Even just the mention of Joss Whedon’s hit television show Firefly, a science-fiction/steampunk series set 500 years in the future, often times sparks emotions from the show’s fans that may make them want to hunt down the FOX big wigs and string them up by their toes. After all, even after ten years the show’s fan base has done nothing but grow. But why? What is it that makes this show so popular? Well, I’m here to inform you:
Firstly, you may be asking “what the hell is Firefly?” Well let me begin by saying shame on you for not watching! Hopefully, by the end of this post you’ll be convinced that it most certainly is worth watching. The show’s description says “Five hundred years in the future, a renegade crew aboard a small spacecraft tries to survive as they travel the unknown parts of the galaxy and evade warring factions as well as authority agents out to get them.” But, it’s so much more than that. It is about family, trust, doing whatever it takes to survive, and not taking the small things for granted.
There are many other facets to Firefly that make it an exceptional show. The first being Whedon’s amazing writing. Even back when he was writing Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the characters had a witty, yet serious way about them. Whedon has a way of making his characters, even the bad ones, as likeable as the main protagonists—a skill which I both envy and, in my own way, try to emulate in my own writing. If you don’t want to take my word for it, consider this: Whedon worked as a script doctor on several films. According to www.biography.com, Whedon doctored scripts for Toy Story, Alien: Resurrection, and Waterworld. However, according to the article, Whedon disliked his work, saying “I was wealthy and miserable. I never had less fun succeeding at a job in my life.” But liking the work or not, you have to be damn good at your job to be able to doctor up other people’s scripts.
In fact, one of my personal favorite lines from Firefly is in the pilot episode. Captain Malcom “Mal” Reynolds (Nathan Fillion, whom you may know from the current television series Castle), says to Simon Tam (Sean Maher), a stowaway doctor traveling with is genius sister, River Tam (Summer Glau), “You don’t know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake, you’ll be facing me, and you’ll be armed.” To which Simon replies, “Are you always this sentimental?” It has, as I said earlier, a certain wit and seriousness to it that makes it so quote-worthy, and makes that quote, and many others, stick in your mind.
Another particularly interesting part of the Firefly universe are the Companions. In our present-day universe, prostitution is illegal and labels you as a sketchy individual. One minute you’re pulling your car up to the corner with a potentially sticky woman leaning in your passenger window, and the next you’re sitting in a jail cell with a rather large and potentially sticky man. However, this isn’t the case in Firefly. Whedon has created a universe where prostitutes, who are referred to as Companions. (Unless you’re Captain Mal, in which case you refer to them as “whores” while maintaining an almost awkward sexual tension with Inara Serra [Morena Baccarin], the companion on your ship). In the Firefly universe, Inara provides Mal’s ship—a small “firefly” class cargo ship called “Serenity”—with a certain credibility. While the crew is out looking for jobs and other—more often than not illegal—tasks to make them some money, Inara is looking for customers on whom to use her seductive art—a skill they are taught in a sort of Companion school, sort of giving the ship a reason to be there.
But it’s not all just being scoundrels and running from the law and the Alliance. Things are much darker on the fringes of space. There are the Reavers lurking in the distance. Little is known about them except what is only heard through rumors. They can be best described through an interaction between Simon and Zoe (Gina Torres)–wife to the pilot, Wash (Alan Tudyk), and Mal’s fellow Browncoat—named for the brown coats the rebels wore during the war with the Alliance:
Zoe: You’ve never heard of Reavers?
Simon: Well, campfire stories of men gone savage on the edge of space, killing and—
Zoe: They’re not stories.
Simon: What happens if they board us?
Zoe: If they take the ship they’ll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing. And if we’re very, very lucky, they’ll do it in that order.
But these are just a few of the amazing things that Firefly has to offer. There are so many more characters who are deep and complex, even in the simplest of ways that make them likeable. Whether it’s Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), the ships hired muscle, doing anything as long as it pays, even possibly betraying Captain Mal; or even Kaylee (Jewel Statie), the carefree and too-nice mechanic who can fix just about anything. The show is well worth watching, and was absolutely finished too soon. Even ten years after its conclusion, fans still suit up as Browncoats and beg for the show’s return.
Written by: Chris Stocking