|Ship(s) captained or crewed|
- "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 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 studying is involved with being a Companion.
Inara, born in the late 25th century on Sihnon, is a Companion, a high-society courtesan licensed by the Union of Allied Planets (the "Alliance"). In Alliance society, Companions are part of the social elite, often accompanying the wealthy and powerful. They have considerable ritual and ceremony surrounding their services, which appear to extend beyond sex to nurturing psychological and emotional well being.
As of the end of the original Firefly series, most of what is known about Companions is derived from Inara herself and incidental discussions with and about other Companions and Companion-trained individuals. These sources suggest that Companion training includes social and physical grace, at least some performing arts, and psychology. Companions choose their own customers, and can have ungracious customers banned from any Companionship.
Inara was a rising member of Companion House Madrassa, possibly in contention for house priestess, when she suddenly and inexplicably left to travel the outer rim. She has suggested that she "wanted to see the universe".
Less than a year before the events of "Serenity" (the pilot episode of Firefly), she contracted with Malcolm Reynolds, captain of spaceship Serenity, to lease one of its shuttles for transportation, living space, and workspace. This provides Inara with some mobility independent of Serenity, and Malcolm with some respectability that helps him open doors in the marketplace that he might not otherwise achieve as an ordinary smuggler. Though earning his disfavor initially by stating that she supported unification of the Alliance and the Independents (in flashback in the episode "Out of Gas"), she and Mal have developed an unacknowledged attraction to each other which they resist, ostensibly for business reasons, and practically by jesting and sometimes hurtful bickering. Complications due to this growing attraction cause her to briefly leave Serenity and take up teaching at a training house on one of the Rim planets. Mal and Inara have been shown to share certain traits with each other, as pointed out by Nandi during "Heart of Gold", the most prominent being they both hate complications. The first edition of the comic "Leaves on the Wind" shows Mal and Inara in a loving embrace, hinting they might have finally gotten together. Later on, in the novel itself, they are found bickering as usual which finally leads to the consummation of their relationship in Mal's bunk. Their casual way of going about it suggests Mal and Inara have been physically intimate for quite a while now since the nine month gap between 'Serenity' and 'Leaves on the Wind'.
Inara has a number of frequent clients throughout the Allied worlds, and takes both male and female clients, although most of her clients are male.
Inara appears to be at least somewhat adept at swordplay ("Shindig"). In the movie Serenity, it is shown that she also may have been trained somewhat in the martial arts, and is skilled with a bow and arrow, apparently preferring them over firearms. In a proposed extended version of a scene from Serenity, in Inara's Companion montage, she was to be seen teaching the girls how to use the bow, but this idea was dropped, claiming that she appeared too much like "Wonder Woman". This is mentioned in the DVD commentary.
Inara is one of only three main characters in the Firefly / Serenity universe who express any religious/philosophical beliefs; she is Buddhist. The two other characters whose beliefs are currently known are Book, a Christian Shepherd (pastor), and Malcolm Reynolds whose faith in God was broken in the Battle of Serenity Valley.
In the audio commentaries for the series DVD collection, it is mentioned that there is a subplot for Inara which was not developed in the series or the film. The producers mention two foreshadowing events that hinted at this plot. The first is the syringe-like object that Inara looks at during the Reaver encounter in the pilot episode (which is meant to be assumed by the audience to be a suicide kit in case the Reavers board), and the second is hidden in the dialogue of the conversation she has with Simon when the ship is disabled in the episode "Out of Gas". The line most likely associated with this hidden subplot is her response to Simon's "I don't want to die [on this ship]," "I don't want to die at all," as the rest of their conversation is straightforward exposition.
Another eventual hint is Nandi's comment in Heart of Gold when she said to Inara that she hadn't aged a day. During a panel at 2008's DragonCon, Morena Baccarin confirmed that Inara was indeed dying of a terminal illness.
In a flashback in the episode "Out of Gas" Inara initially earns Mal's disapproval by stating her support of the Union of Allied Planets (the "Alliance"), despite this they both develop an unacknowledged attraction to each other. Her trade as a Companion is a source of constant tension between the two, with Mal often making derogatory references to her profession during their arguments. However, Mal does treat her with a reasonable amount of courtesy and takes great offense when she is insulted (despite often insulting her himself, as she points out), leading to a duel with her client Atherton Wing, which almost resulted in Mal's death. The sexual tension between the two is clear, however it is left unresolved by the end of the series. It's hinted that she has deeper feelings for him than she likes to admit, demonstrated by her weeping after Mal's liaison with the house madame Nandi, her friend, in Heart of Gold. She openly dislikes the idea of Mal getting married. After finding Mal unconscious on the ground, the result of Saffron's kiss, Inara kisses Mal. As River is picking up their thoughts in the beginning of "Objects in Space" it seems clear that Inara and Mal are both hoping the other will admit the unspoken feelings. In the comic book "Better Days" it is revealed that Inara at least occasionally fantasizes about Mal while she is carnally engaged with her clients. In the nine month gap since the movie 'Serenity', these feelings seem to be resolved and open by the first issue of 'Leaves on the Wind' as they are seen going into Mal's quarters together, where they engage in intercourse, although this is only after a typical session of bickering between the two, suggesting things haven't completely changed. Inara's feelings run deeper than just physical attraction towards the captain as she dons on the attire of a nitty-gritty crew member over her fine silks, indicating she has been helping the crew on their jobs ever since Miranda.
While Inara and Mal bicker, she and Zoe are at about the exact opposite. The two will often banter to one another about Mal's plans.
She is often a sisterly figure to Kaylee. She brushes Kaylee's hair and interprets her feelings for Simon, as well as going shopping together when Serenity is docked and she doesn't have a client scheduled.
Simon seeks her out on occasion when he needs help looking after River. She and Simon will often band together to enforce the idea of caution onto Mal's plans, though their advice often goes unheeded.
Inara often looks after River when Simon is working in the infirmary or helping the rest of the crew on a job. Like Kaylee, Inara is very nurturing to River.
Despite his initial hesitation about her occupation, Shepherd quickly warms to her, bringing some of his cooking to her shuttle for her dinner and seeking her advice when his faith is tested due to his involvement with criminals.
Behind the scenes
Actress Rebecca Gayheart was initially hired to play the part of Inara but was fired after only one day of filming. Joss Whedon said that there was a lack of chemistry between her and the rest of the cast. Morena Baccarin filmed her first scene the very day she was accepted for the role.
The TV Show 'Futurama' made reference to Serra in the Season 6 Episode 'All The President's Heads', where her reanimated head is visible in the background when the crew visit 'The Hall Of Presidents', which contains the heads of all former Presidents of Earth.
- Firefly – "Serenity" (First appearance)
- Firefly – "The Train Job"
- Firefly – "Bushwhacked"
- Firefly – "Shindig"
- Firefly – "Safe"
- Firefly – "Our Mrs. Reynolds"
- Firefly – "Jaynestown"
- Firefly – "Out of Gas"
- Firefly – "Ariel"
- Firefly – "War Stories"
- Firefly – "Trash"
- Firefly – "The Message"
- Firefly – "Heart of Gold"
- Firefly – "Objects in Space"
- Better Days
- Those Left Behind
- Serenity movie
- Serenity novel
Notes and references
- Firefly — The Complete Series DVD set
- 'Tis Pity She's a Whore: Postfeminist Prostitution in Joss Whedon's Firefly?