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From Thestar.com


Firefly’s new wings courtesy of DVD

By Rob Salem

Thursday 11 December 2003

Dec. 8, 2003. 01:00 AM

Firefly’s new wings courtesy of DVD


Back in the early ’60s, when Star Trek was initially cancelled just two years into its "five-year mission," the fans had no recourse but to inundate the network with an avalanche of outraged mail.

Incredibly, it worked. For another year, anyway. For the fans, emboldened at having succeeded where no fan had dared to go before, the crisis forged an alliance so strong it endures to this day - as indeed does the Star Trek franchise.

But that was then, and this is now. The prime-time stakes are considerably higher. The innovation of e-mail notwithstanding, when a show is cancelled by its network - particularly an expensive, niche-market genre show - it pretty much stays cancelled, regardless of what the fans have to say.

There are, fortunately, exceptions. Farscape was said to be well and truly over ... until last week’s announcement that it would return as a miniseries.

And now the fans of Firefly, the Joss Whedon-created sci-fi western so cruelly cancelled this season after only nine completed episodes, are pinning their hopes on the show’s rebirth in the form of a feature film.

That, and tomorrow’s much-anticipated release of the entire Firefly series, including the original two-hour pilot and three additional unseen episodes, in an attractively packaged DVD set, priced at $69.95 in Canada.

The series, including the un-aired episodes, can currently be seen in reruns here on Space. But the DVD set is also crammed with extras, including several amusing and (understandably) biting commentary tracks, revealing behind-the-scenes featurettes, a gag reel and other archival materials.

Nathan Fillion, the Edmonton actor plucked from relative obscurity to star in the series as the mercenary Malcolm Reynolds, shares the fans’ anticipatory enthusiasm.

"I really hope that people enjoy it," he enthuses, calling in from L.A. after a day on the set, guesting on NBC’s Miss Match (a reunion of sorts with its star, Alicia Silverstone, with whom he had worked on Blast From The Past).

"I mean, I don’t think there’s any way that people could have as much fun watching it as I did doing it. But I know I’m very excited. And so is my family."

Shooting Firefly, he says, however briefly, was easily the most rewarding experience of his career. "I’ve been very fortunate to have really fun casts and really great crews to work with, but that one particular one stands out as the best. Joss took care of everybody, and took measures to make sure everything was smooth. And it showed."

There is nothing like external adversity to bring a cast and crew together, and Firefly certainly had more than its share.

From the very beginning, Fox network executives didn’t get the concept - essentially, a low-tech science-fiction series with western overtones and an Eastern accent - and Whedon was deluged with notes and edicts as to how it should be changed and improved.

"That’s where it turns into guesswork for me," Fillion allows. "I don’t know the whys and the wherefores ... I know it’s just a bunch of people trying to do what’s best, and trying to keep the network on the air, and trying to make lots of money. I do have my wishes, of course. I wish it would have had a little more of a chance.

"But if its destiny was to be cancelled, then to be a DVD collection, then hopefully a movie, I’m in for that.

"I don’t have any ill will toward Fox. I had a really great time. But I do feel as though I have unfinished business there."

The word on the movie is good, he says.

"The last rumour I heard, and from reliable sources, is that it’s still moving in a very positive direction ... a negative direction being either it’s not going, or it’s not going forward. The last thing that I heard was that things were still looking good. I’m very hopeful.

"I’m hoping that whoever is in charge of making the decision - which is now Universal, who bought the rights - I’m hoping that they’re looking at how excited people are about the DVD, and realize that there may be a market for this (as a movie)."

In the meantime, Firefly has done all right by Fillion - the association with Whedon and company led to a five-episode guest arc as the prime villain in the concluding saga of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

"I’ll tell you something. I’ve never been more famous than after I did Buffy. I can’t believe it. A 65-year-old man stopped me at the grocery store, `Excuse me, but didn’t you play Caleb? Your name is Nathan Fillion.’ People who are fans of that show, I find them to be very thoughtful, very competent ... and they know my real name."

The relationships forged on the Firefly set endure - even if the set itself has not.

"We were kind of actually living the Firefly life, kind of a united front against a common enemy. It did kind of brings us together. We still chat on the phone, crank call each other ... We still all hang out together. I’m still in touch with the sound crew guys, the camera crew guys, the prop guys, the cast. We’re still all in touch. Thick as thieves.

"The sets are gone, though. One of the doors ... the fellas that did our special effects, and won an Emmy for them, they did a little Firefly move on their own and stole one of the doors and installed it in their office."

Did he manage to salvage any souvenirs himself?

"I have the rubber replica of my gun - the gun itself cost $9,000, so they wouldn’t let me keep that. But I’ve got the rubber replica we used when I was doing stunt stuff.

"I’ve got a handful of Alliance money, some of the gold food bricks from the first episode, T-shirts, mugs, Malcolm Reynolds’ criminal record ..."

Well, if the movie doesn’t happen and things get tough, there’s always an army of collectible-hungry fans out there on eBay.