Friday, 30 July 2010
Directors: Joss Whedon, Tim Minear, Vern Gillum, Michael Grossman, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Marita Grabiak, David Solomon, Allan Kroeker, Jim Contner and Thomas J. Wright.
Screenplay: Joss Whedon, Tim Minear, Jane Espenson, Drew Z. Greenberg, Ben Edlund, Jose Molina, Cheryl Cain and Brett Matthews. Series created by Joss Whedon.
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau and Ron Glass.
Running Time: 14 episodes over 1 season. One 90 minute episode, otherwise 42 minutes per episode.
Genre: Science-fiction, western, drama
Summary: In the year 2517 the human race has moved to other star systems most of which are ruled by a brutal regime known as "the Alliance". Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Fillion), who seven years earlier fought on the losing side of a war against the Alliance, is commander of the Firefly-class transport ship Serenity, which travels among the remote frontier planets searching for ny type of work (whether of the legal or illegal variety) that will keep food on the table and the old ship flying. Also on the crew are Reynolds' wartime friend Zoe (Torres), Zoe's husband and the ship's pilot Wash (Tudyk), violent ex-mercenary Jayne (Baldwin), perpetually cheerful engineer Kaylee (Staite), professional "Companion" (a kind of highly respected courtesan) Inara (Baccarin) who gives the ship a level of respectability and social standing, preacher (or "Shepherd") Book (Glass) and doctor Simon Tam (Maher) who is on the run from the Alliance with his genius but delusional and occasionally violent sister River (Glau), who Simon rescued from an Alliance facility where she was being subjected to horrific experiments.
Opinion: The concept of Firefly was suggested to Joss Whedon after he read the novel The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, which chronicles the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Whedon wanted to make a show about people who had fought on the losing side of a war and their experiences afterwards as pioneers on the outskirts of civilization. The show mixes science-fiction with elements from Western movies, with many of the planets visited by the characters being like remote Old West outposts or towns, which I don't think is an unreasonable idea of what those type of worlds could be like. In science-fiction terms, the show is notable for the fact that there are no alien creatures or talking robots or anything like that. Also, refreshingly, they accept the fact that there is no sound in space.
In my opinion Firefly is very possibly one of the best, if not the best, science-fiction shows ever made. The show was well-written, with witty and intelligent scripts. The endlessly quotable dialogue mixed existing slang, invented words, Old West-style dialect and snatches of Chinese (in fact there is a strong Chinese influence in many of the show's set designs and costumes). The look of the show often used highly mobile cameras which in some scenes created a semi-documentary look. The acting was always excellent and helped create many memorable characters with Fillion's Captain Reynolds being the coolest space hero since Han Solo in Star Wars (1977).
So what went wrong? The show was produced by and originally shown on the Fox network who cancelled the show after only eleven of the fourteen episodes that were made had been screened. The network never seemed to care much about the show right from the start. Episodes were screened out of order (although Firefly doesn't really have one on-going story it does have running themes and storylines which run throughout the series) the extended pilot episode, which introduces the shows characters, themes and plotlines wasn't shown until the end of the run because the network wanted a more "action-packed" episode to open the series. Episodes were moved around the schedules and the series was marketed as kind of an "action-comedy" instead of the serious science-fiction drama that Whedon intended (although there is still a lot of action and humour in it). However, after reruns and DVD releases, the show has become kind of a cult series with a hardcore fanbase, known as "Browncoats" (a slang term in the show for the army in which Reynolds and Zoe fought). The show was popular enough on DVD for a movie sequel, Serenity, which was released in 2005 to critical acclaim but sadly not much success at the box office.
This was a brilliant television series which was sadly cancelled far too soon. However what there is of it is totally shiney.