Out of Gas

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"Out of Gas"
Firefly episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 8
Directed by David Solomon
Written by Tim Minear
Production code 1AGE07
Original air date October 25, 2002 (2002-10-25)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"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 ship quickly losing oxygen and heat, 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 when he sees that Mal is truly alone and the ship is stranded, he 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 chasing them out of the ship.

Bleeding from a stomach wound and on the verge of passing out, Mal manages to get the new catalyzer installed correctly and restarts the engine. He then staggers up to the bridge, but is unable to recall the shuttles before blood loss renders him unconscious.

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. Mal thanks her and as he drifts off to sleep, he asks, "Y'all gonna be here when I wake up?". Book assures him that they will.

Spread throughout the episode, a sequence of flashbacks shows the assembly of the crew. Flashbacks are intercut with the 2 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 Corporal, Zoe, to join him on his new ship Serenity and start a new life together. The next two to join the team are Hoban Washburne, an accomplished pilot with a mustache who bothers Zoe, and a laid-back mechanic named Bester. On a layover for repairs, Bester brings a young woman to the engine room for some illicit coupling; 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 has frequently broken). The final member is Jayne Cobb, a mercenary whose partners are cheating him out of his fair share; Mal convinces him to betray his old Captain while Jayne has him and Zoe at gunpoint.

The episode closes with a final flashback, showing Mal laying eyes on Serenity for the first time, while the shipyard salesman advises him to buy a different ship.


  • In this episode, the ship is crippled by the failure of the catalyzer on the port compression coil. Kaylee mentioned that this part needed fixing twice before: in "Serenity", when she asked Mal to buy a new compression coil for the engine, and in "The Train Job", when she complained that "somebody won't replace that crappy compression coil". In "Serenity", Kaylee alludes to the compression coil as a "nothing part, till you don't got one"; a sentiment repeated by Mal to the salvage crew when he is hailed. In the trash-yards of "Ariel", Wash can be seen finding a compression coil and throwing it away.
  • At the end of the episode, Jayne questions the genuineness of the incense in Inara's shuttle. In Serenity, Inara tricks The Operative with a flashbang disguised as incense.

Production details[edit]

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:

  • Scenes that take place in the distant past - flashbacks - 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]

  • Steven Flynn as Captain, who comes to the aid of a disabled Serenity and attempts to commandeer the ship
  • Ilia Volok as Marco, a bandit whom Jayne once worked with.
  • Lyle Kanouse as Salesman, the businessman who originally sold Mal the ship.
  • Dax Griffin as Bester, Serenity's original mechanic.


  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]