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Stagecoach - Shepherd Boy. Date: circa 1840
Stagecoach - Shepherd Boy. Date: circa 1840

Firefly Episode 6: We Meet a Stagecoach — and a Vixen!

In this enjoyable episode, there is only one plot hole and it isn’t really significant

Episode 6 is much better than Episode 5. First of all, the “guns problem” is fixed. We’re back to shooting bullets instead of lasers (?) out of the guns. Some of the rifles do sound a bit different from what we might expect but at least the weaponry is consistent with the ammunition used.

The story opens with a stagecoach driving down the riverbank. A group of robbers attempt to take the coach, but the drivers turn out to be Captain Mal and mercenary crew member Jayne Cobb in disguise. After a brief firefight, the bad guys are apprehended, and all is well.

The next scene is a congratulatory party for the crew put on by the settlers. The next day, the ship takes off but there is an unexpected passenger. During the party, it turns out, Mal got himself hitched to a local woman without realizing it. Mal is bewildered, but after some jeering and judgmental glares from the rest of the crew, they decide to drop the girl off on one of neighboring planets.

Everything seems settled but the girl is not what she appears.

She baits Mal with a kiss which knocks him out and then attempts to seduce Wash, the ship’s pilot. He doesn’t fall for it because he is happily married to Zoë But the vixen is also a ninja, so she kicks him in the back of the head. She sabotages the ship and takes off on the Ambassador’s shuttle.

Usually, these types of plotlines are easy to guess… but this episode fooled me! I thought the writers were going for the classic western trope where the bumbling cowboy finds himself wed to a Native American without realizing it. Think The Shakiest Gun in the West starring Don Knotts.

After repairing the ship, the crew realizes that they are heading for a kind of electrical “space net” which will fry their ship and burn them alive. That young girl, it turns out, was working for a band of roaming thieves and has set them on a course for destruction. Fortunately, Jayne loves his guns (he even has a high-powered rifle he’s named Vera). Wrapping Vera in a spacesuit for oxygen, he shoot one of circuits leading into the net — and the energy field collapses.

Having escaped the immediate peril, the crew sets out to find the vixen, who has landed the stolen shuttle on a nearby planet. Mal confronts her, takes back the shuttle, and our crew lives to fight another day.

I enjoyed this episode. There’s only one plot issue that wasn’t addressed. The “vixen” was said to be given to Malcolm by the head of the town as a form of payment because the town couldn’t afford to pay the entire bounty for all the bandits. This story is confirmed when the Shepherd reads from a local book of customs. So, if the head of the town had given the girl to Malcolm, then was he in on the plot to steal the shuttle? And if she just happened to be handy, might not one of the townsfolk feel led to say something about her character?

A plot hole? Sure. But other than that, it was an enjoyable episode.

Here are my reviews of Episodes 1 through 5:

Firefly: Can science fiction reimagined as the Wild West work? I strongly recommend the original 2002–2003 series for its careful development of the culture that grows up around world-building (terraforming). Firefly is an impressive blend of the future and the past and, if Disney+ carries through with its threat of a remake, be sure to see the original.

Firefly Episode 2: When Captain Mal gets a pang of conscience… In the 2002 series, he decides to return stolen goods when he learns of the plight of those from whom they are stolen — with fearsome consequences. The mystery deepens around the mind manipulation that new crew member River has suffered but we get at least one clue.

Firefly Episode 3: Should some people be left to die? After the space crew rescues the survivor of a pirate attack, Captain Mal faces off against The Shepherd on whether God can save even that man. Mal knows something of what happens to victims of Reaver attacks and he is soon grimly proven right about the ways they change.

Firefly Episode 4: Mal ends up in a swordfight amid outer planets. It all starts when ship’s engineer Kaylee decides she wants to dress like a Southern belle… The blend of space adventure and Western shows signs of strain in this episode but it advances the relationship between Mal and the Ambassador.

Firefly Episode 5, Part 1: Brawls that don’t make sense, Part 1. In this episode, after the cattle are unloaded, characters act in an uncharacteristic way in order to create a plot crisis. The problem with characters acting out of role in order to drive the story is that the story begins to feel incoherent; the crisis doesn’t quite feel real.

Firefly Episode 5, Part 2: So River is now a witch? Simon and River are captured because a town on the planet lacks a doctor. But things take an occult turn… As I noted when looking at the first part, the characters’ behavior seems to defy their history but it does create plenty of action.

Gary Varner

Gary Varner is the Assistant to the Managing and Associate Directors at the Center for Science & Culture in Seattle, Washington. He is a Science Fiction and Fantasy enthusiast with a bachelor’s degree in Theater Arts, and he spends his time working with his fellows at Discovery Institute and raising his daughter who he suspects will one day be president of the United States. For more reviews as well as serial novels, go to www.garypaulvarner.com to read more.

Firefly Episode 6: We Meet a Stagecoach — and a Vixen!