Top positive review
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Sci-Fi with a sense of humor, highly recommeded
on July 29, 2016
Joss Whedon who created this series planned for it to run for seven seasons and instead it only produced 14 and aired 11 before it was canceled (purportedly after the first episode was shown). When Fox ran “Firefly” in 2002/2003 I never heard of it, of course I was busy deploying to Iraq and elsewhere due to this little thing called the Global War on Terrorism (Mal and Zoe would understand). I did see the sequel movie “Serenity” on DVD years later but not having seen the series and lacking that context it didn’t do much for me at the time. Discovering “Firefly” now for the first time all I can say is count me among the “Browncoat” faithful. How did this show not get picked up and run for Whedon’s seven seasons as planned? Given the crud on television today it’s incredible; shows like “NCIS Los Angeles” just keep serving up the same stuff every week and get renewed season after tedious season. Full disclosure; I am not a hard-core Sci-Fi geek. Star Trek TOS, yes, but all the other incarnations of Trek (except JJ Abrams latest films) not so much; original three Star Wars films, yes, the others by Lucas, no way. Nor am I a Whedon disciple, never watched “Buffy” or “Angel” or any of his other TV outings but must say that “Firefly” is brilliant. Maybe if it was called “Young Han Solo” (which is what it’s like in some respects) it may have done better.
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.