Once upon a time there was this television show called "Firefly", created by Joss Whedon, who was just wrapping up his seventh and final season of the critically acclaimed "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and still had "Angel" running on the tube.
"Firefly" was different. It was a space western, set in a time and place that Whedon and his crew were revealing to us in a leisurely fashion which promised to give us a rich tapestry in which to weave plot threads. Think Star Wars meets Maverick meets The Rebel (if anyone here can recall that far back) and you've sort of got the idea.
There had been a civil war of the space variety amongst the planets and outposts of the Alliance,and most of the crew of a freighter/smuggler/freelance mercenary vessel ironically dubbed Serenity had been on the wrong side. There were two ex-soldiers, an ace pilot, a flaky mechanic, a companion for hire (sex and cultural trade worker), a former monk and a thug on board. They picked up a doctor and his sister, and that's where the trouble started.
The doctor had broken his sister out of a secret government lab and the Alliance wanted her back. Just how much became clearer as the 14 completed episodes of the series progressed.
Trouble was that the network shuffled the show around in the timetable,got low numbers, developed cold feet and cancelled it after showing just 11 episodes.
"Firefly" made a lightning fast transition to the SF genre channels where it ran repeatedly for a couple of years, while at the same time racking up very impressive DVD boxed set sales.
Whedon, a stubborn fellow who took a "B" level movie he scripted and turned it into an "A" level television show (Buffy) took his material and found a backer to reverse the process and make a movie. This would allow him to wrap up the dangling plot threads and satisfy himself, if no one else.
The movie was called "Serenity". A movie sized budget allowed him to tell the rest of the story, tying off the major plot lines and thumbing his nose at the executives at Fox Television who had cancelled his show prematurely. For the movie he went to Universal Studios.
Some stuff happened in between the television series and the film, and for that you have to visit another medium altogether.
Whedon also writes comic books (currently working on the Amazing X-Men for Marvel). He took his concept to Dark Horse, which does a lot of tv and movie licencing, and produced a three issue mini-series which bridges the gap between the original show and the movie.
It explains how Inara (the companion) finally left the ship and why Shepherd Book (the preacher) felt he had to go. It shows how the Alliance, having failed several times to track down Serenity and reclaim River (the doctor's sister) for their psi-labs, made one last try with a band of mercenaries, how that failed, and how the Alliance turned the job over to a high level black book Operative - the fellow we meet in the film.
It's well told, nicely rendered, and the special effects in comic books are way easier to produce than in television and movies. There's even an introduction by Canada's own Nathan Fillion, who played the lead role of Mal Reynolds in the series and the film.
After that, if you want to know more about the world of Serenity without actually renting the series, you could try this.