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In the final episode of Firefly (Objects in Space):

River Tam is aboard the Serenity

However, at the start of the movie Serenity,

River is at a high-security Alliance medical complex, presumably after having been captured

Is it ever mentioned what events occurred between the final episode and the movie?

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8  
The rest of the series? We wish. –  Schroedingers Cat Jan 14 '12 at 11:23
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8 Answers

up vote 57 down vote accepted

I always assumed that the sequence at the start of the movie was a flashback to before the start of the TV series.

I guess that this isn't particularly clear - but the actual sequence is revealed to be a recording.

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33  
I watched that scene, and thought it WAS perfectly clear. –  Jeff Jan 14 '12 at 15:58
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This answer is incorrect: it was not a flashback, it was in present time, but it was a viewing of a recording, as described by @Pureferret. –  Jay Bazuzi Jan 15 '12 at 3:39
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flashback / holographic recording - not really much difference –  HorusKol Jan 15 '12 at 6:40
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@Paperjam - well, yes and no - in the recording we see and are told about only a limited detail about what is being done to River. At the start of the series, Simon shows that he knows River was being experimented on, but has no idea of the exact nature of the experiments nor the damage done to her –  HorusKol Jan 16 '12 at 10:51
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@Paperjam is correct, but this is an acceptable plothole to me - it's caused by the need to jam the backstory into the movie for the benefit of those who didn't see the series. (The rescue shown in Serenity is also inconsistent with Simon's description in the pilot episode of the series.) –  Tynam Apr 26 '12 at 0:11
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The scene you are referring to is a holographic recording.

enter image description here

It eventually details how Simon rescues his sister (Watched by 'The Operative'), which leads you up to the beginning of the Firefly Series, and cuts out to the beginning of the movie.

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It is a flashback on how Simon had a key role in rescuing River from the facility.

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I always assumed that she was captured again because she's not in cryo during the holographic recording shown at the beginning of the film, and originally, Simon didn't break her out. He paid other people to sneak her out in cryo and only met the on Persephone afterward. I guess Whedon thought he had to punch up the back story for the movie.

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3  
That's a good point about River being in cryo. I'm sure the breakout was retconned because Wheddon had to both provide a brief back-story for the Serenity viewers, many/most of which had not seen Firefly, and also spice it up a bit for the silver screen. –  Paperjam Feb 23 '12 at 2:49
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I assumed that the cryo was meant as a way for Simon to transport River without anyone recognizing her, not that he actually shipped her out of the Alliance Camp frozen in a box. She certainly seemed to know what was going on when she unthawed, and wasn't all "how the hell did I get out of that camp?". –  Michael Edenfield May 1 '12 at 16:22
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The Firefly in universe sequence goes like this:

  • River is taken to the government facility
  • Simon rescues her
  • They board the Serenity
  • Lots of adventures
  • Events of the movie

However it's shown to us in this order:

  • They board the Serenity
  • Lots of adventures
  • River is taken to the government facility
  • Simon rescues her
  • Events of the movie
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s/lots of adventures/not nearly enough adventures, but otherwise, spot-on. :) –  Martha Dec 5 '12 at 20:12
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I think she was re-captured, when Simon originally broke her out, he wasn't aboard the Serenity yet, and it's the Serenity ship they board, so she must have been captured somewhere between the series ending and the movie beginning.

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At the end of the 3-part comics series, which are the events after the final episodes, the operative is sent after River and Simon. So the breakout hologram scene must refer to events before the series. However the operative is in the current timeframe, he is viewing a past event. Also it is known that Simon spent “years" getting the clearances to gain access to River, something that could not have happened after the events of the series, since he was a known “fugitive" by that time.

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This is a question I've had for awhile also. The best way I found to figure that out, is by the dialogue and also what the shuttle looks like that drops the platform. Most of the pictures online of Serenity's shuttles look like it has longer wings than the rescue shuttle, hinting at a different ship. On the other hand, some of the pictures show a shuttle without wings, so maybe that's the one they use. We all know there are at least 2 shuttles on Serenity.

The dialogue in the rescue doesn't really set a time period either, though at no point in time does the scientist make mention of being getting her back.

In my opinion, the opening scene does 2 things, shows new viewers the history and gives old viewers a fun view of how he rescued her.

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