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THE SIGNAL

The Firefly Timeline

I figured it was about time I put together a Firefly Timeline. This is as accurate as I could make it, and I will be sure to update it as new information becomes available. I cite my source for every date given, so you can judge the worth of each piece of information. I should also mention that this is not the only Firefly Timeline on the internet. An alternative timeline is Edgar Governo's Firefly Timeline. The Governo timeline and mine are mostly in agreement to within a month, but there are minor differences in some of the less accurately known dates.

My intent in putting this together is that it may be of use to anyone creating new Firefly content (which includes fanfic, audio dramas and movies, or just RPG game sessions).

This list also includes events from fan audio dramas and movies, so that you can see where they all fit in the timeline. Note that these are all color coded, so that you don't get them confused with canon. The color coding is pretty simple, and indicates the ultimate source of the date in question. It is defined like this:

Key

From canon (Firefly , Serenity , Those Left Behind , Better Days , The River Tam sessions )
From extended canon (Deleted scenes , Visual Companion , RPG book, movie props, etc .)
Deduction or educated guess
From metacanon (fan created movies, audio dramas, etc.)

OK, so here's the list. Please send all comments, corrections and criticisms to me, Jill Arroway, at the Signal.

The Timeline

Event Serenity  (the ship) built by the Firefly Shipworks Ltd.
When August 2459
Source Serenity 's dedication plaque, a prop from the movie
 
Event Mal born
When September 20th 2468
Source This information appears on the Operative's screen during the movie Serenity .
Reliability Unreliable! Alliance records give more than one date for Mal's date of birth. In addition to this detail (which would make Mal fifty years old at the time of the movie), there is also a prop from the movie which lists Mal's date of birth as both 27th March 2286 and 27th March 2486.
 
Event Zoe born
When February 15th, 2484
Source This information appears on screen during one of the deleted scenes from the movie
Reliablility Alliance records are not very reliable for Mal (see above) so why should they be any more reliable for Zoe? There is no available conflicting evidence, however.
 
Event Simon born
When November/December 2491
Source Simon's birthday occurs in the episode Out of Gas . The year is speculation based on the age of child actor Zak Effron in the Safe  flashback.
 
Event River born
When December 19th, 2500
Source Project Oracle records, from a prop used in the movie Serenity 
 
Event Borderline 1: Shadow (Shadow before the war) 
When April 2506
Source Explicitly stated
 
Event Pax released into the atmosphere of Miranda
When May/June/July 2506
Source Educated guess, based on the assumption that it happened just before the war began.
Reliability Unreliable. See next item.
 
Event The survey ship C57D lands on Miranda to find out what happened
When May/June/July 2506
Source Mal says the report that they found on Miranda was "maybe twelve years old". Exactly  twelve years old would place this at November 2506 (assuming my date for the movie is correct). However, notice the word "maybe" in the above. Mal is guessing. I consider it more likely is that this took place before the war began. (Governo's timeline also orders events in this sequence, but does not give a date estimate).
Reliability Unreliable. Could have been any time between May 2506 and May 2507
 
Event The Unification war begins
When June/July/August 2506
Source The Serenity Visual Companion  states that the war lasted "for almost five years". We know that it ended in May/June 2511, so it must have started around June/July/August 2506. I'm assuming here that if it were any earlier, Joss would have said "five years", and that if it were any later he would have said "four and a half years"
 
Event Borderline 2: Santo (Whatever happened to the tourist trade?) 
When September 2506
Source Explicitly stated
 
Event The Safe  flashback (River and Simon at home with their parents) 
When September 2506
Source On screen caption during Safe  places this as "eleven years ago". That is, eleven years before Safe .
Reliability The caption probably didn't mean exactly  eleven years ago. More likely it meant eleven years to the nearest year, in which case this date could be up to six months out.
 
Event Borderline 3: Perth (Interview with a slave trader) 
When January 2507
Source Explicitly stated
 
Event Borderline 4: Silverhold (Behind enemy lines) 
When May 2507
Source Explicitly stated
 
Event Borderline 5: Athens (The (first) fall of Athens) 
When August 2508
Source Explicitly stated
 
Event Borderline 6: Jangyin (Hill folk and Reaver rumors) 
When February 2509
Source Explicitly stated
 
Event Borderline 7: Angel (Lynch Mob) 
When November 2509
Source Explicitly stated
 
Event Borderline 8: Shadow (Evacuation) 
When July 2510
Source Explicitly stated
 
Event Borderline 9: Ezra (Refugees) 
When October 2510
Source Explicitly stated
 
Event The Battle of Serenity Valley begins
When March/early April 2511
Source From a deleted scene in Serenity  (the movie) we learn that the battle lasted for seven weeks. Therefore the start date must have been seven weeks before the end date, which we know to be May 2511.
Corroborating Evidence The Serenity Visual Companion concurs that the battle lasted for seven weeks.
 
Event Borderline 10: Hera (The Battle of Serenity) 
When April 2511
Source Explicitly stated
 
Event Out in the Black Serenity Valley flashback (Book One, Episode One, Act I, Scenes 1 and 2)
When April 2511
Source Out in the Black, by Tracy and Laura Hickman. The date is not explicitly stated, but the fact that it took place during the Battle of Serenity Valley, is.
 
Event Independents' high command surrenders (also, the Serenity  flashback from the pilot)
When late April/early May 2511
Source From a deleted scene in Serenity  (the movie) we learn that the high command surrendered two weeks before the end of the Battle of Serenity Valley.
 
Event The Battle of Serenity Valley ends (also, the deleted scene from Serenity , the pilot)
When May 2511
Source Deleted scene in Serenity  (the movie). The information appears briefly on a screen viewed by the Operative. You need a freeze frame to catch it.
 
Event The official end of the war - Unification Day
When May/June 2511
Source In Bushwhacked, Alliance officer Harken says, "Some say after Serenity, the Browncoats were through. That the war really ended in that valley." This clearly implies that the war ended very soon after the Battle of Serenity Valley.
 
Event Borderline 11: Paquin (War is Over) 
When July 2511
Source Explicitly stated
 
Event The Serenity  flashback (River at school, from the movie)
When June-December 2511
Source From Serenity  (the movie), this scene is set after the war. Further, In the Serenity Visual companion, the shooting script for this scene describes River as being ten years old during this scene, which confirms that it must have taken place in 2511.
 
Event Mal buys Serenity  (the ship)
When 2514
Source Mal's Alliance record, a prop from the movie
 
Event The River Tam Sessions: Session 1 (Excerpt) (The Academy recruits River) 
When January/February 2515
Source Educated guess based on the notion that this is set just before River joins the academy, and on the assumption that the 416+ Tam sessions were approximately evenly distributed.
 
Event River joins the academy
When January/February 2515
Source In Serenity  (the pilot), Simon says River was 14 when she joined the academy, so it cannot have been earlier than December 19th 2514. He also says it was "months" before he started receiving coded letters, so it cannot have been later than February 2515.
 
Event The River Tam Sessions: Session 22 (Excerpt) (River requests a transfer) 
When Februrary/March 2515
Source Deduction based on the fact that this is set between River's joining the Academy and River's writing to Simon, and on the assumption that the 416+ Tam sessions were approximately evenly distributed.
 
Event River starts sending coded letters to Simon
When March/April 2515.
Source In Serenity  (the pilot), Simon says he began receiving coded letters two years before being contacted by the underground.
 
Event The River Tam Sessions: Session 165 (Excerpt) (River going crazy) 
When June 2515
Source Educated guess based on the assumption that the 416+ Tam sessions were approximately evenly distributed.
 
Event Inara begins renting a shuttle on Serenity
When August/September 2516
Source During the episode The Train Job , Inara says she's been on board for eight months. Therefore this event must have taken place eight months before The Train Job .
 
Event The River Tam Sessions: Session 416 (1st Excerpt) (Simon is looking for me) 
When March/April 2517
Source Educated guess. This must have happened before Simon was contacted by the underground, since River knew that Simon did not (yet) have enough information to find her. But it must have happened quite late on, because River has deduced Matthias's mission for her. Again, I make the assumption that the 416+ Tam sessions were approximately evenly distributed.
 
Event The River Tam Sessions: Session 416 (2nd Excerpt) (I can see you) 
When March/April 2517
Source Deduction based on the assumption that the 1st and 2nd excerpts of Session 416 happened on the same day.
 
Event Simon contacted by "some men" from "some underground movement" about River
When March/April 2517.
Source From Simon's explanation in Serenity  (the pilot), this was two years after receiving coded letters. In addition, this must have happened shortly before the rescue.
 
Event Simon rescues River from the Academy
When April/May 2517
Source Deduction based on the notion that this can't have happened too long before Serenity  (the pilot).
 
Event The episode Serenity 
When May/June 2517
Source Deduction. Several clues in The Train Job  indicate that the interval between Serenity  and The Train Job  can have been a few days at most (for example, River hasn't found out she's on a ship yet).
 
Event The episode The Train Job 
When May/June 2517
Source It is stated in The Train Job  that exactly six years to the day have elapsed since the end of the Unification war.
 
Event The episode Bushwhacked 
When July/August 2517
Source It is stated in Bushwhacked  that Inara has been on board Serenity for a few weeks short of a year. Inara joined Serenity  in August or September 2516.
 
Event The episode Shindig 
When August/September 2517
Source Deduction based on the fact that Shindig  and Safe  must both have occurred between Bushwhacked  and Our Mrs Reynolds . In addition, it is stated in Safe  that three weeks elapsed between Shindig  and Safe 
 
Event The episode Safe 
When September/October 2517
Source Deduction based on the fact that Shindig  and Safe  must both have occurred between Bushwhacked  and Our Mrs Reynolds . In addition, it is stated in Safe  that three weeks elapsed between Shindig  and Safe 
 
Event The episode Our Mrs Reynolds 
When October 2517
Source Inara states that she has an appointment on October 24th. Mal states that Serenity  will take about a week to get there (which won't be late), therefore this episode begins on October 17th 2517, or possibly a few days earlier.
 
Event The episode Jaynestown 
When October/November 2517
Source Deduction based on the fact that Jaynestown  must have occured between Our Mrs Reynolds  and Out of Gas .
 
Event The episode Out of Gas 
When November/December 2517
Source Deduction based on the fact that Jaynestown, Out of Gas , Ariel  and War Stories  must all have occured between Our Mrs Reynolds  and Trash , and on the notion that Simon's birthday (which happens in this episode) occurred before River's. (I suspect that, if River's birthday had come first, Simon would have got River a present, and then River would have got Simon a present. This didn't happen.)
 
Event Christmas
When December 25th 2518
Source It's always on December 25th. I place it here in the timeline for the benefit of authors who might want to write Christmas fanfic, so that they know wherabouts in the timeline it sits.
 
Event The episode Ariel 
When January/February 2518
Source Deduction based on the fact that Ariel  and War Stories  must have occured between Out of Gas  and Trash .
 
Event The episode War Stories 
When February/March 2518
Source Deduction based on the fact that Jaynestown, Out of Gas , Ariel  and War Stories  must all have occured between Our Mrs Reynolds  and Trash . In addition, Book's conversation with Simon at the start of War Stories  implies that Ariel  was still very recent.
 
Event The episode Trash 
When Late March 2518
Source In this episode, Mal tells Monty that he married "Bridget" (Saffron) about half a year back. Note that exactly  half a year would place this episode at April 2518 - however, Mal's timekeeping is not that accurate. This episode must have taken place earlier than April 2518, or there would not have been time for subsequent episodes.
 
Event The fan movie The Bellflower 
When Late March 2518
Source The first episode of The Bellflower  is stated by its creators to be set two weeks before The Message .
 
Event The episode The Message 
When Early April 2518
Source Deduction based on the fact that The Message , Heart of Gold  and Objects in Space  must have occured between Trash  and (several months before) Better Days 
 
Event The episode Heart of Gold 
When Late April 2518
Source Deduction based on the fact that The Message , Heart of Gold  and Objects in Space  must have occured between Trash  and (several months before) Better Days 
 
Event The episode Objects in Space 
When Early May 2518
Source Deduction based on the fact that The Message , Heart of Gold  and Objects in Space  must have occured between Trash  and (several months before) Better Days 
 
Event The audio drama Old Wounds 
When Late May 2518
Source Discussions between Mal and Kaylee regarding Serenity 's primary buffer panel on Old Wounds  and Serenity  (the movie) imply that Old Wounds  is set roughly six months before the movie.
 
Event The comic Better Days 
When June/July 2518
Source Deduction based on the notion that Better Days  must occur between Objects in Space  and Those Left Behind.
 
Event The comic Those Left Behind 
When August 2518
Source Deduction based on the notion that Those Left Behind  must occur about halfway between Objects in Space  and the movie.
 
Event The movie Serenity 
When November 2518
Source In Serenity  (the movie), Simon states that River is 17 years old, therefore this cannot have taken place any later than December 18th 2518. In addition, sufficient time must have elapsed between the end of the series and the movie to allow for all the changes that have taken place. A widely accepted "educated guess" for this period assumes the interval to have been six months, which places the movie at November 2518.
Reliability There's an "educated guess" in the above deduction, and it might be wrong. But in any case, the movie must  have taken place between June and early December of 2518. (And the June limit is highly unlikely  as this would only allow for a few weeks between Trash  and the movie).
Corroborating Evidence In the Serenity  novelisation, author Keith R. A. Decandido dates this as "eight years after the war". The war ended in May/June 2511, so eight years later would be May/June 2519. Since we already know that the movie must have taken place between June and December 2518, this date cannot be accurate to the month. However if we allow that it is accurate to the nearest year  then this sets the earliest possible date for the movie as seven and a half years after the war, or November/December 2518.
 
Event The audio drama Wedding Day 
When December 2518
Source Information on the Sonic Cinema website reads: Set just after the Serenity movie, Kaylee decides to go home to visit with her family for Christmas

Controversial Dates

There are some controversial dates in there, so I'd like to spend some time justifying them. The first dubious one is Mal's date of birth. It's in the movie - and therefore it's canon - that Alliance records list Mal's date of birth as September 20th 2468. The trouble is, that makes him fifty years old at the time of the movie. Is Mal really fifty? A lot of people think not. Additionally, that information conflicts with non-true-canon sources (specifically, props from the movie), so take that with as many pinches of salt as you prefer. Governo's timeline makes a strange compromise, taking the date and month from the movie, but not the year.

The next problem, chronologically speaking, is the question: Did the Miranda event happen before or after the start of the war? Either possibility would be consistent with the information available, since all the relevant references are vague. We do know that Miranda was an Alliance world, not an Independent world, and that the Pax was intended to "calm the population, weed out aggression". It just makes more sense to me that such a program would have happened before the war rather than during.

Finally, there is the date of the movie. This isn't particularly contraversial, but there is some educated guesswork in there. I placed the movie at November 2518. It might  have been earlier - however, the earlier it is, the less time there would have been in which all the other stuff could have taken place.

Contradictions

There are one or two places in the series and movie where contradictions may be percieved. Here are all the ones of which I am aware:

In Objects in Space , Inara says to Jubal Early, "Serenity is a smuggling ship. I've been here a year, I couldn't name all the places she might hide." By my reckoning it should be one year and five months. But hey - there was no reason for Inara to have been completely accurate to Jubal Early in a flippant remark like that.

In the movie, Mal says to Simon, "Eight months you've been on my boat". This is just impossible. I tend to assume Mal meant eighteen  months, which would be consistent with my timeline.

Here's an interesting non-true-canon one. In the Visual Companion, on page 49, the Operative says to Matthias, "River was your greatest success. A prodigy - a phenomenon. Until her brother walked in eight months ago and took her from you" As noted above, this is impossible. Fortunately, this is extended canon, not core canon, so we are able to ignore it. That said, if you want to take it as real, you could  assume that the movie scene in which Matthias died took place in March 2518 (with the rest of the movie being set in November). Personally, I choose to ignore that one.

And just to bring sex into the equation, in the movie, Kaylee says to Mal, "Going on a year now I ain't had nothing twixt my nethers weren't run on batteries." So when exactly did she last get laid? Logically, it has to be sometime after November 2517 - which was after  Simon boarded Serenity. It wasn't with Simon, so I guess there's a story there to be told. My favorite explanation is the "boy whores" in Heart of Gold .

Note that the last three are consistent with each other, and therefore mutually reinforcing. An alternative interpetation is that there really were only eight months between Serenity  and Serenity . I've played with that possibility, but there was just no way I could get it to work. You're welcome to try.

Differences from Edgar Governo's Timeline

The Governo timeline and mine are largely in agreement, however there are still some differences between the two. Most obviously, the Governo timeline includes things from real history, such as the formation of the USA. Mine doesn't. Conversely, mine incorporates the dates of fan audio and video productions, wheras Governo's doesn't. Governo's timeline makes some estimates about e.g. Book's date of birth. I make no guesses without good reason. But let's look now at the explicit differences.

The Governo timeline cites Malcolm Reynolds' date of birth as September 20th 2486. As noted above, this is controversial. Governo's date is conjecture based on the assumption that Nathan Fillion was the same age as Malcolm Reynolds during Firefly (but not during the movie); mine is from canon, but marked as unreliable.

We also disagree about Simon's date of birth. Governo says late November 2490; I say November/December 2491. Well, at least we both agree on November! As to the year, Governo estimates based on the age of Sean Maher during Firefly, wheras I estimate based on the age of Zak Effron during Safe. Estimating the age of a character from the age of an actor is always risky, but my feeling is that an estimate based on a the age of a child actor will be much more robust than an estimate based on the age of an adult actor.

We also disagree about River's date of birth. (I have December 19th 2500; Governo has 2501). In this case, however, I'm right. The date comes straight from the records of Project Oracle (known from a prop from the movie).

The Governo timeline claims that Mal bought Serenity in 2512. I say 2514. Governo's date is deduced from the fact that on the DVD commentary for the episode, writer Tim Minear and director David Solomon indicate that this took place "five years ago." My date comes from Mal's Alliance record (known from a prop from the movie).

The timing of the episodes Ariel  and War Stories  is also different. Governo places them before Christmas; I place them after. Governo's main reason for placing Ariel  before Christmas is River's statement "they took Christmas away". However, since River was referring to the past, not to the present, I don't see that as sufficient justification for trying to squish two extra episodes into 2517, and I really don't think it works. Note that the very next episode, Trash , is set in March/April 2518. In other words, I have assumed that Ariel  and War Stories  fit into that nice big gap, Governo squeezes them into a tiny gap just to get them in before Christmas.

We only very slightly disagree about the timing of Trash . I have late March; Governo says April. Governo's conclusion is a logical deduction, given that Mal says it is "about half a year" since Our Mrs Reynolds , however, I believe it must have been a few weeks earlier, or there would not have been sufficient time afterwards for everything else that needs to happen.

Governo places Those Left Behind  in June, I in August. Truth is, we're both really guessing on this one. I prefer my date.

And finally, there's the movie itself. Governo says August; I say November. Again, we're both really guessing. Again, I prefer my date. Governo's timeline allows only three months between Objects in Space  and Serenity ; mine allows six months. Just from watching the movie, it does seem to me that more than three months must have passed.