As I am not a television watcher, the Firefly/Serenity Series had slipped by under my radar for the past 3-4 years. Over the past week, my wife Susan and I have been ending our days with episodes from the ephemeral 2002-03 Firefly Television series. My confidence that our era can still tell science fiction stories has been restored, and special credit goes to Joss Whedon, the series' creator, for this accomplishment!
Firefly tells the story of a ragtag band of space voyageurs, and in this sense, owes its genesis in large part to the initial Star Wars series (to which Whedon attributes much of his inspiration). However, Firefly accomplishes a subtlety of execution which is seldom encountered in dramatized science fiction. Rather than say more here, let me simply share with you my Amazon.ca reviews for both Firefly (the televised series) and Serenity (the culminating cinematic episode).
Firefly - Incredible TV Fare
I am not a television watcher, and so it took me over 3 years after cancellation to discover this incredible television science fiction series. Yes, the episodes are 43 minutes in length, and thus you know that resolution is drawing near as the time winds down with each episode. But this is science fiction for television as I had never imagined it.
Firefly is classic science fiction story-telling first, and television second.
What sticks with me? When River steps barefoot onto the metal deck connecting two ships in space, I received a sensory impression of life in space as it might someday be lived. Warm give-and-take discussion over the plain wooden table in the ship's galley is only one more of perhaps hundreds of subtle touches that evoke the possibility of life in this imagined future world (set arbitrarily 500 years away).
Clearly the fiction outweighs the science (quantum gravity has clearly been solved in the "Out of Gas" episode). And there is plenty of action for those who nod off at cognitive content. But this is a creditable contribution to dramatized science fiction. The movie sequel Serenity has just been identified in a BBC poll as the best science fiction movie overall, and - at least for our era - that is certainly the case.
Move over Star Wars. This series is superior even to the original Star Wars episodes. I am not a connoisseur of televised science fiction, but it is hard to imagine how this program could be topped.
Serenity Now the Best Science Fiction Film (BBC Poll)
The BBC has just rated Serenity the best science fiction film, edging out the original Star Wars.
Why? To start, Joss Whedon has an uncannily clear vision of what he is doing. Second, he communicates this vision to his actors, who communicate it to us. Third - this film is true science fiction.
That is, it establishes an imaginable future, and illustrates how real people might live in such a future. This is not an action or suspense film in disguise. It is actually about how people might live under an imaginable set of future circumstances.
The most brilliant cinematic touches are those that make the future real, and this includes taking time to focus the camera and the story on day to day life between dramatic events. Yes, there is plenty of action for the amygdala-driven viewer, but there is also plenty of stimulus for the prefrontal cortex - for those who find thinking as well as action interesting. Classic science fiction returns to the screen - and this as the Star Wars franchise seems to be devolving and unwinding.
Perhaps with enough DVD sales, there could be a Serenity II. Buy this disc (the two-disc special edition is being released August 21, 2007).
By the way, donations to the Firefly Fan site may be made here. You can vote for Firefly here, where Firefly happens to be running second as "best television show of all time," as well as on the already-mentioned BBC poll (still open as of this posting) where Serenity is currently rated the best science fiction movie.