REVIEW: Done the Impossible: The Fans’ Tale of ‘Firefly’ and ‘Serenity’ [2006]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 79 minutes | Release Date: 2006 (USA)
Studio: Done The Impossible
Director(s): Tony Hadlock, Jason Heppler, Jeremy Neish, Jared Nelson & Brian Wiser

“And that makes us mighty”

Never underestimate the Browncoats. A community of “Firefly” fans who filled the mold of their television shows’ iconic warriors Malcolm Reynolds and Zoë Washburne, their fervor and never-say-die attitude not only kept a canceled program alive in their hearts and on the internet, but also helped resurrect it to the big screen. Composed of regular people who found the time to watch and care as well as a contingent of cast and crew—themselves huge champions of the work created—Done the Impossible: The Fans’ Tale of ‘Firefly’ and ‘Serenity’ shares how a mythology survived poor ratings and loveless studio to become a phenomenon spawning artwork, novels, games, and more the likes only seen from “Star Trek” and Star Wars. Considering the show lasted just 12 episodes, you can see how improbable the trajectory to rebirth truly was.

A talking heads documentary comprised of interviews and montages of fans at different Cons while folk tunes from show-inspired bands Emerald Rose and The Bedlam Bards play in the background, you’ll quickly see nothing else is necessary. What better way to explain the arduous, painful journey taken by creator Joss Whedon‘s space western then through the diehard fanatics who never gave up? Directors Tony Hadlock, Jason Heppler, Jeremy Neish, Jared Nelson, and Brian Wiser understand this fact and have found an assembly of Browncoats to share their experiences, from being reduced to tears at the memory of “Firefly’s” cancellation to meeting their spouse as a result of the community. It’s not just the ‘Fillionaires’ or youthfully exuberant geeks or older, intelligent lovers of quality storytelling either. It’s Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Morena Baccarin, Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, and Ron Glass reminiscing about the greatest professional experience of their lives.

We learn how Whedon came on set while Tim Minear directed a fight scene to discuss how to tell the crew; the sadness overtaking the cast as they ended work to get drunk at Nathan’s place; and how the metaphor of Alliance victory was too good to ignore when Fox so suddenly lost faith and pulled the plug. Whedon was a big name at the time, fresh off successful runs from both “Buffy” and “Angel”, so one would have assumed he possessed the benefit of the doubt. Considering the studio refused to air the pilot first—starting instead with “The Train Job” to much audience confusion—it couldn’t have been too big a surprise. Not to be defeated, however, Joss asked Fox for the rights to shop his baby elsewhere and they complied. After rumors began in 2003 about a Hollywood film to extend the saga, Universal Pictures finally announced production early the next year.

But despite the show’s creator never letting go, if not for the Browncoat Movement of fans across the world, Serenity would have remained fantasy. DVD sales of the series went through the roof with fans buying multiple copies to give to friends; a guerilla marketing campaign began with poster campaigns by “11th Hour”; and an inspired restaurant owner stamped the spaceship’s name on every dollar bill she circulated. Money was raised to cultivate awareness, excess funds were donated to charities like Equality Now, and a myriad of creative fans kept the material alive in paintings, podcasts, videogames, and fan fiction Adam Baldwin admits to finding a little creepy. AbbyShot Custom Clothiers couldn’t keep up with production of their replica coat and despite computer graphics firms with more clout and finances, a young upstart company was handpicked by Whedon to produce the show’s RPG platform.

Done the Impossible is crucial viewing material for any fan as it gathers insight into how the evolution of “Firefly” progressed. We’re given a look inside Whedon’s creative process, the knowledge that Universal head Mary Parent had wanted to work with him even before cancellation, and how all involved still hold the material dear to their heart and constantly prove so at Cons each year. And although castmembers Summer Glau, Sean Maher, and Gina Torres are noticeably absent, Christina Hendricks—the great Saffron—talks about her experience on the show as well as fans such as James Gunn and Ender’s Game author Orson Scott Card from an audience perspective. Visual effects men, graphic designers, costume designers and more also give their two cents by thanking the fan community for allowing their work to continue.

The real joy, however, stems from the never-ending list of Browncoats who helped Serenity fly again. We learn about their ‘shindigs’—a family reunion of people you haven’t met yet—and how all give hugs when meeting for the first time. The scope of their reach is fully understood when you discover 75% of a random first test screening for the film was composed of folks who could recognize a producer of the show passing by. Many found their way to becoming extras for 70 bucks a performance too, but the priceless memory of becoming a part of the work was the real payment.

Listening to The Bedlam Bards sing “The Man They Call Joss” and Emerald Rose’s lead guitarist belt the theme song shows the level of passionate, diverse, and intelligent fans who found themselves lost in the authenticity of this space pioneer saga. Watching cosplayers mimic performances, seeing “South Park” renditions of the cast, and listening to how what was thought to be a throwaway inspired the masses to live by a code of honor is quite unbelievable. And before you dismiss these people as nerds, losers, or the like, give the show a chance yourself. You may find you’re willing to don the coat alongside them when the credits roll. I know I did.

FYI: A giant spoiler for Serenity is included towards the end. While great to hear fan and cast reaction to the now infamous event, you should watch both the show and film before this documentary so as not to ruin the effect it instills.

[1] Joss Whedon
[2] Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite
[3] Tracy Hickman, Laura Hickman, Nathan Fillion

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