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Firefly The Complete Series DVD - Epinions.com Review

Tuesday 21 June 2005, by Webmaster

Joss Whedon’s Firefly: the Platonic Space Western Ideal Jun 18 ’05 (Updated Jun 19 ’05)

Author’s Product Rating Product Rating: 5.0

Pros Imaginative Western archetype ensemble cast, skillfully acted. Fully realized western/sci-fi setting. Intelligent screenplay.

Cons Somewhat simple hackneyed Western plotlines, though spun with clever wit and irony.

The Bottom Line Whedon’s Firefly imaginatively weaves Western archetypes and canonical storylines into a believable sci-fi world of weathered space-aged smugglers. The spirit of western rugged individualism lives in the 26th century.

Full Review I lost track of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer after the second season but I always respected its creator, Joss Whedon’s, talent. His first comic book foray, Frey, was quite a disappointment, but his work re-launching the Astonishing X-men was exceptional. Many of my trusted friends are huge devotees of this show, but I never had the time, not being quite the same devotee to scifi or the genre as they. However, I finally saw it, and Firefly is truly astonishing, one of the best I have seen, and hopefully its short run can somehow be resurrected with the upcoming movie.

Set 500 years in the future, Firefly is a space western in the truest sense, in a way that Star Trek or Star Wars only begin to offer a glimpse of, complete with cowboys, lawmen, savages and cattle herds. The story lines are a bit simple, not quite high literature, but perfect for a role playing game session, or a recollection to simpler times and to Campbell’s Hero with a thousand faces. The layout of each episode is simple, the call to adventure comes in the form of a job for our hapless band of smugglers, the crew of the rusty starship Serenity. The cast is a eminently likable eclectic collection of well fleshed western archetypes, the captain who embodies western rugged individualism, the admittedly boring pilot married to the tough ship’s second in command, the naive farm girl mechanic (affectionately called mei mei ), the sophisticated geisha (affectionately called wh*re), the simple minded muscle, the wise preacher with secrets of his own, the big city doctor, and his mentally disturbed genius sister (proto Starcraft ghost). Each actor plays his/her part in perfect harmony.

The captain embodies a code still seen in the West today. He has no use for the government or for rules, but at the same time keeping to his own uncompromising pioneer morality, a pragmatic sense of honor, and unwavering loyalty. The captain and his enemies also are smart, preternaturally cognizant of the tactical consequences of their actions, something that should be easy for an omniscience screenwriter to write, but somehow remains a rarity. Indicative of a particularly intelligent screenplay.

Mixing canonical stories of Western mythology, of Texan independence, of cowboys and the independent western spirit within an almost believable sci-fi setting, the crew interacts with human pioneers living ruggedly at the borders of civilized space. The sets show excellent production value and perfectly blend earthy western frontier living with just the hints of future technology, and contrasts nicely with the occasional appearance of the Alliance (the Feds), whose ships have a white antiseptic feel, the hallmark of Lucas’ THX-1138.

Whedon uses the novel trick of interspersing dialog with Chinese phrases and ejaculations, more frequently than Singaporean Singlish which intersperses English with phrases of Chinese and Malay and Tamil. Newspapers and storefronts are randomly in Chinese (much like Blade Runner perhaps), but so is the language, with an amazingly large vocabulary of Chinese phrases like mei mei (little sister), qing jing (come in), suai (handsome) to strings of curses and invective gou ren, da bian hua, fei hua, which neatly sidestep the profanity censors by having the curses in a different language. (Much neater than Battlestar Gallactica’s constant use of the word Frack). Like Lucas’ original Star Wars, the genius of this never explained arrangement is that it suggests a complex history, a brief time of Chinese world domination perhaps whose only legacy is in the vestiges of language, much as Chinese and English intermingle in Hong Kong today, or French intermingled with the English a millennia ago. It all contributes to creating a believable world drawing us into Whedon’s universe.

The show’s run sadly ended after only 14 episodes, but hopefully as Family Guy, DVD sales may resurrect it. Let’s hope so.

Recommended Yes