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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Growing with Battlestar Galactica and reruns of the original Star Trek
series and the Transformers cartoon and Star Trek: TNG and Robotech and
a host of others, I came to cull an acute understanding of what makes
good science fiction. Reading Asimov and Clarke and Heinlein and Brooks
and Fiest cemented what it meant to tell good stories. Creating comics
and immersing myself into the comic book culture let me see what a well
done mix of media can do to elicit emotional response.
Taking all this into account, I'm a snob when it comes to science fiction. It has to be believable, well written, well staged, well crafted and fun. Let's face it, you're creating a whole reality that doesn't exist. But good science fiction takes what we know to be true already and shoots it forward anywhere from 2 minutes to 2 millennia. It has to have enough realism to feel authentic, but just enough fantasy to make us want to know more and be excited to find out.
Joss Whedon (who also created Buffy, Angel and writes comic books, currently Astonishing X-Men, one of the best books out now) created a series with all these aspects. Firefly was a perfect blend of what if and what now. It was rich and quirky and distinct in a way few shows now are. There was none of the sterility you find in the myriad Trek spin-offs or the camp or nigh unbelievable hijinks evident in Andromeda or Stargate: SG1. And the reason? Whedon gets it. He gets that people want drama AND comedy AND suspense AND action AND a well written script AND cool effects. He gets it in the way Henson got it with Dark Crystal or Besson got it with The Fifth Element. Firefly isn't just a soap opera in space. It's not just a large budget of rubber foreheads and plastic laser guns. It's not a fashion experiment with skin tight alienware. It's as close to a non-fiction fictional show as I can think, and that makes it powerful.
Firefly is the trials and tribulations of the crew of the Firefly class light space freighter Serenity. Her crew is a mish-mash of people with different backgrounds and beliefs. There's the distant, dangerous but scruffy and lovable captain; his solid and sexy 2nd in command; the cowardly, hysterical and talented pilot; the slow witted but skillfully hazardous gun slinging mercenary; the corn-fed, adorable mechanical genius; the sexy but reserved Companion; the mysterious holy man; the ostracized doctor and his powerful yet unstable sister. They fly from planet to planet looking for work in a galaxy that's still reeling from a bloody war in which the good guys lost and the juggernaut government war machine now rules.
But it's not as typical as that. Even with the breadth of characters in the show, it's not just the well acted roles that win you over. It's the swearing in Chinese because the last two Earth superpowers were America and China. It's the horses and train heists and saloons. It's the mudders and the farm folk and the sheriffs. It's the manner of speech, the idiosyncratic wardrobe (see Hawaiian Shirts and geisha robes). It's the fact that they treat space like space. There are no laser blasts noises or loud explosions. People must wear space suits and atmosphere is a real barrier.
It's all these things. Whedon got it. The fans got it.
Fox let this thing go to the crapper and we're now stuck with Who's Your Daddy? Just like Sci-Fi let Farscape go, this bright jewel was doomed from day one because the fat cats in the ivory towers felt it wasn't exciting enough for the slope-browed American public. There was no chance of seeing uncomfortable situations propagated by scriptless half wits and beautiful non-actors. So the show was left to die.
Fortunately the DVD set was able to recapture as much of the glory as possible, with the addition of 3 episodes that never aired. Forget the extras, forget the technical specs, get this set because of the show. The show itself is worth it. The cast, the writers, the directors, the crew, they are all worth your time.
There will be a movie in Sept, Serenity, and if you have any love for sci-fi, and any respect for yourself as a fan of entertainment, you will see that film and you will buy this set.
All I knew about 'Firefly' when I started watching my friend's DVDs was
that it was a Space Western, and the brainchild of Joss Whedon. The
former had me worried, as I have never been a fan of westerns. The
latter gave me hope, as I have a great deal of respect for Joss.
It did take me a little while to accept the very literal extreme to which the 'Space Western' theme is taken, particularly when they were riding around on horses with old-fashioned 6-shooters. But in later episodes where we visit some Alliance worlds, I finally understood how the show is mainly set on the frontier of space where there is minimal infrastructure and not a lot of high-tech gadgetry to throw around.
But the setting is incidental to the characters, and the characters of Firefly are, IMO, Joss's greatest creations. Mal is an enjoyable cross between Mad Max and Han Solo, with a wicked sense of humour, and his relationship with Inara is priceless. Every character has a vital and unique role to play in the show, creating one of the strongest 'ensemble' casts I have ever seen.
Then there are the visuals. The digital effects are masterfully executed, and it is often impossible to tell where reality ends and fantasy begins. The sets are gorgeous with a stunning attention to detail. The costumes are simply jaw-dropping.
It pains me to ponder where this series might have gone if Fox had at least let it run to the end of its first season. It is a tragedy to see such a masterpiece cut down in its prime.
I don't say it lightly when I say that this series is very likely
better than Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, and certainly would have been if
had it continued. It is a powerful, complex and mature series, which
faces the darkest evils - those perpetrated by humans upon each other -
and yet does not get lost in them.
More like Babylon 5 than Star Trek, this series also presents a more believable future than any of the Star Trek series. It is a future which does not shy from some of the darker tendencies in our own culture, including inequality, abuse of power, and crushing poverty. The core planets live in luxury, with those on the outskirts try to scrape out a living, while being preyed on by thugs and criminals. The Alliance is the federal power, but is one often more interested in maintaining peace for the good of large business interests than for the welfare of most people. The crew of Serenity, a Firefly class transport engaged in petty smuggling, are among those "working stiffs" who live far from the clean and shining future the Alliance represents.
Though not as wonderfully strange as Farscape, this series has similarly excellent writing, and has much better writing and character development than either Star Trek or Babylon 5. The writing is all that viewers have come to expect from both Buffy and Angel, and it is the writing - both plotting and dialogue - that makes this series truly stand out. Of course, that is along with the very fine acting and directing. Though the cast is filled with archetypal characters (the ungentlemanly but noble Captain, the tough First Mate, the untrustworthy but not too bright mercenary, the innocent young doctor), neither the writers or the actors let themselves slip into stereotypes, but keep open the subtleties and depths of each character's persona. Rarely have I found myself so engaged by the characters of what is, after all, apparently an adventure show; they could easily give characters from introspective art films a run for their money. If your love is for plenty of space battles, I would give this series a miss. But if your love in good film are complex and interesting characters, writing about society and morality, and watching mysteries unfold, this is possibly one of the best series ever, and certainly is among the best science fiction series or movies ever made.
Even though FOX messed with the order in which the episodes were
broadcast I still was hooked from the first episodes.
The episodes even improved over time.
I simply cannot understand what in the world has gotten into FOX to cancel this series.
Everything seemed just right. Good storytelling, interesting photography and great acting.
The last two episodes, which made it to DVD but were not even broadcast, are top SciFi. Why not at least broadcast them, too?
What more can one ask for in a SciFi series? I know: more seasons! :) I'm really looking forward to the feature film.
I couldn't disagree with you more jellyneckr. This show gave us everything that is missing on TV today: clever writing, interesting story lines, and characters you actually care about. The fact that it was a western in space was an interesting and unique concept, but it was beside the point. What really mattered were the character interactions, and the idea that, even in the future, we're not this unrecognizable human race. As in any Joss Whedon show, it amazingly combined humor, drama, action, and intense suspense. It wasn't cliché and didn't follow the same mold as everything else on TV. This show got canceled well before it ever should have, and all I can say is I can't wait for the movie to come out.
Fox was very stupid from the beginning with this series. It was my favorite show on TV, and they really didn't give it a chance to succeed. They put it on Friday nights when most of the crowd they were looking for is not home, or watching TV anyway. I hope the show comes back on another network after the movie. I never watched Buffy or Angel, but I loved this Joss Whedon show. The characters are great, the stories are great, there is mystery and suspense, comedy and drama, the show has everything. The show did not really have any star power, but I thought all the actors were very good. Ron Glass and Adam Baldwin were the only 2 actors I had heard of. I cannot wait for the movie to come out this summer.
This was Foxes biggest mistake. They had the makings of a great show that could have done wonders for them, but they buried it by putting it on Friday nights and airing it out of order. It was the greatest show of what space is really like. Also it had great music and s.f.x. I loved the story lines and it gave us characters to get to know like family. Now that it is out on D.V.D. you can watch it in order and prepare for the movie which I can not wait to see. Just a warning it takes about 16 hours to go through the D.V.D. collection. The cast of the movie is all the same as the show. They say that this will enlighten you to a lot of what was missed in the series because of the cut. This is Joss Whedon's masterpiece.
After watching what should have been the pilot, but was indeed the last episode to be broadcast, I can understand why lots of people felt confused when the series first aired. Even with that problem, this is a series that manages to hook you up after a few episodes. Unfortunately, a few of them is probably as many as we will ever have. Excellent characterization, good dialogue, great production values and a few nice hints at how great it could have been. The mixed setting may not appeal to everyone, but watch the story in the correct sequence and you will surely make much more sense of everything. Give it a try, and then hope for the movie.
Thank god for DVD. I somehow missed this show when it was first aired.
The show has a huge cult following, and now I see why.
Joss Whedon is a master of the drama-action-comedy genre. As with the fantasy element in Buffy and Angel, the sci-fi part of the show is great fun, but it's not the heart of the show. The characters and the relationships between them are great and complex. The dialog is zippy. And each scene has incredible detail in language, costuming, sets, and plot, so you can find something new each time you watch it.
It's a masterpiece, and I can't wait for the spin off movie Serenity to arrive.
Having first read the initial user summary for this series, I must admit I
wasn't expecting much, and I'll agree that the first (second) episode was
rather tame. I wonder how much damage the preceding review did to an
excellent show. You see, after giving it a chance (*ahem*) and seeing a
episodes, I found that the show indeed stands well on its own. This
character can truly put together an ensemble cast, and have it all work.
This is apparently his third successful ensemble, and that's not
Does it look like some pointless comic book? I'm sure it does. Does it have elements of some other books, movies and television series? After 60 years of media, of course we'll see some overlap. This is the beginning of an excellent and catchy series, with some *real* characters - ie imperfect - with real personalities and goals, and although it's a rare idea in today's television, I'm sure Mr Whedon doesn't have the patent on believable characters.
He just does it well.
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