Joss Whedon’s cult TV show Firefly aired in 2002, and it’s all but dead in the water. You see, it only aired for a single season before it was cut from our TV screens. It had a small but loyal audience, which continues to grow thanks to Netflix and word of mouth. Joss even did a follow-up movie called Serenity, to tie up loose ends.
So, it got its 15 minutes of fame and it blew it – why should you care?
Well, the thing is…it didn’t blow it. The TV execs did. It’s a great show, and one that I’d recommend to anyone – sci-fi nerd or not. The ratings obviously weren’t high enough to keep it on air, but I think that must’ve had more to do with finding the right audience rather than the story line.
Without further ado, here’s my top five reasons why I think you should watch it.
5. It does cowboys and aliens better than Cowboys & Aliens. Well, technically there really aren’t any aliens in Firefly. But it does have a definite Western feel to it. And it doesn’t seem hokey at all. I mean, think about it – they’ve lost the use of Earth and have expanded their reach throughout the universe. They’ve terraformed new planets to suit their needs. It gives a different meaning to the New Frontier. I’m not a big fan of Westerns, but this makes it feel new and fresh. It takes everything that’s good about Westerns and everything that’s good about sci-fi and mashes them together into something original and interesting.
4. They swear in Chinese. The show is set in 2517, and the only two superpowers left are the United States and China. These two have combined to form a central government called the Alliance. Two cultures have fused together, hence the strange combination of old-school pistols and Mandarin cuss words. I don’t know why, but it makes me happy whenever I hear them do this.
3. It’s gritty and realistic. The show is dusty, dirty, and bloody. It isn’t disgusting, but people get hurt – a lot. They’re not superheroes, they’re just normal people. Crap happens and they deal with it as it comes. The entire idea of how this new universe operates seems more realistic to me than a lot of other sci-fi shows. It’s a rough and tumble, people-will-do-what-they-have-to-in-order-to-survive sort of show. People die and backstab and make bad judgments, and it isn’t all shiny stars and cool spaceships. To me, this is what the future of space travel will probably look like 500 years from now.
2. It has a great message – hidden behind some otherwise shady dealings. Malcolm Reynolds is the captain of the ship Serenity, and he’s a thief – sort of. He’d rather do the honest jobs, but if it comes between him taking the high road and him being able to eat at the end of the day, he’s going to do what he has to in order to survive. That’s not to say that he won’t take the high road – he’s actually got a good conscience in him. If he thinks something is explicitly wrong, he won’t do it. And he might even find a way to stop it in the process. That’s the weird thing – the people who crew this ship are the bad guys. They’re running from the government. They’re thieves. They kill people. But, in reality, they’re also the good guys. The government is corrupt. They try not to steal from people who really need it. They save lives when they can. The lines between right and wrong are easily blurred out in Deep Space.
1. The characters. This is by far the number one reason why you should watch this show. I love each and every character here. Here’s a run-down:
A. Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds is the captain. He’s the one that makes the hard decisions and you can’t help but respect him for that. He’s tough to live with sometimes, but he does what he thinks is right and he’s earned himself a loyal crew because of it.
B. Zoe Washburne is the second-in-command. She fought with Mal during the civil war and is his most loyal crewmember. She’s just as tough, but her husband brings out a softer side in her. I like her because she’s a warrior, and she isn’t afraid of anything.
C. Hoban “Wash” Washburne is the pilot and husband to Zoe. He’s probably one of the best flyers in the ‘Verse and Mal is lucky to have him. He’s always got a funny crack to make, and he’s one of the more easily likeable characters.
D. Jayne Cobb is a bit of a difficult character to like, but at the end of the day you just can’t help but become attached. He’s a hired hit man and there’s just about one thing always on his mind: money. He’ll do anything for it, much to Mal’s dismay. He doesn’t always make the right decisions – and he doesn’t always care that he doesn’t – but he sticks with Mal anyway, and you have to give him credit for that.
E. Kaywinnet Lee “Kaylee” Frye is the ship’s mechanic and boy does she know what she’s doing! She’s got a natural talent and the ship “speaks” to her to let her know if something is wrong. She’s sweet and wholesome (though maybe not entirely in the notion that we’re used to), and she’s got a sense of right and wrong that’s even stronger than Mal’s.
F. Inara Serra is a Companion, which is the equivalent to a prostitute of high social standing. It’s completely legal and it allows her to enjoy the finer things in life. She isn’t ashamed of what she does, and it’s all done in taste on the show. Her and Mal butt heads quite a lot, but their relationship is one of the most interesting (and frustrating) in the series.
The final three characters weren’t original crew members, but are just as important to the story:
G. Derrial Book is a Shephard, the equivalent to a pastor. He’s got an interesting backstory – that’s a complete mystery to us still. He a devout Christian, but he also has quite a few interesting talents up his sleeves. I think he, above anyone else, understands Mal. He asks Mal the hard questions, the ones Mal doesn’t want to think about.
H. Simon Tam is the resident doctor. He’s extremely intelligent and graduated at the top of his class. But the Alliance stole his sister from him and did experiments on her. He threw away his entire life to save her. It isn’t easy, but his love for his sister is the driving force behind just about everything he does.
I. River Tam is Simon’s younger sister. She was a child prodigy and was taken to a special school – or so her family thought. In reality, Alliance doctors experimented on her and she became quite an interesting person – she’s partly telepathic, partly psychotic, and partly a dangerous weapon. Her character and the fact that her brother broke her out of the lab are the driving forces behind the plot of this show.
So, for those of you who haven’t seen the show – what do you think? Does it sound like something you’d be interested in? I didn’t find anything special in the pilot, but each episode after that got better and better. By the last few, I was completely and irreversibly hooked on this show. Give it a few episodes and let me know what you think!
For those of you who have been Browncoats for a while. Here are some questions: Who is your favorite character? What’s your favorite episode? If the story were to pick back up again (we can only hope!) what direction would you like to see the show go in?
I’ll be back next Monday to talk about Serenity, the follow-up movie.