Mary Katharine Ham

I’m not really a sci-fi kind of girl.

I watched Star Trek only because it was the only thing my brother and I could tune in on the rabbit ears in the early 80s. I saw Star Wars mostly because when I was a kid, I thought the Ewoks were cute (now, I know they’re considered an abomination by many Star Wars fans community, but I didn’t know any better back then, and they were just so fuzzy). I’ve never been one to know the whole chronology of the Empire’s rise to power, and I don’t know one word of Klingon.

So, when I got the chance to see a free screening of Serenity, Hollywood’s newest sci-fi offering, I was willing but pretty sure it wouldn’t be my thing. I was wrong.

Serenity’s galaxy of the future is not an unfamiliar setting. A spaceship named Serenity and its plucky crew of former freedom fighters fly through a solar system ruled by the empire they were unable to conquer. They roam from world to world in the “verse” (short for universe), picking up odd jobs and pulling small-time heists just to keep their ship in working spark plugs. The ship clunks along under the radar of the Alliance, which is too busy creating a better world through invasive surveillance to bother with their already vanquished enemies, until Serenity takes on two passengers—a handsome young doctor and his quiet, waif of a sister, River.

Capt. Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his crew soon find that River Tam (Summer Glau) is more psychic secret weapon than sweet teenager, and that the whole of the Alliance is after them to get her back.

The Serenity crew hops from planet to planet narrowly evading the Alliance’s murderous Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the Reavers, a band of cannibalistic creatures who drift near the edge of the universe in between feasting upon their living prey. In the process, they end up re-fighting the war they thought was long over.

Serenity is a big-screen incarnation of what started as a small-screen project, but this crew’s trip from TV to film is a story in and of itself.

The show—named Firefly because Serenity is of the Firefly class of spaceships—ran in 2002 for just 13 episodes. It was created and written by Joss Whedon, Emmy-award winning writer of the Buffy the Vampire series. Due to scheduling shuffles that ended in a dreaded Friday night time slot and a network that inexplicably played the episodes out of order, Firefly failed to gain a wide audience. It did, however, gain a dedicated audience.

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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