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Wednesday, March 18, 2009:
What I'm watching: "Firefly" (2002)

As the 2005 theatrical release of Serenity made clear, Firefly was a science fiction concept that deserved a second chance. Devoted fans (or "Browncoats") knew it all along, and with this well-packaged DVD set, those who missed the show's original broadcasts can see what they missed. Creator Joss Whedon's ambitious science-fiction Western (Whedon's third series after Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel) was canceled after only 11 of these 14 episodes had aired on the Fox network, but history has proven that its demise was woefully premature. Whedon's generic hybrid got off to a shaky start when network executives demanded an action-packed one-hour premiere ("The Train Job"); in hindsight the intended two-hour pilot (also titled "Serenity," and oddly enough, the final episode aired) provides a better introduction to the show's concept and splendid ensemble cast. Obsessive fans can debate the quirky logic of combining spaceships with direct parallels to frontier America (it's 500 years in the future, and embattled humankind has expanded into the galaxy, where undeveloped "outer rim" planets struggle with the equivalent of Old West accommodations), but Whedon and his gifted co-writers and directors make it work, at least well enough to fashion a credible context from the incongruous culture-clashing of past, present, and future technologies, along with a polyglot language (the result of two dominant superpowers) that combines English with an abundance of Chinese slang.

What makes it work is Whedon's delightfully well-chosen cast and their nine well-developed characters--a typically Whedon-esque extended family--each providing a unique perspective on their adventures aboard Serenity, the junky but beloved "Firefly-class" starship they call home. As a veteran of the disadvantaged Independent faction's war against the all-powerful planetary Alliance (think of it as Underdogs vs. Overlords), Serenity captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) leads his compact crew on a quest for survival. They're renegades with an amoral agenda, taking any job that pays well, but Firefly's complex tapestry of right and wrong (and peace vs. violence) is richer and deeper than it first appears. Tantalizing clues about Blue Sun (an insidious mega-corporation with a mysteriously evil agenda), its ties to the Alliance, and the traumatizing use of Serenity's resident stowaway (Summer Glau) as a guinea pig in the development of advanced warfare were clear indications Firefly was heading for exciting revelations that were precluded by the series' cancellation. Fortunately, the big-screen Serenity (which can be enjoyed independently of the series) ensured that Whedon's wild extraterrestrial west had not seen its final sunset. Its very existence confirms that these 14 episodes (and enjoyable bonus features) will endure as irrefutable proof Fox made a glaring mistake in canceling the series. --Jeff Shannon

This is what has been keeping my attention when I'm not reading lately. I saw this when it originally aired back in '02, not sure if I was going to like it but being such a die-hard fan of BtVS I at least had to give it a try. And...
It grew on me. At first, the dusty, barren worlds and western idealism wasn't something that appealed to me. But eventually the characters, and their stories, are what kept me coming back to see what would happen next. I knew some of them - Nathan Fillion from "One Life to Live" and "Two Guys & A Girl", and Gina Torres from "Angel" - so that kept me tuned in as well. But then I became interested in what each person was hiding. I think I was most curious about Inara, a well-respected companion who chose her partners. What a revelation to have this woman - who had sex with men for money - and observe the respect she received and the power she could wield. Yet she wasn't hard or jaded, but softer, more pragmatic and sensible, more accepting.
And there is just something about Nathan Fillion, even when he plays a jerk (which he did in a movie with Alyssa Silverstone) that is rather appealing. I don't find him drop-dead gorgeous or even very sexy, but I do like him. I know he's in a new show now, "Castle", which I've been hearing a lot of good things about. In "Firefly", he's Captain Malcolm Reynolds, in charge of a rag-tag crew who doesn't always follow him blindly but they stick with him anyway. You gotta have something to earn that kind of loyalty.
The show only lasted one season, yet out of it came a motion picture, "Serenity" (2005) which I've yet to see. Hopefully I'll get to it this weekend.
Have you seen "Firefly" and/or "Serenity"?
If so, what did you think of it?
Who was your favorite character?



  1. I'm a huge Whedonverse "fangirl," and I loved "Firefly" and "Serenity." I think my favorite character was Jayne because he was just so darn bad, as well as funny, but Nathan Fillion is so darn charming in everything he plays (and in person) that I loved Captain Mal too. I thought Kaylee was very endearing too. You're making me want to get out my DVD boxed set. :)

  2. Nathan Fillion's from my hometown! Hollah back, E-Town!

    I love, love, love Firefly. I'm a huge Whedon fangirl, so much so that I managed to convert my mother to the Church of Joss. I really like all the characters - I love Mal, I adored Wash and Zoe's relationship, and Jayne is hilarious. I have to disagree with you on Fillion's looks, though - I think he's pretty gorgeous. ^_^

    I hope you've been watching Whedon's "Dollhouse," too. FOX interfered with the first couple of episodes, so they were a little shaky, but the show's been getting a lot more interesting of late.

  3. Firefly is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. I even snagged advanced screening tickets for Serenity. Two Halloweens ago I dressed as Inara (a parent from my school is a costume designer and made me the exact dress from the episode Jaynsetown.) The character developement on the show is phenomenal. By the time you get to Out Of Gas, you can see how complex even the shallowest characters are (Jayne and the hat from his mom.) The brother-sister bond between Simon and River is so strong and quirky. The push-pull between Inara and Mal was true romance. Mal wanted to be a lone figure, but at his heart he is a leader and a family man, even if his family is made up of an odd assortment of riffraff.

    I will watch just about anything Joss creates. Currently I am doing a rewatch of Buffy. I'm in the middle of season 3 right now. Angel is next. Firefly is my comfort viewing. I will throw on a ep and let it play while I do other stuff. I know I can jump in at any moment and know what is going on.

    AnimeJune- I saw the pilot ep and was so disappointed that I haven't tuned back in. I'll have to try watching it again this week. I so wanted it to be good!

  4. Firefly = Best. Show. EVAR!

    That is all.


  5. I watched "Firefly" during some weekend marathon of it a year or so ago and I liked it because of the characters- and mostly Nathan.
    I tune in to "Castle" every Monday night and think it's a good show- I just hope it sticks around. Every time I like a show the following season its canned. I hate when that happens!

  6. Karen, I liked Jayne too. In the first episode, when Kaylee gets shot, and he's watching her surgery, you just knew there was more to the big lug.

    AnimeJune, now aren't you the lucky one? I agree that Nathan is good-looking, just not gorgeous, imho. I think he's got charisma in spades though, which makes him even more attractive. Sadly, I don't watch much current t.v. But that's okay. Let's me read more.

    Well Shannon how cool is that? I never knew you were such a fan. I loved you were Inara for Halloween. And of course I bought the complete boxed set of BtVS. It's a must-have.

    C2, I can't disagree with you there *g*

    Ms. Moonlight, I know what you mean about shows getting canceled on you. "My So-Called Life" was probably the one that broke my heart the most.

  7. I was never a watcher of BtVS, and did not watch this when it was out (no cable). We actually saw Serenity first and then went back and watched all the episodes and Serenity again in order. Great series!!! Hubby loves them too. Stuff in it for girls and guys.

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