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This week in Sci-Fi Time Capsule, one of my favorite episodes of Firefly: “Jaynestown.” How do you choose just one episode from a series filled with great episodes? Humor. I just found this to be the funniest, laugh-out-loud.
(WARNING: Spoilers begin below link)

Firefly

Click to watch Firefly “Jaynestown” on Netflix

Sci-Fi Time Capsule

Brief Summary

The Serenity has a delivery to pick up on a backwater moon where they harvest mud (for use in ceramics, but the process is pretty primitive). Upon arrival, they discover that the residents have taken up Jayne as a local folk hero. After a bit of puzzling, Jayne realizes that a job gone wrong there years ago resulted in him ditching his take from a heist … which was recovered by the locals. The residents of Canton even made a song about him:

Jayne!
The man they call Jayne!
He robbed from the rich and he gave to the poor.
Stood up to the man and he gave him what for.
Our love for him now, ain’t hard to explain,
The hero of Canton, the man they call Jayne!
Now Jayne saw the Mudders’ backs breakin’.
He saw the Mudders’ lament.
And he saw that magistrate takin’
Every dollar and leavin’ five cents.
So he said, “You can’t do that to my people!”
“You Can’t, crush them under your heel.”
Jayne strapped on his hat,
And in five seconds flat,
Stole everything Boss Higgins had to steal.
He robbed from the rich and he gave to the poor.
Stood up to the Man and he gave him what for.
Our love for him now ain’t hard to explain,
The Hero of Canton, the man they call Jayne.
Now here is what separates heroes
From common folk like you and I.
The man they call Jayne,
He turned ’round his plane,
And let that money hit sky.
He dropped it onto our houses.
He dropped it into our yards.
The man they call Jayne
He turned round his plane,
And headed out for the stars.
Here we go!
He robbed from the rich and he gave to the poor.
Stood up to the Man and he gave him what for.
Our love for him now ain’t hard to explain,
The Hero of Canton, the man they call Jayne!

This is played on an acoustic guitar by a grizzled old mudder, with the patrons of the bar clapping and singing along with the chorus. The Serenity crew are rendered speechless.

As with any episode of Firefly, the main plot of “Jaynestown” isn’t the only thing going on. Kaylee is making moves on a drunken Simon. River stays aboard Serenity, where she “fixes” Shepherd Book’s Bible. Inara is tasked with making a man of the local magistrate’s 26-year-old son.

But in the main plot, Mal takes advantage of Jayne’s local fame to cause a diversion so they can move the illicit goods to Serenity. The magistrate releases Stitch, Jayne’s old partner, to tell the story of Jayne’s betrayal and the real reason the locals got 60,000 dropped on them. In the end, a boy throws himself in front of a shotgun blast to save Jayne, despite Jayne admitting that he was never a hero to the mudders, and a newly minted “man” goes behind his magistrate father’s back to let Jayne (and the Serenity) go.

Notable Quotes

Wash Quote

Wash comes down with a case of hero envy.

Kaylee Quote

Simon blows it again. The stupidest smart-person on the ship.

River Tam Quote

We’ll have to call it early quantum state phenomenon. Only way to fit 5000 species of mammal on the same boat. [rips out page]

I could put nearly the whole episode here. I could put the whole series here. It was written with such vivid character voices that even without attribution you can tell who would have said each line.

How it Holds Up

Somewhere on the internet, fans still hold a vigil, hoping Firefly comes back, largely because of episodes like “Jaynestown”. I think the realistic ones realize that it won’t. The episodes are newly minted classics, every one of them, but that one season, plus a movie, is all we’re going to get. Fox canceled it, and it’s staying canceled.

On one re-watching of Firefly, I contemplated the void that the show left. There really hasn’t been a successor – not a sequel, but just the next show up to bat. The fun of following the exploits of a ragtag crew struggling to make ends meet … it’s just not out there right now. I found myself wishing someone would make that show.

Then I realized that I’m a writer, and I can write one. I have no desire to imitate Firefly, but I wanted to capture that cozy, down-on-your luck starship feel. The Millennium Falcon was never the focus of Star Wars, but I think it would have been a great story to follow Han and Chewie in their early days. Cowboy Bebop was great, but that was over before Firefly ever started. So I’m writing Black Ocean. Whereas Firefly was a western in space, Black Ocean is high fantasy in space. I’m brushing aside the Arthur C. Clarke assertion that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Magic is real, and works at cross purposes with scientific thinking.

And it can get starships past the speed of light.

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