Here's an interesting question: In this harsh economy, would you rather give any extra money you may or may not have to B movie actor Nathan Fillion so that he can make new episodes of the long-dead Fox series Firefly, or give that money to a family in Christchurch who has suffered great loss after the recent earthquake, or use your lawn mowing cash to help the hobos in New Orleans that still haven't recovered from Hurricane Katrina? There are a million causes out there that desperately need your help. But if the Browncoats have their way, they're going to put all their efforts behind earning $300 million so that Nathan Fillion, who recently made an off-the-cuff statement, can create a web series based on a show that lasted for one short season, and then spun-off into a feature film that was mediocre at best.

Here's the rub. Firefly was an hourlong sci-fi series created by The Avengers director Joss Whedon. It ran for eleven episodes (fourteen were produced in all) between September of 2002 and the summer of 2003 on Fox before being canceled. In that time, it had amassed a huge cult following, the individuals of which call themselves the Browncoats. They're basically Trekkies or Trekkers (I'm not sure which), and their efforts to save the show back in the day were unprecedented. They raised money to place an ad in Variety and organized a postcard writing campaign hoping UPN would pick-up and continue the series. Their continued efforts to revive the already cremated show were enough to convince Universal Pictures to make and release the theatrical feature Serenity, which was a continuation of Joss Whedon's imposed storyline. It turned out to be strictly for the fans, alienating most moviegoers who didn't know any better. Basically, these fans and their tactics are persuasive and honorable. We need to have them doing something better with their time.

But nope. Now they are rallying to earn $300 million dollars so that Nathan Fillion can own the rights to this franchise. This March, the Science Channel will begin running all fourteen episodes of Firefly's first and only season. After this was announced, Nathan Fillion made the following off-the-cuff statement.

"If I got $300 million from the California Lottery, the first thing I would do is buy the rights to Firefly, make it on my own, and distribute it on the Internet."

This immediately sent the Browncoats into epileptic shock. They quickly gathered there strong forces on Twitter and Facebook, organizing a donation drive to get Nathan Fillion that $300 million. And there is even a website already established: helpnathanbuyfirefly.com

Related: SDCC 2011 EXCLUSIVE: Nathan Fillion Talks Firefly and Buying the Rights

Their army is 70,000 strong counting. They have established a no-cash pledge run, while also trying to raise the funding for real, not with just pledges. They are reaching out to managers, agents, and publicists for direct feedback. Here is what the organizers had to say.

"Here's the thing - we expect Nathan was joking. We're sure interviews will cover that he was. When we put a dollar value on all your support for the idea, what may have been a joke could take on a more serious tone. Either Joss might be willing to revisit fan-funded projects or we'll get the attention of a network who is willing to take a serious evaluation of the series (say, perhaps you Science Channel?). It would be wonderful to setup a not-for-profit to purchase the rights from 20th Century Fox, but the chances of that are pretty unlikely without at least having Joss involved.

They understand their plight is a tough road to hoe, yet they press on. Former Firefly writers Jose Molina and Jane Espenson have responded to the campaign, claiming they will return to pen new episodes if Nathan Fillion get funding to make this proposed Firefly webseries. Nathan Fillion has yet to respond. (A State of the Firefly Union address is immanent, I'm sure.)

What makes this a lofty proposition from the get-go is that 20th Century Fox, who owns the rights, is not looking to sell them any time soon, nor are they obligated to ever sell them. Even if they did, Nathan Fillion is committed to the very popular ABC series Castle, Joss Whedon is extremely busy bringing The Avengers to life on the big screen, and the rest of the cast, which included Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, and Summer Glau, have gone onto be quite successful and have series commitments of their own. It will be a long, long time before Firefly returns in any form. (And, hey, aren't a lot of the main characters dead?)

But for shuds-and-guffaws, lets say the organizers of this pledge drive actually got new episodes of Firefly into production? Would they be obligated to "like" it even if it sucked? We need look no further than Tron: Legacy or Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace to see that the wished-for return of any cult franchise never lives up to the momentum pushed behind it. How can it? It's like Arrested Development, another series Fox cancelled too early. People have been clamoring for a big screen movie for years now. What they don't realize is that it all ended perfectly with Jason Bateman and Michael Cera sailing away on that boat. The movie won't, can't live up to that. So why work your guts out for $300 million just to say, at the end of the day, "That kind of sucked." The Browncoats were lucky enough to get Serenity. If they are to be honest, they should admit now that the movie just wasn't very good. And leave it at that.

In fairness, the organizers, who are choosing to remain nameless until the money starts pouring in, will donate a percentage of the pledged funds to three different charities of the pledger's choosing. Here is what they had to say on that.

"What if Nathan was joking and Joss isn't interested? We expect this outcome, to be frank. But, here's what we plan to do as part of this whole project: When people pledge funding towards the idea, we're going to be asking what % you'd be willing to donate towards these charities:

  • Nathan co-founded Kids Need to Read (helping disadvantaged children with literacy and reading)
  • Joss supports Can't Stop the Serenity (which supports Equality Now, protecting human rights)
  • Near and dear to our hearts is Child's Play (helping improving the lives of children in hospitals)

Bringing back Firefly is still a longshot, but we're going to keep trying until we get shot down hard by the folks that matter. If that happens, we'll still help a lot of people.

Will the fans eventually earn enough money to buy Nathan Fillion the rights to Firefly? Maybe. But these folks really ought to be doing something more worthwhile with their time. Don't you think?

B. Alan Orange