Firefly: The Complete Series
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Episodes: -Serenity-part 1 & 2 -- Air date 12/20/02 The crew of Serenity is eager to rid themselves of an easily traceable cargo they salvaged from a vessel adrift in space, totally unaware that a passenger has brought an even more dangerous cargo aboard. -The Train Job -- Air date 09/20/02 Mal has second thoughts after discovering that two boxes of Alliance goods his crew has been hired to steal are full of badly needed medical supplies headed for the mining town of Paradiso. -Bushwhacked -- Air date 09/27/02 After encountering a booby-trapped spacecraft carrying the lone crewmember of a horrific Reaver attack, Serenity is boarded by an Alliance Commander looking for Simon and River. -Shindig -- Air date 11/01/02 In order to secure a job transporting cargo off-planet for a client, Mal attends a social event where a dance with Inara leads him being challenged to a swordfight in defense of her honor. -Safe -- Air date 11/08/02 When Simon is kidnapped by a group of villagers in need of a doctor, Serenity is forced to make contact with an Alliance ship in order to seek medical help for the critically wounded Book. -Our Mrs. Reynolds -- Air date 10/04/02 After a celebration in which the crew is honored for ridding a planet of a group of bandits, they return to Serenity to find a woman named Saffron who claims that Mal married her during the festivities. -Jaynestown -- Air date 10/18/02 When the crew returns to a planet where Jayne participated in a heist gone bad, they're shocked to discover that Jayne's past actions have turned him into a local hero of Robin Hood-like mythic proportions. -Out of Gas -- Air date 10/25/02 After an explosion leaves Serenity crippled, Mal orders everyone to abandon ship while he stays behind in an attempt to make repairs - and reminisces how he found the ship and picked its crew. -Ariel-- Air date 11/15/02 Simon offers to crew a proposition: if they help him sneak River into a hospital so he can run-tests on her, he'll tell them where to find medical supplies that will fetch an enormous price on the black market. -War Stories -- Air date 12/06/02 Wash regrets insisting he be allowed to accompany Mal on a mission after the two men are captured by Adelai Niska - the client who previously hired Mal to steal the medicine bound for Paradiso. -Trash-- Air date (NEVER AIRED) Mal is shocked to discover his old friend's new bride is Saffron who, although furious after Mal blows her cover, offers to cut Mal in on what she calls the perfect, big-time scam. -The Message-- Air date (NEVER AIRED) While Jayne opens a mail package from his mother that contains a wool cap with ear flaps and a pom-pom, Mal and Zoe open their package to discover the body of their old war buddy, Tracey. -Heart of Gold -- Air date (NEVER AIRED) The crew comes to the aid of a bordello when its madam, an old acquaintance of Inara's, asks for help after a gunslinger claims a prostitute's baby is his and he's taking it because his wife is barren. -Objects In Space -- Air date 12/13/02 The crew is caught off-gaurd when a bounty hunter, eager to claim the enormous reward on River's head, sneaks aboard Serenity and methodically begins taking the crew prisoner one by one.
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
Beyond Firefly on DVD
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Stills from Firefly (Click for larger image)
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- 14 episodes, including 3 that never aired
- Commentary on Serenity Part 1 & 2, The Train Job, Shindig, Out of Gas, War Stories, Objects in Space, and The Message
- Deleted scenes from Serenity, Our Mrs. Reynolds, Objects in Space
- Featurettes: "Here's How How It Was: The Making of Firefly," "Serenity: The 10th Character," "Joss Tours the Set"
- Alan Tudyk's audition
- Gag reel
- Joss sings the Firefly theme
- Easter egg: Adam Baldwin sings "Hero of Canton"
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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.
But what is Firefly, if you haven't seen it? That's the problem; watch one episode and you'll see what it's all about, but otherwise it's hard to explain and I imagine it's equally difficult to market -- that must have been a big part of the reason it didn't reach a larger audience than it did, because the core fanbase is fiercely dedicated.
Okay: Basically, this is a pastiche of the Western and the Space Opera. Each episode is a standalone story, but there are also a number of ongoing (and delicious) threads that are cleverly serialized throughout the 14 episodes and the film (which is, by the way, still sold separately at the time of this review). The stories are somewhat reminiscent of Star Trek, but harder and darker -- our heroes are pirates, not government starfleet. The setting is a future where our galaxy has been colonized but is now ruled by an evil empire known as the Alliance. The principal characters -- the crew of the pirate ship Serenity -- are all equally important, an ensemble made up of misfits of varying types. The captain, sworn to make his own way rather than work for the Alliance, is a bit like Han Solo in Star Wars, but with a crew instead of a sidekick. But I use these comparisons only for illustration; space opera fans will almost certainly notice these obvious influences but I found myself forgetting them completely after a couple of episodes and just falling in love with the characters, because that's where the show lives.
The scripts are solid, the dialog is witty but natural, and the actors have a priceless chemistry together, no matter if they're all together or mixed up in smaller groups. You can take any of these characters and pair them off, and the pair will play well together -- it's always interesting, and it is an absolute joy to watch.
If you like this series, be sure to see the film as well: Serenity (2005, Joss Whedon). (Especially If you're wondering when River's going to come out of her shell and start turning the world upside down....)
What was so great about it? The actors, character development, humor, and emotion embodied in it made it a sure winner. However someone for some reason other than viewership decided to snuff it out. I and my adult children loved this series so much that we have all seen it and the movie several times and still pine for more. If you are a Science Fiction fan it will surely entertain you. It is much more than just SciFi it is a story of human relationships and drama as well as some light humor sprinkled in for good measure. Give it a shot I doubt you will be disappointed.
It will be a long time before it willl be matched or even equaled in my honest opinion. Give it a try you will likely find something you like about it.
Fox, which initially broadcast the series, sans the last three shows, essentially botched the job. Like other series that were cut far before their time, the network basically buried the show and never gave it a chance to become what is now a cult following. It is sad that another network did not pick up the series and allow it to play out to its conclusion.