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Why I Think Firefly Sucks - Cephus' Corner

Why I Think Firefly Sucks

March 21st, 2014

Firefly

This came up on a Google+ sci-fi discussion group where someone said that there was some talk that a new Firefly series or spinoff that might be in the works.  As expected, tons of Firefly fanatics came out in favor of the thing, but there were a number of us who said, considering the majority of the cast has moved on, just let it die.

Oh, you should see the shitstorm that ignited!  But honestly, I never cared for Firefly and I’m a Joss Whedon fan, at least for the most part.  I like what he does.  I just thought there were tons of problems with Firefly, that’s one of the reasons it got cancelled so quickly, regardless of what order Fox aired the episodes in.

So, I thought I’d spell out what I think is wrong with Firefly and why it just never grabbed me.  Of course, your mileage may vary and you can disagree with me in the comments.

I’ve given Firefly more than it’s fair shake.  I have watched it 3 times all the way through, including the unaired episodes.  The first time, I watched what Fox showed in the order that Fox showed them, which is a sticking point for a lot of Browncoats. Then, I was told by a friend that if I just watched them in the intended order, I would be a convert.  I did and I was not.  Then, a couple of years later, I did it again, thinking there had to be something I was missing.  There wasn’t.  I’ve also seen the Serenity movie at least twice, most recently a couple of weeks ago, because someone promised me that if I did, I’d love it.  I didn’t.  I’m sorry, if there is something in this show that’s amazing, I’m just not seeing it.

I got to thinking what it was about the show that I didn’t like and I think I’ll go into some of that now so the next time someone tells me that I’m insane not to love Firefly, I can point to this post.

1.  The characters are not interesting to me at all, in fact, most of them are just archetypes.  None of them actually have much of a personality outside of their stereotype.  They do what they’re designed to do on screen and not much more.  Sure, some of this might have to do with the fact that the show didn’t survive long enough for them to grow and I accept that, but I can only judge by what’s actually on screen, not what Joss Whedon planned, or what rabid fans hoped would eventually make it there.  I am a massive fan of Nathan Fillion, I know he credits Joss for giving him a shot at a lead role, but regardless of Fillion’s talents, there just wasn’t much here to work with.

2.  The Firefly universe is absurd.  There are tons of planets, all of them habitable, around a single star?  Seriously?  Okay, even allowing for terraforming, it’s ridiculous to think that all of these planets exist within the star’s “Golidlocks” zone.  In our own solar system, I don’t care what your level of reasonable technology, you might be able to terraform Venus and Mars but nothing else.  You can’t do Mercury, the proximity to the sun would burn off any atmosphere and kill any plant or animal life instantly. Jupiter and Saturn have no usable solid surface and trying to terraform any of their moons will, like it or not, result in a frozen wasteland because they don’t receive enough heat from the sun (or tidal forces from their planets).  It’s just stupid to think that any solar system like the one Firefly takes place in could ever arise, planets in that kind of proximity, especially in those numbers, would just rip each other apart.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.

3.  The set-up for the series, supposedly, is that the Americans and the Chinese, at some point in the future, team up and start to colonize other worlds.  Joss puts a lot of Chinese “culture”, or at least a bunch of signs with Chinese writing into the show but the one thing he forgot to do is actually have anyone Chinese in the show itself!  Is this supposed to make any sense at all?

4.  The massive technological disparity.  While there is no apparent FTL in the show, there’s still a problem between people running around in relatively high-tech spaceships and having to wear cowboy gear and shoot slug-throwers.  Whereas the original Star Trek was “wagon train to the stars”, Gene Roddenberry didn’t saddle his actors with surplus western wear and gear from the Paramount backlot.  For Firefly, you could simply edit out the spaceship scenes and you’d be left with a reasonably serviceable western and honestly, I have no interest in westerns.  If I want that, I’ll go watch John Wayne.

5.  There isn’t really much danger.  While Mal Reynolds talks a good game, pretending to be a rebel and aiming to misbehave, he and his crew don’t seem to be in that much danger from the Alliance.  We never really see why the Alliance is so evil, they’re described as being good for the inner worlds.  Sure, they did some nasty stuff to River, but I never really saw much use for River to begin with.  I think that Mal comes off more like a childish libertarian, wanting to stick it to the man, fly around in his spaceship and mess around, than a credible captain running a responsible business venture.

Fireflyreaver

Zombies can’t fly spaceships.

6.  The Reavers are just stupid.  This is primarily a complaint about the Serenity movie, but the Reavers are portrayed like space-going zombies.  Mal and the crew duct-tape a bunch of garbage to the hull of the Serenity and use it to sneak past the Reaver fleet, just like they did in Walking Dead when Rick and Glenn covered themselves in goo to get past the walkers.  Unfortunately, that’s just stupid.  It’s one thing if the zombies are mindless and acting on instinct, but the Reavers have to operate complicated spaceships!  They can’t be that stupid!

No matter how many excuses the Browncoats make, the fact of the matter is that Firefly failed to appeal to the viewing audience.  It wasn’t the order that the episodes were aired in, it wasn’t that the show was ahead of it’s time, it wasn’t that it was too smart for the then-television-viewing audience.  It failed because it just wasn’t that good.  At best, Firefly was a mediocre show and while Fox might have hastened it’s demise, it certainly didn’t cause it.  Joss did an amazing job with Buffy, I loved Angel, but thereafter, I think his television work went straight down hill.  Firefly?  Not that good.  Dollhouse?  Quite bad.  Then he went on to do movies and I think he’s much better suited to that.  Firefly feels like it was something to do after his supernatural series ended, just so people didn’t pigeonhole him as a supernatural TV guy.  I don’t think he’s that good at science fiction though.  Go with what you know.

So what about you?  Did you like Firefly and if so, why?  I know there’s no accounting for taste, I suppose some people just like what they like and can’t explain why they like it, but I’d like to see people try, rather than getting emotional and insulting all nay-sayers, which is exactly what happened in the thread I mentioned above.  The horrors, they say, that anyone wouldn’t love this show!  There must be something wrong with them!  Nope, that’s just not how it works.  Prove me wrong.  Comment below.

Comments

33 Comments

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  • gregenstein says on: March 24, 2014 at 12:29 pm

     

    I disagree on a couple of points. I’ll use your numbers as reference.

    1. I don’t see them as lacking any particular depth. No worse than only getting the first 13 episodes of Star Trek. There is a whole story about Shepherd Book that didn’t get to be told, for example. I don’t think we ever got to see Chekhov’s back story in Star Trek, and they had 3 seasons.

    2. I get your point here. It is science fiction though. If you’re willing to make the leap to human derived FTL, which is obviously necessary to even get “the verse”, but not for humanity to have found this solar system, well I can’t argue with that. Maybe we figured out how to tap into an alternate universe based on inflation theory.

    3. Agreed on this. Awfully Anglo American out in the verse.

    4. I see this as a strong point. Rich and well off get the biggest and best toys, while guns are still cheap and really made.

    5. He’s obviously pissed the independents lost the war, and he is trying to stick it to them whenever possible. Mostly though they seem to be avoiding the Alliance to aid Simon and River. Maybe I am missing something. You do get to see why they are evil once you see the movie, but yes not explained in the original 13.

    6. Agreed that I’m not sure how Reavers pilot spaceships. That’s one plot line I would have loved to see explained.

    • gregenstein says on: March 24, 2014 at 12:55 pm

       

      Also, it might be possible to terra form Ceres (dwarf planet I’m the asteroid belt). That is, once we figure out how to do such a thing. Not sure it would be in the Goldilocks zone, but I don’t think it is unreasonable to think there would be more than 3 or 4 “terra formable” planets/moons in another solar system.

      • Cephus says on: March 24, 2014 at 1:42 pm

         

        Honestly, I don’t know that we could do it because it doesn’t have enough gravity to hold an atmosphere. However, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that we could. That would give us 4 planets in this system that could potentially support life, assuming we also did it for Venus and Mars. Venus would be extremely hot and pretty inhospitable and Ceres would be extremely cold and pretty inhospitable. Mars would have problems since it doesn’t have a stable lunar system. But even assuming all of those problems go away and all four worlds are perfect for life, that’s still four out of how many in the Firefly system? In a deleted scene in “Our Mrs. Reynolds”, Mal tells Saffron that there are more than “70 Earths” in the system. That’s just absurd. There’s a point where you go from science fiction to pseudo-science fantasy and Firefly went way past that point.

    • Cephus says on: March 24, 2014 at 1:59 pm

       

      Thanks for commenting! Let’s take a look at these by the numbers.

      1. I really think that a lot of this might have been explained had the series gone on longer but Mal was just a pissed off space captain, there was no real depth to his character, he was an archetype. It doesn’t really matter what someone’s backstory might be unless it applies directly to current situations. Book didn’t really impress me in the least and apparently, he wasn’t that important since Joss killed him in the movie. Grated, Joss didn’t think the show would ever be seen again and he was right.

      2. There was a time where sci fi writers got one unjustified technological assumption, one thing that they could include that didn’t have to be explained and often, that was FTL. However, it’s so often used that it no longer counts as an assumption so I don’t worry about it much. There’s a point at which an idea is so unjustifiable that it just doesn’t fly, especially for people who are at all knowledgeable about the subject matter. Yeah, I know that doesn’t include most people watching TV, but for science fiction, especially in the age of the Internet, doing things that are utterly ridiculous when you have all the data at your fingertips is a bit much.

      3. I could understand it if they had said that American settlers had gone to this system and Asian settlers had gone to another but to have Chinese show up so often in everything, yet not have anyone Chinese in the show? That makes no sense at all.

      4. Clearly, they had beam weapons on their spaceships and Joss never explained why there was a disparity. Even if you want to argue that slugthrowers are still useful, that doesn’t explain the actual surplus guns used in the show. Look at how guns have changed between the 1800s and today, they look and operate quite differently. Then think about how much they must have changed in design and function between today and the Firefly era, more than 5oo years in the future. Nope, Joss got a bunch of surplus guns and threw them in the show.

      5. Okay, but isn’t that just wanting to be independent for independence sake? I’m not saying the Alliance might not have been evil but it’s not something that was really shown on screen, it’s just assumed. They were more evil in the movie, certainly.

      6. I doubt Joss ever thought much about it, it was just a cool thing to put on screen but not a plot point that makes any sense whatsoever. It’s like having zombies do things to foil the heroes, just because they need to increase tension, not because it makes any sense.

      There’s just so much wrong with this show and I’m not being critical of Joss because I love Joss, this just wasn’t a show that did anything at all for me and even when I went through recently and re-watched Serenity, I didn’t have any warm fuzzies for any of the characters, I didn’t care what happened, there was nothing “cool” in it, it was just 90 minutes of my life, once again, that I can’t get back. Whatever people see in this show, I just don’t get it.

      • help3434 says on: December 12, 2015 at 5:11 am

         

        Did you forget about the hands of blue that worked for the alliance in the series? They were pretty darn evil

        • Cephus says on: December 12, 2015 at 10:47 am

           

          They weren’t really the main baddies though, were they? Who knows, as I said, the show could have developed into something more than it actually was, but I can only go by what was made and shown, not by the intentions of Joss Whedon.

  • Zo0tie says on: December 28, 2014 at 9:53 am

     

    In the early 50s Rocky Jones rocketed around a solar system with plenty of inhabited worlds with breathable air. In the 60’s the Robinson family bumbled around the stars in what was originally supposed to be a sub-light vehicle and seemed to always be able to breathe the air on whatever world they crashed on. In the 70’s the Moon got knocked out of orbit and every week Moonbase Alpha encountered a habitable world that their rickety moonships could actually land and take off from. I could go on but the point is clear. Nothing has changed. Network executives are just as ignorant and contemptuous of the average viewer’s intelligence as they ever were. They continue to feed you crap because you the viewer continue to shovel money into their pockets to reward them.

    • Cephus says on: December 28, 2014 at 10:19 am

       

      You’re right, the consumer is generally stupid and the networks keep catering to the lowest common denominator, that’s something I’ve said many times before and I’m sure will do so again in the future. They don’t make shows for intelligent people, people who think rationally or who expect basic competence, they make shows for idiots. I’m not saying Firefly was that bad, at least not compared to a lot of so-called “reality” shows, but come on, they need to at least try. I can forgive Lost in Space and Space 1999 because back then, they really didn’t know any better. By 2003 though, they did, or at least should have.

  • Zo0tie says on: December 30, 2014 at 8:36 am

     

    I’m looking to a time not too far in the future when we can buy a ‘movie maker’ with prepackaged virtual reality actors that are advanced versions of the avatars in The Sims. You just feed in dialog and they spit it out at your direction. The universe is what you want it to be with ‘suspension of disbelief’ tweaks to the laws of physics put in at your discretion. Of course those tweaks may impact the drama later on so be careful. You might even generate movies of classic science fiction books that have never been made into movies. It’s a dream.

    • Cephus says on: December 30, 2014 at 1:40 pm

       

      For most people, that would be little better than bad fanfic. I pay for content because I want to be entertained, not because I want to do all the work myself. While it might be interesting as a toy, as a consumer product, no thanks.

  • Barbera Stevens says on: February 2, 2015 at 9:59 pm

     

    I agree with your argument against the show one hundred percent. I had heard great things about the show, over a good amount of time, before I actually sat down and watched it. I was completely disappointed. As you mentioned in your post, it is a western, and I am quickly bored by westerns. I never understood why Firefly became so popular, because I just thought it was stupid. I really did try to like it, but there was not much to like. The plots did not make a whole lot of sense, and there did not seem to be any reason to even root for the main characters. The show presents one side of the story, which tries desperately to persuade the audience that the characters are in the right, but it is never convincing. The world that the show takes place in is never fully explained, and there seems to be little or no purpose to anything. My biggest problem with the show was the lack of any sense of morality. It bothered me more and more as the series progressed, and I realized that, in this show, anything goes. It was as if the world had learned to accept any form of behavior without question, and I did not see this as a good future. The show, as a whole, seemed to portray life as somewhat meaningless, like there was no purpose and no moral code. The crew helped the Tams, but it never made sense why.
    I found this website because I was trying to find out which shows are considered the best in science fiction. My person favorite is Stargate SG-1, because I enjoy the adventures as well as the close bond that the characters share, especially in the first three seasons. I understand why this show is one of the best, because it offers something to the viewers. The set up lets the viewer learn as the characters do, and it allows a natural flow for the series. As time goes by, new technology is incorporated, and each new piece can be fully understood and appreciated. The show is generally light and comedic, but also allows the viewer to relate to the characters and provides a sense of satisfaction. Firefly, on the other hand, seems depressing and does not fully give any science fiction satisfaction. Most of the technology used on their ship is terribly disappointing, and I actually got the feeling that none of the characters really belonged in a world of advanced technology. Technology is a key point in any science fiction show, and Firefly was seriously lacking.
    I did not mean to ramble on, but I really am baffled at how many people actually like Firefly. To me it just seems forgettable and second rate. I really liked the points that you made. All too often people will exclaim that they do not like a show, but without any evidence as to why. I appreciate clear and concise reasons for opinions, and I enjoyed this breakdown of Firefly.

    • Cephus says on: February 3, 2015 at 1:25 am

       

      I agree with you regarding the morality of Firefly. It was a morally ambiguous series where we’re supposed to think the main characters are the good guys but honestly, I never found what they were doing to be terribly good. Contrast that with Stargate SG-1, one of my favorite series, and you have characters that not only do things we would identify as moral, but they’re not always right and they sometimes make mistakes that they have to learn from and make amends for. You just never got that in Firefly. SG-1 had consequences and sometimes there was a no win situation where the main characters failed and people died. The only time anyone died in Firefly was in the movie, after the series was cancelled and it didn’t matter anyhow.

      • Barbera Stevens says on: February 3, 2015 at 8:14 am

         

        The character that did die in Serenity was the only one that I liked, Wash.

        • Cephus says on: February 3, 2015 at 10:15 am

           

          Wash and Book both died in Serenity, but why not? What was he going to do with the characters again anyhow?

  • Ian Jones says on: March 25, 2015 at 9:30 am

     

    With your second reason, I’d like to introduce you to the “Verse” http://www.fireflyshipworks.com/map-of-the-verse/map-of-the-verse/

    • Cephus says on: March 25, 2015 at 3:54 pm

       

      I’ve seen the map, it still makes no sense and is completely unrealistic. A multi-star system would be very unlikely to have many planets at all, certainly few if any livable ones, due to the extreme tidal forces. The idea that all of these stars have stable plants all in the Goldilocks zone is absurd beyond belief.

      Just be honest, Joss Whedon came up with a wholly unworkable system. Stop trying to defend his failure.

  • Sebastian says on: April 2, 2015 at 6:32 pm

     

    Completely agree on all points made.
    I don’t see why people would enjoy it; it’s a long-winded – cowboys in space story with nothing really interesting going on.
    The acting is horrible at times and everyone as you mentioned pretty much stays withing the ‘this is doctor’ ‘this is cute girl’ ‘this is good guy’ ‘this is bad guy’ description.
    That said, I feel like the show would have been something I watched back when though, simply because of boredom when I was younger.
    Use to watch PBS kids or browse online goofs until I got the FOX channel working.
    Oddly enough, the first thing I watched on FOX was Dollhouse – Joss Weedon attached.
    Which I thought was mediocre even back when I wasn’t so critical of shows, it beat watching Curious George or DragonTales haha

  • Tejas Joshi says on: June 28, 2015 at 11:54 pm

     

    I agree with you. I just finished watching the show. I thought, 3-4 episodes into the show that they didn’t have any aim. They didn’t have any concrete idea as to where they want to go.

    • Cephus says on: June 29, 2015 at 10:36 am

       

      Agreed and people say that it would have gotten better if FOX didn’t cancel it but the fact is, the reason it got cancelled is because it wasn’t any good. It didn’t attract viewers. It didn’t get advertisers. That’s why it was cancelled and all the excuses and finger pointing in the world won’t change it.

  • Bob says on: August 23, 2015 at 12:10 pm

     

    What an idiot. Go screw yourself.

    • Cephus says on: August 23, 2015 at 12:32 pm

       

      Oh look, a 2-year old. Nice to know what kind of person this show appeals to.

  • Bobalooey says on: October 4, 2015 at 8:26 am

     

    Totally agree, especially point 4. I always felt like Firefly was more a western than a sci-fi space opera. Cowboy Bebop did a much better job blending the two genres, imo.

    The whole confederate analogy was also unsettling to me. It’s like the sci-fi setting was just used to sanitize the slavery issue, while still maintaining the romanticism of lost-cause rebellion from rugged individualists. Like Whedon really just wanted to make a fun antebellum outlaw story, but is too cowardly to confront those hard issues directly, so just threw in a space ship in a fictional setting to avoid it.

    In general I don’t really understand the Whedon cult. Nothing he ever created comes close to the intellectual sophistication and imagination of Star Trek TNG or DS9. He makes fun, somewhat campy shows with a lot of geek pop culture references. But it’s not great. Buffy and Angel were fun, but honestly, they just felt like they were really targeting teenage audiences like most shows on WB Network (now CW).

    • Cephus says on: October 4, 2015 at 7:57 pm

       

      Buffy was great for the first couple of seasons, then you’re right, it did fall into a very obvious groove. A lot of that was when Marti Noxon took over Buffy when Joss went to work on Angel. I agree, I think there are a lot of card-carrying Joss Whedon fanboys out there who will follow him no matter what he does, just because he did Buffy. I don’t believe in that kind of blind fanboyism, or any fanboyism at all. Either a show is good in its own, which I don’t think Firefly was, which I certainly don’t think Dollhouse was, or it isn’t. I don’t care who is in it, I don’t care who thought it up, I don’t care who directs it, I care if it is good. That’s not to say that Whedon can’t do good movies and television, but that’s not a guarantee that he will magically make good movies and television, just because he’s “the Whedon”.

    • help3434 says on: December 12, 2015 at 5:18 am

       

      What are you talking about? The alliance tolerated slavery in their system after the war with the Browncoats. Their was never indication that the Browncoats ever used slavery.

  • JR says on: November 8, 2015 at 9:50 am

     

    It left me kinda flat for the most part too. It was an interesting idea/attempt at a different twist on Star Trek; (i.e. making the “wagon train” more literal). It certainly makes you appreciate the casting “lightning in a bottle” Trek (TOS) achieved back in ’66.

    What kills it in my opinion is that both genres clash with each other too much. The SciFi suffers from too much western, and vice versa. Star Trek would have suffered too if ever episode had been some variation of “Specter of the Gun,” but as it was able to cast a wider genre net, it worked better…although even Trek started repeating itself in short order.

    • Cephus says on: November 8, 2015 at 10:43 am

       

      Agreed entirely. Plus, Star Trek was a lot closer to the time they had westerns on TV, they could have gotten away with more of the western metaphor than Firefly did. Roddenberry called it “wagon train to the stars” because that’s what TV execs understood at the time. By the time Firefly rolled around, that metaphor would have been completely lost on them. Not sure how anyone ever approved Firefly, except on the strength of Whedon’s name.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • gregenstein says on: November 17, 2015 at 12:18 pm

     

    Well since I still get emails about this once in a while, I might as well chime back in. I still watch the show on cable when I it happens to be on once ever blue moon. Guess I’m a sucker. lol.

    But that said, it all comes down to what kind of show at which you can “suspend your disbelief” and just live there for a while. I watch a lot of Superhero kinds of shows these days (Agents of Shield, Arrow, The Flash). There’s one thing that bugs the hell out of me every time I see it. Guess what it is? Nope, not that a man runs faster than (at least) the speed of sound. Nope, not that there’s a girl who is half alien and just last season acquired the ability to generate earthquakes. Nope, not that a man can wear a green hood and small mask and somehow nobody recognizes the playboy millionaire. It’s that within 5 seconds of sitting down at a computer desk, Felicity Smoak can get herself access to nearly every traffic camera, cell phone camera, top secret FBI database, or government spy satellite/drone to ever get connected to the internet. I would actually have a much easier time with this if they would have it be some kind of super power. But no, she’s normal. Breaks my focus every time. But otherwise I like the character, and I like Arrow, so I grudgingly re-grant her the title of “Queen Hacker” after a minute and jump back in.

    And it’s still a lot better to me easier to suspend my belief about that than a show about a hospital where every nurse and doctor have slipped into each other’s pants a half dozen times each. Or most cop shows where the same crew has solved dang near every murder in city XYZ in a matter of days (most times said murder is a famous person or in the mafia to boot!), usually with help from another hot expert hacker girl. Captain Tightpants even has had a pretty good cop show of his own now for past few years. Even they brought in a hot hacker girl that appears once in a while.

    I can see though how a lot of people would say “WTF, a cowboys in space show with zombies mixed in?? That’s just ridiculous!” It’s what I thought and certainly why I didn’t really watch back in 2002. Got hooked after a co-worker said she liked it.

    If nothing else, at least admit the theme song is pretty catchy. Nobody has a good theme song anymore. 🙂

    Cheers Cephus.

    • Cephus says on: November 17, 2015 at 10:43 pm

       

      There’s a difference between suspending your disbelief and having the suspension be so massive that you get thrown completely out of the enjoyment of the show. Some shows have problems, some don’t. I thought Firefly was one that did. And the theme is okay.

  • help3434 says on: December 12, 2015 at 5:09 am

     

    I was under the impression for whatever reason that they were in a system of really close stars rather than a ton of planets orbiting around one.

    • Cephus says on: December 12, 2015 at 10:46 am

       

      Even if that’s true, and it could be, but that still makes no sense because they don’t have FTL travel and it would take years to travel between the various systems. That isn’t what they show.

      • Mark Burke says on: March 25, 2017 at 8:24 pm

         

        Finally, some other people who also don’t get it. I remain baffled as to why this show inspires such loyalty, but at least I know I’m not alone! Stargate Universe ;now there was a cancellation that sucked.

        • Cephus says on: March 28, 2017 at 11:24 am

           

          I really don’t think so. Stargate Universe was an attempt to combine Stargate, which was a lighthearted scifi adventure show, with Battlestar Galactica, which was a dark, dank, awful show. The two just didn’t go together at all. The tone of Universe was completely different from SG-1 and Atlantis.

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