Why You Should Watch Wednesdays... Firefly

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Writing about why anyone should watch Firefly is actually a lot harder than you'd first think; not because it's hard to think about good things about the show, but because it's hard to stop thinking about them. Joss Whedon is a (justifiably) celebrated writer and creator of shows; Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is simply sublime and Buffy & Angel both have massive devoted fan bases who just adore them. But I'm not an dedicated Joss Whedon follower, just because he's written something doesn't mean I'm going to immediately enjoy it, I'm can take or leave both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, they're certainly great shows, but I have no desire to watch them or own them on DVD. Likewise Dollhouse, I'm not that fussed about it either - I watched bits and I'm sure I'll get around to watching it all, eventually.

But Firefly on the other hand is without a doubt the jewel in Joss's crown, it's his single greatest work. Far outshining his other works, even the comparatively long lived Buffy and Angel. It's hard to believe a western/sci-fi/criminal/smuggler/drama could be such a concise and complete whole. Science Fiction is not really my preferred genre but Firefly ranks amongst my top ten all time favourite shows.

Every aspect of the show is delightful; the characters, the setting, the plots, the dialog. It's Whedon at his finest (props to other writers Tim Minear, Ben Edlund and Jose Molina also), evoking the spirit of the old great westerns and applying it to 'the next frontier' created a mythos which is enduring and nostalgic.

But it's not just the writing and the setting which makes this show, the entire cast is simply brilliant; Nathan Fillion really shows his acting chops as a leading man with his portrayal of Malcolm Renolds, captain of Serenity. Gina Torres makes for a superb action woman as Zoe, being hard, smart and beautiful all at the same time; while Alan Tudyk is great light comedy as her husband and the ship's crack pilot "Wash", Summer Glau provides a disturbing (if now rather typecast) portrayal of a troubled young girl named River Tam, permanently damaged by scientists who operated on her brain and Sean Maher is great as her prissy and stuck up brother, Doctor Simon Tam. Jewel Staite is just fantastic as Kaylee Frye - the ship's ever optimistic engineer, struggling with her unrequited (or badly requited) attraction to the doctor. Morena Baccarin is possibly the only weak link in the cast, her portrayal of Inara is a little stilted at times but that is at least in part due to the "proper" personality of her character (as opposed to the somewhat improper nature of her occupation).

But for myself the two stand out characters (outside of Malcolm) are Ron Glass as the enigmatic Shepherd Book a preacher with possibly something to hide in his past and Adam Baldwin as the ruthless thief/mercenary Jayne Cobb.

From its first episode right up to the last and even into Serenity, the movie which "finished" the story the show was telling, Firefly just grips the viewer. It provides entertainment and humour by the bucket load while also managing to deal with more serious issues without trivialising them. This vision of the future, where Chinese and American cultures have collided across a range of backwater planets much like the old American west is as inspired as the dialog.

Firefly is a show with a dedicated and loyal fan base, and unlike many such fan bases they're not deluding themselves in this case. Firefly is a show which comes close to achieving perfection in televisual storytelling. It graced our screens in a way few shows manage, giving society something new, unique and meaningful. It also gave us a scene which I always find funny, a naked Malcolm Reynolds standing in the middle of a desert throwing a fit of rage.

And its scenes like this, along with so many, many memorable moments and lines which ensure that Firefly will remain a show I adore and one everyone should watch at least once.

"You can't take the skies from me."


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