For the Adherent of Pop Culture
Adventures of Jack Burton ] Back to the Future ] Battlestar Galactica ] Buckaroo Banzai ] Cliffhangers! ] Earth 2 ] The Expendables ] Firefly/Serenity ] The Fly ] Galaxy Quest ] Indiana Jones ] Jurassic Park ] Land of the Lost ] Lost in Space ] The Matrix ] The Mummy/The Scorpion King ] The Prisoner ] Sapphire & Steel ] Snake Plissken Chronicles ] Star Trek ] Terminator ] The Thing ] Total Recall ] Tron ] Twin Peaks ] UFO ] V the series ] Valley of the Dinosaurs ] Waterworld ] PopApostle Home ] Links ] Privacy ]

Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

"The Train Job"
TV episode

Written and directed by Joss Whedon


Mal and his crew are hired to hijack a shipment from an Alliance train.


Read the full episode summary at the Firefly and Serenity Database


Didja Notice?


Mal, Zoe, and Jayne appear to be playing a game of Chinese checkers in the bar. Despite the name, the game is actually German in origin.


According to the Firefly Role-Playing Game Core Book, the bar in the opening scene is called the Watering Hole. The planet is Ezra.


At 1:52 on the DVD, Mal orders another glass of Ng-Ka-Pei at the bar. Ng-Ka-Pei is an herb rice wine.


The "glasses" from which the bar patrons are drinking appear to be nothing more than the bottom half of a plastic water bottle.


At the beginning of this episode, Jayne is wearing a German police jacket with a badge on the right sleeve that has the word "Polizei" (German for police) on the top and the emblem of Rhineland-Palatinate (one of the 16 German states) underneath. (From IMDB)


When Mal walks out of Serenity's infirmary, River watches him go and says, "Mal. Bad. In the Latin." She is referring to the fact that the word "mal" means "bad" in Latin.


Inara's remark that she already told Mal not to barge onto her shuttle is a reference back to a conversation they had in "Government Goods".


Kaylee's remark to Mal about a compression coil that he doesn't want to replace in the engine is a reference to a discussion between them in "Serenity".


According to the Firefly Role-Playing Game Core Book, Niska's space station is called a Hong Kong-class skyplex.


At 13:30 on the DVD, as Serenity approaches Niska's skyplex, notice that what appears to be a U.S. space shuttle is docked there!


Here are two closer looks at the digital schematic on Niska's desk of the train robbed by the Serenity crew.


Jayne tells Simon to just figure out what's wrong with his "moon-brained" sister. Possibly he's using the term "moon-brained" as a way of saying her mind is full of holes, like the fairy tale description of the moon being made of Swiss cheese. (As pointed out by PopApostle adherent "Dodger", it may be a reference to "lunatic", a word which is derived from the Latin "luna" which means "moon". Early beliefs suggested that the moon could induce insanity in susceptible individuals.)


The train car at 24:33 on the DVD looks like it may say Altrans on the side. (PopApostle adherent "Dodger" suggests this may be an abbreviation of Alliance Transportation department. I might amend that a bit and suggest it was inspired by Amtrak, the passenger railroad corporation owned by the American government.)


The cargo stolen from the train by the crew is Pescaline D, used in the treatment of the muscular disorder called Bowden's malady. Both the malady and the drug are fictional.


River keeps repeating the phrase, "Two by two. Hands of blue." At the end of the episode it's obvious she is referring (in her enigmatic way) to the mysterious blue-handed agents who work for the Alliance (or possibly for Blue Sun). The line may have been inspired by a song lyric, "five foot two, eyes of blue," from a popular song of the 1920s, "Has Anybody Seen My Girl?"


At 23:20 on the DVD, as Serenity hovers over the train and Jayne is about to be lowered down to it, the top of the train car has "A: 1138" painted on it. The 1138 may be a reference to George Lucas' 1971 film THX-1138.


Two digital placards on the wall behind River in the infirmary at 27:44 on the DVD have the Oakton brand name on them. The cabinets in the galley also appear to have an Oakton logo on them.


Mal and Zoe use the aliases of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond when they're held by the Sheriff's investigation in Paradiso. Possibly Mal is using the name "Raymond" since it is slightly similar to his own last name of Reynolds.


Mal tells the Sheriff they are in Paradiso looking for work and that his uncle said that a Joey Bloggs there might have some openings. Possibly the name Joey Bloggs is a reference to the placeholder name Joe Bloggs often used in the U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand in much the same way John Doe is used in the United States.


Notice that at 29:51 on the DVD, during the Sheriff's conversation with Mal and Zoe, the prisoner in the jail cell is motioning to him for something and then the Sheriff lights a cigarette and gives it to the prisoner at 30:39. 


At 37:39 on the DVD, we finally get a semi-decent look at the design of the Alliance flag, a combination of the U.S. and China flags, on the side of the Pescaline crates. However, at 38:38, the flag is seen with two large stars on it instead of just one! Note that the design seen in this episode (a flag with 13 stripes, like the U.S. flag) is replaced in later episodes with one of just 5 stripes (see examples below from Wikipedia).  
Alliance flag seen in "The Train Job" Alliance flag seen in later episodes


At the end of the episode, it's clear that the two agents' blue hands are due to their wearing blue rubber gloves and not a skin coloration (note the rubber wrinkles on the fingertips).


Chinese translations
(Thanks to the Firefly-Serenity Chinese Pinyinary for the translations)
Time on DVD Chinese English
1:52 Mal orders another drink, saying, "Ching zie lie ee bay Ng-Ka-Pei?" "Can I have one more glass of Ng-Ka-Pei, please?"
3:05 Mal says, "Oh, juh jen sh guh kwai luh duh jean jan..." "Oh, this is a happy development..."
3:22 Chinese symbol on the bar's holographic window Bar
12:12 Kaylee says, in reference to Mal, "Kuh-ooh duh lao bao jurn..." "Horrible old tyrant..."
20:55 Kaylee says, "jen duh sh tyen tsai" "an absolute genius"
21:20 Jayne says, "Dong ma?"  "Understand?"
22:11 Chinese characters on the train compartment door Storage Only! Passengers Prohibited!
26:47 Jayne says, "go tsao de" "dog humping"
26:47 the Chinese symbol "yong" is seen on Jayne's t-shirt soldier
29:02 Chinese symbol "jing" police
34:50 Chinese symbol is visible in reverse on the glass of the Sheriff's office door Alliance


Notes from Firefly Role-Playing Game Core Book


The Alliance cruiser seen in this episode is the I.A.V. Nakamura. I.A.V. stands for Interstellar Alliance Vessel.


Memorable Dialog


nice work, dumbass.wav

some crime to be done.wav


he's my hero.wav

heathens aplenty.wav

you're welcome on my boat, God aint.wav

feel the energy.wav

manly and impulsive.wav

space monkeys.wav

your lonely pathetic dreams.wav

I don't think the captain would much like me praying for him.wav

I think you have a problem with your brain.wav

can I have your share?.wav

two by two, hands of blue.wav

that sounds like the Alliance.wav

would his job be open?.wav

chain of command.wav 


Back to Firefly/Serenity Episode Studies