Tuesday 29 August 2006


Joss Whedon produced one of the most innovative Sci-Fi series in a time where Sci-Fi dared to be innovative again, and he managed to produce a Western-Action-Dystopian TV show. And then these bastards at FOX destroyed his dream. They cancelled the show after only 14 episodes, before he was able to develop the arc. And then a beautiful miracle happened. Thousands of Firefly fans organized and demanded that the show be continued, in any way, as a new TV show, a cable movie or a regular movie. And then the DVDs of Firefly were released, and the sales were high enough to attract Universal. And then, in September 2005, the movie came out, and we, the geeks, believed that a new century had begun, one in which we were not going to be ignored by the entertainment industry.
Firefly combined everything Joss Whedon did so well in the previous shows, Buffy and Angel. It has a very strong cast, a very good idea, and a very good execution. It is dark, dirty Sci-FI. As Joss says in the comments on the DVD – those are the people the Enterprise flew by.
I would lie if I said that you can watch the movie without ever having seen the TV show. You might be able to do that, but you would certainly lose a lot. For once, Firefly aims to be more than just an entertaining Sci-Fi show, and this is revealed when you compare it to Star Trek. Actually, Firefly is the little, rebellious brother of Star Trek, the one that moves out before he is 18 to become an anarchist. The Federation on Star Trek was always good – the law, justice, security. The Alliance resembles the Federation, but the point of view is different. The Alliance aims to bring perfection to everyone, a good health care system, security etc – but at the same time it spreads like an empire, and it tries to kill every source for opposition. The leading character of Firefly, the captain of the Serenity, is an offspring of this conflict. He was a volunteer for the Independents, the Browncoats (the name the Firefly-fans give to themselves), in the war against the Alliance, and of course, he lost. This sense of having lost the war defines Malcolm Reynolds (the admirable Nathan Fillion), he has not really given up, but he has certainly lost a positive approach to life. His crew does not resemble the obsequious crews of Star Trek ships that follow their captains without ever questioning the decisions. Zoe (Gina Torres) is the second officer and also served under Malcolm in the war – she has her own ideas, but she also knows Mal well enough to be able to judge his opinions, and value them. Her husband Wash (Alan Tudyk) is the pilot, a man that very often can't keep up with all the war experiences of the captain and his own wife and feels like an outsider in his own marriage – he is the geek on board of the Firefly, and possibly the funniest of the characters. Kaywinnit Lee "Kaylee" Frye (Jewel Staite) is the heart of the crew, the genius mechanic that always is in a good mood and tries everything to keep the family together. She is always shiny and always sees the positive side of things, which somehow makes her the child of Mal and Zoe, that has to be protected of all evil. Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin) is the untrustworthy outlaw who always balances between his loyalty for the crew and his selfishness. Though he might be unreliable, he is also the one person that always goes into a fight without hesitating, and risks his life seemingly just for the fun and the money. Inara (Morena Baccarin) is a graceful "companion", the woman Mal secretly loves but always fights with (partly because he tends to call her "whore" too often). She is also somewhat nourishing and cares for Kaylee. The three outsiders to the crew are Book (Ron Glass), a priest (Shepherd) with a very shady past, and most importantly, Simon Tam (Sean Maher), a young doctor, and his 17 year old sister River (Summer Glau).
The movie picks the story arc up that Joss tried to develop in the TV show. River, a genius that can learn anything just by watching and also has telepathic abilities, was a guinea-pig for the Alliance before being liberated by her brother. Due to the experiments done on her, she is highly psychotic, she can barely talk and sometimes reacts extremely aggressively for no apparent reason. The Alliance hunts her and assigns a very creepy "Alliance Operative" (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to kidnap her. At the same time, the crew realized that she might be a greater danger to them than the Alliance is, and she also seems to have a dark Alliance secret hidden in her subconscious which she picked up when she was still in the hands of the doctors. And the secret is dark indeed – they find out that the much feared Reavers (human beings turned into cannibals that hunt down their prey to eat it alive, they work pretty similarly to the Borg on Star Trek, though thy are entirely different) are actually a product of the Alliance, an awful side effect of a drug that was supposed to tranquillize the inhabitants of a new colony on a planet called "Miranda". 90 % of the population died because they no longer ate or drank, but in 10 %, the drug had exactly the opposite result.
Malcolm Reynolds, who, before that point, had tried to avoid the Alliance as much as possible, decides that he has to make a move now, has to reveal the unethical wrongdoings of the seemingly perfect Alliance. He turns to Mr Universe.
We all know what makes Firefly so special. Its Joss Whedon, and the fact that he always stays true to his vision. Since he also happens to be one of the smartest thinkers with the imagination of…, well, a genius, Serenity is as good as it gets when you expect entertaining yet relevant Science Fiction. And after all, Firefly is more than just Science Fiction, it is a project every single participant cares for, its family. Joss Whedon never hesitates to consequently kill a character if he considers it necessary. In his commentary he says: I always love it when a dramatic moment is followed by a comedic one, or the other way round, as long as it does not get boring. Everyone who watched Buffy or Angel knows that there always is a certain chance that your very favourite character will be killed off without any previous notice, just like that.
I also think that Joss Whedon perfected his characters in this universe. There are aspects of the very well known Buffy and Angel characters. Spike seems to have influenced both Jayne and Malcolm, Wash has some of the geek aspects of Xander (and also the "all my friends are superheroes and I am not" thing), Kaylee has the geekness and sympathy of both Willow and Tara, the psychotic River has some aspects of the widely loved Fred, and her brother resembles Wesley.
Whedon's vision of the future is very well considered. The Alliance is the logical result of the constant merging of companies, the ultimate consequence of any kind of monopoly. Culturally, the two most dominant world powers have indeed one. Euro-American and Chinese culture have merged into one (as this proves). We, the fans, can only hope that this show is going to continue, because the vision is alive, it is shiny and glowing. 

He chusheng zajiao de zanghuo!

2005, directed by Joss Whedon, starring Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, Morena Baccarin, Sean Maher, Jewel State, Alan Tudyk, David Krumholtz.

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