Season 1 Episode 1

The Train Job

Aired Friday 8:00 PM Sep 20, 2002 on FOX
out of 10
User Rating
995 votes

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Episode Summary

Serenity continues to travel through space conducting illegal runs across the star system, which is under the control of The Alliance. A powerful and fearsome mobster named Adelei Niska demands that the crew of Serenity pull a train robbery. The train is carrying medical supplies for a community, and Reynolds and Zoe get held on suspicion. They get free with Inara's help but realize they were tricked and try to return Niska's money. His henchman isn't too happy, but Mal "persuades" the next guy to take the money back. Meanwhile, two blue-handed, black-suited operatives close in on River.moreless

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  • The Train Job

    The good;

    We see a more moral side to the Serenity crew and love the face-off between Jayne and the other without Mal around.

    The bad;

    The sick bay design is rather stupid, wouldn't you want some privacy rather all those windows for people to see in? No one notices Serenity flying alongside the train?

    Best line;

    Zoe (about to fight the bar thugs); "Jayne?"

    Jayne (shrugging) "Hey, I didn't fight in no war"


    Zoe; "I have an image of that guy hanging from the ceiling"

    Mal " I have an image of that guy not being me"


    Mal; (of ripping off the Alliance goods) "I would do it for free"

    Zoe; "Can I have your share?"

    Packing heat;

    I'm reliably informed by the folks on the yuku Xena forums that the sniper rifle Jayne used in Serenity is a Blaser R93. The bar thugs pack a Colt 45, Glock and 44. Automag. The Alliance troops use H&K MP5s and SA80s.

    Kinky dinky;

    Sexy belly dancer.

    Notches on the Serenity bedpost;

    Inarra;1-a paying customer who wishes to make her his kept woman

    Wash; 1-the missus

    Zoe; 1-the hubby

    Capt subtext;

    Mal talks of 'being on the edge' then 'moving towards the middle', possibly alluding to the frontier and the central planets. Innara and Kaylee have a big girly hairstroking session (how the Summer's girls on Buffy used to express physical affection for one another). Inarra remarks to Kaylee "We could experiment". Mal seems keen on the idea and refers to Inarra 'servicing the crew' but she dismisses that as his 'lonely pathetic dreams'. Summer points out that Mal=Bad in Latin/French.

    Mal tells Zoe he loves her but it's all part of their cover(?)

    How'd they get away with that?

    People on meathooks, never a good thing. River being experimented on also not good.

    Total Serenity crew; 7(8?) River comments of Serenity "This isn't home". Book is now part of the crew with no backstory but still wonders about his role onboard. Jayne doesn't consider Simon or River part of the gang.

    Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Wash, Kayleigh, Inarra, Book, Simon, River(?).

    Subverting the Hollywood cliche;

    Whedon cliches; (see I spelt it right!);

    Devoted siblings, haunted charismatic leading man. Teenage girls with superpowers. Hookers. Babbling insane girls with truth in their madness.


    Knocked out; Jayne by Simon

    Book; 1

    Simon; 1

    Kaylee; 1


    Women good/men bad;

    Kills; Mal kills Crow and Zoe kills at least 2 of his men

    Mal; 8-

    Zoe; 4-

    Jayne; 2-

    Happy high-class hookers in Space (the title the porn industry wished they'd thought of!);

    Kaylee seems fascinated by the details of Inarra's profession. Inarra claims a companion gets to pick and choose her clients which I think is about as realistic and truthful as the Dollhouse staff pretending to themselves that they don't hire the Actives out as sexual submissives. Mal still needles Inarra about her hooking but does so more subtlely and less nastily than he did in 'Serenity'. The nature of the companions work is left very vague here, if you hadn't seen Serenity you wouldn't know exactly what her job is, she could be a beautician.

    Inarra enjoys turning the tables on Mal, pretending he's her indentured man (some form of community service in the future?).

    Know the face?

    Tom Towles plays the thug in the bar, he's also Cooper in the far superior remake of Night of the Living Dead and guest starred in Anthony Head's series VR5 (in which he essentially plays a prototype Giles)

    Whedon alumni- Joss likes to reuse the same actors in his series, let's count up their appearances (let me know if I miss any)

    Nathan Fillon-3; Firefly, Caleb in S7 of Buffy and Dr Horrible

    Gina Torres-2; Firefly and Jasmine in S4 of Angel

    Alan Tudyk-2; Firefly and the villainous/heroic(?) Alpha in Dollhouse (haven't seen season 2 so don't spoil it for me)

    Adam Baldwin-2; Firefly and Marcus Hamilton in S5 of Angel

    Summer Glau-3; Firefly, Dollhouse and the prima ballerina in the LEGENDARY S4 Angel ep 'Waiting in the wings'.

    Carlos Jacott-3; The Fed in Firefly, Ken in the 'Anne' ep of Buffy and Richard Straley in 'The Bachelor Party' ep of Angel.

    Andy Umberger;3-the captain of the Dortmunder in Firefly, D'Hoffryn in Buffy, the psychic surgeon in the Angel ep 'I fall to pieces'.

    Mark Shepherd;2-Badger in Firefly and later turns up as one of Ballard's FBI colleagues in Dollhouse. Also a BSG alumni.

    Jeff Rickets;3- one of the blue handed men here and Weatherby on Buffy/Angel plus the spiderdemon at the end of Angel season 4

    Gregg Henry; 2- he's one of those faces that occur time and again in TV/movies and he later recurrs in the Dollhouse ep 'Ghost', one of my favourite eps of season 1.

    Alliance good or bad?;

    Again we see people who are pro-Alliance and not just upper class types like Simon. Here the Alliance provide medecine for needy and as the Sherrif points out they weren't the ones whole stole it.


    Interesting ST:TNG fic where Picard learns that the Fedearations use of warp drive is destroying a sentient species who live in subspace. He protests to Starfleet Command but he's then asked what the alternative is, should they give up space travel leaving Starfleet defenseless against the Ferengi/Borg/Romulans? In the end he decides to toe the party line but accepts that the 'Prime directive' is an exercise in hypocrisy.

    Missing scenes;.

    Western cliches;

    Mal is thrown through the bar window but in the future it's a forcefield. Telegraph poles beside the train track even in a world with inter-stellar travel. Jayne's 'aiming for his head' remark may be a reference to The Magnificent 7. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid/Jesse James also big on train heists (anyone watch the 'Deadliest warriror' showdown where The James Gang goes up against Al Capone? For my money it's James by a mile, he's a trained soldier and a combat veteran whilst Capone probably never faced a target who fought back.

    Firefly speak;


    Weak tea=not good

    Back birth=idiot

    Companion=high class courtesan



    Rutting=bloody (or perhaps 'fraking'?)

    Shot; shot by the Fed during the robbery.

    Mal; 1-



    Crew injured;

    Reminds me off;

    Mal refers to 'We'll rise again' which relates to the Confedracy in US Civil War. Does anyone else expect Niska to tell a story about Meerkats and try and sell Mal cheaper car insurance? (if you're a Brit you'll understand that, if you're not don't worry about it). The town of Paradiso may refer to the old Western series 'Paradise'. Crazy genius River is very Drusilla/Pylea Fred, drugged Jayne reminiscent of AI in 'Spin the Bottle'. Wash's Hawaiin shirt is very Xander especially the one he lent to Spike in the season 4 ep Doomed. The 'we're not going' remark is reminiscent of Aliens where Ripley goes to rescue Newt. Joss in his commentary draws comparison from Mal to Angel.

    Of course the Alliance remind you off Starship Troopers but then Joss explains why on the commentary.

    Questions and observations;

    We now know the war ended 6 years ago. Inarra has been on the ship 8 months. Here we have a much more upbeat, likeable Mal, perhaps the events of Serenity mellowed him? He even says 'It's the right thing to do'. Book refers to the 'Fuzzy wuzzies' referring to Kiplings poems concerning the Sudan campaign Britain fought against Islamic fundamentalists in C19th (and we're still doing it today!).

    What is the chain of command on Serenity? It seems to go Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Wash, after that anyone's guess. Note Mal doesn't kill the Fed on the train, just knocks him out. Joss refers to Inarra and Mal as Beatrice and Benedict from 'Much ado about nothing', check out the Kenneth Branagh version for the Beatrice and the Duke (Denzel Washington) proposal scene alone. Joss refers to Firefly as Star Trek;TNG dark underbelly, much as what was explored in DS;9.

    Marks out of 10; 5 out of ten, nowhere near as good as Serenity, not a bad ep in itself but feels cheap in comparison to it's predecessor, like Charmed to Buffy.

  • A not so great train robbery....

    After a bar brawl on Unification Day, the crew of the Serenity gets another job. A dangerous criminal power in the galaxy, Niska, wants them to rob a train, candidly mentioning that any sort of failure in this job will result in their deaths. Mal and Zoe find out however that this particular job is not their usual line of work.

    In the first non-pilot episode of Firefly, "The Train Job," the audience finds out that, although they are technically criminals, the crew of the Serenity are not evildoers. "The Train Job" is a good Firefly episode - star Nathan Fillion is especially entertaining with a lighter take on the Mal character than he had in the series pilot. Despite that however, the episode is not particularly special - it is good, no doubt, but it ends up being not as exciting as the pilot episode was.moreless
  • One of my favorite episodes

    What FOX likes to call the pilot but fans know this as the second episode. Joss Whedon handled this well and able to deliver a script that presented the spirit of Firefly and her crew. Mal as my favorite character is the captain of a diverse group of people. Firefly's crew is dedicated to each others' care and safety. Even Jayne. A fine line is drawn between survival and justice. This ep exemplifies what Firefly is about in a question of what is right and wrong. As an outlaw, there are certain things that just are not done. Mal proves that in this ep and in a classic ending of what not to do when an outlaw declines a job.moreless
  • Great adventure..

    So, Serenity gang gets another work and it does not look good as the man who hires them is little crazy and the job gets even harder when they soon realize that on the train are many soldiers but somehow they are not protecting the cargo they are after - so we have quite exciting moments and action on train but all goes wrong and Mal and Zoe cannot leave - now the rest of the crew have to figure out a way to get them off - and with help of Inara they do it..

    and in the end - they do return the stolen goods too as things are not as first thought..moreless
  • Mal and his crew are hired by Niska to perform a train heist, however after the job goes wrong, Mal is intrduced to the town he is meant to be stealing from.moreless

    This is a great episode of Firefly, and it introduces all the characters nicely for those who didn't watch the actual Pilot first.

    The show uses a great mix of western and SciFi mixed together that is amazing to watch and makes things like an ordinary train heist seem brand new and really Exciting! The characters, especially Mal have great development in the episode as well, the viewr is able to see not only the hatred he has for the alliance, but his loyalty to the crew and his willingness to help those that are in need, even if it means he loses out on some money. I highly recommend not only this episode but the entire series.moreless
Nathan Fillion

Nathan Fillion

Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds

Sean Maher

Sean Maher

Dr. Simon Tam

Ron Glass

Ron Glass

The Shepherd Book

Gina Torres

Gina Torres


Jewel Staite

Jewel Staite

Kaywinnit Lee 'Kaylee' Frye

Alan Tudyk

Alan Tudyk


Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

    • Trivia: Inara has been on Serenity for eight months.

    • When this episode originally aired on Fox, an opening narration was used to explain that the Earth was "used up" so mankind left. They found another area with "hundreds of new earths" which were terraformed to support human life. It is left unanswered whether "the 'verse" is completely contained in one solar system and how that is possible given the number of planets and moons that are shown during the run of the show.

    • Maybe this will change in future episodes, but all the planets we see in this episode (including the intro and the opening credits) are dusty and dry and kinda desert-like. But we're told in the opening narration they were all terraformed. So why'd they go around and create a bunch of deserts? (some didn't find this too unusual, thinking maybe the process was limited to desert creation)

  • QUOTES (23)

    • River: (They) won't stop. They'll never stop. They'll just keep coming, until they get back what you took. Two by two, hands of blue... two by two, hands of blue...

    • Kaylee: It's a train heist. We fly over the train-car, The Captain and Zoe sneak in, We lower Jayne onto the car, they bundle up the booty and we haul 'em all back up. Easy as lyin'.
      Simon: You've done this before?
      Kaylee: (laughing) Hell no!

    • Book: There's neither of us can pay a tenth of what your crew makes on one of your "jobs."
      Mal: Are you referring to our perfectly legitimate business enterprises?

    • Mal: We get the goods, we're back on Serenity before the train even reaches Paradiso. Only now, we do it under the noses of twenty trained Alliance Feds, and that makes them look all manner of stupid! Hell, this job I would pull for free.
      Zoe: Can I have your share?
      Mal: No.
      Zoe: If you die, can I have your share?
      Mal: Yes.

    • Zoe: Sir, is there some information we might maybe be lacking as to why there's an entire Fed squad sitting on this train?
      Mal: Doesn't concern us.
      Zoe: It kinda concerns me
      Mal: I mean that they're not protecting the goods. If they were, they wouldn't be letting people get past them.
      Zoe: You don't think that changes the situation a bit?
      Mal: I surely do. Makes it more fun!
      Zoe: Sir. I think you have a problem with your brain being missing.

    • Bar Patron: Hey, you gonna drink the Alliance with me? Six years today, the Alliance sent the Browcoats runnin', pissin' their know, your coat is kinda a brownish color.
      Mal: It was on sale.
      Bar Patron: You didn't toast. Y'know, I'm thinkin' you're one o' those Independents...
      Mal: And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schoolin', so why don't we just ignore each other 'til we go away?
      Bar Patron: The Browncoats were a bunch o' cowardly, inbred pisspots, should'a been killed off o' every world spinnin'.
      Mal: Say that to my face.
      Bar Patron: I said you're a coward and a pisspot. Now what're you gonna do about it?
      Mal: Nothing. I just wanted you to face me so she could get behind you. (Zoe slugs the patron) Drunks are so cute.

    • Zoe: Just have an image in my head of a guy hanging from the ceiling.
      Mal: I got an image of it not being me.

    • Niska: (about his torture victim) My wife's nephew. At dinner I am getting earful; there's no way out of that.

    • Inara: Mal, if you're being a gentleman, I may die of shock.

    • Zoe: He's a psycho, you know. Niska.
      Mal: He's not the first psycho to hire us, nor the last. You think that's a commentary on us?

    • Book: I do feel awfully useless.
      Inara: You can always pray they make it back safely.
      Book: I don't think the captain would much like me praying for him.
      Inara: Don't tell him. I never do.

    • Simon: What are we doing?
      Kaylee: Crime.

    • (after killing the main thug)
      Mal: Now, this is all the money Niska gave us in advance...
      Second Thug: I get it. I'm good. Best thing for everyone. I'm right there with you.

    • (after Jayne shoots an opponent in the leg)
      Mal: Nice shot.
      Jayne: I was aimin' for his head.

    • Sheriff: (Mal's) story had kind of an odor to it.
      Inara: Yes. It's not the only thing about him that does.

    • Jayne: You can't change that by getting' all…"bendy."
      Wash: All what?
      Jayne: You got the—the light from the console…to keep you—lift you up. (chuckles) Oh, they shine like… little angels.
      Wash: Did he just go crazy and fall asleep?

    • Zoe: Funny, sir, how you always seem to find yourself in an Alliance-friendly bar come U-Day looking for a quiet drink.
      Mal: Now this is a sign of your tragic space dementia, all paranoid and crotchety. Breaks the heart.

    • Inara: What did I say to you about barging into my shuttle?
      Mal: That it was manly and...impulsive?
      Inara: Yes, precisely. Only the exact phrase I used was "don't".

    • Mal: We're not thieves...but we are thieves. Point is, we're not taking what's his. Now we'll stay out of his way the best we can from here on in. You explain that's best for everyone. Ok?
      Crow: Keep the money. Use it to buy a funeral. It doesn't matter where you go, or how far you fly. I will hunt you down, and the last thing you will see is my blade.
      Mal: Darn. (kicks Crow into the turbine)

    • Jayne: Do you know what the chain of command is? It's a chain I go get and beat you with 'till you understand who's in ruttin' command here.

    • Mal: Kaylee, what the hell's goin' on in the engine room? Were there monkeys? Some terrifying space monkeys maybe got loose?

    • Mal: They say never hit a man with a closed fist, but it is, on occasion, hilarious.

    • Mal: Wash, we got some local color happening. A grand entrance would not go amiss.

  • NOTES (9)

    • The big fight scene with Niska's men was actually a part of a scene that had originally been written and choreographed for an Angel episode, but Tim Minear changed the names in the script and handed it to Joss to use on Firefly. Angel was still in the scene in a sense, however: one of Niska's thugs, the guy that Wash hits with the ATV, was played by David Boreanaz's stunt double from Angel.

    • Joss planned to have Mal keep the cargo from the train to show that Mal puts the needs of his crew above the needs of others. However, executives at Fox told Joss to have Mal return the cargo to the town folk in order to make Mal more likeable to the audience.

    • This was originally supposed to be episode number 3 (or number 2 if we count "Serenity" as the two-hour pilot episode it was supposed to be).

    • The Arabic music playing as the bellydancer dances in the opening, is used again in The Message as the crew enters the space station to pick up their mail.

    • The uniforms which the marines on the train are wearing are from the movie Starship Troopers, by Paul Verhoeven. These reappear throughout the series.

    • When Serenity is about to dock with the space station (at about 14 minutes into the episode) two other ships can be seen briefly. Those look very similar to a PatCom or Dreadnought type ship from the computer game Independence War, which features basically the same background story as Firefly.

    • Summer Glau, who plays River, has only had one acting role before this playing the Prima Ballerina in the Angel episode "Waiting in the Wings." Whedon wrote and directed the episode and he was so impressed with her performance that he cast her as River.

    • Rating: 4.9/7

    • Before deciding on the red logo for the show, it was originally green.


    • Mal: I'm thinkin' we will rise again.
      This line is a play off of the motto of people who support the U.S. Confederacy: "The South will rise again."

    • Jayne: Hey, hey. Them ain't "kosherized" rules.
      Referring to the Jewish word "kosher" which in pop culture has come to mean "OK", or "alright."