While I’m writing (too much) about TV I may as well write about why Firefly was So Damn Awesome. It’s also timely as actor and Cap’n Nathan Fillion recently dreamed out loud in a TV interview about how he would relaunch the program if he won a gazillion dollars (or some such).
I know maybe some of you will be going ‘fire-what-now’ or ‘huh’, but spare me a moment.
Unlike much of Joss Whedon’s work, Firefly was about adults, for adults. Sure there was adventure and violence, a spaceship and guns, in dual languages, in a western future featuring a troubled girl with special abilities, but it was about stuff. Stuff that matters.
Firefly, without being preachy, dealt with how people cope with trauma and hardship, it was about how adults deal with being ‘Independent’ in a ‘verse battling with the sometimes questionable benefits of ‘corporate-like’ conformity and the need for self-fulfillment and (dangerous?) individual identity.
Sure the program had issues. Like how a ship seen from the outside could be rotating or upside down, but inside, it was the right way up and motionless (I’m aware up and down are relative in space, but my telly has an up and down and so does the story.) Also, where were the Chinese actors in this bi-cultural experiment.
It conflated genres. Some think the western sci-fi thing did/did not work because of the companions with the heart of gold trope, or because they saw Zoe’s role as a soldier and as unique and therefore only remarkable in that way. I choose to see Inara as empowered enough to take control of her life and business and to use her ‘wiles’ as she wants. Zoe as a ‘warrior woman’ is not remarkable for being a soldier – it was clear in the Battle of Serenity Valley there were other female soldiers. What makes her remarkable is Zoe’s dual loyalties to the Cap’n and her husband. And also how she must feel/deal going from honourable career soldier to a member of the A Team from Space, only less legit.
Most of all I like the show for having a Cap’n that isn’t Star Trek noble and brave. For Kaylee’s open physicality – she is interested in the material world – engines, food and dancing with boys. I like how she and Inara are friends and how Zoe is not like them – nor wants to be. I like Wash’s jealousy and how he doesn’t understand how much Zoe loves him. I like how Jayne is innocent and corrupt. I like how they – even in so few episodes – change through experience and how they react to Simon, Book and Whedon’s Signature Special Girl. I love how a bounty hunter with mental health issues demands an existential discourse from his captives – and gets it. I love how the ‘verse has a shape, has detail and colour and, gorram it, an idiom of its own.
Physics says in space, smaller objects gravitate to larger ones so the crew gravitates to the Cap’n, not just because he owns the ship and is the patriarch (in a good-ish way), but because he holds them together. I like how each of the characters not only reflects aspects of the Cap’n and what he has lost in war and in the trail of disappointments since but also because his crew and passengers ultimately hold Malcolm Reynolds together.
In short I like how each character is really a complex person in a 3D ‘verse, dealing with life and death matters, sometimes badly, sometimes with gunplay and sometimes with clever nobility and ‘thrilling heroics’. How often do these kinda things come along?
I believe it’s due to the imagination – the writing and how it was envisioned – that Mr Fillion, among others, would want to return, or even dream it. It’s why fans still speak of it. It’s why there was a film sequel and a series of graphic novels.