Joss Whedon's Grim First Firefly Pitch Was Probably Better Left Unfilmed

With only 14 episodes, "Firefly" is nearly perfect. The sci-fi/western mashup may have gone off the rails eventually, but was never given the chance, thanks to being unceremoniously axed after only 11 installments had aired. Years after its cancellation, the series began to develop quite a rabid following, even selling enough DVDs to warrant a feature film to wrap up the story in 2005. Charting the course of the spaceship Serenity and its ragtag crew of smugglers, "Firefly" aired its one and only season on Fox in 2002. The series was created by Joss Whedon, who at the time, was also juggling "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel." Having three shows on the air simultaneously is no easy feat and some of his work notably suffered as a result.

Because "Firefly" is comprised of great episodes, you might think that all the show's unmade installments would be equally amazing. The truth is, not all ideas are good and while certain story plans would've been wonderful to see, Whedon's initial pitch to writer/executive producer Tim Minear is definitely better left unfilmed. What was the original plan?

'My god, that's dark'

In the Science Channel ten-year reunion special "Firefly: Browncoats Unite," Minear shared Whedon's initial pitch to him:

"[Inara] had this sort of magic syringe. She would take this drug, and if she were, for instance, raped, the rapist would die a horrible death. The story was that she gets kidnapped by Reavers, and when Mal finally got to the ship to save her from the Reavers, he gets on the Reaver ship and all the Reavers are dead. Which would suggest a kind of really bad assault. At the end of the episode, he comes in after she's been horribly brutalized, and he comes in and he gets down on his knee and he takes her hand, and he treats her like a lady. And that's the kind of stuff that we wanted to do."

Actor Alan Tudyk, who played Wash, seemed visibly upset by the story idea, saying, "My god, that's dark." Minear concurred, "It was very dark. And this was actually the first story that Joss pitched to me when he asked me to work on the show. He said, 'These are the kinds of stories we're gonna tell!'"

This explains Inara's mystery syringe in the pilot episode. She opens the box containing it when the crew is nearly attacked by the space pirates known as Reavers. Zoe (Gina Torres) explains, "If they take the ship, they'll rape us to death, eat our flesh and sew our skins into their clothing. And if we're very, very lucky, they'll do it in that order." It looks to be perhaps a way out of the situation for Inara, but who would've thought the plans for her character would be quite this bleak?

Inara didn't need this story

Whedon has made some questionable choices over the years in terms of what he puts his female characters through — and I say this as a huge "Buffy" fan — but honestly, no one needed to see this story. One of the aspects of "Firefly" that has aged particularly poor is Mal's (Nathan Fillion) treatment of Inara (Morena Baccarin), the Companion traveling aboard his ship. Mal frequently refers to her by a slew terrible names, despite the fact that courtesans had very high standing in this future society. Even if this weren't the case, no one deserves to be spoken to the way that Mal speaks to Inara. Not that this has any bearing on their off-the-charts chemistry or made fans root for them as a couple any less, but it's not a great look twenty years later. The idea that Inara experiencing this brutal assault provides the impetus for Mal to finally treat her "like a lady" is pretty awful.

There is no reason to have Inara endure this experience for the syringe reveal or to change Mal's bad behavior towards her. Of course, there's no telling how Inara would've been treated by the story were it to have actually come to fruition, but it certainly seems like it's for the best that this episode was never made.

In that same reunion special, Tudyk mentions another story idea in which the crew was transporting feral dogs to sell to a dog fighting ring, but River "communes" with them all, making the animals no longer fit for fighting, thus rescuing them from their brutal destinies. Sadly, we'll never see this happen either, but it sounds like a way better episode of "Firefly" than that early pitch.