Look out into the vastness of the internet, in interviews with cast members or the production team stories recounted during conventions and the like, and you’ll find lots of talk on what might have been in Firefly. Orphans on-board the ship, Shakespearian troops getting the crew into Bard-esque dramas, everyone and anyone having kids, it goes on and on. There are few really well-formulated ideas though, that go beyond just a vague description of a plot or an arc, and in this piece I’m going to take a look at some of those.
First off, Alan Tudyk’s idea – The “dog” episode. From Wiki:
…an episode about a planet that is always day on one side, and night on the other. On the night side, Jayne accidentally spills a type of pheromone on himself and the crew, which attracts a species of dogs. The crew are then chased back to the ship by these dogs. Once there, River uses her mind powers to domesticate the dogs.
What to make of this? There’s all sorts of funny hijinks that you can imagine coming from this sort of idea, and once it has the proper backbone to it – essentially, finding a good enough reason for the crew to be on such a planet – something really good could have been created. But the idea of the crew being chased down by wild animals seems more horror than light entertainment, and it would have taken some skill to meld those two concepts together.
Adam Baldwin, when he isn’t busy being the most awful person on Twitter, also finds time to theorise an episode he would have liked to have seen made, and it’s a dozy: the idea being that Jayne strikes off on his own, finds his own ship and becomes a captain, only to end up competing directly with Mal. And, of course failing. I actually do love this idea, not just because it’s a neat little plot, but because it would have tied in to the growing clash between the two men, that was evident at numerous points throughout Firefly’s run. Jayne just can’t get along with Mal as well as the others, and on one occasion murder was nearly the outcome. Jayne going off on his own is the logical extension of that, and would have allowed for some significant personal growth as a character, when everything inevitably fell apart and he was forced to come back on-board Serenity. Jayne just isn’t a leader, but it would have been amusing to see him try to be one.
Onto far darker things. Fans of the show never did get to find out just what was up with that syringe in Inara’s shuttle in “Serenity”. Luckily, I guess, Tim Minear was on hand to explain. Basically, Inara is supposed to be suffering from a terminal illness of some kind: we might remember her “I don’t want to die at all” line in “Out Of Gas”. Just how long this could have been drawn out is up for debate, and I’m not sure how well it could have been inserted into the show, though I suppose if it was something akin to the Thirteen plotline in House you could have made good drama out of it. But that does pale in comparison to the other idea that Minear talked about in regards Inara. And I quote:
“She had this magic syringe. She would take this drug. And if she were, for instance, raped, the rapist would die a horrible death. The story was that she gets kidnapped by Reavers and when Mal finally got to the ship to save her from the Reavers, he gets on the Reaver ship and all the Reavers are dead. Which would suggest a kind of really bad assault. At the end of the episode, he comes in after she’s been horribly brutalized, and he comes in and he gets down on his knee, and he takes her hand. And he treats her like a lady. And that’s the kind of stuff that we wanted to do. It was very dark. And this was actually the first story that Joss pitched to me when he asked me to come work on the show. He said, ‘These are the kind of stories we’re going to do.”
As you might expect, this kind of idea caused a bit of a stir. It’s important not to be too critical of what was, in essence, a half-formed idea that never made it anywhere near to production, but there’s a lot of disturbing info in there: poisonous drugs, gang-rape, mass-death as a result of the first two, and Mal only ceasing his “whore” insults when Inara suffers a terrible assault. Whedon wanted to do edgier stuff it seems, but I could forgive some people for thinking that maybe all of this was just a little bit too dark, and parts of that idea seem really badly thought out in terms of the Inara and Mal characters and their relationship with each other.
Lastly, there is Nathan Fillion himself:
“There was a show that Joss was talking about where we get to a planet and these people are really kind to us and really sweet, it’s kind of a wintry planet. And I catch them starting to steal our ship. Like, “You sons of — Wha?” And they go, “Okay look. Here’s the deal. Our planet is dying. We’re all going to die here unless you get us off here.” But the idea is, we’re so far out that if we take them back we’re going to run out of air, we’re going to run out of food, we’re all going to die. Unless we meet up with another ship. So there’s that chance: We could meet up with another ship, and everything would be okay. And I say, “Look, let’s all sleep on it, and tomorrow we’ll decide.” And I lock myself in the bridge and I take off while y’all are sleeping. And you all wake up, and go, “What have you done?” It’s too late to go back, we can’t go back. And on our way back out, we never meet any ships — so we would have all died. We were all going to vote, and Captain Mal takes the decision away from everybody, so it’s nobody’s decision to kill all those people but his.”
Now this is an episode that I would have wanted to see. There is a lot of potentially great ideas in there, not least Mal managing his authority and duty as a leader and, essentially, head family member with that inner darkness and ruthlessness that shows itself on a few occasions. It’s dark, but unlike that other idea this one is the kind of dark that can go places. You can just see the conflicting mess of emotions that such an episode would have brought up in you, as well as some intense character drama: anger at Mal, survivors guilt, PTSD, etc, along with a stunning reminder of how life works out on the rim, the brutality of it, the ease with which life can escape people.
There are just a few of the ideas out there, plenty more exist to be found and debated upon until the end of days. Certainly, some of them have gotten to a further point, in the form of the comics, and I will cover them in time. Like “Dead Or Alive”, they are potent reminders of what might have been, and serve as some great starting off points for debates about how life in the ‘verse could possibly have turned out