Firefly, written and directed by Joss Whedon, was a space Western that aired for just one season in the fall of 2002.
Although Fox canceled the TV show before the first season had even wrapped, the science fiction drama was a critical success. It won numerous awards, including an Emmy Award and multiple Saturn Awards, and it also launched an entire media franchise (including the 2005 blockbuster film Serenity).
The show was prized for its complex storylines and massive cast, and it was easy to miss small details and Easter eggs that Whedon liked to hide in each episode. That includes a major science fiction reference buried in Firefly‘s very first episode.
‘Firefly’ was set in the year 2517
Firefly follows the lives of space pioneers who have survived an intergalactic civil war. The character Derrial Book, played by actor Ron Glass, often provides recaps and explanatory narratives at the start of each episode. At the start of episode two, he explains the premise of Firefly. “After the Earth was used up, we found a new solar system, and hundreds of new Earths were terraformed and colonized,” the character says, as reported in The Mary Sue.
The planets controlled by the United States and China form a new government, known as the Alliance, but some planets refused to join the new government and a civil war broke out. “After the war, many of the Independents who had fought and lost drifted to the edges of the system, far from Alliance control,” says Book. “Out here, people struggle to get by with the most basic technologies. A ship would bring you work. A gun would help you keep it. A captain’s goal was simple: Find a crew. Find a job. Keep flying.”
The show was canceled before its first season was even finished
Firefly encapsulated numerous worlds and dozens of characters, and it would have taken several seasons to fully tell their stories. “I designed this world and these characters in this ensemble to sustain seven years’ worth [of stories],” says Whedon in an interview published by Digital Spy. However, the entire series was shut down by Fox before the first season was done airing.
“Fox had touted Firefly for its 2002 season as a show that could potentially fill the sci-fi gap in its sked created by the end of the aging X-Files franchise,” explained Variety at the time. “But just 11 of the 14 Firefly episodes produced made it to air. Interrupted by baseball and dropped for November sweeps (much to Whedon’s chagrin), the show never caught on with a big enough audience to justify its 8 p.m. Friday slot.”
However, AV Club lays some of the blame for Firefly‘s cancellation on Fox itself. “By airing the episodes out of order, withholding the pilot until months after the series launched, sticking the show with a difficult time slot, limiting network advertising support, and canceling the show partway through its initial run, Fox publicly declared that Firefly was a risk not worth taking,” the site argues.
With only one season to watch, fans have poured over every detail. And they’ve uncovered some surprising Easter eggs hidden by Whedon.
The pilot of ‘Firefly’ has a hidden mention of another major science fiction franchise
In the pilot of Firefly, audiences see a battle between those who are loyal to the Alliance, and those who are fighting for independence. In one scene, you see captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (played by Nathan Fillion) take control of a cannon. And eagle-eyed viewers noticed an interesting logo emblazoned on the side of the weapon: The logo for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation.
This corporation is a major player in the Alien franchise, leading and controlling most aspects of space colonization and research in the many Alien movies. For instance, it’s the enterprise that is set on studying the Xenomorph XX121 (the main Alien in Alien).
“Easter egg shows Firefly and Prometheus exist in the same universe,” reports SyFy. “It seems that writing Alien: Resurrection wasn’t the only time Joss Whedon got to work in the Alien universe: The inclusion of one tiny logo—the Weyland-Yutani Corporation logo—in Firefly reveals that Ripley and Mal Reynolds could’ve gone drinking together.”