IT'S fitting, and sweetly vengeful, that a television show born of a writer's zeal for frontier life is now itself conquering new borders.
"Serenity," the new incarnation of the futuristic space western "Firefly," which briefly aired in 2002 on Fox, will premiere as a Universal Pictures feature on Sept. 30 -- with the TV cast intact. So how has director-writer Joss Whedon been able to take his failed television series from the small screen to the big?
That's simple, says Whedon, also the creator of the cult hits "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel."
"Probably more than any project that I can think of, the fans made their voices heard," Whedon said. "For a major motion picture, that's a little bit unprecedented. I give them giant props because they have earned them."
After Fox yanked the show off its schedule, the loyal fans launched websites and bought more than a million copies of the DVD (which featured extra episodes). It was enough to convince Universal in 2004 that the story of the ragtag crew of the starship Serenity was worth telling.
"I always thought the show would catch on slowly, and it's done exactly that," Whedon said.
The crew of mercenaries and misfits aboard Serenity is led by Capt. Mal (Nathan Fillion), who has ended up on the wrong side of a galactic civil war against ominous forces, known as the Alliance.
Whedon's challenge was to take his episodic tale of people living aboard a transport ship 500 years in the future and flesh it out into a two-hour film that would satisfy the devoted as well as audiences who never saw his TV series.
"Luckily, I did have an overreaching arc, a grand conspiratorial story of adventure that they were going to get caught up in," Whedon said. "The basis of the movie was 'Let's take the most mundane people in the universe and let's stick them in a truly epic situation and see how they react.' "
Whedon conceived the pilot for "Firefly" after he finished reading "The Killer Angels," an account of the Battle of Gettysburg, one night in London when he was jet-lagged.
"Reading that kind of book just flipped the switch and made me realize that I have a deep love for this particular frontier story," he said. "When you're dealing with science fiction, if it has any kind of history in it, everything is interesting and everything is useful. Frontier stories are always so unique and secluded and harsh and interesting and I just thought that's what it must be like to be aboard a spaceship, when you're trying to make a living and you're living hand to mouth flying between planets."