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I can't believe there is so little of it.,
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This review is from: Firefly: The Complete Series (DVD)
I liked Star Trek. But Star Trek was a sterile proto-socialist fantasy, without a comprehensible culture beyond starfleet itself.
I like Star Wars better, but despite the detailed world building it remained a fairly predictable space opera.
Firefly (and the Serenity movie) are the best damn science fiction I have ever watched on a screen. I can't believe that there is no more of this to watch. I will not believe it. I am going to think really, really desperate and evil thoughts until someone gives me another fix.
OK, so I hate reviews that just say something was good and the network is evil for having cancelled it, no matter how true that is. A person reads a review not to determine whether someone they have never heard of likes something, but, hopefully, whether they might like it. So here is my pathetic attempt to describe greatness. Why I loved Firefly
1. Detailed world building. I can easily see how the worlds of humankind shown in this series evolved from the world of today. Any projection into the future is hazardous, but at least this series makes a reasoned attempt at such a projection. I see bits and pieces of the world we know, taken apart and reassembled on another stage, as, indeed, they will have been after the passage of 500 years. Whether it is the Chinese characters in the shop windows, the opulent, almost Raj-like feel of the Tam estate and the clothes worn there, the eclectic, practical, almost wild west garb of the outer worlds, or the oriental but not quite specific derivation of Inara's quarters, I can tell that someone spent a lot of time and energy trying to trace out the lines of this future society. Which leads me to
2. The emphasis on the everyday and practical. There aren't any aliens cluttering up the landscape. What's more, industrial zones look like there is active industry, rural areas have real farmers and miners. Laser weapons exist, but there is a realization that putting a high speed piece of lead through a person is likely to be just as fatal (if not more so) than burning them with a laser. (And I loved the "check battery" indicator on the laser pistol, too.) We also get to see what sort of goods a future smuggler smuggles, and its not always "spice" or precious metals. Firefly deals with medical supplies, concentrated food bars, engine parts, ceramics, seed, even a herd of cows for goodness' sakes. Anything real people might want to get that they may not have. They even talk about buying clay of high quality (though this is a cover) Which leads me to
3. A view of the future from street level. There are few worldshaking events in Firefly, and what there are are seen from the viewpoint of ordinary people, hustlers, dirt farmers, "mudders", mechanics (and, yes, prostitutes, but preachers, too). This show is not about ambassadors, jedi knights, queens, admirals or generals. I think it's significant that Mal was a sergeant in the Independent army, not even an officer much less a field commander. Which leads me to
4. Nine very unforgettable and well formed characters. None of them are particularly extraordinary people (ok, River is, but that's the exception that proves the rule. The series ended when we were just getting a glimpse of how extraordinary she is. The movie tells us a lot more. She is, however, still a "little person") All of them are complicated, all of them are compelling, and all of them could make a suitable paper about character development in a college English class. Sometimes I might think I like Kaylee best; her wide-eyed upbeat attitude, her poor white trash background (being as how that's what I am), her crush on Simon, or the bigger crush she has on engines. I think of her lying wounded crooning "there's my good girl" to the ship. Other times I can't help but like not-quite dumb as a post tough-guy Jayne, who always seems to want to kill somebody (and tries selling out fellow crew members once) but who wears the stupid hat his mother made him and agonizes over the young man who dies for him in "Jaynestown." Actually, I love them all, but I don't have room for more examples. (My daughter, the English major, doesn't care for Inara and Simon. I think she's wrong. The show would be different without them.) All of which leads me to
5. Real people dealing with real moral dilemmas. Mal likes to think of himself as a hardbitten criminal. Problem is, that in the course of the show he is constantly turning down jobs, backing out of them, protecting people with no hope of return, and doing other insipidly noble things. He drives Jayne to distraction, but Jayne is not immune to this malady either. None of them are. Shepherd Book may comment that he seems to have gotten on the wrong ship, and Kaylee may lightly reply to Simon's question about what they are doing with "Crime." but these are basically good people. The epitome of this, of course, is the fact that Serenity takes in Simon and River, despite the trouble this is bound to cause them. On the other hand, evil in the world of Firefly is both less obvious and more real. (Clue: The Alliance is evil). However, there is no leader in black robes with a maniacal laugh shouting out that here lies evil. In point of fact, perfectly good people might and do honestly see the Alliance as a force for good, as exemplified by Inara's statement that she supported unification. No, rather than being told that evil is here, we are shown it. The epitome of this is what was being done to River, but there is much more. "We meddle," says River in the movie. Darn right they do.
6. Contravention of stereotypes. I always thought that if a villain told me he was going to hunt me down and kill me, that, rather than walk nobly away, I would shoot him in the head. Mal does me one better. He kicks the guy into a spinning turbine. Another example: when Mal demands of a recalcitrant crew "Do you want to run this ship?", Jayne replies "Yes!", and all the flustered hero can think of to say is "Well, you can't." Not to mention other cool and different things enumerated above incidently, like the continued use of slug-throwing weaponry (and even non-laser swords and knives).
7. I can't enumerate all the really funny parts. Just one example is when Jayne wants to trade Mal his favorite gun for the woman Mal supposedly married while drunk. "She has a name," says Mal, and Jayne replies, "So does this! Vera . . ." (Vera sees action in at least two episodes. She is indeed a fine gun.)
The one thing I can't get my mind around is that this series is Joss Whedon's work. I am something less than a fan of his other work. I can't imagine in what corner of his brain he was hiding it; I just want to thank him for it. I can't believe I missed the series when it was on tv. I can't wait for another movie. Can somebody take the hint out there? I'm a bit desperate.
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Showing 1-10 of 29 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 2, 2009 6:00:12 PM PST
thank you Aardvark. I am one of those people you referred to: who never heard of this show (was it HBO? which I don't have) yet loved Buffy and Angel, and am now watching Joss Weedon's Dollhouse with Eliza Dushku from Buffy. Your noble attempt at encapsulating what is obviously a very complex and multifaceted show intrigued me enough to order the entire series sight unseen. You are right that details are required: not just that someone I don't know liked it. I cannot even fathom what this show is like but will be grateful to you for recommending it so fully, I'm sure.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2009 10:28:11 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 10, 2009 10:39:13 AM PDT
Southern Geologist says:
For the record, the show was on Fox.
And, if I had to make a choice in the matter, I wouldn't want another movie. I'd prefer more seasons of the show. I feel that a movie wouldn't give proper time for the character development that made this show so great. If a movie was the only choice other than having nothing, on the other hand...
In reply to an earlier post on May 13, 2011 8:30:29 PM PDT
Richard L. Haley says:
Firefly was great, I wish it had survived. Another series you might check out is Babylon 5 - easily the best Si-Fi series ever done. The dialog can't match Firefly, but the plotting is the best ever. (ps The first season not great, slow and preachy only one in three episodes are real winners, but seasons 2 thu 5 are fantastic nothing equals it.)
Posted on Nov 13, 2011 8:53:25 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 13, 2011 8:56:15 PM PST
Penny Duncan says:
Your review was spot-on. I am also not a fan of other Joss Whedon work, but I am Firefly obsessed to the point of it being my all-time favorite TV show. My van and beta fish are both named Serenity. Our next car is already named Firefly. I cannot rest until I have told every one of my friends about it. And I actually went to the DragonCon parade just to see the Browncoats. I've spent my life laughing at Trekkies. But I find myself a Browncoat with just as much zeal.
I don't really watch TV anymore. I didn't know about Firefly until about 3 years ago. Since I have purchased a copy for us, my husband purchased it on his iPod, we have given the set to three different friends.
The dialog is sooo great! The characters are lovable, and very human. No far-fetched sci-fi, in fact, very little of the technology in the series is unavailable at this time in history. One of my favorite scenes is when the villan is in a shootout with his laser pistol and it stops working. He looks down at the gun to see a "low battery" error message on it. It is just plain funny without ever going over the top. The subject matter is always serious, but the dialog slips in many memorable and largely funny quotes when you least expect it.
Posted on Dec 22, 2011 6:42:49 AM PST
L. Combs says:
Loved your first paragraph, referencing Star Trek; I was a fan, but your assessment was absolutely spot-on.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2012 3:52:31 PM PDT
Kevin J. Convery says:
Posted on Jul 20, 2012 2:38:24 PM PDT
Mark McCarty says:
Excellent summing up of Firefly's attributes , while I disagree somewhat with your take on Star Trek ( a tv series that has spun off four other long-lasting tv series and ten major motion pictures has to have SOMETHING going for it after all ) I can't help but wish this splendid series had been saved in the same manner as the first Trek , which was nearly cancelled after it's first season . Alas , not to be , but at least the movie Serenity made up for this , somewhat . I hope others may be in the offing although perhaps not the same with the deaths of Wash and Shepard Book in Serenity . Still , I hope .
Posted on Sep 9, 2012 1:54:44 PM PDT
Keith BR says:
"I can't believe there is so little of it." -- "Firefly (and the Serenity movie) are the best damn science fiction I have ever watched on a screen. I can't believe that there is no more of this to watch. I will not believe it. I am going to think really, really desperate and evil thoughts until someone gives me another fix." Aardvark Sir, I cannot agree with you more!! Way back in 2005, when "Serenity" first appeared, I had never heard of "Firefly" (I stopped watching t.v back in 1993). Up-to-that-point, my favorite S.F. series was (deservedly) "Babylon 5". Once I saw 'Serenity' I was an immediate & nearly obsessed fan. I watched it 3 times the first day (it was winter & I was sick) & twice the next day. Within a week, I had the entire series & I watched nothing else until I had enjoyed the series 7 times thru (yeh; I kno--I kno....). Joss (& everyone involved) did such a superb top-notch job, i was just mesmerized!! Yes, I kno--it's pathetic, &, I fully accept that view-point even tho it is criticism, because, it's pretty much true. I havn't made it to any of the Brown-coats fan parties or the 'cons' (yet) but, one day..... For all of my 51 years, I have been a great fan of Star Trek, yet, I can clearly understand & appreciate your assessment of it, sooo--I concur (I still love it tho). In summation: I think you did as great job with your review!
Posted on Nov 19, 2012 2:10:08 PM PST
George S says:
Well written and accurate review of a great series.
Posted on Dec 9, 2012 9:19:06 PM PST
I agreed with you right up until the last paragraph :). Buffy and Angel were what drew me to Firefly (and Buffy remains my all-time favorite show as I grew up with the characters - same age at the same time). Fans who have seen them all, can easily make comparisons between all three shows (four if you include Dollhouse, which obviously came later) - the world-building, the dialogue, the intriguing depth of all the characters, the conflicts that are so realistic to day-to-day life (regardless of whether they are space cowboys or vampire slayers). Joss is truly a genius at creating worlds that you can actually believe is out there. Great review!