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12 Things We Learned From the 'Firefly' Special 'Browncoats Unite' [Firefly]


The Firefly 10th Anniversary Special “Browncoats Unite” is a gold mine of interesting behind-the-scenes facts and trivia.

Above Image: Firefly panel "Browncoats Unite" Left to right: Sean Maher, Alan Tudyk, Jose Molina, Tim Minear, Adam Baldwin, Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau

Joss Whedon's Firefly premiered on Fox on September 20, 2002. The show averaged a measly 4.7 million viewers per episode and was 125th in Nielsen ratings. It was canceled after eleven of the fourteen produced episodes aired.

But the show lived on. In fact, it became more popular after the show was canceled. Fans started throwing viewing parties of the DVD to recruit new fans.

Ten years later the Science Channel filmed a special panel with the cast that aired last night called "Browncoats Unite."

The anniversary special took place before the Comic-Con 2012 audience panel and featured five of the original cast members: Alan Tudyk (Hoban “Wash” Washburne), Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb), Nathan Fillion (Captain “Mal” Reynolds), Summer Glau (River Tam), Sean Maher (Dr. Simon Tam) sitting around a table along with executive producer Tim Minear and writer Jose Molina. Morena Baccarin (Inara Serra), Jewel Staite (Kaylee Frye) and Gina Torres (Zoë Washburne ) were interviewed separately and their clips are woven into the special.

Here are 12 of the best things I learned from the Firefly Browncoats Unite special.

12. Tudyk Had a Lot of Great Ideas for the Show
"Alan Tudyk definitely pitched the most episodes." Fillion said, "He had a great one where there were some criminals who engage in illegal dogfights, and there was a planet where one side of the planet was perpetual night. They had these big, feral dogs there that were so mean and awful, and we had to go out and trap them. 

"We had this dog pheromone of some kind, and Jayne was messing around, and splat!, the thing bursts and we're all covered in this pheromone. So we have to run back to the ship with these feral dogs chasing us, and we get the dogs back to the hold of the ship, and we're safe. But in the journey back to get them back to the criminals, River comes in, communes with the dogs, and domesticates them. So now they're the same dogs, just nice."

Jewel Staite added, "This is the stuff that Alan thinks about ... Dog fights, mustaches, and tattoos. He's a strange man."
Note: This wasn't part of the special as it aired, but was referenced to by Tudyk and Blastr provided the quotes.

11. Jayne Was Intentionally Played Over the Top
Adam Baldwin decided to see how far he could take the gruff nature of Jayne's character. He played him as extreme as he could. Baldwin gave the example of the line "nothing into nothing, carry the nothing...still nothing." He said that Fillion stopped him to ask, "Is he really going to talk like that?"

10. Wash Wore the Same Thing as Joss Whedon
Tudyk came on set for the first time with his red hair spiked and wearing a gaudy Hawaiian shirt. To his amazement Whedon walked on set wearing, as Tudyk said laughing, "the exact...same...shirt!" A photo of Whedon wearing one of his Hawaiian shirts is shown to illustrate the point. Whedon loved his shirts.

9. They Wrote the First Episode in a Weekend
After the pilot was made, the studio complained about the tone and style. Torres pointed out the Fox audience, at the time, was a young audience. They felt the episode was too dark, without enough humor. They also complained about a lack of action. Whedon and Minear didn't think it would get picked up. But they got the call to make the next episode. The problem? They had to write the first episode in a weekend. The team got it done and "The Train Job" was born. It had everything the studio wanted and became an instant classic.

8. Wash’s Anger Was Real
Minear talked about how the "Techobabble" (the term used for technical jargon) was stressful for the crew and sometimes literally meant nothing. The cast had to try and make it work for the audience.

In the fifth episode, "Out of Gas", they gave Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion the script for the scene when they argue about how to save the ship an hour before filming. They were furious and Tudyk used that anger in the scene.

Tudyk says it's his favorite scene from the whole series.

7. Joss Told Them They Were All Expendable
Baldwin said Joss impressed on them the show was not called the "Captain Mal Show" or the "Jayne Show.” It was Firefly and anything could happen to the characters. Baldwin said this convinced him to make his character loveable "quick." It led him to wear the beloved goofy hat from Ma Cobb as proudly as he could.

6. "Out of Gas" Began With Mal Dying
The writers were in a tough spot and running out of time. The ratings were poor and they needed a good episode. Whedon and Minear were having dinner and Joss asked,"Can the episode start with Mal shot in the gut? Can he just be gut shot and bleeding out in the cargo bay?" From there,they formed the origin episode to give the viewer’s something to talk about in hopes of boosting the ratings. Gina Torres said they wanted the fans to say, "This is what I learned this week. You have to watch this show!"

5. The Constant Threat of Cancellation Brought Them Together
The cast talked often about how the threat of being cancelled pushed them to make the show better. Baldwin said, “We're on the chopping block from the get go...so we need to make the best show we can because we don't know how long we're going to be around.” The rest of the crew nodded in agreement. When they announced they were canceled, the crew took it hard. Fillion said he couldn't sleep that night because he thought the set was going to be so sad and everyone would be dragging. It was the opposite. Everyone knew it was over, but they decided to give the last three or four days everything they had.

4. Tudyk's Autograph Made a Fan Cry
***Spoiler Alert***
The Serenity movie had just come out, and the infamous line, "I'm a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar." was immortalized as the final words of Wash’s character. Shortly after that, Tudyk went to a convention. Signing an autograph for a fan he wrote, "I'm a leaf on the wind" and handed it to her. She bawled, "How could you write this on my picture?!" He quickly got her another picture. That's how deeply the fans were affected by the characters.

3. Inara’s Secret Was Revealed
There was a dark secret in Inara's character that was never revealed on the show. She seemed to be running from something that she didn't want to talk about. In the episode "Out of Gas" Simon said, "I don't want to die [on this ship]," Inara replied, "I don't want to die at all." Minear and the cast debated whether they should reveal Inara's secret, in case the show comes back. Finally, it was confirmed for the first time: Inara was dying from a terminal illness.

2. The Lost Episode That Silenced the Cast
During the final part of the special, Minear is sharing some story ideas that never made it to film. In the pilot episode, when the crew is going to be boarded by Reavers we see her holding a syringe. The fans have often speculated what it was. It turns out when Inarra takes the drug to kills anyone who rapes her. In one lost episode she is taken by the brutal Reavers and Mal goes after her. He goes on board and finds her surrounded by dead Reavers. The entire ship raped her. He finds her horribly brutalized. Mal gets down on one knee. It was supposed to be a turning point for their relationship. He finally treats her like a lady. The reaction from the cast is striking. Everyone goes silent and Tudyk lays his head on the table saying, "That is so dark." In fact, this is the first story Whedon proposed to Minear saying, “these are the kind of stores I want to tell."

1. The Firefly Crew Was Captain Mal
Fillion pointed out that, to him, the crew represented different parts of his personality that he had lost. Book was his faith. Zoe is his capacity for love. Wash is his humor and Jayne is his selfishness, although Baldwin added "brawn" which made the cast laugh.

It was great seeing the cast back together again and I'm looking forward to the inevitable DVD of the special, which will bring even more of the signal.

Did you see the special last night? Do you have any memories of the show you'd like to share? Any favorite characters, lines or episodes?
 [Image Source: zap2it]

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  1. I agree it felt a little rushed but the revelation about the Reavers totally made up for it. Brilliant.

  2. I was happy they finally got the Reavers involved. Since the first episode they hadn't contributed a lot and yet they seemed pretty cool.

  3. My memory of the show is about two weeks ago. I just watched "Serenity" yesterday. It was good though I couldn't help feeling it was a little unsatisfactory they had to wrap up the whole River thing in under two hours. Too bad unlike "Family Guy" or "Futurama" this one hasn't been given new life on Fox or somewhere else yet.

  4. No and right now I am beating my head on my keyboard!!!! Crap, how could I forget? I meant to both watch and tape it. Distracted by football yesterday. Will have to catch it somewhere online - I hope!

  5. I barley remembered myself Alex. At first I thought I missed it. Check your local listings!

  6. Had to miss it as I don't get the Science Channel with my cable. But Zoe is my girl, I love the episode The Message. Watching Zoe with that poor young soldier who never seemed to get his life together after the war was really moving. I also love Jaynestown. Cobb always made me laugh even when he was at his bastard worse.

  7. Melissa Zoe was my favorite too because Gina Torres is a great actor. What a smile! Cobb was brilliant at his worst.

  8. Inara was definitely an interesting character. I'm not surprised that they had her with some kind of terminal illness. She was easily the most beautiful actress on the show and directors will often do something to the really pretty ones to pull at heart strings. That's honestly kind of cliche. I'm glad it never came out.

  9. Yeah Michael, they do tend to do that. Especially Whedon. Could have made for some good drama though. Especially if they found a cure.

  10. i think if the show had time to grow, it would have skyrocketed to a top 20 show... sad... that now whedon is a money maker, there will be not much thought if he wants to return with firefly 2.0... recast it, jump it to the future... whatever bring it back!!

  11. It's a shame it didn't get a chance. But it's fan base proves the show could work again.

  12. I was so bummed i don't get that channel. I hope to see it surface elsewhere so I can watch. Thanks for the recap.

  13. MPax I'm sure it'll be on DVD or something soon. Science Channel got huge ratings from it, so they'll be sure to make more money off it.

  14. The thirteenth secret is that Sheldon Cooper made potential roommate Leonard acknowledge that they would agree to make time to watch it, as it would be on for years and years. Bazinga!

  15. LOL That's one of my favorite TBBT jokes. Who knew the show would bomb?

  16. Wow, I never knew this existed. Cool stuff.

  17. Very cool insights into a series that has become a cult phenomenon. However, I'm glad the episode in which Inara is gang raped never got made. Too many male storytellers use rape as a plot device - especially when it is used to add dimension to a male character. Rape is an unimaginably brutal and vile crime that most of us with a Y-chromomsome will never fully comprehend. As much as I appreciate Joss' writing talents, I'm glad he didn't get his way with this one.

  18. That's true Roderick. It's a lot like the "Woman in Refrigerator" moment that motivates the male characters into action. It's such a visceral reaction that it's an easy out for a writer. Probably a good thing we missed it then.


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