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13 Crazy Yet Plausible Fan Theories About Firefly

Updated June 4, 2020 12.4k votes 2.2k voters 120.6k views13 items

List RulesVote up the Firefly fan theories that seem the most plausible. Vote down the ones that just don't add up.

“Take my love, take my land,
Take me where I cannot stand.
I don't care, I'm still free,
You can't take the sky from me. “

Sorry, it just doesn’t feel right to start off something related to Firefly without including those lyrics, especially when we're talking about Firefly fan theories. Like its theme song, every aspect of the beloved, but short-lived, television show has burrowed its way into the hearts of its fans, and the fandom is still strong more than a decade after Firefly left the air. If it left a hole in your heart, we do have a list of shows like Firefly that might help.

As in any serious fandom, supporters of Firefly have filled the Internet with wild speculation and theorization about the lives of their favorite characters. In fact, Firefly – and its follow-up movie Serenity – lend themselves particularly well to theory-crafting, due to the level of world-building and mystery Joss Whedon puts into his shows.

Whether it's speculation about the personal history of River Tam, or the far-flung past of the war that sent Captain Mal Reynolds on his path to skullduggery, fans of Firefly are bursting with ideas about what’s really going down on board the Serenity. In fact, some of the most intense fan speculation surrounds real-life Firefly conspiracy theories, about how and why the great show was cancelled in the first place. Let's see if we can get to the bottom of these Firefly mysteries. 

  • 5

    River Was Awesome By Accident

    Photo: Firefly/Fox

    There’s a famous saying, “the camel is a horse designed by committee.” When human beings work together, sometimes great things can happen, but often bureaucracy gets in the way. The Alliance appears to have designed a deadly psychic ninja through their experimentation on River Tam, and most fans believed they were trying to turn her into some sort of warrior.

    However, it is possible that River’s abilities are the result of an accident, at least according to Reddit user ThereisnoTruth. River displays a wide range of abilities unlike any of the other individuals produced by the Alliance, but she is unable to control them. This could mean she is the result of several Alliance researchers trying to take her development in several different directions.

    Is this plausible?
  • 6

    The Chinese Rule The ‘Verse

    Photo: Firefly/Fox

    One of the most peculiar aspects of the Firefly ‘verse is the characters’ proclivity for swearing at each other in Mandarin. Almost every character does it, but none of the people in the main cast are of Asian descent. How can this be explained?

    Reddit user brinz1 thinks they’ve solved it with a little speculative history. The majority of the action in Firefly takes place far away from the “core” worlds, which seem to be occupied by the elite of human civilization. It could be this privileged group is descended from modern China, due to some sort of major event in the past, and that’s the reason why their language is influential enough to end up in Captain Mal’s vocabulary.

    Is this plausible?
  • 7

    Inara’s Needle Was Meant To Make Her Deadly

    Photo: Firefly/Fox

    This isn's a fan theory, exactly, but it's been a long-standing issue for Firefly fans. At one point in the show, the crew of Serenity are about to be boarded by Reavers, and Inara is shown looking ponderously at a syringe. When the crew gets out of the jam, the needle is never brought up again, and most fans believed it had something to do with her alleged mysterious terminal illness, but they were really off the mark this time.

    The show’s creator, Joss Whedon, revealed the syringe was actually meant to serve a much darker, more uncomfortable purpose. After the show’s cancellation, Whedon said the mysterious medical device contained a drug to make Inara’s femininity lethal, as a way to prepare her for the ritual abuse of the Reavers. Whedon’s idea was to have a scene where Inara was brutalized by a group of Reavers, only to have them all fall down dead around her after completing their assault. For the sake of our fond memories of Firefly, we can all agree it’s a good thing this particular scene never made it on the air.

    Is this plausible?
  • 8

    The Whedonverse Exists, And River Is A Slayer

    Photo: Serenity/Fox

    There are countless “a bunch of fictional universes are secretly connected” theories out there, but the Whedonverse theory is one of the most solid. Whedon is fond of filling his projects with eEaster eggs and references for long-time fans, and his work always shares a set of central themes.

    Reavers from Firefly appear in Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods, and the crew of the Serenity exist in the far-flung future of planet Earth, meaning there’s no reason they can’t be a part of the Buffy timeline. Some go so far as to speculate River Tam is actually a Slayer, much like Buffy Summers was several centuries before her. River certainly has the skills, and there are a few characters who could be construed as her designated “Watcher.”

    Is this plausible?