I have a confession to make. I contributed to the downfall and cancellation of this TV Program. I, like many people, didn’t watch Firefly when it originally aired on the Fox Broadcasting Company a few years ago. It wasn’t my fault though. Fox dumped Firefly (a new show) on a Friday night time slot, so I automatically thought the show was lousy. In addition, the commercials for the show were nothing special. Then I saw the trailer for the film Serenity and I became interested in the television show that it was based on. I thought: there’s a television show about this before realizing what that show actually was. So I sat down and watched the first episode of Firefly and was amazed at the writing, the characters and the western-techno future Joss Whedon had created. After that first two hour episode was finished, I was hooked. I watched the Firefly DVD box set numerous times, including the extras. Normally I might have skipped the extras but I just wanted more after I finished watching Objects in Space. It also didn’t hurt that the extras are insightful and goram hilarious.
There is so much to say about Firefly and being a Browncoat, I really shouldn’t leave any notable stones unturned. All of the characters of Firefly have their own quirks, flaws and something indefinable that makes them real and engaging. For this post on Firefly, I will be talking about River Tam (Summer Glau), Captain Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), Shepherd Book (Ron Glass), Jubal Early (Richard Brooks) and Jayne (Adam Baldwin). River Tam is one of the most interesting, strange, memorable, well-written characters I have seen on a TV program that I can remember (besides MacGyver) and is well acted by Summer Glau. In a way, River is like Kramer from the TV program Seinfeld. You are constantly watching her when she is onscreen just to see or hear what she’ll do or say next.
Captain Reynolds is William Riker, Han Solo and Snake Plissken all rolled into one. He is disillusioned, heroic and is only out for himself and his crew, whom function as his friendship-base and extended family. Jayne, for about sixty percent of the time, acts like a back-birth and is Firefly’s comedy relief. The other forty percent of the time, Jayne is the muscle of the crew. Shepherd Book is the Garak (Deep Space Nine) of the show. He has a shadowy past, something he never speaks of but that is hinted at, a bit here, a piece there, during certain episodes. I was constantly intrigued when Shepherd spoke and made comments that suggested a military past.
Let’s not forget Jubal Early. I know I am skipping other Firefly mainstays but Jubal, at least to me, made a greater impression then they did. He’s past is twisted, he’s sociopathic, reflective, funny, has extensive combat skills, etc. All of this depth in a character that is introduced in the last episode of the series (Ep.14, Objects in Space). Jubal was presumably only meant to appear in one episode anyway but he was good enough, like Ro Laren (Star Trek: The Next Generation) or Lt. Butts (Space: Above and Beyond), to appear in multiple episodes. Jubal single-handedly made Objects in Space one of favorite Firefly episodes plus the writing is great: “Well, here I am” and River is her crazy, funny self: “Don’t make faces.”
It is extremely easy to say that Fox had a great show on its hands, something very, very special that they mishandled from day one. Firefly never had a chance; it was ham-strung by Fox executives out of the gate. They only realized their extreme error because of the extraordinary sales of the Firefly DVD box set. This is one of the major factors why the feature film, Serenity, was green-lit. The only Sci-Fi television series I’ve seen as original as Firefly were Farscape and Babylon 5 but unlike Firefly, these shows were given time to develop their story lines and characters.