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!
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 sore 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, keeps 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, they are idiots. Over and over again... Seriously, what is with them?
on 4 May 2006
...But it does. Brilliantly, triumphantly.
Without knowing about Firefly at all, I saw Serenity at the cinema and was sniffy about it - sure, it was inventive and amusing, and I enjoyed it, but I wasn't sure about all this western/sci-fi hoopla at all. I didn't know the universe. I didn't "get" it. Then a friend (cheers Tome!) urged me to watch Firefly and leant me the DVD. I devoured all 14 episodes avidly, in less than half a week. Suddenly I understood.
It's genius. It's grown-up sci-fi for the 21st century, when we barely know right from wrong, no longer know what or who the hell to believe, or who to trust. Serenity's crew of war vets, refugees, misfits and one courtesan have to rely on their own judgement, or on each other. If that makes it sound preachy, it isn't. It's hilarious, deft, exhilarating, and inspires love and loyalty in anyone who gives it airtime. Created by Joss Whedon, of Buffy fame, it's hard to believe the series was cancelled, surely an act of short-sighted and audience-despising stupidity if ever there was one.
The crew of Serenity are beautifully and warmly depicted by writers and cast, and they are human. The clever plots range from caper action to witty humour to poignant scenes of trouble and loss. There's Never a Dull Moment, but the show isn't afraid to slow the action for sublime reflection. Just when you think you know where an episode is going, Joss Whedon throws in a twist from left-field, and you feel like applauding the screen. The plotting and dialogue are never less than brilliant. Even the weaker shows (there are a couple) remain head and shoulders above the benchmark of most other TV series.
If you crave superior entertainment which is funny, inspiring, moving, dramatic and, above all, peopled by folks you can care about and root for, then do yourself a huge favour - buy Firefly and Serenity right now and tell all your friends.
The disc has nice extras including some fascinating and amusing commentaries by writer and cast, and all too short featurettes that leave you hungry for more. With the deal Amazon are offering, you can't go wrong. It will be the best few squid you can spend this summer.
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.
on 27 January 2006
Okay, so there are lots of reviews of this show here, virtually all giving five stars. Science fiction fanatics one and all you might say, but there's something very special about Firefly, so I'll try to explain.
The way I see it, every science fiction series that I've ever seen (and believe me, I've seen a few, dating right back to the original Star Trek and Space 1999, right up to Babylon 5 and Farscape), has been created for people who like watching, well, science fiction series. Stands to reason.
But not Firefly. Firefly was created for everyone to watch and enjoy. Heck, even if you hate watching anything to do with science fiction, (which is understandable), after watching just the pilot episode of this series you'll begin to understand what a unique series this really is. Infact you'll forget you're watching a science fiction show. Why? Because even though this show is set 500 years from now, almost everything about life is the same. The rich are still rich, and the poor are still poor. Everybody has the same problems they have now, find a job that pays well enough, take care of your family, put food on the table and keep your transport fueled up and in repair.
So, what shines most about this show? Virtually everything, I have to say, but it's clearly obvious that all of the cast and film crew loved filming and being part of this show so much, it shows in every single episode.
Firefly is a show that you will grow very attached to indeed very quickly, just be prepared for the fact that the last episode is just that, the last.
On the upside, 'Serenity' the big screen continuation of Firefly is released at the end of February. Though how long it will be before we see the crew fly again no body really knows.
on 17 March 2006
This is fantastic - an instant addiction AND a grower ... by which I mean that you will immediately love it, and then you will watch it again and love it immeasurably more. The performances are all really nicely judged, the writing is excellent, the stories are very good, and varied too. Some programs work well with a rigid formula but this doesn't have one. The cast are the formula I guess, with their developing relationships and interesting characters and revealed backgrounds giving the plot a shape in each episode.
Genuinely terrifying, exciting moments, seriously funny plots and gags. It's also a very complete vision of a future 'verse with complex history, wars and battles, outlaws, degenerates and heroes, and where the people cuss in Chinese.
It is all just so likeable. Everything about this is fine, classy, touching, exciting. Ingenious. Genius.
on 4 May 2006
We purchased this series on recommendation of friends. We had order the Serenity DVD from Amazon Rental and they suggested we watch the series before the film. Wow, what an original idea, a blend of Wild West and Space SciFi with NO Aliens? We tried to pace our viewing as there are only 14 episodes!, but ended up watching them all in a month. We then watched the film and must agree that understanding the story of Firefly only adds to the enjoyment of the film. How the US network could still cancel after only 1 series I'll never know! 'Serenity' only partly satisfies the inevitable desire for further series.
If you think you would enjoy original Sci Fi with a Wild West twist or enjoyed 'Serenity' then buy it - you will not be disappointed.
on 12 October 2004
Unlike some other reviewers, I was never a big Buffy or Angel fan (it was ok, but not something I watched every week). I like my spaceships, you see. After Farscape's cancellation, all we were left with was the insipid Enterprise and the fun but cheap Andromeda. So when I heard about Firefly I was instantly intrigued, especially since it had been cancelled (as had happened to the brilliant Farscape). So I pre-ordered and recieved the box on day of release. I didn't leave the house for 4 days. Superb stuff - a nicely and subtley realised world, great characters (especially Jayne), great effects (no sound in space. Top!), snappy script, brilliant acting, and NO MESSING. There's no pussyfooting around, no moral quibbling about defending yourself, don't leave the bad guys alive to get you next time. I loved Farscape, and still do, but I love Firefly more! At least, its first 14 episodes are better than the first 14 of 'Scape. It hits the ground running, and keeps going, til its premature end. And it gets rounded off nicely, letting you get introduced to the characters and hinting at future story arcs. This show isn't about plot, at least not yet (we'll see what the movie turns up next year), its about character and interaction and charm and above all fantastic acting! And it doesn't wear out. I've watched every episode at least a dozen times and evangelised it successfully to a dozen friends. You do the same!
on 2 March 2006
... i'm tempted to reappraise my view concerning his work.
We all remember seeing Star Wars for the first time right?
Myself, a 7yr old in the Odean on Oxford Rd, Manchester.
Well, watching this made me feel just as good. If not better. Cracking dialogue, bags of character driven storyline and modest fx that don't detract from the viewing pleasure.
No way should this have been cancelled and just goes to show that those who control tv have no idea what they're doing.
on 12 February 2006
Science fiction, comedy, western? My mind went straight to the travesty that was 'Wild Wild West' when I first heard that premise. Buffy and Angel were ok for the occasional episode, but they never really appealed to me. I bought this set before Serentity came out, and haven't regretted it.
This is a series with a great ensemble of actors playing well written roles. Nine characters, each with their own stories, personalities, goals and destinations. Each actor seems to have nailed his/her role, and the interaction between the cast suggests they had incredible fun on the set whilst making this series. It's a pleasure to watch for this alone.
The plots in this first series tend to all be well above average, even if there are only 1 or 2 'must see' episodes in the entire series. That said, this is a show with a definite 'heart,' and watching it did remind me of the 1st season of Babylon 5 - you could see it had the potential for something greater but during the 1st season, it was still finding its feet.
Overall, if you're looking for 'hard' science fiction, look elsewhere. If you're just looking for a fun, well acted television show with warm characters, then you could do a lot worse.
<i>The family of the twenty-first century is made up of friends, not relatives</i>