The Firefly and Serenity Database
Malcolm Reynolds
Biographical information

September 20, 2486 (age 31) [1]





Eye color

Ocean blue

Hair color

Rich dark brown


Captain Harbatkin,
Captain Tight Pants


Moses Brothers Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model B[2], Liberty Hammer (standard issue)

Ship(s) captained or crewed



Previously Independents

"... We've done the impossible, and that makes us mighty."
―Malcolm Reynolds[src]

Malcolm 'Mal' Reynolds is a human man. He was the captain of the Firefly-class transport ship Serenity. During the Unification War, Mal fought for the Independents and was the highest ranking Browncoat to participate in and survive the Battle of Serenity Valley.


Early years and education[]

Mal was born on September 20, 2486, and was brought up on a ranch in Seven Pines Pass on the planet Shadow. Raised by his mother and "about 40 hands," Mal apparently received a fairly decent education growing up. His mother, Maude, saw his father killed and their ranch burned, after Maude took issue with a buyout attempt from the Alliance after a terraforming failure caused a drought. Though Mal usually seems more practical than intellectual, he occasionally surprised his friends by displaying familiarity with a wide range of literature varying from the works of Shan Yu, a psychotic dictator, to poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He, however, has no idea "who" Mona Lisa was.

Military career and aftermath[]

Mal volunteered for the Independents army during the Unification War against the Alliance, gaining the rank of sergeant during that time. His second-in-command Zoë Alleyne Washburne was by his side for most of the war, surviving many dangerous conflicts with him, such as the Battle of Du-Khang in 2510 and a long winter campaign in New Kasmir where he commanded a platoon. Mal was also involved in the ground campaign during the Battle of Sturges, which according to Badger was the "bloodiest and shortest battle in all the war", although Mal considered it a distant second. Mal fought in many more battles, but the turning point for him and the Independents came with their physical and emotional defeat at the Battle of Serenity Valley on the planet Hera. (The Message, War Stories, Serenity: Those Left Behind)

In the aftermath of the war, Mal saw a space-faring life as an escape from his past battles.[3] To this end, Mal acquired his own ship, an old, broken and not flight-worthy 03-K64 Firefly-class transport whose previous owner was a man named Captain Harbatkin (and he never got around to changing the registration papers). He promptly named the ship Serenity. On board Serenity and during his various travels, Mal continued to wear his brown coat and wielded a standard issue officer's pistol, a Liberty Hammer, as his weapon of choice, a gun which he has had since the war and had modified extensively.

After the war, he and Zoë found themselves hunted by the Unificators.[3]

Mal was hunted by one Unificator named Boss Moon after becoming captain of Serenity. Other Browncoats in the area tried to ignite a new war, and Mal had to get the Alliance to stand down. He was forced to join forces with Boss Moon to survive the danger they were in, and eventually, he surrendered to the Alliance. He was ordered to bring down his mother, Maude Reynolds, in exchange for his freedom. He failed to catch her, but the fact that he did bring down a corrupt sheriff led to him being temporarily made sheriff, with Boss Moon as his partner.

Mal found himself torn between his duties as Sheriff and his crew, even arresting them at one point. He was pitted against a new 'bandit king' who was causing trouble in the area. Eventually, he was pressed even more to choose, and ended up leaving the job behind to rejoin his crew.

In Serenity (film), Mal discovers the truth about the Miranda incident and the dispersal of Pax on the planet. He commits himself to getting the truth out and returns to the moon owned by Mr. Universe to broadcast the signal. The Alliance and The Operative attempt to stop him, but he manages to navigate the dangerous path to Mr. Universe's backup broadcast station and the tape is broadcast all over the 'verse. Sadly, the fight wounds the crew and costs the life of Hoban Washburne, Serenity's pilot.

Later, Mal is found by a group calling itself the New Resistance. They appear to be trying to start another war, but are really a group assigned by the Alliance to root out Browncoats. Mal manages to get through the trouble with them and leads the charge to save Zoe from the prison she was sent to in Serenity: Leaves on the Wind.

Mal is initially absent in the Return to Earth-That-Was comics, though he shows up during the arc and winds up butting heads with temporary captain Kaylee as the crew attempts to right things on Earth-That Was. By the time of Brand New Verse, Mal is conspicuously absent, with Zoe flying the ship as the last remaining crewmember.

Personal philosophy[]

"You're welcome on my boat. God ain't."
―Malcolm Reynolds to Derrial Book[src]

It seemed that the war, and particularly the Battle of Serenity Valley destroyed Mal's religious beliefs. He spoke of God when rallying his troops, and kissed a cross hanging from his neck before going into battle during the Battle of Serenity Valley. Later, however, he was uncomfortable having Shepherd Book on his ship, and the difference of opinion on the matter of religion was a constant source of (usually friendly) conflict between the two.[4]

Though Mal lost faith in God and religion, he retained a strong faith in humanity; he mentioned to River Tam that he had risked the lives of his crew on the theory that River was human and not just a living weapon as the Operative claimed.[1] Though wary in his personal dealings, he put great stock in the fundamental goodness of people in general. This faith in an individual's ability to do the right thing manifested strongly in his very negative view of governmental institutions. "Governments," he said, are for "getting in a man's way."[4] The Alliance, whose government seemed particularly fond of interference and regulation, was thus his ideological nemesis. His contempt for the Alliance never completely disappeared (although he once said that he "wouldn't mind makin' a buck off 'em", and was shown in multiple episodes willing to steal Alliance supplies for a job, as long as it doesn't affect the people), and, although he was on the losing side of the Unification War, years later he still wasn't convinced it was the wrong one. Mal expressed what seemed to be his manifesto—"[The Alliance] will swing back to the belief that they can make people... better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave."[1] His anti-government attitude was reflected in his choice to live on a spaceship, drifting from world to world, as far away from Alliance interference as possible.


Malcolm Reynolds1

Malcolm Reynolds

The ship was a means of escaping the loss of the war and the resulting Alliance dominance over the systems, and Mal's attempts to get by in a Universe that had forsaken him. He took whatever jobs he could get, turning a blind eye if he could to the legality of the job, but never doing the wrong thing in terms of morality (he will happily steal medicine supplies from Ariel for sale on the black market as none of it will be missed on a central planet, but in the episode The Train Job, he returns the medicine he discovers is stolen as he knows the Alliance won't get another shipment to them in time). He was a man of compassion (refusing jobs that would involve him in slavery, for instance), with a strong sense of nobility. He was, however an anti-hero (or perhaps more specifically, a partial moral relativist) and would kill those who threatened him with a philosophy that, "If someone tries to kill you, you try and kill 'em right back." He was not above joking with his crew or picking bar fights, but he retained his honor in the face of adversity. What separated him from typical heroes was that Mal was the type of person who was willing to shoot first and skip the question; oftentimes not even bothering with a "fair fight."[5] He was not above petty theft, smuggling, or even killing, but often rationalized such behavior to make it appear more noble or valiant, such as stealing from Slavers.

He was very protective of his crew and fiercely loyal. He retained the idea that you never left someone behind and, once you are a part of his crew, you are assured his protection. He treated an attack on a member of his crew as being tantamount to a direct assault on him and would not stand for it. He was also a natural leader, inspiring loyalty that was reciprocated as was shown in both his war experiences and in his relationship with his crew. It was hinted that Mal and Inara Serra, a courtesan or Companion, had strong feelings for one another. Both tried to hide their true feelings and seemed to only release the tension by quarreling most of the time.

During the Serenity novelization, River states that, next to Simon, Mal is the one she feels closest to, as they are both, in their own way, damaged. He was the only person she knew who lived in as much pain as she did.


Inara Serra[]

In the beginning, the relationship did not go well with Inara stating her support of the Alliance and Mal responding that she couldn't have been the only whore who did, but as time goes on they both develop an obvious if unacknowledged attraction to each other. This would be demonstrated by each other's actions such as Mal defending Inara's honour in the episode ("Shindig") and risking his life in the subsequent duel,[6] and Inara breaking down when she thinks Mal has been killed and (realizing he is alive) kisses him.[7]

Behind the scenes[]

Wikia Firefly - Malcolm Reynolds Alliance profile


Malcolm Reynolds is portrayed by actor Nathan Fillion in the series Firefly and in the motion picture Serenity. Screens from Serenity suggest that Mal was born on September 20, 2468—which would make him 49 at the time of the series Firefly—though this may be a mistake, since the information screen also misspells his name as "Malcom", and may have been intended to be 2486, making him 31, an age more consistent with his appearance.[1] However by the 25th century, contemporary medicine may indeed contribute to longer life expectancies in humans, thus 49 years old is irrelevant if human lifespans are extended past 120.

In the Xbox 360 game, Halo 3, Nathan Fillion voices a Gunnery Sergeant Reynolds, a UNSC Marine infantry sergeant. He also voiced one of the main characters of Halo 3: ODST, Gunnery Sergeant Edward Buck, with Adam Baldwin and Alan Tudyk as the troopers in his squad; his face in the game was modeled after Nathan Fillion's. Bungie, the studio behind the series, admitted to being Firefly fans.

He is commonly called Mal in the show but he was also called "Captain Tightpants" by Kaylee in the episode "Shindig" and this name has become popular with the Browncoats (Firefly fans). By the time of the events of Serenity, Mal seems to have hardened slightly and become a little more coarse. (He also seems to be in the process of slowly losing some of the ideals and honor he had been clinging to). Besides the above-mentioned shootings, this is perhaps best illustrated by a conversation with Zoë, who says "It's just... in a time of war, we would have never left a man behind", Mal responds "Maybe that's why we lost". Also, (although she is upset at the time and perhaps not being entirely fair), Kaylee makes comments that indicate that she believes that Mal is drawing inward and slowly pushing everyone around him away. By the end of the movie, however, he seems to have regained some of his old self. A line from Zoë, commenting both on the condition of Serenity and Zoë herself "She's tore up plenty, but she'll fly true" could probably be applied to Mal as well.

On-screen information from the film Serenity suggests that Mal was given a brevet promotion to Captain during the Battle of Serenity Valley to take command of the ever-increasing number of Independent troops who were losing their officers at the hands of the Alliance. This might explain why, in one of the deleted scenes from the Firefly pilot, Mal is described as having commanded at least 2000 men. On-screen information in Serenity shows him to have been attached to the 57th Overlanders Brigade; in the series pilot, Badger calls it the "Balls and Bayonets Brigade", though it is unclear whether that was a disparaging nickname coined by Badger himself or the actual unit sobriquet. His surname, Reynolds, is Irish, suggesting he may be a descendant of Irish colonists from the Earth-That-Was.

Mal's crisis of faith was elaborated further in a deleted scene from the pilot episode, which gives more detail on the losses in the battle. After the Battle of Serenity Valley, both sides leave the survivors without medical attention for a week while negotiating the truce. Over half of them die of their wounds or disease (similar to the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War battle of Cold Harbor). When medical ships finally arrive, his response to Zoë's utterance of "Thank God," is "God? Whose color's he flyin'?."

Production details[]

Conceived by Joss Whedon, the character Malcolm Reynolds was the only definite character he had in mind when formulating the ensemble cast. He wanted a hero, but not a hero in the classic sense; someone that is "everything that a hero is not."[8]

In the proposed pilot, Mal was much darker and considerably more closed-off. FOX network executives objected, and asked that Mal be "lightened up". For the second episode ("The Train Job"), Whedon created a more "jolly" Mal Reynolds.[9]


The role was originally written for Buffy the Vampire Slayer co-star Nicholas Brendon[10] however the shooting schedule conflicted with his commitment to Buffy.

Whedon approached Nathan Fillion to play the lead and after explaining the premise and showing Fillion the treatment for the pilot, Fillion was eager for the role.[11] Fillion was called back several times to read for the part before he was cast. He noted that "It was really thrilling. It was my first lead and I was pretty nervous, but I really wanted that part and I wanted to tell those stories."[12]

Costume design[]

Los Angeles prop shop Applied Effects was approached by Randy Erikson to create Mal's main gun, a Liberty Hammer, and gave them a week and a half. Erikson provided a foamcore conceptual mockup and the base guns, one of which was a five-shot .38 caliber Taurus model 85 revolver. Erikson researched American Civil War-era revolvers for inspiration and the final mockup had a brass or bronze look, with the revolver a little elongated. The biggest challenge was masking the shape of the original revolver and still keeping it operable.[13]

GBB Custom Gunleather was tasked with creating Mal's gun holster, which was made out of oak-tanned carving leather[14] The character's coat, relic of his time as a Browncoat, was a collaboration between Firefly costume designer Shawna Trpcic and Jonathan A. Logan, a leather artist. Trpcic sketched her idea and a cloth mockup was created before the final was made with domestic-farmed deerskin. The cuffs are actually the sleeves folded back, evoking the style of Oriental robes with their silk linings. Two coats were made for the character, one called "Number 1" coat and another called "The Hero" coat. The Number 1 coat's bullet hole is drawn in, while The Hero version has a detailed cut and sewn repair.[15]

"Just by sheer chance" Fillion's character Castle shows up wearing Mal's costume and brandishing Mal's gun in the "Vampire Weekend" episode (S02E06) of Castle.



Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Serenity movie
  3. 3.0 3.1 New Firefly comic will tell the story of the Unification War. Entertainment Weekly, July 2, 2018
  4. 4.0 4.1 FireflyLogoMini Firefly – "Serenity"
  5. In Serenity, he shoots three separate unarmed men in cold-blood, though one such action was a mercy-killing
  6. FireflyLogoMini Firefly – "Shindig"
  7. FireflyLogoMini Firefly – "Our Mrs. Reynolds"
  8. Whedon, Serenity: The Official Visual Companion, 11
  9. Whedon, Train Job: Director's Commentary, Track 1
  10. Q&A with Nicholas Brendan - Supanova Convention in Sydney, Australia - 2007-10-13
  11. Interview with Nathan Fillion - Dreamwatch Magazine 107. (2003-09-09). Retrieved on 2006-07-11.
  12. Whedon, Firefly Companion, Vol 1, 26
  13. Whedon, Firefly Companion, Vol 1, 79-80
  14. Whedon, Firefly Companion, Vol 1, 81
  15. Whedon, Firefly Companion, Vol 1, 83