Thursday, December 5, 2013

T.V. Review: "Firefly" by David Pretty

The Fox T.V. exec who cancelled Firefly after only eleven episodes should be stripped naked, have their junk dipped in Fun Dip powder and then get strapped to a bullet ant nest. Only a punishment so heinous is appropriate for such a supremely stupid move.

Just over ten years ago (Ten years?!?  Sweet Merciful Saffron!) screenwriter / script doctor / creative genius Joss Whedon was in a period of transition. His late-90's pop-culture juggernaut Buffy the Vampire Slayer was starting to flag. The show's equally-amazing spin-off Angel hadn't quite broken through into mainstream popularity. Whedon knew that he needed a transition, stat.

After reading the Civil War historical novel The Killer Angels, he became fascinated by Confederate veterans who, after fighting on the losing side of the war, had to eke out a lean pioneer existence on the fringes of a society that held them in contempt. Keen on the Old West setting but also lamenting the dearth of gritty, organic sci-fi, Whedon mashed the two together and gave us the first televised Space Western in the form of Firefly.

Although there aren't a lot of official promo vids for the show, there are a few stellar fan-made trailers; a testament to Firefly's enduring popularity.  Here's one of my favorites:

When the War of Unification breaks out against the despotic Alliance, Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) volunteers for the Independent army and eventually earns the rank of sergeant after several harrowing skirmishes. Unfortunately, during the pivotal Battle of Serenity Valley, the Alliance takes advantage of the Browncoat's lack of command organization, support and resolve and the rebels are routed. 

His faith in righteous causes shaken, Malcolm, along with loyal ex-corporal Zoë (Gina Torres) narrowly avoid capture, procure a Firefly-class transport ship re-named Serenity and then jet off "into the black" in search of financial independence. Along the way they pick up a laconic, wise-cracking pilot named Wash (Alan Tudyk), a beautiful interstellar courtesan called Inara (Morena Baccarin), a hired goon by the name of Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin) and a sweet and brilliant engineer called Kaylee (Jewel Staite).

In the show's played-out-of-order pilot episode, Mal agrees to take on some passengers in order to make ends meet. They include an inhumanly-wise preacher named Shepherd Book (Ron Glass) and a well-appointed doctor with a lot of baggage named Simon Tam (Sean Maher). During their subsequent voyage it's revealed that Simon has smuggled his prodigy sister River (Summer Glau) onboard after liberating her from a mind-altering Alliance testing facility.

Despite Mal's mercenary leanings, he decides to harbor the two fugitives, incurring the ire of Alliance goons and drawing the unwanted attentions of the notorious Blue Sun Corporation in the process. While dodging these prodigious threats, the Serenity crew are also forced to deal with shady contacts, planetary warlords and a race of psychotic space bogeymen known only as the Reavers. All of this is told with typical Whedonesque aplomb: I.E. labyrinthine continuity, clever twists and witty banter.  


Whedon, art director Colin De Rouin and production designer Carey Meyer managed to create a pretty convincing 'verse on the cheap. From the low-fi frontier town featured in "Safe" to the Blade Runner-esque market in "The Message" to the bustling metropolis of Persephone in "Shindig", the environs feature plenty of small touches and convincing details. 

I'm also a big fan of the ship designs. Since the Alliance is depicted as a bunch of anal-retentive corporate fascists, their cruiser looks like an oil refinery in space: uninspired, practical and ugly. The Reaver cutter, with its chaotic, asymmetrical design is the perfect visual match for the deranged crew inside. The Serenity, with its bulbous, glowing posterior, instantly evokes its namesake as well as a flood of warm fuzzy feelings.  

The interior Serenity sets are a major triumph. The full-size cargo bay (complete with smuggling compartments) really sells the ship as a bulk transport. The bridge is elaborate, well-used and totally convincing. The same can be said for Kaylee's engine room, which features a very real and functional-looking turbine. Finally, the lived-in mess hall serves as the perfect spot for a raucous family dinner or a misbehavin' conference room.

Also worth noting are the customized crew cabins. I'd like to think that Jewel Staite herself designed Kaylee's flowery door sign but it's more likely that we have set decorator David A. Koneff to thank for that. There are plenty more examples: Inara's shuttle perfectly embodies her comforting nature and impeccable style while Mal's "submarine" style entry ladder and hide-away sink embody a cool, space-efficient design ethos. 

Whedon also gets a lot of mileage out of Shawna Trpcic's costume designs. While Mal is rockin' that whole Han-Solo-by-way-of-Jesse-James thang, Zoe's got the leather tunic and ass-kickin' boots for maximum "warrior woman" intimidation. Depending on his mood, Wash is either clad in a goofy Hawaiian shirt or an all-business pilot jumpsuit. And in a move befitting a classy Companion, Inara is typically gussied up in some sort of gorgeous and flattering frock.  

All told, the show uses plenty of real-world locations, contemporary visual touchstones and sci-fi trappings to create a convincing and immersive milieu.


It's a pity that the producers of Firefly didn't go with olde-skool models-on-greenscreen since televised CGI was, and continues to be, pretty friggin' heinous. Having said that the effects here are pretty much on-par with the first season of Battlestar Galactica which followed two years later.  

Mercifully, except for a few fleeting shots of Serenity flying through space or touching down in a planetary establishing shot, there's actually precious few visual effects compared to some other sci-fi properties. The fact that I'm already done talking about this subject should speak volumes about the show's well-placed priorities.


As the guy who gave us all those catchy-like-Ebola ditties in the Buffy musical, Whedon manages to infuses Firefly with some equally-memorable tuneage. As if the main theme by Sonny Rhodes won't be stuck in your head for all of eternity, the often-raucous pickin' and / or grinnin' musical suites by Greg Edmonson provides the perfect soundtrack for all the bar fights, shoot-outs and quick getaways. I'm convinced that if the show had lasted another season or two we would have inevitably witnessed an argument between Mal and Inara that was rendered entirely in song. 


In a brain-dead move that only a T.V. exec could make, the show's original pilot, "Serenity", was deemed inappropriate as a series opener and shelved for four months after the premiere. Instead, the neurosurgeons at Fox insisted that "The Train Job" be aired first, which was originally intended to be the second episode. 

Like many other potential fans, I was completely flummoxed by this. Hurled in media res-style right into the action I had no idea who these people were or why I should care about them. Add in the incongruous and wholly-illogical western trappings, the cornpone theme song and the inexplicable, Tourette-style smatterings of  Mandarin, I was decidedly unimpressed by my first viewing of Firefly. Weeks later I made a half-assed effort to seek out more episodes, but Fox preempted and moved it around so much, I couldn't even find it.  

It's a damned shame that the show didn't air in the proper order and with consistent regularity since strict continuity is another one of Whedon's trademarks. What's even more baffling is that the show's intended pilot is actually really, really good. When I got a chance to watch Firefly on DVD years later I was completely baffled as to why anyone would deliberately circumvent the natural order of this terrific program. 


Here's just a few choice reasons as to why this episode should have aired first:
  • We get some much-needed backstory regarding Mal and Zoë's military history.
  • Many of the show's distinctive traits are properly introduced.
  • We get to see the Serenity crew shake off an Alliance patrol and encounter the duplicitous Badger (the wonderfully omnipresent Mark Sheppard) for the first time
  • Most importantly we see how Book, Simon and River got onboard the ship.  D'uh.
Not to evoke a certain Corellian smuggler again, but Mal is depicted here as a slightly-amoral character who's not to be trifled with. He green-lights an illegal salvage operation, threatens to chuck River and Simon out of the airlock, and has absolutely no qualms about ventilating a stowaway Fed and then kicking his carcass out of the back of the ship. As with Solo's defensive slaying of Greedo in Star Wars, did I see Mal as an irredeemably dark character?  Hells no.

Apparently oblivious to the concept of character arcs, the upper-echelon pinheads at Fox thought that Mal was too edgy in the original pilot and wanted Whedon to make him more "jolly". I suppose this was the main reason why "The Train Job" was subbed in as the ersatz first episode.

Oh, and we also get our first hair-raising encounter with the Reavers, which prompts this terrifying quote from Zoë:

"If they take the ship, they'll rape us to death, eat our flesh and sew our skins into their clothing. And if we're very, very lucky, they'll do it in that order."

Okay, maybe that was a wee bit on the dark side.    


This is a great episode but as an introduction it's way too breakneck. After a gleefully gratuitous bar fight, we meet Adelei Niska (Michael Fairman), who comes across as a duty manager in Hostel. Whedon betrays his aforementioned fetish for continuity when Niska turns up again like a bad penny in "War Stories".

I wonder if the suits at Fox wanted this episode to air first because Mal exhibits compassion after a plot twist puts a dark spin on their "victimless" heist? If that's the case I can't help but wonder if they stuck around to the end to see our intrepid Captain Tightpants go all "SPARTA" on one of Niska's goons.


In its first three episodes, Firefly managed to go from an intriguing origin story to a heist drama to this, a stellar horror yarn. Serenity comes across a ship that's be mauled by Reavers, leaving one irreparably-damaged survivor on board. Before our (anti)heroes can leave the horrible scene in their wake, they're interdicted by an Alliance patrol and then questioned. In spite of Mal's warnings, the Alliance Captain takes the derelict's sole survivor onboard, oblivious to the fact that his ordeal may have turned him into something monstrous.

Tim Minear's cool direction makes this one a real standout. This episode really takes advantage of the show's visual tropes to crank up the realism and the tension. The eerily-silent exterior space scenes and the hand-held camera shots give this episode a documentary feel and really amps up the viewer's sense of unease.  


Another episode, another radically-different tone. The crew shore-leave on the relatively-swanky planet of Persephone where Inara steps out with a well-to-do jackass named Atherton Wing and Mal gets embroiled in yet another scheme for Badger. The two parties end up meeting at a formal ball where several social graces are shattered and both accusations and fists start to fly.   

Although this one pales slightly compared to its predecessors, it's still a fun and entertaining forty minutes and change. Look for a couple of cool cameos by Larry "Dr. Giggles" Drake and future True Blood Evangelist-turned-bloodsucker Michael McMillian as a Hopeful Suitor. Plus Jewel Staite completely steals the show, dressing up for the "cotillion" in a frilly pink dress and then ferreting out some strawberries, which she's first seen munching on in borderline-pornographic style during the pilot.


After a deal goes sour, Sheppard Book is wounded and the Tams get kidnapped, forcing Mal into a classic "who do I help first" scenario. Although fairly low-key compared to the first three episodes, "Safe" still has a  lot going for it. We get to see the Tams as precocious kids, River shows off her mad dancing skillz, the mystery of Derrial Book continues to deepen and the deathless phrase "big damn heroes" is uttered for the first time.

Oh, and a very young Zac Efron plays Simon in a flashback. But don't let that color your opinion of this otherwise decent episode.


Right from the get-go Firefly always exhibited Whedon's penchant for humor but Episode Six is something really special. I'm a pretty tough mark when it comes to comedy but this episode never fails to crack me up. 

After a night of debauchery, Mal finds himself betrothed to a beautiful and servile young woman named Saffron played by the ridiculously-alluring Christina Hendricks. This prompts the following hilarious conversation between Mal and Jayne:

Mal: How drunk was I last night?
Jayne: I don't know, I passed out.

Of course everyone has their own opinion of the stowaway. Zoë is horrified by the woman's subservient demeanor, prompting a heated argument between her and husband Wash. Kaylee is protective of Saffron, casually referring to Mal as a "monster" for rebuking her. Jayne is bitter that Mal somehow managed to snag himself a free geisha and promptly offers his beloved gun "Vera" in trade for her. Inara struggles to appear nonplussed. Finally, Book warns Mal: "If you take sexual advantage of her, you're going to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater."

Naturally Saffron isn't quite who she appears to be, leading to a very interesting predicament. Again, Firefly shows its diversity by serving up the perfect balance between drama and flat-out comedy. 

Oh, and did I mention Christina Hendricks?  *Mreow!*


Another bonafide classic that perfectly marries humor and thrills. In this episode, the Serenity crew touch down on the backwater burg of Canton where Jayne has some checkered history. Since participating in a botched heist many moons ago, the merc's craven thievery has since been re-interpreted as a "Robin Hood" tale and he's become something of a local hero, complete with a statue in town square!

Just when you managed to get the Firefly theme song out of your head along comes "The Ballad of Jayne Cobb." You may need a lobotomy to eject that particular ditty outta yer skull.  

In addition to seeing Jayne in a completely different light, this episode features another metric shit-ton of quotable lines ("Bye now! Have good sex!"), a great turnabout subplot featuring Inara and her client and River's traumatic encounter with Derrial Book's,  


Once again the show takes a one-hundred and eighty degree shift in tone. This one takes no time plunging the characters into peril. Serenity is dead in space, crippled by some mechanical breakdown and devoid of her crew. We see the ship's sole occupant, a mortally wounded Mal, fall to the deck and slowly start to bleed out. 

Tim Minear's fantastic script bounces us around between several different stories. In addition to learning what triggered the crisis, flashbacks show us just how the original crew of Serenity came together. This is interspersed with "real time" footage of the wounded Mal desperately trying to set things to rights.

It's fun to watch the crew coalesce. Zoë refers to Serenity as a "death trap" at first sight and then promptly declares "I don't like him" when she meets prospective pilot and future husband Wash. We also witness Kaylee's unconventional introduction, replacing a clueless fling named Bester as the ship's mechanic. Inara arrives to class up the joint while "taking back" a negative descriptor about her profession. Finally, we see just how fickle Jayne's loyalties when he turns on his former partners seconds after Mal offers a sweeter deal.

We also get yet another subtle but cool reason as to why the episodes should have been broadcast in their proper order. In the original pilot Kaylee warns Mal that they need to replace the "port compression coil". Unfortunately he ignores her request, leading to the critical system failure documented in this episode.


After River unexpectedly attacks Jayne with a knife, Simon proposes that they break into an Alliance medical facility in order to diagnose her psychosis. To sweeten the pot for his ship-mates, he suggests that they liberate a bunch of valuable and re-sellable medications at the same time.

Whereas "The Train Job" was a heist story, this one's more like a tense bank job. Simon is shown coaching Mal, Zoë and the hopelessly-dense Jayne on how to convincingly pose as medical technicians. Kaylee and Wash re-purpose a wrecked ambulance airship. Simon and River play dead in order to get smuggled into the hospital. Oh, and there's plenty of good, old-fashioned duplicity afoot as well.

"Ariel" also features an appearance by the notorious Blue Sun corporate hit men who nonchalantly murder Alliance personnel in their effort to capture the Tams. Like the unstoppable alien bounty hunter in The X-Files, these guys are relentless, viscous and completely devoid of any conscience.   


You say you like your sci-fi kinda kinda "gritty"? Well, look not further then Episode Ten. 

Jealous of his wife's history with Mal, Wash insists on venturing off-ship with the Captain in order to gain a bit of experience. Unfortunately, he picks the worst possible time to do so because psychotic gangster Adelei Niska is back for a spot of revenge. The duo are captured and brutally tortured, inspiring a daring rescue attempt on behalf of their crew-mates.

Written by James Contner and directed by Cheryl Cain, "War Stories" continues to world-build whilst dragging our beloved characters through a knothole of agony. Niska's abuse of Mal is quite harrowing, prompting me to consider the possibility that "Cheryl Cain" is an alias for Quentin Tarantino. On the flipside, it's great to see the Serenity crew take the fight to Niska after placating him for so long. 

Contner is true to the characters, meaning that both Kaylee and Simon are pretty useless during the resulting battle. On the flip-side, Sheppard Book and River Tam prove to be surprisingly adept at gunplay. As such,  the show's campaign-style mysteries to deepen!   

Between Niska's return and the many allusions to "Ariel", "War Stories" really shows just how closely linked these episodes really are. 


Screenwriter and creator of The Tick Ben Edlund provides a classic teaser, showing Mal sans tightpants sitting on a boulder in the middle of the desert and wryly observing: "Yeah...that went well." As soon as we flashback to Saffron's re-appearance, we know that the gorgeous con artist is responsible for Mal's predicament, we just don't know how she did it. And that's what makes watching this episode so much dang fun!

In addition to the (very) welcome return of Christina Hendricks, "Trash" unfolds a neat little heist plot, with the first prototype laser pistol (the "Lassiter") acting as a very sexy MacGuffin. 


At a floating Space Bazaar, Mal picks up an unusual delivery, the body of a former war buddy named Tracey who evidently became embroiled in some pretty sketchy business. Just like everyone else packed inside a crate, its not long before Tracey is up and walking around, being coy about the nature of his deception and bringing Alliance heat down on his former squad-mates.

Jonathan M. Woodward gives a truly memorable performance as a veteran who's clearly had a much harder time adjusting to civilian life then Mal and Zoë. His final few scenes are almost impossible to get through without getting all misty-eyed. 

In addition to the Space Bazaar's fabulous production design, "The Message" also features a thrilling ship-to-ship chase between the Serenity and a very determined Alliance vessel. Between the solid direction, decent CGI and emotionally resonant finale, this episode adds up to yet another winner.  


Inara breaks character, begging Mal and her ship-mates to render aid for a friend named Nandi (Melinda Clarke) who runs a brothel on a frontier planet. As it turns out, one of Nandi's girls has been knocked up by a comically-evil land baron named Rance Burgess (Fredric Lehne) who wants to take the child away from her by force. 

This is, without a doubt, the most derivative episode of the series. We've seen this "greedy landowner vs. the little guys" plot a million times before. Fredric Lehne does an effective job being a creep, but the part is so underwritten that Burgess comes across as a hollow, Snidely Whiplash type of villain. Perhaps the most distasteful scene is when he forces the quisling Chari to kneel in front of him while a lascivious and rambunctious crowd of yahoos watch. Things get particularly icky when there are allusions as to what she's forced to do while she's down there.

My other criticism is Inara's odd behavior. Up to this point in time, she's been depicted as a sexually mature and confident woman so it's kind of disappointing to see her openly sobbing over Mal. Yes, I understand that she secretly holds a torch for him, but as a Companion I always assumed that she knew the difference between sex and love. On the plus side, it does give her an opportunity to drop a bombshell at the end of the episode.  

Although this one is the runt of the litter for me, it still has a few choice moments. Zoë and Wash debate the pros and cons of bringing a baby into a life fraught with danger, Mal finally gets some action that doesn't involve flying fists and/or whizzing bullets and Rance's attack on the brothel is very well-executed. Yes, it's a Magnificent Seven rip-off, but it's a Magnificent Seven rip-off with the Serenity crew and that automatically makes it greater the the sum of its parts.       


This was supposed to be the season closer but in the bizarro world of Fox, it was the second-last episode to be broadcast. In fact, the original pilot "Serenity" was the very last Firefly to air on T.V. Seriously, does anybody out there understand this shit? If so, please drop me a line.       

Brilliantly scripted and coolly directed by Whedon himself, "Objects in Space" makes for a very compelling dollop of drama. A relentless and inhumanly-capable bounty hunter named Jubal Early (Richard Brooks) infiltrates Serenity, subdues the crew and attempts to capture River and Simon in order to collect the price on their heads. River has other plans, however, and pretty soon Early is forced to consider the possibility that he might be out of his league.

The sheer artistry and overt weirdness in this episode puts it at the top of the heap for me. Over the course of the previous thirteen adventures we've come to know and love these memorable characters. As such, we feel nothing but bliss as we eavesdrop on Simon and Kaylee's flirtations, the shop talk of Jayne and Book, the regretful exchange between Mal and Inara and the passionate snoggery of Zoë and Wash.

But when these same encounters are filtered through River's warped perspective we experience a real epiphany. After Whedon hints at the girl's psychic leanings and we're treated to a gloriously-surreal sequence, we emerge into a reality in which River is threatening her fellow ship-mates with a gun. Although relating to River has been virtually impossible up to that point, Whedon shows us exactly what she's going through in one quick and economic sequence.

This prompts Kaylee to divulge River's Manchurian Candidate moment when she gunned down three of Niska's men without even looking. At the same time, we see Jubal Early break into the ship and then patiently lie in wait for the crew to bunk down for the night. After knocking Mal out of commission he locks everyone else up in their cabins and then threatens poor l'il Kaylee in the engine room. This scary scene still makes me squirm every time I watch it.

The episode really starts to percolate after River vanishes and then starts to taunt Early over the ship's intercom system. When the bounty hunter threatens to shoot Simon unless she surrenders to him, River tells him that she can't because she's become one with Serenity. During the balance of the episode, crazy l'il River manages to completely unnerve the hard-boiled merc, mentally dissecting him like Hannibal Lecter.

Honestly, Objects in Space is about as good as television can get. Ergo, I get supremely sad when I realize that this is the last episode. Boo-urns.   


Not only do Joss Whedon shows exhibit great plotting, winning dialogue and terrific story arcs, they're also impeccably cast. Although Whedon supposedly wrote the part of Malcolm Reynolds for Nicholas Brendon, I'm glad that Nathan Fillion ended up in the role. Although this was Fillion's first lead, he carries the show with aplomb, exhibiting boundless charisma. Indeed, Fillion has no problem whatsoever bouncing back and forth between intimidating, wily, resolute, inspiring, slightly dim and then brilliantly comedic. All told, Mal is the classic rogue with a heart of gold and Fillion is cast to type.

With her long history of playing tough female characters, Gina Torres was the ideal choice to play Mal's second-in-command Zoë Alleyne Washburne. Although her military history with Mal demands a certain level of trust and allegiance, she certainly isn't afraid to speak her mind. Writing strong female characters can be tricky since you don't want them to come off as prettier-looking dudes. Mercifully, the Firefly scribes are a lot more deft, infusing Zoë with plenty of layers. Without a doubt, her quiet moments with Wash feel just as genuine to me as her myriad of intense action sequences.

Let's face it: Alan Tudyk makes everything 100% more awesome. Not only does he get some of the show's best lines, he actually manages to elevate the dialogue thanks to his own inimitable delivery. Again, I really wish that the show had aired in proper order since his "dinosaur theater pantomime" is still one of the most unique and memorable character introductions in television history. Although Wash consistently exhibits a wry sense of humor, he can also be opinionated, stubborn and a tad defeatist. Regardless, when the chips are down Wash is someone you really want at the helm.

As for Morena Baccarin, I'm pretty sure Whedon and company picked her up as a will-call from the goddess factory. Again, this is a great example of casting to type. In every interview I've seen with Morena, she comes across as warm, graceful and intuitive. In the hands of lesser writers, Inara would be nothing more then a "hooker with a heart of gold", but in Firefly she's the most refined, worldly and dignified member of the crew. Of all the characters, I think that Inara suffers the most from the show's truncated run.

Adam Baldwin's Jayne Cobb also exhibits quite a few surprising layers. At face value Jayne is dense, graceless and Cro-Magnon-like yet he still sends money home to his moms, proudly wears a garish orange cap that she knit for him and isn't above weeping openly at funerals. Above all, Jayne is an intriguing wildcard who adds a feeling of danger to every scene he's in. Although he's reasonably loyal to the Captain, he just can't fathom why Mal doesn't just sell River and Simon to the highest bidder. Adam Baldwin inhabits the role perfectly, delivering the perfect blend of boorishness and befuddlement.

As embodied by the ever-charming Jewel Staite, engineer Kaylee Frye is relentlessly sunny and optimistic. She's no wilting prude, however, as evidenced by her now-famous declaration "Goin' on a year now I ain't had nothin' twixt my nethers weren't run on batteries!" as well as her opportunistic tryst with Bester. About the only thing that seems to get her goat is when someone puts on airs, a trap that Simon seems to blunder into from time to time. Jewel's performance is equally devoid of any pretension, effortlessly conveying Kaylee's boundless love for her ship and her unconventional family. 

Simon is the most dandified and overtly nerdish character on the ship. Inhumanly intelligent and a bit socially inept, we get some insight into Simon's rarefied upbringing during the prologue of "Safe". Even though he can be a bit snooty at times, he's fiercely protective of his sister and incredibly gifted as a healer. Over the course of fourteen episodes, Sean Maher does a great job making Simon more and more relaxed and likable. By the time he's flirting with Kaylee at the start of "Objects in Space" he's won all of us over.

Even before all of those covert medical experiments broke her brain, the flashbacks in "Safe" indicate that River was a very imaginative and eccentric kid. I've always seen her as an analogy for bookish types who become so immersed in their studies that they can't deal with reality anymore. During "War Stories" and "Objects in Space" we realize that River has some tremendous and frightening gifts, a story seed that comes to fruition in the movie Serenity. The wonderful Summer Glau manages to sustain the character through a spectrum of mental and physical turmoil. At times her pain and desperation is palpable and whenever she's given a fleeting moment of lucidity or humor it comes as a sweet relief.

Props to veteran actor Ron Glass who I didn't even recognize as Detective Ron Harris in Barney Miller until someone else mentioned it to me recently. As written, Sheppard Derrial Book is a paradox wrapped up in an enigma. He talks like a preacher, walks like a preacher, but you get the distinct impression that the dude ain't a preacher. After all, he seems incongruously familiar with weapons, fisticuffs, security systems, illicit activity and Alliance protocol. Credit Ron Glass for taking what might have been a series of dead giveaways and making it all seem like par for the course.


How often can you say that every single episode in a show's debut season is pretty durned fantastic? Honestly, there's absolutely no deadwood here and, as such, my conspiratorial brain instantly kicks into hyper-drive.

I get the distinct impression that Firefly was the victim of some heavy-duty behind-the-scenes attrition at Fox. The show was probably first sold to a well-placed executive who was a fan of both Whedon and the concept. But then, after that person was sacked for having too much foresight, a new regime came in and wanted nothing more then to ret-con the legacy of their predecessor. Why else would a show this good get mixed up, preempted and shuffled around until it died a premature death?

By 2002, the reigning powers at Fox only seemed interested in cheap, lucrative reality shows and sitcoms. If this narrow-minded approach had been in vogue in the early 90's, then it's likely that genre show like The X-Files probably wouldn't have been given enough time to find its audience and would have faded into cult obscurity. If only Firefly had received the same sort of patient nurturing that its predecessor received.

While re-watching Firefly recently I couldn't help but inventory all of the plot seeds that were so lovingly planted during that optimistic first season. When you learn that Whedon had a clear, seven-year plan for the show, it's maddening to think that some myopic, vindictive little pencil pusher denied the sci-fi community such a bountiful gift.

    Tilt: up.

1 comment:

  1. Tremendous series! I will now re-watch it, in honour of your post