LOS ANGELES -- The "Firefly" saga consists of 14 TV episodes, one big-screen movie and the undiminished passion of the space Western's fans, stars and producers.
To mark the 10th anniversary of the Fox show's abbreviated 2002-03 run, the Science Channel is airing the hourlong "Firefly 10th Anniversary: Browncoats Unite" at 10 p.m. EST Sunday.
The special will be preceded by a marathon showing of all the "Firefly" episodes starting at 7 a.m. EST.
For "Firefly" devotees, only one word can describe the prospect of seeing star Nathan Fillion, other cast members and creator Joss Whedon talk about making and missing their baby: "shiny," which is "Firefly"-speak for cool or good.
Fillion, who came down to Earth successfully in ABC's detective series "Castle," is happy to wallow in nostalgia and fan fervor. This summer, he took part in a packed San Diego Comic-Con tribute to "Firefly."
"The sheer volume of people is just the first part of it," Fillion said recently of the event. "Then you have to get down to how excited these people are. It's incredible energy. It's a very visceral feeling."
"The way I see it is there are people who love `Firefly' as much as I do. `Firefly' has a very special meaning to me, so I share in that excitement. It's easy for me to understand it," the 41-year-old actor said.
The series, a 26th-century adventure leavened with droll humor, followed the misfit crew of the Firefly-class spaceship Serenity. (The 2005 movie that rose, improbably, from the ashes of the low-rated "Firefly" was titled "Serenity." Comic books are among the other spinoffs.)
The ship's captain, Fillion's dashing but discontented Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds, fought with the losing, good-guy Browncoats in a civil war and now lives and works on the fringes of a repressive society.
For Fillion, the drama was the start of a leading-man career that he makes plain he owes to Whedon, whose cult-inducing credits range from online sensation "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" to TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" to blockbuster "The Avengers."
Fillion savored the experience.
"I remember the first time I put on my costume, walked onto the ship for the first day of work ... and the director of photography, David Boyd, saw me and hollered out, `Captain on deck!' and everyone stopped and clapped."
"That's a moment I'll never forget," the Canadian-born actor said. Add the chance to be a classic Western hero and he was in heaven.
"Nothing makes you feel tougher than putting a gun on your hip in the desert and getting on the back of an animal and riding. There's something very manly about that," he said.
Fillion shares this tidbit: No matter what planet he ended up on while in the saddle, he always rode the same horse, Fred.
The special includes clips from the drama, a round-table conversation with cast members including Fillion, Jewel Staite (who played Kaylee), Sean Maher (Simon) and Summer Glau (River), along with snippets from the Comic-Con panel headed by Whedon.
"I just wanted to make something that felt real, like a piece of history," Whedon told the convention. "I wanted to tell an American immigrant story. I wanted to tell a Western story. But I need spaceships or I get cranky."
The writer-director-producer grew emotional, telling the crowd at one point that "the story is alive" because of them.
The enduring popularity of a show that couldn't get ratings traction in its first time around is something Fillion has pondered.
"There's certainly more fans now than there's ever been. It's interesting that the show, being this brief moment in time, it didn't have an opportunity to suck, to get bad," he said. "So it's this wonderful contained unit of what I like to think of as quality storytelling."
The show has left its mark on a new and unsuspecting generation.
"`Firefly' fans are out there and they're breeding," Fillion said. "I'll be scanning Twitter and someone will show a baby and say, `This is Kaylee.'
"So I'm going to be out one day and someone will walk up and say, `I am Kaylee.'"
EDITOR'S NOTE – Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lelber(at)ap.org.
The Justice League, "The Big Bang Theory"
"The Big Bang Theory" is the ultimate Comic-Con lover's show, but nothing beats the gang dressed as the Justice League, beating out a sea of Justice Leagues in their New Year's costume party contest.
Troy & Abed on Halloween, "Community"
Right before <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=IXYUn5BOgHA" target="_hplink">Greendale's zombie outbreak</a> in Season 2's big Halloween episode, Troy and Abed tried out their geektastic costumes, which weren't such a huge hit with the ladies. It wasn't long before Troy was shirtless with just a "Dracula" toilet seat cover around his neck.
"Modern Family" Does Halloween
The Pritchett-Dunphy clan doesn't mess around when it comes to Halloween. Phil and Claire's house was totally decked out and costumes ranged from sexy witch, gargoyle (<em>that's</em> what Gloria was saying!), zombie bride and groom, and Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, to, of course, a slutty Mother Teresa.
Bones as Wonder Woman, "Bones"
To see Temperance Brennan dressed as Wonder Woman was every nerd's dream come true, but to hear her praise for costar David Boreanaz, who dressed as a nerd for the episode? Priceless. "I love nerds -- he's never been more attractive to me."
Bill as the Bionic Woman, "Freaks & Geeks"
While the older freaks were out smashing pumpkins and knocking down mailboxes, the younger geeks were still trying to trick-or-treat with some sweet costumes. Our personal favorite of the bunch? Bill, dressed in drag as the Bionic Woman.
Seth Cohen as Spiderman, "The O.C."
Thought that the "Spiderman" upside-down-in-the-rain kiss was really steamy? Always dreamed of recreating it? Seth Cohen did (albeit on accident) with his love Summer in this iconic "O.C." moment.
Castle's "Firefly" flashback, "Castle"
He wasn't a Browncoat exactly, but Castle's "space cowboy" costume made him look a lot like his old "Firefly" character Mal.
Sarah as Princess Leia, "Chuck"
This is why Con-goers will always have a special place in their hearts for "Chuck." Not only was Chuck the ultimate Nerd Herd hero, but his leading lady looked great fighting crime, selling yogurt and hot dogs or dressed in "Star Wars" costumes.
Halloween vampire & werewolf scary stories, "Community"
Do you like scary stories? The "Community" gang sure does, although some were scarier than others. Annie's started out romantic, then quickly turned into vampire/werewolf awesomeness. Grab the other two parts of your love triangle and go to town!
Summer as Wonder Woman, "The O.C."
Summer's striptease down to her Wonder Woman costume for Seth, golden lasso included, didn't even need the sexy "Santa Baby" soundtrack. Seriously. It's just as good without any sound, which is why it's another classic "O.C" moment.
Super Mario & The Princess, "Family Guy"
So these aren't exactly main characters on "Family Guy," but we loved their Super Mario cutaway, featuring a pissed off princess and a rambling Mario with a heavy Italian accent. Optional accessories: bring your own mushrooms, turtle shells and gold stars.
Liz Lemon as Princess Leia, "30 Rock"
In an attempt to get out of jury duty, Liz dressed as Princess Leia ... unfortunately, she fit right in with the rest of the crazies called in to do their civic responsibilities in New York City.
Erica Durance as Wonder Woman, "Harry's Law"
"Smallville's" former Lois Lane Erica Durance made headlines for her guest starring role on NBC's ill-fated "Harry's Law" last season, all because she was donning her own superhero garb.
Dwight Schrute as a Sith Lord, "The Office"
Would you pay $129 for a Sith lightsaber? If so, you're in good company with Dwight Schrute.
Darryl as Dracula & Meredith as Sookie, "The Office"
"The Office" knows how to do Halloween. Need more proof? Check out Darryl as Dracula (2:33 mark) and Meredith as "True Blood's" Sookie Stackhouse (3:43 mark), complete with a fake blonde wig and Merlotte's waitress uniform.
Barney's Stormtrooper, "How I Met Your Mother"
There's always a horde of Stormtroopers at the Con, but you can be the only one who's actually Barney's collectors' edition prop Stormtrooper from "How I Met Your Mother."
Fez as Batman, "That '70s Show"
Don't mess with Fez! Batman might be a crime-fighter, but this foreign exchange student has no problem fighting <em>or </em>committing crimes in the name of good trick-or-treat candy.
Phoebe as Supergirl and Monica as Catwoman, "Friends"
In "The One With the Halloween Party," Chandler was a giant pink bunny, Joey was Chandler and Ross was "Spud-nik" (of course), but it was the ladies who really brought the awesome: Check out Phoebe as Supergirl and Monica as a sexy Catwoman. Meow!