Firefly has been aired again here in the UK in the last couple of weeks and I thought it was about time I reviewed the show here at A Young Writer’s Notebook.
I hold up my hands and admit that I am a browncoat and will be for the rest of my life. You might have heard of Browncoats before; we are the fans of Firefly and we have a reputation for being a fandom that takes dedication to a new level. There is a very good reason for it. In my opinion, ‘Firefly’ is Joss Whedon’s greatest achievement for one simple reason: he wasn’t frightened of doing something a little bit different and a little bit gritty.
Firefly was for me the beginning of understanding that TV shows didn’t have to be sugar-coated and syrupy sweet, but could be realistic and darker, without having to have the tone of a trashy soap opera. I will forever lament that Firefly’s life got cut short. I still watch the series every now and then, often starting with a feeling of sadness that there aren’t as many episodes as I would like. The melancholy wears thins quickly enough through, as the genius of what Whedon created washes over me and the joy of watching my favourite show takes over.
I’ll start with the world (or technically solar system) that Whedon created, with the amalgamation of American and Chinese culture, with pockets of the rest of the world woven into the grittier places. The central planets, the power base of the Alliance that rules over the galaxy, is sleek, clean and with a ‘Star Trek’ like image of the future with an sinister undertone of tyranny. The outer planets, is the frontier world, and here comes the aspects of ‘western in space’ that Whedon wanted to create.
And here in lies one aspect of the series which I think the powers that be in the network struggled to get their heads around; that the show was both the sleek futuristic image of the future that sci-fi shows like Star Trek had been so successful in created, and also a nitty-gritty ‘cowboy’ frontier all at the same time. The Solar System was still in the process of being settled by humans, still in the process of being transformed into the technological advanced future we would all like to imagine. The fact it is transitional is what makes the world deeply interesting to watch, as there is the contrast to exploit for plot and character development, but that would have made the network power nervous because of the ‘apparent’ lack of stability and world building that audiences are already familiar with watching.
And then there are the characters. The show has nine main characters, and even though there is only 14 episodes in the series, I still know more about those characters and how they tick than I do with other series with several seasons, and dozens of episodes. Here is where the true genius of Whedon’s creation comes out, because he managed to show us the characters, rather than tell us about them.
You learn about them through their interactions with each other and through the actions that they take as the plot moves around them, but its subtle. It’s not in your face full on flashbacks (yes Lost I am looking at you). Their character development is so intricately woven into the plot that you don’t get jarred by obvious information dumps, that draw to away from the story, into a ‘look at me’ moments from the characters.
Firefly will forever me a part of my heart, and no doubt I will be writing about it again in the future. There are so many good examples that can be used for budding writers to draw on, but for now all I can say is that if you’ve never seen it before, you are missing out, and while there might only be 14 episodes, in them everyone will find at least one thing that resonates with them.
I gave my heart to this show a very long time ago, and I have never once regretted it.