The Video: Sizing Up the Picture - 3 out of 5 stars
Firefly: The Complete Series' makes its long-awaited debut on Blu-ray with a somewhat mediocre 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that fails to rejuvenate the series' problematic source. Close-ups and practical shots look quite impressive (more on that in a bit), but special effects sequences are soft (downright blurry at times), long distance pans are muddled, and texture clarity is a tad inconsistent. Fans who own `Serenity' in HD will be particularly disappointed since the film's detailed vistas and spacecraft sparkle in high definition compared to `Firefly.' Some of the series' high-def issues can be traced back to the show's limited budget and rushed production schedule, but the most distracting shots are a direct result of source limitations. While Whedon shot the majority of the series using 35mm film stock, special effects sequences were minted in lowly standard definition. Honestly, I have a hard time faulting the production team for saving cash and making the series look as good as they could at a time when HDTV was a pipe dream, but it doesn't change the fact that the BD edition of `Firefly' is uneven and, at times, painfully underwhelming.
Even so, fans shouldn't let that bit of disheartening news discourage their enthusiasm too much. `Firefly's transfer is as technically polished as I expected it to be (the only way it could be drastically improved is if Fox went back to the drawing board and crafted new special effects sequences from scratch) and, for the most part, looks much better than it did on standard DVD. Colors are more vibrant, skintones more natural, contrast brighter and more stable, and blacks (while unresolved at times) deeper. Detail has received a moderate boost as well. Aside from the instances I already mentioned, skin textures are more realistic, fine detail is well defined, and hair and stubble show off some high-def sheen. While artifacting and low-light noise haven't disappeared altogether (and make appearances on a fairly regular basis), `Firefly's image is much cleaner than it is on DVD. More importantly, the picture isn't assaulted by the endless blocking, banding, and crush as it was before.
Definitive? Not quite. As polished as anyone should expect for now? Without a doubt. In the end, `Firefly' could have been a knockout had Fox given the show the same attention Paramount is bestowing on the original `Star Trek' series, but, all things considered (we are talking about a cult fave that was canceled before it even had a full season under its belt), the end results look decidedly decent.