This study covers hour 1 of the two-hour premiere episode
"Serenity" of the Firefly TV series. I have chosen
to retain the title "Serenity" for hour 1 of this episode,
with hour 2 falling under the title
"Government Goods" in a
separate study (as I prefer to keep a 1-hour episodic TV
series in 1-hour chunks). It seems to me that all the
"Serenity" titles in this franchise could get confusing;
there's the premiere 2-hour (now 2-part) episode "Serenity",
the movie Serenity, and the re-branding of the
franchise as Serenity (since Fox still owned the
rights to the name Firefly but creator Joss Whedon
owned the rights to the franchise itself). So I've tried to pare them
down, keeping just this first of hour of the premiere as
"Serenity" and the re-branded franchise name of Serenity
(I've divided the movie Serenity into three ~42-minute episodes, each
with a unique title as well, beginning with
Actress Rebecca Gayheart was originally cast as Inara, but
during filming of this episode, Joss felt the fit wasn't
right and Morena Baccarin was brought in for the role
Through the course of the series, it seems to me that the
setting of the Firefly/Serenity universe
is Joss Whedon's version of the original trilogy of Star
Wars films, on a smaller scale. Note the similarities
to the Imperial government of Star Wars and the
Alliance one here; even the uniforms are similar (though the
costumes were actually originally used in the 1997 film
Starship Troopers), and the large military ships are
another commonality (Joss has borrowed the "Alliance" name
of the rebellion of Star Wars and given it to the
"evil" government instead). The Browncoats
(otherwise known as
the Independent Faction)
"Republic", which lost the war. Mal is Han Solo and
Serenity his Millennium Falcon. Inara is
Princess Leia (ok, a hooker Princess Leia). Shepherd Book
is, essentially, a lost Jedi like Obi-Wan Kenobi (spiritual,
but more than able to defend himself and others in a
physical battle). River is the new hope, like Luke
Skywalker; capable of great things if she can adapt and
learn about herself in time, all the while evading the clutches of the
government that wants to use her for its own ends. The
"outlying worlds" of the system are analogous to the Outer
Rim worlds of the Star Wars galaxy. I'll be
pointing out other similarities as we go through the
The Prelude of this episode depicts the final volleys of the
Battle of Serenity Valley during the Unification War in 2511, six years prior to when
our saga proper begins.
During the Battle of Serenity Valley in the prelude, Mal
tells the corporal they need some gorram air
support. This is Verse-speak for "god damn".
At 1:37 on the DVD, Mal refers to the enemy as "those
arrogant Khangs". Possibly "Khangs" is a reference to Du-Khang,
the site of a protracted battle between the Alliance and the
Independents as suggested in the later episode
At 1:47 on the DVD, notice that Mal pulls a crucifix pendant
from under his shirt collar and seems to make a quick,
silent prayer before kissing it and rushing off once again
into the battle. This is in stark contrast to his disdain
for God and religion as captain of the Serenity six
years later. It would seem that he feels it was a betrayal
by God that the Alliance won the war for control of the
At 1:55 on the DVD, we see several metallic drums in the
trenches of the battle. One of them seems to be labeled
"CREAPURE". To my knowledge, Creapure is a brand of creatine
monohydrate, often used as a food supplement capable of
building muscle mass and also increasing cognitive ability
(see Creapure's website
Perhaps the Independent Faction was feeding this to their
troops to keep them strong and sharp in battle?
At 2:51 on the DVD, the symbol at
the top of the targeting screen of
the Alliance anti-aircraft gun
commandeered by Mal is the logo of
the Weyland-Yutani Corporation from
the Alien franchise of
films! Since one of Weyland-Yutani's
areas of business is the
terraforming of worlds in the
Alien films, perhaps they were
heavily involved in the terraforming
of the worlds of the Verse. (It's also
an in-joke to the fact that Joss
Whedon wrote the screenplay of the
fourth film of the Alien franchise, 1997's
logo as seen in the Alien
The Chinese characters on the gun sight above represent:
Power Consumption; Meters; Apex; Meters; Angle; "Ping"
sound; "Ping" sound.
Firefly-Serenity Chinese Pinyinary)
Obviously, Mal would later go on to name his Firefly-class
transport ship Serenity after this battle in
which his side all but lost the war.
At 5:15 on the DVD, we can see the explosive goo is already
in place around the airlock control even though we won't see
Mal apply it until 23 seconds later.
Both Jayne and Zoe use the word "humped" here in place of
"fucked", as in upon detecting an approaching Alliance
cruiser, "If they find us at all, we're humped."
Notice that at 7:45 on the DVD, the
vertical pylon of the Alliance ship
seen on screen has the ship's name,
Dortmunder, painted on it.
Possibly the Dortmunder is a
reference to the fictional character
John Dortmunder, a somewhat
light-hearted thief (not unlike our
Firefly protagonists) in a
series of novels and stories by
Donald E. Westlake.
activate the decoy called the cry baby, Mal says "Cry, baby, cry,"
to which Wash responds, "Make
your mother sigh." These are lines from the 1968 Beatles song
"Cry Baby Cry."
Notice that the cry baby canister is made from a can of Blue
Throughout the series, notice that in space no one can hear
you scream. Or shoot. Or fire your engines. Firefly is the
rare (only?) science-fiction television series that actually
obeys the physical law that sound does not travel in a
The commander of the Dortmunder orders a bulletin put out on
the cortex about the Firefly freighter with possible stolen
goods. The cortex is later revealed to be the future
equivalent of the internet, on an interplanetary scale. He
also orders Interpol to be flagged on the incident. In the
real world, Interpol is the shorthand
name of the International Criminal Police Organization.
Possibly here it has simply been expanded to be the
Interplanetary Criminal Police Organization.
Having escaped the Dortmunder, Wash tells Mal, "We
look shiny, Captain." In the Verse, "shiny" means "good" or
At 12:08 on the DVD, the bar Mal holds up from the Alliance
crate has Chinese characters imprinted on it.
(According to the
Firefly-Serenity Chinese Pinyinary, this same symbol
appears on the Dortmunder captain's metal chest pin and is
Tong meng, Chinese for "Alliance".)
Although they at first appear to be some kind of metal bars,
"Government Goods" reveals them to be nutrition/immunization bars.
Notice the door in the Serenity corridor at 13:32 on the
DVD. This is the entrance to ever-cheerful Kaylee's quarters
and it has Christmas lights strung up around it.
The Eavesdown Docks are located on the planet Persephone.
According to the Firefly Role-Playing Game Core Book,
Persephone is the most Earth-like of all the worlds in the
A number of erotic figurines are seen in Inara's shuttle at
14:47 on the DVD.
According to the audio commentary by
Joss Whedon and Nathan Fillion on
the DVD, the Chinese symbol yu on the
hourglass in Inara's shuttle would
be translated as "short interval".
The hourglass may represent the
amount of time the customer is
permitted to spend with the
companion (Inara); "short interval"
may also be a joking reference to
the amount of time the typical
patron is able to prevent climax
during sexual intercourse with her.
During her after-sex conversation with her customer, Inara
talks about the planet Sihnon. This is one of the major core
worlds, with an Eastern influence. Inara was born there, and
it is also where most Companions receive their training,
suggesting the Companion occupation has a geisha influence.
Notice that, as Inara's customer leaves, he is wearing an
Alliance uniform, indicating he is a member of the Alliance
At 16:47 on the DVD, as Inara's
shuttle lifts off from a city on
Persephone, a pillar is labeled as
"SOUSA". It may be a corporate name,
though, as far as I know, it does
not have a significant impact in the
Firefly/Serenity storyline. (Maybe
it means "so USA"? Although there
appears to be a lot of Asian
influence in the Eavesdown Docks of
Kaylee tells Mal the compression coil on the Serenity's
engines may need to be replaced soon, but he prohibits
her from purchasing a replacement while they are on Persephone,
possibly leading to the malfunction that puts the ship and
crew in trouble later in "Out of Gas",
when the catalyzer on the port
compression coil blows out.
At 17:52 on the DVD, a figure (presumably a production
crewmember) can be seen moving to screen right to hide as
Wash drives the Mule down the cargo ramp. At 18:00, a
production crewmember's hand can be seen grabbing the front
bumper of the Mule, presumably to pull the vehicle forward.
At 18:11 on the DVD, the food vendor at Eavesdown Docks
advertises "Good dogs!" Rather than "hot dogs", this appears
to refer to the barbequed meat of actual dogs as evidenced
by the live dogs held in cages in the background and the
ragged chunks of meat shown cooking on the barbie. Some
Asian countries, including China, are known to consume dog
At 18:35 on the DVD, a ship-hand tries to tempt Shepherd
Book into booking his travel on the Brutus. The
side of the Brutus shows that it is (or was) part of
the Orion Cruise Line.
Mal walks past a sign that says TG Freight at 19:00 on the
DVD. TG Freight is the front company of the criminal on
Persephone known as Badger.
At 19:07 on the DVD, notice that Badger's desk appears to be
made out of two crates for support and (at 19:27) grilled
plating as the desk top. Also notice some kind of old-style
phone on the left-hand side of screen.
Anyone able to identify the artist of this Good Girl Art in
Badger's office at 19:22 on the DVD? Email me at the address
at the top of the page or post on our
Facebook page. Is it the work of Alberto Vargas
(1896-1982)? (Since the time this was originally posted on
PopApostle, reader Joe Heiland got in touch with Firefly
set decorator David Koneff, who said it was not a Vargas
print, just an item from an old 20th Century Fox prop house
which was probably studio painted in the 1940s or '50s for a
At 19:25 on the DVD, a man appears to be acting as
stenographer during the meeting between Mal and Badger.
Looking at the items on his desk, around his office, and his
way of dressing, Badger appears to have an affinity for
Mal uses the term "tetchy" in reference to Badger. In the
Verse, this means "sensitive" or "complaining";
possibly a twist on "touchy".
At 22:07 on the DVD we can see the
name of Serenity painted in both
English and Chinese (Pingjing) on the hull of
At 22:28 on the DVD, the shipping container behind Shepherd
Book appears to have a sign labeling it "Super Food".
There's a large Blue Sun corporate sign behind Book and
Kaylee at 22:58 on the DVD. The Chinese characters on it
also say Blue Sun, Qing Ri.
Book reveals that he was a shepherd at Southdown Abbey
(presumably on Persephone). It's not revealed why he chose
to leave the abbey, other than he wants to walk the world
for a while.
The duel with wooden swords seen at 23:41 on the DVD may be
an example of street kabuki. In traditional Japanese kabuki
theater, heavily made-up and costumed performers present
dramas which may include staged duels such as seen here.
At 24:15 on the DVD, Jayne says, "No ruttin' way." Since
"rutting" is the mating of ruminant mammals on Earth, Jayne
is essentially saying, "No fuckin' way."
The glasses Simon wears at 25:37 on the DVD when we first
meet him are later revealed in
"Better Days" Part 1 to be
special ones that prevent his retinas from being scanned by
sensors in the environment. Obviously he wears them here to
prevent his identification as a fugitive from Alliance law.
When Inara docks her shuttle with Serenity at
Eavesdown docks at 26:58 on the DVD, a Lambda-class
Imperial Shuttle (from the Star Wars films) can be seen taking off in the background.
Notice that the dining table in the kitchen area of Serenity appears to be a common wood table, though
with metal supports. The chairs are a mismatch of various
types; individual chairs seem to come and go over the course
of the episodes.
During the dining sequence, Mal and Kaylee use chopsticks to
eat, while the rest use forks and spoons.
At 35:01 on the DVD, there is what appears to be a hookah in
Inara's shuttle on the right-hand side of the screen. It
is seen in later episodes as well.
At 36:18, notice that Mal has apparently just finished
urinating into a fold-down toilet in his quarters!
Dobson holds a Vektor CP1 pistol on River and Simon. This is
a real world weapon.
When Simon is being arrested by Dobson, Mal refers to the
young, rich doctor as Lord Fauntleroy. "Lord Fauntleroy" is
a term of derision used by English speakers to refer to a
young, pampered brat of a boy. The name is derived from the
1886 children's novel Little Lord Fauntleroy,
though in the book, the young Lord is quite humble and
When Mal tries to pick up his discarded gun again, Dobson
tells him to get away from it, saying, "Do you think I'm a
complete back-birth?" In the Verse,
"backbirth" is a reference to someone dumb or born on one of
the backwater worlds.
At 41:47 on the DVD, we see that Kaylee has a puffy teddy
bear patch sewed onto her pants leg.
(Thanks to the
Firefly-Serenity Chinese Pinyinary for the translations)
|Time on DVD
Mal says, "Ta ma de."
Mal says, "Bizui."
Kaylee says, "Shi"
Wash says, "Aiya! Huaile."
Essentially, "Something's wrong."
Mal says to Wash,
on the woman's face
||shou bu gan jia
jia=the hand dares not hike the price
Wash tells Zoe, "Zhen ta ma yao ming.
"This is pretty damned dangerous. Watch your back."
writing on the TG Freight sign
Tai kong=Outer Space
Inara says, "Qing jin," when Book knocks on her door.
||The Chinese wall-hanging in Mal's
quarters is partially obscured, but seems to
bliss, longevity, wealth" (The "marital bliss" part
seems odd for Mal to have hanging in his quarters; is a loving,
marital relationship something he actually longs for?)
Mal grumbles some Chinese when Wash informs him there
must be an Alliance mole on board, "Ni ta
ma de. Tianxia suoyoude ren. Dou gaisi."
"Everyone under the heavens ought to die."
||The white pipe on the ceiling visible above the wounded
Kaylee has Chinese writing.
||Wei, Dian, Fen=Danger,
As Inara tries to comfort Kaylee after she's been shot, she
says, "xiao meimei."
Notes from the book Firefly:
Still Flying, a retrospective of the
The small keyboards that appear on walls throughout
Serenity's rooms and hallways are actual Motorola
KDT480 keyboards, originally used for the mobile police
computer terminals found in squad cars.
Firefly Role-Playing Game Core Book
The Central Planets of the Verse (in the White Sun System)
have a popluation of almost 50 billion people.
The White Sun system is encirceld by an asteroid belt called
The Alliance cruiser Dortmunder is a Tohuku-class
Mal's sidearm is referred to as the Liberty Hammer, a Moses
Brothers Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model 8 handgun.
Zoe's sidearm is referred to as a Mare's Leg. The weapon
design was first named in the 1958-1961 Steve McQueen TV
series Wanted: Dead or Alive. The gun used on
Firefly is a prop that was originally used by a character
played by Sheena Easton on the 1993-94 TV series The
Adventures of Brisco County, Jr..
The Road Runner-class Independent Blockade Runner
ship was manufactured by Weyland-Yutani for the Independents
during the Unification War.
Other ship types not seen in the TV series are
Arbitrator-class Alliance Patrol Boat, Justice-class
Alliance Gunship, Lieshou-class Alliance Destroyer,
and Orion-class Alliance Enforcement Craft.
The RPG adventure titled "What's Yours is Mine" features a
female character called Marion Morrison. "Marion
Morrison" is the real of the iconic American western movie
star, John Wayne (1907-1979). The villain of the piece is
Etienne du Bujac, the real name of actor Bruce Cabot
(1904-1972), who often worked with Wayne in films. The
sheriff of the small mining town of Hannibal in this
adventure is Izzy Demsky, the real name of actor Kirk
we are just too pretty.wav
we will rule over all this land.wav
something ain't right.wav
just the husband.wav
your mouth is talking.wav
even if they were looking for it.wav
anyone gets nosy.wav
the term is Companion.wav
do you mind if I say grace?.wav
walk away from this table.wav
if you'd prefer a lecture.wav
there a reward?.wav
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