Shiny! Top 10 reasons why seafarers love Joss Whedon’s Firefly

It’s no secret that we here at Deep Sea News are huge nerds. I can hear the outraged cries through my computer screen – “No, not the Deeplings!” – but guys, IT’S TRUE.  What you probably don’t know is that Dr. M and I are HUGE Firefly fans. (For those of you who don’t know, Firefly was a TV show, canceled after less than one season, which was basically a space western created by nerd-idol Joss Whedon. Dr. M and I are somewhat less of a fan of this Firefly, but, um, we are still thoroughly acquainted with it.)

But what we’ve both learned through our marine biological travels is that rabid Firefly fandom is common throughout the ocean science world! I once spent an entire month-long cruise trading juicy Firefly quotes with the chief engineer, and had a second mate tell me “Oh, I thought you were just wearing some dorky science t-shirt, but when you took off your PFD I saw that it’s a Firefly shirt!”

And so, Dr. M and I have conspired to send me to San Diego Comic Con as the first ever (to our knowledge) Official Ocean Science Correspondent. For one day of Comic Con, I’ll be reporting on the latest intersections between ocean science and science fiction. In honor of this, and of Firefly’s 10th anniversary, Dr. M and I have put together this list.


Top 10 reasons why seafarers love Firefly


10. Quarters are tight, but your berth is your castle. This is where you can relax, surrounded by comforting objects, whether they are trashy novels, music, guns, or that purty purty dress. Yes, one of us may take a dress to sea with them, and it’s not Miriam. Frankly, Serenity‘s cabins are nicer than most research vessels we’ve been on – private and with their own toilets! Pretty appealing after sharing a cabin so tight that you and your roommate can’t stand up at the same time. Also, sharing a very very small room means that you best be careful when it’s time to “be in your bunk.” (H/t  Angela Quarles for the screenshots.)



9. Meal time is social time, and the galley is a gathering place. That is unless you prevent someone else from getting their meal.  On both a ocean- and space ship, space is at a premium, and there’s no room for multiple social spaces. And after working hard and bickering in close quarters for days on end, relaxing over food is a way to reconnect with your shipmates, even when the food is not that great. Everyone runs out of “freshies” after a while and has to resort to processed and preserved food.

Click for video (sorry, for some reason this & some of the other videos will not embed).


8. Safety is vital. Ok, it seems to be a little less vital on Serenity  than on most research vessels, but it’s still vital. It’s a big and lonely ocean and galaxy, and there’s often nobody to help.

Click for video.


7. Recreation is really important when you’re all stuck with each other for weeks and months. People get creative about using existing space for fun. Most ships we’ve been on have had game tournaments, haiku contests, and tons of movie options.  When in Antarctica aboard a German icebreaker, Dr. M competed in a croquet, water basketball, and improvised winter Olympics.  Till this day the certificate for winning the water basketball tournament hangs in his office.


6. Staying in shape is hard, but important. It’s hard to realize that on a ship, there’s no place to walk or run. A lot of people get really into lifting weights – which frankly is more appealing on a spaceship than on a rocking ocean ship. Although lifting weights in heavy seas is great workout to build core strength.  Of course, so is holding yourself in your bunk during heavy seas…or puking during heavy seas. (Miriam, a sea sickness professional, is currently trying to break her personal distance record.)

H/t Beertripper for photo.


5.  The bridge is the beating heart of the ship. This is where planning and decision-making occur, and this is where the captain needs to be whenever something unexpected is going down.


4. Tensions can run high. You’re stuck with these people for so long that every tiny habit can become unbearable irritating. If you’ve already got a tense relationship with someone…well….getting stuck on a ship can make it worse.


3. Everyone knows your business. Don’t expect privacy or quiet – and your personal scandals are going to affect everyone’s morale.  And don’t expect those especially risque scandals not to be known either – although at least this will raise two people’s, um….”morales.”


2. You can develop close and unexpected friendships. Sometimes these friendships can seem a bit…odd…to outsiders.


1. And of course, port call is vital. Port is where you hear from your family – and whether you travel the sea or space, when in port, you aim to misbehave.


Miriam Goldstein (230 Posts)

42 Replies to “Shiny! Top 10 reasons why seafarers love Joss Whedon’s Firefly”

  1. Mal: “Which one do you figured tracked us?”

    Zoe: “The ugly one, sir.”

    Mal: (beat)
    “Could you be more specific?”

      1. I wasn’t meant to be implyin’ anything. Just reiteratin’ one of my favorite remembered dialogues from the show.

    1. “That’s just an old sea shanty my mother used to sing to me–my pirate mother.”

      (Okay, granted, it’s Dr. Horrible, not Firefly. But it’s still Captain Tightpants!)

    2. I didn’t forget! But I didn’t include it since none of the characters ever lustily break into song (that I can remember). Also, your link goes to a song about Tau Day that is excellent but not a chantey.

      1. I choose to think that would have come in the second season :)

        Nice list, I was sent here from :)

          1. Nah, Mis, SFS was referring to his own youtube link, not yours. SO COOL that we got linked to from Whedonesque!

  2. #3 nitpick – I think you meant to use “morale,” not “moral.”

  3. Not to mention that all of your best-laid, pre-voyage plans usually go awry. Plus you’re always short of funds and, just like the crew of the Serenity, you’re always on the lookout for the next job.

    Zoë: Captain will come up with a plan.
    Kaylee: That’s good. Right?
    Zoë: Possibly you’re not recalling some of his previous plans.

  4. None of the characters break out into the Serenity Theme song in lusty fashion, but there is the extremely shanty (or work song) styled Hero of Canton.
    We have had a sizable number of divers and crew singing it on the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster a couple years ago. Epic!

    1. Eric, that is EXCELLENT. Must remember to sing it on my next cruise.

  5. So much love for Firefly! Maybe Joss can buy his own network now, after all The Avengers money!! Can’t Stop the Signal!

    Austin, Tx.

  6. I hope you’ll be going to the reunion panel at comicon! we wantez details!!!

    1. So long as I don’t have to wait in line for a million hours, I’ll be there!

  7. Outstanding! And on Whedonesque? I regret that I have but one upboat to give to you.

  8. Love it. Congrats on going to Comic-Con. JEALOUS! Should you require the company of a teacher—I am available. lol

  9. Excellent observation! I rolled around being sick and stuff for twenty years before washing up on this beach, and I love Firefly with a passion, but until now I never put those two things together.

  10. Best show in the ‘verse. I would gladly volunteer to be an Ocean Science Rep at Dragon*con this fall….

  11. You’ve inspired me to persue some kind of seafaring occupation.

    Looked into it at one stage but put it off as maratime school is the other end of New Zealand but I must re-look into this!

  12. Those long sublight runs can wind up feeling like this:

    “I do also remember once running across a little old ex Army LT tug towing a big drydock eastbound across the Pacific. They were way out in the middle of nowhere making all of 3 knots all by themselves. I talked with the man on watch by VHF for a while and he told me that they were taking fuel off the DD when they needed it. I think he said they had been out there for 5 weeks by then and had 4 more ahead. Our normally creeping 12kts suddenly felt like a jet as we watched them disappear behind us. I kept thinking those poor pathetic sods…they must be living on canned beans, hash and Dinty Moore stew!.”

    from gCaptain (

  13. *love* I’m a liveaboard and a Firefly fan and I LOVE this list. Maybe I’ll catch up to you at Comic Con! That would be very shiny.

    1. Holy crap, hi Kat Richardson! I listened to “Greywalker” on audiobook in the lab & loved it! Haven’t gotten to the sequels yet but I look forward to them. Meeting up at Comic Con would be MOST shiny – tentatively, I’ll be there on preview night & on Friday. (can’t go to the whole thing, gotta do some science.)

  14. thanks for the mention! This is a #shiny list! have fun @ comiccon!
    ‘Lets be bad guys’!

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