It’s really been 10 years since Firefly met a premature and cold-blooded end at the hands of Fox network executives. You might not realize the years have gone by that quickly, but that’s because we fans still see fit to lament the show’s early exit at every turn. We still organize campaigns to resurrect it. We still write fan fiction. We still hold out hope that it will return to us in some new form or other. To those who aren’t initiated to the ranks of us Browncoats, it might seem like an odd and even ridiculous exercise, but what it really is, whether you like it or not, is a testament to the reach of this show’s particular brand of adventure. Browncoats Unite, a new one-hour special celebrating 10 years since the series’ debut, is both an attempt to explain and chronicle this unlikely afterlife, and though it might not mean much to those who aren’t fans, it is a treat for those of us hoping to revisit the ‘verse for a little more shiny fun.
We all know that last July many of the Firefly cast gathered with creator Joss Whedon at San Diego Comic-Con for a much-anticipated panel celebrating 10 years of the show. But that wasn’t all the cast did during their reunion. Before hitting the stage at SDCC, they also sat down for an intimate roundtable discussion. Though Whedon didn’t participate in this particular event, it was attended by executive producer and writer Tim Minear, writer Jose Molina and stars Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau and Sean Maher. This roundtable makes up the bulk of the show, but it’s also supplemented by solo interviews with co-stars Jewel Staite, Gina Torres and Morena Baccarin, along with footage from the Comic-Con panel and clips from the show highlighting key moments.
There’s no particular thesis here, no stated goal other than reflecting on how and why the show became such a cult phenomenon, and examining the bond that formed between the cast and crew as the show was being made. With humor and real emotion, the cast and writers reflect on their favorite moments from the series, discuss where they hoped their characters would have gone if the show had continued and examine how the fandom for this little show that could grew and continues to thrive.
If you’re a non-viewer hoping for an hour in which you can orient yourself with the themes of the show and come to understand why it’s so damn popular with all your friends, this really isn’t it. Aside from the (few) spoilers from the series and the feature film, it’s just too much of an inside discussion for viewers who don’t know the show already. But you know what? That’s OK. It’s great, even. Because after all, isn’t the point here to give Firefly fans a moment of TV history all to ourselves to remember a show many of us think we should still be seeing new episode from? The way in which it’s assembled and the topics that are discussed, along with the warm aura projected by this family-like cast, give the impression of an intimate evening with old friends. For the show’s fans, that’s what it will feel like, and that’s what it should be.
The show does suffer a bit from the omission of co-star Ron Glass (not sure why) and from Whedon, who appears only in the Comic-Con panel footage. It seems a little odd to air a special reflecting on the massive success of a show and not include a few personal interview moments with the guy who created it, but we do get to see his emotional speech to fans about why the show lives on, and he was a little busy being the Biggest Director in the World while this whole thing was being put together, so it works out fine.
In the end, the most interesting bits of Browncoats Unite are near the end, when the panel participants talk about ideas the writers had for episodes that never were, and ideas the cast members had about how their characters turned out (there’s a fascinating secret spilled about Inara, for example). It might infuriate some fans to find out how many good ideas there were behind this show, but in many ways we knew that already, didn’t we?
You’ll learn a few things, but the real point of Browncoats Unite is chance to, well…unite. We can all gather in front of the TV, just as we did for those few lovely weeks when Firefly was actually on the air, and remember (or re-remember) a show that despite low ratings and a lack of network enthusiasm, gave birth to a very particular and very special kind of TV magic.
Browncoats Unite airs Sunday at 10 p.m. Eastern on Science Channel.
(Thanks to the Science Channel for the opportunity to screen this in advance – MJ)