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October 2002
© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Firefly (Debuted Fri  8pm  20-Sep)
Set 500 years in the future in the wake of a universal civil war, FIREFLY tells the tale of Serenity, a small transport spaceship without a homeport. Captain Malcolm (“Mal”) Reynolds commands Serenity for legitimate transport and salvage runs, as well as more “entrepreneurial” endeavors. (from the Fox website)

"It's good to have cargo. Of course it makes us a target for every other scavenger out there. But sometimes that can be fun too." Captain "Mal" Reynolds.

Creator: Joss Whedon: Writers, Directors and Executive Producers: Joss Whedon and Tim Minear
Cast: Nathan Fillion .... Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds / Gina Torres .... Zoey / Alan Tudyk .... Wash / Morena Baccarin .... Inara / Jewel Staite .... Kaylee Frye / Adam Baldwin .... Jayne Cobb / Sean Maher .... Dr. Simon Tam / Summer Glau .... River Tam / Ron Glass (I) .... Book ("The Shepherd")

Firefly (FOX)         IMDB site: us.imdb.com/Title?0303461        TVGuide: FireFly SHowGuide

Firefly may be growing on me. Despite the catty interchanges between the ship's Hooker with a heart of gold pressed latinum and the issue laden captain, and the heavy-handed borrowing from post civil war frontier America, it's starting to get interesting.

The series takes place after we've used up the Earth, colonized every system we can reach, and had the classic central system v colonials war. The colonials lost. Now Cap'n Mal Reynolds, who was on the losing side, wants to lick his wounds, call his own shots, and stay out of sight. When he's not spoiling for a fight, which is usually. Mal's got his own beat up starship, the Firefly class "Serenity" which is a scrappy hulk that makes the Millennium Falcon look clean. You won't hear Mal bragging about Serenity's speed or stealth...just that eventually they'll get the job done. And they aren't fussy (he claims) about what job that is. He's lying, of course, and the way he wears his heart on his sleeve is one of the series shortcomings. On the other hand, his willingness to kick the occasional bad guy into the engine intake when reasoning fails is one of his more endearing traits..

Often the story lines involve generally pissing off customers when the Captain decides that filling his contract would be the wrong thing to do, or stepping in when he's personally peeved about something. This is not a formula for survival. There have been some episodes that I liked though, especially the one where the engine catches fire and the ship's air is sacrificed to put it out. Most of the episode is played in flashback as the suffocating Mal drags himself around an empty ship musing about how he got into all this. For once flashback is used to present new material early on, instead of old material to make a cheap episode later. And for once, it works.

My favorite character is the macho, if weak brained, soldier of fortune, Jane. Someday they'll tell us whether "Jane" is a normal male name on the space frontier, but until then we'll enjoy the dissonance. Dissonance is what Firefly tries to sell us in abundance. The Black female second in command is married to the white surfer boy pilot. She's extremely competent and he's a bit too laid back. But they seem to get along nicely. The show's femme fatality appears in the person of the ship's "companion", Inara (Morena Baccarin) who has a thing for the captain, and visa versa, though they both mask it with classic animosity, while the ships's doc, a young guy from a good family who dragged his sister out of a mysterious federation project, is slowly warming to the fast starting engineer...a country bumpkin with a way with machines. "Shucks. Ain't nothin' but a reverse triad oscillator that's been all shined up and stuck in the other way 'round" Shoot. At least it's not a depolarized main deflector.

So you've got three very mixed couples in various states of courtship to play with, which leaves three singletons, fairly unlikely to hook up: Jane, our dimwitted mercenary,  "Book" (Ron Glass) the preacher (and ex-something mysterious), and the Doc's semi-psychotic sister, River. In any situation where superior cunning is required, keep an eye out for River. The black project that her brother stole her from has all the marking of a Dark Angel or Ender Wiggin's training center, but she's come away from it with nightmares, hallucinations, and semi-psychotic episodes. Which her occasional moments of insight more than make up for.

The mix of good and bad science is intriguing. For the first time I can remember, space doesn't carry sound. That's good. You can't breathe it either, nor can fires burn, nor guns shoot. Um, that's a mixed bag since guns should shoot fine in space, gunpowder having it's own oxygen built in, but it's a common mistake and one they would no doubt try to pretend they didn't make. The idea of putting a gun inside a spacesuit and shooting out the faceplate was cute anyway. Air seems to be big on the producer's mind, since a recent episode had us run out of it when the engine caught fire and broke down. Nice zero gee fire effects though. Distance is, as usual problematic. There seem to be plenty of star systems within a few days travel...but FTL, warp, wormhole or other parsec eating propulsion has yet to be revealed. I guess audiences are just addicted to flitting from star to star and nobody is about to challenge that.

Some gradual tweaking could make this a better show, and the first thing I'd lose is Mal's wardrobe, which makes him look far too much like a confederate horse soldier. Also, they can' t seem to make up their minds about whether "Companion" is a really respectable calling, or just another way of saying "whore", and I wish they'd make up their minds. Personally, I'm betting that they'll lose their courage and decide that sex isn't part of the companion's stock and trade...just really good foot massage.

The other thing I'd ask is to give up the evil empire deal. While it's romantic to say that everyone should be free to live their own way, it fails to address the problems of feeding overcrowded urban populations. Now, if the outlander's response to that is to let the central world's starve, I can respect that for its honesty at least. But to paint the big society as just dull, senseless, wantonly destructive and evil...well, that's Hollywood.

My wish for Firefly is that it shines as brightly as it can. Maybe that means will burn out sooner, but at least it will have been worth seeing.

Epilogue: Ern's Series Pitch:

Here's my idea for a series. A real wagon train is scooped up by aliens who are forced to stop off in the old west. The aliens can't leave witnesses and would rather not kill the settlers, who've see too much. Just for fun, they should leave an emergency beacon in Roswell...or what will be Roswell someday. Anyway with just a little work, you've got a better reason for late 1800's American's floating around the universe wearing cavalry stripes and mixing it up with folks with strange customs. Call me. We'll do lunch.

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