I was recentlyswitched onto and quickly worked through every episode of the excellent sifi series Firefly (and the spin off movie Serenity ). This is one of those series that I think I’ve come across when flicking through cable channels but it looks too strange to settle on and invest any time to, and I can see why it failed and was canceled during its first season.
It is just too good. There is too much going on, too many characters and too much detail. So with so many channels to choose from, flicking through channels and seeing all these people and details it instantly looks like something that will take a lot of effort to understand. But it really is worth that little effort if you start from the beginning!
It is written, created and produced by Joss Whedon who at the time was the big hit in US TV with his other creation Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and isn’t your typical sifi / space travel type of story we are used to…
- it is set in a future (2517) where humans have simply spread out from earth, there aren’t any aliens (it took me ages to notice this)
- the people on the furthest outreaches of this ‘civilisation’ are like wild west pioneers and there is a lot of wester genre in this
- everyone can speak english or mandarine Chinese (as america and china were the last great superpowers when the Earth united – or something like that). This has the great advantage that when characters swear it is in Chinese which sounds realistic but doesn’t have to get beeped out.
- there are nine main characters (10 if you include the ship Serenity) this is a lot of cross relationships to get used to which is why dipping into the series isn’t great
- most of the filming is done on hand held camera leaving in all the little framing errors which give a raw edge that you don’t usually see in this genre
- this ‘hand held’ camera look is carried over into the CG when we see zoom-pans into a space ships at a distance, again ‘camera’ work you just don’t see anywhere in regular sifi
- action in space, including explosions are done without sound – as space is a vacume therefore no sound (the only other program I can remember doing this was the old Blake’s 7)
- it has incredibly funny moments, some very good one-liners, physical and visual comedy!
Zoe “Cap’n’ll have a plan… always does. ”
Kaylee “That’s good right?”
Zoe “It’s possible you’re not recalling some of the cap’n’s previous plans…”
Jayne: “Testing, testing. Captain, can you hear me?”
Mal: “I’m standing right here.”
Jayne: “You’re coming through good and loud.”
Mal: ” ‘Cause I’m standing right here.”
Mal: “If anyone gets nosy, just…you know… shoot ’em. ”
Zoe: “Shoot ’em?”
So, the concept is unusual, unexpected and fantastic. The characters are very well drawn and a great cast brings them to life. This looks like a big budget series with excellent sets and location pieces. It is a great shame that the plug was pulled as there is so much more depth in this series which never got explained. The movie (which apparantly only happened due to the pressure and fundraising of fans) does tidy up a lot of questions which the series leaves us with, but it is the characters who are so good that you just want to see more of what they go through. You can pick up this boxed set fairly cheap and it is really worth it!