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I know the Firefly episodes were originally aired out of the order that Joss Whedon intended, and that many fans think this contributed to the show's early cancellation. Looking at Firefly on Netflix, I don't see an original air date for any of the episodes.

  1. Serenity
  2. The Train Job
  3. Bushwhacked
  4. Shindig
  5. Safe
  6. Our Mrs. Reynolds
  7. Jaynestown
  8. Out of Gas
  9. Ariel
  10. War Stories
  11. Trash
  12. The Message
  13. Heart of Gold
  14. Objects in Space

Is this list in order by air date, or is this the order the show's creator intended they be viewed?

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up vote 27 down vote accepted

That list matches the Wikipedia listing, which claims to be the originally intended order. Having seen them in that order myself, I can say it does make much more sense than the aired order would have.

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I didn't realize there was also a 6 month break before the last few episodes aired. – Bill the Lizard Jan 15 '11 at 16:38
Yep, it was cancelled with 3 episodes unaired, and those weren't aired at all in the USA before 2005. Unsure what country aired episodess 11-13 first, but it was probably Canada. – Nellius Jan 17 '11 at 10:19
In my experience, the order in which episodes air is not to be trusted. In the third and final season of seaQuest, for example, a major character dies in one episode and is magically alive again in a later one. NBC couldn't be bothered to air the episodes in order for some reason (probably because the show had been cancelled). – Chad Levy Nov 10 '11 at 2:58
Don't recall that about seaQuest, but then again I don't remember if I even watched to the end. Not surprising though - aired order doesn't always fit, especially when a show is on the way out. – Saiboogu Nov 10 '11 at 15:40
Production codes are for internal accounting. They may have something to do with the order they were filmed, produced, ordered, written, etc - not something the public is generally privy too. – Saiboogu Jan 28 '12 at 3:28

Wikipedia is wrong. That is the order of the DVD set, but the internal chronology of the later and originally-unaired episodes yields this order:

 1–10. Serenity through War Stories (as on the DVD and Netflix)

  1. Heart of Gold [#13 on the DVD & Netflix] (Inara plans to leave Serenity)

  2. Objects in Space [#14 on the DVD & Netflix] (reveal of River’s psi abilities; Mal & Inara talk about Inara’s plans to leave)

  3. Trash [#11 on the DVD & Netflix] (the characters make explicit reference to River’s psi abilities: “Afraid we’ll know”, “I can kill you with my brain”)

  4. The Message [#10 on the DVD & Netflix] (further reference to River’s psi abilities: “Mind-reading genius that can’t eat an ice planet”; reference to theft of the Lassiter in Trash)

Aside from putting the pilot Serenity at the beginning, this is the same order as that of the production codes in Wikipedia’s List of Firefly episodes. (Related to the production order: In interviews of composer Greg Edmonson, he mentions that the music for the funeral scene in The Message was intended as a goodbye for the show, since it was the last episode being worked on.)

On the other hand, Objects in Space has a more satisfying finish than the other episodes, so I conjecture that for the DVD release (when the show had been cancelled and the movie not yet planned), it was chosen to end the series.

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Incorrect. At the end of Heart of Gold, Inara makes the definitive decision to leave. At the beginning of Objects in Space, she's contacting places she could go. She leaves after that - those are the final two in the season, as in the other list. It's also the strongest we've ever seen River's abilities in th series, as well as the best she's ever fit in (at the end of the episode) so it makes even more sense to be the last one. – Izkata Mar 12 '12 at 23:39
You’re explaining the DVD order; if you see my answer, I explain it the same way. Nevertheless, Trash & The Message have conversations that only make sense after the characters learn of River’s abilities in Objects in Space. Put it this way: If there had been a Season 2, the order of episodes would have been as I listed them. – J. C. Salomon Mar 13 '12 at 0:07
You forget the events of "Safe", where she shows similar psychic abilities. It's implied by Mal's line "Yeah, but she's our witch" that she's been doing minor stuff like that since she was unfrozen. Additionally, the composer's note about "The Message" means nothing; episodes are sometimes produced out of order. Just because it was the last one made doesn't mean it was intended to be last of the ones that did air. – Izkata Mar 13 '12 at 0:21
We're agreeing that "Objects in Space" is after "Heart of Gold" and "The Message" is after "Trash"; however, Inara's insistence about leaving is why Heart and Objects are after Trash and Message. – Izkata Mar 13 '12 at 0:24
And contrawise, the crew’s knowledge of specifics of River’s abilities (“Afraid we’ll know.”) puts Trash & Message after Objects. But short of explicit Word of God on the subject, we’re not likely to confince each other. – J. C. Salomon Mar 25 '12 at 1:36

In the special features of the Firefly box set, Joss Whendon tells the viewer that "The Message" was intended to be the last episode of the box set.

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We're still talking about it Tom, because you are incorrect.

The Message is the last episode as originally intended. Not Objects in Space.

Objects in Space is the REVISED last episode, the revised order was created when they put together the DVD set, but was not the original chronological order.

Forget the Airdate order, that is completely screwed up.

But there are two other orders to consider

Production order, and DVD order.

The production Order is the original intended Order, and is the actual chronological order. Had Firefly never been cancelled, this is the order we would all know and accept as fact.

But Firefly was cancelled. In putting together the DVD release, Joss Whedon REVISED the correct order and changed up a few episodes, placing "Objects In Space" last in place of "The Message".

He did this because "The Message" was quite literally... "too funereal" So much finality to it for the series itself, not just the character that died. But this is only because it was the final episode made before cancellation. Had the show continued, it would not have been an issue.

Joss chose to switch it up and place "Objects In Space" last because the ending was more upbeat. It had a sense that their stories and adventures continue even though the show itself does not. Again, this was not what was originally intended, but what Joss chose to alter it to when putting together the boxed DVD set.

Actual Production Order (and correct Chronology)

  1. Serenity pt 1&2
  2. Train Job
  3. Bushwhacked
  4. Shindig
  5. Safe
  6. Our Mrs Reynolds
  7. Jaynestown
  8. Out of Gas
  9. Ariel
  10. War Stories

Up til now, Both Production and DVD orders match... the remaining were altered for the DVD set...

  1. Heart of Gold (DVD: Trash)
  2. Objects in Space (DVD:The Message)
  3. Trash (DVD: Heart of Gold)
  4. The Message (DVD: Objects in Space)
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I just watched the entire series in production order. It does fit. Those last two pairs of episodes can be switched out without much of a problem.

Referring to Inara, she mentions leaving in Heart Of Gold and Objects In Space, but doesn't specifically mention it in Trash and The Message. In Trash, she talks to Mal about having some freedom to schedule some work again after months of a dry spell. This doesn't invalidate her needing to leave as in Objects In Space she mentions looking for a place to leave to but doesn't know where. So I see it as her needing to work while her plans to permanently leave remain tentative. At the end of Objects In Space, after that bounty hunter hit her, she has a moment with Mal that suggests that maybe her feelings linger for him, possibly postponing her immediacy to leave.

But switching the two pairs work either way, I think. I feel Trash and The Message are the weakest episodes of the series and I can see how ending it with Heart Of Gold and Objects In Space gives it a stronger finish.

I would like to get more definitive info on this though.

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Why we still talking about this? Its easy. In "Trash", they get the Lassiter. In "The Message", Mal and Inara talk about where they can fence the Lassiter. In neither of these shows is there any discussion about Inara leaving. She makes that decision in "Heart of Gold", after Mal sleeps with another woman. They then discuss this decision in the beginning of "Objects in Space." Inara is devastated at this point. She won't even let Mal touch her bruised lip at the end of the show. "The Message" couldn't come after this. Because that would mean "Trash" would have to come after as well. Considering her state at the end of "Objects", how is she then going to be all light-hearted and taking part in the Lassiter caper? No-- she's made her decision, and this is reflected in the next episode we see, the feature film "Serenity"-- where she is already off the ship and back at the training house. Shiny.

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