Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic
howeird

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Firefly

First of all, thanks to scendan for pointing me at this series. It is superb, excellent, exciting, well-acted, mostly well-written and mostly great special effects. I can see her playing Kaylee, the eternal optimist with some amazing non-traditional skills. And IMHO they are cute in the same kind of way.

I have two big gripes about the series, and one little one:

1. The (to me) jarring hillbilly fiddle music used between scenes. It's just so out of character for a deep-space sci-fi drama. Save it for Seinfeld. I hope Serenity found someone like John Williams to score for them, not Boxcar Willie.

2. Browncoats as the hero underdog revolutionaries. I grew up when Hitler's Brownshirts were still fresh in people's minds. Brown is traditionally the color of fascists, third world murder squads and minor league civil servants the world over, not to mention the US Army. Change them to Greencoats and I'd be a lot more comfortable.

3. Chinese. At random, unpredictable moments, the characters on the ship speak some not very standard Chinese phrases. None of them are ethnically Chinese. Most are white, two are black. None of the Bad Guys are ethnically Chinese - they are also mostly white. You would think that in a future where people are speaking Chinese phrases as if it was their native language, there would be at least one Chinese entity somewhere in the script. I speak about the 10 most popular Mandarin phrases, and have not heard any of them yet on Firefly. Something's wrong here. The producer's name is Joss Whedon. Joss is Chinese for "luck", but apparently his parents call him Joe, and he looks like this:

Until I got the DVD, I had been misreading his name as "Josh".


Other than that, I'm just shocked and amazed I had not heard a word about this beautiful show before. Where and when was it broadcast that I managed to miss it so completely?


The cast:
Nathan Fillion Capt. Malcolm 'Mal' Reynolds
Morena Baccarin Inara Serra
Adam Baldwin Jayne Cobb
Ron Glass Shepherd Book
Summer Glau River Tam
Sean Maher Dr. Simon Tam
Jewel Staite Kaywinnit Lee 'Kaylee' Frye
Gina Torres Zoë Warren
Alan Tudyk Hoban 'Wash' Washburn


Firefly is about a group of former revolutionaries who have their butts kicked by The Alliance at the battle of Serenity Valley. They acquire a Firefly-class transport spaceship, name it Serenity, and use it mostly to rob from the Alliance and sell to the black market. The script alludes to occasional forays into legal trading, but the first three episodes only show their crime spree. Legal trading doesn't make such good copy.

Capt. Mal runs the ship, Fillion does an acceptable job of Harrison Ford cloning. There's even a scene in the third episode which reminded me of that Indiana Jones classic where he throws down his bullwhip and shoots the guy with the scimitar. Except in Firefly there was no whip or sword. Same feel to the scene, though. He's the Strong Silent type, only with more lines.

Inara is a professional "companion", aka high-priced hooker. She rents the Firefly's shuttle, and uses it as her boudoir both when aboard the ship and when out on one of the planets, entertaining customers. Baccarin is incredibly beautiful, and has the kind of class and demeanor one would expect of her character.

Jayne represents the Boy Named Sue of the crew. He's the ugly, mean professional hit man type, and Baldwin has him down to a T. The character is smart enough to be thoroughly scary.

Shepherd Book, a Man of the Cloth who says he's two days out of a life in the monastery, is awfully tolerant and worldly, so who knows? Mystery abounds in the series' characters. I like it. Glass hauls out his best Morgan Freeman for this role, with a hint of Lou Gosset Jr.

River is this genius psychic psychotic woman-child whose brother Simon has rescued her from a Bad Place the Alliance was holding her to experiment on. Lines in the script prepare us for a true genius hidden behind her nightmares, but unfortunately we see 99% nightmares in the first episodes. Glau is amazing in this role, but I want to see more bursts of genius. Her brother Simon, a medical doctor on the run, is one of the weaker characters. Maybe it's the way Maher plays him, maybe it's because Whedon got up one morning and said "we need some vehicle to get River on board Firefly" and created Simon as an after-thought, then decided to keep the character because every tramp transport needs a highly-trained third-in-his-graduating-class trauma specialist in their infirmary.

Zoe the Warrior Woman is basically a black Buffy the Vampire Slayer except she plays second fist to Mal. She's on all the "away teams" and does a little too much javelin-catching for my taste. Torres is very good in the role of fighter, but needs to work on her sexy side. She has some great lines aimed at husband Wash, but the delivery is not as seductive as the words are. Wash is the weakest character, and I think it's a combination of the writing and the acting. Tudyk has a look of lost in the big world some of the time, and as pilot I would have hoped for more strength in his part. On the other hand, how boring would it be if all the characters were stronger than dirt?

Not on the main list, but who impressed me very much in the "Bushwhacked" episode was Doug Savant, playing Commander Harken, the commander of the Alliance ship/fortress. Imagine a young Jean-Luc, and remind yourself that although in Firefly The Alliance are the bad guys, Picard works for The Federation which is their analog. I've seen him as Tom in Desperate Housewives and the difference in characters is extreme. His part is written from the point of view that a highly intelligent man is doing the best job he knows how for a cause he knows is right. It's just that in this version of the space universe, the rebels are sympatico, not the Feds.

Yes, I skipped Kaylee. I wanted to save her for last because I think she's the center of the show, no matter how few and far between her lines are. Staite is adorable. Her smile just lights up my heart. She gets many of the best lines, but it's not the words as much as the attitude she brings to them. As ship's mechanic, she's the polar opposite of Scotty - you'll never hear her "doing the best I can, captain". More likely to hear Mal suggest she figure out how to invent the hyperspace drive, and she'll smile and say something like "That's such a shiny idea, captain, I've always wanted to invent one of those".



Now I know what all the fuss is about...
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