How We Got Here or Why I'm a Browncoat

UPDATED: Saturday, August 20, 2005 21:27
VIEWED: 1234
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Friday, August 19, 2005 8:47 PM


It seemed to me that we might all get caught up in the excitement leading up to the BDM, so last night, I created this. I was going to wait to post it, but it would be great to get some feedback on it now.

September 30th, 2005.
How We Got Here or Why I’m A Browncoat

“Today is an auspicious day!”
”What day is it...? What month is it?”

It’s September. September of 2005. It was just over three years ago that a little show called Firefly debuted on the FOX network, to critical acclaim and what appeared to be nobody watching. The Neilsen ratings for the pilot were not good. They were less than good, in fact, by network standards, and to boot the pilot didn’t make a whole lot of sense. It didn’t seem like a pilot. We were more than a bit confused. Here was this show that starts out with a bar fight, but then has a spaceship come to the rescue. We were confused, but intrigued, and we watched. And by the time Crow went through the engine, we were either hooked, or gone.

Some of us watched the adventures of this small crew unfold. We realized very early that this wasn’t Star Trek. There were no aliens, just these crazed men called Reavers. But, based on our look at Reavers in Bushwhacked, we had to realize that the Reavers might not be real, just a myth or legend. The crew was in swordfights, tied to stakes, married by strange rituals, made folk heroes of, ran out of fuel, infiltrated hospitals, tortured, and was ambushed by a bounty hunter. Then we got to see the pilot.

The ratings had only gotten worse. The show was expensive. And, despite being the most TIVO-ed show while it was on the air, Firefly was put on hiatus, effectively ending its run after 11 episodes were aired. Joss Whedon, executive producer, vowed to find another home for this misunderstood show, and for months he tried. He met with networks, cable, network, it didn’t matter. But the lure of a cancelled show with low ratings that cost an arm and a leg in TV terms to make was undeniable. Undeniably not there.

Alan Tudyk, the actor behind the character of Wash, had pulled the red button of Out of Gas off the set before the end of the final filmed episode, The Message. During this tumultuous time, he sent it to executive producer/creator Whedon with a line of dialogue attached, “When your miracle arrives, you push this button.”

The fans of the show, such as they were had already mobilized into several communities by the end of the show. The OB, or official board was hosted by the Fox network, and later bought by those in charge of the show, to keep the discussion going. A website for Firefly Fans had come up as well, offering a way for the fans to communicate. And they did.

The thought of a cancelled TV show going to DVD was still relatively new at this point. Most TV-on-DVD was box sets of successful seasons, Star Trek, 24 and the like. The Family Guy phenomenon had barely begun yet, another injustice handed to a show on the Fox network. But those communities of fans were able to write emails, contact the studio, and, on December 7th, 2003, almost a year after the show went off the air, the Firefly DVDs went on sale.

Somebody had been watching. Within the next six months, sales of Firefly DVDs were in the 200-250 thousand range. Although more accurate, or recent, sales figures are being closely guarded by the studio, it’s those first six months that are important. While not up to the standards of Family Guy, a DVD that sold over one million copies, Firefly’s initial selling was impressive. Here was a series that aired but 11 episodes (about 20% of Family Guy’s total), and had generally been considered a flop. Fans found out that the crew had also stolen an expensive gun, helped some whores, and tried to save an old war buddy, as the set contained three unaired episodes.

But perhaps it was the extras on those DVDs that were most important. The tour of the ship, the look on the faces of the creators as they described the show and showed their emotions. How they were in love with this little thing called Firefly. How well the actors all fit into the roles of the characters. Indignation set in as everyone realized there would be no more of this special program.

Then Whedon’s miracle arrived. Universal pictures, based upon conversations with Whedon and the series’ impressive DVD numbers gave approval to the feature film production of Serenity, the film adaptation of Firefly. With a budget of about $40 million, they began preproduction immediately, and started filming in the summer of 2004, with an anticipated release date of April 22, 2005.

The fan community, or Browncoats, so named after the Independent faction in Firefly’s Civil War, banded together again, anxious to hear how the movie was progressing. And in two short months, it was done. Firefly was back in the vault. The actors could only sit around and wait. The director could only finalize his vision (the directior, of course, being Whedon, his feature film debut in that role). And the fans could only anticipate.

Whedon’s career had come full circle. His successful TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer was based on a movie that was toyed with and, arguably, ruined, at the hands of others. His television series Firefly, after being toyed with and, arguably, ruined, at the hands of others gained new life in the feature film Serenity.

April quickly became crowded with other titles that were similar, however. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy pushed back its release date to April 29th to avoid a conflict with the mid-May release of Star Wars Episode III. There was no place for Serenity to be released in April, and given its small budget and lack of star power, it was not a film for a summer release. The studio moved the release to September 30th, 2005.

The DVDs were still selling. Browncoats recruiting others to the show that was Firefly, finally realized it as a piece of creative genius, unlike any other science fiction show created. This show was not about aliens and spatial anomalies. Or mythical forces only certain people could control. It was about 9 people, on a ship, trying to get by. It was what we live through ever day, and it was special. Serenity is about one of those people in particular, a dangerous psychic who just might be able to kill you with her brain. And the fans were eager.

On May 5th, 2005, 10 screenings of an unfinished version of Serenity were shown to fans around the United States. Tickets for these events, which went on sale the day after the Internet premiere of the first trailer for the movie, sold out completely in 24 hours. There was no need for the extensive marking blitz Universal had planned for the screenings, the fan base eat up those tickets in a matter of hours. To see an unfinished version of the film.

The end of May and June saw two more sets of screenings of the unfinished movie, with the number of cities expanding from to 20 and 35. Each sold out more quickly than the first. It is believed several cities sold out of tickets online within 2 to 3 minutes of being put up for sale. There was certainly a demand to see this movie.

Firefly, and by comparison, Serenity, contained a rich universe full of possibility. Universal seized this chance and licensed the rights to the Firefly ‘Verse. The Dark Horse Comic, Margaret Weis Role Playing Game, Diamond Select Action Figures, Inkworks trading cards, movie noevlization and magazine were all scheduled to release in the period leading up to the movie.

The Scifi Network, like Universal Pictures, owned by conglomerate NBC-Universal picked up the rights to rebroadcast all 15 hours of Firefly. Starting in July, they were able to show over half the series prior to Serenity’s release, providing fans with unique trailers, clips, and behind the scenes looks at the film along the way.

Serenity, like no other, is a fan’s film. As Joss Whedon states in his taped interview before the advance screenings, cancelled TV series just don’t get made into movies. But, until Family Guy, cancelled TV series didn’t get brought back on the air, either. And the success of these two properties has opened windows of hope for other TV series on DVD. In June of 2005 the pilot of a series the WB turned down, Global Frequency, was leaked online, leading fans to start asking for a DVD release of a show that never actually aired on television. Firefly opened the door for more films that are made by fans. For more TV series to have a fighting chance, even if only in the secondary market. And with Serenity, the Browncoats will rise again.

The Screen Job: There’s No Rest Until We’re Back On Serenity.

Joshua Carey.

"You are on the Global Frequency."


Saturday, August 20, 2005 9:34 AM


To quote Tom Zarek, "Nicely played."

Third to the last paragraph - correct the spelling of novelization.


Saturday, August 20, 2005 5:09 PM


This is great.
3 things:
1) In the second paragraph, should be "were" in swordfights, I think. As Crew is plural, otherwise change "crew" to "the Captain" to match the singular "was". Related: they "were" ambused.
2) Also in the second paragraph. I'd put a "were" in front of "tortured' for clarification that they were tortured instead of being on the giving end of the torture.
3) In the paragraph about the first round of screenings, change "eat" to "ate".

All in all, well said. These are minor things that I'd overlook if I were proofreading something I wrote, but if you plan to publish it....
sorry if this is too nitpicky.

Visit WWW.Marillion.Com for a better way to live
Visit and see Tim Minear's show Weds. 9:00pm EST.....ah FUX nevermind.


Saturday, August 20, 2005 6:48 PM


Not too nitpicky at all. I'll leave the mistakes in the post above, so your posts make sense, but trust that I am taking care of them on my end.

As for your comment about publishing, I don't really know what I'm going to do with this. Suggestions on that front are welcome as well.

"You are on the Global Frequency."


Saturday, August 20, 2005 7:52 PM


Sorry, but "crew" is singular, just as "group" is singular.

The plurals are "crews" and "groups."

viz: "The entire crew is late coming back from shore leave." "The crew has been disciplined."

To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks. --Robt. Heinlein


Saturday, August 20, 2005 7:59 PM


that was a good, and concise read. nice job =)


Saturday, August 20, 2005 9:27 PM


Very imformative and well written. It'll be god for people who haven't seen the TV show, and then become fans of the movie.

No Power In The 'Verse Can Stop Me






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