Firefly is the quintessential cancelled-too-early TV series. A combination of factors such as its unconventional genre-blend of Science Fiction and Western, being aired out of order (tragically leaving the epic pilot episode “Serenity” unaired until after the season finale), and the worst goddamn theme music I’ve ever heard, led to its cancellation. Hell, even I, as a diehard fan of both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel (both of which, along with Firefly, were created by Joss Whedon) thought that Whedon had lost his mind when I first heard about the show. I thought it sounded like a vanity project by a man who had gotten it right too many times and who thought he could do no wrong.
But, despite the early cancellation, the series found its second life (if you can even count the first as a life) on the home video market. A DVD boxset is where I, and most of the world, first encountered Firefly. It was bittersweet, like reading the memoirs of a surprisingly awesome and badass dead relative who lived close by but never seemed interesting enough to visit.
But that was 2003. This is 2015. These days, we don’t let things stay dead. We reboot them. We make sequels. We throw $7 a month at Netflix and sometimes they reanimate the corpses of our dead media. Eventually, it becomes not a question of “Can we?” but “Should we?” So let’s break this down. Let’s look at some reasons why we should or shouldn’t bring back Firefly.
Con: Impossibly high expectations
In the decade or more that Firefly has been off the air, its legacy as an unappreciated gem has eclipsed the popularity of all but the most beloved shows that have come out since. A big part of that narrative is in lamenting the criminality of being robbed of a future for the series. How dare Fox deny us a TV landscape without this show on it? I can only imagine that this is the real reason Randy Quaid is so mad at Rupert Murdoch. There have been 12 years since Firefly; that’s over a decade of pent up expectation and nerd rage. Expectation is a tricky bitch because too little leads to paltry audiences (see Firefly) while too much leads to uncomfortable disappointment (see the year 2012, the movie 2012, and KONY2012). Imagine that 2Pac and Jeff Buckley both came back from the dead and released a duet album together. Do you think there’s any chance that it would actually be as amazing as you’d like? Exactly.
Pro: Sometimes when stuff comes back it’s awesome
An amazing Firefly return could go one of two ways. First, it could go the way of Futurama, which is to say that the universe could just come to the consensus that something needs to exist and finds a way to do it. Everything would feel the same, comfortable but with a bit of maturity from the bygone years in between. Alternatively, Firefly could go the Arrested Development route and try something entirely different, keeping with the same spirit of playfulness and experimentation but refusing to stick to the original structures. There is a precedent for these cult shows making a comeback, especially when their original runs are cut short.
Con: There’s so much to lose
Firefly feels more important than the show itself. As I mentioned above, its legacy is its most precious commodity. Sure, there are shows that have made returns and been successful but there are far more examples of series and franchises that have lived long enough to become their own worst enemy. Look at LOST. What started as a thrilling, refreshing, challenging supernatural mystery transformed over six seasons into a treatise of distrust and unfulfilled promises. What about Heroes? The first season of Heroes is, at least nostalgically speaking, one of my favourite seasons of television ever. It’s also the first time I’ve felt the need to focus on only one season of a four season series. We can still talk about how awesome these shows started out but we always need to add the “but…” at the end. I question whether it’s worth it to risk the legacy of Firefly for the sake of watching something we may not want to watch as much as we want to say we want to watch it. The wanting is more important than the watching.
Pro: It came back once and it was glorious
In 2005, out popped a movie called Serenity. Apparently, the President of Production at Universal, Mary Parent, met with Whedon about making a movie based on the series and, after watching the DVDs, put the wheels in motion. To quote a great critic (or at least one I can cite without fear of misappropriation… because it’s me) “… it is the final twenty-five or so minutes that really make this a great movie. By this point, Serenity has finished paying tribute to its source material, transcends it, and becomes an ethically-charged, balls to the walls free for all.” Serenity is a great movie that does justice to its origins. Even still, the ‘verse of Firefly doesn’t have to stop with this great movie. The same review I (shamelessly) quoted above ends “More unfortunately, many of the characters are necessarily relegated to supporting, almost cameo roles, still leaving some fan desire left unsatiated. As successful as it is, Serenity still leaves me wanting more.” So let’s do it. Let’s go back for another ride.
Con: We already got Serenity
Let’s not get too greedy. If Firefly was lightning in a bottle then Serenity was an entire thunderstorm in a shot glass. It was, for all intents and purposes, a farewell to the franchise. Firefly fans already got their swan song.
Pro: Joss Goddamn Whedon
I don’t want to gush because that’s not fun to read nor credible to write about but there really does still seem to be something magical about Joss Whedon. I trust him. I trusted him all the way through Buffy and Angel. I, obviously, loved Firefly. Even if he didn’t direct it, Cabin in the Woods dripped with Whedonism. Hell, I even tried Dollhouse. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to find out that Joss Whedon was going to be directing The Avengers and look how that turned out. This article isn’t the time to talk about why Whedon is or isn’t great. The point I’m trying to make is that as long as Joss Whedon thinks it’s a good idea to bring back Firefly, who the hell am I to disagree?
Dylan Clark-Moore is a podcast creator and blogger at NetFlakes. You can find him on Letterboxd and Twitter.
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Firefly is also available from Amazon.