Monday, March 30, 2009

Firefly – The Complete Series (2003)

I haven’t watched too much SF television until recently, but “Firefly” has shown me what SF television can be at it’s best. It’s quite original, contains a variety of storylines while progressing through the over-arching storyline, looks great, has excellent characters, excellent acting, and is extremely consistent, both logically and scientifically. The only thing more that I could ask for is a second series, I suppose.

Firefly is about Malcolm Reynolds, the captain of the starship Serenity. With the assistance of the crew, Reynolds undertakes a variety of jobs, some legal, some less so, in order to keep the ship running, fuelled, and the crew are paid a percentage of the takings.

All of that sounds pedestrian enough – it’s definitely not the first time that I have seen the rogue spaceship captain idea used in a story before. Whedon, however, manages to take this story to a variety of settings, and makes it all fit within the universe he creates for Firefly. So, one story might be a story taken from the wild-west, the next a medical mystery, a heist story, a horror, or a space opera. All of these stories fit into the universe that Whedon has devised, one of uneven technology and social power, beneath the shell of a newly-formed alliance covering all of the colonised worlds, with some people less welcoming of this intrusion than others. All of these shows help progress the overall storyline forward, and all of these are consistent with what we know about the universe that this is set in from other stories. Although it sounds like it shouldn’t work at all, it definitely does.

The cast of characters in this show is excellent, and the acting equally good. They are all actual characters, not mere vessels to propel a story forward. In fact, part of the story is the relationships between the crew members, but the story is not annoyingly angst-ridden, either. To single any particular character out is more a question of the characters whom I enjoyed the most, rather than whom was the most proficient actor.

A particularly important point that often gets missed in the SF television that I have watched previously is consistency, and the stories are actually written with this consideration in mind. Science doesn’t get ignored here for the sake of story; in fact, science plays an integral part of the story. Technologies that were part of the story in one episode make a reappearance in a future episode. It’s small points like this that elevate this series far above other SF television shows that I have watched before this. Without spoiling any episode, the spacecraft even breaks down in one episode. No one sabotages it, no one neglects maintenance or leaves their toolbox in there to break it, or any other equally outlandish explanation like that; the spacecraft just breaks down because stuff breaks down. I’m sure anyone whom has sat on the side of the road, smoke billowing from their car engine would appreciate that episode.

Probably the only criticism of this series that I could make is that it does not feel complete. Part of the story for some characters is missing. There are a few questions surrounding the character of the Shepherd that are never explained satisfactorily, for example, and there are quite a few questions surrounding the character River, particularly questions that arise from the last episode. There are some minor plot points that aren’t tied up. However, since there is only a single series, as far as I am aware, I don’t get these questions answered. I have watched the movie “Serenity” earlier this year, before I began the 42 Challenge, and will watch it again soon to see if I appreciate it more having watched the television series. Regardless of the movie based upon the subject material of the series, “Firefly” feels like it should have been concluded in a second series, at the very least. It definitely does not detract from how much I enjoyed this series, but needs to be noted for a balanced and fair review.

Incompleteness aside, Firefly is an excellent television series. I won’t single out any particular show in the series to watch over another, because it has a progressive storyline, and you’ll get the most out of the series should you watch the series in the order it was aired. The storylines are extremely varied, yet conform quite well to the larger storyline of the series. The characters and their actors are great. The series is logically and scientifically consistent. It all looks quite good, too. I have some minor problems with the lack of closure of the series, but it’s a minor complaint against all that I enjoyed about this series. 5/5.

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