Thursday, March 31, 2011


Most of the time during "spring" break, I was home doing things that needed doing. But there was time for entertainment -- for 11 episodes of Firefly, or nearly four-fifths of the entire run of the series. I will finish it shortly. It came recommended by my brother Jay years ago, and more recently by Sheldon Cooper.

They didn't lead me astray. It's a cracking good yarn. But I can see how not everyone would get it, including Fox programming types. "What are these cowboys doing in spaceships? And why do they speak Chinese sometimes?"

That kind of thing can distract easily distractible minds, and obscure merits like well-drawn characters, good dialogue, interesting stories, an unusual background conceit, strong special effects and intriguing hand-held camerawork, some action, and a dollop of humor. I was also impressed by -- dystopian isn't quite the word, and neither is pessimistic, but they're close -- the series' acknowledgment that humanity will take its wicked tendencies with it into the future.

Firefly isn't the first SF to posit a future with war, murder, torture and much other violence; an upper class with its boot heel on everyone else's neck; slavery or at least debt bondage; treachery, double-dealing and more. But the show does a good job of weaving all that into its stories, with some nuance. The characters endue a world like that (much like ours) and yet it's completely believable when, in one episode, they are all enjoying a lively meal together, laughing and telling stories -- until a mechanical failure threatens their lives, something else mankind is certain to take with it into the future.

It may be too bad that there weren't more episodes, but on the other hand, during a longer series the producers would have been obliged to depict some of the background menace more fully, which can turn ridiculous (e.g., The X Files, or in that case, more ridiculous). To cite another example, the 2000s version of Battlestar Galactica held up well enough toward the end, but the Cylons were a better menace before we knew much about them.



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