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A Beginner's Guide to Firefly

Browncoats and ‘verses and hats, oh my! If you’re looking for ideas for a loved one still pining for the Firefly series, you’ve come to the right place.


What is Firefly?

Firefly is a Science Fiction/Western series written and directed by geek favorite Joss Whedon that aired in 2002. It takes place centuries in the future, when mankind has left Earth and settled among the stars. The series follows the ragtag crew of a Firefly-class starship called “Serenity” as they travel the galaxy, taking mercenary jobs to keep flying while evading the eye of the Alliance government.

Firefly combines a futuristic sci-fi setting with the gritty, low-tech feel of a Western -- often to contrast the highly developed Alliance worlds with rougher frontier planets. It quickly gained a dedicated following for its engaging characters and strong writing. The show was infamously cancelled after only 11 of its 14 episodes were aired. A movie, Serenity, was released in 2005 to wrap up loose ends and bring a sense of closure to the series.

What is Serenity?

Serenity is the Firefly-class starship where the majority of the series takes place. Her captain, Malcolm Reynolds, named her after Serenity Valley, where the Browncoats suffered a major defeat in the war. As its type suggests, the ship looks a bit like a firefly, complete with a large, glowing rear propulsion section.

Who are the Serenity’s crew?

The Crew of Serenity
  • Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds: The sarcastic and driven captain of the Serenity, and a former Browncoat.
  • Zoe Washburne: First mate, and Mal's subordinate during the war.
  • Hoban “Wash” Washburne: Serenity's pilot and Zoe's husband. Loves dinosaurs.
  • Kaylee Frye: Serenity's bubbly and cheerful engineer. Has a massive crush on Simon.
  • Jayne Cobb: The "muscle" of Serenity's crew. A dim-witted and selfish former mercenary.
  • Inara Serr: A courtesan, or "Companion", who rents Serenity's onboard shuttle. She has a love-hate relationship with Mal.
  • Shepherd Derrial Book: A pastor who comes aboard the ship as a passenger and ends up staying on to counsel and help Mal and the crew.
  • Simon Tam: A fugitive Alliance doctor who sacrificed everything to save his sister River. He finds a safe haven on Serenity and acts as the ship’s medic.
  • River Tam: A teenaged girl who was experimented on by the Alliance. The experience left her mentally damaged, but granted her enhanced combat and psychic skills.

Who are the Browncoats?

Several years before the start of the series, the Unification War raged between the Alliance (who wanted all planets to unite under their banner) and the frontier planets (who wanted to remain independent). The Independents lost badly, and were nicknamed “Browncoats” for their distinctive brown jackets. Many still wear them as a badge of pride and defiance, and several of Serenity's crew members -- including its captain -- are former Browncoats. The term “Browncoat” is also used affectionately to refer to the show’s most dedicated fan base.

Why do the characters sometimes speak Mandarin?

When mankind left Earth, the two major spacefaring powers - America and China - ended up merging into one over time. As a result, both Western and Chinese design elements and language appear frequently throughout the ‘verse.

What's everybody quoting?

The series and movie are famous among fans for their witty dialogue and memorable lines. Several quotes, phrases, and terms have become particularly popular:

Curse Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal t-shirt "shiny": A common synonym for "awesome" or "cool."

"the 'verse": Short for "the universe," and used as a catch-all term for the known galaxy.

“gorram”: A mild swear word used to replace “goddam."

"Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!" In the first episode, Wash plays out a story with his favorite plastic dinosaur toys. This line is uttered by a stegosaurus just before his friend, the t-rex, eats him.

"I aim to misbehave.": A show-stopping line from the movie, it marks the moment when Mal decides to fight back against the Alliance.

Interesting definition t-shirt
"Define interesting": Was explains that an upcoming landing could get "pretty interesting." Mal asks him to "define interesting." In a calm, deadpan voice, Wash replies, "Oh god, oh god, we're all gonna die."

“I am a leaf on the wind”: During yet another bumpy landing, Wash murmurs this to himself in encouragement.

“Can’t stop the signal”: Another dramatic line from the movie, it has been adopted by the fanbase as a bittersweet slogan of the show's enduring popularity.

What about..

Jayne, in his cunning hat Jayne's gun, Vera A Reaver ship

That knitted hat?

In one episode, Jayne receives a distinctive knitted toque from his mother. He declares it, "pretty cunning.".


Jayne's favorite gun and the love of his life.


Ravening maniacs who linger at the edge of space, making brutal raiding forays against nearby ships and settlements that leave no survivors.

Featured Firefly Products

Keep Calm & Stay Shiny T-Shirt Malcolm Reynolds pocket plushie Firefly: The Board Game Serenity Blueprint T-Shirt