I have been putting off writing this entry for a long time, which is in no way a reflection on my opinion of the show. It’s more like I’m afraid I can’t do Firefly justice, especially considering the rapturous devotion of its fans. If you’re a loyal browncoat you probably know the pilot backwards and forwards. If you’re not, it may be that you blinked and missed it before Fox canceled it. (I won’t rehash the whole fan outcry/Serenity story.)
It’s not like Joss Whedon invented a new genre here; we’ve seen space anti-heroes before. And I, for one, was not a Whedon fan prior to this, so I wasn’t like “Hooray, a new show from the creator of Buffy.” The show just hit all the right notes with cool setting, fascinating characters, great dialogue, and a healthy dose of dark humor.
The show opens with an in-the-trenches war scene, which could be out of any number of movies. The clue that something is different is that the aircraft flying overhead look like nothing we’ve seen before. A man (Mal, played by Nathan Fillion) and a woman (Zoe, played by Gina Torres) are leading a shell-shocked contingent against an attack. Their language is slightly heightened; in fact, the whole scene is a bit confusing the first time around. All we really need to know is that the troops are forced to lay down arms when their back-up abandons them. The look on Mal’s face and the music playing tell us all we need.
Music is huge in this pilot. The score is a twangy, gritty collection of music reminiscent of old westerns. Its juxtaposition with high-tech space travel gives Firefly its own unique tone.
We jump ahead six years from the battle scene to a spacewalk by a crew of three. The striking quality of this scene is that it is very quiet—opposite the previous scene—with sound seemingly sucked up by the vastness of space. Meanwhile the pilot of the ship, who seems to be keeping an eye on the mission, is actually playing with dinosaur toys on his console. (I may have to add this to my list of best character introductions.) “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal,” cries the Stegosaurus to the Tyrannosaurus.
From there, we start to meet the rest of the crew. There is the ever-cheerful mechanic, Kaylee (Jewel Staite). There is a “companion,” or prostitute, Inara (Morena Baccarin). And there’s Jayne (super-dreamy Adam Baldwin), all-around tough guy. The pilot is Wash (Alan Tudyk), Zoe’s husband.
The crew has to quickly shut down the ship’s power as they pass an enemy, and we find out a few details. The ship our crew flies is an out-of-date model called a Firefly. Its name is Serenity, and it becomes a character unto itself over the course of the series. The ship and its crew are, for lack of a better term, off the grid. They’re clearly hiding from something.
Captain Mal and company land on a dusty planet and pick up some new passengers, a preacher, a doctor, and a third man. A lot of characters and a lot of information are introduced very fast. The show demands your attention and is worth watching over and over, because so much happens. The dialogue is layered with character revelations and plenty of wit. The basics are, they’re short on cash, carrying stolen cargo, and on their way to seek help from a woman who once shot Mal. This is not going to go smoothly.
If you haven’t seen this, watch and enjoy the twists and turns for yourself. No one is who they seem. They all have secrets. Some violence beaks out now and again. And the doctor is transporting some very unusual cargo. Our protagonist, Mal, seems cool on the surface, even when angry, but clearly that war experience—and maybe a lot of other pain—is seething beneath the surface. Oh, and there are enemies out there in space called Reavers, to whom the crew’s reaction is bone-chilling. Just watch it.
I really hate to be pedantic. This is a great post, and I completely agree with you… But Adam Baldwin’s character is Jayne Cobb… there’s a y in there. Other than that it’s a great post that captures the essence of the pilot very well… and without giving away too much plot.
Thank you for the feedback! I fixed the spelling error. 🙂
Hey there, how’s it going? Just wondering around and bumped into a Whedonite! XD Firefly is stuff of legends. I hope someday Joss gets to meet opportunity and the right state of mind again to do something of that caliber again. We’ve been waiting for a while and I’m starting to thing that those start may never align quite the right way again. Still… we keep flying.
Well, I’m just starting off a blog about a few things, including his work, which is something I love so much, and I’d be really glad if you’d stop by sometime. I’m still getting to know wordpress and all it has to offer, so if you’d happen to give me some tips or show me some ropes, I’d really appreciate it. Stop by if you can, hope you enjoyed it as I enjoyed it here. Thanks!
hey again. thank you for taking the time to stop by. i hope i can figure things out around here, and thanks for the twitter tip. 🙂
i’ve already made proper post about proper things now, hehehe, but i don’t know if the frequency of posting is directly related to better trafic. i’ll take my chances tho. once again, thanks for stopping by. have a nice one.
Just thought I’d mention that the episode you review is the opening episode on the DVDs but it is not the first one that was shown on television.
Due to network silliness the opening episode shown on television was “The Train Job” ( reference here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Firefly_episodes ) which stands as a lousy pilot for viewers to see first. Perhaps you should compare and contrast the two episodes as openers 😉
LOL! I totally forgot that.
Pingback: Will It Fly? « Anatomy of a Pilot
Pingback: 25 Years of Fox Pilots « Anatomy of a Pilot
Pingback: Pilot Titles, Round 2 | Anatomy of a Pilot
Pingback: What makes a good sci-fi pilot? | Anatomy of a Pilot