Starring: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Ron Glass, Morena Baccarin,
Genre: Space Opera
First Aired: 2002-2003
A long time ago, there was a little show that couldn’t. Though beloved by fans, a falling out between producers and broadcasters led to its cancellation during the filming of the first season. Despite this, it remains one of the most-loved and revered shows in the history of science fiction television. The question, for someone who has never seen it, does it still hold up nearly two decades later?
The short answer is yes. This show is absolutely brilliant and deserves all the praise it gets. The long answer is as follows:
Firefly has a reputation as the original space western. Now, I’d always thought that was thematic. A group of smugglers and shady individuals roaming around the wilderness taking on odd jobs? Sure, i can see how that’s a western. This assumption lasted about five minutes into watching the show. Because it’s not thematic. It’s literal. This is a universe where bandits on horseback exist alongside planetary bombardments. Where spaceships swoop out of the sun and stage train robberies. Where every other planet is a dust bowl with saloons and brothels, while others are urbanised metropolises, and capital ships the size of cities fly through the dark of space. No real explanation is given for the difference in technology from one scene to the next, though it’s likely the Alliance restricts technology and others cannot afford the investment. But then there’s an episode where River is nearly burned at the stake as a witch. It really shouldn’t work, but somehow it does.
Firefly wears its heart on its dirty sleeves, and it has one of the best casts in the genre. There are a lot of people crowded onto the good ship Serenity, and it’s a testament to the writers that not one of them feels underused. I could happily sit through an hour focused on any one of them. This being only a first season, there’s little development in the characters, but they all feel like real, well-rounded individuals. Even if I don’t understand how Jayne still has a job after everything he does. Nevertheless, there are plenty of hints at secrets being held by the members of the crew, and it’s a crying shame that few of these hints ever amounted to anything in the show’s short run. Had it run for longer, I’m sure it would have been even more well-regarded.
For all the minor niggles and inconsistencies in the world-building, the ‘Verse feels lived in. From the shiny chrome of the Alliance, to the bloodstained decking of the Reavers, it all feels tangible. Grounded. But above all else, this series is fun. There are dark moments, for sure, but it’s always tempered by a joke The witticisms for which Joss Whedon is famous are in full force here. You’ll never laugh more at someone being kicked into an engine. Yet this isn’t a comedy. It’s just people using humour to get by in a brutal world, the way we all do.
Firefly‘s legacy is undeniable. Without it I doubt there would be much of what we see in the genre today. Dark Matter, Killjoys, The Expanse, none of it would have become as popular without Firefly to blaze a trail. And even if those shows have taken the space western formula and improved on it, the progenitor is still worth a look. Firefly changed science fiction televiosn for the better, forever, and for that we owe everyone involved a huge thank you.