Truly one of the best shows of the last few years, better than Stargate, Enterprise, even Angel, it absolutely blows them all out of the water. Criminally limited to 13 episodes (one of which was double length) the show managed to come up with a truly believable group of characters in an original and credible universe. More a western in space than Star Trek ever managed it also brings in strong elements from eastern cultures, including mandarin swearing and geishas. For the most part the technology is very limited as the series focusses on border worlds where surviving is a struggle involving livestock, smuggling and gunfights. However every now and then a glimpse of future technology appears reminding us that it is set in the future after all. Oh and of course the spaceship. The style is very interesting, intentional loss of focus and steadiness (even on cgi shots) brings the audience right in to the action and little things like the absence of sound in space add an extra layer of realism.
As with most Joss Whedon shows though, it’s all about the people. The 9 residents of the Firefly Serenity are a random bunch of people who’ve fallen together, each with a different core role to play and way of interacting with the others, the cast loved working on this series, and it really shows.
The writing is typical of a Whedon show, entertaining and witty while making occasional deep and meaningful comment (particularly Objects in Space which works just as well as a philosophical statement as it does a Bounty Hunter tale). The characters are all natural and get a fairly good balance of screentime even in the limited run. There aren’t really any stand-out episodes, they’re all superb and varied, from the A-Team caper of Ariel, the excellent pilot Serenity, the flashback episode Out of Gas… the list is only limited by the networks short sighted stupidity cancelling the show.
DVD Special Features
First and foremost the dvd has the episodes in the original order with the pilot at the beginning not the end! This is invaluable for the character development and gives you a much better idea of what the show was about. Also the episodes are broadcast in the intended wide screen, showing some really beautiful framing in places. The packaging is also very pretty with a funky double size dvd case type thing.
The special features are fairly numerous. 6 commentaries including the double episode are all interesting listens, although it took me a while to find them under “language options”. They range from Nathon Fillion and Alan Tudyk’s hilarious take on War Stories through to Joss Whedon’s philosophical discussion of Objects in Space. Shining through these and the documentary is the sense of pride and fun that the cast and crew had working on the show and there’s more than a few snide remarks about the cancellation.
The two features on the making of the show and the ship are very interesting and just about everybody gets a word in somewhere (including Kelly who some may be familiar with from the official website). The other features are fairly mindless filler, nice enough, but nothing special. The out-takes are funny, but sadly not the full collection that have been available on the web. It’s a shame there wasn’t more of the stuff that’s been available on the web, but what is there is still vastly superior to what you get on most other box sets. I’m glad that a cancelled show got such a loving treatment as this.