DVD review from The Movie Snob
Joss Whedon’s Firefly: The Complete Series. I have owned this thing for a long time, but I only recently got around to watching it. I enjoyed the movie Serenity a lot, and there were only 14 episodes, so I don’t know why it took me so long.
The set-up in the pilot episode is promising. Five hundred years in the future, man has colonized a fair amount of space. A central government called the Alliance arose, a civil war erupted, and the Alliance won. After the armistice, one of the defeated rebels, Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion, Waitress), acquired a transport ship called the Millennium Falcon–er, I mean, Serenity, and now he and his small crew scrounge a semi-legal living out on the fringe of Alliance space. Life on the frontier is remarkably similar to the American Old West, and although there are laser guns and mechanical transports around, six-shooters and horses are more prevalent. In addition to Serenity‘s crew of five, we add a licensed Companion (a courtesan or geisha type) named Inara who rents a small shuttle from Mal, plus a “Shepherd” or monkish type named Book and the brother-sister duo of Simon and River Tam. Simon and River are on the run from the Alliance, which makes life difficult for Mal but also makes it difficult for him to turn his back on them.
There’s a lot to like about the show. For example, everybody’s favorite Star Wars character is Han Solo, and Mal Reynolds is basically what Han Solo would have become if the Empire had defeated the Rebellion at the end of Episode VI. Also, there are two potential shipboard romances. There’s the relatively uncomplicated one between Simon, who’s a brilliant doctor from a wealthy family, and cute-as-a-button Kaylee, the ship’s engineer. And there’s the more complicated one between Mal and Inara. Han Solo would never have put up with Princess Leia’s becoming a gal for hire, and Inara’s line of work doesn’t sit well with Mal either. That’s one of the more interesting, if confusing, aspects of the Firefly milieu. How well does this whole Companion system really work? Mal is not the only character who refers to Companions by another, less classy name when he gets riled up about something, and Shepherd Book is obviously a little disconcerted by the lovely Inara. (By the way, it’s a kick to see old Ron Glass from Barney Miller as Book.)
The episodes are sort of a mixed bag–some good, some sort of indifferent. I think what makes me give the series less than a whole-hearted endorsement is that a few of the episodes have scenes that are just too dark or gruesome. I had little experience with Whedon’s famous brainchild Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but my very limited exposure to that show gave me the same impression about it. There’s an episode of Firefly in which a couple of series regulars get captured by a bad guy and tortured pretty severely right on screen. And another in which one of the female cast members is threatened with rape in a very brutal yet matter-of-fact fashion. To my mind, the episodes without this kind of material were much better than the ones with it. You should definitely screen each episode before you decide to let young children watch.
Guess that’s about it. Watch for a young Zac Efron (High School Musical 3: Senior Year) guest appearance as a young version of Simon Tam. Also, an attractive actress who guested on the show twice, Christina Hendricks, apparently now appears on Mad Men.
Finally, I’ll plug the movie Serenity again for anyone who enjoys Star Wars or Star Trek; to my mind it was sort of a blend of the two. It is rated PG-13, I think primarily for violence, but for some reason it didn’t turn me off the way some of Firefly did. But my friend The Borg Queen, who yields to no one in her fondness of SW and ST, found Serenity kind of disturbing, so I guess it’s hard to predict these things.