Flutterby™! : Firefly

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2006-02-06 19:33:55.906019+00 by Dan Lyke 4 comments

In light of Diane's statement in the comments yesterday that she didn't know what "Firefly" was, and since there's been mention (1/2/3) of it here before.

Firefly[Wiki] was a TV show that aired 11 episodes (14, including a long pilot, were shot) and was canceled in 2002. Despite the fact that 14 episodes were shot, the pilot was apparently never aired, quite a bit of the story was aired out of order and... well... I can understand that nobody figured out how to market it, because, frankly, I'm still not sure why I find it so compelling. And if I'd seen it out of order, I'd probably not be nearly as anxious to find out what happens next.

Serenity[Wiki] was a 2005 movie with the same actors, characters and settings that (hopefully!) wrapped up a bunch of the Firefly[Wiki] storylines.

It's "Gunsmoke" or "Bonanza" meets "Star Trek" if Han Solo were Captain Kirk and the dialog were written for the live stage. At times I want to say it borders on ironic camp, but somehow it isn't, because even when the scenery and setting is pushing the boundaries of my credulity, the characters just have so damned much heart.

The setting is half a decade after the end of hostilities between the Alliance, the powers of civilization, and the denizens of the outlying colonies, somewhere on the borders of human expansion through space. Settlers on these newly terraformed planets and moons are living subsistence lives, with horses and dusty agriculture and six shooters, and livestock and fresh strawberries are the items valuable enough to be smuggled.

Enter the characters who live somewhere in the middle of this economy and its political situation, captain and crew of "Serenity", a Firefly-class spaceship (of which, we're told, there are forty thousand plying their way between these outer planets), paying for fuel and goods with whatever sorts of jobs they can pick up on the fringes (and apparently making a fairly good living, even though we only ever see the jobs gone wrong).

It's a character study with laugh out loud dialog, it's subtext in lines that seem to be saying exactly what you think the subtext already is, it's unabashed melodrama played straight, it's overwrought phrasing that's still in character for a strong silent type. It's a setting of absurd contrasts that somehow works.

Mal: "We're not gonna die. We can't die, Bendis. You know why? Because we are so...very...pretty. We are just too pretty for God to let us die."

And I'd tell you more, but I'm already regretting that I picked up some of the spoilers from the movie (and how long has it been since I've cared about spoilers in any medium?), so I'm being really careful to just read the Episode Guides (and associated scripts) for the episodes we've already seen. Because we're doing a bunch of "wait, what's that character's motivation..." type discussion, for which we've been referring back to the scripts.

So I can recommend tracking down the DVDs with the show on it and starting with the pilot episode. And if it feels a little campy, know that it accepts that, and even with that when Kaylee (the ship's mechanic) pats the side of the ship and says "that's my girl", there manages to be a hell of a lot more heart than when Heath says "I can't quit you, Jake" in Brokeback Mountain[Wiki].

Firefly Wiki, IMDB page for Firefly the TV series, IMDB page for Serenity the movie.

[ related topics: Religion Politics Technology and Culture Movies Star Trek Television Economics Joss Whedon - Serenity / Firefly ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-06 20:13:34.820409+00 by: Dori [edit history]

My personal take on it is that Firefly is the flip side of Trek. What happens to all the people who don't want to join the Federation/Alliance? Maybe the Federation/Alliance is wonderful and all, but there are always some people who don't quite fit into any given culture.

It might also help in understanding Firefly if you know that many of the typical old west cowboys were ex-confederate army soldiers. It's the history of the losing side -- in their heads, they're heroes. In the eyes of the Federation/Alliance, they're losers & criminals.

Me, I love any SF that has at least one strong or smart woman character. A TV show with four strong and smart women characters? And they're all strong and smart in different ways? Yeah, I fell hard for Firefly.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-06 20:19:06.653934+00 by: Shawn

Slight correction:

'Serenity' is a Firefly-class spaceship.

And Serenity (the movie) is a fine wrap up to the shot episodes - while still leaving a door open for more.

If you don't want to beg, borrow or purchase the DVDs, the Sci-Fi channel bought the show last year and has been showing all 14 (I'd heard 13, but Dan's probably splitting the pilot into two airings) episodes as the lead-in to their Sci-Fri Friday lineup (Firefly -> Stargate: SG-1 -> Stargate: Atlantis -> Battlestar Gallactica). They've now shown them all, and I'm unclear on whether they're going to continue re-showing them.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-06 22:17:49.163278+00 by: Dan Lyke

Re: Serenity<->Firefly: Doh. Corrected.

In the Firefly Wiki Episode Guide I see 14, zero (the pilot, as one episode) through 13. The [1] episode("The Train Job") was also written as a full in drop-in for introducing the characters, so they may not be airing the pilot, but that would be a shame. We've seen through [6], "Jaynestown".

#Comment Re: made: 2006-02-06 22:47:44.147343+00 by: Dan Lyke

Re: Dori's comment: Yeah, strong women characters, and where the lead male character describes his inability to exercise self-restraint (and avoid that "special hell reserved for child molesters and people who talk in theaters") with "But she was naked! And all... articulate!"

Yeah, strong articulate women.