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Firefly review | Rigs in space

Published by jamdog on 20th September, 2007.

Firefly review

Firefly – The Complete Series

DVD

Self-deceiving shmuck that I am, I actually believed the early reviews of Firefly and stayed away. Joss Whedon was slipping, they said – the pacing was off, characters weren’t all that, it didn’t know if it wanted to be a Western or a sci-fi . Knowing perfectly well that, if they’re anything like me, they don’t even watch the shows they review I still believed them. What a chump.

"Knowing perfectly well that, if they’re anything like me, they don’t even watch the shows they review I still believed them. What a chump."

So here I sit with the Firefly – The Complete Series DVD in my PC in a contented bubble of quality TV, occasionally cursing those too blind to see this show’s strength. Set in 2517, Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) skippers the Serenity spaceship – his assertion of independence from the planet-empire building Alliance after he fought and lost in a war against unification. Smuggling, stealing and blackguarding – him and his crew of renegades scrape a living flitting from planet to planet, wherever the work takes them.

"Companion – a kind of high-class call-girl – apparently having a companion on board makes it easier to gain permission to land; she’s a kind of Ambassawhore."

He’s joined by his wartime comrade Zoë (Gina Torres), her pussy whipped husband Wash (Alan Tudyk) who doubles as a pilot, Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite) , the ship’s mechanic who is what native Americans would call the-girl-the-machines-talk-to as she intuitively understands everything mechanical, despite lacking formal training. Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin) is the hired muscle, Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin), a Companion which is a kind of high-class call-girl – apparently having a companion on board makes it easier to gain permission to land; she’s a kind of Ambassawhore. Sean Maher plays Dr. Simon Tam, a fugitive after springing his sister River Tam (Summer Glau) from the clutches of The Alliance and Leicester who spent years conducting inhumane experiments on the girl getting the knives and forks into her brain to work out why she’s so damn clever. And finally there’s Book (Ron Glass) a wondering "Shepherd ", or man of God.

The crew has a family feel to it but there’s some very non-familial feelings around. Inara and Mal plainly have a thing for each other and she resents it when he refers to her occupation as whore. Which is the kind of righteous indignation you often get from people who suck cock for a living. Similarly, the Doc and Kaylee dance around each other – each tender moment being crushed by his awkwardness or her ditziness. The scenes are cutely observed and played with the signature Whedon pathos.

"She resents it when he refers to her occupation as whore. Which is the kind of righteous indignation you often get from people who suck cock for a living."

Being a Western in space, Firefly has themes in common with Deadwood. Reynolds is Captain of a lawless ship yet tries to act morally. While never less than hard-nosed and occasionally bordering on ruthless he has that Wild West frontier spirit – like Seth Bullock he thinks there must be something better than this. So if a member of his crew is in danger he will risk his own life in a heartbeat.

The crew of Serenity is clearly intended to be a family and the message throughout is: family matters, other people matter – community means something. No one gets left behind. They don’t have to like you – if you’re on the crew then they’ve got your back. This is why the fan following is so devoted – people feel like they belong and that they each own a piece of the show. They feel like they’re stakeholders – that’s why campaigns have sprung up to re-commission the show like pockets of resistance in wartime France (but not as smelly obviously).

"There hasn’t been a concentration of attractive women like this on TV since those triplets got their A-levels."

The Firefly pie (Firepie if you will) is quite remarkable. There hasn’t been a concentration of attractive women like this on TV since those triplets got their A-levels. Morena Baccarin makes a stunning prossie, Jewel Staite has the most fantastic smile and Summer Glau is a striking pastry with her dark eyes, dancer’s poise and bovine glares. The scene where she performs a Celtic dance in Shindig is a thrilling piece of choreography. There’s so much this show could have explored were it not killed off after its first season.

Joss Whedon is a master of condensing complex emotional truths to a single moment, a line of dialogue, a simple phrase. Like in his self-penned theme tune he distils the series premise into "I’m still free – you can’t take the sky from me" . Rather like Dennis Waterman in Little Britain Whedon has opted to write the feem choon and the DVD features him actually singing the feem choon though his singing voice sucks a fair amount of cock so it only really has curio value – not that there’s anything wrong with that.

"Whedon has opted to write the feem choon and the DVD features him actually singing the feem choon though his singing voice sucks a fair amount of cock so it only really has curio value."

Like Veronica Mars, like Buffy, Firefly is an intelligent, streetwise show with a heart. The characters stay with you once you’ve switched off the flat-screen. Have all the sharply scripted, cynical wisecracks you like – ultimately it’s how your audience respond emotionally to your characters and your story that counts. And there are very few people who can work this like Joss Whedon

The best thing about it: The characters remain authentic in every situation.

The worst thing about it: They done cancelled it.

The verdict on Firefly – The Complete Series: Not dead – just sleeping. We hope.

Marks out of 10: 8

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