As a BtVS/Angel devotee, I often find myself asking other fans for their thoughts on “Firefly”, Whedon’s third TV series which he started at the end of Angel. I am horrified at how many people who adore BtVS & Angel have not or are not interested in seeing Firefly. I get the reluctance, I really do – after all, it’s touted as a ‘space western’ & while that is kinda cool for some people, it is a little off-putting for most of us.
But, I guarantee you that if you loved BtVS & Angel (and even if you didn’t) – you will love Firefly. It has all the hallmarks of classic Whedon – excellent ensemble cast (some of who are BtVS/Angel alum) an intelligent script, promising character arcs and witty dialogue (and it’s a little sexy to). THe only bad thing about FF is that it was fated to only 14 episodes including the pilot – ironic considering it was cancelled due to poor ratings and now has an enormous cult following and astronomical DVD sales. FF does manage to end on a high note and Whedon et al were given the opportunity for closure in the feature film ‘Serenity’ – so you won’t be disappointed by investing in the show/characters; far from it.
Set in the future, FF opens at the end of the war between The Alliance and The rebel Browncoats. After losing the war, Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) buys a space ship (Firefly class ‘Serenity’)so that he and his crew don’t have to live under the dictatorship of The Alliance Planets – the crew live on the fringes of space, scrounging, stealing and surviving any way they can. The ship has a core crew of mechanic, pilot, first mate and henchmen and they have a live in ‘companion’ (high class escort) to give them some legitimacy (in true Whedon fashion, ‘companions’ are highly regarded in the future). The pilot sees the crew take some passengers onto the ship to hide their illegal dealings but one of the passengers – a doctor – brings aboard his sister who he has managed to free from The Alliance who have been using her for experiments. Mal, still upset at the loss of the Browncoats to The Alliance some six years later agrees to help them – anything to stick it to The Alliance. The future as depicted in FF is a multi-cultural universe where language is a mixture of English and Chinese (most swearing is done in Chinese) and, like similar shows before it, represents a post-racial, (almost) post-sexist culture. As this is science fiction, there are high-tech devices employed and these are mixed unproblematically with low-tech western motifs like six-shooters and horses. This makes for an interesting and colourful landscape.
Like BtVS & Angel before it, FF depends upon an excellent ensemble cast, starting with the charming Fillion as Capt Mal – a man with his own moral compass and sense of honour. Mal is in love with resident companion Inara but is rarely able to speak to her without making an insult. The ship’s pilot ‘Wash’ (Alan Tudyk) is married to Mal’s second in command – Zoe (Gina Torres – ‘Jasmine’ from S4 Angel) who is a ‘warrior woman’ to Wash’s wisecracking, and fun-loving nature. The ship’s mechanic Kaylee (Jewel Staite) falls for the new doctor and is a sweet, country girl who just happens to be a genius at ‘fixin’ engines. Adam Baldwin (Marcus Hamilton, Angel S5) plays Jayne, an outlaw who is in it only for himself and the money while Marina Baccarin plays companion Inara.
The core crew is joined by Dr Simon Tam (Sean Mayer), his sister River (Summer Glau) and ‘Shepherd’ (pastor) Book (Ron Glass) from the pilot.
It’s difficult to convey just how well written, acted and produced this series is – I for one am not a huge sci-fi fan and westerns leave me a bit cold so the idea of a space western was way outside of my usual viewing arena – but if you already love Joss Whedon, you are gonna worship him after seeing FF and, if you are not yet a convert, I defy you not to be after watching FF.