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Firefly 1x10 ’Objects In Space’ - Whedon DVD Commentary - Slayage.tv Review

Saturday 23 April 2005, by Webmaster


Commentary By: Joss Whedon

Whedon Episodic Commentary/Objectives

In the Objects in Space DVD Commentary, Joss Whedon discusses several aspects of the making of the episode. This feature is both written and directed by Whedon himself. He calls Objects in Space, "one of my favorites that I ever shot." He also warns that OIS is "not normal," and he admits an "embarrassing lack of ideas" at the story’s onset. He states that his objective was to create "a whimsical space." He expresses his intent to disclose some of the history, and also to get to "my favorite thing, the history of me." He advises that he wrote the theme song for "Firefly" before he wrote the pilot. The general premise is that Malcomb Reynolds (Nathan Fission) "abandons humanity." He mentions his intended "fairy-tale quality" for OIS.

He credits his wife with articulating his concepts in a descriptive manner. He praises the collaborative efforts of all of his cast members. Fillion, as Malcomb Reynolds, was "always completely in the moment." Whedon says he "loved decorating Kaylee’s (Jewel Staite) bunk" but that everyone found her chilling scenes with Early disturbing. It took three takes for the scene, but he describes her final result as "achingly perfect." He told her to "go too far" - to "put it all on the surface." And she did. He teases that he received "many thanks for the shirtless scene of Simon" (Sean Maher).

He relates how he was approached by a security man on the set when he was there unannounced, on a Saturday. The guard asked him how it was going and left him with the affirmation, "just have faith in yourself and you’ll be fine." Whedon remarks that this quirky happenstance helped him in his resolve. He reveals as his "favorite exchange," that of Early and Simon, where the former discusses the midget and the arson: "the little man loved fire." An emotional Whedon recites the final words of the episode (and of the Firefly series), spoken by Early, which he says worked "on two levels": "Well, here I am."

Whedon Biographical/Philosophical Information

Whedon reveals insights into his own world view, and shares the following biographical information. At sixteen he experienced an "existential epiphany" while watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He was seized with feelings and revelations about "time, life, reality, and dying" or "the totality of things." He discerned no coherent patterns and realized that "real life was happening." A friend gave him a copy of Sartre’s Nausea, and it changed his life. He acknowledged a universe of "existential absurdism," and realized that we cannot stop or change aspects of existence. We must accept them. "Nothing can exist only slightly." This is Whedon’s credo, and the one he imbues in his OIS protagonists, Malcomb Reynolds. He notes that when Reynolds is confronted with realities, he is so aware that "the intensity makes him nauseas." Whedon reveals that he personally, finds a rapture in this intensity. He embraces the concept of "being outside of function." Like the ball on OIS, it is an object which can be thrown, but it is also round. The gun that River picks up can kill people, but it is also like a toy for the child-like innocent. The absence of a "grand plan" provokes the articulation of what seems to be Whedon’s hallmark work ethic. From Angel: "If nothing means anything, the only thing that means anything is what we do."

TV Sets and Camera Technique

Set is lauded as a benefit of the television medium in that "you have the set." As director, Whedon could and did, walk through and study and feel the ambiance to help craft his art more carefully and more closely. He notes that the set is "a very tactile experience." It is unique in the claustrophobic world of OIS. He notes "how trapped these people are -if the walls open, they die." He parallels this to his own fear that, if the walls open, it would mean an "intrusion of reality into my fiction." The "fragility of things" he notes, "is revealed."

The employment of the steady cam was utilized as, according to Whedon, the best way to ultimately connect River with the rest of the cast.

Character Performances

The episode’s focus is largely on the character of River, played by Summer Glau. Whedon points out that she is from the cast of Angel, where she played a ballerina. She is also a real-life ballerina. He discusses the importance of her feet in the show’s context, and notes how she moves and expresses physically - with her entire body. She is ascribed psychic vision. She is disassociated with reality and with the rest of the crew until the culmination of OIS. Her innocence is highlighted in the scene where she does not recognize the gun as an object of violence. It is to her, benign. She "takes the meaning of the thing away from the thing." She is "a part of everything she touches."

The idea was to connect River with the reality of the ship - she becomes the object. The others are not sure if she has indeed fused with the ship. This, says Whedon, "makes you look at the ship in a new way." He discusses the conceit of the "God ship": more knowing and powerful than the people in it. The very fact of objects makes them important, but individual perceptions render them more, and suffuse them with meanings. He also expounds on the technical acumen of having River’s voice sound "like she is in the room" at times, as opposed to over the intercom. He says that she actually was in the room all the time. He points out that her space suit was "too big - like a snowsuit." He celebrates the actor’s "little strength" and her quality of "aloneness."

Whedon praises the work of Richard Brooks as Early, the near-psychic bounty hunter and villain. He, like River, is an outsider. They are both intuitive, and both have a "broken synapse." By their external listening, both characters understand both more and less than the others. River’s heart separates her from Early. They both appreciate things on a tactile level. Early "bring pain and enjoys darkness." Early deals with each character in specific ways because he knows their secrets and their strengths through his eavesdropping. He knows he has to take out Mal quickly and physically, and that he must deal with Simon logically. Whedon was especially impressed with Brooks’ delivery of the line, "Maybe I’ve always been here." He says that "the work extended beyond what he had hoped." The charcter was based on the "serene cheerfulness" of the serial killer from The Minus Man. Whedon praises Brooks’ "conviction," "dry wit," and "hypnotic voice," and hails him as "a treasure." When Early "goes crazy," Whedon’s intent is for the expression of a "fractured mind." He compares this to a scene of Faith from BTVS when she "freaks out" in Season Seven.

A Father’s Pride and Passion

Although Whedon’s trademark sardonic and ironic wit are at play in this commentary, they pale beside his apparent emotion and affection for this project.

— Melissa Lamb