As the old adage goes, "You don't know what you got, 'til it's gone."... Or was that just super group Cinderella who said that? Anyway, it pertains most pertinently to Joss Whedon's ahead of its time spaceship series, Firefly.
In the past, TV sci-fi has been pretty much hit or miss. Most of it completely sucked/sucks (like the endless churnings-out of lame new Star Trek retreads and horrible remakes/continuations of more popular shows and movies from days gone by [like Stargate and Battlestar Fagalactica]). But every once in a while you get a pure gem of a show that's so original and fresh that it makes you get down on your knees and praise (if not more) the network execs that actually had the balls to greenlight it!... Like Farscape, and for the sake of this review, Firefly. But then, sometimes almost immediately, those same network execs turn on their own program like sharks or jackals or vultures on an injured friend, and they do their damndest to stab it with their steely knives and get it kicked off the air. And then they piss off (and on) millions of fanboys the world over. Not that I'm bitter or anything, just confused.
When Firefly was first broadcast, I missed more than half of the episodes shown. Not that it mattered much, since Fox ran the series out of order and on Friday nights (i.e. even the geekiest of sci-fi geeks usually has something better to do on their Friday nights than to sit around watching commercial television). Only 11 out of the completed 14 episodes were ever aired, and the two-part pilot wasn't shown until the end of its run... Did that make any sense to you? Cause I'm still confused. Here Fox had one of the most creative and funny writers on the planet making one of the most fun, futuristic ensemble shows ever even conceived (which they shelled out shitloads of shillings for too, btw), and then they buried it in a crap-infested time slot, and forgot to advertise for it while they screwed with its inter-show timeline. Why? Why did they even bother in the first place? I think that I would have been better off not even knowing that something as cool as Firefly could be done, than to know and only get a small taste of it.
But, a year after it was canned, Firefly has made it to DVD. And not only do we get the whole thing (all 14 episodes), but we get it the way it was meant to be seen: widescreen (hell, I don't even remember if it was letterboxed for TV or not anymore... Let's just say that it didn't just to make the DVD all that more special). The Firefly box set is a geek's wet dream come true. We finally get to watch the whole thing in chronological order. We get to see hints of plots to come emerge episodes before they emerge onto the front stage, and we get to follow the incrediblacious characters as they evolve and become even more interesting people before our very eyes. It's just beautiful, Clark!
Now, as most of you already know, the creator of Firefly is also the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel (and what some of you don't realize is that the reason for Buffy's 7th and final season being so convoluted and lost [and some would say "shitty"] is because Mr. Whedon himself was so busy putting all of his effort into the series being reviewed right here right now.). See, during the second to last year of Buffy, and the third year of Angel, Joss was a pretty hot property in Hollywood. Somehow, Fox convinced him that he could handle not just two shows at once, but three big-budgeted sci-fi/fantasy shows at the same time, and gave him free reign to put together his own story of what mankind would be doing in 500 years time in spaceships spread throughout the galaxy. Then the stuff about burying the show and axing it quickly, like I mentioned above, happened. Then everyone was pissed 'cause Buffy was starting to suck, Angel still had Connor on it, and Firefly only made it through half a season. And that's all I have to say about that.
But now, a full year later, I shall review for you the greatness that unfortunately never was. Damn, that took a long time to get to. But here goes:
Firefly takes place 500+ years in the future. Captain Mal Reynolds and his first mate Zoe pilot the firefly-class ship, Serenity (named after the Battle of Serenity Valley, which was the deciding battle that decided the fate of the galaxy during the Unification War, of which Mal and Zoe fought on the losing side). They're doing okay with their small crew (well, at the end of the pilot episode there are 9 main characters... So I guess that's not too small), taking on any kind of job that'll pay for their gas (whether the job be legal, illegal, or immoral), and trying to keep out of the way of the totalitarian nazi regime that now runs the universe. The feel of the show initially turned me away when I first saw it. I gagged at Joss' audacity of shoving the fact that the series was a futuristic sci-fi show mixed with a western in our faces with the delicate and fine touch of a sledghammer typing away on a keyboard hooked up to plastic explosives and Pop Rocks. Every episode seemed to be filled to the brim (of a ten gallon hat) with references to the old west just in case we forgot that we were watching a sci-west hybrid. Now, with a more open mind, I don't find it that irritating. Yeah, the characters will talk all "Shucks, ma'am, t'ain't nothin' at all" and then fly away on a space-faring cargo ship filled with stolen heffers, but you don't really think about it all that much once you're inside the world.
A few of the things that really set Firefly apart from the rest of the sci-fi dregs recently or currently on the tube, are the little touches that Joss subtly mixes into the recipe. For instance, everybody in this universe is pretty fluent in Mandarin. Whenever anybody (from the most elite and prissy doctor to the dirtiest gunslinger) curses, it's in Chinese (and not just one-word Chinese translations of "shit!" and "fuck!", but entire sentences). Another example is that one of the most respected career paths 500 years from now is that of the registered companion (read "whore"). Registered companions are all highly sought after, gorgeous, well learned, and eloquent speakers. And they're legal. God bless Joss' perverted little mind. And lest we forget one of my favorite little touches in Firefly is how real everything seems. Now, I'm not talking about the fact that I think prostitution will be legal and practically mandatory far from now (which it better be), I'm referring to the settings and psuedo-sciences of the story. There is no sound in Joss Whedon's outer space. All of the space shots are totally silent and beautiful, if not slightly eerie. Guns armed with bullets are the main weapon on the frontiers of the galaxy, not laser guns (which although they do exist, are still not perfected and their battery life is pretty short). And the camera movements are a work of art in and of themselves. It's like all the cameras are carried by hand. Even the FX shots. I can't explain it too well, it's just something you have to see for yourself. The special effects are just breathtaking. I am so surprised that they made each of the episodes on a TV show budget.
Anyway, we first join Mal and his crew in the middle of a job (well, after we see Mal and Zoe at the Battle of Serenity Valley), and right away they get mixed up in a plot that involves starch-shirted Dr. Simon and his kidnapped sister, River, as they evade the Galactic Union Army and the nefarious Blue-Hands group who seem to be after genius River's noggin'. Throughout the course of the 14 episodes, many people learn things (about themselves, others, or the universe as a whole), many backstabbings occur, and many bonds of friendship are tested. And you know what? I wish they could have been tested for another 150 stories after it was all over. That's the only negative I can give to Firefly: It's way too short. It just pisses me off that total crap like Enterprise and Stargate STDs1 can make it for seasons on end, but shows with backbone, great plots and characters, and jeans-creaming effects get canned so fast that they're basically still births. Enough of this faggoty shit! Bring me the head of the Sci-Fi channel on a silver platter!... Unless he decides to give Firefly a new chance at life... Then let me suck his tiny wang for a few hours... I'd do it too. Gargling all night with Listerine is a small price to pay for a few dozen more chapters in the lives of Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Book, River, Kaylee, Simon, Wash and the legal whore. Just give me a call and start unzipping if you want to deal, Mr. Sci-Fi-Man.
Even though I come from much farther in the future than this spectacular show, Firefly, does, I can still see where Captain Reynolds was coming from most of the time. See, the totalitarian regime that runs my world is quite like the totalitarian regime that runs Captain Reynolds' world. Both detain, beat and question whomever, whenever they want. Both governments have secret ties to blue-handed people who can melt your mind with a glow stick too. And, both worlds have quite a few prostitutes flying in and out of any given space port at any given time, who wouldn't give a normal joe with an empty wallet the time of day even if it would save his unintentionally celibate life in the process. *Sigh*
But I digress. Aside from the plethora of legally pleasing women folk, the other main thing about Firefly that made me miss my own time was the look of all the "outer planets", far away from the center of the galaxy. Due to a faulty part in many of the Mitsubishi Planet Ultra Geo-fitting Layering Yggdrasils (aka the PUGLY Terraforming System), a good portion of the outer rim planets in the Milky Way Galaxy were pretty much defective on arrival and so turned into giant "West Worlds" because they were filled with nothing but sand and cacti and the occasional Indian trading post (which, if you ever stop at one, don't buy anything from them... you can get virtually the same cheap blankets, ceramic bowls and peyote, only cheaper, from the inevitable New Hong Kong bootleg space stations that orbit pretty much every planet in the known universe). The only real difference that I could discern between Firefly and the real future is that it's not the Chinese that run things, it's the Koreans. After the Gook War of 2114 the Unified Korea Continent launched an all out attack on the remaining Eastern Hemisphere Countries with Project Hi-Lee. See, they came across the remains of the goddess Sung Hi-Lee in some shrine which history has said the Rossman himself had built for his beloved 7th wife, Ms. Hi-Lee herself, when she died of a broken heart when Nicole Kidman became available for the Rossman to marry only 2 months into his marriage with the Asian Wonder of the World. With her DNA, the Unified Korea Continent created an army of Sung Hi-Lees who marched over the world with the faintest of resistance (fighting only the occasional homosexual or lobotomized troll women who escaped the "Ugly Cullings" of the early 22nd century). I apologize if I've given too much away already. No one should know too much about their own future. Ummm, just forget everything I said above. I mean, you'll be long dead before any of that happens anyway, so no real harm done.
If this here is the durn new fangled future that everyone's so keen about, well then, you kin sign me up whenever y'all want! Holy toe-lee-doh! Just think of it, mah career path would be legal as all git out, AND all the higher classes of the world would respect me and treat me all proper-like! Just think, not only would Ah be invited to all the fancy shindigs throughout the universe, but people would pay me to go, then they'd fuck me, then they'd pay me for that too! Is there any way to cryo-freeze mah ass a few hundred years till that shit is all real and such?
Yeah, the Rossman keeps telling me that Ah'd be like a fish out of the toilet in that future world 'cause of the no speaka the Chinese thang Ah got goin' on. But Ah told the little fucker that "Ah don't need ta speak no Chinese! If some little yella hard-up bastard comes up to me and says somethin' like, 'Ah so... Ching chang pling plang shin shang,' Ah'm pretty sure the man just wants a Tammi sandwich with extra KY jelly on the side." And if that Chinese bugger tries not to pay after the deed is done, Ah'm willin' to bet that a kick to the groin'll flatten his sorry ass just as well as any Yank Ah know today. Pig!