In many ways the only aspect of the TV series ‘Firefly’ that is science fiction is the fact that they use space ships and hover crafts. Even the weaponry is good ole’ fashioned gun powder and bullets (with a few exceptions where lasers are introduced). The point here though is that good story telling is what sets good television shows and movies apart from the rest. I like the sci-fi context, limited as it may be, in ‘Firefly’, but more than anything I think it is a great show that really enables you to relate to the characters. Though they are used frequently, special effects merely enhance the story rather try to become the story as so many shows and movies try to do these days (especially movies).
Many people have never even heard of ‘Firefly’ and may never hear of it since the series was cancelled back in 2003, the same season it started. This is a sad reality. I’m not sure what the culprit was, but it was never given the chance it should have had. As I said earlier, it is a really good show. My wife and I both enjoy it which is often not the case with sci-fi. We have now finished watching the whole series and find ourselves quoting it all of the time. My wife’s favorite line is from an episdoe when Zoe says to Wash (they’re married) “do you remember that sex we were going to have, ever again?” It’s my wife’s new favorite threat when I’ve done something that she doesn’t like. Now don’t get me wrong–the show is much more than clever lines, however, the lines like these and others really demonstrate relationships more like you see in real life. The show’s characters relate to each other in ways that make sense–they seem real.
Another aspect of the show that is just great is the way the episodes work together to draw a much larger picture. In relationship to my previous point, the “real”-ness of the show is demonstrated by the fact that when Joss Whedon (the writer) introduces an aspect of a character, he doesn’t expect you to just accept it. He demonstrates is further in later shows. He revisits aspects that really help us to relate even more.
For instance, when Malcolm (the ships captain) first met Jayne (the ships mercenary and block head–yes it’s a guy’s name), he was working for someone else. In fact he was pointing a gun at Mal. In the process of negotiating his way out of that predicament, Mal convinces Jayne (who is a bit of a simpleton in some respects but was hired for his muscle) to come and join him rather than shoot him by offering him better pay. Jayne accepts and turns on his previous boss. We are not left to just accept this about Jayne. In fact, Mal knows all along that because Jayne betrayed his previous boss, he is capable and even likely to be a traitor against him as well.
Whedon addresses this in the “Ariel” episode where they sneak into a hospital facility on this Aliiance planet (called Ariel). By the end of the show, though the plot to conspire is foiled when the Alliance turns on Jayne as well, we are led to believe that Jayne got away with it because none of the crew seems any the wiser of his plan. But then, Mal, out of nowhere, cold-cocks Jayne and interrogates him about his treachery. He then locks him in the outer bay of the ship and opens the outside door a bit while they are about to break atmo[sphere]. He gives Jayne something to think about and threatens to leave the door open. Once Jayne has been convinced that what he did was wrong and his absolute loyalty was required, Mal relents by closing the lock so Jayne won’t die. He then walks away. The show ends.
From this one incident, Mal is able to show mercy to a traitor, but by doing so purchases his loyalty. What a great story line. It really helps us gain respect for Mal as a great leader on his ship, and demonstrates that he believes that though being a traitor has been a major characteristic in Jayne, Mal believed all along he could change and helped to bring that about.
This is just one example of the neat nuances of this under-appreciated television series. There are many fans, my wife and I included, who would like to see the series continue. We borrowed the series from the local Library after seeing the movie ‘Serenity’ which was created as a last ditch attempt to revive the series (to no avail, but that is a different story). I am now planning to buy the series. It is really that good. I think it would be smart of Joss Whedon to make the whole series as it is now available as free video downloads online with someone like iTunes. I think this could very well create the size following it would take to get it off the ground again. I doubt Joss has the power to do this as the rights are probably not his, but it sure seems to me to be a good way to create a larger fan base for a series that is just downright good.