Fandom loves a milestone. Here’s one for you… as of this week Firefly has been off the air for as long as Star Trek had been when Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered. Well, okay, it depends on whether you count the three episodes that only aired in the UK, but either way… Firefly was cancelled a little over 18 years ago, which is as long as Trekkies waited between seeing Captains Kirk and Picard command the USS Enterprise on TV.
Firefly is, like the original Star Trek was before it, something of a pop culture anomaly. The series was lightning in a bottle, resonating with a dedicated fanbase in a way few shows manage to do. It arrived at a time when online fandom was really gathering steam, too, which should’ve propelled it into the stratosphere… but the series was cancelled almost as quickly as it had arrived. Much has been written elsewhere about the why’s and who’s of Firefly’s early demise, so I won’t belabor the point here. Considering the series consists of a single season of just 14 episodes — with only 11 being aired in the US over the course of three months in 2002 — the devotion of Firefly’s fans is remarkable, and has kept the brand (ugh) alive for close to 20 years.
The vocal outcry following the show’s swift cancellation and, perhaps more importantly, subsequent DVD sales (another bit of perfect timing; home video retail wasn’t really a thriving market before the 2000s, and streaming was still years off) were enough to greenlight the production of Serenity, which at least gave closure to some of the show’s dangling plot threads. A smattering of comics and novels have been published in the years since to fill in some gaps as well. Merchandise continues to fill store shelves, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a convention without at least one or two Jayne cosplayers walking the floor in their cunning hats.
Which brings us to the now. With alarming regularity, some website or another posts a clickbait article announcing Firefly’s imminent return, claiming that their “inside sources” have heard “rumours and rumblings” that the series is set for an immediate comeback. It filters through to social media, people buzz about it for a day or two, and it’s forgotten as we glom on to the next thing (OMG INDIANA JONES 5). This might be a game of “post the headline often enough and one day it might even be true.” Or it could just be an easy way to generate traffic to drive advertising revenues. Because if there’s one thing we know about Firefly fans — and I count myself among their number — it’s that they’re a tenacious lot, and they’ll grab any thread of hope. The thing is, like Mal Reynolds discovered to his dismay at the Battle of Serenity Valley… air support ain’t comin’.
Of course, Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox in 2019 stoked the flames. Disney is not known for sitting idle on profitable properties, after all, and while they’ve never announced any intention to do anything with the Firefly IP it would stand to reason that they might dredge it up one fine day. What that could look like, though, and who would be involved is anyone’s guess. While most members of the cast have said in the past they would be eager to return, actually getting them in front of the camera is another matter entirely. The actors have, of course, long since moved on to other projects (what with them needing to eat and all) and scheduling around those commitments would make rebooting with the original cast tricky, to say the least. Just to hand-pick a few, Nathan Fillion is currently starring in The Rookie, Jewel Staite is busy with Family Law, and Gina Torres is working on 9-1-1: Lone Star.
Of course, the ’Verse is a big place with no shortage of stories to be told. Any new iteration of Firefly wouldn’t necessarily need to bring back the original cast, either in whole or in part. Going back up to my first point, Star Trek: The Next Generation wisely established a new crew and new threats while honoring what had come before. Similarly, last year’s Star Trek: Picard largely left the TNG cast behind. A new Firefly might do well by taking a similar tack, exploring the ’Verse with a new or mostly-new crew.
Series creator Joss Whedon is another factor. He has expressed his desire to create more Firefly stories on several occasions, even saying it would’ve been his first choice of projects were he given carte blanche in the wake of his Avengers success (also with Disney, as it happens). The last few years have seen Whedon’s star tarnished by allegations of abuse and misconduct in his personal and professional lives, though, and his current series, HBO’s The Nevers, is being marketed without his name attached. Disney may be reluctant to involve him in any Firefly reboot they may have in mind. But would Firefly even be Firefly without Joss?
All of which is a lot of words to say, Firefly ain’t comin’ back any time soon no matter what “article” some guy posts on Facebook, and if it does it might not be what you’re looking to see. In the meantime, catch up on The Expanse before its sixth and final season hits this fall. It delivers on a lot of the promises Firefly never had the chance to make good on.
Chris Patrick Carolan is an author, editor, and hovercraft enthusiast, originally from Glasgow but now based in Calgary, Alberta. He writes science fiction, fantasy (urban and epic), and steampunk, though he has also been known to turn to crime to make ends meet. Crime fiction, that is. His short stories have appeared in various award-nominated anthologies, and his first novel, THE NIGHTSHADE CABAL, was published by Parliament House Press in 2020. He can be found on Twitter as @cpcwrites but – consider this fair warning – it’s mostly wisecracks about McNuggets and Simpsons memes.