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Firefly: The Complete Series
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Five hundred years in the future, there’s a whole new frontier, and a crew of the Firefly-class spaceship Serenity is eager to stake a claim on the action. They’ll take any job, legal or illegal, to keep fuel in the tanks and food on the table. But things get a bit more complicated after they take on a passenger wanted by the new totalitarian Alliance regime. Now they find themselves on the run, desperate to steer clear of Alliance ships and the flesh-eating Reavers who live on the fringes of space.
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
On the Blu-ray discs
Firefly has a picture that's a little softer than most Blu-ray discs (especially in the effects shots), but it is an improvement over the DVDs (even in an upconverting DVD player or Blu-ray player), and the punchy sound (DTS HD 5.1 compared to the DVDs' 2.0 surround) is a definite upgrade. In addition to the original bonus features, there are a couple new ones: a 25-minute conversation among Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Ron Glass, and Alan Tudyk in which they discuss the series and a number of specific episodes (Fillion recalls thinking he was getting fired after the first episode), and a new commentary track by the four fellows on "Our Mrs. Reynolds." And since it's easy to get sucked into watching multiple episodes, it's nice to have a Play All feature on the BDs. --David Horiuchi
Beyond Firefly on Blu-ray
Blu-ray Sci-Fi Bundle
Stills from Firefly (Click for larger image)
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Top customer reviews
The series works on many levels; as a character study it excels. Our nine space travelers all have interesting stories and the charismatic cast gets the viewers buy-in almost from the first episode. Thirteen years later you’ve seen many of these actors in different shows. Nathan Fillion (“Castle”) as Capt Malcolm Reynolds is great as the former rebellion fighter who buys a decrepit cargo ship and travels space moving legal and illegal goods to the outer colonies. As he says “I may have fought on the losing side, but I’m not sure it was the wrong side.” Now there’s an Alliance governing the planets that’s not quite as malevolent as The Empire in Star Wars but you get the idea. Rounding out the crew: Gina Torres (too many shows to mention) is his number one, Zoe, a former corporal he’s fought with she’s his trusted right arm. Alan Tudyk (“Dodgeball”) is “Wash” the ship’s pilot and husband of Zoe and a frequent source of comic relief. Adam Baldwin (“Chuck”, “The Last Ship”) is amusing as mercenary Jayne Cobb. He’s the muscle for the crew but motivated primarily by money and frequently one step away from mutiny. Morena Baccarin (“Homeland”, “V”, “Deadpool”) plays Inara, a beautiful so-called companion (prostitute) where in the future the world’s oldest profession is held in high esteem. She rents one of the ship’s shuttles and plys her trade from the Serenity. Jewel Taite (Stargate, Atlantis) is the ship’s mechanic Kaylee Frye. She’s a girly-girl next door type who spreads her sunny optimism throughout the ship. If she sounds annoying, she’s not and you’ll want to give her a hug. Ron Glass (Barney Miller) is Shepherd Book a preacher with a mysterious past who signs on for transport and decides to stay with the crew. Sean Maher is Dr. Simon Tam who books passage on his ship with “cargo”. That cargo turns out to be his sister he’s rescued from the evil Alliance and their sinister experiments. River Tam is played by Sci-Fi star Summer Glau, she’s suffering the effects of the treatment she’s received by the Alliance and at first she’s withdrawn and barely communicative. As the season progresses she begins to stabilize and more is revealed about her and certain “abilities” she’s developed as a result of what’s happened to her. She and her brother have a bounty on their heads and are being pursued by the Alliance who desperately want her back. Well drawn, likeable characters that the audience can identify with well portrayed by superb actors make this world a place you’ll want to visit.
Kudos to the set designer in regards to the spaceship Firefly’s interior spaces. Having traveled on a number of military transports the Serenity’s insides look pretty legit to me. Like the rest of the show there’s nothing fancy, just a utilitarian vessel to haul goods and crew making it easy to believe in.
The space-western concept apparently was too much for the network execs to grasp but I thought it was fun. The clothing and speech of these space travelers is right off the set of “Bonanza” for the most part. Less engaging is the constant insertion of Mandarin Chinese colloquialisms, profanity, and slang in the dialog (without subtitles). In Whedon’s future world America and China are the only surviving superpowers so there’s a strong Asian influence throughout the show. Happily, Wikipedia has a page of “Firefly” script excerpts and translations of a number of the Chinese phrases that’s a helpful resource for the more interested viewer.
The stories are well done and the show has a great sense of humor with many one liners that had me chuckling. Of the 14 episodes there isn’t a bad one in the bunch. My two favorites are “Our Mrs. Reynolds” and “Jaynestown”. In the former Mal winds up allegedly married after a drunken party to none other than Christina Hendricks before “Mad Men” fame. Her character of Saffron is terrific and Mal’s discomfiture as well as the amusement of the crew was a laugh. Saffron also appears in a later episode too and is no less a delight. In “Jaynestown” the crew revisit a planet where Cobb got himself into a bit of trouble but on returning discovers he’s a hero to the locals. When the guy in the bar sings the ballad about Cobb it’s a laugh out loud moment.
When you reach the conclusion of the final episode, “Objects in Space” you’ll be left with an empty feeling knowing that there isn’t any more to watch (other than the 2005 movie “Serenity”). That this fine series never got a fighting chance is a real tragedy.
Unlike many, it took me a little longer to fall in love with Firefly and to truly 'get' what all the fuss was about. I'm mentioning that in case someone else reading this was relatively underwhelmed initially but willing to give the show a second chance. The series might just not be your cup of TV tea, of course...but you might, as I did, find that a second or even third viewing hooks you for the remainder of your TV-viewing life :)
The show is a space western, and generally combines traditional elements of both genres in creative, engaging ways. As always while viewing Whedon shows, there are a couple of characters who didn't quite resonate with me---but it ceased to matter, as other characters rose quickly to the very top of my personal "all-time favorites" list. The dialogue took a little bit of getting used to for me---after all, it's not every day that one hears a blend of Queen's English, Old West slang and the occasional Chinese phrase ;) (Rest assured that the inclusion of Chinese phrases makes perfect sense in the context of the show's background mythology, so it's not nearly as random as it sounds!) Once my ears and I got used to it, though, I became totally enamored with the dialogue and many of the clever, witty, hopeful and thought-provoking quotes that are now happily lodged in my memory.
Firefly is brimming over with humor, drama, action, mystery, and even a little romance. It's a true pleasure to look at and listen to. The thing that makes it unique for me is that it can be enjoyed as both a comedic, high energy thrill ride AND a more sneakily deep, intriguingly philosophical sci-fi drama. The cast seems to genuinely love the show, the fans and one another like none other I've come across.
As I'm typing this review, this set is on sale for a comparatively inexpensive $9.99. (I spent three times that amount...but still somehow feel it was worth it!) If you're on the fence, this may be the perfect time to hit that tempting orange 'buy' button. I can honestly say that these DVDs have---and will always---get more use than nearly any other in my collection! Happy holidays---and happy viewing :)