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.
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.