As exclusively revealed a few weeks ago, I have watched the DVDs of science fiction show Firefly and its follow-up film Serenity. It’s been a few weeks since I got through them, and reckon I should write my thoughts thereon before they slip further from my mind.
In a nutshell, they are outstanding pieces of science fiction. The series, cruelly cancelled by the TV company after just fourteen episodes, quickly gained a massive cult f0llowing (if a massive cult following is not an oxymoron – answers on a postcard). The axing apparently led to huge fan pressure for further work and eventually the film was made to continue and arguably conclude the story.
The series revolves around a ship called Serenity, five hundred years into the future, where humankind has colonised far-flung planets, and a war by the unified authorities in the galaxy has brought the frontier planets under common control. Serenity’s captain and first mate are survivors from the losing side, the “independents”, who live on the edge of the authority in more ways than one, and an oddball crew join them in a fight for wealth, adventure, and more often than not, mere survival. The film Serenity, albeit on a bigger scale and budget, feels the same and continues with the same overall plot and characters.
It might sound like a lot of science fiction out there, and on one level it is: everything from Star Wars to Babylon 5 has looked at the idea of rebels, galactic alliances, and good versus evil. However, a number of things make this very refreshing. Firstly, the fact that this is deep space is not relevant – there are no aliens or robots, this is just humans at the frontier. Replace spaceships with horses or boats, and deep space with plains or seas, and you have a western or pirate film, or a “survivalist” drama. In that sense, it’s an utterly and refreshingly old-school adventure story.
Secondly, it doesn’t take itself seriously. There are clever drops of humour, often very self-depracating, and cliches of so many genres are brilliantly sent up. In one Firefly episode, for instance, the crew are discussing what to do with a mind-reader. One dismisses the mind-reading as just science fiction. His crewmate points out to him that they’re on a spaceship. “So….!?” he replies. Often when you least expect it, which is the best time to have it, the humour is a huge strength of the show and the film.
Thirdly, put simply, it’s just excellent on all counts. The dialogue is brilliant. The characters are compelling, and the biggest disappointment in the mere fourteen and one feature film is that while they’re all instantly likeable, we feel we’re only just beginning to get to know the characters when things stop. The special effects are excellent, the feel of the show is a gritty frontier western feel, and the stories – while sometimes ridiculous – are great fun.
Amble around the internet and you’ll find a huge number of sites dedicated to the show and film, mourning their loss. I’ll maybe write more if I find time to watch them all through again – which I’d love to do some time – but it’s just a sad, sad loss that Firefly was cancelled when it was.
The only good side of that is the show it was never allowed to jump the shark…