Western Week

Western Week: TV Shows – Firefly

“We are not gonna die. You know why? Because we are so…very…pretty. We are just too pretty for God to let us die.”

Firefly was a (very) short- lived TV show created by Joss Whedon, the same creator of Buffy and Angel. Only 14 episodes were ever produced and out of those, only 11 were actually aired in 2002. With a quick-ass male protagonist, strong female characters, witty, funny dialogue and plenty of adventurous plotlines, it was basic Joss Whedon goodness.

Plus, it had one of the coolest premises ever: a Western set in Space. But unlike other sci-fi shows set in Space there are no aliens in this universe, only humans who in the year 2517 are colonizing a new star system. There are a whole bunch of colonies out there, full of people starting a new life , Pioneers and bandits: hence the Western feel of it and even though the show is set many centuries in the future, the human race is still basically the same.

It follows a group of 9 misfits on board of spaceship Serenity who live in the outskirts of civilization , smuggling goods to the planets in the fringes of the known universe. Fighting the bad guys, the criminals that try to explore the poorest colonies while at the same time, trying to avoid the Reavers, a group of humans that have turned to cannibalistic ways. And at every turn doing their best to outsmart and thwart The Alliance , the forceful central government that controls all colonies after winning the Civil War. ( It is hinted that the Alliance is probably the union of the two last superpowers : USA and China. )

The show is named after the spaceship, Serenity, which is a Firefly -class transport ship. Serenity is integral part of the show and I would actually go as far to consider it a character in itself – beautiful and sturdy. Almost like the USS Enterprise. They actually built the spaceship as a complete set and it was one of the most used elements of the show – it was their mean of survival but most of all, it was home.

The Ship

“You buy this ship, treat her proper, she’ll be with ya for the rest of your life.”

But what really makes this a fantastic show are the characters and how they shine on screen. There is a level of chemistry between the actors that leap from the screen and makes you want to be a part of that (dysfunctional) family.

So without further ado, a brief introduction to the crew of Serenity:

The Captain

Malcolm Reynolds, or simply Mal , fought and lost with the Independents in the Civil War against The Alliance. He has seen many of his friends die in battle and is a bitter man for that. He is an outlaw who has built himself a new life on board of the ship. His crew is his family, Serenity is his home. He is no wishy-washy hero – he is a smart-ass, sometimes ruthless, a lot of times rude, with a dry , sarcastic sense of humor who has his own code of honour and who will protect his ship and his crew at all costs. Think Han Solo when you think of Mal Reynolds and you wouldn’t be far from the mark.
Right in the first episode when one of the new crew members ask if Mal would kill him while he sleeps, he says:

“You don’t know me very well, son, so let me put this to you plainly: If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake. You’ll be facing me. And you’ll be armed.”

And that about sums it up. It also helps that Mal is played by Nathan Fillion who is said to make anything, movie or show he is on, 27% better by just showing up. I agree. The man is Teh cool.

The Second

Zoe is the second in command – we don’t know much about her except that her story with Mal goes back a long way – they fought and lost together in the Unification War. She is a feirce, cold warrior, extremely loyal to Mal. She is married to the Pilot, Wash and in a loving and hot relationship.

“Zoë: You sanguine about the kind of reception we’re apt to receive on an Alliance ship, Cap’n?

Mal: Absolutely. [pauses] What’s “sanguine” mean?
Zoë: “Sanguine”. Hopeful. Plus, point of interest: it also means “bloody”.
Mal: Well, that pretty much covers all the options, don’t it? “

The Pilot

Wash is the pilot of the ship. He is proud of his flying abilities but has no military background unlike Mal and Zoe which brings some tension in his relationship with his wife. His laid back atittude and sense of humour are responsible for some of the funniest moments in the show.

Zoe: I know something ain’t right.
Wash: Sweetie, we’re crooks. If everything were right, we’d be in jail.

The Ambassador

Inara Serra is a registered Companion – or in other words, a high-class prostitute who rents off one of the ship’s shuttles. To have a resgistered companion onboard brings respectability to the ship, hence her title as Ambassador. She doesn’t sleep with any of the crew members but there is a high amount of sexual tension and unresolved feelings between her and Malcolm – for any shippers out there – this is shipping heaven. Trust me.

“Inara: You don’t need strength as much as speed. We’re fragile creatures. It takes less than a pound of pressure to cut skin.
Mal: You know that? They teach you that in whore academy?
Inara: You have a strange sense of nobility, Captain. You’ll lay a man out for implying I’m a whore, but you keep calling me one to my face.
Mal: I might not show respect to your job, but he didn’t respect you. That’s the difference. Inara, he doesn’t even see you.
Inara: Well, I guess death will solve the issue to everyone’s satisfaction. “

The Engineer

Kaylee is the chief engineer of Senerity. She loves machines and has a deep connection with the ship and after Mal is probably the one that loves it the most. She is a cutie-pie: adorable, quirky , always the optimistic. And she has the hots for the doctor who does not notice her. At first.

“Jayne: Captain, can you stop her from bein’ cheerful, please?
Mal: I don’t believe there’s a power in the ‘verse
can stop Kaylee from being cheerful. Sometimes you just wanna duct-tape her mouth, and… dump ‘er in the hold for a month.
[A grinning Kaylee gives Mal a peck on the cheek.]
Kaylee: I love my captain. “

The Thug

Jayne is the muscle of the crew. Loyal to nothing but his own interestes, we never know what he will do in any given situation. He is funny and a bit brainless but a true asset to the crew. In “Jaynestown” , one of the best episodes, we learn he has also a softer side.

“Mal: Girl knows things. Things she shouldn’t. Things she couldn’t.
Jayne: What, are you— are you sayin’ she’s a witch
Wash: [sardonically] Yes, Jayne. She’s a witch. She has had congress with the beast.
Jayne: She’s in Congress?
Wash: How did your brain even learn human speech? I’m just so curious. “

The Wild Card

River Tam was a prodigy child who was sent by her parents to a far-away colony academy for the exceptionally gifted. She was very brilliant and the Alliance kidnapped her and did something to her that has left her slightly crazy. Her brother Simon saved her and has bought their way into Serenity.
Most of the time she is not really there and seems to have no exact memory of what has happened to her . She is possibly a telepath. Possibly a killing machine. Probably both. The Alliance is after to get her back which does not bode well for the crew of Serenity.

“River: I get confused. I remember everything. I remember too much. And… some of it’s made up, and… some of it can’t be quantified, and… there’s secrets… and…
Simon: It’s okay.
River: But I understand. You gave up everything you had to find me. You found me broken. It’s hard for you. [breaking] You gave up everything you had.
Mei-mei. Everything I have… is right here. “

The Doctor

Simon Tam is River’s Brother, a brilliant young man who has left everything behind so that he could save his beloved sister. He is tight-arsed, proper, methodic, almost prim who seems to fight his feelings for Kaylee.

“Kaylee has expressed her belief that Simon doesn’t swear]
Simon: I swear… when it’s appropriate.
Kaylee: Simon, the whole point of swearing is that it ain’t appropriate. “

The Pastor

Shepherd Book is a man of God who has a mysterious past. We don’t really know where he has come from but we know that he can shoot, he can fight and he has connections in high places: not really indicative of a man of God now, is it? And yet, he is deeply devouted to his faith.

“Book: I’ve been out of the abbey two days, I’ve beaten a lawman senseless, I’ve fallen in with criminals. I watched the captain shoot the man I swore to protect. And I’m not even sure if I think he was wrong. I believe I just… I think I’m on the wrong ship.
Inara: Maybe. Or maybe you’re exactly where you ought to be. “

And these are the magnificent nine!

Firefly was extremely well produced, with mighty fine special effects, fantastic actors and imaginative plotlines that were SO MUCH FUN that even though it was cancelled only after a short-run, it gathered a very large, outspoken and faithful online fandom, that spread the word about the show. With that and the successful sales of the DVD the TPTB decided to bring the cast together once more for a follow-up Movie in 2005.

It is a couple of months after the final episode and the Alliance is after River. Mal and the others finally get to the bottom of the “River mysteries” – how she has been conditioned to be an Alliance assassin and in their path to learn the truth they find out that the Alliance has done worse things that they ever thought possible. They face old and new threats and they are almost destroyed by them but in the end they succeed but not without some very sad losses.
The film is a as fun as the series was, with some MAJOR quick-ass by River in one of those fantastic woohoo movie moments when she totally saves everyone’s lives (well, mostly):

and with the anwers to some of the mysteries that had been left open with the abrupt cancellation of the show and the somewhat resolution to the Mal-Inara and Kaylee-Simon relationships, we fans were able to get some closure. Some. Cause I am greedy and still want more.

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  • Mariana
    April 3, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    I freaking LOVED that show and movie. My daughter and I watch that movie constantly; never get tired of it.

    Browncoats forever!

  • Shannon
    April 3, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    “…And we shal call this land… This Land!”

    I adore Cap’n Tight Pants. He is my big damn hero. Seriously, Mal is my TV boyfriend. LOVE him.

    Wash? I just want to squish him. “I am like a leaf in the wind…” He is such a silly softie. Oooh! But when Niska tortures him? Hurt-comfort! There was something so hat about him all bloody and determined.

    My kitty is named Zoe. Enough Said.

    For Halloween I dressed as Inara. One of the parents at my school is a costume designer for local theater companies. I brought in my DVD and showed her the dress Inara wore in Jaynestown. She made me the EXACT dress. Best costume ever. That same night, my best friend dressed as Kaylie and her fiance dressed as one of the Hands of Blur guys. Yes, we are huge geeks. 🙂

  • Thea
    April 3, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Ahh, Firefly, my love. I was beyond ecstatic when Serenity came out. Where is the rest of it though? Aren’t we supposed to get 2 more movies?! The fans are hungry, and we want more! 🙂

    Nathan Fillion as Mal is just perfection. The perfect balance of good guy hero, without being obnoxious *coughJacksuscough*

    Shannon–that is freaking AWESOME. And a great Halloween costume idea 😉 I’ll have to save that one for future reference!

  • Anonymous
    April 4, 2008 at 5:33 am

    I discovered this show after it had come out on DVD. I fell in love with them all, actually watching every episode in one sitting! I remember going to the movie on opening night cause I couldn’t wait to find out what was next. River kicked arse! I just wish they’d do another movie…or start a new series!

  • Mollie
    April 4, 2008 at 6:28 am

    Never saw this but heard good things. I think one of my friends owns it so I’ll have to borrow it!

  • kmont
    April 4, 2008 at 9:38 am

    I never watched this show, but the movie sure did catch my eye. The DH and I both love it. There is quite simply a serious shortage in good sci-fi movies.

    I’ve often wondered about picking up the series on DVD–is it worth the purchase? I’m thinking I’d have to purchase, since I don’t know when I’d get a chance to watch it.

    Love Summer Glau in Firefly and The Sarah Conner Chronicles.

  • Thea
    April 4, 2008 at 9:51 am

    kmont–I highly recommend taking the plunge and purchasing the series on dvd. The price for the box set is very affordable at just $25 at stores like Target or online at Amazon. Which, when you figure everything together comes cheaper than renting all the discs–plus if you loved Serenity, I guarantee you will love Firefly.

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