Television Review: Serenity (Firefly, S1X01, 2002)

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});


Serenity (Pilot, S1X01)

Airdate: 20th December 2002

Written by: Joss Whedon
Directed by: Joss Whedon

Running time: 86 min.

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a science fiction fan happens to those who like their space operas on the small screen. Such television shows are notoriously expensive, and broadcast networks, especially in the past, were prone to cancelling their production at the slightest sign of slippage in ratings. As a result, the history of science fiction television in the past few decades is the history of Great Shows That Might Have Been But Never Were. One of the most frustrating examples, especially for the fans, is Firefly, a 2002 show that received cult status despite not surviving its first season.

The show actually had excellent credentials, being created by Joss Whedon, known for his past success with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and later for his work in Marvel's Cinematic Universe. The show was produced and ultimately cancelled by Fox, a network with whom Whedon swore that he would never work again, blaming its executives for the fiasco.

Mishandling of the series can be observed by the way Fox treated its pilot episode. Despite a large budget and making some sense as the origin story for the protagonists, it was rejected by Fox executives. Instead, a new pilot was ordered, which would ultimately be aired as the first episode under the title The Train Job, although later in the canon it would be seen as the second episode of the series.

Serenity introduces its fictional universe by a prologue set in 2511 on the planet Hera, one of the worlds colonised by mankind and a crucial battleground in the Unification War, a conflict between the tyrannical Alliance and the rebellious Independents. Captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds (played by Nathan Fillion) and his first mate Zoe Washburne (played by Gina Torres) are Independents' soldiers who, despite all their valour, helplessly watch the Independents succumb and surrender to the Alliance's overwhelming force. Six years after the end of the war, Reynolds is running Serenity, a Firefly-class transport ship, and tries to scrape a living through all kinds of shady jobs with the help of Zoe's husband and ship's pilot Hoban "Wash" Washburn (played by Alan Tudyk); engineer Kaywinnet Lee "Kaylee" Frye (played by Jewel Staite); and mercenary Jayne Cobb (played by Adam Baldwin).

Their latest job, which involved stealing Alliance goods from an abandoned ship, doesn't bring them the desired money when Badger (played by Mark Sheppard in a guest starring role), their fence on the planet Persephone, refuses to pay. Mal is, in order to pay for the fuel and maintenance of the ship, forced to take passengers. They include a priest named Shepherd Book (played by Ron Glass), a man named Dobson (played by Carlos Jacott) and a wealthy young doctor named Simon Tam (played by Sean Maher). They are joined by Inara Serra (played by Morena Baccarin), an elite courtesan or "Companion" who used to be Mal's acquaintance. The trip would temporarily take them to Whitefall, a terraformed moon where Mal hopes to sell contraband to his old, but unreliable business partner Patience (played by Bonnie Bartlett in a guest starring role). During the trip, Mal discovers that he is carrying much more problematic cargo when it turns out that Simon smuggled his sister River (played by Summer Glau) into the ship after rescuing her from an Alliance facility.

The episode starts relatively strong, by displaying the pivotal event in the history of the show's fictional universe, as well as CGI effects that were decent for early 21st Century television standards. It also sets a rather dark and pessimistic tone.

The rest of the episode does a solid job of introducing the main characters and their relationships to one another. It also introduces the Reavers, a terrifying, yet unseen enemy in form of cannibalistic space pirates, that would serve as the main threat in the episode's climax.

However, there are some issues with the episode. The pace is slightly uneven, with plenty of time spent on exposition and character introductions. Some scenes, in which the characters of Inara and River appear nude, semi-nude or in provocative poses, look slightly exploitative or like a cheap form of fan service, at least for people who are sensitive towards those issues. The ending of the episode seems rushed, and before that we are seeing that Whedon took his concept of "Western in outer space" a little bit too literally with a scene of a showdown between Mal and Patience, which looks like it was a Western-themed holodeck episode from Star Trek.

Despite these flaws, Serenity is still a strong episode that sets the stage for the rest of the series. The world-building is very good, the characters are engaging and well-drawn, and the episode's themes of loyalty and morality are compelling.

While Serenity may not be a perfect episode, it is a solid introduction to the world of Firefly.

Sadly, the fans had the opportunity only at the very end, when Fox decided to cancel the show.

RATING: 6/10

Blog in Croatian
Blog in English
InLeo blog

Rising Star game:

BTC donations: 1EWxiMiP6iiG9rger3NuUSd6HByaxQWafG
ETH donations: 0xB305F144323b99e6f8b1d66f5D7DE78B498C32A7
BCH donations: qpvxw0jax79lhmvlgcldkzpqanf03r9cjv8y6gtmk9

Posted Using InLeo Alpha

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

There is even boardgame based on this show, never tested it thought, I heard from some folks its good.