May 3rd, 2006


Firefly: only 50% dead

[Warning: Firefly geekdom ahead]

Over on Whedonesque (a group blog devoted to all news related to Joss Whedon), a number of the regulars are quite pessimistic about the return of Firefly in serial TV form. For example:

Well, Firefly as a franchise -- aside from the Titan books -- is pretty much dead. --gossi

I feel that Firefly is dead. It's as dead as Angel is, it's not coming back and Joss is done with it. -- Simon

This pessimism strikes me as odd, given the history of other sci-fi franchises. The lag time between the origin of a sci-fi series and its revival can be quite long. For example, as I wrote in response to the comments above, Star Trek didn't re-emerge as a movie until 10 years after the series ended. A new series didn't emerge for 18 years.

A new Battlestar Galactica did not re-emerge until 24 years later.

The Firefly universe may not return to television as we would like, but I think it's far too premature to call it dead yet.

Of course, then the question becomes, when isn't it premature to call it dead ?

I would argue that there is no binary condition "dead" or "alive". No series is truly dead so long as any prints remain, and any fan is alive. However, there are gradations of life and death. A truly living series would be in current production, enjoy a fanbase of millions around the world, and heavily influence popular culture via spinoff movies, events, books, and tchotke's. Star Trek during the 90's would probably fall into this category.

A series would be mostly dead when the series is out of production, the fan base is small, static and/or shrinking, the original cast members are dead or forgotten, and there are no ancillary products associated with the series. By these criteria, for example, the Land of the Lost an almost completely dead series. On a percentage basis, I would say that Land of the Lost is 95% dead.

So where does Firefly stand? The series is out of production, it's true. And the movie performed disappointingly at the box office. But the fanbase remains vibrant and continues to grow, as more people discover the movie and series on DVD. The actors and writers are mobbed whenever they appear at conventions. Moreover, they're young and working and enjoying success in other projects. Like the Star Trek actors, they could easily come back to do another series or more movies. On a percentage basis, I would say that Firefly is still 50% alive.