In a distant future, Earth is no longer inhabited and is referred to as “Earth that was”. Humanity has spread through the Universe, colonizing planets, but hasn’t advanced much in moral terms. On the contrary, the government is authoritarian and cruel, pirates and smugglers wonder about looking for any opportunity of easy money they can get, workers are exploited by unscrupulous employers and, in the end of the known Universe, there’s a nearly indescribable danger – the horrific reavers. No wonder that, in such an environment, the main characters are anti-heroes. Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) is the captain of Serenity, a Firefly class spaceship, now obsolete. His sidekick is Zoë (Gina Torres), with whom he fought in the war in which the Alliance – that governs the Universe – defeated the rebels, of which Mal and Zoë were part. Apart from them, the crew counts Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), a thug always ready for a brawl; Hoban ‘Wash’ Washburne (Alan Tudyk), excellent pilot and Zoë’s husband; and Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite), genius mechanic who claims to talk to Serenity. They take onboard a companion called Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin), who is something of a high-class prostitute (companions choose their clients and have free transit through almost all of the Universe). The adventures begin when Serenity receives shepherd Book (Ron Glass) and the siblings Simon and River Tam (Sean Maher and Summer Glau).
The series was created by Joss Whedon, the maker of ‘Buffy – The Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Angel’ (and who will direct the upcoming ‘The Avengers’). Whedon is known for planning his stories ahead, and that becomes clear in Firefly. With a virtually unknown cast and not counting on great special effects, the work impresses for its content. There are many subplots and ideas that get introduced in a subtle way, making room for further development. For that reason among others, the writer and director was very disappointed by the network’s precocious cancelling of the TV series. The ideas were so many that they inspired the making a movie called ‘Serenity‘, to tell clarify some of the key points left open. One should call attention to the dialogues, sometimes long, sometimes laconic (there is a brilliant joke with the word laconic, by the way), but almost always exquisite.
More than a TV series, Firefly was a concept: the combination of sci-fi and western, filled with action. Had it gone right, it might have inspired who knows how many stories, since it deals with a whole new universe, with its own rules, plenty of bandits and very few good guys. And, believe me, Firefly deserved a better chance to show what it was here for. Just to give you an idea, the truth about River Tam doesn’t come out during the 15 episodes; the reavers are kept as a veiled threat, without uncovering the real terror they represent; and there are villains who are left in stand-by, and who might certainly account for some future plots.
Television has been recognized as fertile terrain for innovative concepts, the discovery of new talents and the execution of great works of art. It is possible to tune in to many channels and watch precious works such as Dexter, House, Breaking Bad, Justified and The Walking Dead. Whedon and his Firefly were pioneers in this new era in which weekly entertainment comes combined with the power of good ideas with artistic merit, with no disregard for fun. As often happens with pioneers, Firefly paid the heavy price of not getting the due acclaim in its time. It’s only fair that it doesn’t get forgotten or left to the mass grave of “series that didn’t pass the test”. Fifteen episodes of Firefly are worth whole seasons of many more successful series. Check it out by yourselves, and don’t miss Our Mrs. Reynolds, possibly the most brilliant of the chapters.
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