on 3 May 2004
Why on earth did they cancel this? It's terrific!
The basic story is familiar to all those who enjoy sci-fi. A group of people on a ship trying to avoid/escape a totalitarian authority and not always getting along with each other - we've seen it in, amongst others, Star Wars, Blake's 7 and, perhaps most gloriously, on Farscape. This is not a bad thing. The reason it is a sci-fi staple is because it works.
As with Farscape, the 9 main characters on the ship are completely 3 dimensional. They have complicated and evolving relationships with each other and changing loyalties. The cast are excellent, moving from light comedy to drama seamlessly. Anyone used to Joss Whedon and co's approach to storytelling on Buffy and Angel will be pleased to find the same clever dialogue and humour here, as well as the focus on human drama albeit in an unfamiliar world.
And what a world!
It sounds as though it should be awful and/or cheesy, but the cowboys in space thing really works. We're 500 years into the future and the last two superpowers, US and China, formed a totalitarian govt called the Alliance and we have a world where there is a strange blending of East and West. We don't see any bumpy headed aliens just humans on different planets trying to make a living. Our crew move from place to place taking jobs ranging from smuggling to petty theft to survive and come across some funny/strange/nasty types in the process, however, it is when they pick up a doctor and his mysterious, barking mad sister that they really fall foul of the authorities and their lives get more complicated than they'd like. The Firefly 'verse is fascinating and you will be left with a profound sadness that the series finished without exploring it fully (a film will not be enought to do it justice).
The DVD set contains all 14 episodes, in the right order (I understand that the TV networks messed that up). There are 7 commentaries from actors/writers/directors which are, for the most part, both amusing and informative. There are 3 documentaries (including a making of), a blooper reel and some deleted scenes.
Although this is clearly written by the same team that gave us Buffy it is aimed at a slightly older audience - perhaps going for the Angel demographic. It is a brilliant idea, well executed. I hope you give it a try - if nothing else it'll show you how to swear outrageously in Mandarin!
on 18 July 2007
I've been a somewhat cautious fan of science fiction for a while, and passed this over at first assuming it's early cancellation to have signaled poor quality. The fact that it was made by Joss Whedon didn't help it since I'd not seen the appeal in Buffy or Angel. But a friend lent me the first disk of this box set, and I realized my mistake. This is genius, every single episode. I bought it right away.
Early cancellation turns out to have been a symptom of ruthless and blind money making on the part of fox, the more I found out how fox screwed this series over the more I'm amazed.
So; self-indulgence over, review beginning. This is a blend of two seemingly incompatible genres - sci-fi and western. It does this stunningly well, basically the whole thing's set in a future where everyone flies round in spaceships but all the most remote planets on the edge of civilization are basically the old American west, they don't have enough food or medicine or much else for that matter. Just like the old west there are all kinds of lawless activities out here and the show follows the crew of one ship who's main way to survive is to smuggle, steal, kill and do whatever else they need to in order to just keep flying. They aren't bad guys, but they're not quite good guys either. By the end of the series you really feel like you know all the characters in the crew, and what's so brilliant is they feel like characters not stereotypes, and the complex relationships between them are completely believable.
The whole series really sucks you into its world, it's a world that makes sense (everyone's English/Mandarin bilingual) and's a million miles from the squeaky-clean world of shows like star trek. The music is equally instrumental in this, blending Chinese, American, eastern European, and many other completely different styles into a believable blend that feels very improvised and very much like the music these people would be playing, nothing orchestral or operatic, just some guys with an old guitar or two sitting round playing the blues.
From a visual standpoint the series is equally impressive. The CGI is stunning, on par with the best Hollywood can throw at us, and utilizing unusual CGI techniques like zooms and rapid unfocused turns of the camera to give it a style similar to documentary, news or reality programming where the cameraman doesn't quite catch everything perfectly. The same technique of calculated roughness is applied to the live-action camera-work so that the characters aren't always perfectly in shot and walk in from odd angles. It feels like this is all happening, you just happen to be watching it.
The writing is absolutely brilliant. The plots are vary between really good, great, and jaw-dropingly awesome. The dialog is cool, quick, funny and reminds me of Elmore Leonard in it's easy but always-snappy flow.
Basically this is genius. It's a strangely believable story of ordinary people on the frontiers of civilization just trying to make a living and get by, and in the end that's the the most involving story of all - one that makes us feel.
Here's to serenity, hoping she'll fly again.
Fire Fly is pretty good. In fact, for a first season of something it's remarkably good - but that's what you get when you hire a 3rd generation script-writing genius to make your TV shows.
Why then was it such a flop? It has a loyal following of fans who, amazingly, raised enough money to make a feature film and wrap things up (called Serenity) and DVD and Bluray sales continue to soar as it finds new fans... yet it bombed. Why? Perhaps it was down to the cretins at Fox again who, in their infinite wisdom, chose to pull the series after one season; a season which they decided to show only a few of the episodes. Oh, and in the wrong order too.
Insert face palm here...
I mean, who are these morons? It begs the question do they even watch TV? Do they even have a TV in the house, because if they did they would have seen that despite their 'viewing figures' saying the show sucked, Fire Fly was full of promise. The characters were complex, the dynamics between them on screen and in script totally effortless, the dialogue was phenomenal and the SFX - well they won awards for the best special effect used on TV.
Joss Whedon says he never really got over this series being pulled and I don't blame him. I mean, what would you do if some clueless fat cat pulled the plug on your magnum opus? Halfway through the first season we were already at a place other TV series takes years to build up to; the rapport between cast members on screen was great and the arcs were all set in place. The potential for this show was amazing; especially with Joss at the wheel.
Luckily, those of us who missed it first time around (myself included) still have a chance to see what all the fuss is about. Why the ship, Serenity, keep popping up in the background of modern day Sc-Fi shows like Battle Star Galactica. Why people still call themselves 'Brown Coats' and what it was about this Emmy winning show that drove fans to raise thousands of pounds, just so they could buy boxsets and have then put on Navy warships.
I'm not going to jump on the band wagon here and give Fire Fly 5 stars - because I didn't "Love It" and, honestly, I don't think it deserves it. Because sadly Fire Fly was swatted out of the sky before it got a chance to really take off and shine. It just never got the chance it deserved. Shame. However, it's still a great show and thoroughly enjoyable.
This Bluray disc has all 14 episodes of the first (and only series) in a good (but slightly less than amazing in parts) Hi-Def, along with some extras featuring cast and crew. The episodes come spread over three discs which means they fit in a single Bluray case and that about sums things up. Except that Fox are idiots. Repeatedly... Seriously, what is with them?
on 5 May 2004
On paper, Firefly sounds like a terrible idea. I could never make it through an episode of either Buffy nor Angel and believed it to all be overrated. Nor was I a fan of dodgy old westerns - however, this series was highly recommended and as I'm always wanting something new to get lost in, I gave it a go.
Time to eat humble pie - Joss Wheldon is a genius. Just when you thought that Babylon 5 and Farscape had pushed the genre to it's creative limits, Firefly turns up and turns the whole thing on it's head. The show is unique, beautifully written with fantastic characters driven by different and contrasting emotions within a very believable future. Huge amounts of praise must also go to the cast who all give great performances. Within 20 minutes of the pilot, you'll fall in love with each and every character - the series has instant appeal which makes Fox's decision to axe it prematurely even more baffling.
With the crew dynamics that helped Blake's 7 and Farscape become overnight successes - Firefly easily matches both shows and each episode is a gem - full of delightful one-liners and sharp dialogue. The artistic look of the show is also very distinctive and ground breaking particularly with regards to how the CGI was put together.
Episodes such as 'Ariel' have that epic Babylon 5 feel to it with a neat twist that most won't see coming and the 'villains' are suitably creepy whilst another returning character will remind some viewers of Dustin Hoffman's German torturer in The Marathon Man.
Having sat through 7 episodes all in one session - I now find myself counting the days until the release of the Firefly movie in 2005.
If you appreciate gritty characters and intelligent stories - give that Voyager boxset a miss and snap up Firefly - you'll love it!
on 6 July 2004
I've been reading excellent reviews for Firefly since it first aired, so I was desperate to get the DVD and check it out for myself. The reviews did it justice; this is an excellent series and I'm really quite annoyed that it was cancelled so quickly!
There is so much to enjoy about this show: it is like the wild west in space with lots of cowboy-like stuff such as six shooters, there are interesting planets visited, (but you wont see an alien anywhere if your worried about it), there are spectacular visual effects of spaceships etc, and very good shoot-outs and brawls. There are several groups of baddies who are all interesting, oh, and you can learn chinese swear words, should you feel the need.
By far and away the most interesting thing about this show though is the characters, nine well rounded and interesting people, as you would expect from Joss Whedon. We have the captain of Serenity, Mal Reynolds, and his second officer Zoe, who survived a war together; her husband Wash pilots the ship, and is the resident joker. Kaylee is the brilliant engineer who says that machines talk to her, and that's how she can fix stuff. The final member of the crew is Jayne, a very large and intimidating mercenary with a habit of naming all his weapons. There are three passengers who come aboard in the pilot episode and gradually become part of the crew; Book, a preacher, and Dr Simon Tam and his sister River, who are now both fugitives after he rescued her from a government project. The last character is Inara, a Companion (high class prostitute) with good connections in high places. A very odd mixture of people, but it works brilliantly!
I strongly recommend this excellent series to everyone, and am itching to see Serenity, the movie follow on which is out in early 2005.
on 10 February 2004
I'm not someone who generally writes reviews for things I've bought on Amazon, but in this case, I wanted to add my voice just in case it makes a difference in Joss Whedon's ongoing battle to get Firefly flying again. There's talk of a possible movie, which I for one would pay good money to see. Captain Tightpants on the big screen....Ok, I'm back.
This series is one of the most enjoyable things I've seen in a long time. I suppose being British I'm used to having to be happy with very few episodes making up a series, and we did at least get 15 here. Still, a full US length series was well deserved based on the quality of the episodes on the DVD.
The idea of a Space Western is not new - Star Wars has been described as such - but I've never seen the idea taken so literally. Firefly is the Wild West set in space. It's an odd premise and takes some getting used to, but really makes sense when you think about it.
The stories are top notch, the dialogue fast paced and funny and the characters are three dimensional and really draw you in. There's little of the po faced formality of the Star Trek franchise. The crew of Firefly are flying by the seat of their pants, and you really see their enjoyment in that way of life.
Also, despite his loathsomeness as Caleb in Buffy, I have developed rather a crush on Nathan Fillion as Mal Reynolds, Aka Captain Tight-pants. Or Captain No-pants in the unaired episode Trash.
I give this box set the highest recommendation. If you've enjoyed the trademark dialogue from Joss Whedon's Buffy and Angel series, then I hope you'll enjoy Firefly too.
I have the Region 1 DVD, so I'm not sure what extras will come with the region 2 version, but if they are the same ones, they are good value. There are a number of commentaries, including ones with Joss Whedon and with Nathan Fillion, and a couple of featurettes. There's also an easter egg with Adam Baldwin singing "The man they call Jayne" from the episode Jaynestown in which the ruthless mercenary discovers that he has been made into a folk hero with his very own ballad. Just hilarious.
on 31 May 2004
Spanish TV has never been famous for treating series fans with respect. In the last years, I have witnessed how classic fan-series like Buffy, Angel, Alias, West Wing and others have been massacred or treated without any respect by Spain's totally insane TV programmers.
Being a fan of Joss Whedon's work in Buffy and Angel (thank God for cable TV), I started hearing a lot of buzz about his new series, a space-western called Firefly. My hopes of seeing it in my country's TV vanished when I heard about the cancellation.
I fly frequently to the UK for work, and in one of my latest trips I saw the Firefly boxset. Desperate for something good to watch on TV (and that excludes regular programming), I decided to buy it and give it a try.
Boy, was I right...
The show has all the Whedon trademarks: witty dialogues, great characters (first and foremost Nathan Fillion's great Captain Mal Reynolds)and what was beginning to be a great story arc. Episodes range from suspenseful to directly funny, with bittersweet moments in between (if you have seen Buffy or Angel, you know the trade...)
The DVD quality is outstanding, image and sound (2.0 Stereo only)well done, and with a fair amount of extras. After watching all the episodes, you'll also enjoy the making of featurette which shows you how much everyone involved in the production of the series cared for it.
All together, 14 plus hours of good television that leave you craving for more. I just sincerely hope that the movie that it is being done now becomes a great success and somehow makes some justice to a good series that fell under the blade of dumb rating-crazy TV executives. Once more, Against all laws of evolution, not always the good survive (Wonderfalls, anyone?).
on 30 August 2004
Even constant praise for this series couldn't dent my enthusiasm for it when I saw it in its entirety, that and giving me the feeling that a) it'd been made just for me and b) that I'd struck gold.
I knew Buffy, knew Angel, and loved 'em both. I still wasn't expecting Firefly to be this good.
Edgy, witty characters - hinting at more revelations and fractious behaviour to have followed the curtailment of the series; stories that generally do what Whedon tales are expected to do (i.e. the unexpected); hints at an arc which doesn't yet have a chance to get in the way of things but nevertheless has promise; nice, dirty, elegant ship - nice, dirty elegant special effects.
Oh, and yes, despite cowboys and reevers and all: it's thoughtful, hard-edged sci-fi.
If you're reading this as a 40th review, I'll do no better at convincing you than any of the others. I'm just adding a well deserved 5 stars to the total before I go and watch the whole goredamned thing again.
on 7 March 2004
I had my doubts about the wisdom of blending western (a genre I don't particularly fancy) with sci-fi, but as this show had Joss Whedon (of Toy Story, Angel and Buffy fame) at the helm I had to check it out - and I'm almost sorry I did. You get drawn into this series incredibly fast, it's over far too soon and you're left with an insatiable hunger for more. And not just me - this is one show (the only, I think) my husband and I are equally fascinated by.
There are too many aspects I love about this show to list them all, but let me highlight a few:
Firefly is a small space ship, smuggling and doing odd jobs under the radar of the Alliance, the rulers of this fulture world. That's how the Firefly crew get to meet high and low in the different worlds. But most of the time, the ship is just travelling in the empty space between worlds, just a tiny fleck in the void. This solitude yet beauty of space is conveyed better here than in any other sci-fi series where the usual impression is that you can't turn your ship in a new direction without bumping into other space crafts or inhabited planets. It also puts the focus solidly on the interaction between the characters, which brings me to the next point.
The people aboard Firefly are real people, with their strong and weak points, hopes and fears, world view and difficult decisions. The way they're disclosed to the viewer through their reactions to the different worlds Firefly visits, the problems they face and even more to each other is the show's strongest attraction, puntuated by the sparkling dialogue. This is really what makes you weep for Fox's foolish decision to kill this beauty before it was fully matured. I miss the people!
Firefly's world spans from the high tech you expect from a science fiction to the grit you know from a western and both are equally engaging and real to the watcher. The judicious use of handheld camera draws you into the world, but doesn't distract. Colours are used to great effect to signal the different worlds the crew move in - the yellow of the high noon prairie, the blue of high tech facilities and the deep empty blackness of space.
Firefly is an awesome show. I can't wait to see the movie, and my dearest hope is that the movie will spawn a series. Firefly is a thoroughly adult show with all the best things from Whedon's other shows - Buffy and Angel: The witty yet poignant dialogue, the way the characters' inner life is brought out in the main plot, the unexpected twists and turns of a great story arc. Get it at your own risk - you'll be sorry when it's over!
on 31 May 2005
like the majority, I thought that this series was fantasitic. A lot of time and effort was spent in developing the characters, involving the viewer in their lives and hopes/dreams. Set in the future, the socio-economic environment centres around the disparity between the core worlds (all high tech with the expected lasers and sonic weapons) and the former independant settler worlds with their lower tech (when the laser rifle breaks, what do you do if you cannot buy another? Find a lower tech solution - a point perhaps missed in one of the reviews ;-).)
Well written, well cast and idiotically dropped from US network TV, Firefly stands out as the best that Joss Whedon has produced (blows away Buffy and much of Angel for its feel and characterisation).