Wanting to continue the science fiction theme of the week left me with one clear option for our throwback series: FIREFLY. The gone-too-soon series redefined world creation on television and its impact is still felt today. Unfortunately for the show, Fox struggled with advertising and finding an audience for the series and it was cancelled before a large enough audience could find it. I myself only watched it on Netflix when I was looking for a show with a similar tone to what I was writing at the time, though I knew of it earlier on since my sister may be the world’s biggest browncoat. If you’re reading this you likely beat me to the show as well, and if not I urge to check it out and the movie that the fans were able to make happen.
Firefly is an “American space western science fiction drama” television series created by writer-director Joss Whedon. The series is set in the year 2517, after the arrival of humans in a new star system and follows the adventures of the renegade crew of “Serenity,” a firefly-class spaceship.
Mal, the captain
Zoe, the second-in-command
Wash, pilot and Zoe’s husband
Kaylee, ship’s mechanic
Inara, a “companion” (new word for escort only considered very important and upper class position)
Simon, a doctor
River, Simon’s sister and wanted by the government along with her brother
Book, a “shepherd” (a priest)
Each week is a single goal with typically one or two protagonists with differing perspectives on the situation.
Season One, Episode 14* Objects In Space
*The order they aired and were meant to be seen is up for debate.
A-Story: River’s perspective
B-Story: Early’s Perspective
C-Story: The crew and Simon’s perspectives
A: River walks through the ships. She overhears Kaylee and her brother, Simon, flirting. River is happy.
A: River hears Shepherd Book and Jayne discussing celibacy but her mind shows her what they may really mean.
A: River hears Zoe and Wash being intimate. She is overwhelmed with emotion.
A: River hears Inara and Mal discussing the former’s departure from the ship. Her mind shows her how Inara wishes Mal would fight for her and he doesn’t see a point in it.
A: River runs away and spots a tree branch. She picks it up and it turns into a gun and she is surrounded the crew panicking. River becomes overwhelmed and runs away after Mal steps in.
C: Mal is angry, so Simon steps in to defend his sister.
C: Simon is condescending, Mal scolds Simon.
*Everything above is set up.
C: Wash notices that there is some heat signature around the ship. He is worried. (Inciting Incident)
C: Mal and Jayne argue about the gun that was Jayne. When Jayne gets too heated, Mal threatens him, making the hired gun back down.
C: Kaylee tells the crew how River used a gun with extreme ease and skill in a previous episode. The crew is worried though Simon still defends River.
B: A bounty hunter, Jubal Early, sneeks onto the ship and listens to the conversations. There is not emotion in his face. (First Act Decision)
B/C: Early slips onto the ship. He knocks out Mal and locks him in his quarters. Early then locks up the rest of the bunks. He is calm and doesn’t break a sweat the whole time.
B/C: Early enters Kaylee’s bunk. She’s startled.
B/C: He tells her all the horrible things he will do to her if she does not do as he says. She cries as he binds her hands behind her back.
*All above is action.
B/C: Early finds Simon and wants him to look for River who he is there to collect the bounty on, but he’s easily distracted by Freudian moments.
B/C: Simon refuses to help Early. Early threatens Simon and Kaylee (hearing their care for each other earlier), and tells him that Simon will follow because helping gives Simon the opportunity to win and save his sister. (Simon’s First Act Decision)
C: Simon sees the shepherd knocked out on the floor. Early says Book is “no shepherd.”
B/C: Simon tries to attack Early. Early stops him before Simon can even make a strong move.
B/C: As Early locks Inara in her room, she tries to convince Early to be kind and change his ways. Early quickly slaps her.
B: Early is sick of searching for River. He calls out for her, waking the crew.
A/B/C: River’s voice comes over the intercom saying she has “become” the ship, Serenity. Everyone is confused and worried. (Midpoint)
A/C: River talks to the crew individually and tells them of her plan, calming their worries.
A/C: River giggles and continues to mess with Early’s mind. He acts though he has accepted that she is a ship.
A/B: River tells a personal story about Early’s childhood. He realizes that she has snuck onto his ship and quickly agrees to do as she says.
A/B/C: River says she will go with him since she is not wanted on Serenity and a burden to the crew. Early is thrilled. Simon won’t allow it. (False Climax)
A/B/C: Simon attacks Early. Early shoots him and heads out while River screams. (Low Point)
A/B/C: Early exits Serenity, thinking that he has won. Mal appears and shoves Early out into space with no line to either ship. (Climax)
A/C: River climbs out of Early’s ship and returns to Serenity. She and Mal share a sweet moment. (Resolution)
A/C: Everyone is safe and sound in the ship.
First of all, let me say sorry for being a day late. Impending tax seasons blow. But anyways, this is my favorite episode of Firefly. The series was always great at introducing new ideas and ways of storytelling even with a very clear structure. This episode has two protagonists (and therefore two antagonists) in River and Early. For the first time in the series we get a better sense of what is happening in River’s brain in the opening sequence as it shows viewers how in tune her brain is with things around her.
On the other side, you have the villain Early. He makes his decision of how he will attack the ship for River after overhearing the crew talking in the kitchen. Simon is the largest section of the third arc: The Crew. He makes his decision when he chooses to “help” Early in the hopes he can ultimately stop the bounty hunter. In the end, River proves her worth to the crew but never really changes herself though she steps up as a leader. Early has an arch, you see his emotions go from calm to boiling over at being messed with by River. Lastly Simon learns that he has to let his sister go and trust her… even though she’s lying and in still wanting her to be safe he winds up shot. Meanwhile, everyone else on the crew learns to trust River.
It’s an interesting episode in that even though you have all these perspectives surrounding one event, there is very little emotional change. Today you would only see that on an episodic network series, and even then, the story is only driven by one person or perspective.
So many episodes of the rest of the season are more straightforward, like the “Train Robbery,” in which the team go to rob a train and it ends up being something other than what they bargained for. Clear set up, action, midpoint, climax, and always viewed from the various perspectives. As the season went on, the writers really tried more interesting ways of telling a story and by centering this episode largely around Early and his bizarre wit they introduce us to a character that can be darkly humorous and terrifying while burying the seams of the structure. Hopefully the more breakdowns you read, the more easily is will be to hide these in your own scripts.