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Netflix tip for June 9, 2008 : Firefly

Tuesday 10 June 2008, by Webmaster

Firefly: The Complete Series (2002)

Now that its official that TV wunderkind Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel”) is returning to network television with his new sci-fi show “Dollhouse” for Fox, now would be a perfect time to revisit his previous effort, “Firefly.”

Although Fox only ran 10 of the 13 episodes (and in the wrong order, to boot) before canceling “Firefly,” the show still managed to build up enough of a devoted following that Whedon was able to get the green light from Universal Studios for a film continuation, “Serenity” (2005).

Conceived as “’Stagecoach’ in outer space,” “Firefly” deals with a group of outsiders whose home is a beaten-up cargo space craft christened “Serenity.” They spend most of their time traveling the galaxy looking for ways to elude the totalitarian Alliance that rules the planets and earn money from odd jobs (both legal and not-so-legal).

The crew is cynical tough-guy Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), equally tough first-mate Zoë (Gina Torres), her pilot husband Wash (Alan Tudyk), primal strong-arm man Jayne (Adam Baldwin), and tomboy mechanic Kaylee (Jewel Staite). The passengers are “professional companion” Inara (Morena Baccarin), holy man Shepard Book (Ron Glass), and Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher), on the run from the Alliance with his telepathically gifted sister River (Summer Glau).

All 13 episodes of “Firefly” feature that combination of multi-level storytelling and crackling dialogue that fans have come to expect from Whedon. My personal favorite is “Heart of Gold,” which, in essence, is “The Magnificent Seven” set in a cat house.

Speaking of which, there is a particularly clever in-joke in “Firefly” that can only be appreciated by those who have seen the classic 1939 John Ford western that inspired it. In “Stagecoach,” the prostitute played by Claire Trevor is the least respected, most looked down upon character in the film. In Whedon’s vision of the future, prostitute Inara is the most respectable member of the gang, a VIP who is treated like royalty everyplace they travel.

One of Whedon’s best assets as a writer is his ability to take ancient clichés and do something brand new with them. The pilot episode of “Firefly” has a wonderful variation on the old chestnut where the villain pulls a gun and says “don’t anybody move” that is worthy of Howard Hawks.