Words: James Ekron
“Ain’t no force in the ‘verse.”
Josh Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Avengers) is a man who knows what a nerd wants. With bearded confidence, he stumbles from cultural vein to cultural vein causing cult followings with a flick of his pen. Firefly is his attempt at telling an “immigrant story” in the future of space travel and, as per usual, he’s Whe’done it again. Sadly, to become invested in Firefly is to marry a corpse bride as the show was infamously truncated to a single season and unceremoniously capped with the feature film ‘Serenity’. It’s a depressing and rewarding viewing experience for the die-hard fan who would rather love and lose than never love at all.
In 2517 our observable Universe is policed by a world government known as ‘The Alliance’ – an abundantly cheesy term which is par for the course in a series about space cowboys. Against this evil is an ensemble cast of Captain, Pilot, Doctor, Preacher, Companion, Reader, Mercenary and Mechanic who choose piracy over working for the Man in a Firefly-class ship named ‘Serenity’. There is the usual trope of a rebellion for independence from The Alliance because, according to Whedonism, human society would not have encountered alien races yet and the same prevailing moral and social conditions of today would appear in the future.
By telling a character driven story in the future of accessible space travel the show makes for an odd and, yet, explainable mix of horseback missions and spaceship getaways. For the nerd who spends 14 episodes and a full-length feature film watching the crew steal and avoid getting cuffed there is a huge payoff. The show even instills fear at the Reavers who, as Gina Torres (Suits, Hannibal) says, “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.”
Sadly, the show was cancelled practically mid season. Some found the mix of Wild West and Star Trek too “jarring” and “forced” to gain the kind of widespread fan base that kept the series on for multiple seasons. What was touted as an action- adventure comedy (which the show does stumble across in the brilliant dialogue afforded to Nathan Fillion) is more of a series which people in 2517 would have written for themselves. Take the scenes shot outside of spaceships, for example, there is no sound played during those scenes as space is a vacuum from which no sound escapes. Every Trekkie phaser or torpedo you ‘heard’ was impossible and that appeal to fandom with an authenticity to sound waves in space is laudable.
Ultimately, the show was cancelled and, despite its cult following and pop culture prevalence without relevance, it is not likely to return. Whedon has said that, regarding the cancellation, his feelings on the matter have “passed vindication a long time ago” as the shows respect for the truth behind their characters stories and the ability to genuinely surprise its audience has ensured its own little corner of the internet. The film, Serenity, similarly adds and takes away enough from the events following the final episode to give the invested viewer a satisfying conclusion – it was voted the Best Sci-Fi Movie of All Time in a SFX Magazine online poll.
The show received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects and has been added to the DVD collection for astronauts on the International Space Station. Not only does the dialogue have the quick verve of Whedon-speak – “I swear by my pretty floral bonnet I will end you” – but the show will not cower to median viewers who are unprepared to mix their themes into a single series – “you throw a monkey wrench in my dealings in any way, your body is forfeit.” This is not Han Solo on the Millennium Falcon, this comes from the mind of a person who is trying to predict how much society is going to be changed in the future. Apparently, not much. But the spaceships that take us there look incredibly cool.