The Train Job

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"The Train Job"
Firefly episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 2
Directed byJoss Whedon
Written byJoss Whedon
Tim Minear
Production code1AGE01
Original air dateSeptember 20, 2002 (2002-09-20)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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List of Firefly episodes

"The Train Job" is the second episode of the American science-fiction western television series Firefly created by Joss Whedon, although it was the first to be shown. (The pilot, "Serenity", was not shown until nine other episodes had been aired.) According to the DVD commentary, Whedon and Tim Minear had only two days to write the script.

The crew of Serenity take on a hovertrain robbery commissioned by a sinister crime lord. The cargo they are after, however, is worth more than they know.


Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds, Zoe and Jayne Cobb are in a bar. When Lund celebrates the sixth anniversary of Unification Day with a toast, former Browncoat rebel Mal picks a fight. Zoe immediately steps up to help him out, but Jayne holds back at first ("Hey, I didn't fight in no war. Best of luck, though"), but eventually joins the melee. Greatly outnumbered, Mal radios his pilot, Wash, for help. Serenity arrives just in time and rescues the hapless crew (their foes do not realize the freighter is unarmed).

In the ship's infirmary, Dr. Simon Tam is tending to his mentally disturbed teenage sister River. One of the other passengers, "Shepherd" (preacher) Book, tells Mal that Simon is very brave for giving up his life as a wealthy doctor to go on the run to protect his sister.

On a "skyplex" (an orbiting space city), Mal, Zoe, and Jayne meet with crime lord Adelei Niska and his hulking lieutenant Crow. To show that he is not to be trifled with, Niska shows them a bloody corpse hanging by its feet: the last person who failed him. Niska has a job for Mal and his crew: steal two crates from a train as it travels from Hancock to Paradiso and deliver it to Crow. Mal shows no interest in knowing what is in the crates.

When Mal and Zoe board the train, they discover that an entire squad of Alliance troops is also aboard, though not specifically guarding the cargo. After the pair break into the locked train car and secure the crates, Jayne is lowered on a winch while Serenity maintains station over the speeding train. While they attach the cargo to the winch, a curious Fed trips a smoke trap Zoe set up at the car door. In the resulting chaos, a wounded Jayne is hoisted back to the ship along with the crates, Mal knocks out the Fed before he can see what is happening, and Mal and Zoe take advantage of another smoke bomb to reenter the passenger car without anyone the wiser.

Wash parks Serenity in a canyon, not at the rendezvous point. Jayne tells the crew that they should finish the job. Wash refuses to abandon his wife and Mal. Shepherd Book, who knows a lot about crime lords for a shepherd, says, "If Niska finds out [Mal] is being held, and may speak as to who hired him — I think we're better off being a little late."

Meanwhile, in Paradiso, Mal and Zoe are aghast to find that they stole medicine desperately needed in the poor mining town, whose residents all suffer from "Bowden's malady", a degenerative disease. The local sheriff is suspicious of Mal's cover story. Inara appears and uses her considerable status as a Companion. She claims that Mal is her runaway "indentured man" who persuaded Zoe to leave her husband. The impressed sheriff lets her take the "runaways" back into her own custody.

Back on the ship, Mal announces to the crew that they will deliver the medicine to the townspeople. However, Crow and his henchmen find them, and a violent fight ensues, which the Serenity crew wins. After the villains are secured, Mal and Zoe drive the cargo back to near the town, intending to drop off the crates and notify the sheriff once they are well away, but they run into the sheriff. Realizing what they have done, he lets them go.

Outside Serenity, Mal offers Niska's money to a trussed-up Crow, but Crow threatens to hunt Mal down. Mal casually kicks Crow into Serenity's running engine intake, killing him. Mal finds the next henchman more cooperative.

Back on an Alliance cruiser, two mysterious men in suits and wearing blue gloves inquire about a girl and show the captain a photo of River Tam.


Since this second episode was actually the first to be aired, writers Joss Whedon and Tim Minear had to introduce the characters to the new audience, even though many elements of these introductions were covered in the actual pilot, "Serenity". Quite a bit of the dialogue alludes to information provided in the pilot.

The ominous "Hands of Blue", two men who are pursuing River, first appear in this episode.

As noted by Tim Minear in the DVD commentary, Book's knowledge of underworld dealings (particularly his theory of Niska's reaction to an incarcerated Mal and Zoe) alludes to his cryptic past.

Guest cast[edit]


  • Espenson, Jane (ed.). Finding Serenity: Anti-heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's "Firefly". Glenn Yeffeth. 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]