud, we don’t know what will.
11 Mal’s Horse Might Be Giving You Some Deja-Vu
If you’re a fan of Firefly, you’ll undoubtedly know that Captain Malcolm Reynolds likes riding a horse. Hey, it’s a space-western after all, and while there might be spacecraft flying around and the odd-looking creature here and there, no Western would be complete without a trusted steed.
You might be thinking to yourself that all the horses, no matter what planet the Serenity crew is on, all look the same. Well, that’s because, according to Firefly lore, Mal always rides the same horse, whose name is Fred. It’s nice to know that Mal has a special bond with his horse, and it gives his whole sci-fi cowboy image a touch more authenticity.
Having Mal ride a horse, despite all the space-age technology there is in the show, reaffirms the series’ message of freedom at its core, and its attachment to this idea of a wandering, rebellious crew.
10 Inara's planned tragedy
One of TV’s greatest tragedies is that Firefly was so short-lived, but in many ways fans might be glad that certain planned episodes of the show never actually got made. While most of you might be wondering how you could possibly be put off by the prospect of more Firefly, some of you might end up being relieved when you learn that fan-favorite character Inara was going to get a plotline that saw her passing from a terminal illness.
This disease she is meant to be carrying is only vaguely hinted at, as we see Inara open a box containing a syringe in the first episode of the show, when the crew is almost attacked by Reavers.
The show never reveals what the meaning behind her syringe is.
According to series writer and executive producer Tim Minear, the needle contained a magic drug that had several purposes, and which apparently had links to the illness she was meant to have.
9 The Serenity Lounge Was The Place To Be
When we think of TV shows and films being made, it would only be natural to assume that the cast would have a plush setup in their caravans for when they weren’t shooting, or would maybe have a green room for them to relax in when off the clock.
The actors in Firefly may have had a nice relaxation room set up for them somewhere, but they chose instead to spend their free time in Serenity’s lounge room.
The set piece made for the show doubledas the actors’ hang spot between shoots, and we can’t blame them. Who wouldn’t want to unwind in that glorious-looking lounge?
It’s nice to know that even when not in front of the camera, the cast still wanted to hang out with one another. Clearly they all had an extreme fondness for their spacecraft set, as they really couldn’t get enough of it.
8 The Stun Gun Made A Musical Re-Appearance
We’ve already seen how Neil Patrick Harris lost out on securing a role in Firefly, but his dreams of being involved in this show’s enduring legendary status might have come true just a tad many years later. In Firefly, we see a stun gun being used by the Alliance, and this prop was eventually re-used in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, also written and directed by Joss Whedon. In Dr. Horrible, the stun gun was used.
To make it look different to how it appeared in Firefly, they simply flipped it upside down. Once again, we see Whedon repurposing and applying nifty callbacks to his previous projects in most things he does. Neil Patrick Harris may have missed out on Firefly, but he certainly got some Whedon magic despite it.
7 The Cast Had Their Own Word For When They Flubbed A Line
If you watch any gag reel or blooper vid from most TV shows and films, you’re likely to hear the actors fling about an expletive in one shape or another when they happen to miss or flub a line. Well, in true Firefly style, the cast had their own take on cussing out a mistake.
Instead of dropping an f-bomb or calling upon some foul term, they would shout “Summer” instead.
This is in reference to Summer Glau, who plays River in the show, who was known for always getting her lines right. However, while filming a particularly long take in one of the episodes, Glau messed up her lines, and in frustration, Nathan Fillion shouted “Summer!” This then became a running joke throughout the series, and everytime someone would flub a line, they would shout “Summer!” in response.
6 The Show Was Marketed Completely Wrong
Any fan of Firefly will know the complicated and unpleasant relationship director Joss Whedon and FOX shared, and many solely blame the network for Firefly’s early cancellation. One of the reasons Firefly didn’t get the viewership numbers FOX wanted was because the show was completely mismarketed.
FOX promoted the show in an odd and misinformed way, throwing tag lines like “the most twisted new show on television” at it and describing its characters like “a “flighty pilot."
This poor, bizarre marketing attracted the wrong audience to the show and failed to connect with the sci-fi crowd that should have been targeted.
As a result, the wrong people tuned in, then quickly tuned out, leaving poor ratings and a fated cancellation that should not have happened.
5 The Cast Learnt To Swear In Chinese From A Cassette Tape
In order to get around any kind of censoring, Firefly had its actors swear in Chinese on the show. However, although we might watch them and be amazed by their linguistic skills, it was actually pretty tough for the cast to get those bad words right.
According to Nathan Fillion, the cast would get their scripts along with a cassette tape that had their Chinese lines on them.
The tapes were recorded by someone using a polite voice, so those rough, angry swear words they were meant to be saying were delivered on tape in a really soft, nice way, which made it difficult for them to learn how to say them in an angry or frustrated tone.
While Fillion diligently learnt the cuss words and tried his best to get the inflections right when saying them in an angry way, Jewel Staite who plays Kaylee didn’t put in as much effort: “I never listened to the tapes. I just swung it. I was terrible. Actually, all of my Chinese [on the show] is ADR'ed later on, to be more precise, because they couldn't figure out why I was the only one who wasn't getting it. And that's why!” she told Vulture.
4 Wash And Zoe Could Have Been The Show’s Doom
Joss Whedon argued over many aspects of Firefly with the FOX executives, but one of the main things they couldn’t see eye to eye on was the relationship between Wash (Alan Tudyk) and Zoe (Gina Torres). In the show, the two are married and have a loving, heartfelt marriage. FOX, however, wasn’t keen on this coupling. The network felt that having these two as an already-established pair would limit the show’s direction and might make it hard for the writers to create new romantic plots between the characters.
So determined was FOX to undo this relationship, that the network refused to pick up the show at first over this conflict.
Whedon stood his ground though and insisted that this part of the script remain intact. Eventually, the executives agreed to allow Zoe and Wash be a married couple, but the show’s mistreatment by the network had only begun.
3 Adam Baldwin Insisted That Jayne Wear That Hat
Jayne Cobb is certainly one of the funniest, most beloved characters on the show and everyone fell for him just that little bit more when he wore his distinctive orange-knit hat. The now-famous headgear was apparently knitted by someone working in the Firefly offices, and Adam Baldwin loved the hat so much that he asked Tim Minear, the executive producer, if he could wear it in the show while playing Jayne. Tim didn’t get the idea, but since Joss Whedon wasn’t around at that particular moment, the hat and its backstory got written into the script, and thus the infamous Jayne hat craze was born.
Fans were so enamoured by the knitted cap that they started making their own versions of it, which in turn got out of hand when an officially licensed version of it was made in 2012 and independent sellers were given cease and desist letters telling them to stop making their wares.
2 A Novel About The Civil War Inspired The Show
Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels was a huge source of inspiration behind Joss Whedon creating Firefly. The book follows both Union and Confederate soldiers on their journey living through four days at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. This war-torn landscape and divisive atmosphere helped Whedon think up and create his setting for his sci-fi western show, taking as a model the Reconstruction Era, but setting it way far-off in the future.
When speaking to Scifi about his inspiration for the series, Whedon revealed that it was the detailed nature in which the lives of the soldiers and the people in the book are described that really made the idea for the show come to life in his imagination. He added: “I want to get into people's lives this intimately. I want to do it in the future and show that the future is the past.”
1 Joss Whedon Is Developing a Firefly Book Series
Ever since Firefly was canceled, fans of the show have been begging for more stories to be created from this particular universe. Although comics have been made of the show, there has been a recent buzz of excitement over an announcement that the series will be getting some new adventures, this time in book form.
Titan Books is planning on releasing three novels in and Joss Whedon himself is on board to be consulting editor on the project.
The first novel is set to be released in October 2018 with the two others following later on in 2019. For a long time, fans have been wondering if Firefly will get a reboot or a new series planned, but as of yet, nothing has been confirmed. In the meantime though, lovers of the sow can fulfill their Firefly fantasies with these exciting new books, which might hopefully push Whedon and his Serenity crew to to plan for a TV comeback.
Do you have more Firefly knowledge to share? Leave it in the comments!