FireflyThe Firefly Episode Guide, Part VI
Thursday 11 December 2003, by Webmaster
Firefly: The Firefly Episode Guide, Part 6
Behind the scenes with Joss Whedon & Tim Minear, by Edward Gross
“WAR STORIES” Official DVD Summary: Wash regrets insisting he be allowed to accompany Mal on a mission after the two men are captured by Adelai Niska - the client who previously hired Mal to steal the medicine bound for Paradiso.
JOSS WHEDON: There was that run of the last bunch where it felt like we were firing on all cylinders. I loved the Zoe-Wash relationship. You know, that was the sticking point at the very end of picking-up process. The studio said, “They can’t be married,” and that’s when I said, “I don’t want you to pick up the show.”
CFQ: Are you serious?
JOSS WHEDON: Yeah. They said, “We’re thinking of picking up the show because we read “The Train Job” and we see the potential, but we don’t want the characters married, it interferes with romantic entanglements.” It was just a nightmare experience. I said, “I’m not making Melrose Space. I want to see a marriage. I’ve got a preacher on board, I’ve got a young girl who’s a schizophrenic - I’ve got aspects of life. That’s there for a reason and marriage is one of them.” And what was great in “War Stories” was being able to play the conflict of the marriage without making it whiney and insufferable. They’re both incredibly charming and funny during that, and then to play that out during a torture scene... really examine the issues as a way of trying to deal with being tortured...well, juxtaposition is pretty much the benchmark of my career and it doesn’t get any bigger than that.
CFQ: You were really prepared to walk with the show over the marriage situation?
JOSS WHEDON: Oh yeah. Here’s the thing with a show. You have to understand that you are collaborating with somebody and they have a right to the kind of show that’s right for their network. You also have to understand that you must run that show, not them. And that it must be your show. You cannot make a show to please the network, and if you start taking a show and changing it to please a network until it loses all meaning, you’re not going to please a network. Ultimately the show that works is the show that has a vision. That doesn’t mean that everything I do works. I’m sure there are shows that were built by committee and everybody talks about Casablanca and how they didn’t know what they were doing, but look at what they did. The fact of the matter is that for a show really to work, you have to run it. Every time the network gave me a note like, “Make Mal more likable,” I could do that. Have more action? I can do that. Those don’t destroy the germ of what it is I’m trying to do. Make them not married, now you’re telling me you don’t want to make the show I want to make. That’s when you walk away. If you’re desperate to get something on the air, you shouldn’t be trying to. It’s just not a way to live. I’m very fortunate in that I can walk away, but I would have walked away from Buffy at the same time if they’d tried to mutate it into something I didn’t believe in. You have to know where to draw the line, where to pick your battles, because you want to collaborate. But you don’t want to be bullied into making a show that’s not your own, because ultimately you’ll hate it. Fox is very aware of that.
CFQ: Not to go off on too much of a tangent, but wasn’t Angel largely reshaped into more of a standalone show largely to please the WB?
JOSS WHEDON: Not so much. They did halt production in the second episode of year one and said, “Look, we don’t feel the second episode fulfills your mission statement as you described it to us.” We looked at it and said, “Okay, we get that.” And this year, it was not retooled in a way that I felt was damaging to the show. They said they wanted more standalone episodes so people don’t get confused, because we got so wrapped up in our mythology last year, that it was like one giant episode. That’s the truth. I respected that. So that was our new challenge, but it doesn’t change my worldview, my characters, my intent with the show. It’s all doable, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. It’s a very difficult thing to know: when is it over? When is it wrong? When is it too much? When does it cross that line? A lot of people are like, “You want to change Bob’s name to Rob? You have crossed the line!” There’s just that sort of instinct, because you take so much abuse as a writer from executives and you hear so many stupid things. You can never come into an arrangement like that. They’re paying for this thing and you have to respect that. You just have to find the right battles.
TIM MINEAR: We brought back Niska from “The Train Job.” This was another late script that we had to sort of pitch in on at the end of the day. I remember Joss wrote the teaser and the first act and it was a really long teaser. I remember looking at the cut and saying, “The teaser’s kind of boring with all of these people talking. What if we move this into the teaser and made this the first scene of act one and dropped this all together?” He totally went for it. And in the interrogation scene where Mal and Wash are being tortured, I took a pass at that and was trying to write Wash as sort of Woody Allen. We talked about the idea that they’re being tortured, but they should totally be having a conversation about Zoe and about this unmentioned jealousy that Wash might have because Zoe is so close to Mal. What I liked about that scene is that instead of just making that a gag, it was a way for Mal to keep Wash from dying; he made him so angry that he couldn’t pay attention to the torture. Once again, giant production values and nothing is cooler than Gina Torres taking Nathan Fillon’s ear and putting it in her shirt. “TRASH” Official DVD Summary: Mal is shocked to discover his old friend’s new bride is Saffron who, although furious after Mal blows her cover, offers o cut Mal in on what she calls the perfect big-time scam.
JOSS WHEDON: Who among us didn’t want to see more of Saffron? She was delightful. Between her and Mal’s butt, we knew that this was landmark television. It was another sort of heist episode and was fun with a lot of things to play. It really was probably the lightest episode we did. The scene between Mal and Inara at the beginning is just hilarious. Really an opportunity to play around with everybody more than anything else. Obviously we always like to hit a few issues and I was interested in Saffron’s psychosis and I liked breaking it down like that and seeing what was behind it. It doesn’t mean you catch her, it doesn’t mean you win, but her interplay with Mal speaks a lot about both of them. It just came out fun.
TIM MINEAR: Ben Edlund again. The return of Saffron and another hilarious heist. That was tricky, because Ben got to sit down and write this character that Joss had created that was very beloved on the “Our Mrs. Reynolds” episode and I thought he did a great job. One of the fun things about this episode was Serenity coming up under this trash bin in this floating city. It’s kind of sad that the episode didn’t actually air on television, because that floating city over the ocean was just not something you see on TV every day.