"Here's how it is..."
--Malcolm Reynolds, opening narration
This timeline is intended as a guide to the events depicted in the television series Firefly (and its feature film continuation, Serenity), as well as the internal history described in that series and film. The format of the timeline is based more or less on that found in Star Trek Chronology: A History of the Future, by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda. Firefly is, of course, © 2002 Mutant Enemy Inc and 20th Century Fox Television, while Serenity is © 2005 Mutant Enemy Inc and Universal Pictures, and this timeline is in no way affiliated with any of those entities.
A variety of sources were used in constructing this timeline:
Under each entry, there is an explanation of how I arrived at the date in question. For simplicity, I have grouped many references to the past into periods of time rather than specific years, since admittedly, evidence from the filmed material itself is pretty scarce. I have also chosen to attempt only a rough breakdown of 2517 and 2518, the years in which the series and film take place.
The main supposition I made that is not based on any of the above sources is that the series takes place in the episode order presented in the DVD release of the series, rather than the production order or the original airing order of episodes. I made this assumption for purposes of narrative clarity, since the series has a continuing storyline, and the DVD order provides the sequence of events as intended by the creators of Firefly.
Should you dispute any of the dates in this timeline, or you want to provide your own speculations, feel free to contact me with your thoughts. You can find many more fictional timelines at The History of Things That Never Were.
The Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, approves the Declaration of Independence formally establishing the United States of America.
The Constitution of the United States is submitted for ratification.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge publishes the poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" in the collection Lyrical Ballads.
[Historical accounts. The Operative and Mal both cite the image of the albatross from this poem in Serenity, suggesting that at least some aspects of Earth-That-Was are commonly known in their society--though Mal also asks Inara not to faint at the idea that he has read a poem.]
A special convention called in South Carolina unanimously passes an ordinance of secession from the Union. In the next two months, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas also vote to secede.
[Historical accounts. Since the American Civil War and its aftermath make up the main historical analogy at work in Firefly, it seems useful to offer some of the principal events of that period for historical context. Of course, using this analogy means that Malcolm and Zoe represent Confederates...]
Delegates from six of the seceded states, meeting in Montgomery, Alabama, formally establish the Confederate States of America under President Jefferson Davis. In the next four months, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina secede from the Union and join the Confederacy.
Confederate artillery, under the command of General Pierre G.T. Beauregard, is fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, beginning the American Civil War.
United States President Abraham Lincoln issues the final Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that all slaves in the rebellious states are now free.
The Battle of Gettysburg is fought in Pennsylvania, with the Union Army of the Potomac, under the command of General George G. Meade, defeating the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, under the command of General Robert E. Lee. This will later be considered the most important battle of the American Civil War, turning the tide of war against the South.
[Historical accounts. This battle has been cited as the historical analogy for the Battle of Serenity Valley and The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, an historical novel about the battle, served as series creator Joss Whedon's initial inspiration for what ultimately became Firefly.]
Confederate forces, under the command of General Jubal Early, probe and fire upon the Union defences of Washington, DC, throwing the city into a state of high alert.
[Historical accounts. Given the existence of an historical Jubal Early, it is unclear whether the character of Jubal Early from "Objects in Space" was using his real name or operating under a pseudonym--River did call him a liar, after all. It has also been reported that the historical Jubal Early is a distant ancestor of actor Nathan Fillion.]
The US Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery throughout the United States. The amendment is then submitted to the states for ratification.
[Historical accounts. Unfortunately, it would appear that slavery has become legal again by 2517, as slaves, slave-trading, and indentured servitude are mentioned in "Serenity," "The Train Job," "Shindig," "Jaynestown," and "Trash;" and implied by the actions in "Safe" and "Our Mrs. Reynolds."]
General Ulysses S. Grant, supreme commander of the Union armies, accepts the surrender of General Robert E. Lee, supreme commander of the Confederate forces, at Appomattox Court House near Richmond, Virginia.
Union General William T. Sherman receives the surrender of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston at Durham Station, North Carolina, ending the American Civil War.
The Reconstruction Acts are passed by the US Congress, part of an ongoing effort to solve the political, social, and economic problems arising from the readmission to the Union of the seceded Confederate states. Under the supervision of the US Army, all of these states are readmitted over the next three years.
The last Federal troops withdraw from the Southern states, bringing a formal end to the Reconstruction Period.
Frances Hodgson Burnett publishes the novel Little Lord Fauntleroy.
[Historical accounts. Mal calls Simon "Lord Fauntleroy" in "Serenity," again suggesting that some aspects of Earth-That-Was are commonly known in their society.]
The Nationalist Party and the Chinese Communist Party begin to fight for control of territories formerly held by the Japanese, leading to the Chinese Civil War.
Jack Williamson coins the term "terraforming" to describe the process of modifying a planet, moon, or other body to a more Earth-like atmosphere or ecology, habitable for humans.
With most of the Chinese mainland now held by the People's Liberation Army, Chairman Mao Zedong of the Chinese Communist Party proclaims the People's Republic of China, with its capital at Beijing.
North Korea, at the prompting of the Soviet Union and without the advance knowledge of the Chinese, launches a carefully planned attack across the 38th parallel into South Korea, beginning the Korean War. The United States is the principal country to join the United Nations effort on the side of South Korea to halt the North Korean invasion.
[Historical accounts. As the Korean War has been the only war (to this point) in which the United States and modern China have had military forces in direct conflict, it seems worthy of reference here.]
Having warned the United Nations that the presence of UN forces in North Korea would be unacceptable to the security of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese government intervenes in the war on the side of North Korea.
The Korean Armistice is concluded and signed at P'anmunjom by representatives of the United Nations forces and the opposing North Korean and Chinese armies. A Demilitarised Zone is established, with the 38th parallel accepted as the de facto boundary between North and South Korea.
The United States launches the Mercury 3 mission using the Freedom 7 spacecraft on a suborbital flight carrying astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., the first citizen of that country to journey into space.
The Beatles release what is popularly known as The White Album, which includes the song "Cry Baby Cry," written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
[Historical accounts. Mal and Wash quote this song in "Serenity," once again suggesting that some aspects of Earth-That-Was are commonly known in their society. Since Mal in particular tends to make such references to the past, however, he may be more cultured than the average citizen.]
China launches the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft into orbit carrying taikonaut Yang Liwei, the first citizen of that country to journey into space.
Scaled Composites launches SpaceShipOne past the boundary of space carrying commercial astronaut Mike Melvill, the first person to pilot a privately financed craft into space.
[Historical accounts. In spirit, at least, SpaceShipOne is a distant ancestor of Serenity, which is also a commercial spaceship.]
The United States and China, the two great superpowers of the Earth, gradually grow together and form the Anglo-Sino Alliance (though their empires remain separate), rather than killing each other as originally predicted. In a somewhat ironic reversal, the American Empire annexes England.
[Firefly website and "A Brief History of the Universe, circa 2507 A.D." In an interview on the website, series creator Joss Whedon first described some of this background to account for the mix of cultures in the Alliance, and the pre-production memo gives further details. This history is implicit in the design of the Alliance flags seen in "The Train Job" and "Bushwhacked," a combination of the present-day flags of the two countries in question.]
The Lassiter, the original handheld laser pistol and forerunner of all later laser technology, is invented. It will one day be universally known for its historical significance.
["Trash" and "The Message." The Lassiter's status as an Earth-That-Was artifact means that, by definition, it would have to be developed while the Earth still was. Saffron also describes it as "an antiquity of unspeakable value," suggesting its extreme age.]
The Earth is "used up," rendering it uninhabitable, as the planet cannot handle the growing population and resource needs of humankind. Amazingly enough, instead of wiping itself out, the human race rises to the challenge of finding a new home for the species. A nearby star is located, with a new solar system that is home to dozens of planets and hundreds of moons, almost all of which have enough mass and solidity to be templates for new Earths.
[Opening narration and "A Brief History of the Universe, circa 2507 A.D." It is never made entirely clear whether Earth still exists physically or not by the time of the series, although its description as "Earth-That-Was" makes that somewhat unlikely. On the other hand, the opening scenes of Serenity show ships leaving an Earth that appears devastated but not completely destroyed.]
Through giant atmosphere processing planets, terraforming technologies, gravity regulation, and the introduction of every known form of Earth life, each planet in the system becomes its own little (or, in some cases, huge) Earth, though the process takes decades. All of these worlds are specifically made as close to Earth-That-Was as possible, matching Earth's gravity and atmosphere.
[Opening narration, "Serenity," Serenity, and "A Brief History of the Universe, circa 2507 A.D." Zoe tells Dobson that the central planets, as well as the border moons, were made to resemble Earth, while young River's teacher and the pre-production memo describe the process in further detail.]
Humanity emigrates to this new solar system en masse, with every person willing and able to leave the Earth migrating there to colonise its worlds. The journey takes so long that an entire generation never even sees the outside of a spaceship, but the planets are ready for habitation and civilisation begins to rebuild.
[Opening narration, Serenity, and "A Brief History of the Universe, circa 2507 A.D." The shadowplay seen in "Heart of Gold" provides a visual representation of the human diaspora, while the opening scenes of Serenity actually show ships (what the shooting script calls "huge, intricate space-freighters") leaving Earth-That-Was itself.]
America and China work together throughout the colonisation process, and their cultures gradually meld at many levels. Over time, American and Chinese culture meld together to the point that English and Mandarin even become integrated languages.
[Firefly website and "A Brief History of the Universe, circa 2507 A.D." In the same website interview mentioned above, series creator Joss Whedon explained that this was his contextual justification for including Chinese dialogue in the series. Although the characters we see over the course of the series speak primarily in English, with the occasional Manadarin interjection, one might presume that at least some of their contemporaries prefer the reverse.]
The two central, major planets that form the Core of this new system are Sihnon (an outgrowth of Chinese influence) and Londinium (an outgrowth of American influence). Working in harmony, these two powers grow at once into the most populous and advanced civilisations in the new galaxy, but these are enlightened cultures with respect for all non-aggressive religious beliefs (though the main religion on both planets is Buddhism). The average lifespan is 120, literacy levels are at 94%, and marijuana is completely legal.
[Firefly website and "A Brief History of the Universe, circa 2507 A.D." In an interview on the site, series creator Joss Whedon explained this aspect of the series backstory, describing Sihnon as "basically China" and Londinium as "basically America." Although these details are not addressed directly in the series, Sihnon is mentioned in "Serenity," "Bushwhacked," and "Heart of Gold;" Londinium is (obliquely) mentioned by Mal in "Serenity;" and the names of both planets are listed on a screen in young River's classroom displaying a map of the new system in Serenity. The pre-production memo details what "advanced" means in this context, though Whedon notes he "probably won't stress" the part about pot legalisation.]
As Sihnon develops, it is more crowded and more complicated, but ultimately not that different, from other developed planets. The Great City itself is said to be "like an ocean of light," in a way that cannot be captured by pictures.
["Serenity." Inara described what Sihnon is like to her client.]
Several other planets in the system are also considered part of the Core, including Ariel and Osiris. Ariel is quite a nice place, by most accounts, with beautiful museums, some of the finest restaurants in the Core, and the opportunity to go hiking or swim in a bioluminescent lake.
["The Train Job" and "Ariel." Book describes Simon, who is from Osiris, as having been "a doctor on the central planets," while "Ariel" is quite explicit in describing its titular planet as part of the Core. Contrary to what some viewers may think, Persephone is not part of the Core--Kaylee describes her trip to Ariel as her "first time in the Core," though we have seen her on Persephone several times before that.]
Prostitution is legalised in the form of the Companion Guild, putting the sex trade under strict federal regulation throughout the central planets. The Guild is organised into Houses (such as House Madrassa, based on Sihnon) run by a House Mistress or House Priestess who has a say in how Companions conduct their affairs, and no House can ever be run by a man. At a Companion Academy, present and future Companions engage in an intensive (and arguably lifelong) course of study that includes training in seduction, body language, and signals, along with music and rituals such as the Companion Greeting Ceremony, involving tea. Registered Companions have great social status conferred upon them--to the point that some planets will not even let a ship dock without a decent Companion onboard--and often rise to political or social prominence when they retire.
["Serenity," "Bushwhacked," "Our Mrs. Reynolds," "Jaynestown," "Trash," "Heart of Gold," and "A Brief History of the Universe, circa 2507 A.D." Mal explains to Book how restrictive planets can be without the benefit of a Companion aboard one's ship. Inara tells Magistrate Higgins that "the Companion Greeting Ceremony is a ritual with centuries of tradition," suggesting the age of the Companion Guild. I have placed its establishment at this point on the assumption that the concept of Companions was developed in the Core after the initial human exodus.]
Companion Guild law stipulates, amongst other things, that no Companion can ever be coerced into accepting a client. Companions choose their own clients from a Client Registry, and no Companion will ever contract with someone who has earned a black mark in that registry. Engaging a Companion is not about sex for money, as there is no shortage of those willing to offer that, so the process is more formal and selective--Companions take their cues from their clients, and are put at ease if they're respectful.
["The Train Job," "Shindig," "Better Days," and "A Brief History of the Universe, circa 2507 A.D." Inara tells Kaylee about this aspect of Guild law, and later explains to Atherton why no Companion will contract with him, while Simon attempts to explain the selection process to Jayne on Pelorum.]
Guild law also requires all Companions to undergo a physical examination once a year in order to renew their licence. Other guidelines include the notion that Companions do not "kiss and tell" about their clients, and a "complicated" policy on dating.
["Out of Gas" and "Ariel." Inara explains all of these rules at different points to different people. As you can see, nearly every episode of Firefly reveals a new detail about the Companions.]
Humanity continues to spread out throughout the system, terraforming and colonising hundreds of new Earths. Some are rich and flush with new technologies, while others struggle to get by with the most basic equipment, though all are as close to Earth-That-Was as the terraforming process allows.
[Opening narration, "Serenity," and Serenity. It is difficult to reconcile the "new solar system" described in Book's narration and later in Serenity with the "whole new galaxy of Earths" described in Mal's narration. The idea of two waves of terraforming and colonisation--the first to the Core, followed by a more widespread outgrowth--helps explain why the outlying colonies would be so much less advanced than those which had been established first, and why the Core planets would eventually be motivated to form the Alliance themselves.]
Every planet that is terraformed for human life has its own "little quirks," amongst them Bowden's Malady, an extremely degenerative affliction of the bone and muscle that can nevertheless be treated effectively with regular doses of Pasceline D. One planet in the Georgia System, in particular, finds that the air down underground, mixed up with the ore processors, is a perfect recipe for the disease. Everybody in the mining community of Paradiso on that planet eventually comes down with Bowden's, even those who have never set foot in a mine.
["The Train Job." Sheriff Bourne describes the nature of Bowden's Malady to Mal and Zoe, including its connection to the terraforming process. It is unclear what significance a term like "the Georgia System" would have, given that all of the settled worlds are described as being in a single solar system.]
The psychotic dictator Shan Yu, fancying himself quite the warrior poet, writes volumes on war, torture, and the limits of human endurance. Amongst his works is the adage, "Live with a man forty years. Share his house, his meals, speak on every subject. Then, tie him up and hold him over the volcano's edge--and on that day, you will finally meet the man."
["War Stories." Book discusses these writings with Simon, and Niska is also shown to be aware of them. Although the place and time of Shan Yu's reign are not specified, he appears to be considered a somewhat distant historical figure. I have placed him here to allow for any number of possible locations where he might've ruled, while acknowledging that he probably does not date from the era of Earth-That-Was. Shan Yu is a fictional character unique to Firefly and should not be confused with the character of the same name from the animated feature film Mulan, nor with the historical Chinese general Xiang Yu or the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu.]
As the Alliance terraforms its border moons, settlers are dumped there with nothing but blankets, hatchets, and maybe a herd. Some of these moons manage to make it, but others end up in bad shape, suffering plagues and famine--though some of the reports of such suffering are exaggerated.
["Serenity." Dobson asks about the border moons, and Mal and Zoe describe to him what they're like. Mal's comments suggest that this practice of careless colonisation is an ongoing problem.]
Derrial Book is born.
[Conjecture based on the age of actor Ron Glass. Book's full name is given in Serenity, although he mentions that he is "called Book" in the episode "Serenity," making it somewhat unclear whether this has always been his actual name, or if it simply one that he goes by in the present.]
Gabriel Tam is born.
[Shooting script for "Safe." Simon's father is described as being 50 at the time of the episode's flashbacks. Gabriel's name is also from the script, as it is not given in the episode itself.]
Regan Tam is born.
[Shooting script for "Safe." Simon's mother is described as being in her "late 40's" at the time of the episode's flashbacks. Regan's name is also from the script, as it is not given in the episode itself.]
A man is born who will one day have a double bypass operation at St Lucy's Hospital in Ariel City.
["Ariel." A young intern tells Simon that the man he ultimately saves is a forty-two-year-old.]
Jayne Cobb is born to Radiant Cobb.
[Conjecture based on the age of actor Adam Baldwin. His mother's name is given in "Better Days." The shooting script for "The Message" seems to suggest that Jayne also has a brother named Matty.]
Derrial Book sails in a Firefly, but it is not a model with extenders, so it tends to shake.
["Serenity." Book describes this experience to Kaylee, saying it happened "long before (she was) crawling." The specific year is conjecture, however, and could easily be earlier or later than this.]
Zoe Alleyne is born vesselside, and she will be raised on a spaceship. Her Social Control Number is 129,426,3,3523.
[Conjecture based on the age of actress Gina Torres. Zoe's birth year was confirmed on an information screen in a deleted scene from Serenity, available on the DVD release of the film, which also indicated the specific date, the indication that she was born vesselside, and her Social Control Number. The shooting script for "Heart of Gold" includes a cut line in which Zoe mentions where she was raised. Zoe's full name at birth is given in the same information screen just mentioned (though it misspells her married name as "Washburn"), as well as on the Serenity website. Some sources had previously given her full name as Zoe Warren.]
Hoban Washburne is born on a planet where the pollution is so thick, one cannot see a single star.
[Conjecture based on the age of actor Alan Tudyk. Wash talks about the planet he's from in "Our Mrs. Reynolds." Wash's full name is given in Serenity and on the Serenity website. Some publicity for the series had given his full name as Wash Warren.]
Malcolm Reynolds is born on Shadow. His mother has a ranch there devoted mostly to running cattle, and she, along with about forty ranch hands, will raise him. According to him, nobody runs cattle harder or smarter than she does, and she tells him, "Don't brand the cattle, brand the buyer--he's the one likely to stray." His Social Control Number is 099,836,5,4112.
[Conjecture based on the age of actor Nathan Fillion. The specific date comes from an information screen viewed by The Operative in Serenity, though it misspells his first name as "Malcom" and gives Mal's birth year as 2468, which would seem to be inconsistent with the dates in the series itself and Mal's apparent age. (Could this have been a transposition of the year given here?) Similarly, some early promotional material for the series gave Mal's birthdate as September 20, 2472. Mal talks about his mother and where he's from in "Our Mrs. Reynolds," though his use of the past tense tends to imply that his mother has died, while his Social Control Number is shown on the same information screen just mentioned.]
Simon Tam is born on Osiris to Gabriel and Regan Tam. He is very smart, to the point of being considered gifted.
[Conjecture based on the age of actor Sean Maher. The time of year comes from the celebration of Simon's birthday in "Out of Gas," while the names of his parents come from the shooting script for "Safe." Many viewers seem to think that Simon should be significantly younger than this based on his appearance as a child in a flashback from "Safe," but actor Zac Efron, who played Young Simon, was 15 at the time that flashback was filmed. Although Simon never explicitly says he was born on Osiris, it is safe to assume that that is the case. Simon talks about how smart he is to point out how much smarter River is in "Serenity."]
Fess Higgins is born.
["Jaynestown." Magistrate Higgins makes a point of noting that his son is twenty-six.]
Inara Serra is born on Sihnon. She will study to be a Companion there.
[Conjecture based on the age of actress Morena Baccarin, and the assumption that Inara is no older than she appears to be. Inara says she was born on Sihnon and studied to be a Companion there in "Serenity," and her full name is mentioned in "Shindig."]
Kaywinnit Lee Frye is born.
[Conjecture based on the age of actress Jewel Staite. Kaylee's full name is mentioned in "Shindig."]
A boy is born who will one day have an encounter with Kaylee in her home.
["Objects in Space." As Kaylee tells it, she was surprised when it turned out he was fourteen years old at the time.]
River Tam is born on Osiris to Gabriel and Regan Tam. She is more than gifted, and everything she does--including music, mathematics, theoretical physics, and dance--comes as naturally to her as breathing does to anyone else, though she can also be a real brat about this. Her brother Simon will one day say she was born with a third eye. Amongst the languages she will know over time, besides English and Mandarin, are Esperanto, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Latin, and Russian.
[Serenity. Simon describes River as "a seventeen-year-old girl" at the time of the film, although Commander Harken had earlier described the two of them as "(a)dult siblings" in "Bushwhacked." As with Simon, her place of birth is a safe assumption. Simon talks about how much of a gift River was in "Serenity," while River quotes Simon's claim about how intuitive she is to her interviewer in "R. Tam, Session 1, Excerpt." River is depicted translating a verbal exchange into all of the languages listed in the Serenity novelisation (page 103).]
Hoban Washburne enters flight school, arguably just to see what the hell everyone is talking about regarding the stars in the sky, which he has never seen. At one point, he is laconic there.
["Our Mrs. Reynolds" and "War Stories." Wash finds himself telling Saffron why he thinks he entered flight school, and later tells Mal about his terse tendencies. Although Wash never mentions how old he was at the time, present-day regulations stipulate that one must be at least seventeen years of age to obtain a private pilot certificate, which is a prerequisite for commercial pilot certification.]
Amongst Wash's classmates in flight school is an unhygienic young man known to Wash as Manfred Asbach, although that name is a fake one he created just for flight school, as he wanted to say he is a certified pilot despite being unable to actually fly a ship. He has no actual piloting skill whatsoever but hacks his way into the flight school computers and makes them do what he wants. Every time he enters the simulator, it flies perfectly because he's told it to days earlier; and every time he gets into an actual ship, he's preprogrammed it to do on autopilot precisely what the lesson calls for. Even when he does poorly, as some of the exercises simply cannot be preprogrammed and require actual skill to do right, he hacks into the computers that hold the grades and changes them to perfection. As a result, Asbach is first in their class while Wash is second.
[Serenity novelisation (page 126). Wash recalls these details as part of how he originally encountered Mr. Universe.]
Refusing to believe that someone so inept could beat him out, Wash confronts Asbach at graduation, and he reveals the truth about himself. Wash has two choices, to beat him up or to keep his secret in exchange for occasionally making use of his services, and the latter option strikes him as a better long-term benefit. Wash also reassures himself that second in his class in flight school isn't too bad, all things considered.
[Serenity novelisation (page 127). Wash further remembers how he learned of Mr. Universe's activities at the flight school.]
The only name Asbach will answer to afterwards is "Mr. Universe." In addition to the pilot's certification, he is also an ordained shepherd, a professional planet-diver, and a licenced prospector, though he can perform none of those tasks, either.
[Serenity novelisation (pages 126-127). Wash remembers these facts about Mr. Universe as well, although he would presumably only know of them after the initial confrontation.]
River Tam starts correcting her brother Simon's spelling.
["Safe." Simon tells his parents that River started doing this when she was three.]
There is a call for settlers on Miranda, a world at the far edge of the system. Thirty million people settle there, and the Alliance mixes a chemical called the Pax into the air processors in an effort to curb aggression. The chemical is too effective, with the majority of the population becoming so passive that they eventually die. However, a tenth of one percent of the population have the opposite reaction, becoming uncontrollably violent.
[Serenity. Kaylee remembers the call for settlers "a while back," while Mal and Zoe mention that this was "just before the war."]
The Alliance sends a team to investigate what happened on Miranda, but they are all killed on the planet. One scientist survives long enough to send a message with their findings, along with a few of the images they had recorded of the dead, but she is killed in the midst of sending the signal.
[Serenity. Mal says that the signal is "about twelve years old."]
The Alliance suppresses the secret of their failed experiment on Miranda, along with any record on the Cortex of the planet's existence. Rumour spreads that Miranda is a black rock, where the terraforming didn't hold, and that just a few settlers died.
[Serenity. Mal offers vague recollections of what he's heard about Miranda.]
The central planets of the Core which form the Anglo-Sino Alliance decide that all of the settled planets have to join under their rule.
There is some disagreement on that point.
As a result, the Alliance wages the War to Unite the Planets (or Unification War) to bring those planets under their rule, fighting against the Independent Faction, also known as Browncoats.
[Opening narration. The specific year is seemingly conjecture, but would have to be after the events on Miranda, described as being "just before the war" in Serenity; and before the initial flashback seen in "Safe," as young River makes reference to an "Independent squad," suggesting that the war is already underway. The name of the "War to Unite the Planets" was given in a deleted scene from the episode "Serenity," available on the DVD release of the series and (in rough form) on the Firefly website; while the name "Unification War" is given on the Serenity website. It is likely that the Independents would have a different name for the war...but then, history is programmed by the winners.]
Malcolm Reynolds joins the war as a soldier on the side of the Independents, attaining the rank of sergeant in the 57th Overlanders unit of the Balls and Bayonets Brigade, under the command of Colonel Orbrin. Over time, Sergeant Reynolds gains a reputation for inspiring loyalty in people.
[Opening narration, "Serenity," "Bushwhacked," and "The Message." Mal describes himself as one of "a few idiots" who tried to fight the Alliance, while both Badger and Commander Harken mention his rank. The name of Mal's brigade, also mentioned by Badger, may not be what it was formally called (suggesting a sobriquet similar to that of the Iron Brigade in the American Civil War), but an information screen in a deleted scene from Serenity, available on the DVD release of the film, gives this name as well. According to "Bushwhacked," Mal's tendency to inspire loyalty is well-known enough to be indicated in the Alliance's record on him. Colonel Orbrin is mentioned in "The Message."]
Amongst those Browncoats who fight alongside Mal are Corporal Zoe Alleyne (also part of the 57th Overlanders), Lieutenant Ben Baker, Bendis (also in the 57th), Bourke, Sergeant DeLorenzo, Green/Grin (from Sergeant DeLorenzo's platoon), Johannsen, Kiri, McAvoy (also in the 57th), Monty, Tedesco, Private Tracey, and Vitelli.
["Serenity," "Bushwhacked," "Trash," "The Message," the Serenity DVD, and the Serenity novelisation (pages 5-6, 15-16, and 176). Mal and Zoe are seen fighting together onscreen, though Zoe also tells Commander Harken that she "fought with a lot of people in the war." In the same deleted scene from Serenity referred to above, an information screen shows Zoe's rank and indicates that her unit was the same as Mal's. Lieutenant Baker, Bendis, and Green are casualties of the Battle of Serenity Valley, as shown in the episode "Serenity," though the Serenity novelisation gives Baker a first name and refers to the character named Green (per the subtitles on the Firefly DVD) by the nickname Grin. The Serenity novelisation also names Sergeant DeLorenzo, McAvoy, Johannsen, and Tedesco as casualties, and Bourke and Kiri as survivors, of the same battle. Monty is described by Saffron as a "war buddy" in "Trash." Tracey is seen and Vitelli is mentioned in "The Message."]
Jayne Cobb does not join in the conflict, as the pay isn't good enough on either side.
["The Train Job." Jayne notes that he "didn't fight in no war." The idea that this was because of pay comes from the Serenity novelisation (page 62).]
Alliance ships of this era use a particular landing sequence and set of dummy identification codes which the Browncoats become familiar with, though some ships will continue to use them years later.
["Better Days." Zoe tells Mal that Ephraim Sanda's ship has landed on Pelorum using these same methods "from the war."]
Mal acquires an antique gun that will get him through the war, and that he will ultimately keep afterwards.
["Those Left Behind." Mal recalls the gun as "one of only two things" that stuck with him after the war, although he does not specify exactly when he acquired it.]
On his first tour, a piece of shrapnel tears up a nerve cluster in Mal's back, so he has it moved.
[Serenity. Mal describes this event to The Operative.]
At the Tam Estate on Osiris, young Simon Tam is doing homework, while his sister is trying to play a war game with him, telling him offhand that his textbook is wrong. Their father arrives on the scene and speaks to Simon about his homework, as well as Simon's desire for a dedicated source box to access the Cortex. His father says he forbids it--but also that Simon's mother has already ordered one for him, much to Simon's delight. The deal, Simon is told, is that he will repay his father by becoming a brilliant doctor.
["Safe." These events are shown in flashback, and the onscreen caption indicates this happened "11 Years Ago."]
Merciless cannibalistic killers known as Reavers begin appearing at the edges of the system, "like the bogeyman from stories." Not knowing their origins, the general populace comes to think of this as the natural consequence of humanity pushing out further every year--some men go savage on the edge of space after being too long removed from civilisation. They have no philosophy, having forgotten how to be men, and some believe that they became nothingness itself when confronted with the nothing at the edge of the galaxy. However, Reavers are only the stuff of campfire stories to most people, and no Alliance government ever confirms their existence, so many do not believe they really exist. Legend has it that if Reavers take a ship, they will rape its crew to death, eat their flesh, and sew their skins into their clothing--and if the crew is very, very lucky, they will do it in that order.
["Serenity," "Bushwhacked," and Serenity. In the film, Jayne mentions that Reavers have been showing up over "the last ten years," though they presumably started heading out from Miranda soon after the Pax had its effect on them. Zoe assures Simon that Reavers are more than just stories, and describes what they are capable of doing, in the episode "Serenity;" while Mal and Book later discuss the humanity, or lack thereof, of the Reavers themselves in "Bushwhacked." Kaylee also quotes Book's observations in the film. Interestingly enough, Reavers are always described specifically as men, so it is unclear if there are actually Reaver women.]
Simon Tam enters the best MedAcad on Osiris.
["Serenity." Simon describes the quality of the institution to the crew. Simon's path through medical school is assumed to be roughly analogous to the present-day US method of becoming a doctor, though it is also assumed that he undertook both his undergraduate and medical studies at the same academy. It is unclear exactly how old he was when he began on this path, but one can imagine that he was fairly quick to keep his promise to his father.]
Mal and Zoe's platoon is stuck in a trench outside of New Kashmir during the winter campaign for more than a week, while the Alliance is entrenched less than ten yards away. With no ammo to speak of and no orders, the platoon gets to talking to the Alliance soldiers, yelling across insults and jokes. Ten minutes after mentioning that they are out of rations, a bunch of apples rain into their trench. The captain tells them to wait, but they are so hungry that they start eating immediately--not realising that the apples contain Griswalds, grenades about the size of a battery which respond to pressure. Though the grenades don't make much noise, three guys get their heads blown off, leaving bodies which just end at the ribcage. From that point on, Mal and Zoe always cut their fresh fruit before eating it.
["War Stories." Zoe tells this story to Kaylee to explain why she and Mal never just munch on fruit, although it is unclear which winter she is referring to.]
Alliance bioweapons expert Durran Haymer targets neighbourhoods with valuables, wipes out every living soul without damaging the goods he is after, then goes in and takes whatever he wants. Haymer becomes one of the biggest collectors of Earth-That-Was artifacts in the universe this way, with warehouses full of items, but his prize piece is the Lassiter--one of only two known to still exist--which he was lucky enough to pick up for nothing. He eventually obtains a private estate on Bellerophon and exhibits the Lassiter in his parlour along with other artifacts from his collection.
["Trash." Saffron describes Haymer's history, indicating how he obtained the Lassiter. She only offers that this practice took place "during the war," without mentioning a more specific time or place. Amongst the other items glimpsed in Haymer's collection are several classical paintings, a grandfather clock, a model sailing ship, an early payphone, and an entire telephone booth, though it is unclear how or why the last item would've been taken off Earth-That-Was in the first place.]
Colonel Orbrin gets dead drunk and spends three hours "pissing on" about the enlisted men under his command--saying they're scum and that they're not fighters--before passing right out. No one is able to even move him, so Private Tracey takes the opportunity to snip off his walrussy, waxed up moustache, which the colonel is extremely proud of. When the colonel wakes up the next morning, he is furious to discover it is gone, but he can't simply say, "Someone stole my moustache," so he calls together all of the platoons, fiercely eyeballing all the men without saying a word. They think he's going to shoot them, but he finally comes up to Tracey, who has glued on the moustache and is staring the colonel down while wearing it on his own face.
["The Message." Mal and Zoe share this story with Inara in the midst of reminiscing about Tracey, although they do not mention precisely when it took place during the war. It is unclear exactly how Tracey got through this predicament, although he seems to have a knack for getting out of difficult situations.]
The Battle of Sturges is fought in space, leaving many shipwrecks in its aftermath. It will become notoriously well-known, considered by some to be the bloodiest, shortest battle in the entire war, with many lives "snuffed in a blink." Unbeknownst to the general public, the battle is actually fought over a stash of money.
["Those Left Behind." Badger brings up the battle and its reputation, though Mal contends "it was a distant second" in terms of casualties. I have assumed that Badger is telling the truth about the reasons for the battle.]
A shepherd says to Mal that the Biblical commandment is not, "You will not kill," as it is often mistranslated, but in fact, "You will not commit murder."
[Serenity novelisation (page 9). At the time of the Battle of Serenity Valley, Mal recollects that this happened "round a year or so back."]
Hoban Washburne spends six weeks on a moon where the principal form of recreation is juggling geese, particularly goslings.
["Our Mrs. Reynolds." Wash tells Zoe this happened "about a year before (they) met."]
The Battle of Du-Khang is fought. In the ruins of a Buddhist temple, Private Tracey is nearly killed by an Alliance soldier sneaking up on his position, but Zoe gets behind the soldier and slits his throat. Zoe berates Tracey for letting his guard down and forgetting about stealth--and at that moment, Mal charges onto the scene, shooting wildly and yelling about where he is before taking cover. The Independents are overmatched, and Tracey tells his superiors that "this rock" isn't worth their lives. Zoe asks Mal if they're to hold, and Mal decides to cover for their shell-shocked lieutenant by inventing an order from him to join up with the 22nd. Zoe and Tracey go along with this, and Zoe is ready to round up the troops, when a seeker comes in. Mal uses a decoy so that the seeker explodes above them, but shrapnel rains down and injures Tracey, making him unable to walk. Mal carries him off as the Alliance forces roll into the temple.
["The Message." These events are shown in flashback, and the onscreen caption indicates this happened "Seven Years Earlier," but this must have taken place before the Battle of Serenity Valley, at which Mal and Zoe were also present. Although it may not seem like this was intended to be set so close to the end of the war, the dating of the episode itself leaves no other interpretation, and the scene does convey a sense of the Browncoats being on the verge of "inevitable crushing defeat."]
The Battle of Serenity Valley is fought on Hera. It is among the most devastating and decisive battles of the war, as the valley is considered a key position by both sides, and it is bitterly fought over. The Alliance says they are going to waltz through the valley, but the Independent Faction, with sixteen brigades and twenty air-tank squads, do not make victory easy for them, holding the valley against Alliance forces for almost two months.
["Serenity," the Firefly DVD, and the Firefly website. Mal tells the other Browncoats about the Alliance's claim, saying that they "choked them with those words." A deleted scene from "Serenity," available on the DVD release of the series and (in rough form) on the Firefly website, provides additional details about the battle.]
Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds is stationed on Hera and in command of thirty-odd grunts, including Zoe Alleyne. Five days into the battle, there are so many officers dead that he commands two thousand, and he keeps all of them together, fighting, and sane. The Browncoats are forced to pile up the bodies of fellow soldiers and friends to build a wall because they have no cover, while blood just keeps pouring out of them. The survivors slip in it half the time, finding out that "bloodbath" is not just a figure of speech.
[Firefly DVD and website. In the same deleted scene, Zoe tells Simon about the role she and Mal played in the battle, though they "didn't turn the tide of glorious history."]
Superior numbers and a brilliant deep-flank strategy by General Richard Wilkins begin to turn the tide at Serenity Valley in the Alliance's favour.
[Firefly DVD and website. The same deleted scene indicates that this changed the course of the battle. Along with its use here, Richard Wilkins is the name of the Mayor of Sunnydale who served as the main villain in the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, also created by Joss Whedon.]
Malcolm Reynolds's unit holds while waiting for air support from the 82nd, which never arrives. As a result, the Alliance overwhelms the battleground with their firepower.
["Serenity." These events are shown in flashback, and the onscreen caption indicates that the present-day events of the episode occur "Six Years Later."]
Nearly half a million people lie dead on the field at the end of the battle, about a third of them on the side of the Alliance; Malcolm Reynolds himself has maybe four hundred grunts still intact. Although the fighting is over, both sides leave their survivors there--wounded and sick and "near to mad as can still walk and talk"--while they negotiate the peace, and those soldiers keep dying.
[Firefly DVD and website. In the same deleted scene referred to earlier, Zoe also describes the aftermath of the battle.]
After a week of negotiations, a peace agreement is reached, with the Independents surrendering to Alliance forces.
["The Train Job," the Firefly DVD, and the Firefly website. Lund says it was "(s)ix years today (that) the Alliance sent the Browncoats running." In the same deleted scene referred to earlier, Zoe tells Simon that they were left at Serenity Valley for a week while both sides negotiated the peace, so I have taken Unification Day to be the day those negotiations were finalised, providing an official end to the war.]
All of the settled worlds are united as a result of the peace agreement and the Anglo-Sino Alliance, which had originally formed on Earth-That-Was, comes to be formally known as the Union of Allied Planets. It is considered by some to be the dawn of a new galaxy.
[Opening narration and "The Train Job." The notion of "the Allied Planets" is first mentioned in "The Train Job," while the full name of the Alliance is stated in "Ariel." The Serenity website, however, refers to both the "AngloSino Alliance" and the "Universal Alliance" in the same paragraph, causing further potential confusion. The idea that one Alliance replaced the other is somewhat conjectural (suggesting a political evolution along the lines of the League of Nations giving way to the United Nations after World War II), but it would help explain the two names given for the Alliance, and why it was called the "War to Unite the Planets" to begin with.]
The duty status of both Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds and Corporal Zoe Alleyne at the end of the war is that of a "NonTrialed Browncoat," though Mal is also awarded a valour commendation for his actions in the Battle of Serenity Valley.
[Serenity and the Serenity DVD. An information screen viewed by The Operative in the film lists Mal's commendation, though it is unclear who would be left amongst the Independents at this point to give out such an honour; while a deleted scene available on the DVD release of the film includes different information screens which list Mal and Zoe's status.]
Radicals within the Independent ranks dub themselves Dust Devils and keep fighting after their side has stood down, treating civilian militia like they were still soldiers despite not bothering to wear uniforms. Some consider them terrorists who kill a lot of good people, making it that much harder for a unified peace to take hold; but "Dust Devils" is spoken with pride on the rim, where others consider them local heroes or simply "strong-minded folk."
["Better Days." Ephraim explains the nature of the Dust Devils to Inara, while Mal later gives his own definition of them to her, indicating they operated "mostly just after" the war. Jayne also describes the Dust Devils as terrorists when the crew discusses them.]
Although Mal had been a volunteer, and thus "took it personal" and "shut down some" when the Browncoat brass gave up the cause, he never becomes a Dust Devil. Zoe does so, however, as she still considers herself just a soldier, one of the fighting soldiers who happened to call themselves "peacemakers."
["Better Days." Zoe tells the crew who was a Dust Devil and who wasn't. Her description suggests that she and Mal were still in some sort of contact during this period, despite choosing separate paths immediately after the war.]
Ten Dust Devils mount an attack on an Alliance tank, though one Alliance soldier can't believe it when their eye in the sky registers only ten hostiles. An explosive is dropped into the tank, blowing it up and throwing Ephraim Sanda clear of the vehicle with someone standing over him.
["Better Days." These events are shown in a brief flashback, apparently being recounted by Ephraim to four other men under his command in the present day. Given the revelations later in this story, the figure standing over Ephraim is implied to be Zoe.]
The Dust Devils eventually scatter, but the Alliance gets a bead on a few now and again, and they want it known that those crimes are never forgiven, so they send former Alliance soldiers turned Special Ops agents such as Ephraim to "not forgive." Since these agents consider them terrorists and war criminals, the war is not over in their eyes until every last Dust Devil is hunted down and executed.
["Better Days." Ephraim details his duties to Inara, and later reiterates his take on the Dust Devils to those under his command. Zoe was already more directly associated with Mal (who was explicitly not a Dust Devil) when he purchased Serenity, so the Dust Devils would've presumably scattered before then.]
A con artist going by the name Yolanda marries Durran Haymer and actually tries to build a life with him, thinking that he is a decent man, "the genuine article." He has money, which she believes will help keep her from straying, but she eventually disappears the same day as Heinrich, Haymer's young security programmer. She does not marry or kill Heinrich, but puts him in a position to die easily, and in time, she forgets his name.
["Trash." Saffron describes her actions to Mal, though it is unknown how long she spent with Haymer before deciding to leave.]
Haymer suspects that Yolanda and Heinrich may have left together, because he had seen the two of them talking, but thinks otherwise when Heinrich's body is found. He never stops looking for his wife, though they only find her shuttle.
["Trash." Haymer says it has been six years from the day Yolanda/Saffron's shuttle was found, and Mal later mentions the six-year figure as well. One can assume that Saffron's version of what happened to her, as told to Haymer, is fabricated.]
Bored one day, River Tam decides to create an entire language called Tobrik. To make it a special challenge, she requires that the language not have the verb "to be," which is fine right up until she tries to translate Hamlet.
[Serenity novelisation (page 103). River remembers that she made up the tongue "when she was eleven." In its lack of the verb "to be," and the consequent difficulty in translating Shakespeare, her constructed language is similar to Klingon.]
An older salesman attempts to sell Malcolm Reynolds a certain used ship in a shipyard, extolling its virtues and noting how smart a purchase it is, but Mal hardly hears a word he says, as in the distance, a midbulk transport ship with a standard radion-accelerator core (classcode 03-K64, Firefly) has caught his eye. He ultimately purchases that ship.
["Out of Gas." These events are shown in flashback. The precise classification of the ship is given by River in "The Train Job," though Book also referred to it as "an aught-three" in "Serenity."]
Mal opens up the doors to his newly-bought ship to show it off for Zoe Alleyne, who thinks it's a deathtrap and is surprised he even paid money for it. He tries to sell her on what it can be for them--freedom from the long arm of the Alliance--but Zoe calls him on the fact that the ship isn't running now. Mal assures her that it will, telling her he already has a name picked out for it.
["Out of Gas." These events are shown in flashback. On the DVD commentary for the episode, writer Tim Minear and director David Solomon indicate that this took place "five years ago."]
Mal names his new Firefly vessel Serenity.
[Conjecture. Assumes Mal would've dedicated the name of the ship soon after having that name picked out.]
Mal hires Bester, a "genius mechanic," as one of his crew, in part to make Serenity operational.
["Out of Gas." Mal had not hired any of his crew at the time of the previous flashback, but Bester is already aboard by the time he and Zoe meet Wash.]
Hoban Washburne, a moustached pilot, assures Mal and Zoe that with a few modifications, it shouldn't be a problem to "get some real manoeuvrability" out of Serenity. Mal asks if that means he'll take the job, and Wash replies that it just might, so Mal tells him to make himself at home whilst they leave the bridge. Mal is pleased with Wash, but Zoe doesn't like him--something about him bothers her. Mal tells her that it's about time they hire a qualified pilot now that they finally have a mechanic, just as that mechanic, Bester, walks by.
["Out of Gas." These events are shown in flashback. This is assumed to take place fairly soon after the previous flashback, as it appears Serenity has yet to leave the planet where Mal purchased it.]
Although Wash could take a lot of jobs (such as piloting a cruiser, with full benefits, vacations, and less death-defying), he will ultimately stay with Serenity because of his feeling for Zoe and his desire to be around her.
["Those Left Behind." Wash tells Mal that he does "all manner of stupid things" so he can keep the woman he loves nearby. In the letter column for Better Days #1, a quoted comment from Joss Whedon reinforces the idea that since Wash met Zoe "as he checked out the ship...he could have taken the job 'cause of her."]
Mal hears tell that a couple of Browncoats who had disappeared wound up on Haven, and when he follows them to find out what happened, it turns out that the mining community there is willing to harbour the occasional fugitive for a small price. Since Mal has a ship, he offers to provide them with a ferry service on those occasions when it is required.
[Serenity novelisation (page 137). Mal recalls that he "first came across Haven shortly after he acquired Serenity." Given that Mal was capable of both tracking down the Browncoats in question and offering the services of his ship, this presumably took place after Serenity was running properly.]
Amongst the many characters the Serenity crew will deal with in the course of their travels are Horowitz, the Holden boys, Capshaw, and Gruvick.
["Serenity." At the Eavesdown Docks, Zoe and Mal "go through the list" of their contacts, noting that Horowitz can't afford their cargo, the Holden boys "wouldn't touch it," Capshaw has "been brain-blown," and Gruvick is dead because his town "got hit by Reavers" who burned it down. Nothing is known of the nature of these encounters or when they took place, so Mal and Zoe could have had these adventures at any time after the ship was fully operational.]
The crew of Serenity have "a perfectly legitimate conflict of interest" over salvage rights with Patience on Whitefall, the fourth moon of Athens. In the course of that conflict, certain words are exchanged, along with certain bullets, and Patience shoots Mal.
["Serenity." Mal only says it's been "a long time" since this happened. Zoe and Wash mention this incident as well, and Patience is surprised that Zoe is still sailing with Mal, but the shooting script for "Serenity" indicates that Jayne does not know who Patience is, so this could have taken place at any point when those three were a part of the crew but Jayne was not yet aboard.]
Over time, Patience comes to own half of Whitefall, just about becoming mayor.
["Serenity." Mal says that Patience "owns half that damn moon now," and she later confirms her own rise in status there.]
Zoe Alleyne marries Hoban Washburne, disobeying Mal's order to the contrary. Their marriage ceremony does not call for Zoe to swear obedience to Wash.
["War Stories." Mal and Wash argue about this in Niska's Skyplex. The marriage is assumed to have taken place fairly soon after they met, especially since Kaylee automatically thinks of Wash as being married to Zoe in "The Message," implying that she has never known that not to be the case. On the DVD commentary for "Shindig," costume designer Shawna Trpcic indicates that the cord around Zoe's neck is a symbol of her marriage bond to Wash, but in "Out of Gas," we see that she was already wearing it before she even met him. Mal does not say why he was against the marriage, and no other details of the wedding are known.]
Nandi is at practice, playing a baroque piece on the dulcimer, and the instructor keeps saying to her, "You're playing it, not feeling it." The fifth time he says it, she takes the dulcimer and smashes it into kindling, which is when it occurs to her that a Companion's life might just be a little too constricting for her. As a result, she chooses to leave Sihnon.
["Heart of Gold." Nandi tells Mal that "(i)t was the dulcimer" which drove her away from being a Companion. The exact timing of her departure is unclear, as Nandi only says she "was gone long before" Inara was. It could have taken place earlier or later than this, but Nandi mentions that Inara looks "exactly the same as the day (she) left," and this date allows Inara to be at least an adult at the time in question.]
House Madrassa orders Inara Serra to shun Nandi when she leaves, even though they are friends, and Nandi is aware of this.
["Heart of Gold." Nandi says to Inara that she knows about the order, which is why "(t)he House would tell (her) not to come" to her aid.]
Nandi trucks out to the border, learns to say "ain't," and comes to a moon run by Rance Burgess to find work. Instead, she finds a dung heap of a bordello, poweredly cheaply with solar sheeting and run by "a pig" who has half the girls strung out on drops. There is no Guild out there, they let the men run the Houses, and they don't ask for references, so she and this man do not get along.
["Heart of Gold." Nandi describes what she found to Mal, while Kaylee explains to Jayne the reason why the bordello "looks like a frozen dinner pack."]
Nandi disposes of the man running the bordello and takes control of the Heart of Gold, along with the unregistered girls and boys who work there, including Chari, Emma, Helen, Lucy, and Petaline. In time, she cuts a piece of territory out of other men's hands, building the business up from nothing.
["Heart of Gold." The girls who are named all appear in the episode. Nandi mentions that "it took (her) years" to develop the bordello into what it is, and when Mal asks her what became of the man, she merely replies that "he ain't playin' the dulcimer anymore."]
Kaylee Frye has an encounter with someone who is younger than he seems--so much so that she thinks he must've been some kind of genetic experiment, as she is very surprised to discover he is only fourteen years old when his folks come by to fetch him. She is "whupped hard" by her father as punishment.
["Objects in Space." Kaylee tells River this story as they're playing jacks. This had to have happened while Kaylee was still living with her family, but given how she tells the story, she was presumably punished for being significantly older than the guy in question.]
Jayne Cobb partners up with Stitch Hessian.
["Jaynestown." Stitch says they ran together for six months before the robbery on Higgins' Moon, although the circumstances by which they came to work together are unknown.]
Malcolm Reynolds finds himself in an Alliance-friendly bar, "looking for a quiet drink," and ends up in a barfight. He will continue to find himself in this situation every year on U-Day.
["The Train Job." Zoe says this "always" seems to happen "come U-Day," so it has presumably been going on at least as long as Mal has owned Serenity. In order for Zoe to be justified in this observaion, it would have to happen on enough occasions to constitute a habit.]
Jayne Cobb and Stitch Hessian arrive in Canton, a town on Higgins' Moon, and after standing up to Magistrate Higgins, Jayne brings Stitch in on a robbery which he has planned. Together, they steal a hovercraft from the magistrate and pull a second-storey on his estate, robbing strongboxes containing sixty thousand in untraceable currency from his safe. They get away clean, but the hovercraft is tagged by anti-aircraft fire, causing it to lose altitude and forcing them to dump the fuel reserve, the life support, and even the seats in an attempt to stay airborne. With the shuttle at thirty feet, only Jayne, Stitch, and the money are left, so Jayne pushes Stitch himself out, costing Stitch one of his eyes. After tossing Stitch, however, the shuttle continues to go down, and Jayne finally dumps the strongboxes as well, accidentally dropping them on the mudders in Canton's town square.
["Jaynestown." The full story of Jayne and Stitch's robbery is revealed over the course of the episode, with Jayne, Stitch, and Magistrate Higgins offering different facets of it. The nature of Jayne's initial confrontation with the magistrate isn't specified, but Fess Higgins makes reference to witnessing it himself, and the people of Canton are all personally familiar with Jayne. It is also unclear what they were stealing "sixty thousand" of, as various forms of currency are referenced during the series, including "credits" and "platinum."]
Although Jayne manages to escape, Stitch is immediately captured by Magistrate Higgins, who has him locked up in a steaming hotbox.
["Jaynestown." Stitch says that he's "spent the last four years" in that box, clarifying the specific timeframe of the original robbery.]
After discovering the fate of his money, Magistrate Higgins sends his prods into Canton to take it back from the mudders, but they resist, and there are too many to put down, so in the end, he simply calls it a bonus.
["Jaynestown." A young mudder tells Jayne what happened after he left.]
Believing that Jayne dropped the money into Canton's town square deliberately, the mudders celebrate him as a folk hero, writing a song about his exploits called "The Hero of Canton" and erecting a statue of him in the square. Magistrate Higgins rolls into Canton, wanting to tear the statue down, but the whole town riots as a result. In time, the legend of The Hero of Canton even spreads to other worlds.
["Jaynestown" and "Better Days." The young mudder also recounts these events to Jayne, though it is only assumed the the song was composed around the same time. Based on the statue, it appears Jayne also had a goatee during this period. In "Better Days," a Buddhist monk is surprised that Jayne is real, recognising him just as Jayne is giving the monk a large sum of money, which would no doubt only serve to reinforce the legend.]
Simon Tam graduates from his MedAcad in the top three percent of his class. At 23, he is rather young to be a doctor.
["Serenity." Simon indicates his rank at the school to the crew. The precise timing of his graduation is conjectural, but assumes that he would've gotten through medical school at a somewhat faster pace than a medical student would in the present day, as Kaylee notes how young he seems to have earned this title. This also allows enough time for Simon to complete his internship before he begins having concerns about River, as he is already a surgeon when he first voices his concerns to his parents.]
Mal goes to ask Bester about "yet another delay" and finds him having sex with someone in the engine room. When Mal confronts him about this, Bester tells him that engines "make her hot," and that he can't get them back in the air again anyway, because the secondary grav boot is shot. The girl in question disagrees, even as she's putting her clothes back on; when Bester protests, she persists in her opinion, explaining that it's the reg couple that's bad, and not only points it out for both of them, but fixes it on the spot herself. Impressed by her talent, Mal immediately offers her a job on the ship for as long as she can keep her in the sky. The girl excitedly goes off to ask her folks for permission, and Bester asks Mal what he needs two mechanics for--to which he says that he really doesn't.
["Out of Gas." These events are shown in flashback. The specific date is somewhat arbitrary, as the shooting script for the episode only offers that this was "in a different time," but assumes that Kaylee was old enough that her parents would allow her to head off on her own.]
Bester is kicked off Serenity, while the girl obtains permission from her parents to accept Mal's offer of employment as the ship's mechanic. Mal quickly learns that her name is Kaylee Frye.
["Out of Gas." These events are implied by the flashback and by the fact that Kaylee is indeed the ship's mechanic from this point forward.]
Kaylee paints a floral pattern all around the dining room of Serenity.
[Firefly website. In an interview on the site, executive producer Tim Minear gave this as the contextual answer to who painted the flowers in the first place. The timing is conjecture, and assumes that she did this soon after becoming one of the crew.]
Simon Tam, already a gifted doctor, finishes his internship in eight months, becoming licenced to practice medicine.
["Serenity." Simon tells to the crew how quickly he finished his internship, as this normally takes a year to complete. Present-day guidelines indicate that internship completion is the minimum training requirement for obtaining a medical licence.]
Simon makes surgeon, along with some of his fellow medical graduates. They are now the elite, and the world is theirs, so Simon celebrates by drinking sake, getting naked, and climbing on top of the statue of Hippocrates. There are no Feds until Simon starts singing (possibly the national anthem), but Simon talks (or possibly pays) the Feds out of telling his father.
["Objects in Space." Simon recounts this "morality tale" to Kaylee, noting that "reports vary" and he is "fuzzy on aspects" of some of the details.]
Simon becomes a resident trauma surgeon in one of the best hospitals in Capital City on Osiris, on his way to a major position--possibly even the Medical Elect.
["Serenity" and "Safe." Simon tells Kaylee what his medical position was and where he worked, and Simon's mother mentions his privileged position in flashback when he begins to show concern over what might be happening to River. Given how much more time is required to complete a surgical residency as opposed to an internship, I have assumed that Simon was still a resident when he left Osiris.]
The Tam family is made aware of a government-sponsored academy they had never heard of before where River Tam could be sent to learn. Although they have the money to send her anywhere, this academy has the most exciting and challenging program, and River wants to go, so she is sent there.
["Serenity." Simon describes what happened, telling the crew that River was fourteen at the time. River's mentioning of Capital City without specifying the planet in "R. Tam, Session 1, Excerpt" suggests that the academy may be located on Osiris, and this idea is reinforced by the description of the academy's location as being "on a central planet" in the Serenity novelisation (page 87).]
Simon gets a few letters from his sister at first, but then, he doesn't hear from her for months.
["Serenity." Simon describes how he gradually lost contact with River.]
River Tam is interviewed by someone at the institute she is attending, and this interview is the first of many to be recorded. River tells the interviewer that she likes school, though things sometimes move a little slowly for her; that she is finding Physics a challenge, though she is already in the graduate program, where they call her "Little Mouse;" and that Volger is a little jealous of her because she's so young, as he plans to become very important. The interviewer asks if Volger told her he was jealous, but she indicates that people "tell you things all the time without talking." When the interviewer says that she is very intuitive, River mentions Simon, and how he hates when she can tell which girls he likes, though she also calls him a genius, saying that she could never do what he does. The interviewer assures her that she could do whatever she put her mind to, and tells her that's what the Alliance needs, what this institute is all about--her mind, and letting it do everything it could. The interviewer then asks River if that sounds like something she'd be interested in, to which she simply asks, "Would I still be allowed to dance?"
["R. Tam, Session 1, Excerpt." River tells the interviewer that Simon is "a trauma surgeon in Capital City," so this video clip would have to have been recorded after he made surgeon, although it also seems to be fairly soon after she first entered the academy. The interviewer in these sessions is played by series creator Joss Whedon.]
During another interview at the institute, the interviewer asks River if she understands why "these treatments are important." She tells him that she thinks there's been an error, and that she may not be the right subject for this program. The interviewer responds that it's "perfectly natural to feel a little nervous," but she requests a transfer back to Gen Ed. He responds that she told them that was no good for her, that it was too slow, which is why she is there. River tells the interviewer that it hurts, and he says he can help her with that, noting how proud Doctor Mathias is of how she's progressing, to which she says, "I'm not progressing."
["R. Tam, Session 22, Excerpt." Given how high the session numbers ultimately go, and River's relative lucidity here, this session is assumed to have been recorded somewhat early on in the course of her "treatments" at the academy.]
Later on in that session, River says, "It's the Pax." When the interviewer asks her to tell him what she sees, she describes how he "lost the first one"--he cut too deep, and the first one died on the table. One of his attendants cried, by her description, and he comforted her, saying, "We're doing such good work." The interviewer asks River if she understands that that is true--the work they do there is very important, and she's a part of that--but she responds by asking to see her brother. The interviewer replies that she can write to him anytime she likes, which makes her more upset as she reiterates her request. The interviewer says that he is sure her brother is very busy, at which point River becomes more docile and simply agrees with him.
["R. Tam, Session 22, Excerpt." There is a jump cut in the video clip itself, implying a gap of time between this footage and what is shown immediately beforehand. The placement of this session here also suggests that the interviewer's comments to River after she asks to see Simon may have inspired her to write her coded letters. It is unknown how long ago the interviewer "lost the first one," but he does not question the accuracy of what River sees.]
Simon finally gets another letter from River, but it makes no sense to him, as she talks about things that never happened and jokes they never shared, even misspelling some words. Before long, Simon shows his parents her letters, expressing his concerns that River is trying to tell him something someone doesn't want her to say, but they tell him this is just paranoia and dismiss it, saying he should not risk his career over this.
["Serenity" and "Safe." These events are shown in flashback in the latter episode. Simon's mother indicates that he is already a surgeon at this time and he might "throw all that away" by meddling in River's activities at the Academy.]
In time, Simon manages to deduce that River's letters are a code, simply saying, "They're hurting us. Get me out." Despite his efforts, however, he is unable to get near her.
["Serenity." Simon tells the crew that he was unable to reach River "for two years" before being contacted by the underground movement that got her out. It is quite remarkable that Simon continued to excel in his medical studies amidst these events.]
A woman on Jiangyin goes out of her mind and tries to kill her two daughters, managing to kill one of them. The other daughter, Ruby, survives, but stops talking after that point.
["Safe." Doralee tells Simon what happened, explaining that it was "two years ago."]
Inara Serra leaves Sihnon, reportedly because she wants to "see the universe," although she retains her status as a registered Companion.
["Serenity." Inara gives this reason for leaving to her client, though it is heavily implied in the series that there were deeper reasons for her departure. The timing is somewhat conjectural, but assumes that Inara left soon before we saw her originally renting her shuttle from Mal.]
Nandi is shocked to learn of Inara's leaving, as Inara could have been House Priestess in a few years time, and does not know why she did so.
["Heart of Gold." Nandi reveals this to Mal after asking if Inara ever told him why she left.]
In the course of River Tam's modifications at the academy, the institute's doctors open up her skull, leaving a scalpel scar, and make repeated incisions into her brain--even though it is healthy and this would normally be done only to lobotomise a person and remove damaged tissue. They strip her amygdala, a filter in the brain that keeps one's feelings in check when one does not want to feel scared or worried or nervous. As a result, River now feels everything, as she can no longer push these feelings to the back of her mind.
["Ariel." While looking at her scan in the neuroimager at St Lucy's Hospital, Simon tells Jayne what he can infer about what was done to River. Although the incisions were no doubt an ongoing process at the academy, the placement of this here suggests that the stripping of her amygdala is what River is referring to in "R. Tam, Session 165, Excerpt" when she tells the interviewer that he, or they, "cut it out."]
During an interview at the institute, River is ranting about why she's not sleeping, saying that she has a system, and that her mattress can't be trusted, it has to be gutted. She asks the interviewer if he's worried that she cut up her mattress for no reason, or if she had a perfectly good reason that he can't see. The interviewer simply asks her why she cut up her mattress, and she replies that she is trying to protect her spine. He asks River if she is worried she might be injured, noting that her movement trainers have given her excellent marks, but she replies that no one will give her a mission. When the interviewer asks about that, she says she has a reason--she is reasonable.
["R. Tam, Session 165, Excerpt." Besides the various indications in this video clip that River has been further modified at the academy, I have placed this session here on the assumption that the sessions occurred at regularly spaced intervals during her time there.]
Later on in that session, River angrily says that her movement hasn't been dictated yet, but she is not there for nothing. She tells the interviewer that he knows she has a spine, adding that there is "something wrong with the body politic." Later still, River screams and grabs at the table in front of her, gasping that something is sticking in her--that it's in the mattress and it's crawling inside her--before yelling, "You cut it out! You cut it out! You cut it out!"
["R. Tam, Session 165, Excerpt." There are jump cuts in the video clip itself, implying gaps of time between each segment of footage and what is shown immediately beforehand.]
Malcolm Reynolds shows one of Serenity's shuttles to Inara Serra, a registered Companion and potential renter. She is interested, but insists on a number of conditions--complete autonomy and privacy, an understanding that she won't service him or anyone in his employ, and some measure of assurance that when she makes an appointment with a client, she is in a position to keep that appointment. Mal says he'll take all that into consideration, but she tells him she already knows he'll rent the shuttle to her--for one quarter less than his asking price--because she can bring a certain respectability to his ship that others can't. He questions why she is even there, and what she could be running from, but she ducks the question, and adds that he does not get to call her a whore. Mal promises that he won't do so ever again.
["The Train Job," "Bushwhacked," and "Out of Gas." In "The Train Job," Inara tells Book she has been on the ship "eight months now," while in "Bushwhacked," she tells Commander Harken that "(i)n a few weeks, it will be a year" since she came aboard. These events are finally shown in flashback in "Out of Gas."]
In time, Inara will call Mal by names which are worse than "whore."
["Serenity." Inara assures Book that she has done this.]
Jayne Cobb; his boss, Marco Ferlinghetti; and another lackey are holding guns on Mal and Zoe. The three want to know where Mal and Zoe have hidden some goods, but they won't say, and Mal offers Jayne a better cut than the seven percent straight off the top he gets now--along with his own room and full run of the kitchen--if he switches over to his crew. When Marco shouts at him, Jayne shoots him in the leg, trains his gun on the lackey, and keeps talking to Mal, ultimately accepting his offer.
["Our Mrs. Reynolds" and "Out of Gas." These events are shown in flashback in the latter episode. In "Our Mrs. Reynolds," Mal tells Jayne he is "not the man (he) met a year ago." Although he says this in the midst of a ruse, there is no reason to think the date reference is inaccurate. Marco's last name comes from the Serenity novelisation (page 45).]
Inara undergoes a physical examination on a Core world in order to renew her Companion registration, as required by Guild law. It goes as expected.
["Ariel." Inara explains to Wash that all Companions have to do this once a year, and later tells Kaylee that the outcome of her current "check-up" was the "(s)ame as last year." It seems redundant that Inara would have to explain this requirement, however, as she was already attached to Serenity at the time of this examination.]
Atherton Wing engages Inara Serra's services at least once with Malcolm Reynolds's knowledge, though Mal never actually sees him. Mal pictures him as older than he actually is.
["Shindig." Mal recognises Atherton's name as that of "a regular," but has never seen what he looks like before the episode.]
A carrier run by a skeleton crew blows out, killing all hands. The wreckage is left adrift, although the derelict transport has a cargo of at least three crates containing pure, genuine A-grade foodstuffs made up of protein, vitamins, and immunisation supplements. One bar of these foodstuffs will feed a family for a month or more, but there is a government stamp imprinted on every molecule, making the cargo worth only two hundred in platinum.
["Serenity." An officer on the Dortmunder says the carrier blew out "a few months back." Badger first mentions the government stamp to Mal, while Mal later describes the exact nature of the "treasure" and its discounted value to Patience.]
During an interview at the institute, the interviewer notes to River Tam that she is very quiet today, and asks how her session with Doctor Mathias went. She tells him that Doctor Mathias gave her a mission, and the interviewer asks if he told River her mission out loud or if she just heard it, to which she responds that "he plays hide and seek" with her. When the interviewer checks if she meant Doctor Mathias, she says that her brother is a doctor, that he thinks he can find her, but she is "deep down" and does not make a sound. The interviewer asks River what mission Doctor Mathias gave her, but she says she can't tell him, and the interviewer replies that she can tell him anything, she knows that. She repeats that she can't tell, then holds out her hand and says she'll "have to write it down."
["R. Tam, Session 416, First Excerpt." I have placed this session here on the assumption that it occurs late in River's time at the academy, and River's statement that Simon "thinks he can find (her)" supports the idea that she can sense he is close to locating her.]
Later on in the recording of that session, the interviewer is sitting alone at a table when he suddenly begins to gasp and choke. He reaches up with his hand and pulls a bloody pen from his neck, throwing it onto the table, before gasping again and falling to the floor. At that point, River appears directly in front of the recording device, holding up her own bloodied hand to a transparent barrier and saying, "I can see you."
["R. Tam, Session 416, Second Excerpt." The numbering of the video clips themselves indicates that this second excerpt would follow immediately after the first, though their separation also suggests some gap of time between them.]
Serenity has two jobs that do not pay well enough for the crew to put together any savings, followed by weeks without work.
["Serenity." Jayne complains that they "ain't had a job in weeks," while Mal indicates that their last two jobs were "weak tea," leaving the ship and its crew in a precarious financial situation.]
Simon Tam is contacted by some men from an underground movement, who tell him that his sister River is in danger, as the government is "playing with her brain." They indicate that if he funds them, they can sneak her out in cryo and get her to Persephone, from which he can take her wherever he'd like.
["Serenity." Simon tells the crew how he was able to get River out. There are no other known details about who composed this underground movement, or how they were aware of what was happening at the academy.]
Simon is arrested for being in a blackout zone on Osiris, though he was only talking to someone who might be able to help River. His father, Gabriel Tam, is called away from a dinner party to bail him out, paying two thousand credits to do so, but having to walk through the door of the facility where Simon is being held goes on Gabriel's permanent profile. He tells Simon that if this continues, he won't come for him again, and asks if Simon is coming home. Simon does not answer.
["Safe." These events are shown in flashback. It is unclear whether this incident was a result of the first contact between Simon and the underground movement, but Simon's father seems to indicate that this is part of a pattern of behaviour. This arrest may have been the source of Simon's mugshot, seen in "Objects in Space."]
Simon goes back to the blackout zone and accepts the offer from the underground movement. In turn, they are successful in getting River to him as promised. Once the Alliance becomes aware of his sneaking her out, however, they crash his accounts. Amongst the things Simon is able to bring with him is a medkit containing valuable medicines such as ivoprovalyn (a common immune booster), propoxin, and hydrozapam.
[Shortly before "Serenity," as Simon is first seen on Persephone with River in tow. Kaylee mentions to Jayne in "The Train Job" that Simon is "not rich" because the Alliance crashed his accounts, while in "Safe," Simon tells his father that he is "going right back" to the blackout zone where he was arrested. Simon lists some of the medicines he had when he came onboard, along with their street value, in "Ariel;" one of these, ivoprovalyn, is also mentioned on the Serenity website.]
Simon acquires a set of glasses with lenses resistant to retina-scanning sensors.
["Better Days." Mal and Simon discuss the nature of his glasses, with Simon reminding Mal that "(t)hey got me aboard your ship just fine" in "Serenity." He may have acquired them earlier than this, but he is not seen with them during the escape sequence in Serenity.]
Badger becomes aware of the derelict transport with a cargo of foodstuffs onboard, and he hires the crew of Serenity to pull this illegal salvage. Although he is aware of the goods, however, he does not realise that they are imprinted by the Alliance.
[Shortly before "Serenity," as the present-day events of the episode begin with the salvage underway. Badger mentions the illegality of the job when he quotes the bulletin which came up on the Cortex, with the implication being that said bulletin is his first indication of the Alliance stamp on the cargo.]
Shepherd Derrial Book of the Southdown Abbey, who has been "out of the world for a spell," decides to walk it a while, and perhaps bring the Word to those who need it told. He brings along what he can from the garden he had at the abbey.
[Shortly before "Serenity," as Book is first seen on Persephone looking for passage on a ship, and he tells Inara he's "been out of the abbey two days" at the end of the episode. Book explains his reasons for leaving the abbey to Kaylee, although the full story of his life as a preacher is unknown, and he later tells Zoe about the garden to explain why he has fresh fruit with him.]
The Alliance sends Lawrence Dobson undercover to track down Simon and River Tam, as River is considered a precious commodity worth a great deal of money.
[Shortly before "Serenity," as Dobson boards Serenity at the same time as Simon and Book, while he would have presumably had Simon bound by law earlier if he'd had the opportunity to do so.]
[As with the other episodes in the series, the dating of "Serenity" is a rough estimate, working back from the specific date given in "Our Mrs. Reynolds" (discussed in further detail under said episode). In this case, it is assumed to take place only a short time before "The Train Job," and the episode itself spans approximately two days. The very first Blue Sun logo seen in the series appears on the Crybaby, which seems to have been made from a can of Blue Sun coffee. Blue Sun logos are also visible on crates at the Eavesdown Docks on Persephone.]
Jayne shaves off his goatee, but immediately allows it to start growing back.
[Conjecture. In "Serenity," Jayne has a full goatee, while in "The Train Job," he has just a faint hint of one. It is unclear what would motivate him to make this particular grooming choice.]
"The Train Job"
[Again, this episode is assumed to take place very shortly after "Serenity," and the moon seen at the beginning of this episode may even be where the crew was headed at the end of that one. The crew are also seen still dealing with issues from that episode--Kaylee is still asking for a compression coil, for example, and the crew speaks of Simon and River as if they have only recently come aboard the ship. The onscreen caption "2517 A.D." during the opening narration indicates the year in which (most of) the series takes place. Jayne also acknowledges how hard it is to keep track of time in this episode by asking, "What month is it?"]
With Mal consistently refusing to let her buy a new compression coil for Serenity's engine, Kaylee Frye eventually drops the matter.
[Conjecture. In both "Serenity" and "The Train Job," Kaylee tells Mal how necessary it is to get a new compression coil, explaining the problems that the faulty one they have is currently causing and could cause in the future, but she does not mention it in subsequent episodes. Mal would eventually pay the price for this decision in "Out of Gas."]
A retrofitted transport ship is licenced to a group of sixteen families, including those of Sharone Schultz and Johann Robinson, out of Bernadette. They are provided with Alliance hearth subsidies and are due to touch down in Newhall as settlers, but the ship is set upon by Reavers, who take out the port thrust and kill all but one of the passengers. The attack happens so quickly that the Reavers leave no sign of a struggle.
["Bushwhacked." An ensign on the Alliance Cruiser says the transport ship was due in Newhall "three weeks ago." The names of the two settlers are visible on the personal log screen which Zoe looks at.]
Kaylee has something "twixt her nethers" that isn't battery-operated.
[Serenity. At the Maidenhead, Kaylee mentions that it's been "going on a year now" since this was the case. Admittedly, her comments seem meant to imply that this last happened before she met Simon, but the dating of the film itself would place this event here.]
Rance Burgess impregnates Petaline, his favoured whore at the Heart of Gold bordello.
["Heart of Gold." Nine months before the episode, in which Petaline gives birth.]
The Reavers feast on their victims aboard the transport ship, forcing the lone survivor to watch, and leave their bodies hanging in the ship's storage compartment. Everything is left on, allowing the ship to power down on its own, but they launch the lifeboat and leave an explosive booby trap for any potential rescue ships. Left alone on the ship and confronted with the will of the Reavers, the only course left to the survivor is to become one of them, desecrating his flesh and eventually losing his mind.
["Bushwhacked." Mal tells Simon the lifeboat "launched more than a week ago," so I assume the Reavers took their time.]
[My first instinct would not have been to place such a wide gap between this episode and "The Train Job," but it was unavoidable, as the same character (Inara) makes reference to the same event (coming aboard Serenity) in both episodes. The brown tank top Jayne wears throughout this episode has a Blue Sun logo on it.]
[Beginning with this episode, my assumption is that, lacking evidence to the contrary, an episode occurs two weeks after the one before it. The episode itself spans approximately five days. The boxes, cans, and food packets which River frantically tears apart all have Blue Sun logos on them.]
[Going against my assumption almost immediately, this episode occurs three weeks after "Shindig," as referenced several times during the episode itself. The shooting script for this episode includes a cut line in which Simon tells Mal that he and River "have been on (the) ship for more than two months now," but that short timeframe is incompatible with other references in the series as aired.]
"Our Mrs. Reynolds"
[This episode features the only specific date given in the series--October 24, the date given by Inara for their scheduled arrival on Beaumonde. Mal tells Saffron they will take five days to get there, and the episode begins the day before that statement, resulting in a specific start date. In turn, the episode itself spans approximately two days, providing the end date.]
Serenity arrives on Beaumonde, in the city of New Dunsmuir, and spends two weeks on the planet.
["Our Mrs. Reynolds." Mal tells Inara they'll be on Beaumonde "a day or two late," and she had earlier asked him to be "exactly sure" they would spend at least two weeks there.]
[Assumed to take place soon after the crew's stay on Beaumonde. The episode itself spans approximately one day.]
A fresh warrant for the arrest of Simon Tam comes up over the Cortex, with his birthday attached to it.
["Out of Gas." Mal tells Simon this to explain how the crew knew about his birthday in the first place.]
"Out of Gas"
[Unfortunately, there is no information in the episode to provide a more specific birthday for Simon. The present-day events of the episode span just a few hours.]
Shepherd Book gets off Serenity at the Bathgate Abbey for a brief meditational respite.
[Between "Out of Gas" and "Ariel." Book does not appear in the latter episode as a result.]
Serenity goes to three places where there are no jobs "worth having," leading the crew to begin suspecting that they aren't really looking for work at all.
["Ariel." Wash mentions the lack of work on their last three stops, and Jayne complains about not looking hard enough. It's possible that one of the three places in question was the Bathgate Abbey, mentioned above.]
[Conveniently, this lines up rather well with River's statement that the Feds "took Christmas away" when she gets captured along with Simon and Jayne, but I would place this episode here even without that statement. River slashes Jayne's Blue Sun tank top, which appears to be the same one he wore in "Bushwhacked." When Jayne reaches the Telefonix terminal at St Lucy's Hospital, it is displaying a Blue Sun commercial carrying the slogan "Live Life With Blue Sun!" The spokesmodel in the commercial is played by Kelly Wheeler, assistant to producer Gareth Davies and a regular contributor to the Official Firefly Website.]
Jubal Early, a bounty hunter, begins tracking Simon and River Tam, as he plans to take them into custody and get the substantial reward being offered.
["Objects in Space." Early tells Simon he's been tracking them "since the Feds were tipped off on Ariel," which means he waited quite a while before finally making his move...]
Serenity begins making drops to sell the medicine from the heist on Ariel to various middlemen, with the proceeds being split amongst the crew.
[Between "Ariel" and "War Stories."]
Jayne uses his cut of the money to buy a crate of genuine apples for the rest of the crew, much to their consternation. He also forwards some credits to his mother, which are helpful, as Matty is still sick with the Damplung.
["War Stories" and "The Message." Inara mentions that Jayne bought the crate, an act described by others on the crew as frighteningly confusing, and the letter from Jayne's mother mentions the forwarded credits, which are assumed to have been sent during the same period. The shooting script for "The Message" seems to suggest that Matty is Jayne's brother.]
Wash suggests to Zoe that they forget the fence and go straight to the source, contacting the local MD's at their drop points so they will get better prices and be assured that the drugs are getting to the right people. Zoe tells Mal about this, but Mal rejects it out of hand, thinking it'll get back to someone and cause trouble if they eliminate the middlemen instead of playing nice in a quadrant where they already have enough enemies. Zoe doesn't argue the point, choosing instead to lie to Wash and say that she didn't get a chance to tell the captain his idea.
["War Stories." Wash discovers the lie when Mal is talking to the crew, then confronts Zoe about it to get the true story.]
Shepherd Book comes back aboard Serenity and learns about the heist on Ariel, discovering that Simon is "moonlighting as a criminal mastermind."
[Between "Ariel" and "War Stories," though it's assumed to be fairly close to the latter, as Book seems to have only just learned about what happened when talking to Simon in that episode.]
[Contrary to the conventional wisdom amongst viewers of the series, it would seem that not all of its episodes occur in 2517, as seen in its opening narration. Indeed, the references within the series itself make it impossible for this to be the case, as demonstrated elsewhere.]
Kaylee Frye does her best to patch up the Serenity crew's ground Mule, but it never works right after the damage caused by setting off a passel of grenades in it.
[Serenity novelisation (page 52). Assumes that Kaylee attempted these repairs fairly soon after "War Stories," in which the Mule was originally damaged.]
Jayne Cobb's mother makes him a knitted hat to keep him warm in his travels, and mails it off to him along with a short letter.
["The Message." Assumes that the package would take a while to make its way through the post, and that it was a while after that before Jayne picked it up.]
Lieutenant Womack, an Alliance officer who got his command stripes at the Silverhold Colonies, starts running a job on the side smuggling enhanced human organs, though the technology's not ready and he is operating away from his jurisdiction. The blastomeres are unapproved, likely unstable, and the only way they can move or even incubate the lab-grown organs is in a person, so Womack recruits Tracey to transport them. Tracey is paid to have his organs scooped out and replaced with artificial ones, leaving a nearly invisible scar, and agrees to go to a clinic on Ariel to take out those goods (valued at a million credits or more) and put his own organs back.
["The Message." Assumes this whole process would've taken up some time. Simon explains the instability of such organs, Tracey makes reference to "this million-credit meat," and Book mentions Womack's credentials, noting that he wants his presence on St Albans to be a secret.]
[My placement of this comic book story here is meant to take advantage of the existing gap of time between episodes in this period as well as to put it between "War Stories," when Wash and Zoe argue about her taking sides, and "The Message," when Wash is willing to risk flying through a snowy climate (which he is not willing to do in this story).]
Zoe begins talking to Wash about having a baby. Wash feels that this is not the best time to bring a helpless person into their lives, given that they're "deep in the rough and tumble" and neither of them sees that changing anytime soon. Zoe is undeterred by such an objective assessment, as she's not afraid to try having a child despite the risks.
["Heart of Gold." Zoe tells Wash his excuse "is getting a little worn" when this subject comes up, suggesting that they've been having this same discussion for a while.]
Inara Serra obtains a client, the last one before a significant dry spell.
["Trash." Inara complains to Mal that she hasn't had a client for three weeks.]
Serenity spends some time looking for work "off the radar," visiting backwater moons, slums, and frontier planets without so much as a temple built. None of these places has any suitable Companion clients.
["Trash." Inara tells Mal that he has been keeping her from conducting her affairs by not visiting worlds where both of them could work.]
Serenity sneaks a cargo of little geisha dolls with big heads that wobble past the Alliance to transport.
["Trash." Inara points out that this particular shipment was the last cargo the crew snuck past the Alliance before the episode. One has to wonder why wobbly-headed dolls would be considered contraband, though Mal seemed to indicate that they were popular.]
Tracey gets a better offer for the human organs he is smuggling from a buyer who is willing to go three times the going rate--enough money so he could get his parents off St Albans, where they live, and set them up someplace warm. He skips out on his scheduled drop spot to meet with the new buyer, but Womack and his cohorts get wind of what he has planned. When Tracey shows up, he finds that the new buyer is dead and there are some men waiting for him. He is only just able to get away.
["The Message." Tracey says he "was supposed to be at the drop spot two weeks ago."]
Knowing that Womack and his men will never stop looking for him so long as he is alive, Tracey buys a drug (possibly byphodine) from someone to make it appear as though he were dead, figuring that they'll stop looking for him that way. He then arranges to have himself mailed in a crate to Malcolm Reynolds and Zoe, and records a message asking them to deliver his body to St Albans. Although the guy who sells him the drug tells him he won't dream, he does dream of his family en route.
["The Message." Tracey explains that he was told he'd "be under a week or so," though he "(n)ever did ask" what the drug was called.]
A crate with no return, addressed to Mal and Zoe, arrives at the franchise of the Allied Postal System run by Amnon Duul. Amnon weighs it, then sends a wave to Mal saying that he's holding some post for him and his crew.
["The Message." Amnon tells Mal the crate has been there "near a week," as that was when he weighed it. Amnon's last name is from the episode's shooting script, as it is not given in the episode itself.]
[Again, my instinct would not have been to have such a wide gap between this episode and "War Stories," but again, references within the series made this unavoidable, as Mal tells Monty his first encounter with Saffron was "about half a year back," and that encounter has a specific date attached to it. The episode explicitly spans seventy-two hours, while the specific dates derive from Wash's statement that Haymer's party is "this weekend," with this being the weekend in 2518 closest to the half-year figure.]
Mal tries to fence the Lassiter, but no one will touch such a priceless artifact. Realising that Mal is out of his league, Inara offers to help by contacting people she knows in the highest ranks, despite the potential risk to her career.
["The Message." Inara and Mal discuss his striking out and her offer, even as he is turning it down. In the course of this conversation, Inara compares the Lassiter's fame to that of the Mona Lisa--which Mal has never heard of, suggesting that many aspects of Earth-That-Was may not be known outside of the upper echelons of society.]
Mal reads the wave from Amnon, then directs Serenity to the space station where Amnon operates so they can pick up their post and obtain some supplies.
[Shortly before "The Message." Mal mentions reading the wave. The episode itself suggests that Amnon has been Mal's regular postman for some time, as Tracey knows enough to correctly address himself to his particular station.]
[Assumed to take place very shortly after "Trash," as the crew is still trying (unsuccessfully) to fence the Lassiter. The episode itself spans approximately two days. The space station includes a giant video billboard located near Serenity which is seen playing a Blue Sun commercial, as well as a scrolling ad for Blue Sun atop the station. Strangely enough, the space station's bazaar also includes a sign for St Lucy's Hospital, last seen in "Ariel."]
"Heart of Gold"
[This episode and "Objects in Space" provide the main chronological interruption of the series' original production order--these two episodes were produced between "War Stories" and "Trash," but the creators of Firefly have chosen this to be the proper sequence of events.]
"Objects in Space"
[Conveniently, and perhaps symbolically, the last episode of the series takes place around a year after the first episode of the series. The episode itself spans just a few hours.]
Serenity's crew finds a buyer for the Lassiter, and the funds go to purchase a fancy new hover Mule, Mal's pride and joy. Though the new Mule isn't cheap, it is an air vehicle, and therefore considerably more useful than the old Mule, which was strictly a ground vehicle.
[Serenity novelisation (page 52). It is unclear exactly when this happened, as the crew already have this Mule in "Better Days," but Mal remembers that it "(t)ook a spell to find a buyer," and he still thinks of this Mule as new at the time of the film.]
[This comic book story must take place after the series, as the hover Mule makes an appearance, but before "Those Left Behind," as Book and Inara are still on the ship.]
"Those Left Behind"
[This comic book story is assumed to take place fairly soon after "Objects in Space," as Inara is still packing to leave and the ship has not yet arrived at her scheduled point of departure, though Mal also indicates that they're not getting there "as fast as (she)'d like."]
The mining community on Haven waves Mal, telling him that a thief is tired of running from the Alliance and wants to settle down and do some honest work. Mal is willing to pick the young man up and bring him to Haven, though this is the first time Serenity has travelled there since Shepherd Book came onboard. When the crew is preparing to depart, Book--who had already announced his intention to leave Serenity--says that he will be staying behind. Mal can't conjure a good reason not to let him stay, especially since plenty of the local miners are spiritual folk who welcome the notion of a preacher in their midst, so Book follows through on his plan. His contributions to the community include a small vegetable patch and more use of the local church. For his part, Mal tells himself that truth be known, he won't miss Book's praying overmuch.
[Serenity novelisation (pages 137-138). Mal remembers this occurring "(a) few months back," though Book announced his intentions in "Those Left Behind."]
The Alliance begins tracking down smugglers through high-risk assignments by infiltrating the people involved, then torturing and brutally murdering them at rendezvous points.
[Shortly before "The Other Half." The wounded Alliance agent's thoughts betray his past actions and future intentions to both River and the reader. This agent also becomes aware of Simon and River's true identities as escaped fugitives.]
Mal agrees to a cargo smuggling trip for the crew of Serenity, but insists on half of their transport charge up front this time. When the person who hired them actually agrees to pay it, he has a bad feeling about the job, so he puts River down with the man.
[Shortly before "The Other Half." Zoe, Mal, and Simon all mention Mal's getting half up front, and Mal explains to River why he included her.]
"The Other Half"
[In response to a direct question about the chronological placement of this comic book story, writer Jim Krueger told me that he "really saw this taking place around the midpoint of the Firefly season. It could be a little later than that, but at least the midpoint." The absence of Inara and Book, however, along with Mal's apparent awareness of River's abilities and willingness to include her on a job, would seem to indicate a later placement closer to the events of the film.]
Serenity undergoes a number of modifications, including the addition of more monitors and control panels to the cockpit and a new bulkhead with a circular pattern in the cargo bay.
[Between "Objects in Space" and Serenity. These changes may have occurred through a gradual process, or they could have been the result of a one-time retrofit, but this explains the various cosmetic differences in the ship between the series and the film.]
On orders from The Operative, subliminal broadwaves begin to go out from the Alliance high military containing behavioural modification triggers, in the hopes of locating River Tam. Amongst the many places where this signal is hidden is an advertisement for Fruity Oaty Bars.
[Serenity. Mr. Universe mentions that he has seen the signal in question often over "the last few weeks."]
[The dating of the feature film is a very rough estimate. There is no explicit reference in the movie to how much time has passed since the end of the series, but this point allows enough time for Inara to establish herself at the Companion training house and for Book to establish his refuge on Haven after they both leave Serenity, along with allowing for various other noticeable changes. Although Mal says that Simon and River have been on the ship for "(e)ight months," such a short span is incompatible with the numerous references to the passage of time in the series. The main story of the film itself begins on a Sunday, and spans approximately one week. Blue Sun logos are visible on some of the crates in the ship's cargo bay, as well as on the bottle Jayne passes to Simon in the ship's dining room, and the Blue Sun commercial from "Ariel" can briefly be seen on one of Mr. Universe's many video screens.]
"The Shepherd's Tale"
[To the extent that this graphic novel can be said to have a present-day segment at all (given that it is told as a series of flashbacks in reverse chronological order), that segment would be the first, set during the events of the feature film. The captions which indicate the timing of the various flashbacks include a number of contradictions with the passage of time in the series, including the implication that "Jaynestown" took place two years before the movie and that "Serenity" took place two years before that.]
[This comic book one-shot must take place at least several months after the feature film, as Zoe is shown to be visibly pregnant while that is not the case in the movie (if she is even aware of her pregnancy at that time). Although this particular dating of the story is an estimate, it cannot take place any more than nine months after the film, as that is (by definition) the latest point in time when she could've conceived a child with Wash.]
"It's Never Easy"
[A caption indicates only that "(t)his story takes place after the events in the film Serenity," but this comic book story also cannot take place any more than nine months after the movie, as Zoe is still "in a delicate state" of pregnancy.]