Refining the canon timeline

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Sunday, December 23, 2007 10:14 PM


I would like to propose a refinement of the timeline which has been used or referred to as the timeline of our verse.

I do not intend to imply that this will be canon, but that we can try to look at the canon references in a way that does not make them conflict in terms of time passage or linearity.

I like puzzles and generally dislike disharmony. I notice many people refer to the timeline of canon as conflicting, and sometimes it seems like an albatross around our necks. I think perhaps many have succembed quickly to the idea that, like the original Star Trek Stardate screwups, that our verse was irrevocably also inconsistent. I think we have a relatively small amount of conflicts to work out, and we may be able to eliminate or moderate all or most of the percieved conflicts.

I know that a timeline has been posted at and many refer to it. From what I can tell, a possible problem which came about in this timeline creation was that most or all of the percieved conflicts arose in the episodes, and then some time elapsed before BDM, so any possible errors became somewhat cemented, and then later when BDM came out, further times were added, but any initial errors were already kind of set in place, resulting in time references in the episodes being given more weight. But what if the BDM really isn't conflicting with the timeline, and all of the time references in the series and BDM are fairly compliant if we consider all references to be of equal value instead of episodic references having more weight.

Then we may learn some things from conclusions that come about.

It may take me a while to complete this first post or few, so please be patient and then read the entire concept - some of the ideas might be complex or intially confusing.

I do not need to initially get into standardized calendar or time, which would be required in this verse.

When done, I ask that any glaring errors or remaining conflicts be pointed out, in case I missed them.

First, here are the key references to passage of time in our verse. Let us at first assume that all of these are accurate as individual items, and fairly accurate and precise, and then I'll progress from there.

1. River is 16 in the escape scene (BDM script).
2. River-in-the-Box is 17. (Pilot script)
3. Ep1 Broadcast intro states the the year is 2517. I have not seen this, but many people have referred to it, so I assume this is the case. Please correct me if wrong.
4. Ep1 Inara says she has been aboard 8 months. This is in casual conversation with Book, she does not say "let me think, it's been... 8 months" as if calculating so, but a seemingly casual time reference. (The Train Job script)
5. Ep2 Commander states Inara has been aboard Serenity for a year, Inara replies in a few weeks. Assuming few equals 2-4 weeks, this would indicate more than 11 months. (Bushwhacked)
6. Ep3 Episode lasts 4 days, they get the herd. (Shindig)
7. Ep4 Herd has apparently been aboard 3 weeks, possible a month. (Safe)
8. Ep4 Simon says to Mal he and River have been aboard "more than 2 months". (Safe)
9. Ep5 The only specific date in this verse actually given, Inara scheduling arrival on Beaumonde on 24 October, and this episode starts on Triumph Settlement on about 17 or 18 Oct, and they will be in Beaumonde until at least 7 Nov - or so Mal states to Inara. (Our Mrs. Reynolds script)
10. Ep6 Will deliver the goods by the end of the week. (Jaynestown)
11. Ep7 Will take another week to get to Greenleaf. (Out of Gas)
12. Ep8 Inara's annual Companion Exam. (Ariel)
13. Ep9 Inara is with the Councilor. (War Stories)
14. Ep10 Inara says she hasn't had a client in 3 weeks. (Trash)
15. Ep10 Mal says to Monty "half year back" he got married to Saffron. This is said while looking down Saffron's pistol barrel and holding his pistol on her. (Trash)
16. Those Left Behind, Inara is not dropped off yet, nor Book. Mal says he's on the way to dropping off Inara.
17. Serenity novelization, Mal says "few months back" he dropped off Book on Haven. I assume this reference is accurate, I have not read this book.
18. BDM River is 17 in the movie, other than the escape recording. (Serenity script).
19. BDM Kaylee says she hasn't had nothing betwixt her nethers wasn't run on batteries in a year. (Serenity)
20. BDM Mal says that River has been on ship for 8 months. This is said to Simon in anger.
21. BDM Sheydra says Inara aboard a year. (Serenity script and deleted scenes).

Whoops, a couple I forgot or missed:
22. BDM Operative says to Dr. Mathias that 8 months ago Simon took River from him.
23. OiS Inara says to Jubal that she's been here a year.

24. BDM (script and deleted scenes) Sheydra says Inara has been at Training House "these last months."

More, related to each other and built together can affect timeline:
25. In BDM deleted scenes, Operative tracking Mal, a screen shot shows "May 2511" on the data page with Battle of Serenity valley.
26. In Pilot Serenity, original Scene 1 (deleted scenes) shows the end of the waiting of the dying soldiers, incoming med ships. Original scene 2 is used in Pilot after new scene 1, with "6 years later subscript.
27. In Serenity, Operative mentions BoSV was 7 weeks, last 2 weeks without support of High Command.
28. In Pilot Serenity scene 76 (deleted scenes), Zoe explains that after fighting ended, a week went by with everybody withering away, more dying, while the Peace was negotiated.

Most of the rest of the timeline of this verse is extrapolated from dates derived from these references. If these can be moderated of conflicts, the rest of the timeline can be revised based upon the new central times of the above references.


Sunday, December 23, 2007 10:14 PM


Here are the primary conflicts I've detected.

One reference I have not included is River's translated Date of Birth, from the warrant's chinese translation posted elsewhere. It says River was born 19 Dec 2500, was enrolled at academy 25 Aug 2515, and escaped in Jun 2518. This does not mesh with the broadcast intro date of 2517, being after River's escape. Even if it was the date of the Warrant's issuance, the show and BDM does not span into Jun 2518. Also, River's age of 17 would not occur before October 2517. Therefore this data does not conform with any other canon data, perhaps the prop guy didn't consult with Joss, although there is a way the prop guy could have gotten these numbers.

Many of the references are fairly set, being specified in script. Others are quotes from characters.

Non-character quotes, fairly clear and precise:
1, 2, 3, 9, 12, 13, 16, 18.
Not much to argue about with these, it seems.

Character quotes:
4, 5, 6/7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21.

Let's assume that the references 6 & 7 amount to a month of time. This seems generally agreed upon.
Number 8 is a fairly clear indication that Simon and River have been aboard at least 2 months, which is since the Pilot. If it were 2 months and 1 day, Simon might say it like this, but not if less than 2 months - doesn't seem like Simon's way of talking. But it could be 2 months and 3 weeks. Simon seems to have thought this out, counting days or months, not a highly vague time reference.
Kaylee is mentioned because some consider the time from Pilot to BDM to span more than a year. If Kaylee had gotten some (assuming she's not referring to fruit, vegetables, or lubricated engine rods) in the time since meeting Simon in the Pilot, I have a hard time figuring that the script wouldn't have dealt with this or mentioned that she had a fling while pining for Simon.
Items 4&5 indicate Inara saying that there is a 3-4 month span between these 2 consecutive episodes.

The Train Job has Book seeming very new to Serenity, and Simon first introduces River to Mal (script only, not in final cut), so this is only a day or so after the Pilot, surely less than a week.

The Message, Objects in Space, and Heart of Gold could take place in a span of a week or a month.

We know from the BDM that Haven and Training House are a few hours apart, so we have no reason to think Book and Inara did not debark about the same time.

If we assume the quotes are exact and accurate in #4, 5, 15, then from Pilot + Inara's 3-4 months + 1 month + Mal's 6 months + 3 months (for last 3 episodes and TLB) = 13-14 months from Pilot to BDM. This conflicts with #1, 2, 18, 19, 20.

The conflicts:
1. Inara TTJ-BW 3-4 months plus a month in 6&7 =4-5 months versus Simon saying 2 months from Pilot to Safe.

2. Inara TTJ-BW 3-4 months plus a month in 6&7 OR Mal 6 months #15 versus River is 17 in both Pilot (#2) and BDM (#18).

3. Inara TTJ-BW 3-4 months plus a month in 6&7 OR Mal 6 months #15 versus #20 Mal says River & Simon aboard 8 months (spanning from Pilot to BDM).

These last 2 mean that adding about 3 months during the last 3 episodes and Those Left Behind add up to more than a year between Pilot and BDM.


Sunday, December 23, 2007 10:15 PM


Here are some potential resolutions of the above conflicts.

Let's consider that #4, 5, 15, and 20 are not really precise and exacting time spans.

In # 20, Mal is angry and if he could have easily meant 8 months and 3 weeks, or even close to 9 months, but for the flow of words would have just a=said "8 months", effectively meaning to us "more than 8 months" but likely less than 9 months.

In #15, Mal is in a tense draw-down and says "half year back" which probably did not mean 182.5 days exactly. Since he was referring to marriage to Saffron, this could sort of drag on the time, so that if it was only 4 or 5 months back, it might likely seem like a half year. Also, "half year" could reasonably mean 5, 6, or 7 months anyhow. I would not be surprised that 8 or 9 months of marriage to Saffron would seem like "a year" to Mal.

Our biggest conflict with time is the 2 Inara quotes. In #4, she mentions in casual conversation to Book that she's been aboard 8 months and still doesn't know Mal. Not only could this easily mean 8 months and 3 weeks, but since she's having fun with Kaylee and Mal, this could be a case of time-flies-when-you're-having-fun and the last time she thought about the months it was at least 8 months, but maybe it's actually 9 or 10 months since she's been aboard. This sort of discrepancy alone could cut our 3-4 month span from TTJ to Bushwhacked down to a week or so.

However, #5 is particularly interesting, perhaps. The Commander says Inara has been aboard a year. Inara conters with "in a few weeks" while looking somewhat demure. This is generally assumed to mean about 11.5 months. However, perhaps Inara is just demurring to the Commander's error. Maybe he was trying to trip her up by intentionally saying a year when the records show 10 months, and then she is "being polite" by not rudely exposing his error in math or calendar calculation. This could easily mean that in Bushwhacked she was only aboard 10 or 11 months, which also narrows the time span from TTJ to Bushwahcked to perhaps a week. Another possibility is that the Commander is looking at official records, and perhaps those records really show that she's been aboard for moe months than she actually has been, so she mostly agrees. We do not know the reasons, situation, conditions, or circumstances regarding her departure fro Madrassa House. Perhaps just such a forging of records is the reason she was seeking out a disreputable ship like Serenity, where captain and crew wouldn't snub their noses at falsifying Offical Records which some Alliance beaurocrat could salivate over. This also could crunch this tiem span.
These are several reasons, but they all could account for only a week gap from The Train Job to Bushwhacked.

Possible resolutions:

A. River ages 9 months Pilot-BDM.
1. TLB = 2 months, Series = 7 months.
2. River on 2 months at beginning of Safe.
3. Mal means 4 months when he says "half year back", spanning OMR to Trash. (Trash is 6 months after Pilot).
4. Episodes 11, 12, 13 in the final weeks remaining in the timeline.
Conflict: Inara's statements.

B. River ages less than 1 year from Pilot to BDM.
1. River aboard 2 months at beginning of Safe.
2. Mal means 6 months when he says "half year back". (Trash is 8 months after Pilot).
3. Episodes 11, 12, 13 span a month, making the series span 9 months.)
4. TLB is 2-3 months, making 11-12 months from Pilot to BDM.
Conflict: Inara's statements, Mal's "8 months" in BDM.

C. Inara is exactly correct and the span from TTJ to BW is 3-4 months.
1. TTJ "8 months could be 8-9 months, BW "few weeks less than a year" could be 11 to almost 12 months.
2. With a month of Shindig and hauling the herd, Safe occurs 4-5 months after Pilot.
3. Mal means 6 months from OMR to Trash. (Trash occurs 10-11 months after Pilot).
4. Episodes 11-13 span a month. (series spans 11-12 months).
5. TLB span 2-3 months, making a 13-16 month span from Pilot to BDM.
Conflicts: River's ages stated in scripts, Simon's "2 months" in Safe, Kaylee's "going on a year..."


Sunday, December 23, 2007 10:16 PM


Here is a revised timeline using a suggested resolution.

Pilot - Mid August 2517.

The Train Job - Mid August 2517.

Bushwhacked - Late August/Early Sept 2517.

Shindig - Mid September 2517.

Safe - Mid October 2517.

Our Mrs. Reynolds - Oct 18, leave Beaumonde 7 Nov 2517.

Jaynestown - deliver goods 14 Nov 2517 or later.

Out of Gas - arrive Greenleaf 21 Nov 2517 or later.

Ariel - Mid Dec 2517 or early Jan 2518.

War Stories - Mid/late Jan 2518.

Trash - Mid Feb 2518.

Message, Heart of Gold, Objects in Space - mid Feb into early March 2518.

Those Left Behind - Late Feb or Early March 2518.

Serenity, BDM - Early May 2518.

If this is the case, we find that River's 17th birthday was between the escape and River-in-the-Box aboard Serenity, and she's a few months short of her 18th birthday in BDM.
This would make Mal's "8 months aboard" in BDM a tad less than 9 months; his "half year back" in Trash would be about 4 months of suffering under Safron's marriage; and Inara came aboard sometime between Late August 2516 and Mid Jan 2517.
If Inara disembarks Mid March 2818 then she was aboard about 14-19 months, so Sheydra saying she was aboard "a year" would be a reasonable abbreviation of phrase.
Unification Day is Mid-August.

OK, I think I got this completed, hope it makes sense.
If this basic central timeline is accepted, all of the remainder of time references can be re-aligned to this.

If you all accept any of this, or like it, then you may consider this to be my Christmas gift to Fireflyfans.

Another revised timeline is in post #17 on 2 Jan.


Monday, December 24, 2007 6:39 AM


I think this is great work and a delightful Christmas present, so thanks!

I would tend to consider Inara a more precise person than Mal, so I might give more credence to her figures. A possible get-out fo rtiming irregularities is that Inara may consider "time aboard" precisely that--i.e., if she takes a three-week assignment with a client, she deducts that from the time on Serenity.

And as for movie timing, there's the (no doubt apocryphal) Einstein definition of the theory of relativity as an hour seeming like a minute when you sit and talk to a pretty girl--and a minute seems like an hour when you sit on a hot stove! No doubt for Kaylee, time seems longer when you're battery-dependent.


Monday, December 24, 2007 2:38 PM


I'm pretty much in agreement with your conclusion. I base my timeline theory pretty much on what you did: OMR date, Inara telling Book how long she was on Serenity, Mal's statement to Simon in the BDM, Inara's statement to Jubal Early.

Unlike other timelines I've seen, I don't dismiss Mal's contention of 8 months and, like you, I think it closer to 8.5 to almost 9 months. The Operative also states that 8 months ago Simon rescued his sister which reinforces Mal's time estimate. As for the "half a year back" in OMR, this seems to be a casual reference and not as concrete as the 8 months statement so I regard it as Mal just jabbering.

Also, regarding Inara's statement in BW, the Commander says something like she shipped out on Serenity a year ago. I think she left Sihnon a year ago but has been on Serenity for 8ish months. Thus, we have a 3-4 month gap for Inara which could play in with her mysterious past.

A few differences, I came up with July 14 as U-Day. No particular reason except it's Bastille Day. As a consequence, I have the BDM occurring the week spanning the end of March/early April 2518. Inara leaves 2 months prior and Book leaves shortly after her.

Thank you for your timeline. I love reading stuff like this.


Monday, December 24, 2007 7:22 PM


Thanks for reading it and making sense of it.
I didn't get everything from my head into it, but tried.

I figured that Inara is very precise with her scheduling, but with the hanging around Kaylle and such, more lenient in casual conversation. I still felt she meant more than 8 months but less than 9 months when she said 8 months to Book, but I included the option as a point to consider.
When off with a client, she is still renting the shuttle, so I don't see that time being discounted. She might be recalling she made her 8th rent payment.
I think the strongest likelihood of subtrefuge is her exchange with Commander Harkin. This could be the source of much speculation, whether she chose Serenity so they would forge her records, or she delayed between Madrassa House and Serenity. Perhaps her record show that she left the House before she actually did, so that she officailly was not there when something occurred just before she boarded Serenity. Her high society niceties would preclude her from outright disagreeing or arguing against an Alliance Commander.

In one end of Inara's range of boarding possibilities, she could have come aboard in late Dec or early Jan, and it could have been shortly after her last Companion Exam, which would put Ariel one year later - and perhaps the Exam itself was the reason for her leaving Madrassa House, and for records showing she left months before the Exam took place.
If she boarded Serenity earlier, then she would have been aboard up to several months before she had her Exam. Some people have argued that this would be an inconsistency due to the conversations among the crew and Inara in Ariel, however it would be less likely that she would have shared much of this with a newly aquainted crew, and they also would have been less likely to butt in and get nosey with such a high society Registered Companion when only knowing her a few months at most. Ariel takes place right after Out of Gas, and that sort of bonding experience plus the Pilot and other episodic shared experiences where she kinda told Mal what to do helped them all become closer, so inquiring about her Exam peculiars would seem less nosey - and this is why I discount that argument. It could go either way, without much evidence for or against.

Anyhow, I thought that another summary would be that Inara was the most recent addition, with Jayne likely just before her (but still possibly after), and KayLee was before that. Bester was before Wash, but they were both very early on after Mal bought Serenity and showed Zoe.

I had hoped this might serve as a reference tool for those who found it believable.


Monday, December 24, 2007 7:51 PM


I was also reading the Companion books, and Joss mentioned that OiS was originally before Trash and Message, but he put it at the end of the DVD sequence because they thought OiS summarized the show better than the rest (I disagree, thought The Message did better).

There would be room for OiS there as well.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007 6:56 AM


I get the feeling (purely feeling here - no facts) that Jayne came on board after Inara. The first indication is that in OoG, his flashback is after Inara and it seems that the flashbacks were in chronological order. Another is that the way he spoke to M&Z in Serenity after they left Badger's. He said something about signin' on the crew which led me to believe that he was fairly new.

I looked over my timeline notes (yes, I've actually applied my timeline ideas to an Excel spreadsheet!!). I had originally come up with an August date for U-Day which coincides nicely with yours. I have Inara signing on with Serenity in late December 2516, early January 2517 and Jayne coming on several months after.

I don't really agree with the other timelines I've seen, you linked to one but there is another out there, as they seem to stretch out the timeframe Serenity to BDM to at least one year which clearly ignores Mal's 8 months statement.

I'm glad you posted your timeline because now I don't feel so off base.

Just out of curiousity, when do you see Mal buying Serenity?


Tuesday, December 25, 2007 2:50 PM



Originally posted by jewelstaitefan:

Here are the primary conflicts I've detected.

One reference I have not included is River's translated Date of Birth, from the warrant's chinese translation posted elsewhere. It says River was born 19 Dec 2500, was enrolled at academy 25 Aug 2515, and escaped in Jun 2518. This does not mesh with the broadcast intro date of 2517, being after River's escape.

We went over this a long time ago already. But that's the natural turn of the worlds, I guess: all of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again. :)

River was born on December 19, 2500. Correct.

August 25, 2515, still being fourteen, is the date River entered the Acadamy. Correct.

But River did NOT escape June 2518. The discovered data pad clearly reads:

"Subject was removed without authorization from Area 54 in 2516."

So, Simon rescued her in 2516. We can reasonably assume late 2516, as it's doubtful he would be lugging around that huge box for all too long (he boards Serenity in 2517). June 4, 2518 -- the only date on the datapad that has no immediate attribution -- is likely the date at the time the Operative is holding the data pad (= when the BDM plays). But it's clearly NOT the date River escaped.

The latter gives more clues as to another important question: how long time elapsed between Firefly and Serenity? At least the BDM cannot take place much before June 4, 2518. Which is a very plausible date, because if the BDM indeed takes place around June 4, 2518, then River is also STILL "a traumatized seventeen-year-old girl" at the time! It fits perfectly.

June 4, 2518 clashes somewhat with Captain's "Eight months. Eight months, you had her on my boat." Unless Simon boarded Serenity only late 2517. But that would mean Simon had been hauling his box around/been in transit for a good ten months!

Anyway, for those interested in reading more about it, here's the original thread:

In that thread, LVS2READ pointed out that the pilot begins in late May 2517. Which makes Kaylee's "We're going on a year now" most accurate, if the BDM indeed takes place around June 4, 2518!

"Mei-mei, everything I have is right here." -- Simon Tam


Tuesday, December 25, 2007 5:49 PM


I don't understand the emphasis on a prop versus Mal's actual words. He said 8 months. The operative also stated that 8 months ago Simon took River. I would think that those statements would be more "canon" than a prop.

Also, it makes no sense if Simon rescued her in 2516. She went into the school when she was 14 and Simon stated that he couldn't get near her for 2 years. Even going by the datapad, She entered the school 8/25/2515 and if Simon got her out in 2516, assuming late December, that's not even 1 1/2 years.


Originally posted by asarian:
We went over this a long time ago already. But that's the natural turn of the worlds, I guess: all of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again. :)

It will happen again and again until we get our next movie which will answer all our questions!! Actually, our questions will be answered in the 4th sequel. I'm an optimist.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007 7:31 PM


I really should have, and intended to, more clearly clarify and classify the various conflicts,and associated validity levels.

The following references were fairly clear, precise, unambiguous, valid, accurate, and largely indisputable:
#1, 2, 3, 9, 12, 13, 16, 18.
These are not diffused by character motives or prevarications, and are as close to fact as we will find - clearly canon. Also, not one single of these references conflicts with any other of this group.

Next in the validity scale would be the group of references which are mostly quotes from characters, but are mostly not too vague. Saying 8 months does not likely mean exactly 8 months and zero days, but "about 8 months" could mean plus or minus a week or 2, and "at least 8 months" could mean more than 8 months but less than 9 months. Also, all of these do not directly conflict with the above group, and mostly not directly against each other:
6/7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 17, 19, 20, 21, and newly added 22, 23.
Because these do not conflict with the previous group of highest valid references, these should be considered fairly highly valid as well.

That leaves the references which conflict with the rest, and throw the timeline out of tolerance with the first group.
#4 - Inara's "8 months" in The Train Job.
#5 - Inara's "few weeks less than a year" in Bushwhacked.
#15 - Mal's "half year back" while looking down Saffrom's pistol barrel and holding his pistol on her.

Regarding When Mal bought Serenity, I read that was specified somewhere, but I don't recall where. It had to be after the POWs were released from confinement.
I did not include it yet in the centrally conflicting references, because it did not conflict, and it was another of the references derived from the above cetral timeline. Once we can have some agreement on the central timeline and which of the conflicting references most easily can be moderated, then all other times de5rived from this timeline can be specified. For instance, U-Day, Battle of Serenity Valley.

Regarding Jayne's coming aboard, I have no argument with the "met a year ago" reference in OMR Teaser, which would put it at October 2516. That was the only time reference for Jayne meeting Mal/Zoe that I've seen. It is not conflicting with the centrally conflicting references regardless.

Dealing with the newly added #22 and 23:
#22 reinforces Mal's "8 months" staement in BDM. Both can be considered to be not EXACTLY 8 months and zero days, but possibly more than 8 months and less than 9 months. It does appear that the closer to 8 months the timeline spans, the more accurate it will be.
#23 suggests that the year and a few months offered above as a timeline would be reasonably abbreviated as "a year", but other timeline would have htis be almost 2 years, making "a year" less accurate and less likely to be stated as such.

What other timelines have been posted? Where? I would really like to look at these.

Regarding the River DoB prop, the first several episodes were intro'd with "2517" I have read. OMR was Oct 17 or 18 of 2517. The Pilot had to be before that by at least 2 months, like mid-August. From mid-August 2517 to Jun 2518 would be 10 months, making both Mal and the Operative liars, and I don't get the feeling the Operative is inexact to that degree. If River was born Dec 00, she would have enrolled in August of 2515 at 14 years, like Simon said. At least 2 years later Simon got her out, making it at least Aug 2517 if she was only 16. The script for the Pilot states River-in-the-Box is 17.

About U-day: OMR is 17 or 18 October, and Book is walking around on Triumph Settlementin the Teaser. Book was injured and still recovering at the end of Safe. I feel Safe could have been 13, 14, or 15 Oct - but maybe before. Simon says in Safe that he and River have been aboard more than 2 months, making the Pilot about Mid Aug, possibly early Aug 2517. In The Train Job Simon first introduces River to Mal, and Book seems VERY new still, so U-Day is either the next day or within a week of Pilot, so I'd say Mid August is good for U-Day - perhaps late Aug, but I lean for mid-August 2517 (6th Anniv of U-Day).

To state that the Pilot was in May 2517 and the BDM was Jun 2518 throws much of the first category into conflict. River cannot be 17 in both times 13 months apart. Those dates are not stated in canon that I've seen, but the references are. To defy clearcut canon in favor of quotes from characters seems ill advised.
Further comment on the linked thread to River's DoB discussion is fairly rude because some of the references needed were not published prior to Dec 2006, so that thread was working with what was available - and now we have more info.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007 8:39 PM


I will say that one conclusion i have noticed, partly because I seem to be one of the few who do not consider River to be insane, is this:
In Safe, the flashback to the Tam Estate is 11 years earlier. River is 17. The 6th Anniv of U-Day has just passed, and the War for Planetary Dominance and Subjugation lasted 5 years. This means that River, at 6 years old, was already interested in the only recently formed and budding Independant Platoons. Whether she was making fun of them, or empathizing with them in her war game acting, she held an interest about these Independents.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007 7:03 AM



Originally posted by jewelstaitefan:

To state that the Pilot was in May 2517 and the BDM was Jun 2518 throws much of the first category into conflict. River cannot be 17 in both times 13 months apart. Those dates are not stated in canon that I've seen, but the references are. To defy clearcut canon in favor of quotes from characters seems ill advised.

As for quoting characters, I work by the following rule:

Age over elapsed time.

And by that I mean, that I consider people talking about their age, or that of their sister, a more reliable source of information than peeps quoting the passage of time. People toss the phrase "A year ago" around very loosely, but rarely are confused about their age or that of their siblings.

So, let's work from the age-angle first, looking at two times River's age is known to be seventeen. Flat fact: the only way for River-in-box to be already 17, is when the pilot takes place AFTER December 19, 2517. Then, June 4, 2518 -- the time of the BDM -- River is still seventeen. That logic works, but comes to bite one in the ass when you consider that it requires the pilot to start the second half of December 2517. You can make a compelling case stating the pilot must have taken place earlier, like August 2517, but then River-in-box is no longer seventeen -- you can't have your cookie and eat it.

Also, the time between, say, August 2517, as River's escape date, and December 2517 seems like a much more reasonable time for Simon to be in transit with River, as opposed to him having lugged around that box since November 2516.

So, December 2517, as start of the pilot, works for me. But then, if U-day is October 18, and Simon says in Safe that he and River have been aboard for more than 2 months -- which would put the beginning of the pilot at around August 2517 -- then River clearly was not seventeen at the time, or Simon was a liar. I was being sarcastic about Simon lying, of course, the point of which being that it's simply not possible to reconcile all these dates without something having to give. It's just a process of weeding out the most likely timeline. It ain't about who lies.

The Operative tells Dr. Mathias that Simon took River from him 8 months ago. That congrues a mite too well with Mal's 8 months. So, far as I'm concerned, you've sold me on the 8 months or so. I say 'or so', because keep in mind that River's escape PRECEEDS the start of the pilot by some time -- a period which is probably shorter than we may think.

So, where does that leave us? I'd say at June 4, 2518 -- the era of the BDM. Mind you, the 'start' of the BDM does not necessarily coincide with the main plot-line we're seeing. I've always argued that June 4, 2518 was the date the Operative was holding that pad. But first things first.

Again using River's age of seventeen as a solid beacon, we know the BDM must take place AFTER December 19, 2517, but no later than December 19, 2518. Otherwise, in both cases, River would not be seventeen. So, let's first take October 2517 as River's likely escape date. Until June 4, 2518 this makes for the 8 months after Simon took her from Dr. Mathias. If the pilot begins December 2517, then, factoring in Mal's 8 months, the main BDM story line would have taken place around August 2518 (the Operative having met up with Dr. Mathias a few months earlier, in June).

P.S. It's never "rude" to refer back to, or acknowledge work others have done in the past and on which we are now still building -- much like Newton said: "If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." That prop Arisa found, and wrote about in her livejournal, was a major find, and contained vital information, like River's date of birth, year she went to the Academy, etc. Dates without which refining the timeline would be ever-so less refined.

"Mei-mei, everything I have is right here." -- Simon Tam


Wednesday, December 26, 2007 9:56 PM


Thanks to those who mentioned the Operative's 8 months line in BDM, and the Inara comment to Jubal.

Is the novelization considered canon? I didn't see Joss listed as consultant exactly.

There seem to be further conflict if we consider the BDM novelization to be canon.
Specifically, the Mal line "few months back" we left Book on Haven.

1. Simon takes River away from Dr. Mathias on Osiris. We don't know how long it took him to smuggle her to Persephone, a day or a week, not likely more than a week.

2. Simon brings River-in-the-Box on Serenity at Persephone in the Pilot.

3. In Those Left Behind, Inara (apparently) arrives at Training House, then Book says he is leaving, then the Operative is given the River assignment after "independent contractor" Dobson fails. This is written by Joss, so should not be in dispute.

4. In BDM script, written by Joss, the first scenes in the Institute records room, the Operative states that 8 months ago Simon Took River. This could mean a week more or less than 8 months. Then the Operative has the female assistant find the behavioral triggers and they create the subliminal message to trigger River to "lay them all down, like showing a dog", so they can find her. This is likely done within days, being "Alliance and high military", and is broadcast for a "few weeks" before River enters the Maidenhead - likely 2-3 weeks.

5. #4 means that BDM Lilac & Maidenhead scenes are between 8 months plus 1 week and 9 months after Simon takes River from Dr Mathias. Depending on the thime between River escape and pilot, Mal's "8 months" quote in BDM is likely in the range of 8 months to 8 months plus 3 weeks.

The conflict is that the Operative is given the assignment at the end of Those Left Behind, right when Book and Inara seem to leave. In the novelization, Mal is quoted as saying it's been "a few months back" that they left Book on Haven. If that is 2 months, and it took 3 weeks from Operative at the Institute until Maindenhead, then it apparently took 5 weeks for the Operative to get to the Institute on Osiris after getting the assignment - and he doesn't seem the type. Why would that be? Joss wrote both TLB and BDM, so why would he make the Operative wait 5 weeks before getting to his best lead on River? The primary conflict seems to be coming from the novelization where Mal says "few months back".

On another point, I keep seeing that people refer to Mal "talking rubbish" about time. But I don't understand why they think his "8 months" in BDM is rubbish, but hism "half year" in Trash is exact. the "half year" would certainly be a more inexact phrase, and more so since it is in an extremely stressful situation when he don't have a bunch of time to figure or calculate the passage of time - even if he calculated it to be 4 months, would he have said "a third year" or if he calculated 3 months would he have said "a quarter year back" instead? The "8 months" would be a bit more of an exact phrase, and it doesn't conflict with other time references.
i just would figure the 8 months to be less rubbish and the "half year" as more rubbish.


Thursday, December 27, 2007 12:09 AM


Thinking about TLB content, The Blue Hand Men clearly know Mal and Serenity carry River, before they talk to Dobson. Surely they report in to HQ.
Serenity surely needs to register whenever they dock somewhere.
So when their asssignment goes to the Operative, when does he not just follow the Serenity paper trail, and why does he not know already who Mal, Zoe, Inara, and Serenity before the Maidenhead video.
That seems kinda wierd.


Sunday, December 30, 2007 11:36 PM


I had mentioned Simon introduced River to Mal in The Train Job. However, that was just the script, and that line was not included in the final cut of the introduction scene, which ended "Mal. Bad. In the Latin."


Tuesday, January 1, 2008 10:59 PM


A week ago in post #4 I proposed a possible revised timeline. After wonderful input and discussion, here will be another, more refined revision of the timeline.
Two kinds of time will be mentioned. Episode time is the actual amount of time the episode lasts. Footprint is the amount of time implied in the episode. For instance, OoG only lasts a day of episode time, but because they will take the better part of a week to get to Greanleaf, the footprint is a week for this episode.

Early August 2517 - River escapes the Institute on Osiris. A day or week before Pilot.

approx 10-15 August 2517 - Pilot, 2 day Ep. From Carrier salvage to Persephone, 2nd day on Whitefall.

approx 14-19 Auguast 2517 - Ep1 The Train Job, 1-2 day Ep. After Pilot, River sleeps until U-Day here.

Late Aug to Mid Sept 2517 - Ep2 Bushwhacked, 1 Day Ep.

approx 20-24 Sept 2517 - Ep3 Shindig, 4 day Ep. Day 1 on Santo, 2-3 on Persephone, Day 4 in space w/ herd.

approx 15 October 2517 - Ep4 Safe, 1 day Ep. Three weeks since Shindig with herd. Ends with Book recovering in bed.

18 - 19/20 October 2517 - Ep5 Our Mrs. Reynolds, 2-3 day Ep. First day on Triumphn Settlement, 6 days to get to Beaumonde, to spend 2 weeks there. Footprint 18 Oct - 7 Nov 2517.

November 2517 - Ep6 Jaynestown, 2-3 day Ep. on Higgin's Moon. Will deliver to Bernoulli by end of week, being after 13 Nov.

Late Nov - Early Dec 2517 - Ep7 Out of Gas, 1 day Ep. Scheduled to arrive Greanleaf in a week, after 20 Nov.

Mid-late December 2517 - Ep8 Ariel, 2-3 day Ep.

1st half of January 2518 - Ep9 War Stories, 1-2 day Ep.

End Jan or early Feb 2518 - Ep10 Trash, Ep is 72 hours. At least 3 weeks after WS.

1st week of February 2518 - Ep11 The Message, Ep is 3 days from Space Bazaar to St. Albans, right after Trash.

Mid February 2518 - Ep12 Heart of Gold.

Late February 2518 - Ep13 Objects in Space, 1 day Ep. Will arrive in New Melbourne in 3 days.

End February 2518 - Those Left Behind. Starts in Constance.

Early April 2518 - Serenity, Operative at Institute.
Late April 2518 - Serenity, after a few weeks of Fruity Oaty Bar broadcasts. One day from Lilac to Beaumonde (Maidenhead), Haven, Training House, Haven, Miranda, Mr. Universe. Days in a Repair Facility.

River is 16 in Early Aug 2517 and 17 before the Pilot, so she was born 1st half of August 2500.
From Early Aug to Early Apr is the 8 months the Operative states.
From Early/mid Aug to late Apr is the 8 months that Mal states.
From End of Feb to Late Apr is "these last months" that Sheydra refers to in script (edited scene).
Unification Day was about mid August 2511. The War for Domination of the verse started in 2506.

If this seems to work out, I'll probably add in the other dates which have no conflict and merely refer to other dates in the above timeline nucleus.


Friday, January 11, 2008 3:13 PM



Originally posted by CharlieBZ:

The operative also stated that 8 months ago Simon took River. I would think that those statements would be more "canon" than a prop.

Actually, Dr. Mathias said no such thing. You got that from the Visual Companion, didn't ya? :) Well, the book is wrong. This whole conclusion is fallacious. The VC is notorious for misquoting (look up Mal's Love speech, for instance). Don't touch it, it's evil. :) In reality, the Operative just says:

River was your greatest
success. A prodigy.
A phenomenon.
Until her brother
walked in here
and took her from you.

Exit "8 months".

"Mei-mei, everything I have is right here." -- Simon Tam


Friday, January 11, 2008 5:28 PM


But the VC is so pretty! And has all that extra M/I stuff which I'm such a sucker for.

Now I'll have to force myself to watch the BDM again just to confirm what you said. Tough job, I know, but in the interest of verification I'll make myself sit through it.


Sunday, January 13, 2008 7:45 PM


Thanks for pointing out the 8 months deletion in Operative's lines. I'll check that out next BDM viewing.
Script written by Joss, barring opposing data it still helps us fill in more blanks and refine the timeline as we understand it.
Thanks for everybody's help with this - a number of things I didn't catch.

I also added 2 days onto the range for TTJ, for Kaylee's recuperation.


Sunday, June 22, 2008 10:56 PM


Have just posted #25 thru 28.

These refer to Battle of Serenity Valley references, and how that might affect the timeline. In Bushwhacked, Commander Harken mentions that BoSv might have been the beginning of the end for the Independents. This may indicate some delay between the end of BoSv and either the negotiated peace, of end of the war, or proclaimed Unification Day.
It would be reasonable to imagine the end of negotiations was not the same day as U-Day. Consider the end of Japanese negotiations in WWII and the actual signing of the Declaration of Surrender.

If I understand the time sequence of BoSV correctly, it is like this (please correct or comment if it's off):
A. From beginning of BoSV, coordinated Independent fighting lasts for 5 weeks.
B. After 5th week, Independent High Command ceases support of ground troops.
C. For another 2 weeks, Independent ground troops continue to fight without support from High Command.
D. After 7 weeks of fighting, both sides effectively cease fighting.
E. Another week passes with both sides laying dying, withering, starving on the battlefield, while the peace is negotiated.
F. At the end of this final week, the med ships arrive and evac the wounded. This occurs 8 weeks after the beginning of BoSV.

The original scene 1 of Pilot Serenity seems to be part F. where the med ships arrive after a week of inactivity. The original scene 2 is aired with the subscript "6 years later" indicating it was 6 years after this date, the medevac date.

The re-shot opening scene of Pilot Serenity, with fighting, appears to be part B. Zoe say air ships ain't coming, High Command has effectively abandoned them. This is not exactly spelled out. High Command controls the units, and if the airships are not coming, the ground troops had no control over this, High Command does, they can order the airships to engage or not.

Anybody have a feel for how much time elapses between the end of peace negotiations (for the war) and the formal declaration of Hostility ceasation, likely known as Unification Day? Unlikely that the day Celebrated as U-Day would be a day that fighting continued on worlds in the verse. BoSV was just on Hera, fighting was going on all over the verse, mostly rim or border planets, the outer edges of the verse, so word would have to get to all units after the negotations before an actual "Unification Day could be proclaimed, I think.

Anybody think Zoe referred to the "peace" negotiated as the peace ending the Battle of Serenity Valley, or the "peace" ending the overall war?

When Joss re-shot the opening scene, effectively 3 weeks earlier than the original scene 1, it is likely the scene 2's "6 years later" subscript likely di not get changed. Although the original intent was to be 6 years after the end of 8th week, they probably didn't feel that literal about it, and they did intend to air the Pilot. This would make the first day of the Pilot the 6 year anniversary of the day BoSV was medevaced, and Pilot lasted a couple days, and then a few days later was TTJ, which started on U-Day. This would seem reasonable that a few days elapsed between the end of negotiations and the formal announcement of Unification Day.

I had not previoulsy considered the effects of these on the timeline, until mention of "May 2511" in the BDM deleted scenes was brought up. But now they do add to the information available.

Anybody feel differently about these? Am missing more information about these actions/events/times?

Rgarding the overall timeline, Ep4 Safe has Simon saying they're aboard "more than 2 months." Simon is precise enough that if it had been 3 months, he would have said so. This is before OMR, so before 18 Oct. If aboard 2-3 months, this would place the boarding date before 18 August but after 18 July. If BoSV started in May, near the end, 8 weeks later would be the end of July. This could put U-Day at the end of July or beginning of August.
With Simon's wording, I would tend to think this was closer to 2 months than 3 months, so the closer to mid-August, the more realistic (less conflicting).


Wednesday, June 25, 2008 9:20 PM


I have a fairly small screen, so the details of the deleted scene are lacking for me. Can somebody tell me about it?
When it says May 2511, is that the page for commendations, the one for valor in battle?
I was thinking, if May was the time he achieved the award, it is not likely the last week. That was when the med ships wouldn't even come.
The 2 weeks before that the High Command had already given up, so they wouldn't be handing out awards then either.
The last weeks of the first 5 weeks the Independents were apparently losing battles, so awards probably weren't a top priority, over survival.
So perhaps the award was most likely given during the early weeks of the battle, when the tide was more favorable or balanced towards the Independents.

Anybody have further details on that screenshot or frame to support or conflict with this idea?


Thursday, February 19, 2009 11:32 PM


When consulting The Map fo the Verse, it shows that Triumph is located in Red Sun system, and Beaumonde is located in Kalidasa System, and then Higgin's Moon is back in Red Sun again.
In OMR, they are scheduled for 5-6 days travel to get from Triumph to Beaumonde. They will then stay from 24 October to 7 Novemeber (Mal assured Inara she could make appointments and they would not depart early).
The next episode is Jaynestown, so traveling back to Higgin's Moon must take another 5-6 days. So I will update the timeline posts with an additional week of time here. They could have made other stops, adding more time, but it could not have been less time.


Sunday, February 22, 2009 10:46 PM


I keep forgetting to mention that for item #15, the aired episode does not have Mal looking down the barrel of Saffron's pistol when he says this. I think I got that from script.
Nonetheless, his time estimate of "half year back" could be part estimation, part exageration, and part wishing he'd put it behind him.


Friday, May 29, 2009 3:40 PM


Very nice work throughout and some good input from many sources. I won't say that you all have too much time on your hands, because you're saving me some time by spending your own, so thank you.


Monday, March 10, 2014 7:11 PM




Sunday, April 12, 2015 4:54 PM


Apparently there have been more comics released than I knew about.

Some of them did not have time references, to fit into the timeline.

Could somebody who has seen all the comics, or any of them, contribute information about what planet they are on, which characters are involved or present together on Serenity, and any other timeline related information?


Today's post in this thread:

These seem to be publishing dates (quoted from Wishimay)

Those Left Behind says Jan 2006

Better Days says March 2008

Float Out says June 2010

The Sheperds Tale says Nov 2010

The free comic (It's Never Easy) says May 4, 2012

Serenity: The Other Half and Downtime(internet says August 2008, November 2010 ? I dunno I lost track of these things...) This is the thread about The Other Half
online comic...

Here's the one for Downtime

And Leaves on the Wind says January 2014






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