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Firefly’Mishandled’ Series : Sci-fi Western Firefly now out on DVD
By Tim Clodfelter
Tuesday 9 December 2003
’MISHANDLED’ SERIES: Sci-fi Western Firefly now out on DVD Tuesday, December 9, 2003
By Tim Clodfelter
One year ago this month, the Fox network canceled Firefly, a quirky science-fiction Western that drew a small but loyal audience. Now, the short-lived series is coming to home video.
Firefly: The Complete Series is being released today by Fox Home Entertainment. It contains a four-DVD boxed set with the entire series run, including three episodes that never aired. The set also includes such bonus materials as interviews, a blooper reel, behind-the-scenes documentaries, and commentaries on selected episodes by members of the show’s cast and crew.
The series was created by Joss Whedon - best known for the cult favorites Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel - and Tim Minear, who previously worked with Whedon on Angel and also worked on The X-Files.
Firefly followed the adventures of the crew of the Serenity, a freighter starship 500 years in the future. Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), the captain of the ship, is a veteran of a galactic war for independence - a war that his side lost. His first officer, Zoe (Gina Torres), fought by his side during the war and remains loyal years later. Rather than submit to life under the command of the Galactic Alliance, they have become smugglers working on the fringes of civilization.
Their crew includes pilot Wash (Alan Tudyk), Zoe’s husband; engineer Kaylee (Jewel Staite), a relentlessly enthusiastic wunderkind; and gruff, well-armed mercenary Jayne (Adam Baldwin). Inara (Morena Baccarin), an elegant courtesan, rented one of the ship’s shuttle pods and traveled with them on their journeys.
The series went against many trends in television science fiction. Instead of gleaming spaceships and laser weapons, the Serenity was a broken-down, rusty hulk, and its crew was armed with ordinary pistols. Frontier planets were tough, dusty worlds that often resembled Old West towns. There were no aliens, no time travel, and the central characters weren’t heroic explorers.
The two-hour premiere of Firefly introduced the universe where the series was set, as well as the crew of the Serenity and its passengers, and established a conspiracy involving a sinister project from the Alliance’s military-industrial complex. It was an ambitious premiere, but there was one major problem - it didn’t air when it should have.
Fox wanted a more action-oriented first episode, and decided to premiere the show with its second episode, which involved a futuristic train robbery. Then later episodes were aired wildly out of order, confusing viewers. Adding to Firefly’s woes, the network promos - many of which feature scenes from the pilot that had not been shown - misrepresented the show.
"I thought it was mishandled," Minear said. "But here’s the thing: If the network doesn’t get the show, and I don’t want to say ’understand,’ but if it’s not resonating with them, it’ll be difficult for them to promote, because they won’t understand how to.
"It was a strange show and a hard sell ... and I think even with the people who love the show, there was a lot of goodwill they had toward us, toward Joss, toward the genre perhaps. But I think it took most people two or three episodes to really go ’OK, this I love.’ And you can’t really have that with a TV show, which is why it’s a shame the pilot didn’t air first, because I think it was a great introduction."
By the time the pilot finally aired, on Dec. 20, the show had already been canceled.
Firefly was, by all accounts, a labor of love for the cast and crew, and the show’s quick cancellation hit them hard. In the DVD’s audio commentaries and interviews, cast members frequently refer to how quickly they bonded and how sad they were when the show ended. Whedon tried to find another network for the series, but to no avail. The elaborate sets were broken down, and the actors went on to other projects - later that season, Whedon cast Fillion and Torres as villains on Buffy and Angel respectively.
But there may be some future for the series. Firefly still has a loyal fan following on the Internet, and Whedon is working on a movie that would continue the story of Firefly.
"If that happens, I think it would be great poetic irony," Minear said of the movie project. "A movie that he wrote that was not successful (Buffy), he then turned into a hugely successful television franchise. And I think it would be great if the TV show that was not successful turned into a hugely successful movie franchise.
"The symmetry of that would be too great."
The fifth season of Buffy is also out today on DVD from Fox Home Entertainment in a six-disc boxed set.