FireflyFirefly Dvd Region 4 - Buffy.com.au Review
By Nathan Costello
Tuesday 13 July 2004, by Webmaster
Well, gentle reader, on August 4th here in Australia, a DVD boxed set will be released for some show called Firefly. You may, at this stage, be asking why you should care. No, it’s not because it’s got Caleb, Jasmine, or Marcus Hamilton on the cover, it’s because above them, you may notice the name “Joss Whedon.”
I imagine that there would be some degree of trepidation on the part of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment to release Firefly here in region four. Unlike regions one and two, Firefly has never been seen here, and it’s likely that many of the existing Buffy and Angel fans don’t know a thing about it. That’s fine - I’m here to help.
So, what is Firefly?
Where Buffy was life in your teenage years, and where Angel was a metaphor for your 20’s, Firefly is the next step - adulthood, civilisation, and how the pain never stops.
Firefly, for lack of any better description, is a space-western. Instead of vast planes and shanty-towns, the story takes place 500 years in the future in the vastness of space. The setting has changed, but our struggles remain the same. This is not Star Trek. This is not a shining example of the human condition personified in a future where mankind has cast off its animal passions. This is not a tale of ideal human values. You won’t be travelling to the vast reaches of the universe to meet people with bumpy foreheads who miraculously speak English. Instead find a section of our galaxy (the scope of the setting is never actually made clear) going through the never-ending cycle of human civilisation. The human race has expanded to numerous terraformed worlds, some of which represent the old West idea of towns with their own culture, while others represent advanced civilisation (whatever that is), complete with tall skyscrapers and global conglomerates. We’ve come so far, but we’re only really beginning again.
Within this setting, we find nine (!) characters, none of whom fit into whichever world they supposedly belong to, and all of whom end up on Serenity, our “boat.” I think each of these characters is better explained for themselves by watching the show, but the one worth mentioning is Malcolm Reynolds, our good captain. Mal is a war hero, or I guess he would be if there were really such things as heroes in his world, who fought for independence in a bloody never-ending war that only served to show how far the human race hasn’t come, and lost. To escape his memories and experiences, he becomes a thief of the universe doing any and all jobs, be they legal or not, just to make his way and survive. In reality, he’s hardly escaping, but Serenity itself becomes the comfort.
When I say “Serenity,” I’m not really talking specifically about the ship. The fact that Serenity is an intangible thing containing all of the people and feelings within her is a point worth making, and again, something worth discovering whilst watching.
Aside from the deeper meaning of the show, sometimes it’s just great ass-kickin’ fun. The Whedon-esque dialogue you’ve gotten used to is absolutely there, as is the reliance on character-based storytelling. And watch out - it may even get a little artistic on your ass.
Is it any good? Why was it cancelled?
First of all - yes, it’s good. It’s tragic to think that this show probably hadn’t yet hit its stride by the time it was cancelled. As I am now fond of saying: It’s clever, it’s witty, it’s meaningful, and it’s fun. It didn’t stand a chance.
The fact of the matter is that Fox, the network which aired the show in the U.S., just didn’t get what it wanted and put the show in a position to fail. If I can get a bit (or a lot) pessimistic here, now is not the time to create great television shows - reality television is a poison pill to our culture.
To begin with, the pilot episode was not aired until last (“It’s like first, except later.”), a second pilot episode was written in two days and wasn’t a suitable beginning to the series, and many of the rest of the episodes where aired out of sequence. To show how much more Fox cared, they gave it the Friday night “death slot.” It was doomed. Fox obviously had some specific stupid space romp idea in their heads, didn’t understand what they were getting, and killed it for whatever cheap reality crap they could make.
In an industry that should be nurturing people like Whedon and Aaron Sorkin... ah, forget it.
Is there any hope for the world?
You won’t believe it, but yes. As I type, Firefly is being filmed as a feature-length motion picture written and directed by Joss Whedon, re-dubbed Serenity. The film, not Whedon.
I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about it.
I would have liked to give you a comprehensive review of the video transfer and audio for the region four DVD set of Firefly, but unfortunately, I’ve only had enough of a glance at a promotional copy to know that it contains the same content as the regions one and two versions. I hope to be able to come back and give you a further report on that, but for now, here’s some waffle about the special features.
Serenity, with Joss Whedon and Nathan Fillion (“Mal”)
Whedon and Fillion are oftentimes hilarious as they discuss the making of the original pilot, including the myriad of changes, and of course, what Fox didn’t like about it. Whedon is fascinating as ever discussing his favourite shots, and declares himself a hack whenever we see a conventional over, over, two-shot scene - which is really what we’ve come to expect from Whedon’s commentaries, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting or humourous. Their love for the show and its cast is abundantly clear throughout, and it’s great to hear such perspective on the show that obviously caused them much pain.
The Train Job, with Joss Whedon and Tim Minear
Whedon and Minear try to be as civil as they possibly can about this episode, written in two days after Fox rejected the first pilot episode. They talk about the small changes made to the show from Serenity, specifically the change in demeanour for the character of Mal, and how they had to (somewhat unsuccessfully) reintroduce the setting and characters within the world of Firefly. There are some funny moments, mostly at Fox’s expense, but it’s hard not to get the feeling that both Whedon and Minear would be happier had they never had to make this episode.
Shindig, with writer Jane Espensen, Morena Baccarin (“Inara”), and costume designer Shawna Trpcic
Surprisingly good, despite it being a chickommentary mostly about pretty dresses. Espenson talks predominantly about the translation of her writing to screen, with Baccarin dropping in with anecdotes about making this particular episode. Rounding out the trio is Trpcic, costume designer for the show. After checking my manliness at the door, I have to admit that paying attention to the costumes in this episode is infinity worth it - they really are quite special.
Out of Gas, with Tim Minear and David Solomon
Minear, along with director Solomon, is fascinating as ever talking about the decisions made for this episode, which is rather structurally adventurous for a Mutant Enemy show. They keep it relatively low-key, also talking about various technical aspects of filming, but are a joy to listen to.
War Stories, with Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk (“Wash”)
Fillion and Tudyk spend much of their time pointing out little titbits to be found in the episode, but also talk about their memories shooting some scenes. Not exactly fascinating stuff, but their rapport is enough to make this commentary enjoyable.
The Message, with Alan Tudyk and Jewel Staite (“Kaylee”)
Considering the theme and significance of this episode (it was last one filmed), it’s a bit annoying to have Tudyk and Staite basically pointing and laughing at various things. There’s nothing interesting here.
Objects in Space, with Joss Whedon
Easily the most fascinating (and possibly pretentious, if you don’t quite understand what he’s talking about) commentary Whedon has recorded. He ponders the very nature of objects, praises the positively amazing performances by cast and guest cast, and gives insight into what he was trying to achieve with this episode. Also interesting is Whedon’s explanation of his “existential epiphany,” which I have to say struck an enormous chord with me personally, having recently been through the same thing. This commentary, like the episode itself, is an absolute joy to behold.
Here’s How It Was: The Making of Firefly
This is a one-stop shop of info regarding the show, with sections on how the show came about, the rapport between cast and crew while filming, and the many facets of production. How proud cast and crew are of Firefly is immediately apparent, but the sombre mood of interviewees towards the end (talking about the end of the show) is saddening. Here’s how it was.
Serenity: The 10th Character
This takes us from the design stage, to the set design of each room in the ship, and, of course, to the computer-generated exterior. It’s great to hear the perspective of the crew to whom it became like a home.
Here we have a selection of four (really five) deleted scenes from Serenity, Our Mrs. Reynolds and Objects in Space. The first three (four) are rather long and hold some interesting info, whilst the last one is basically much of the Objects in Space teaser with a few different lines in the Mal and Inara section. They’re quite good, despite them being presented in non-anamorphic letterbox.
Alan Tudyk’s Audition
The title pretty much says it all - this is Alan Tudyk’s audition tape of Wash’s toy dinosaur scene from Serenity.
A funny little collection of cast screw-ups and the like. The introduction declares it as the reel shown at the cast and crew’s Christmas/wrap party, but it’s really a shortened version. Pity.
Joss Sings the Firefly Theme
Joss’s initial recording of the Firefly theme played over the main title sequence. Good for a laugh, I guess... if it was funny.
Joss Tours the Set
This tour of the set by Joss Whedon during the filming of Serenity is far, far too short.
Adam Baldwin gives us a rousing rendition of ‘The Hero of Canton,’ from the episode Jaynestown.
I can’t recommend Firefly enough. To me, within fourteen episodes, Whedon did and said more than in the entire series of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The cast is amazing, and there is great artistry by the crew behind the camera. The fact that this show was cut short like it was is an absolute travesty of the highest order.
Viva la reality TV.