At the end of the intense, emotional Firefly panel, moderator Jeff Jensen said to Joss Whedon that “‘We’re still flying’ is a big mantra of the fan community”—what, he asked Joss, do the fans mean to you?
For Nathan Fillion, a handkerchief came out, and not for the first time. Joss clearly was trying not to weep openly, and everyone else on the panel was nearly in tears, if not completely so.
Finally, amid a standing ovation, Joss finally said, “Only an idiot would try to follow that,” but of course, he was going to try. What follows is an incomplete transcript, but the core of his words are there.
“When you come out of a great movie you feel like you’re still in that world—you come out of Brazil and you feel like the world is all tubes and pipes […] The world has become that. And when you’re trying to tell a story, you’re trying to connect to people in a particular way. The way you,” addressing the 2500 fans in the room, “have inhabited this particular universe has made you part of the story, you are part of Firefly. When I see you guys I don’t think there’s a show, I think it’s alive, I think there are spaceships, and horses, and I think it’s alive.”
The panel had been billed as a Firefly reunion, with Whedon, writer Jose Molina, producer and writer Tim Minear, and Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, Sean Maher, and Adam Baldwin. “The people who are not here, my heart is breaking that they are not here—not just to experience this, because I miss them so much,” said Whedon—adding, irrepressibly, “I want the whole set!”
Which reflects the mood of the panel as a whole—classic Whedonesque hilarity and profound, deep emotion. Everyone is clearly deeply moved and humbled by the force of 2500 fans who had been in line since the night before to see their heroes—Whedon himself had paid a visit to the line sometime in the small hours. And the bonds of friendship run deep. Nathan Fillion teased Whedon endlessly throughout the panel (Minear: “Oh, I never think anything Joss is going to do in TV will be a hit show.” Fillion: “That’s fair.”), but broke out his handkerchief repeatedly and noted that “if I can get through this without crying, it’ll look a lot cooler” before going on to say that Whedon had given him the best character he’d ever played.
“When Firefly died, I thought it was the worst thing that could possibly happen,” Fillion said. “What I realize now, looking over this room, is that the worst thing that could have happened is if it had stayed dead.”
“Could everyone tweet that I said that?” interjected Whedon.
Adam Baldwin gave away a Jayne hat to an incredibly nervous fan dressed as Kaylee, who was able to correctly name the planet that Tracey wanted to be buried on in “The Message.” Alan Tudyk described a painting he’d commissioned from his sister, showing Whedon protecting a firefly in a jar—“it still hangs in my house and I have yet to thank her for it,” Whedon said.
The panel was light on what you might consider “news”—the tenth anniversary event on November 11 of this year on Sci was announced a few days ago. Whedon did mention that there would be more comics ahead with Dark Horse—the Firefly comics are their best selling books and their biggest-selling hardcover is The Shepherd’s Tale. Anyone who went in there thinking that there was going to be a surprise announcement of a new movie or TV show would have been disappointed.
But maybe not. Because what we did get was an extraordinary moment—surprisingly intimate for a room of 2500—showing how deep the attachment between fans and artists can actually be.