The Firefly and Serenity Database
"A companion chooses her own clients, that's guild law. But physical appearance doesn't matter so terribly, you look for a compatibility of spirit."
Inara Serra describing how she chooses her clients
"On Sihnon, we started training at twelve, years of discipline and preparation before the physical act of pleasure was even mentioned. Control was the first lesson, and the last."
―Inara Serra explaining how much study it takes to become a Companion

Inara Serra training Companions

A Companion is a skilled, well-educated and well-respected member of a guild of professional courtesans/entertainers, somewhat similar to oiran. While they do frequently engage in a form of state-sanctioned prostitution, they are nonetheless treated with a great deal of respect and deference by nearly everyone,[1] though non-guild prostitutes[2] are generally treated in the reverse, even if they are former Guild members.

Inara Serra is a registered Companion, and Companions, the nature of the Companion profession, and the Guild, all feature prominently in the series.


Registered Companions are culturally well-educated with training in a number of areas, including psychology,[3] music,[2] fencing,[4] and languages, as well as unarmed martial arts.[5] On the "Core" planets, Companions are typically trained from a very young age.[6][7]

They are trained to read body language. In an alternate version or deleted scene in "Serenity", Inara is shown meeting with the Operative. At a distance she assumes the pose of greeting him as a client. When he is 1 meter away Inara begins to shake in fear and her face assumes a look of terror.

In the shooting script for "Serenity" and the novel Inara uses a bow and arrow against the Reavers, but the bow is only seen in a few brief frames of the final film, as Joss Whedon decided it was too similiar to "Wonder Woman". Inara demonstrates skill in hand-to-hand combat when facing the Operative.

In "Shindig", Inara displays knowledge of fencing techniques and anatomy, presumably part of her training as a Companion.

Rules and Customs[]

Relatively little is known about the Companion Guild's rules and practices, or the customs of Companions, though a few details have been revealed or implied in various Firefly episodes and books:

  • A Companion is allowed to choose their own clients[8][9]
  • It is not unusual for a Companion to choose same sex clients as well as opposite[10]
  • A Companion must have a yearly physical examination in order to keep their license[11]
  • A customer who behaves badly enough can receive a "black mark" in the Companion registry, after which no registered Companion will contract with them[4]
  • A Companion must observe total client confidentiality in all engagements.[12]
  • A form of tea ceremony is a part of the traditional opening to a meeting between a Companion and their client[13]
  • A Companion frequently provides a form of psychotherapy for their clients[13]
  • Trainees on border planets seem to begin their training at an older age than those on the "core" planets.[14]
  • Trainees come from good families and the training houses have high academic standards.[6]

While the Companion Guild is in many ways a working company of skilled artisans, it also would appear to be a kind of religious sect. Heads of Companion houses are called "priestesses", and Inara's house is called "Madrassa", the Arabic word for school. There are heavy religious overtones to many Guild practices, such as the use of incense, a focus on contemplation, and a cloistered lifestyle.

Safety precautions[]

In the event a client becomes violent or breaks the rules, Companions are taught self-defence techniques. A Companion can also subdue clients with a fast-acting, skin-contact sedative. The sedative is laced on a hidden patch worn on the Companion's fingers and can be administered to the client at any time during a session. The effects are almost instantanious, with the client experiencing dizziness and sluring their words before falling unconscious. Upon awakening, the common side effects are experiencing a headache and powerful thirst.[15]

Companions trained[]

  • Inara Serra is a registered Companion.
  • Nandi, featured in the episode "Heart of Gold", was trained as a Companion. During her training, after a stressful incident with a dulcimer, she chose to strike out on her own outside of the Guild's sway and took control of a whorehouse on a border planet.
  • The femme fatale (her true name is unknown, though she is known by several aliases throughout the show, including Saffron) featured in the episodes "Our Mrs. Reynolds" and "Trash" was unequivocally held by Inara to have received Companion training.
  • Guanyin is a friend of Inara's who she speaks to over wave after leaving House Madrassa.
  • Ceres left House Madrassa to work on a secret project for the Alliance.
  • Several background characters at the Companion Training House in Serenity are, of course, in training to become Companions, and at least one older woman at the house (Sheydra), a teacher of theirs, is likely a registered Companion as well.


The oldest profession in the 'Verse has one of the oldest and most respected guilds in the Core. Prostitution as it had existed on Earth-That-Was was abolished long ago, replaced by a government-approved profession officially titled 'Companion'. The Companion's Guild established Guild Houses throughout the system to train its members, though, due to the war, there are few Houses currently on the outer worlds. The Guild establishes its own laws and rules. For example, Guild law states that no House may ever be run by a man. The law also states that a Companion is free to choose her clients. Originally a female organization, the Guild has since allowed males to enter. The men undergo the same training as the women and, like the women, they service both sexes. The Houses exist to provide training to the Companions. No work is ever done inside a House.

Girls and boys as young as twelve may begin training, which includes a well-rounded education and years of physical discipline, religious study, and the arts. Girls and boys are taught dance, martial arts, calligraphy, how to play musical instruments, and singing. The children undergo rigorous testing on all subjects, and those who fail are sent back to their homes. They are taught the art of love play only upon successful completion of their schooling.

Companions must pass a test in order to gain their registration. To maintain that registration, they must also pass a yearly physical evaluation conducted at a licensed hospital.

Clients must pay a subscription fee to earn a place in the client registry. The Guild and the Companion must approve of the client. If a client ever mistreats a Companion, that client will earn a black mark in the client registry, preventing him or her from ever securing such services again.

A Companion House is run much like a monastery, protecting its inhabitants and sheltering them from the outside as they undergo their training. The services a Companion performs for the client are steeped in tradition and ritual. A Companion greets a client and bids that client farewell with ceremony, and the act of lovemaking is designed to make each client feel that he or she is special and valued - only one of the reasons an evening with a Companion is so highly sought after.

Contracting with a Companion earns the client 'an evening of pleasure' that goes far beyond the sexual encounter. A Companion is trained to listen, to entertain, to soothe, and even to offer advice, for they are well-versed on any variety of subjects from politics to the economy. A Companion knows traditional and contemporary dance. They are skilled musicians, schooled in literature, and stay current with all significant newsworthy events. They have a high degree of empathy and are trained in psychology, so they can understand their client's needs.

The beauty, elegance, and skills of the Companions have earned them the highest respect in social circles. There is no stigma to bringing a Companion to a party, as doing so proves you have both money and the ability to impress the Guild, whose members set very high standards. However, few Companions marry the wealthy prince and go off to live in the glittering castle. While of the social elite, Companions still exist outside society. Though a Companion is welcomed as an escort at a party, a Companion would not be so well-received as husband or wife. A Companion might commit to an exclusive, long-term contract, but that would still be a business arrangement. A Companion is encouraged to enjoy the work, but is taught to stay emotionally detached from the clientele.

Most Companions work on the Core planets, entertaining clients in their own suites or meeting them elsewhere. Some choose to travel and may contract with a luxury liner—servicing clients on a cruise or flying the ship's shuttles to visit clients on nearby worlds. Few Companions choose to travel on their own or ally themselves with a small ship, and even fewer visit the outer worlds. Those who travel off the beaten path can pick and choose their clients, though they may not make as much money as working on the wealthy Core worlds.

Historical Inspiration[]

Show creator Whedon has been said to have drawn inspiration from the traditions of both Renaissance courtesans and Japanese geishas. (Finding Serenity, p. 114)



Notes and references[]

  1. FireflyLogoMini.png Firefly – "The Train Job"
  2. 2.0 2.1 FireflyLogoMini.png Firefly – "Heart of Gold"
  3. FireflyLogoMini.png Firefly – "Our Mrs. Reynolds"
  4. 4.0 4.1 FireflyLogoMini.png Firefly – "Shindig"
  5. Serenity
  6. 6.0 6.1 Whedon, Serenity: The Official Visual Companion, 82.
  7. Serenity DVD material
  8. FireflyLogoMini.png Firefly – "Serenity"
  9. Shown as Inara goes through her messages on her shuttle's touch-screen computer in "Shindig"
  10. FireflyLogoMini.png Firefly – "War Stories"
  11. FireflyLogoMini.png Firefly – "Ariel"
  12. Serenity: No Power in the 'Verse
  13. 13.0 13.1 FireflyLogoMini.png Firefly – "Jaynestown"
  14. Whedon, Joss. Serenity: The Official Visual Companion, p.82. As mentioned in the original shooting script and deleted scenes for the feature film Serenity; Inara says of the trainees and her own training that "[Inara] started [her] training at twelve."
  15. Firefly - Big Damn Hero


  • Whedon, Joss. Serenity: The Official Visual Companion. September 1, 2005. ISBN 1-84576-082-4.
  • John Director (Director). (December 9, 2003) Serenity [DVD]. Universal