Take my love, take my land,

Take me where I cannot stand.

I don’t care; I’m still free.

You can’t take the sky from me.

The above is perhaps the lament of those who were on the losing side of the civil war fought 500 years from now, between the establishment Alliance and the rebellious Browncoats, the latter being those most likely to be harboring the sentiments of those lyrics. One such person is Malcolm Reynolds, one-time Browncoat Sergeant and now Captain of the Firefly-class transport Serenity. Betrayed by his own superiors during the battle of the valley whose name is now commemorated by his ship, Mal is a hardened and disaffected soul, slow to trust if indeed he trusts anyone at all. Having bought Serenity sometime after conclusion of the Alliance-Browncoat contretemps, otherwise, mostly out on the rough-edged rim systems where the Alliance’s laws and suffocating presence are far less felt than in the core. Serenity is his traveling means to that end.

Mal has surrounded himself with a diverse crew. First among these is Zoë, a warrior-woman and comrade-in-arms during the war and now his second in trade negotiations, such dialogue being as likely carried out with guns as with words. Death in both hands, she rivals Mal in her martial skills, but has a less jaundiced view of the world at large. She’s married since the war, to “Wash,” seemingly a near polar opposite. More jocular and light in his attitude, Wash’s value to Mal is as a pilot, and there is doubtless no boat driver in the ‘verse more facile or skilled. That Wash and Zoë love each other is nearly intuitively obvious; that there is occasionally more than a little marital tension between them owing to Zoë’s past military allegiance to Mal is equally so. Still, one is left with the impression that in the long haul, neither Alliance nor Reavers nor perhaps even Mal himself could separate these two.

In the engine room is Kaywinnit Lee Frye, but call her “Kaylee,” please! She is to Serenity what Montgomery Scott was to NCC-1701, though far prettier. Kaylee knows every circuit, rivet and conduit of Serenity and keeps them as best as Mal’s sporadic income will allow. Serenity is her “good girl,” and don’t doubt its abilities around Kaylee. “She’ll fool you!” she says. When Mal wants to evade pursuing Reavers with a “Crazy Ivan,” it is as much Kaylee’s understanding of the ship as Wash’s skill behind the yoke which makes the evasion possible. She is winsome, always smiling or almost. “No power in the ‘verse could keep Kaylee from being cheerful,” so says Mal, though she has a fragile and vulnerable side to her as well and cares not much for guns at all.

Such weaponry is better left to the hands of Jayne Cobb, Mal’s soi-disant manager of “public relations.” Jayne is hired muscle for the large part, a former bank robber in fact, and “Vera,” most favored of his firepower, is likely more sophisticated in its workings than are those of Jayne’s mental processes. What thinking he does appears to focus on the topics of earning coin and finding women, not necessarily in that order. His loyalties balance between Captain Reynolds and his interest if not pursuit of independent wealth, a balance which may be skewed depending on the circumstances. If Mal trusts Jayne, said trust is fractional in size; the reverse is likely equally true.

Finally, there is Inara, full name Inara Serra, formally trained in the Core as a Companion, though Mal frequently needles her with terms less formal or complimentary. His one reasonably positive nickname for her is “Ambassador,” and this is true in a somewhat more than figurative sense. Many planets of the core systems (read: well under Alliance control) would sooner target a ship as seemingly disreputable as Serenity as let her land were it not for Inara’s presence on board. She is well-schooled, sophisticated, stunningly beautiful and sensual in the extreme. Her training includes considerable psychological background and she reads people very well, though Mal manages to surprise her and on more than one occasion. There is back-story of some description between Inara and Mal, though exactly what that history is remains a mystery.

Landing on Persephone after a somewhat questionable salvage mission, Serenity took on passengers and three of these are worth particular note. The first of these is Shepherd Book, a monk from the Southdown Abbey. He’s been secluded there perhaps for too long and feels it’s time to walk the world a while, not caring where he goes because “how you get there is the worthier part.” He’s a good man, not simple nor given to guile, but there clearly is more to this wandering preacher than meets the eye.

The second of these is Simon Tam, MD. A doctor from an affluent family, his instructors and associates find him “gifted.” His talent is rare enough in the core and is rarer yet on the outlying planets which make up the majority of stops which are Serenity’s habit. He is used to the comfort and privilege of the core and looks completely out of his element at the Eavesdown docks. Not long after Simon boards we meet his sister, River. For all his brilliance, Simon himself confesses that he is an idiot compared to her. She is a beauty, as Kaylee testifies, but also even more fragile than she, and troubled. She is also possessed of a very powerful and valuable secret, one which those in power and those who desire power would pay handsomely to claim for themselves.

Here then you have the crew and passengers of the Firefly-class boat Serenity, and the foundation for some of the best science-fiction television I have seen since Babylon 5. Please watch and enjoy. Dong ma?

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