FireflyThe Firefly Timeline - "Here’s how it is..."
By Edgar Governo
Thursday 27 May 2004, by Webmaster
Malcolm Reynolds, opening narration
This timeline is intended as a guide to the events depicted in the television series Firefly, as well as the internal history described in that series. 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. The series is, of course, © 2002 Mutant Enemy Inc. and 20th Century Fox Television, and this timeline is in no way affiliated with them.
Four main sources were used in constructing this timeline:
The fourteen episodes of the series itself, naturally.
Commentaries and other features included in the DVD release of the series.
The Official Firefly Website (now defunct), including video interviews and script fragments which were available on that site.
Other publicity and online resources, most notably the original shooting scripts for the series.
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 episodes themselves is pretty scarce. I have also chosen to attempt only a rough breakdown of 2517 and 2518, the years in which the series takes place.
The main supposition I made that is not based on any of the above sources is that the series itself takes place in the 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.
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.
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.
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.]
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 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," "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.
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.
With most of the Chinese mainland now held by the People’s Liberation Army, Chairman Mao Tse-tung 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 Replublic 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, and the 38th parallel is 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," suggesting that at least some aspects of Earth-That-Was are commonly known in their society.]
China launches the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft into orbit carrying taikonaut Yang Liwei, the first citizen of that country to journey into space.
2004 to 2459
The United States and China, the two great superpowers of the Earth, gradually grow together and form the Anglo-Sino Alliance, rather than killing each other as originally predicted. Over time, American and Chinese culture meld together to the point that English and Mandarin even become integrated languages.
[Firefly website. In an interview on the site, series creator Joss Whedon explained that this was his contextual justification for including Chinese dialogue in the series, and this history is implicit in the design of the Alliance flag, a combination of the present-day flags of the two countries in question. Although the characters we see over the course of the series speak primarily in English, with the occasional Manadarin interjection, one can presume that at least some of their contemporaries prefer the reverse.]
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 described it as "an antiquity of unspeakable value," suggesting its extreme age.]
The Earth is "used up," rendering it uninhabitable. As a result, humanity finds a new solar system and emigrates there en masse, terraforming and colonising its worlds.
[Opening narration. 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. The shadowplay seen in "Heart of Gold" provides a visual representation of the human diaspora.]
The two central, major planets that form the Core of this new system are Sinon (an outgrowth of Chinese influence) and Londinium (an outgrowth of American influence).
[Firefly website. In an interview on the site, series creator Joss Whedon explained this aspect of the series backstory, describing Sinon as "basically China" and Londinium as "basically America." Although these details are not addressed directly in the series, Sinon is mentioned in "Serenity," "Bushwhacked," and "Heart of Gold;" while Londinium is (obliquely) mentioned by Mal in "Serenity."]
As Sinon 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 Sinon is like to her client.]
Several other planets in the system are also considered part of the Core, including Ariel and Osiris.
["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.]
Humanity continues to spread out throughout the galaxy, 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.
[Opening narration. The idea of two waves of terraforming and colonisation—the first to a single system, followed by a more widespread outgrowth—was the only way I could see to reconcile the "new solar system" described in Book’s narration with the "whole new galaxy of Earths" described in Mal’s narration. This idea also 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 be motivated to form the Alliance themselves.]
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.]
Book is born.
[Conjecture based on the age of actor Ron Glass. Though he mentions that he is "called Book" in "Serenity," it is unclear if this is his actual name, or 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.]
Jayne Cobb is born.
[Conjecture based on the age of actor Adam Baldwin.]
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.]
Zoe is born.
[Conjecture based on the age of actress Gina Torres. No full name is ever given for Zoe, and it is unclear if she has a surname at all.]
Wash 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 talked about the planet he was from in "Our Mrs. Reynolds." Some publicity for the series gave his full name as Wash Warren, but this is never stated in the series itself.]
Malcolm Reynolds is born on Shadow.
[Conjecture based on the age of actor Nathan Fillion. Mal said he was from Shadow in "Our Mrs. Reynolds." Some early promotional material for the series gave Mal’s birthdate as September 20, 2472, but this would seem to be inconsistent with the dates in the series itself and Mal’s apparent age.]
Simon Tam is born on Osiris to Gabriel and Regan Tam.
[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." Although he never explicitly says he was born on Osiris, it is safe to assume that that is the case.]
Fess Higgins is born.
["Jaynestown." Magistrate Higgins makes a point of noting that his son is twenty-six.]
Inara Serra is born on Sinon.
[Conjecture based on the age of actress Morena Baccarin. Inara said she was born on Sinon 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."]
River Tam is born on Osiris to Gabriel and Regan Tam.
[Conjecture. Assumes River is seventeen at the time of the series, based on the amount of time she spent at the government-sponsored academy. As with Simon, her place of birth is a safe assumption.]
River starts correcting Simon’s spelling.
["Safe." Simon tells his parents that River started doing this when she was three.]
Wash 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.]
The central planets which formed the 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 War to Unite the Planets is waged to bring those planets under such rule, with the Alliance fighting against the Independent faction, also known as Browncoats.
[Opening narration. The specific year is conjecture, but would have to be 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 was given in a deleted scene from "Serenity," available on the DVD release of the series and (in rough form) on the Firefly website. It is likely that the Independents would have a different name for the war...but then, history is programmed by the winners.]
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. The onscreen caption indicates this happened "11 Years Ago."]
Wash 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. 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. The onscreen caption indicates this happened "Seven Years Earlier." 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 itself does convey a sense of the Browncoats being on the verge of "inevitable crushing defeat."]
Unification Day (Late May)
The Battle of Serenity Valley. Malcolm Reynold’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.
[Six years before "Serenity," and six years to the day before "The Train Job."]
An older salesman attempts to sell Mal 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 a Firefly-class transport ship in the distance has caught his eye. He ultimately purchases that ship.
["Out of Gas." These events are shown in flashback.]
Mal opens up the doors to his newly-bought ship to show it off for Zoe, 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 it 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.]
Wash, 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.]
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.]
Unification Day (Late May)
Mal 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.
["Jaynestown." 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.]
The Tam family is made aware of a government-sponsored academy they had never heard of before where River 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 tells the crew that River was fourteen at the time.]
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.
["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.]
Mal 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 the captain of the Alliance Cruiser 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."]
Jayne Cobb, his boss Marco, and another lackey are holding guns on Mal and Zoe; they want to know where they’ve hidden some goods, but Mal and Zoe won’t say. 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.]
Late October - Late December
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, and Patience shoots Mal.
["Serenity." Mal says it’s been "a long time" since this happened, but everyone who was a part of the crew before the episode seems to remember it, so one assumes it took place when they were all aboard.]
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.]
Early January - Mid-May
A carrier run by a skeleton crew blows out, killing all hands. The wreckage is left adrift.
["Serenity." An officer on the Dortmunder says that this happened "a few months back."]
[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 appears 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.]
Early June - Mid-August
With Mal consistently refusing to let her buy a new compression coil for Serenity’s engine, Kaylee 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 licensed 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.]
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.]
"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 night before that statement, resulting in a specific start date. In turn, the episode itself spans approximately two days, providing the end date.]
October 26 - November 9
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.]
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.]
[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. 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 playing 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.]
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.]
[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.]
January 1 - March 30
Jayne’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 artifical 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.]
Inara 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 Mal 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.]
"Heart of Gold"
[This episode and "Objects in Space" provide the main chronological interruption of the production order of episodes of the series—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.]