Out of Gas

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"Out of Gas"
Firefly episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 8
Directed byDavid Solomon
Written byTim Minear
Production code1AGE07
Original air dateOctober 25, 2002 (2002-10-25)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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List of Firefly episodes

"Out of Gas" is the eighth episode of the science fiction television series Firefly created by Joss Whedon. It differs stylistically from the rest of the series, in that it tells its story alternately in three timeframes: events in the present, events in the near-past that led to the present, and events in the past that led to the formation of Serenity's core crew.

After Serenity suffers a catastrophe that leaves her crew with only hours of oxygen, flashbacks show how Mal and Zoe acquired Serenity and assembled their motley crew.


While deep in space, the ship's compression coil blows out, disabling the engine and critically injuring Zoe. With the engine offline, the main life support system has no power, and the backup was disabled by the explosion or ensuing fire. With only a few hours of oxygen left, Mal orders the crew to divide into two groups and head off in opposite directions in the shuttles, while he stays behind with the ship in case someone picks up their distress signal.

Hours later, another ship does indeed show up. Mal bargains with the captain for a new catalyzer, but the man shoots Mal and decides to commandeer Serenity for himself. Mal turns the tables by grabbing a nearby gun when the hostile crew's backs are turned, successfully driving them off his ship.

Bleeding from a stomach wound and on the verge of passing out, Mal manages to get the new catalyzer installed and restarts the engine. He then staggers up to the bridge, but falls unconscious before he can recall the shuttles.

He wakes up in the infirmary, surrounded by the rest of the crew while Wash gives him a blood transfusion. A supine but conscious Zoe welcomes him back. She reveals that she ordered the crew to return to Serenity when she regained consciousness, thereby saving all their lives.

Spread throughout the episode, a sequence of flashbacks shows the assembly of the crew. Flashbacks are intercut with the two more recent timelines based on spatial relationships, contrasting past events in certain areas of the ship with current ones. First, Mal convinces his fellow former soldier, Zoe, to join him on his new ship Serenity. The next two to join the crew are Hoban Washburne, an accomplished pilot who bothers Zoe for some unexplained reason, and a laid-back mechanic named Bester. On a layover for repairs, Bester brings a young woman to the engine room for some sex; this woman, Kaylee Frye, soon replaces him as engineer when she shows an instinctive rapport with the ship's engines. The next recruit is Inara Serra, who uses her high status as a Companion to bargain for a 25% discount on the rent for a shuttle. She also insists that Mal never call her a "whore" again (a promise he frequently breaks). Next is Jayne Cobb. He and others have Mal and Zoe at gunpoint, but Mal offers him a better deal and Jayne switches sides.

The episode closes with a final flashback, showing Mal seeing Serenity for the first time, while a salesman is trying to sell him a different ship.


According to the DVD commentary, Alan Tudyk took the big red "recall" button from the Firefly set and presented it to Joss Whedon, telling him that if Whedon managed to get the series renewed, he could press it to call the cast back.

Also according to the commentary, Gina Torres (Zoe) was written out of the bulk of the episode because the filming took place just after her marriage to Laurence Fishburne and they were away on their honeymoon.

Tim Minear credits David Solomon's expertise as a director with the success of the episode's daring three-timeline structure.

In order to distinguish between the three timeframes and clarify events for the audience, the three timeframes were shot using drastically different lighting:

  • Flashbacks that take place in the distant past are lit with warm, dark tones; yellows, reds, golds, but all with a lot of shadow, shaded and blurred lines, and dark areas.
  • Scenes that take place in the present and/or near-past (depending on perspective) are shown with relatively normal lighting, bright, with vivid color.
  • Scenes that are shown in the present and/or near future (again, depending on perspective) are lit with a blue/purple tint, oblique light-sources, and extremely sharp lines and contrast.

Furthermore, the differences between the second two timeframes (not including the flashbacks) become more subtle as the storyline goes on, as the story catches up with itself, the 'present' becomes the past and the 'future' becomes the present.

Show creator and executive producer Joss Whedon lists "Out of Gas" as one of the "three favorite projects he's ever been involved in," the other two being related to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.[1]

Guest cast[edit]


  1. ^ Yohana Desta, "Joss Whedon says he felt like 'a miserable failure' after 'Avengers: Age of Ultron.'" Mashable, April 19, 2016. http://mashable.com/2016/04/18/joss-whedon-ultron-interview. Chat with actor Mark Ruffalo at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.
  • Espenson, Jane, ed., with Glenn Yeffeth (eds.). Finding Serenity: Anti-heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's "Firefly". Dallas, Texas: Benbella Books. ISBN 1-932100-43-1.
  • Rhonda V. Wilcox; Tanya Cochran (20 May 2008). Investigating Firefly and Serenity: Joss Whedon's Worlds Beyond: Science Fiction on the Frontier (Investigating Cult TV Series). I B Tauris & Co Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84511-654-5.
  • Joss Whedon (1 Sep 2005). Serenity: The Official Visual Companion. Titan Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84576-082-3.
  • Joss Whedon; et al. (25 August 2006). Firefly: The Official Companion: Volume One. Titan Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84576-314-5.
  • Joss Whedon; et al. (25 August 2006). Firefly: The Official Companion: Volume Two. Titan Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84576-372-5.
  • Joss Whedon (December 9, 2003). The Complete Series: Commentary for "Serenity" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.

External links[edit]