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WonderCon 2005:
Finally, The Joss Whedon/Serenity Panel

The Master.
Luckily, Kevin Smith seems to have a good sense of humor about himself. Because if WonderCon serves as any gauge, he may have lost the top spot as Convention Deity. Oh, sure, his panel was crowded and fun, but Joss Whedon is breathing down his neck, slightly better dressed and seemingly able to juggle a major fan franchise, shooting a movie and writing comic books all at the same time.

After announcing that he would, indeed, continue doing that juggle, Whedon also had the graciousness to open up his panel to a few of his friends. True, Smith often brings Jason Mewes, but let's face it - Mewes doesn't capture female fans' interest quite like Nathan Fillion, aka "Captain Tightpants."

Whedon introduced Fillion and two other key castmembers from the upcoming Serenity, Summer Glau (River) and Adam Baldwin (Jain). It should come as no surprise that they all seemed really happy to be there, and happy with each other. If extended clip Whedon showed WonderCon is any indication, they're working on a great project.

Yes, Whedon gave San Francisco an exclusive sneak peek at Serenity. A few years back at Comic-Con, he previewed the pilot for Firefly, and though it showed promise, it wasn't all that gripping. Joss learns. The sequence here had everything fans could want. More importantly, it had everything to suck in some new folks, too.

The crew of the Serenity heist a vault hidden under a saloon. With ample time to showcase many of the crew, they go about disarming everyone and reaching their inside man. But just as they're about to start loading up, River has a psychic flash that almost knocks her cold. Outside, a dark ship makes planetfall - and River utters the word that should terrify any sane man in the territory. "Reavers."

The mighty crew of the Serenity...or at least some of them.
As Whedon promised when he first began thinking about this film, our heroes take on the worst menace this far future has to offer. And though it happened almost too fast for the WonderCon audience to register, this time we get to actually see the Reavers. (The series had only shown the aftermath of a Reaver attack.)

In a later moment, Whedon described the Reavers as being an analog to the Apache in old Westerns. Rather than ascribe the worst in human behavior to a specific ethnicity, he chose the Reavers to make it clear that this darkness was a part of human nature. When asked about the influence of the Scottish Highland Reavers, he claimed ignorance of their existence, but with Whedon it's hard to tell if he was truly ignorant, kidding or just sparing a fan's feelings for asking about it.

At any rate, the lights came up to thunderous applause, and the panel started taking questions. Many hit the usual fan marks, though a moment of respect lowered on the room when one man thanked Whedon and the cast on behalf of a buddy currently serving in Iraq.

You, too, can create a cult TV show and have beautiful women gaze at you like this...
Until this panel, I had no idea what a heartthrob Fillion had become in fandom. He seemed to take it all in good humor, referring to his own greatest personal challenge in shooting Serenity as "the nudity." Not, of course, on camera but the personal nudity that Joss Whedon demanded.

A surprising number of "questions" really consisted of requests for Baldwin and Glau to just repeat lines of dialogue from the Firefly series. One fan did note that Glau's character of River seemed to be a lot more in control of her powers in the film clip shown, to which she replied ominously, "River's a lot more in control." To which Fillion had to make cuckoo noises...

In response to numerous questions about acting challenges, the series creator credited his actors for always being eager to experiment and then be willing to just do what he says. Sometimes, both ways work, especially with Baldwin, who might get a dozen ideas shot down but still seems absolutely in the moment in character in a final scene. And Whedon should now know, by his own admission having watched the footage of Serenity far more than he ever did for the weekly series.

Whedon also made sure that a couple of key behind-the-scenes people got acknowledged. In particular, he singled out Mary Parent at Universal for believing in the idea of a Firefly feature film. Oh, he's probably offered the praise before, but for fans, it can never be said enough. He also mentioned that David Newman would be doing the score for Serenity after the original composer wasn't quite working out. In a very smooth line (fanboys, take note of this sort of thing), Whedon mentioned that he'd heard Newman's theme for River and it was beautiful "...almost beautiful enough for River."

Summer Glau watches Nathan Fillion call her cuckoo, and begins
the slow process of killing him with her brain.
Of his previous creative children, Whedon did affirm that he would love to do a Spike television movie. But when asked if he would do a Buffy movie, he just smiled through slightly clenched teeth and dropped, "I'm not the one you should be talking to about it." For that, we can only blame Freddie Prinze, Jr.

While the audience was distracted with such information, Fillion quietly dialed his cellphone. The panel was interrupted by his phone conversation, then he held the speaker phone up to the mike. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, Alan Tudyk got to briefly join his castmates on the panel.

At first, Tudyk seemed incredulous until the crowd cheered for him. Then Fillion asked, "maybe you could clear up a question that we've been going round and round on here. What was your favorite scene ...of mine?"

Without hesitation, the voice crackled, "When you were naked. It's not a sexual thing."

They wrapped up with a promise to see each other online for a little Halo 2, and just in time. The panel ended, and Whedon and company were free to roam the floor.

Derek McCaw

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