Firefly closed its network run with an excellent and tense story called “Objects in Space.” It wasn’t the last one that they actually made – that would be “The Message” – but since this one was a reasonably simple shoot that required only one small additional set and one other actor, it was easy to slot in a few weeks early. The other actor is Richard Brooks, playing a bounty hunter who probably would have become a serial killer if there weren’t any jobs as bounty hunter available. I had never seen Brooks before this; he’s cold and creepy and fascinating to watch. Years before, he played Paul Robinette on the earliest seasons of Law & Order, which I came to much later. He also has a recurring role in Bosch, which people keep telling me I’d enjoy, but like a lot of contemporary streaming shows, nobody wants to put it all in a nice Blu-ray set when they could force you to subscribe to something instead.
Anyway, “Objects in Space” was made with the knowledge that ratings were low and it was touch-and-go as to whether Fox was going to order an additional nine episodes to carry them to May 2003, so it had to serve as a series finale just in case. There’s a lot that I could complain about regarding television from this period and how its producers ignored little realities like that, so honestly I appreciate that the Firefly team considered their position. They didn’t end on a cliffhanger or introduce new problems or characters, but they did a lot more with River for the first time in a very long time, and closed up the really loose end of her quietly killing three men in “War Stories” and Kaylee keeping quiet about it.
It’s a solid hour that kept our son worried for the characters and very attentive. They didn’t give him the return of his favorite villains, the Reavers, but he’ll only have to wait one week to see them again. Unfortunately, “Objects in Space” was the lowest-rated program on the four major networks that evening, December 13th 2002. Rumors about it ending production had been buzzing for weeks, but it seems that it was actually on the 13th itself that the news was quietly released; Firefly would not return in a new timeslot in 2003 with the unaired stories.
Fox had already scheduled the shelved pilot episode for the 20th, and that was it. Fortunately, releasing the episodes on DVD as quickly as they did brought the program to a much larger audience very quickly, enabling them to get a feature film greenlit about eighteen months later. And we’ll see how that went in just a few days.