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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Firefly: What Makes Us Mighty Firefly
What Makes Us Mighty
Written by M.K. England

(The page numbers come from the first printing, softcover edition, June 2023)


The Serenity crew takes a simple job that turns into a potential war crime.


Notes from the Firefly/Serenity chronology


The events of this novel take place before the events of "Heart of Gold".


Characters appearing or mentioned in this novel 






Shepherd Book





PonyMarco (mentioned only)

Sir Warwick Harrow (mentioned only)

Chief Barnhart

House Kenmare servants

Duke Tarmon Farranfore

Pastor Michael

Viscount of Shoreward (mentioned only)

Jin Mengyao, Duchess of Killarney

General Li Xiuying


Mother Serrano


Seanny's father (mentioned only)


Colonel Blenner (mentioned only)

Tarmon's chef (mentioned only)

Badger (mentioned only)

Adelai Niska (mentioned only)

merchant girl

merchant girl's dads

Killarney Liberation Forces



Gabriel Tam (mentioned only)

Regan Tam (mentioned only)



Radiant Cobb (Jayne's mother, mentioned only)

Brother Hewson (mentioned only, presumed killed in this novel)




Sgt. Minetti

duke's messenger

duchess' personal guards



Lady Charlotte 




Didja Notice?


The majority of the novel takes place on the planet Kerry, in the Georgia system. This world also appears in "Cops and Robbers".


On page 12, Kaylee remarks that she picked up the board game the crew is playing on Dyton. Dyton is a moon of Greenleaf in the Red Sun system and has been mentioned in several past stories.


    On page 17, Wash tells Mal he was on Kerry once or twice a long time ago, but spent more time on the planet's moon of Madcap when he worked for PonyMarco. In "Float Out", Wash's old friend Leland remarks on a time he and Wash got drygulched over the surface of Madcap. PonyMarco has not previously been mentioned in any stories.

    Wash remarks that Kerry has orange skies. The world is, indeed, depicted with orange skies in the aforementioned "Cops and Robbers".


Mal's musings on the crew's recent cattle job for Sir Warwick Harrow on Persephone is a reference to "Shindig".


Kerry's main continent is called Killarney. The name likely comes from the town of Killarney in county Kerry, Ireland.


The frilly pink ballroom dress Kaylee thinks abut on page 26 was acquired by her (actually, bought for her by Mal as an apology) in "Shindig".


The duke's estate on Kerry is called Kenmare. This name comes from the Earls of Kenmare and their Kenmare House in Killarney, Ireland. The duke himself is Duke Farranfore, a name from another town in county Kerry, Ireland.


Duke Farranfore's first name is Tarmon. This is the name of an electoral division in county Kerry, Ireland.


Mal assigns impromptu identities to Simon and River when he is asked to introduce them to the duke, using the names Dr. Scott and his cousin and apprentice, Ocean.


On page 38, entrechat and rond de jambe are ballet dance moves.


Near House Kenmare lies the village of Dunloe. This would be named for the Gap of Dunloe mountain pass in county Kerry, Ireland.


Page 46 reveals that Shepherd Book enjoyed gardening at the last abbey he'd lived at (Southdown Abbey on Persephone, as remarked in "Serenity").


On page 48, a man named Clint in Dunloe has a cousin visiting from Tullig. Tullig is named for a village in county Kerry, Ireland.


The narrative tells us the main city of the planet Persephone is Persephone City, an upper-class sort of city. Meanwhile, Book's old abbey, Southdown Abbey, was located in the more lower-class city of Eavesdown.


On page 51, Mother Serrano reveals that the continent of Killarney has 132 townships and villages on it.


The author seems to have had quite a fixation on county Kerry, Ireland in the writing of this novel. The name of Colonel Blenner here is likely derived from Blennerville, a village in county Kerry, Ireland.


On page 66, the duke mentions an animal, a farrow, as a native animal that was preserved during the terraforming of Kerry. He also lists a couple of vegetables that sound as if they are native, fairn (like an onion, but sweeter) and keet (which is described similar to a cross between a carrot and a beet).


On page 68, Mal reflects on an ill-fated job he and his crew had taken on involving hauling explosive HTX-20 for Badger. This was in Big Damn Hero.


On page 69, Mal reflects on a train job they'd done for Adelai Niska. This was in "The Train Job".


On page 70, the crew mentions aspects of a number of their past jobs to the duke. These jobs were seen in "Our Mrs. Reynolds", "Jaynestown", and "Shindig".


Apparently, a plant disease called Kerry Rust afflicts crops on the planet.


Page 76 describes that the farther one gets from the Core worlds, the shakier access to the Cortex gets.


On page 77, Zoe and Mal reach a silent agreement to buy a couple of mule bike tires off of the little merchant girl, but Jayne almost ruins it by objecting, "Didn't the mule bike get wrecked on Niska's--" He's right, the mule bike was damaged, quite possibly beyond repair, on Niska's space station in "War Stories". Apparently some time after the events of this novel, Mal buys a replacement mule bike, because it's mentioned in The Magnificent Nine, despite the fact that they have the hover-mule by the time of Big Damn Hero already.


On page 79, Jayne draws his LeMat percussion revolver. LeMat percussion revolvers are named for Jean Alexandre LeMat (1821-1895), a French doctor and inventor who invented the LeMat revolver.


On page 83, Jayne thinks of his homeworld of Sycorax in comparison to life in Dunloe. Life on this world is revealed in "A Christmas Cobb" and The Ghost Machine.


On page 89, Zoe refers to the time Jayne called Badger a "puddle of piss." This was in "Serenity".


The duke offers Mal another job, picking up a shipment of his from Silverhold's Silver City. Silverhold is a planet previously mentioned in "The Message". This is the first mention of Silver City.


On page 99, Mal reflects on Niska's torturous hospitality he suffered with Wash a while back. This was in "War Stories".


The newer shuttle in General Li's garage on page 110 is a Hummingbird-class skimmer. This is the first mention of this designation in the 'Verse. The older shuttle belonging to Oganya is said to be an Endeavor-class on page 112, another first mention.


On page 122, Simon recalls receiving a message from River about her being tortured at the Academy. This moment was told in "River Run".


On page 129, Jayne brings out his Callahan Full-bore Auto-lock rifle called Vera, as seen in a few previous stories.


On pages 132 and 133, the duke's forces use outlawed Devil's Thorns ordnance which bursts and rains thousands of tiny nanorobotic metal pieces coated with toxin down on the enemy combatants. This is the first mention of this type of ordnance. Page 135 reveals that Mal and Zoe had once seen it used during the war at Three Hills. Three Hills was previously mentioned in "Serenity".


Page 142 tells us it was the Alliance Ethics Board who deemed the use of Devil's Thorns a war crime. This is the first mention of this committee.


On page 169, River reflects on how Simon had been able to help her condition somewhat after scanning her brain when they were on Ariel. This occurred in "Ariel".


On page 170, from the ship's berth on Madcap, River tells Wash to head Serenity towards Thompson's Wake. This is the first mention of this town in the 'Verse.


On page 195, Book reflects on a strange new dynamic that has developed between Jayne and Simon in the recent past, but he's not sure what the cause is. Likely, this is Simon having learned (in "Trash") that Jayne had attempted to betray him and his sister when they were on Ariel (in "Ariel").


On pages 200-201, Simon and Book recall Simon's lack of accomplishment with a gun while defending their shuttle from Niska's forces. This occurred in "War Stories".


On page 208, River assures Wash he is a "leaf on the wind" in his piloting of the ship. In The Magnificent Nine, it is revealed that Wash's Zen Buddhist flight instructor is the one who taught him the mantra "You are a leaf on the wind." River must have heard him use the phrase previously (or her psychic abilities glommed onto it). Later, in "Living Weapon", Wash will say "I am a leaf on the wind" as he attempts to "fly" Serenity as it falls through the atmosphere of Mr. Universe's planet after having lost power.


On page 209, Wash warns Kaylee he'll need as much as she can give him from the RCS and docking thrusters. In spacecraft terminology, RCS generally stands for "Reaction Control System", thrusters used for maneuvering in space.


On page 214, Wash tells Kaylee to patch the damaged fuel line on the ship since "we need to be ready to get the hell outta Dodge in a hurry." The phrase "get out of Dodge" is generally attributed to the long-running (1955-1975) TV series Gunsmoke, a western set in Dodge City, Kansas.


On page 220, Jayne mirthlessly recalls the time he was cut by River. River cut him with a knife in "Ariel".


On page 222, Jayne is surprised that Kaylee doesn't appear to be shocked at River having just casually shot one of the duke's soldiers and he wonders if she'd seen such bloody work from River before. Indeed, Kaylee was witness to River's skill with a firearm during the battle with Niska's troops in "War Stories" when no other members of the crew were present.


The narrative on page 229 states that Simon's nervous system lit up like the Capital City skyline on Osiris when a gunshot went off near him. Capital City is where Simon was a trauma surgeon before he went AWOL to rescue River from the Academy.


The narrative on page 256 remarks that Mal had a thing about being called a petty thief. This was first seen when Inara called him one in "Trash".


Chinese translations
Page # Chinese English
10 Jayne refers to Simon as a hun dan fucking bastard
15 Mal says, "Dŏng ma?" "Understand?"
74 Jayne mumbles under his breath something about lè sè (in relation to Serenity) garbage
79 Mal says, "Shen sheng de gao wan..." "Holy testicle Tuesday"
80 Mal says, "Who knows where the niú shi could be if--" niú shi=bull market (doesn't really make sense in context, but that's what Google translate says...)
83 Mal says, "Dŏng ma?" "Understand?"
124 Jayne refers to the gou cao de insurgents gou cao de=dog fucking
132 Mal says, "Wŏ de tiān a." "Oh my God."
137 Mal says, "“Nĭ tā mā de tiān xià suŏ yŏu de rén dōu gāi sĭ!” "Everyone under the heavens ought to die."
138 Jayne says "niú fen" "cow poop."
138 Mal calls Jayne hún dàn fucking bastard
139 Mal says, "Zhen dao me." "What terrible luck."
156 Mal says, "Because unlike you, I'm not a zhēng qì de gōu shī duī." zhēng qì de gōu shī duī=neat pile of shit
164 Mal says gŏu shĭ shit
168 Wash says, "Wo de ma!" Essentially, "Mother of Jesus!"
185 Mal says, "Oh, what a crock of niú shi." niú shi roughly means "bullshit"
201 Simon refers to River as méi méi. little sister
206 Mal says, "Da xiang bao shā shi de la du zi." "An elephant's explosive diarrhea."
208 Wash says, "Aiya!" "Damn!"
212 Wash says, "Tai kong suŏ you di xing qui dōu sai jin wŏ de pi gu." "All the planets in space flushed into my butt."
213 Wash reflects that it was only when Mal felt the need to swing his zhan dōu de yi kuai ròu around that Wash started to chafe. zhan dōu de yi kuai ròu="dangly piece of flesh"
223 Ashana refers to one of her fellow soldiers as a xióng meng de kuáng rén. ferocious madman
232 Jayne says, "Zhen dao mei." "Just our luck."
248 Mal says, "Wo de ma!" Essentially, "Mother of Jesus!"
248 Mal says, "Tā mā de!" Essentially means, "Oh, fuck!"
250 Mal says, "Ma shang!" "Right now!"
256 Mal calls the duke a hún dàn fucking bastard
256 Mal says wang ba dan son of a bitch
269 Inara calls Xiuying băo bèi darling
277 Jayne calls Book a hún dàn fucking bastard


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