This is my first time at SDCC, so maybe the intensity of a Firefly panel is really de rigeur by now. But still I have to say it: what an intense, emotional and moving 10 year anniversary reunion panel. Nathan Fillion was only pretending to tear before he got a bit choked up right at the end, Joss Whedon got a standing ovation and a female fan dressed as Kaylee was on the verge of tears when she couldn’t answer a trivia question from the moderator.
Hardcore Browncoats may well want to strangle me for saying this, but hey, I’m sure Mal would approve of my honesty. I’ve watched both Firefly as well as Serenity, and enjoyed them immensely. But I don’t quite understand the enduring appeal of a show that lasted only one season, and whose last appearance on screen was seven years ago. I asked the two guys sitting behind me, who had started queuing for the panel at 630pm the day before (!), and they couldn’t quite explain it either. Though one of them had a simple explanation when I asked why the series has not come back in spite of its cult appeal: “Because Fox are a bunch of bastards.”
The excitement began early on Friday morning, long before the panel. My main objective was to get into the Community panel, which took place at 10.30am, followed by the Firefly panel at 12.30pm. I had been warned that Firefly fans, who have few equals, would start queuing well in advance. So I woke up at 3am to get to the convention centre, only to see the following tweet:
— Emese (@egaal) July 13, 2012
As per our plan, my girlfriend and I headed down to the convention centre – albeit in a much quicker fashion -, where the line already stretched almost a kilometre from the entrance. We later found out that there were already about a thousand-odd people in line. But among all those people was one man taking centre stage: Firefly, Buffy and Dollhouse creator, Avengers director and geek god Joss Whedon.
He walked the entire line for about an hour, patiently entertaining endless requests for photos and autographs, and dropping one-liners like a zinger machine. I too was looking for a nerdgasm, and he obliged:
“Joss, I came all the way from Singapore to see you!”
“I came all the way from LA. What, you think you’re special?”
Nine hours later, Whedon, producer Tim Minear, writer Jose Molina and cast members Summer Glau, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Sean Maher and of course, Nathan Fillion, held court in Ballroom 20. I’ll let the reaction to Fillion’s arrival, overshadowed only by the reaction to Whedon’s entrance, speak for itself.
In all honesty, what can you really say about a show that only lasted one season? But it feels like the gift that keeps on giving, and the cast members – Summer Glau aside, who was strangely silent – paid effusive tribute to their fans. The banter between the cast felt fresh and genuine, with Whedon ‘threatening’ to do a George Lucas and digitally replace Glau in the series. But he later also paid tribute to her role in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: “I will come with her if I wanna live.”
Fillion in particular was a master at playing to the crowd, whipping out his prop gun from the series and constantly making funny faces at the crowd. But the man of the hour, as ever, was Whedon. If you’ve ever wondered why his work is filled with so much wit, all you have to do is watch him in action. Asked why he had cast Fillion as his leading man, Whedon said: “Well, at some point, you have to make compromises.” And when an audience member asked if he had ever camped out for anything, Whedon had just one word after a long pause: “Camping.”
But it was Fillion who brought the house down when he summed up what must be the prevailing sentiment among all Firefly fans: “That it died is ok. The worst thing that could have happened is if it stayed dead.” To which Whedon promptly responded: “Can you guys tweet that I said that? I don’t want him to have the best lines.”
Alas, once again, there was no word on whether the series might ever come back, whether in the big or small screen. But Firefly fans will keep on hoping. In the words of Whedon: “When I see you guys, I don’t think the show is off the air. I think that’s what the world is like. The story is alive.”
Are you a die-hard Browncoat too? Why is Firefly still so popular after all these years?