Before Browncoats appear at our offices with torches and pitchforks, let us just say that yes, we are huge, huge fans of “Firefly”. It’s one of the best TV series in recent years, and a testament to the skill of Joss Whedon.
But also that if it got past season one, it probably would have turned into a total disaster.
As nerds, we tend to cling to “What Might Have Been” simply because it’s in our nature: we love to ask “what if?!” The problem is we generally approach “What If” from the whole “What if this were totally awesome” standpoint instead of the more realistic “What if this had been hijacked by corporate interests” standpoint.
So here are five reasons “Firefly” stayed good by getting gone.
#5) Any Franchise That Stays On Long Enough Chokes
Ask a Star Wars fan how they feel about the prequels. Or a Star Trek fan how they feel about “Voyager” or “Enterprise”. Or a Buffy fan how they feel about the last two seasons, or about half the episodes of “Angel”, or the new “seasons” currently running in the comics.
Sustaining any type of story over two, ten, twenty years takes time and effort, and nobody is at 100% for that entire span of time. “Firefly” delivered us a complete story that “Serenity” capped off. Imagine how you’d feel if it was still on the air, after Joss Whedon had left, Simon and Kaylee had a tragic miscarriage, and River hooked up with Jayne.
#4) If It Had Been A Success, It Would Have Been Taken Away From The Browncoats, Pronto
Major corporations are not in the television business to make us happy: they’re in it for money. And if they get even a whiff of a possibility of money, they step in, and they step in fast.
Nobody in television production will admit it, but the goal of any SF series that hits the air is to get a rabid fan base that keeps buying official merchandise and then to start killing everything that makes the show distinctive, because that makes it more appealing to the mainstream and huge conglomerates know that once you have their love, nerds will cling to a franchise forever. The dream is a series that keeps producing hits and caters enough to the mainstream to pull in that big summer money while having a huge contingent of rabid fans who buy every trinket you can officially license.
It’s the only reason “Serenity” got made: Universal thought they had another “Star Trek”. And, really, ask a Trekkie, one who grew up with it, one who loves it: watching a studio systematically dismantle everything you’ve ever loved about a movie or TV show hurts in a way that it really shouldn’t. “X raped my childhood” is a cliche at this point, and we can’t freeze our beloved franchises in amber…but did you really want to see “Firefly: The Next Generation” with Mal as an Alliance Commander? Because Universal would do it, if the money was there.
#3) All the Plotlines Got Wrapped Up
Yes, there were a few loose threads: Shepherd Book’s past, for example. But the show dropped more than enough clues to tie those up in a satisfying way. Simon and Kaylee get together, Jayne finds happiness with Vera, and most importantly, the central plotline of the series has been resolved.
Imagine a second movie where it’s just an hour-and-a-half long version of “The Train Job.” Fun it may be, but it would probably lack the resonance and depth of the show.