Ten years ago, Joss Whedon’s Firefly made its debut on television. Like most of Whedon’s TV efforts, it generally went unappreciated — ratings were never strong, mostly because it kept shifting time slots and was initially shown out of order — but also was deeply adored by the cult of fans who hung on every adventure of Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and the crew of the Serenity. Though it was canceled after only 13 episodes, the show was one of the first great success stories for TV-on-DVD, and the demand was so intense that the Whedon got the cast back together for a one-off film called Serenity in 2005.
But the show’s lost potential remains a deep wound for the fans (who dubbed themselves Browncoats), as well as for the actors and producers who worked on the project. That theme keeps coming back around again on Firefly: Browncoats Unite, the 10th anniversary special which airs Sunday night at 10 p.m. on Science Channel.
The hour-long special brings together Whedon and Fillion, as well as cast members Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Adam Baldwin, Morena Baccarin, Alan Tudyk, Gina Torres and Jewel Staite, and producers Tim Minear and Jose Molina. Together, they recount the process of getting the show up and running, the adventures on set, the shock of cancellation, and the intense bond that the people associated with Firefly still have for one another.
That idea of family kept coming up at New York Comic Con, where I was fortunate enough to moderate a panel that included Fillion, Maher, and Staite. They continuously reiterated how special it was that they kept getting to see one another years after the show went off the air. And one of the great regrets the cast has? They didn’t get the chance to write their own episodes.Following the panel, I sat down with Fillion, Maher, and Staite to unpack some of the stuff discussed during the panel. During the Q&A, one fan asked what type of episode each of the actors would write for their characters, and Fillion filled me in on Alan Tudyk’s grand design for his entry to the Firefly canon.
“Alan Tudyk definitely pitched the most episodes,” Fillion said. “He had a great one where there were some criminals who engage in illegal dogfights, and there was a planet where one side of the planet was perpetual night. They had these big, feral dogs there that were so mean and awful, and we had to go out and trap them. We had this dog pheremone of some kind, and Jayne was messing around, and splat!, the thing bursts and we’re all covered in this pheremone. So we have to run back to the ship with these feral dogs chasing us, and we get the dogs back to the hold of the ship, and we’re safe. But in the journey back to get them back to the criminals, River comes in, communes with the dogs, and domesticates them. So now they’re the same dogs, just nice.”
“This is the stuff that Alan thinks about,” Staite added. “Dog fights, mustaches, and tattoos. He’s a strange man.”
Firefly: Browncoats Unite airs Sunday night, Nov. 11, at 10 p.m. on Science Channel. If for some reason you haven’t committed the entirety of the series to memory, they’re running a helpful marathon that begins that morning at 7 a.m.