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Jane for Firefly on The Fembot: My All-Time Favorite Characters in Sci-Fi Television


Thursday 13 April 2006, by Webmaster

We all have favorite characters when it comes to the television shows we watch. A lot of times, they’re the reasons we continue to tune in each week. We become so wrapped up in their stories and their actions that we need to know what happens to them. Sometimes, we’re so attached that we empathize with them through every trial and tribulation. They’re the ones who make us laugh, who make us cry, who sometimes make us throw our remotes across the room, smashing it into the wall where it crumbles into pieces on our floor. Or, maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, I decided to make a list of my all-time favorite characters, listed in order from preference, from the science fiction television shows I either currently am enjoying or have enjoyed in the past. There really isn’t much rhyme or reason behind my particular choices - I really can’t say, tuning in to a show for the first time, which character is going to capture my attention. Sometimes, it’s the least likely choice. Others, it’s fairly obvious. This isn’t a Top Ten list because I actually couldn’t come up with ten full characters that have touched me quite in the way the following have.

5. Jack O’Neill, Stargate SG-1

I really can’t explain my adoration of Jack except that perhaps he was the least perfect, most easily identifiable character on Stargate: SG-1. He wasn’t a genius, like Carter and Jackson in their respective fields. He wasn’t an alien with arms the size of tree trunks. He was just a guy who was doing his job, and half the time he really didn’t quite understand what was going on around him but he always adapted and went with it.

Jack simply reminded me of any regular ‘Joe’ I might know in real life. Fun for him was kicking back with a cold beer on his dock with a fishing pole in hand. Science and math regularly confused and bored him, and he was really only ever comfortable when there was actual action taking place. He had a tragic past but he didn’t live his life by it - it wasn’t something he was out to share with everyone he met just to gain some sympathy. He was a good guy at heart, but not perfect. If he didn’t like someone, he never lied about it. He was direct, honest and loyal to those who deserved it.

When Richard Dean Anderson left the show, I tried not to let it bother me. The new characters coming in sounded like fun, and previews of season nine looked interesting enough to give me hope. While I enjoyed it overall, there was still always something missing from each and every episode. There are still comedic moments in the show but none that ever really carry the genuine warmth and humor that Jack’s antics always had behind them. I loved Jack because he made me laugh, because he made it real, because I understood and sympathized with his confusion over half of what was going on around him. I think without a character that regular viewers can identify with, a show just doesn’t have the same power to capture and hold the audience’s interest. The creators behind SG-1 have always been particularly successful at making certain at least one character in the cast fit such a classification.

4. Jayne Cobb, Firefly

I did not like Jayne, at first. I mean, I really didn’t like him. He was crude, crass, mean, and appeared on the surface to be completely one dimensional and pointless. Well, it’s always nice when a show goes out of its way to prove you wrong!

Part of the reason I get so angry over the early cancellation of Firefly is the fact that the fans will never have a chance to see the fully realized character development of Jayne. We only received a simple tip of the iceberg - a not-so-bright mercenary who sends some of the money he makes to his mother, wears her horribly knitted hats with pride and is fiercely protective of those crewmembers who are unable to take care of themselves. We had the opportunity to see Jayne make dumb mistakes and, when called on them, regret his actions. Unfortunately, we were never given the chance to see how these continual lessons, courtesy of Mal, would or wouldn’t make a difference to Jayne in the long run.

Equally unfortunate was the meager characterization of the character in the film, Serenity. Obviously, time was a factor, and the storyline could only be focused around a few central characters, leaving the others as basic one-dimensional representations of themselves. This had the effect of regressing Jayne back to the character we see in the first few episodes of Firefly, with absolutely no growth. For Jayne fans like myself, it hurt to see a character we had come to love so quickly through only half a season of development revert back to the troglodyte comic relief.

Of course, the fact that Adam Baldwin was really hot as Jayne doesn’t hurt, either.

*Note: I could actually slide every character from Firefly into this space, simply because each and every one of them endeared themselves so quickly to me. When I think ‘favorite characters from Sci-Fis, every name listed on Serenity’s crew springs to mind. Considering there were so few episodes with which to develop these characters, I’d say Joss Whedon definitely wins at pretty much everything for bringing these people fully to life in such a short time through his writing. Props to the actors for breathing that life into them.

3. Data, Star Trek: The Next Generation

I really haven’t met many Star Trek: The Next Generation fans who don’t list Data among their favorite characters from the series. While there can be arguments regarding the better characters in the original series, there are rarely dissenters of opinion when Data’s name is mentioned. He was always first in line for me, from the beginning of the series, straight through to the end, and I’m sure no little part of that is due to the fabulous portrayal of the character by Brent Spiner.

Though there can be many reasons listed for why viewers alike were drawn to Data, for me it was very simple. Data represented all that humanity could be, yet he was never satisfied with the reality of his own humanity. Hs strove to talk like humans, behave like humans, feel like humans, and all the while I watched his struggle, I was acknowledging the fact that in his pursuit of humanity, he was more human than any of those around him. More imperfect, more fragile, and certainly more deserving. I laughed at his foibles, and cried at his hardships, and often empathized with the android of the show more than any other character.

Data had a cat! Perhaps it’s my personal belief that you can always tell the nature of a person by how they treat animals, but for me, just seeing Data’s interaction with his pet - and the fact that the creators went out of their way to put such a thing in the story - truly cemented home for me how very human he was.

Of course, little can be said regarding the character of Data without handing full recognition to Brent Spiner. To take a character without emotion, without facial expression, and provide such a gamut of expressive moments time and time again is truly one of the miracles behind the portrayal. It is possible that in the hands of a less capable actor, one that truly didn’t see the beauty behind Data, the character could have easily been ignored, forgotten, little more than a tag at the end of the cast list - “Oh yeah, and the android. That Data guy.” As cheesy and campy as the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes can be at times when I rewatch them, it still is, and I’m sure always will be, a pleasure for me each and every time Data appears on the screen.

That is all for my list this week. My last characters are two that are near and dear to my heart in ways that I can’t express in a few short and simple paragraphs. In the past, I’ve written entire essays on each, and if I were to go into the intricacies behind why I love them as much as I do now... well, this column would quickly become a little lengthy. Tortured, angst-ridden, fully developed and portrayed by two of my favorite actors in Science Fiction today. Can you guess who they are?