I have not approved of it the seven times I've watched it.
A couple years ago – to be truthful, probably a whole passle o' years ago now – I bought me the DVD of Joss Whedon’s Firefly. There was only one series made before it was shit-canned by Fox and I’d wanted to watch it when it first went to air. Whedon’s first outing post Buffy/Angel and spaced based sci-fi western to boot. What’s not to love?
The ratings, apparently.
That disc sat in my pile o’ shame for years, however, and it sits there still. Unopened. I was waiting for Jane to watch it with me, but gave up and caught the whole series on Netflix recently, finishing up with Serenity on the weekend. The step up in production values from TV to cinema was obvious, and very obviously established by Whedon in a cheeky tracking shot early in the film which flows through the entire body of the ship. Not a point of view you ever saw on the television show which made do with much more modest sets.
Bottom line. I came to love this series and would have happily paid good folding money to watch more. I enjoyed the transference of the Old West myths to an interplanetary canvas and did’t have to work too hard to suspend my disbelief at the idea that frontier cultural forms would reappear on this new frontier.
The framing of the wider narrative promised an expansive story world to explore over years, rather than the fourteen episodes Lord Rupert left us with. On the upside, the film was a fitting send off to a great concept. iO9 ran a long extract from a bio of Whedon, which devoted a chapter to Firefly. The extract came with some interesting background deets I didn’t know of. The series was apparently inspired by a Pulitzer Prize winning historical novel of the American Civil War, The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara. Whedon read it while on holiday in London and was taken by the minutiae of detail Shaara crammed into the work.
The director said he "wanted to play with that classic notion of the frontier. Not the people who made history, but the people history stepped on—the people for whom every act is the creation of civilization.” Firefly/Serenity is not the story of Jedi Council or the Federation’s celebrity starship captains, he said. It’s the story of the guys who cleaned out the trash compactor on the Death Star. Or the redshirts who jumped ship to escape their inevitable and anonymous fate as Klingon disruptor fodder.
There’s been a lot written about the debt it owes to John Ford’s Stage Coach, with some characters making the hyper space jump from old West to new almost intact. They’re archetypes too. however, with familiar character traits from Buffy, and possibly even the Avengers, finding fresh purchase here.
Firefly's cast of characters is filled with the archetypes that pop up in much of Joss's work: the loner with a distinct sense of justice, although his sense of right and wrong may not mesh with society's; the stalwart and dependable comrade, who may question the hero but will always have his back; the stuffy, book-learned one who finds that real life often does not adhere to the facts he was taught; the one with faith, who has left an organized group but still works to apply its tenets for the benefit of those around him; the mercenary who's always up for a fight; the confident one who is often just trying to get through the day in the most pleasant way possible; the well-trained one whose strength is not fully understood until she is pushed; and, of course, the young woman coming to terms with her new power and the responsibility that it entails.
The movie, Serenity, could be enjoyed without investing a dozen or so hours in the TV series, but you’d find it a much richer experience for that first investment. I don’t know whether Whedon was always heading towards the resolution he laid out on the big screen, especially as regards the origin of the Reavers, who do sterling narrative duty as space zombies. Fast space zombies. Given the lack of telegraphing I doubt it.
I won’t give away any spoilers in case there are other slackers, like me, who’ve gone the better part of decade without catching this series. But if you haven’t, and you’re inclined to sample Netflix’s free trial period, you could do worse than spend a wet weekend on the High Frontier with Captain Mal Reynolds.
33 Responses to ‘Firefly/Serenity’
iO9 has a nice tribute to Patrick Macnee who passed away this week:
In general, John Steed always seemed as though he was ready for anything. Armies of “Cybernauts” (deadly robot soldiers)? Why not. Shrinking rays? Sure. Deadly telepathic mind probes? But of course. The science fiction ideas in The Avengers were frequently far out, but—in a format later copied by Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who—they were always located in present-day England, and connected to the familiar elements of the modern world.
John Steed’s swashbuckling attitude in the face of an endless succession of scientific abominations seemed to suggest that it would all be okay. And his approaches to rapid technological change and shifting gender roles seemed to be of a piece: Either sort of change will be fine, he seems to suggest, as long as you keep your bowler hat firmly in place. (And your umbrella, with its cunningly concealed sword inside.)
14 Responses to ‘"Mrs. Peel, we’re needed,"’
Poor, poor Girlclumsy.
We all knew this moment was coming. Well, those of us who bothered to read the damn books did. The last two eps this year did manage to pull a few surprise names out of the culling hat - characters who didn't buy it in the print version of A Dance With Dragons. But they were no big deal.
I don't recall Stannis looking all that chipper by the end of the book. And I do wonder what will become of Ser Davos on the telly now that everyone in his whole story arc appears to be dead. Maybe he'll join the Watch?
Theon and Princess Grumpyface? I dont see how they can survive that drop from the walls of Winterfell unless it's into a very deep snow bank. Did you see a snow bank? I didn't see a snowbank. Just the same hard, frozen rocky ground that Junior Bolton's girlfriend assploded on at high speed a few moments earlier.
But of course the Westeros Celebrity Death all of the internet is losing its shit over (except for those of us who read the fucking books) was poor, poor Girlclumsy's Jon Snow. I predicted, to myself but it still counts, that she would begin her final recap this year with a heartfelt cry of, "Noooooo..."
And so she did.
In spite of one critic at The New York Times complaining that they saw no point in further emotional investment in this series (they say this every year) and blaming the TV producers for Snow's untimely demise, he went out on screen exactly the same way he went out on the page, and for the same reasons.
Of course, Melisandre has just turned up at the Wall, and she could turn him into a Snow Zombie next year. (See what I did there?) Even the books seemed just the tiniest bit vague on whether JS was actually dead after being running through with more steel than a Chinese railway building program. And there is Zombie Clegane back in King's Landing to ponder.
So perhaps poor, poor Girlclumsy will get lucky and Jon Snow will return as a purple veined shambler with orange-green eyes.
For those us reading the series before it, however, this episode is a crucial junction. From now on in, assuming Martin doesn't deliver a published hardback in the next 12 months, the TV arc and the book plots are untethered. Our smugness is over.
28 Responses to ‘Game of Thrones Season finale. [SPOILERS]’
I had my usual run at Blunty this morning, but didn't link to it here because it was just more bitching about climate change destroying my appliances.
When I opened my email this morning, however, there was an exciting message from Netflix, that their local operation was now underway. I did something I don't often do. Went home and wrote a whole new column, for free, just because I wanted to have my two cents worth:
It's on, at last. As of midnight last night you could get Netflix in Australia. A cramped, constrained version of the much larger, more generous US Netflix to be sure, but the journey of a thousand miles begins right after I binge-watch Firefly and House of Cards, oh, and Breaking Bad over on Stan, and all the many, many eps of Dr Who I missed and Torchwood and maybe John Dies at the End.
If you're wondering why this sudden burst of blogging, it's because I'm having a 'day off' after sending away the first HOOPER ebook manuscript. 32K words on Colonel Varatchevsky's origin story, with a little easter egg for readers of the Disappearance series.
28 Responses to ‘Netflix ahoy’
Very sad and even a little teary this morning to learn that Leonard Nimoy has passed away. May choirs of angels speed him to his rest at warp factor 9.
"I don't think he's coming back."