TV Legends Revealed: What Dark Secret Did Inara's Syringe Hold on 'Firefly'?

TV URBAN LEGEND: Inara on “Firefly” had a syringe that was originally going to tie into a dark future storyline.

What a television series originally planned for its characters doesn’t always end up being what unfolds on screen. Sometimes plots go off in different directions, and or outside forces intervene. Ally McBeal was about to get married until her would-be husband was abruptly written off the show due to Robert Downey Jr.’s drug arrest. “The West Wing” writers were close to handing Arnold Vinick the presidency before the death of John Spencer solidified the original plan to have Matt Santos win. “All My Children” had a bomb storyline that had to be cut short due to the Oklahoma City bombing.

There are all sorts of reasons why planned storylines don’t actually become reality. Sometimes, however, it is a more natural reason, like the producers simply deciding to go in a different direction. That was the case on Joss Whedon's “Firefly,” which had a very dark storyline planned for Inara (Morena Baccarin) that never came to fruition.

“Firefly” is about a Firefly-class spaceship named Serenity and its crew and passengers. Led by Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and Zoe Alleyne Washburne (Gina Torres), two former comrades from a failed attempt at a rebellion against the Alliance, the ship's crew lives on the fringes of society, mostly doing smuggling or cargo runs, but occasionally also doing a bit of thieving. Also among the passengers is Inara Serra, a Companion held in such high regard that she gives Serenity a certain measure of status wherever it goes. Inara and Mal have a strong romantic connection, but they try to keep their relationship just a professional one.

In the first episode, the crew is nearly attacked by Reavers, demented space pirates. As Zoe 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." While everyone waits to learn whether the Reavers will attack, we see Inara in her quarters, where she opens a box and contemplates the syringe within.

We never learn the purpose of the syringe, as Fox canceled the series after 11 episodes had been produced (they then completed three more episodes). Luckily, the show's cult success led to the movie “Serenity,” as well as licensed comic books.

But what was in the syringe?

In a 2012 Science Channel special about “Firefly,” series writer and executive producer Tim Minnear explained

She had this 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. It was very dark. And this was actually the first story that Joss pitched to me when he asked me to come work on the show. He said, 'These are the kind of stories we're going to do.'

However, at another point, Inara was going to be slowly dying (Baccarin confirmed as much at a panel), so I imagine that is what Whedon ultimately intended the syringe to be revealed to be, although that plot also was never resolved.

We're lucky that never happened, although it admittedly would be a powerful sequence. Way too dark, but powerful nonetheless.

The legend is...


Be sure to check out my archive of TV Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of television.

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