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First/Last Viewed:2006.01.10/2011.06.12
First/Last/Last Reviewed:2006.01.10/2011.06.12/2006.01.15

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ldh's review

I have recently been working on a series of reviews of TV series on DVD. I started with 24, where you can find the introduction to all those reviews, and i have continued with The Batman TV Series, Nip And Tuck, Rescue Me, Desperate Housewives, The L Word, Lost, and here, Firefly.


In 2002, something quite strange happened which will remain in the annals of Network Television mismanagement, and individual perseverance. Joss Whedon was a very successful writer and producer on TV. In 1992, he wrote Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992) which was a minor hit and in 1997, he transformed it into a TV series which saw great success. Buffy The Vampire Slayer went on for 7 successful seasons from 1997 to 2004. It had a troubled history though and kept moving from network to network with multiple rumors of cancellation. Joss Whedon showed a great amount of resillience and was able to tap into the strong fan base to keep the show alive. With Angel, a spin-off of Buffy, he proved once again that he could create a successful TV series. It ran for 6 seasons and too, gathered a considerable cult following.

In 2002, he shifted his focus to Firefly, a new kind of Sci-Fi show. The early episodes got good reviews, and quickly pulled in a big following. However, Fox completely mismanaged the series, showing it at different time slots every week, and with episodes shown out of order. If there are two things a TV network can do to kill a series early is to do exactly those two things. The series died quickly before all episodes were even shown. In December 2003, the entire series was released (all of 12 episodes) on DVD and was a major success. It was one of the top 10 DVD sellers in 2004. Whedon was convinced that the series died prematurely and that there was a big audience for it. He went back to Fox studios and tried to pitch a revival of the series, or even better, a full blown film. The studio passed and Whedon did not let go. He continued on and eventually, Universal took the project. The film Serenity (2005) was born, and you can find the review here. But for now, let's focus on the series.

Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) is an ex-captain from the army who thought on the wrong side (the side that lost) of the civil war. After a bitter defeat, the Aliance regained full control of the galaxy and maintains peace with an iron fist. A few years after the war, Mal and his first lieutenant Zoe (Gina Torres) decide to start a transport business. They get a ship of the famed Firefly line, that they call Serenity, and gather a crew. Hoban (Alan Tudyk) is the pilot and soon marries Zoe. Jayne (Adam Baldwin) is a mercenary who will do anything for the right money, including betray his friends. Inara (Morena Baccarin) is a companion, (i.e. a registered government approved elite prostitute) who takes quarters aboard the ship to travel the galaxy and go from customer to customer. Finally, Kaylee (Jewel Staite) is the prodigy mechanic.

The crew often operates on the border of legality, and have no issues about crossing the line from time to time. Deep inside, Mal and Zoe are still rebels fighting the Aliance. One day, they take aboard three individuals who will change their lives. Shepherd Book (Ron Glass) is a man of God who needs transportation but figures that the crew could use his services and stays. Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher) and River Tam (Summer Glau) are a brother and sister with a dangerous past. River was a genius child who was abducted by the government for some experiments. Her brother, a promising top surgeon, came to her rescue and delivered her from her tormentors, but at the cost of making the pair be at the top of the most-wanted list in the galaxy.

The series follows the adventures of this crew of 9, going from job to job, while fleeing away from the aliance. All the characters are very well rounded up. Even through this is a Sci-Fi series, the core idea is that basically, if people live on other planets and technology has obviously advanced, they still deal with pretty much the same issues as we all do every day. The series is primarily about its characters, and the stories they get involved in, and the sci-fi elements are principally accessories to tell the tale a little bit differently. The ensemble cast does a really good job and was a pleasure to follow episode after episode.

Firefly can be best described as a quirky show. It's definitely Sci-Fi, but you won't see any aliens, transporters or phasers. Rather, the series focuses on a post-apocalyptic future earth, with very relatable characters. It managed in 12 episodes to really establish a credible and rich sci-fi world that is distinctly different from Star Trek or Star Wars. The characters are very contemporary, and frankly, dealing with the same issues similar characters would today. The universe is also full of details that makes it believable. For example, it is postulated that China and the US would dominate the world as the two superpowers and that instead of being antagonistic towards each other, they would combine. The world of Firefly, 500 years from now, is a world with an americano-chinese culture. Everyone is completely bilingual and there is an equal part asian and western (american) artifacts all around.

Another side of the series that is well done is how it transposes the history of the US Civil War into this future. There is a definite sense of the North Vs South mood from the war, and its aftermath. In addition, most of the props and costumes definitely have a late 1800's feel.

On other front, the series is particularely interesting from a visual point of view. Special effects are quite well done, but there is a strong emphasis in making them realistically shot. For example, during an air fight, the show is filmed very much as if the cameraman were on the ground trying to follow the action. Often, the shots are misframed, or out of focus, with lots of zooming in and out. This is done throughout the series and gives it a much more natural and realistic look. It's also nice to see for once special effects not done just to show off how gorgeous they can be, but to show them in a realistic way, to support the story. It's very effective through and through.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable series. I would have loved to see a second season, but there won't be any. So, you have to be satisfied with those 12 episodes, and the movie. Firefly game me some fun time, and the characters are definitely memorable.

> > > See review of the film here.


- Laurent Hasson