A brothel on yet another goram rock in space is in a heap o’ trouble, and Mal and the crew ride on in to help’em out. This is the last of the so-called “lost” episodes of Firefly, not broadcast in the show’s original run. Not since “The Train Job” has the show taken its western elements so literally and, while its not the strongest episode, it works a lot better than that Fox-ordered second pilot. If you missed it on Space, you can find it on the DVD.

“Heart of Gold”

Cast and Crew:

Nathan Fillion as Malcolm Reynolds
Gina Torres as Zoe
Alan Tudyk as Wash
Jewel Staite as Kaylee
Morena Baccarin as Inara
Adam Baldwin as Jayne
Sean Maher as Simon Tam
Summer Glau as River Tam
Ron Glass as Book

Writer: Brett Matthews

Director: Tom Wright


A woman who runs one of those nice, non-sleazy whorehouses so common in fiction finds herself up against the local gentry, a misogynist slimeball seeking his heir. Somehow, she hears that Inara is in the area, and hires Serenity’s crew to help her out. Basically, this is The Magnificent Seven (which was The Seven Samurai) in space.

High Points:

Shhh! Spoilers

Malcolm finally gets laid, and it’s about time.

Then again, maybe not. The episode handles complicated relationship issues with a realism rarely found in genre tv. I didn’t entirely buy Inara’s reaction to events, but I immediately found myself second-guessing that reaction. People are complicated and, for a bunch of wise-cracking space cowboys, these characters are surprisingly like people.

The episode’s messy ethics resemble those held by a fair portion of SF fandom. Despite a derivative plot, we have characters who don’t necessarily hold mainstream values, and a scriptwriter who knows that this fact doesn’t automatically make those characters more adjusted. This show knows its audience, at least a whole lot better than Fox executives do.

Low Points:

The episode conveyed a strong sense of Rance Burgess’s personality early on. His later appearance on the balcony, playing misogynist right-wing hypocrite politician was overdone.

Space is big. Really big. Even one fringe region of space is really big. The last episode affirmed this by showing how interstellar post gets handled in the Firefly universe. How then did Nandy hear that Inara was in the region?

Under the circumstances, shouldn’t it have been a whole lot harder to get into Serenity?

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 This ep follows the formula western just a little too closely. You can see most of this story’s developments coming about as easily as you’d spot a prairie buffalo stampede.

Effects: 5/6 As always, the effects have been decently handled. Our villain, Rance Burgess, gets a nifty hovercar, and a lasar that is actually more effective than a conventional weapon– but which requires recharging.

Story: 3/6 I never bought the plot of “the Train Job,” although the characters were good. Here the blend of high-tech and western conventions works better, but the story remains clichéd.

Acting: 5/6 I especially liked the handling of the complexity of Malcolm and Inara’s relationship here. Adam Baldwin, meanwhile, gets to have a lot of fun as Jayne in a whorehouse.

Emotional Response: 4/6 This episode provokes some banal reactions for its predictability, but some strong ones for its handling of Inara, Malcolm, and others.

Production: 6/6

Overall: 4/6

Total: 29/42

Additional Comments:

“Heart of Gold” has sex, violence, witty dialogue, some interesting characters, and a western town in space. In short, it’s a Firefly episode, and it’s better than most contemporary genre television.