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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

"Objects in Space"
TV episode

Written and Directed by Joss Whedon


A bounty hunter secretly boards Serenity and methodically disables the crew one-by-one to claim the enormous reward on River’s head.


Read the full episode summary at the Firefly and Serenity Database


Didja Notice?


As the episode opens, River seems to be telepathically hearing the voices of her shipmates on Serenity while she sleeps. Then the voice of Jubal Early is heard ("We're all just floating.") and she suddenly awakens. Was her mind subconsciously tipping her off to Early's approach?


In the lounge area, Simon sounds like he's telling Kaylee about some kind of initiation he went through after graduating from medical school and having had to sit naked on top of a statue of Hippocrates. Hippocrates was an ancient Greek physician, who is believed to have written what has become known as the Hippocratic Oath, the seminal creed on the ethics of the medical practice.


I like how River appears so pleased to see her brother and Kaylee enjoying each other's company at 1:11 on the DVD.


We miss hearing what song Simon was singing, naked on top of the statue of Hippocrates, due to the interruption of River's vision of what she fears Simon really thinks of her. After the interruption, we hear only him saying, "It was either that or the National Anthem, I...reports vary."


At 1:55 on the DVD, Jayne appears to be cooking up some pancakes.


The Han Solo trilogy comes to a close at 2:02 on the DVD.


As River wanders the ship and overhears the conversations, feelings, and hidden thoughts of the crew, I get the impression she was never really in those spaces physically. It was sort of an invisible astral form of herself that was witnessing the interactions; none of the crew seem to actually notice her there except for their "inner selves" which revealed to her a buried thought or emotion they had. This would also allow her "sleep-walking" real body to have gone to Jayne's quarters and picked up his gun, which she is soon found holding in the cargo bay and putting a scare into everyone.


At 4:41 on the DVD, notice that the branch River picks up is vaguely in the shape of a gun, which we soon see is what it really is. 


Jayne remarks on the time River came at him with a butcher knife. This occurred in  "Ariel".


Early's ship is reminiscent of the Slave 1, the ship used by Boba Fett in the Star Wars franchise. In fact, in the audio commentary of this episode by Joss Whedon, he says the character of Early was inspired by Boba Fett.
Early's ship Slave 1


At 9:48 on the DVD, Early is climbing along the hull of Serenity and his hand passes in front of one of the windows above the galley. Even though he's supposed to be in space and is wearing a spacesuit, his hand is bare!


At 11:23 on the DVD, a crewmember can be seen on the left side of the screen, leaning over the kitchen counter.


Jayne mangles an old English proverb by saying, "If wishes were horses, we'd all be eating steak." The actual proverb (which originated in the 16th Century) is "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."


At 15:19 on the DVD, Simon says, "I would be there right now..." which is the same thing River heard him saying in her earlier vision, possibly implying some precognitive ability on her part besides just telepathic. Further evidence of this was presented in "Crystal".


At 17:01 on the DVD, it can be seen that the visor of Early's helmet is starting to fog up from his breath.


At 17:24 on the DVD, we can see that Early wears an earring on his left ear. I believe this is an affectation of actor Richard Brooks, as I've found photos of him online in which he is sporting the earring.


At 21:20 on the DVD, Shepherd Book is seen emerging from a door in the common area of the ship just outside the infirmary. A look at a schematic of Serenity confirms that this is the communal bathroom of the ship. (Image from



Early seems to mishear Simon a couple of times during their discussion. What is the significance of this? Does Early have a hearing problem? Was River messing with his head (maybe unknowingly) because he was a threat to her brother? (The mishearings are when Simon asks him if he is Alliance and Early says, "Am I a lion?", and when Simon says, "So you're a bounty hunter," and he says, "Oh, no. That ain't it at all [...] I'm a bounty hunter.")


Early tells Simon he's been tracking them since the Feds were tipped off on Ariel. This is a reference to Jayne's actions in "Ariel".


At 23:30 on the DVD, a flap on the chest of Early's spacesuit has come loose, but it is magically back in place seconds later.


Early says that Shepherd Book "ain't no shepherd." Does he have first-hand information about Book's past or does he just sense that Book is much more than he presents himself to be? The Shepherd's Tale reveals Book's true origins.


At 28:06 on the DVD, Early seems to taste one of the support struts of the catwalk above the cargo bay by licking it. It's not clear what he gleans from this action, but he is possibly "tasting" an essence of River left behind by her touch.


In her discussion with Early, Inara remarks that she's been with Serenity for a year.


River reveals that the bounty hunter's full name is Jubal Early. Whedon named the character this because Nathan Fillion (the actor who portrays Mal) had told him that he is a descendant of the Confederate general Jubal Early of the U.S. Civil War. General Early became a proponent of the Lost Cause literary movement which claimed the Confederacy only lost the war due to the superior numbers of Union forces, not through any superior skills of the Union cause; this somewhat feeds into Mal's own feelings about the loss of the Independents in the war with the Alliance.


Early has a habit of verbally comparing two similar things and pointing out a major difference between them and then asking whoever is listening, "Does that seem right to you?"


River tells Zoe, "No touching guns!" This is part of her plan to trick Early, but also a paraphrasing of what Mal told her earlier in the episode, not to touch guns.


At 39:34 on the DVD, the cloth that covers Jayne's stash of weapons has what may be Brahmic script on it, known through much of Asia and originating in India. The symbol above the writing is the Om symbol of the Hindu religion. What is the significance to Jayne? Was he raised in a Hindu family?


Why did Jayne not wake up like the others when River was broadcasting her voice through the ship? Did she intentionally leave him out of the conversation? Was she afraid he would sell her and Simon out again? Or did he just sleep through it?


At 40:30 on the DVD, as River drifts back to Serenity from Early's ship, the latter ship wheels around and seems to head straight in the opposite direction from the one Early was cast off in by Mal. Did River program the ship's autopilot to head away from him to prevent a rendezvous?


The super-ball that River holds up at the end of the episode is similar in look to the planet seen in the very first shot of the story, a pair of bookends to "Objects in Space".


Chinese translations
(Thanks to the Firefly-Serenity Chinese Pinyinary for the translations)
Time on DVD Chinese English
7:14 Chinese writing on the display of Early's ship showing Serenity. Unknown.
7:20 Chinese writing on the wanted sheet for River and Simon Tam. Alert; Arrest Warrant; Alliance
10:58 Jayne says, "feifei de piyan" "A baboon's ass-crack"
12:52 Inara says, "Bizui, nin hen butitie de nansheng!" "Shut up, you inconsiderate schoolboys!"
18:16 Chinese writing appears on the readout of the door lock panel outside of Mal's quarters. Unknown.
41:40 Inara says, "xiongmeng de kuangren" "violent lunatic"


Notes from Firefly Role-Playing Game Core Book


Early carries a whisper firearm, with a built-in silencer.


Early's ship is the Coronis I, a Wakinyan-class surveyor. This may be a play on the Slave I of Boba Fett in Star Wars.


Unanswered Questions


Did Early survive his tumble through space? Might he have some circuitry in his suit that allows him to recall his ship to pick him up? Joss Whedon has said in an interview that Early is one of his favorite characters and "he survived". Still, until his return in an official story, we don't really know.


Memorable Dialog


a morality tale.wav

I just direct my energy elsewhere.wav

St. Jayne--its got a ring to it.wav

I'm glad we made that distinction.wav

it's getting very, very crowded.wav

if I want a lot of medical jargon, I'll talk to a doctor.wav

wacky fun.wav

didn't make much account of myself.wav

so River's not a person?.wav

explain to me how that's a comfort.wav

she's in Congress?.wav

that sounds like something out of science-fiction.wav

I don't like the idea of someone hearing what I'm thinking.wav

if wishes were horses.wav

don't let the space bugs bite.wav

I like this ship.wav

a bounty hunter.wav

she will die weeping if you cross me.wav

between me and my mind.wav

that ain't a shepherd.wav

nice man wants to kidnap you.wav

objects in space.wav

Serenity is very unhappy.wav

possessing a spaceship.wav

that's somewhat unsettling.wav

you folks are all insane.wav

you know me real well.wav

permission to come aboard?.wav

it's the popular theory.wav

he takes so much looking after.wav 

all them years of priest trainin'.wav

here I am.wav


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