Several years ago a science fiction series aired on television featuring the adventures of a spaceship captain and his crew. Although the series received critical acclaim and had a devoted following, low ratings led to its swift cancellation. No, I’m not talking about the original Star Trek -- I’m talking about Firefly.
Created and directed by Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, Firefly debuted on the FOX network in September 2002, but was canceled after only eleven out of fourteen episodes aired. In spite of its short run, the series received an Emmy for "Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series" and spawned a motion picture called Serenity.
Firefly takes place in 2517, long after humans have left Earth. Colonization of planets in another solar system has been made possible by terraforming technology. The two remaining Earth superpowers, the United States and China, have united to form a government called the Alliance, and as a result the two cultures have also merged. Not only is there a strong Asian influence in terms of lifestyle, but people are bilingual in Chinese and English. The series begins six years after the end of a civil war. Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) is captain of the Serenity, a Firefly-class ship. He and his first mate Zoe (Gina Torres) are veterans of the war and fought on the losing side. Tough times since have led Mal and his crew to often run smuggling operations on top of their legitimate passenger transport service.
While many science fiction films and television shows have been described as the “Wild West in space”, Firefly takes that theme literally, best demonstrated during the opening sequence where we see the Serenity fly over a group of horses across a classic Western backdrop. While the central planets are under strict Alliance control, the outer planets are similar to the frontier states in the United States 100 years ago.