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After Star Wars We Have Serenity !

By Frederick Smith

Saturday 21 May 2005, by Webmaster

The buzz is on Star Wars, make no mistake - the latest movie is even getting good reviews. Yes, I said good reviews. I’m excited - glad to hear others write positively about the new Star Wars movie - it’s as I heard on the radio, it really does cut over partisan/religious lines - nice to see that something can still remain free of politics.

In any case, this is no doubt part of the reason why the movie, “Serenity”, has an opening date in September, after the Star Wars crazyness dies down a bit. Here is the trailer.

This is the third in a series of mine about recent and current scifi. My first was about the Trek franchise, the second dealt with Farscape.

Firefly snuck up on me and hit me like a late 80’s water bed mattress - after the initial sloshing stopped, I settled right in!

“What’s this ’Western in space’ business”, I thought? What’s this clip I see where they transport cows? What’s with this country theme music? While at the same time, “wow - look at that high tech city - amazing special effects for a TV show!” So, I gave it a chance.

And I was impressed, very impressed. I even like the theme music now. The mix of the old West and the future actually makes sense in that wonderful universe which Whedon (the director) painted. In his future, the world gets roughly split into two large powers, China and the rest. They duke it out, and a single government comes forth. Other planets are settled, and seem to have limited autonomy. Meanwhile, the single government goes corrupt, and reigns in the colonies - this leads to a civil war - one that the colonies loose. Some of the main characters in Firefly are ex rebel soldiers.

The colonies on the outskirts are left to wither, a bit like what the North did to the South after the civil war, while the inner colonies and Earth live the “good life”. No, Firefly isn’t an attempt to retell the civil war story with a sympathetic view of the old South - not at all, as a matter of fact, the “North” in Firefly, the Alliance, is the side which allows slavery. There might be a political statement here, yes, but it’s not about the American civil war.

Chinese has become the language of the common and/or down and out people, and interestingly, when the characters swear in the show, they do so in Chinese. In Farscape they get around saying the “F” word by saying “frell”, and in Battlestar Galactica, they say, “frag” - interesting the way that scifi allows realistic dialog within the confines of the FCC.

Again we have a bunch of folks thrown together on a ship, again, it might sound familiar, but it’s not, not by a long shot. The drama and character depth makes Firefly a great piece of TV watching for anyone - scifi loving or not. Firefly has no aliens - this might appeal to those non-scifi types that can’t get past the aliens on the Treks and Farscape. While I certainly don’t mind aliens, in Firefly, we don’t miss them - there is enough human-only drama to make a wonderful show.

The captain is a disgruntled commander from the lost-cause rebellion. The second in command was also his second in the war; a strong sexy woman, married to the pilot. The pilot is someone who was clearly not in the war; sort of the comic relief for the show, he wears Hawaiian shirts, spits out wise-cracks, etc. Then we have a tough-man, no morals type who works for the highest bidder, and another man that seems to be some kind of priest, yet, there is much more to his background that we never find out (he seems to have ties to the Alliance) - perhaps the movie will enlighten us [or, perhaps not - I don’t see him in the trailer].

To round out the roster, we have a young naive and very cute country-girl type mechanic, and a very sexy prostitute. The prostitute holds the most respected position in this future society, and I can’t escape the feeling that Whedon is trying to make a point here. She is certified in her trade, respected for her education, and has wealthy and powerful clients. The captain both respects her and remains revolted by her profession - this makes for interesting drama.

Finally, we have a brother/sister team. The brother is a well-todo doctor from a well-todo colony, with a well-todo job and status. The evil powers that be, however, were doing evil deeds to his sister, so he threw his life away and ran. The sister is a young, attractive, mentally troubled, quiet girl that’s wanted and therefore hunted, and often becomes the focus of the show. From the clips I’ve seen, she seems to be a main plot line in the upcoming movie as well.

Firefly has been called “hard-scifi” - I’m not sure I would go that far, but it uses technology in a realistic way as a backdrop, not as the focus, as Trek so often did. This is, in my opinion, is where Firefly can have more widespread appeal than the Treks - similar to what Battlestar Galactica offers in that sense.

I think Serenity will be a big hit, and hopefully, we’ll see a string of movies. Fox could have had a fortune on their hands, but they decided that their audience was stupid and killed the show; this could have been a franchise, with a large enough universe for spin-offs, etc.

The two episode pilot wasn’t paced fast enough for Fox, so they showed the series out of order. Even though the ratings were good, Fox killed it before the first season finished (you can buy or rent the entire season, however - recommended to enjoy the movie more). Whatever happened to a modicum of patience? The show delivers plenty of action, make no mistake, but Whedon wanted to introduce the characters; it’s they who will make or break a show, after all. Action without depth yields crap, in my opinion.

In just one season, Firefly reached the status of it’s hard-to-follow and bigger competitors - there is something to behold here, folks. Firefly is damn good TV.

Next up, Battlestar Galactica, quite possibly the best scifi show currently on TV.