Cleopatra 2525

This show, which could have been called “Boobs in Space,” was brought to my attention by a former roommate who watched it to fill up the space between Baywatch episodes. It is so campy and awful, I was delighted to find it on Hulu. What I didn’t remember was that one of the main three actresses is Gina Torres, Zoe from Firefly!

You have to hand it to these writers—they need all of a minute and a half to show us just what a  joyride in the cheesmobile we’re in for. We open on an interior shot of the now-dilapidated Sistine Chapel. Shot of a bunch of hot people in really skimpy, “futuristic” looking out fits. Some talk about going to “the surface.” A disembodied voice prodding them to go up there. The main character snapping her buggy-looking goggles into place, saying defiantly, “Let’s do it.”

Here’s the premise: a woman in 2001 went in for a boob job. Something went wrong with the anesthesia, and she was cryogenically frozen until they could find a cure (for anesthesia?) She is now waking up—spontaneously—in the year 2525. She’s been brought to a medical lab that looks like something out of Barbarella to be harvested for spare organs, wearing a costume reminiscent of the chick in The Fifth Element. Oh, and spoiler alert, she’s a stripper.

Before we meet our heroine, Cleopatra (Jennifer Sky – who?), we follow her soon-to-be new BFFs, Helen and Sarge (Victoria Pratt), in battle. They tromp around underground in the most uncomfortable looking space armor I’ve ever seen. Their cleavage, midriffs and legs are in some serious danger should a laser battle take place. By the end of the first scene the man has turned on the women. They discover him to be a cleverly-named “betrayer robot.” Clearly the women are the only heroes here, nothing unexpected in the era of Xena Warrior Princess.

The enemies in this underground future are robotic creatures called bailies. Before they get to the level boss, though the women still have to fight off the betrayer bot. He’s got laser vision that makes Superman look like a punkass. Defeating him involves some snazzy moves designed to show off the women’s hot bods. After that, Cleo attacks Sarge for no discernable reason other than that chick fights are hot.

When Sarge asks Cleopatra, “You’re very concerned about the way you look, aren’t you?” you have to laugh. And hope that the show’s creators are not actually taking this stuff seriously. The plot of this particularly story is resolved pretty easily, thanks to a handy talent of Cleo’s that has nothing to do with her cleavage. Aaaand, by the end of 22 minutes everyone is happy and ready to fight evil together. Cleo is surprisingly accepting of her circumstances. So if she’s not going to take this seriously, why should we? Answer: we shouldn’t. If you abandon all sense of reality and logic, you might have fun with this show.

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Firefly

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.