The 2003 science fiction series "Firefly" is in the news again, the reruns having recently made their debut on the Science Channel, augmented by new segments about the scientific content of the show. Of course, that's not why the show is getting buzzed about again. You see, a couple of weeks ago, Entertainment Weekly sat down with "Firefly" star Nathan Fillion for a little reminiscing. Fillion not only said that he'd be happy to play Captain Mal Reynolds again, but made the following statement: "If I got $300 million from the California Lottery, the first thing I would do is buy the rights to "Firefly," make it on my own, and distribute it on the Internet."
And then, well, eager "Firefly" fans on the internet did what all eager media fans on the internet are wont to do - they rose to the challenge and started a fundraising campaign to help Fillion buy the rights to "Firefly" and resurrect the show. This has since been changed into a campaign to buy the show's rights through an independent entity, since obviously poor Nathan Fillion never intended on getting caught up in the middle of this kind of scheme as a result of a simple off-hand comment. I'm sure the fans behind the campaign are all very well-meaning, but their chances of success are infinitesimally small. "Firefly" and its spinoff film "Serenity," are owned by FOX and Universal, very large companies that are still making a bundle off the property and its ancillary merchandise. Even if the fans could raise the money to buy the rights, it's unlikely either company would be in a hurry to sell them.
If, by some miracle, the "Firefly" rights could be acquired, what then? You'd still have to get the money to put the series back into production, which would be another couple million per episode for quality comparable to the 2003 episodes. And there's no guarantee that you could get the talent back either. Nathan Fillion seems game to return for Captain Mal, but he's got commitments to ABC's mystery series "Castle," which has just been renewed for a fourth year. Other members of the cast have also moved on. Morena Baccarin is the main villain of "V," Adam Baldwin is on year three of "Chuck," and Gina Torres is a regular on USA's upcoming legal drama, "A Legal Mind." Everyone else has been working steadily, most notably Summer Glau, who has had regular or recurring parts on five other television series since "Firefly." And of course, there's Joss Whedon, the creator of "Firefly," who is currently occupied with the "Avengers" movie slated for next year. He got burned with his last television outing, "Dollhouse," and he doesn't seem keen on returning to small screen projects any time soon. What about executive producer and writer Tim Minear? Hard at work on FOX's new cop show, "The Chicago Code," and an upcoming sci-fi series, "R.E.M." Producer Ben Edlund? Still keeping the "Supernatural" fangirls happy.
Would fans really want a "Firefly" that is missing key members of the original cast and creative team? A few die-hards might be willing to settle for some sub-par amateur fan production, thinking it's better than nothing, but I doubt the majority of fans would be satisfied. "Firefly" without its core talent involved just wouldn't be "Firefly." I count myself as a fan of the show and would love to see a resurrection as much as anyone, but at this point I think that ship has sailed. It's no longer 2005, when everyone was holding off on taking other work in the hopes that "Serenity" would do well enough to bring "Firefly" back as a series. Everybody who made "Firefly" a success in the first place has moved on. The best we can really hope for now, after so much time has passed, is for a "Firefly" spinoff in the vein of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Since interest in the series remains high, and the reputation of "Firefly" has only grown since it went off the air, FOX and Universal may eventually want to revisit the 'Verse, but it's always easier to start over from scratch with a new series than it is to continue an old one, as the "Law & Order," and "Stargate" franchises can attest. Or in a couple of decades, once the nostalgia cycle hits the Millennials, somebody might get the bright idea to reboot "Firefly" as a feature film.
These may not sound like great options, but they beat the alternatives. The thing I've noticed about beloved media franchises is that it is so easy to push them into places they were never meant to go, and that more can often mean less. I've seen so many, many wonderful properties like "Highlander" and "Star Wars," where the creators just didn't know when to quit, where the stories just got more watered-down and disappointing with every new project and spin-off. Another "Firefly" series or a new "Serenity" sequel could mean a great new chapter in the adventures of Captain Mal and his crew. On the other hand, there's also the distinct possibility that the fans could end up with something akin to the "Matrix" sequels or the second "X-Files" movie or the independently produced "Terminator: Salvation," which came about as a direct result of the privately financed Halcyon Company having acquired the rights to the "Terminator" franchise in 2007. Nobody walked away happy from that mess.
"Firefly" may have ended before its time, but then we never had to watch its slow decline or exploitation by other, clumsier creative types. It was never compromised, as so many other franchises have been compromised, and I think that's part of its appeal. Wanting more of a good story is natural, but I think the fans could do well by appreciating what they've got before clamoring for the show's return. Be careful what you wish for, "Firefly" fans," because it can all go so very wrong, so very fast.