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The Starship Troopers Detail You Missed In Firefly

In Hollywood, there's a long tradition of reusing costumes in movies and television shows. It makes fiscal sense; creating movies can be a big risk, so recycling outfits where it's possible (with a few changes here and there) can help bring costs down, while still contributing to worldbuilding in a seamless way. Most people don't even notice when clothing is seen again, years later, in a totally different project. Of course, that's not always the case, especially in period pieces and science fiction adventures, where costumes can be quite distinctive and unusual. 

It might take years for fans to notice, but they often do. That was the case with this Starship Troopers detail from the 1997 film, which popped up on Fox's short-lived television series Firefly just a few years later in 2002. Both of these shows are cult favorites, bombing initially and then developing faithful fan bases, so it's fitting that they should have a cosmic connection of this kind.

Alliance troops in Firefly's universe wore the same armor as Johnny Rico's unit ... only purple

In the satirical Starship Troopers, based on the novel by Robert A. Heinlein, main character Johnny Rico (Caspar Van Dien) and his fellow soldiers, including Isabelle "Dizzy" Flores (Dina Meyer) and Jean Rasczak (Michael Ironside), wear a distinctively patterned armor in a neutral gray color with slightly raised panels on both the back and front that make it look a bit like a carapace on an insect — fitting, since the main characters are fighting alien Arachnids that they colloquially call "bugs."

A few years later, in Firefly, fans can see that armor again, first on Alliance Federal Troopers that get in the way of Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his crew as they try to complete a hovertrain robbery in the episode "The Train Job," and later on in episodes like "Safe." According to Recycled Movie Costumes, the DVD commentary for Firefly notes that the armor was indeed the same as in Starship Troopers, but had been painted purple for the use of those pesky Alliance loyalists. The site says that, if you look closely at the episode, you can even see old signs of "bug blood" from the previous use of these costumes. That gunk stains!

Interestingly, these distinctive upper-chest and back pieces have popped up in at least one more project, a TV show which shot between the two aforementioned works. Recycled Movie Costumes points out that they were also seen on characters on Power Rangers Lost Galaxy. Eagle-eyed fans on Reddit also claim that the armor appears in 2001's Planet of the Apes film, on the Power Rangers Time Force TV series from 2001, and in the 2001 sci-fi film Impostor starring Gary Sinise. 

These costumes certainly got around at the turn of the century! It might be interesting to see what a crossover of all these sci-fi productions with their well-protected soldiers might look like.