Firefly: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
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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.
Having watched the show I now think less of Fox Network Group and especially Gail Berman who according to reports cancelled the show. Slotted on Friday nights at 9:00 pm is an idiot decision by Gail Berman and Fox. This clearly demonstrates a lack of vision, judgement and reason in failing to see a gem of a show. Ensuing comments from Berman demonstrate an idiot viewpoint leaning on skewed numbers that were pulled from an unrealistic data gathering that completely failed to calculate the consequential metrics that frankly anyone could see. The fact that of the metrics being so glaringly obvious in detriment to the show made Berman's comments an insight into her and Fox Network Groups mindset. Simply put they failed to utilize a brilliant show, story line and cast, while shoving an idiots excuse at the public. Why point that out? ....because a "Great Sci-Fi Series" was lost to the many due to the limited vision and decision skill of the few (Berman and Fox). Berman rode the success of American Idol, leaving or fired in 2005, and she returns back to Fox with the Jackal Group in 2014. Who names their organization the Jackal Group?...here's one definition of Jackal that may provide insight..." a person who performs dishonest or base deeds as the follower or accomplice of another".
A few statistics gathered about Firefly are; Premiered in the U.S. on the Fox network on September 20, 2002. By mid-December, Firefly had averaged 4.7 million viewers per episode and was 98th in Nielsen ratings.It was canceled after eleven of the fourteen produced episodes were aired. Despite the relatively short life span of the series, it received strong sales when it was released on DVD and has large fan support campaigns.It won a Primetime Emmy Award in 2003 for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series. TV Guide ranked the series at No. 5 on their 2013 list of 60 shows that were "Cancelled Too Soon". It also won two Saturn Awards in 2003 and 2004 for the Cinescape Genre Face of the Future Award, male and for the Best DVD Release. Finally, it won five SyFy Genre Awards in 2006, for the Best Series / Television, the Best Actor/Television Nathan Fillion, the Best Supporting Actor/Television Adam Baldwin, the Best Special Guest / Television Christina Hendricks for “Trash”, and the Best Episode / Television “Trash”. In addition to the statistics it's worth mentioning that I've experienced viewers who would not normally choose Sci-Fi based stories be fully entertained with the interwoven drama, sub-plots, comedic interjections, and believable well done characters and acting that each episode could deliver.
Gail Force Nine, one of the finest quality game makers currently producing games, counts Firefly in its ranks with Spartacus and Sons of Anarchy. One can see the success of the aforementioned shows but it seems the Sci-Fi public has lost out on the Firefly continued story. Here's one of many fans that would like to see someone pick up Firefly and renew the stories, cast and show doing it justice with a renewed series.