Thu
Mar 25 2010 10:48am

Firefly Re-watch: “Serenity”

Welcome to the first full post of the Firefly re-watch, where we get into the real red-colored molded-protein. Just some administrivia: This will be a full spoiler commentary. Now, I won’t get too super-spoilery as that would leave me with nothing to talk about by the time we get to “Objects in Space”, but no-holds barred in the comments afterwards. Second, our Robot Overlords have made us a right shiny archive page. Now then, let’s rabbit.

Episode Summary:

In the middle of the Battle of Serenity Valley, Sgt Malcolm Reynolds is desperately trying to rally his soldiers just long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Despite a stirring speech and daring raid on a 50 caliber anti-air cannon to down an Alliance skiff, his command has decided the battle is a loss and that they are to lay down arms. Mal stands to look out and see a fleet of Alliance dropships descending onto the field. To seal the deal, the soldier he had been pep talking moments before is shot dead as they all stare dumbstruck at the fleet.

Six years later, Mal and Zoe are on a salvage mission. We quickly find out that this is hardly a legal endeavor as their pilot, Wash, has his special dinosaur time interrupted by the arrival of the alliance cruiser Dortmunder. Mal orders his ship, Serenity, to power down in an effort to hide, but the cruiser detects them anyway. The crew quickly grabs the cargo and runs, using a decoy distress signal to cover their escape.

In the cargo hold, we see the goods, which appear to be bars of some metal stamped with the Alliance emblem. Mal keeps this to himself and curtly sets the crew on their way to Persephone. There, he intends to offload the goods to their employer, Badger, and then set a course for Boros with a ship full of honest passengers.

Wash and Zoe have a moment alone on the bridge, and Wash starts to complain about how Zoe still treats Mal like a superior officer and puts Wash, her husband, second. Mal appears on the bridge, interrupting the discussion, and asks after “the ambassador”. Wash says she hasn’t checked in yet, and Mal declines to call her, stating that “somebody on this boat has to make an honest living.” We then cut to Inara, who is in the middle of performing her duties as a geisha-like Companion with a young man.

On Persephone, Mal informs the crew they will only be staying a short while, and assigns the engineer, Kaylee, to find passengers while Wash resupplies. Mal, Zoe, and Jayne head off to meet Badger and negotiate the handover of the goods.

Badger is instantly hostile towards Mal. The crime lord at first dissembles but then reveals that he just doesn’t like how Mal holds himself above the other thieves just because he was in the war. So, Badger, in that wonderful cockney accent, informs them that he would rather just leave him to the Alliance. He sends Mal off then with a suggestion he check out the border planets and a strong hint that he had best get off Persephone in a hurry.

Meanwhile, Kaylee has been working at attracting passengers, and, well, being attractive. OK, full disclosure, I am also an unabashed Kaylee fan. Just had to get it out there. Anyway, she lures in Shepherd Book by noting that he was only interested in ships, not destinations. Book seems to appreciate her insight and offers to pay his way both in cash and with What’s-In-The-Box.

Mal, Zoe, and Jayne discuss their options on the walk back, and Mal comes to the conclusion they need to go see an old contact, Patience, despite Zoe’s protests that she shot Mal the last time they met. Patience is, he argues, the only person they know who can afford the goods, and they cannot afford to just dump them and run. They return to the ship just as the other two passengers are boarding and Wash is returning. One of the passengers is Dobson, a clumsy looking, honest enough fellow, and the other is Simon Tam, the villainous, finely dressed young man with strange glasses and a mysterious, big box. (What is it with these people and mysterious boxes?) Zoe expresses concern for having civilians and stolen cargo at the same time as they get ready for take off. Mal tries to put her at ease, but his reasoning is lacking, so he gives her an alternate set of orders.

MAL: If anyone gets nosy, just, you know, shoot them.
ZOE: Shoot them?
MAL: Politely.

Inara returns, and the ship takes off. Once they are well underway, Mal gives the passengers an introduction to the ship in the galley. He appears irritated at having Book on board when he finds out he is a Shepherd but quickly recomposes himself. He then announces that they have to make a detour to Whitefall, the fourth moon of Athens, because the Alliance has ordered them to drop off medical supplies. Simon starts asking questions, and Zoe covers when Mal doesn’t answer quickly. Mal then allows the passengers to retrieve anything they need from the cargo hold since it is supposed to be off limits during the voyage. There, Book gives Kaylee his What’s-In-The-Box and a bag full of something, and Inara comes out of her shuttle, inquiring after the new faces. Mal takes sadistic pleasure as he introduces her as “The Ambassador” to Book, who thinks it is a literal title. As Mal starts breaking up laughing, Inara starts to explain, but Mal blurts out “she’s a whore.” Kaylee jumps to Inara’s defense, and Inara gracefully chooses to leave.

In the kitchen, we find out that Book’s box has strawberries in, and Kaylee teaches the audience exactly how to eat one. The crew and passengers then have a wonderful dinner of fresh food, a rare delicacy in a world where the standard fare is “protein in all the colors of the rainbow.” At the dinner table, Kaylee starts getting flirty with Simon, asking him about his job as a doctor, and Jayne makes a rather crass joke at Kaylee’s expense. Mal quickly calls Jayne down, and when Jayne argues over it, Mal forces him to leave. Back in the shuttle, Inara is enjoying a sponge bath, and Book comes in, offering her a plate of food and a sort of peace offering. They then discuss Mal, who both remark is a walking contradiction in his gruffness, as he is also very protective of his crew.

Later, Wash calls Mal up to the bridge. A signal from somewhere on the ship just hailed the nearest Alliance cruiser, and while Wash scrambled it, there is no way to know what it said. Mal suspects Simon and proceeds to beat the tar out of him, but he quickly finds out the Alliance mole was Dobson, who was after Simon, not Mal. Mal instantly tries to pawn Simon off—“Is there a reward?”—but Dobson thinks the ship is harboring Simon. People start yelling, and Dobson gets spooked and shoots Kaylee in the gut as she comes through the door behind him. Book quickly subdues Dobson with some fancy kung-fu(!?), and Simon barters Kaylee’s life for Mal not handing him over to the feds. Mal reluctantly agrees, and Simon removes the bullet and sews Kaylee back up. After the operation, Mal decides to find out what Simon is hiding in the box, and we find out it is Simon’s sister, River.

Simon sedates River and leaves her in the infirmary, then explains how he saved her from a clandestine government program to experiment on super-smart children. Mal has no sympathy for Simon’s plight, but decides their only course of action at present is to continue on to Whitefall, where they will offload Simon and River, unless of course Kaylee dies, in which case he’ll just kill Simon.

Mal has Jayne interrogate Dobson, and after Jayne surmises the Alliance doesn’t know anything about Serenity, Dobson offers to let Jayne split the reward money, which he says is enough to buy Jayne his own, better ship. Jayne asks if that means he has to betray Mal, and seems almost pleased when Dobson says it does.

On the way to Whitefall, Serenity starts to pass another ship. Mal and Wash quickly deduce that it is reavers, and Mal announces to the crew that they are going to just try and just pass it by. They can’t run or fight, so it is their only option. Luckily, the reavers appear to not be interested in them. Or, as Wash puts it, must not have been hungry.

Kaylee wakes up, and begs for Mal to not hurt Simon because of what happened. Mal, in turn, pulls a prank on Simon by telling him that Kaylee had just died. Simon, winded from his sprint to the infirmary, proclaims, “That man’s psychotic!”

They near Whitefall, and Patience finally gets back in touch with them and agrees to buy the goods. Mal instantly sees that she is intending on shooting him again, but decides to go through with the deal anyway seeing as they need the money. Meanwhile, Dobson is sawing himself free of his restraints.

On Whitefall, Mal sends Jayne out to counter the trap Patience has laid then he and Zoe go down to make the deal. Things go smooth to begin with, and we find out the goods aren’t metal at all, but condensed foodstuffs, each bar able to feed a family for a month. Patience hands over the money, but when Mal asks her to leave first, she reveals that she plans on killing him. He gives the money back, but she still doesn’t back down. So, Jayne fires the first shot, and a firefight ensues. Mal and crew come out on top, but he does not kill Patience, instead only pinning her under her dead horse and taking his money. His parting words emphasize that he was there for business and that he only did business.

Back on the ship, Dobson has gotten free, bludgeoned Book, and takes River hostage. Kaylee informs the bridge, and Simon runs to stop him. Wash starts to go help, but the helm starts to beep at him, informing him that the reavers have followed them after all. Simon jumps from a catwalk and lands on Dobson as he is trying to walk outside, fazing both of them. Fortunately, Simon recovers first and holds Dobson at gunpoint.

Jayne, Zoe, and Mal are informed of the incoming reavers by Wash and hurry back to the ship. As they start to open the cargo door, it distracts Simon, and Dobson gets his gun and takes River hostage again, threatening to shoot her. Mal unceremoniously shoots Dobson as he enters, and he and Jayne dump the body overboard as the ship takes off.

In the air, Inara takes River and Simon to her shuttle in case they need to make a quick getaway. Everyone else—even wounded Kaylee—work to get away from the reavers, performing a Crazy Ivan then an In-Atmo Full-Burn, damaging the reaver ship and effecting their escape.

Once in space, Book goes to talk to Inara and confesses to his moral dilemma of having gotten on Serenity, and Inara suggests that he is exactly where he should be. On the bridge, Mal accuses Jayne of letting Dobson go. Jayne does not deny that Dobson tried to bribe him, but said the money wasn’t good enough. When Mal asks what will happen when the money is good enough, Jayne only says that it will be an interesting day. He leaves, and Simon enters. Mal offers Simon a place on the crew as the ship surgeon and promises that should he ever intend to kill him, it will be to Simon’s face and with both of them armed. This, he says, because he is having a good day. Simon wonders at how Mal can say he had a good day, listing all the horrible things that have happened.

MAL: Well, still flying
SIMON: That’s not much.
MAL: It’s enough.

Commentary:

Wow, where to start. OK. First, let me talk about this as a pilot, and perhaps put myself on the chopping block to start. See, I can see where this might not be considered the best of pilots. The pacing works, but it is very much like a western. Action at the beginning and the end, and then lots of talking in the middle. See, I also honestly think that “Serenity” makes a better movie than Serenity. No, it doesn’t have a “big bad” in it, but plenty of good movies don’t. This was just a movie about a group of interesting people getting through a pickle. For the most part, this is Character vs. Society, with the Alliance, some minor Character vs Character in Badger, Patience, and Dobson, and then a walloping Character vs Supernatural with the reavers. Yes, it leaves lots open, but plenty of good movies do that too. Least it wasn’t a Lady or the Tiger. But I digress.

As I said, there is a lot of talking, and by that I mean talking heads. Exposition, they call it in some parts. Now, the exposition is delivered amazingly. I could listen to Simon’s explanation of River over and over again and still feel my chest tighten. You can feel the sibling love of his story, even if it is being told instead of shown. And then Zoe’s explanation of the reavers really imparts the fear of them and adds to the tension. But, it is still talking, and while us spec-fic geeks love hearing about this stuff, the average viewer typically does not until they are invested in the characters, thus why expositional episodes are usually saved for later. So yeah, I love this pilot, but I am not going to go into the realm of speculative historian and say the series would have survived had it aired first. It could have just as easily died even sooner from having lost even more of the initial viewing audience.

OK, so now that ya’ll are going to hunt me down and keel-haul me, I’ll get the rest out. Characters. This episode is really just about introducing us to the main nine. So here’s what I say to each in turn.

Mal is wonderfully convincing. The Knight in Sour Armor is pulled off wonderfully with him, especially as it can be questionable with just how much good really is still in him. Yes, he is a man of honor in a den of thieves, but he nonchalantly killed Dobson and dumped the body simply because he did not have time to deal with it. Not the sign of exactly a moral person that has just given up on ideals.

Zoe is actually pretty flat in the pilot. She is the stalwart second in command from her first moment on screen and sticks to it the entire time. You get a little depth on her with her interactions with Wash, but those are really far more building for him than her.

Which brings us to Wash and three words: Witty Comic Relief. When a man’s opening scene is with plastic dinosaurs at a spaceship’s helm, you might think he is there for pure silly, but he manages to throw in enough snark to be witty instead. I also love his husbandly concern, both in pleading with Zoe to stand up to Mal and when he is talking to Simon. Wash is a person, and that is all there is to it, perhaps the most balanced and “normally relatable” on the ship.

Jayne, on the other hand, is the crass, silly comic relief. Yes he has his dangerous, redneck moments, but, especially in the pilot, he is there to be the dumb, funny, gun-totting hick. He serves as a foil to Mal, and does so faithfully well. I love him later in the series, but here, he is really just a secondary.

Kaylee. Nuff said. OK, not really, but I will give even more full disclosure and say that if I was a fourteen year old boy, there would be a huge poster of Jewel Staite in my bedroom. Now that we are past the creepy, Kaylee is the female counterpart to Wash on the ship. She is centered and relatable, and she serves as the Earth Mother. She is open and honest and sees through to the real side of people (except for Dobson, I guess, but no one is perfect). And she’s a hot girl who’s a grease monkey. There’s that too.

Inara, I imagine, is who most boys have on their walls, despite their ages. I will admit, she plays the courtesan-geisha amazingly well, with both her role as ship’s counselor (even the preacher goes to her for benediction) and moral compass. I also enjoyed that, on a network television show, we had a main character who was able to show sexuality as something positive and wholesome, and on Fox at that. Her mild romantic tension with Mal is already well established here, and I am sure the shippers rejoice at something to ship over. I, for one, enjoy the dynamic it adds to both of them.

Book is very quickly made into a mystery for us. He goes from slightly awkward preacher to ninja in point-three-five seconds flat, and then back to a somewhat unsuspecting preacher. I know that, with the movie, some have speculated that he was once an Operative, but thus far, nothing is solidly canon, so we can only guess. His moral conundrum was delivered quite well, though.

Simon’s mislead as the villain was actually really good, ’cause it got me the first time I watched this, and I had seen the movie (albeit I couldn’t remember anything beyond River killing everything). His stiffness is well played for the rich kid who doesn’t really know how to be a fugitive, and bumbling Dobson had completely thrown me off too. Later, once Simon starts to open up to the crew, he really does an amazing job of being the protective big brother that gladly and willingly gave up everything for his sister.  Still, he never completely shrugs off that dangerous aura about him, and we as the view can just tell there is more to him than meets the eye.  After all, he did jump off a catwalk to save River.

And then there’s River. River is really just a Mac Guffin in this episode. She’s damaged goods, hysterical, and who knows what she’s going to amount to. So for now, Hi River, Bye River.

OK, so only a few more things, then I’ll wind down, honest. One, the World. I don’t think any of us are deluded enough to think that Firefly holds up to any rigorous thought of how such worlds would work with the magical Terraforming technology and many of the worlds being moons. Still, Firefly was not meant to be about hard science fiction. It was a meant to be fun story examining interesting characters, and it is, so we forgive Joss. I willingly suspend disbelief if it lets me have horse drawn wagons and spaceships. I will go ahead and voice the common question, though: if this is a ’verse of half USA/half China, where are all the Asians? We saw some in rather fanciful costumes at the Eavesdown docks, but aside from that, the ’verse is rather lacking. Just had to say it.

And the last thing comes from the commentary on the DVD, which is that in the scene where Mal, Zoe, and Jayne are considering what to do after Badger bailed on them, you can see a “Blue Sun” logo behind Mal. Joss explained how he never really did figure out what he was going to do with Blue Sun aside from knowing that it was going to be the “Coca-cola slash Microsoft” of the world and that the characters would have to slowly start learning about it as the series progressed. And that is one of the things I love and hate about television shows. The writers are always putting in foreshadowing, but they don’t always know what they are foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is awesome, but this kind can eventually lead to, as one commenter put it in the introduction thread, a series jumping the shark.

Factoids:
Originally aired: 20 December 2002
Original position: Episode 11
Richard’s favorite line: “That Man’s Psychotic!”
Fun goof: In the scene following the escape from the reavers, Alan Tudyk, aka Wash, is holding his hand out to steer the ship, but is holding nothing. They had to move his chair back to fit him into the shot, and no one caught the goof in the framing until it was too late.

So yeah, that’s it for this week. Thanks for bearing with me. See you next week with “The Train Job.” Until then, keep flying.


Richard Fife is a writer, blogger, and more of a Kaylee fan than he is a Badger fan.  More of his rambling about storytelling and some of his short stories can be found at http://RichardFife.com.

72 comments
Dr. Kirtland C Peterson
1. catsongs
DELIGHTED you're revisiting FIREFLY, the best SF show/programme ever!

And oh, the pain, that so few episodes were made...

Thanks!
Marcus W
2. toryx
First things first: I actually saw "The Train Job" first and it totally turned me off of the series. Later on, when I got the DVD set and watched "Serenity" my entire perspective changed. It made all the difference for me.

But I think you're right, RFife, that it's only a certain kind of audience that would enjoy the exposition that's included in this as a first episode. However, I also think that this sort of exposition is what sets a good series apart from a bad one. In my fantasies, a world where good shows like this are allowed to survive longer would be one where better shows are continually written and produced because people would be taught to have better taste.

Anyways...I too am a big fan of Kaylee and I'd have totally put her up on my wall when I was a teenager. She performed the same role for me that pre-witchy Willow does in Buffy. Totally adorable and insanely attractive.

The introduction of the Reavers as this creepy unknown force of sheer evil really worked for me. Having their entire backstory explained in "Serenity" the movie was actually a big disappointment to me because that very mystery is what I loved. Same thing with Shepherd Book. I actually think that if the Reavers had remained a mystery the movie would have been more successful, granting a better chance of sequels. People need to be intrigued, not handed all the answers in one tidy package.

That's a long-winded way of saying that the introduction of the Reavers were my favorite part of the whole episode, and probably what hooked me the most to the series.
Trench
3. Trench
Great job!

Firefly had the most potential of any show i had ever seen. My biggest regret was not ever seeing one broadcast episode. I came to the show years later when i found a bunch of co-workers watching it during lunch, Ive been hooked ever since.

My favorite character is definitely Book, but there is no characters on this show I dislike. Kaylee is definitely a good looking girl but for my money its Inara who comes in as the hottie for this show. Also her character is wonderful, and I love her interactions with Mal, probably the most awkward love story ever.

The Pilot is also not my favorite episode but it does its job well. It introduces the characters and the verse in a way that just leaves me begging for more. I have to disagree that the show would still have failed had the pilot been shown first. But I think the biggest problem it had was poor support from fox, the executives blew it and I hope they regret it every day.

Thanks for starting this re-watch, its gonna be great.
Trench
4. Shanna Swendson
I don't know how this episode would have worked to introduce the mass audience to the series, but I do know it works remarkably well for indoctrination purposes. Just about everyone I've shown the episode to immediately demanded more. It does a good job of introducing the characters and the situation while laying out a sense of what the future stories might be. We know they'll be short of money, we know the Alliance is after them, we know they have issues with Badger, we know River will be an issue, and we get a good sense that Mal and Simon will clash over authority issues. It's like a preview of the series to come. In that sense, it's a great pilot.

I also tend to think of this episode as Star Wars from Han Solo's point of view: The cynical captain of an outdated smuggling/freelance freight ship gets more than he bargained for when he takes on two passengers: a mysterious old man and a young man on a desperate mission to rescue his sister. Only in Firefly, the struggle is more intimate than epic -- they're just trying to survive, not topple the evil galactic Empire (well, until the movie).
Ken Walton
5. carandol
One of the things I've always wondered about Firefly is, has Joss Whedon played the Traveller RPG? Because the set-up is so similar -- in a good way of course! :-)

And Kaylee doesn't just have the men swooning. One of my lesbian friends said to me (I think it was when Kaylee was wearing that pink dress and talking about spaceship designs) "I want Kaylee for Christmas!"
Jennifer B
6. JennB
Now I want a strawberry.

This was the first episode I ever saw and is my favorite to watch (along with Jaynetown, Ariel, and Safe). I love all the characters. I usually really like exposition.

I am really glad they ditched the serious Wash in a crisis. I don't think it worked. I don't think Alan Tudyk does serious very well. Perhaps I just like him too well as Wash, but I was unsure of him in both his roles in V and Dollhouse. Maybe those characters just didn't have enough time to develope.

Dobson should have stayed dead. He was an awful person. I think Book had it right. "I watched the captain shoot the man I swore to protect and I am not even sure if it was wrong." (Or something like that, it's been several months since I have watched this episode.)

While I have only seen this on DVD, I still love the last line before the episode cut. "Huh." Nathon Fillion is great.

This weeks episode of Chuck made me worried that Adam Baldwin may be leaving the show. I hope this is not the case. He is the reason we tuned into Chuck at the beginning. Don't think the show would do well without him. Especially since I can't stand the creepy new guy, Shaw.

edited for missing puntuation
Trench
7. Calimac
Comparing this with "The Train Job" as an introduction, I think "Serenity" works better because it has more space to introduce the characters, and a plot more appropriate for doing so (this is when three of them join the ship).

I saw "The Train Job" first, on first broadcast, and while it's a terrific caper story, it moves so fast that it was hard keeping the characters straight (remembering that they were all brand-new to me); and on re-watching, I find that the exposition parts stick out far more notably than they do in "Serenity", where they're better-integrated and more appropriate. I don't know what you have against people talking: that's not necessarily boring, depending on what they say and how they say it.

One instance in which talking does the job tremendously well is when Zoe and Jayne show, by what they say and how they say it, that they're scared as heck of the Reavers. And if they're scared, then I'm scared: and all without showing them. (The movie's ho-hum, casual, "Oh, Reavers, let's knock 'em off" attitude is one of several contradictions to and weakenings of the series' strengths.)

"After all, did jump off a catwalk to save River." I tend to doubt it. That's in direct contradiction to the events as described in the series, and quite out of character for Simon as we're shown him, another example of problems with the movie.

I like the comment that Firefly is Star Wars from Han Solo's perspective. Even though it's not strictly true - Han has no burning grudge against the Empire; even in the later films he's there mostly to help his friends - Han's and Mal's practical attitudes and personal circumstances are remarkably alike. It's a good comment to get a better perspective on both works.
Phil Frederick
8. flosofl
...performing a Crazy Ivan then an In-Atmo Full-Burn, damaging the reaver ship and affecting their escape.

Sorry to be pedantic and all (ok, not really), but the word should be effecting, as in "bringing about" or "causing", not affecting which would mean to "acting upon" or "influencing". While a case could probably be made for the use of affecting, based on the context I'm betting you meant effecting.

Other than that, fantastic re-watch. Looking forward to the other episodes.
Richard Fife
9. R.Fife
@ a few: Note, I wasn't saying that I think the show would have bombed had this actually aired first, just that I don't know what would have happened and I am not going to even try at conjecture. What I did do was point out what might be seen as weak points.

@2 toryx Yeah, the reavers did have a lot of wonderful mystery too them in here and Bushwhacked. As to whether or not they are a heavy let down... I'll save my opinion for when I get there.

@4 Shanna Huh, I had always drawn the analogy of Mal and Han, never had actually thought about how close the situation could be seen as paralleled. Shame they never got to infiltrate an Alliance space station and blow it up. Although, the thought of Simon with a lightsaber is somewhat comical.

@7 Calimac I personally have nothing against people talking (note my comment on Zoe and the Reavers and Simon talking about River). It is more people in general, at least back in '02, were a little more interested in action and capers, I think. After all, number one thing editors tell young authors: show, don't tell.

I know we love to razz on Network Execs as being out of touch and not knowing a good show if it smacked them in the face, but truth is, they make much more money than I do, and they do it by making television that the majority of people want to watch, so they must know something. Not saying they are always right, but I am sure their rules of thumb have come from experience. (Jees, I'm all about putting myself in front of firing squads, aren't I?)

edit: @8 Ya know, I actually spent a few moments looking at that word after I had typed it, but decided to trust my gut first-type. S'what I get for trying to be all fancified. Fixed.
Mike Foster
10. zephyrkey
Maybe it is the kind of friends I surround myself with, or maybe it is more broadly applicable, but I have gotten dozens of people I know addicted to Firefly through this episode. A great blend of action and exposition, the development of fantastic characters that we genuinely care about. Mystery. Intrigue. Jewel Straite (who I loved even more when I discovered that she was also the engineer on Space Cases, which was fantastic sci-fi when I was little. Also, Canadian).

The thing that I appreciate the most about Firefly and the reason why I can watch it over and over again is because the characters are so great. There aren't many TV show that can create such deep and loveable and overall fantastic characters throughout their entire run, much less 14 episodes, and the pilot did a fantastic job - for me at least - of bringing me into the lives of the characters and making them feel real.
Eugene Myers
11. ecmyers
One of the many drawbacks of seeing this episode last as the geniuses at Fox Programming aired it, was that Simon's joke about Kaylee being dead completely didn't work...not to mention ruining the mystery over what was in the box!
Trench
12. K_Reed
I think we all want Kaylee for Christmas.

That this episode (and the series) is "very much like a western" is what makes work it for me. Whedon knows a variety of popular genres and their archetypes, and he blends them with well. Favoring narratives of self-governance and settlement over hard science really works for Whedon as he strikes out into new territory after Buffy.

For me, Firefly is a lot like the moment Patience peels back the metal to show protein underneath: a small surprise that reminds me not to take stock plot points for granted, and to translate what I know about our history into my own speculations about what interplanetary settlement might actually be like. I'm grateful for those unexpected moments: little surprises keep well-loved and well-worn material interesting.

Thanks for the re-watch!
Debbie Solomon
13. dsolo
Love the reread. My husband and I missed "Firefly" on TV, although we had read about it and planned to watch it. The week we finally remembered it, it was already cancelled. Later, he read about the movie and we decided to go see it. I loved the movie and immediately bought the DVD series.

In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't see it on TV, because Fox apparently showed the episodes out of sequence and frequently pre-empted them. According to "Done the Impossible", FF was actually winning it's timeslot and making money for the network. One of the execs (who is no longer with Fox) hated the series and actively sabotaged it.

I enjoyed the pilot. Of course, I had already seen the movie, so that could have influenced it. I will say this, the ending of "The Train Job" blew me away and my comment at the time was, "This isn't Star Trek!" (a comment later echoed by Emerald Rose in "Big Damn Heroes").

I only wish the movie had done better, and that there was a sequel in the works. So many science fiction movies/series are about the action and special effects, that to have one that allows you to get to know the characters was wonderful. I loved each and everyone of them, and yes, I'm a huge Kaylee fan. Kaylee was kind of the glue on the ship, she was everyone's favorite little sister and helped forge the family bonds between all the disparate crew.

Since you're rewatch is going to be limited to the unfortunately few episodes we have, perhaps you can get into some indepth character discussions later.
Jennifer B
14. JennB
Calimac@7
Simon jumps of the catwalk to save River from Dobson at the end of the pilot. It can't be a direct contridiction to events portrayed in the series because it is an event portrayed in the series.
Jennifer B
15. JennB
K_Reed@12
The funny thing for me is that I have never really cared for Westerns, but mix a few spaceships in and I was hooked. It's a great combination and it works so well together.

As to the science being shoddy as R.Fife mentioned in his commentary, it never bothered me. All the concepts Whedon uses are well known staples of scifi (terraforming, gravity drives, etc.)and even though they have no scientific basis, they are easy to accept as part of the world. It really helps that Firefly is plot and character driven, not science or technology driven.
Trench
16. Calimac
JennB @14: Sorry, I'd thought our host was making a reference to Simon's improbable heroics in the flashback portion of the movie. I'd actually forgotten about his jump in the pilot, because it was such a small thing. Which actually proves my point: that was not absurd because it was not out of character.

I agree with your comments about the terraforming et al. If improbable, it's based on standard SF tropes, and it's background and not what the plots hang on.

R.Fife @9: "Network Execs ... make much more money than I do, and they do it by making television that the majority of people want to watch, so they must know something."

That calls for the most classic of all film (and tv)-making rebuttals, William Goldman's First Law of Film-Making:

"Nobody knows anything."

Which was formulated specifically to apply to situations such as this.

BTW, I liked your pointing out the small "nifty" of the surprise at what the cargo actually was. There is no emphasis laid on this at all in the show; it's just one of the subtle touches that the show does so well.
j p
17. sps49
Like the old Sara Lee campaign- everybody doesn't like something, but nobody doesn't like Kaylee!

A pilot should be the episode where needed exposition goes, so these are probably the same Box Network executives who are destined to become Torgo's Executive Powder.

I think Fox tried to promote this series (my memories are faded) but, to me, the "look" just didn't get me interested- it was too brown, definitely, and the Western-y bit appeared too dreary to grab me. And I only grabbed the movie because the week it came out I needed movies for my new (and short-tenured) wife and I to watch on the plane. And when the movie was in theaters, it looked mildly amusing, but there wasn't much info about what it was about.

Sure, I regret it now, but that's the why of it.
Ashe Armstrong
18. AsheSaoirse
The scene where Mal shoots Dobson is probably one of my favorite in the entire series, if not my most favorite. Just the way he walks up the ramp, Dobson starts leveling threats and before you can say "shiny", Mal's put a bullet in his head. It's just...fluid and bad ass. The Ash line from Army of Darkness comes to mind there, "Good, bad, I'm the guy with the gun."
Trench
19. peachy
See, I have to disagree with you here - if you accept that 'Firefly' was only going to attract a certain audience (though one quite sufficient to keep it afloat), then "Serenity" is actually an excellent pilot. It sets the series up perfectly, the exposition is smoothly integrated into the flow of the story, and the mysteries are actually mysteries if it's the first ep to air. I've always thought of it as a pretty perfect example of what you want a pilot to be.

Alas, the execs agreed with you, and deep-sixed it for being "too talky, not enough blowy-uppy." "The Train Job" is a fine mid-series ep, but it's not a pilot for the reasons mentioned by others above, and it obviously didn't reel in the audience that was supposed to be put off by "Serenity". And of course it's always bad mojo to do something like that - in fact, the preview mags were down on the show's chances before it even started precisely because of the network-mandated switch. Getting an early rap as a show unlikely to survive due to problems with the network is fantastic for attracting uncertain or skeptical viewers.
Trench
20. lordnaryb
I love Wash's opening sequence with the dinosaurs (and Seanan McGuire's song "Evil Laugh" about it). I laugh every time I see it. :)
Alex Brown
21. AlexBrown
Wash : Yes... yes. This is a fertile land, and we will thrive. We will rule over all this land, and we will call it... This Land.
Wash : I think we should call it... your grave!
Wash : Ah! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!
Wash : Ha ha ha! Mine is an evil laugh! Now DIE!
Wash : Oh no, God, oh dear God in heaven...
Jennifer B
22. JennB
AsheSaoirse@18
I love that scene too. I don't remember if Joss actually says this in the commentary or not, but I think this scene is Joss's tribute to the original version of Star Wars where Greedo shoots first. The scene at the end of Train Job is similar and I think even more analagous to the Greedo scene.

Edit to say "Wow, I screwed that one up and no one called me on it. What I meant to say is the original version of Star Wars where Han shoots first."
Alice Arneson
23. Wetlandernw
peachy @19 - Alas, the execs agreed with you, and deep-sixed it for being "too talky, not enough blowy-uppy." - Please note that Richard did NOT say it was too talky... He said that he personally loved the exposition and thought it was well done, well integrated, and all that. He also said that
But, it is still talking, and while us spec-fic geeks love hearing about this stuff, the average viewer typically does not until they are invested in the characters, thus why expositional episodes are usually saved for later.
Since network decisions are, presumably, made based on what they perceive to be attractive to the "average viewer" in the target audience, what some of us like seems to get blown away as if it were chaff. (AS IF!!!) You're actually agreeing with RF that it was an excellent pilot and should have been run as a pilot. But we poor fans have very little sway over network execs and their opinions, obviously.

By the way, who the heck are these "average viewers" who have such execrable taste? Near as I can tell, they are the cause of our decision to not bother with cable and just watch the good stuff on Hulu or wherever we can find it. Stupid "averages."
Alex Brown
24. AlexBrown
Wetlandernw @ 23: Don't get too excited about Hulu. They're going to start charging soon...
Alice Arneson
25. Wetlandernw
Figures. Well, for the time being there are other avenues as well. Lucky for me my husband is a total tech geek, so he finds out about all the new ways of watching what we want to watch. We first watched Firefly on Hulu, so I have a little soft spot for it, until they do too many stupid things. Now we have the DVDs, and they can't take those from me!
Trench
26. LAJG
My sister and I were suffering withdrawal symptoms from our weekly "Buffy" sessions, so we were excited to try out Firefly. I thought "The Train Job" was okay but had trouble keeping track of the characters. My sister was not impressed at all. She didn't bother to watch the rest of the series, and I had trouble finding when it was airing on tv.

A couple of months ago I lent her the DVDs and she totally got into the show. When she finished the series she realized that she had missed an episode and went back to watch it, and loved it. Ironically, that episode was "The Train Job".

I think there is something to be said for properly introducing the characters in a pilot episode.
Trench
27. Foxessa
Not geisha.

Baiji, and tawaif, the tradition of classically trained professional Indian courtesans, of the highest class, companion to kings and queens.

Everything about Inara is Indian, not Japanese, from her movements in dance, to the style of her clothes, her cosmetics, her hair, her jewels.
Trench
28. Shanna Swendson
I have to add that although I'm one of the few (and proud) who was watching from "The Train Job" on Fox, this episode was the one that took me from "this is a fun show" to "LOVE!" -- long before it aired. When "Out of Gas" aired, the idiot TV writer for our local paper put something in the episode blurb in the "what's on today" column about how the episode featured flashback sequences taken from the unaired pilot. Seeing that episode then made me curious about the unaired pilot those clips (according to that writer) came from, and I recalled hearing something about the script being somewhere on the web. I found it, read it, discovered that the "Out of Gas" flashbacks had nothing to do with the pilot, and once I really saw all the character introduction in context, I fell madly in love with the series. I liked "Serenity" even better when I finally saw it.

On the Han Solo comparison, I would say that although Mal hated the Alliance more than Han hated the Empire, in practice, they weren't too different. Mal was too disillusioned to do anything about the Alliance other than start the occasional bar fight. Like Han, he just wanted to be left alone to engage in his money-making illegal activities and had no interest in rebelling against or trying to overthrow the government. Mal was ready to turn Simon and River over to the government agent just to get the government out of his hair until it looked like he would also be in trouble, and then he was still going to dump them rather than get involved.

Before the movie gave us closure on some of those issues, I always thought that this would have been a source of conflict down the line because Simon had the makings of a revolutionary. The only way he could get out of being a fugitive would be to bring down the government that was trying to catch him, and he was also enough of an idealist to get furious about what he saw on the Rim and want to do something about it, and Simon getting caught up in some kind of radical underground resistance movement would not have gone over well with Mal, who didn't want to get involved. And I suppose that still could have paralleled Star Wars because Han initially didn't get into the fight because he hated the Empire but rather because he felt like he ought to help Luke (and he liked Leia), and Mal might have become involved because he couldn't seem to stop himself from getting Simon out of trouble.
Trench
29. peachy
@28 - I had a similar experience; I caught "The Train Job" live, and liked it without being overly enthusiastic. But I stuck around, watched the entire original run, and become a pretty serious fan. Then I saw "Serenity"... and I cursed Fox for a day straight. I'm still convinced that kicking off with "Serenity" would have given the series a fighting chance.

Agreed on the Mal/Solo analogy. In the big picture, Mal isn't really a danger to the Alliance. He fought the good fight in the war, he lost, and now he's happy enough getting by. So long as he's left alone, his antipathy for the Alliance is a fairly petty thing.

Simon, now, Simon's a revolutionary in embryo; a true believer who's rudely awakened by a personal violation, and an idealist who's awakened just as rudely by his first contact with "the real world." He's very smart, he's very mad, and he's willing and able to think in the biggest possible terms. (He's also sufficiently inexperienced to not realise just how poor the odds of success are.)

The closing scene of the episode is a nice encapsulation of this difference. Mal's made his delivery and got his money; he survived a bit of a dust-up with Prudence, and escaped the Reavers; the logistical problems of the Serenity are temporarily solved, and they're still flying... in short, he's pretty satisfied with the state of affairs.

Simon is... not.
john mullen
30. johntheirishmongol
It took me a little while to get into the cadence of what Joss was doing, once I did, I got a kick out of it. I too was a much bigger fan of Kaylee, at first, but Inara grew on me.

I had pretty much figured out, almost immediately, that River was going to be a big part of the show, mostly because Simon was a big doof and was not going to be the focus. That, and I knew that Joss liked strong women characters, witness Buffy and Dollhouse

I did watch this from the beginning, often having to catch it at odd times because, as often is the case, scifi on tv is considered a niche market. And it is often more costly to make. It makes no difference that the highest grossing movies have been scifi or fantasy, the perception is still alive in the television industry. Any successful series are considered an abberation, not a new trend, so they don't get a lot of support or advertising.
Trench
31. Kittentracks
Interestingly I remember watching this on TV and thinking "Why would they air the Pilot as the second ep?" - and just thinking it was an error made by the network here in Oz (they do that s*@# all the time with SF series, they just shove them into late night slots thinking it will only have a small audience anyway). To me "Serenity" always felt like the pilot as it was such a great introduction to the crew and the recent history that had lead them to this point. When I looked it up on the net and found it had originally aired that way in the US despite Whedons wishes and that it was canned after only 14 eps I felt a bit ill like I had lost something before I had even found it.
I love this episode as much now as the first time I saw it. I love the characters and I love the world as flawed as it may be in places. Whedon has this amazing ability to write characters you want to care about. Even Mal's ambiguity is lovable because you can identify his motivations. He and the rest of the crew have a dynamic that feels real, like family.

And if I was a 14 year old boy Kaylee would be on my wall too. But as a 33 year old female I just can't go past Jayne ... or Mal, or Wash, or Simon. Ah hell let's face it that one fine looking crew!!
Leigh Butler
32. leighdb
First, congrats on your new gig, Mr. Fife. I hope you know what you're in for.

Second, name-dropping time - I once had pizza with Nathan Fillion.

I was working for a production company that was producing one of his movies (Slither, if you're curious), and Nathan completely unexpectedly dropped by to thank us by bringing his favorite local pizza to distribute to the entire office.

Which pretty much sums up what you need to know about the awesome that is Nathan Fillion. He is seriously one of the nicest people I've ever met.

While he was there, we chatted briefly, and I explained to him that I had not watched Firefly when it originally aired (I was in Hell at the time, long story), but had been given the DVD set as a gift by friends who told me fervently YOU MUST LOVE THIS SHOW, NOW. And lo, I did really enjoy it, and I told him so.

He laughed and said that that was generally how it worked with Firefly. Apparently that was not the first time he had been told about the guerilla ambush method of fandom Browncoats are known to employ.

Anyway, cool thing to recap. I'll be reading with interest.
Trench
33. kluelos
These are the slums, the fringe of society, the place you fall to when you're a second or third-class citizen tolerated, but little more.
The Chinese were the big winners, and they inhabit the desirable neighborhoods, while the white barbarians are exiled out to the frontiers.

(While that may seem something of a leap at first, notice that very few American political and social values seem to have survived in peoples' attitudes, values and expectations. I'm taking it that the USA "won" much in the sense that France "won" WWII.)

I had always taken the absence of Chinese characters + everybody speaks a little Chinese as emphasizing this point -- these neo-coolies have their own society and their own pidgin, but it's not real language. Real people don't associate with them and they're not welcome in civilized parts of the verse. No self-respecting Chinese would be out here or have anything to do with them. There's no justice, and barely anything like law because most of society has already written them off.

Even the navy treats everyone out here as inherently suspect, mostly beneath contempt and only reluctantly worth the trouble, like cops patrolling a slum. They're not really people, so who cares if they kill and steal from each other. 'verse would be a better place if they were all gone.
Rob Munnelly
34. RobMRobM
Leigh - "First, congrats on your new gig, Mr. Fife. I hope you know what you're in for."

You must be so proud to have one of your re-read chicks leave the nest and begin flying....

Rob
Jennifer B
35. JennB
@33
Makes sense, except in Ariel we get to see one of the core planets and everybody is pretty white there too.
Trench
36. Calimac
I must be one of the few people who managed to see all eleven of the episodes that were actually broadcast, on their first broadcast airing.

Part of that was luck of my personal schedule, and part of it was the luck of the local station not pre-empting any of it, but also, I was primed to watch the first episode because I was a BTVS fan. A Western in space? Sounds crazy, but if Whedon does it, I'll watch it.

kluelos @33: That's a reasonable explanation, and I'd buy it if there were one jot or positive scintilla of evidence in the series itself supporting it, instead of an absence that needs to be explained away. In fact, we see a number of authority figures in the series, and they're all Caucasian (or, for a wide enough definition of authority figure, Black). But any Chinese?
Kate Nepveu
37. katenepveu
I was in the unusual position of watching this show for the first time while knowing all of River & Simon's backstory. So I liked everyone the first time I met them, except Jayne, who took a while. (I actually liked Inara less as we went on, but I think that's the show's fault.)

Did y'all know there are shooting scripts available online? I have links to those, episode-by-episode comments, and general comments in a couple of old posts on my LJ; I'm only going to link to the first because I'm worried about getting caught in the spam filter, but there's a link to the second part in that one: big damn roundup of Firefly commentary, 1 of 2. (Nb. this is from 2005 so link rot will have happened, but the shooting script links, at least, are still good.)

Thanks to Milliways Bar, a panfandom RPG on LiveJournal. I haven't had time to keep up with it for quite a while, but--good grief, five years ago now, River dueled Roland of Gilead for the Rose Bride, which turned into her gunslinger's trial. I only knew Roland, but that got me completely interested in River (and Anthy, though I still haven't made time for _Utena_). Later that year the players did an epic Dark Tower/Firefly crossover, attacking Blue Sun's Academy, which I do not have time to re-read right now, really I don't!
Trench
38. Christie Yant
I finally watched it again last night (first week and I was already behind!) I was blown away again by just how awesome "Serenity" is. Hard to believe it was a pilot, and equally hard to believe that Fox could be so stupid as to not air it first.

Some favorite moments: Seeing Serenity power up the first time; Mal telling Jayne to walk away from the table after he insulted Kaylee; discovering that the 'treasure' was food rations; Mal's casual shooting of the Fed; the run from the Reavers (they did a great job of making that ship look terrifying and unstoppable); Book's moment of crisis.

It had been a while since I'd watched this episode; I've watched all of the others from time to time, but I guess because of the length I hadn't put this one on. It was wonderful to revisit it.
Trench
39. NYPinTA
The Chinese aren't around because Mal (being a thief most of the time) sticks to where he can blend in. It's an Alliance, not a melting pot. The two big powers, The US and China, got together to get everyone off Earth, but that doesn't mean they merged into one giant population where everyone lives together in peace and harmony. They're probably still very seperate. The US founded Londinium and the Chinese founded Sihnon. So there is a blending of culutures to some extent but it's hardley complete. I wager Mal takes work in the part that is mostly inhabited by the decendents of the US. To go to the parts of the verse that are Chinese heavy in population is to stand out.
Trench
40. NYPinTA
PS I saw the show when it first aired on Fox and have to say my most favorite moment, the one that made me want to watch this show, was when Serenity rose up behind our intrepid (idiot) heroes on the cliff after the bar brawl. So, like Mal, I fell in love with Serenity the moment I saw her.
Trench
41. a-j
Watched this first on DVD before seeing the film. Disliked the idea of the series but was converted by the film trailers and the fact that the DVD set was on special offer so I saw the series in the 'right' order. The first thing that struck me, and still strikes me on re-watches, is the comparative lack of humour in it. I've got it in mind that Joss Whedon stated that he wanted to get away from the Buffy wise-cracking but was asked to bring it back as the series progressed. The other thing that strikes me is Mal's intense anger and unhappiness. We see him bouyant and optimistic in the opening and then straight cut to a cold humourless face in the spacesuit helmet and a man whose very body-language betrays the disgust he feels for the Badgers of this world. Suffice to say I find Nathan Fillion's performance excellent. But then all the performances are very high quality. The introduction to the reivers is excellent and I particularly liked the low key way the terror they invoke in the characters is shown. Mal's casual killing of the fed is the a sign that this is a genuinely different type of hero and so for me the pilot works well and it is a shame that Fox bottled out on it.

Btw
Am I right in thinking that the dying words of Wash's stegasaurus are a direct quote from 'The Wicker Man' when Edward Woodward first sees it?
Trench
42. tigerstripes
Where are all the Asians? My take on Firefly is: You're lookin' at 'em. Given all that time, the melting pot has done its job.
Trench
43. Calimac
... and the explanations for the lack of Chinese are just getting lamer and lamer. Please stop now.
Richard Fife
44. R.Fife
Miss Butler, thank you much. If I don't know, I'm sure I'll find out soon.

Kate: Thanks for the link. Upon reading the shooting script for Serenity (which has the original opening scene that the Network Execs nixed for being to dark and morbid), the first description of Kaylee makes me smile: "She is young, zaftig - as cheery as she is sexy"

I will definitely look over those some more (at least as my kids give me time).

I... probably have more to say, but I'm in the process of writing next week's installment (look at me, being all ahead of schedule and stuff), but much of what I'd want to say is probably going to be meat for "The Train Job", so I'll save it ;)
Ashe Armstrong
45. AsheSaoirse
@22. JennB
I think it helped illustrate Inara's conversation with Book about Mal's paradoxical nature. He very easily killed the Fed without a thought to protect his crew.
Jennifer B
46. JennB
Baby is asleep, time to pop in the DVD!
Jennifer B
47. JennB
One of my most favorite lines:
"Ten percent of nothin' is... Let me do the math here. Nothin' into nothin', carry the nothin..."

Love it!!

AsheSaoirse@45
You are very right on that one. It also makes a lot more sense than having a standoff when you only have minutes before you are attacked by reavers.

As the viewer, I was quite satisfied since Dobson had knocked out Book and then continued to beat him after he was unconsious.
j p
48. sps49
I have no problem with Dobson's end. He shot an innocent woman, beat the man who saved his life beyond unconsciousness, and was threatening the life of another innocent. Mal got him when he was expecting people to stand still and listen.
John Massey
49. subwoofer
Milo 1313 FTW- gotta love talking dinos:)

@Fifester- is this all in answer to my post last week of why Firefly never caught on? Guess my questions were spoilerish, but dang, this has come and gone circa 2002.

I gotta say my favorite Firefly lady is Mrs. Reynolds- and I don't mean Mal's mumsie.

My local station pushed this around for all sorts of garbage. I believe one episode was shifted for a figure skating tourney. I was already questioning Fox's sanity for the garbage they pulled on Married... this just iced it. Still holding out for Human Target.

I like the way food in this series works. Nothing fancy, no Trekkie replicator, just condensed army ration type fair, eating is a pleasure taken for granted now, in this show it is all about the nutrition, no taste. Real food is a luxury. So the first meal they share really is special.

Got more to say in a bit, love the blog.

Good times!

Woof™.
Trench
50. kluelos
@43 Yet so much trouble and pains taken to get the Chinese slang right. Shall we just pretend it all didn't happen? Ignore it, maybe it'll go away?

Fans have been trying to explain holes or gaps in SF for as long as I can remember. Unlikely it's going to stop now. Maybe if you ignored posts you consider lame?
Tangle Key
51. tanglekey
I'm loving the new re-watches: Firefly, Cowboy Bebop and Avatar -- all of them some of my favorite series.

I like so many others watched this show long after it came out on tv. I caught after some friends insisted I watch the DVDs. I was hooked after the pilot. Then again, I'm a spec-fic fan so I may just be someone who digs the exposition.

My own personal favorite moments in this episode: Wash playing with the plastic dinosaurs, Jayne nervously watching Kaylee's surgery right outside the medical room, Kaylee twirling her shiny umbrella, the banter between all the crew members. What don't I love?

I look forward to more!
Margaret L Ruwoldt
52. flipsockgrrl
Calimac@7: "One instance in which talking does the job tremendously well is when Zoe and Jayne show, by what they say and how they say it, that they're scared as heck of the Reavers. And if they're scared, then I'm scared..."

This works partly because we already know that Zoe isn't afraid of anything much -- look at the calm, competent way she behaved in the opening scene at Serenity Valley. Far from flatness, the impression I first had was of strength, restrained. And therein lies Zoe's mystery: why would such a cool, detached character be fighting on the side of the rebels? How impressive must Mal be, if Zoe willingly becomes his 2IC on board "Serenity"?

Shanna Swendson@28: "Mal was ready to turn Simon and River over to the government agent just to get the government out of his hair..."

I'm not sure he actually would have turned them over. Asking about the reward was just a bargaining chip, a ploy to distract Dodson until he could be disarmed.

From Mal's perspective it's clear that Simon must have mightily annoyed the Alliance -- the two men share at least an antipathy towards the Alliance and we know from the earlier conversation with Badger that Mal understands the value of honor among thieves.

If the stand-off had gone better, I think Mal would have tried to find a way for Simon and River to 'escape' while Dobson was unavoidably detained (distracted) elsewhere.
Trench
53. peachy
@52 - That's an interesting question, but I'm thinking I disagree. A mutual antipathy doesn't necessarily imply any further fellow-feeling, and Mal is pretty vexed to have been dragged, without any warning or a chance to say 'no', into something that endangers his crew. Of course, once the Tams become part of the crew, that's not an issue... but I don't know that they cross that line for Mal before Dobson gets popped.

Now, it's entirely possible that he wouldn't have said 'no' if he'd been given a chance - though sheltering fugitives from serious heat might been a step too far at that point for someone who's just a smuggler and occasional thief. But he's never given the chance, and I think that's the reason for his vexation. He got played, and he would resent that even if the situation didn't endanger his people.

(I see "War Stories" as having a similar theme; "Heart of Gold" is a counter-point. Mal has no objection to danger that's not strictly necessary, so long as it's choice to confront it.)
Rikka Cordin
54. Rikka
am now slightly convinced that I am inhuman because Kaylee annoys me more than she amuses me.
Alice Arneson
55. Wetlandernw
It's okay, Rikka, you're still human. Mostly. :)
Trench
56. Calimac
flipsockgrrl@52: Precisely. It's Zoe's and Jayne's competence as fighters (Jayne is an obnoxious idiot, but his competence as a warrior is not in question) which makes their fear of the Reavers so impressive.

kluelos@50: It's the quantity and detail of the Chinese speech that makes the lack-of-Chinese question so perplexing. Either come up with a good explanation, which hasn't been done so far, or just shrug it off as inexplicable.

If you want me to ignore you, why are you posting?
John Massey
57. subwoofer
Heck, if we want to quibble over details, then why do the guns in this futuristic series look like... um, guns? We do some futuristic weapons in IIRC- "Heart of Gold" but for the most part, I see Colt repeaters and what looks like sawed off shot guns- edit and, in this episode, some anti-aircraft guns. Oh, sorry, I forgot about Vera. Anyways, it looks like the sound effects guy changed the classic "bang" for a sci-fi "pew". Whatever, the story works. Good enough for me. Sci-fi meets western. Loved Siverado. Loved Star Wars. This is where the two meet in the middle.

Not gonna pick nits.

Woof™.
Michael Ikeda
58. mikeda
subwoofer@57

The reason the guns are guns is part of the point. The places that we spend most of the time are both poor and fairly low-tech. Presumably the more high-tech weapons are either too expensive or not reliable enough under the relatively primitive conditions of the outer worlds.
Church Tucker
59. Church
"You can feel the sibling love of his story, even if it is being told instead of shown." This is both a lesson in 'how not to write for television' and a lesson in 'know when to ignore the lessons.' I coincidently saw Train Job first (caught it on a ScFi marathon--I never could figure out when the broadcast episodes aired) and loved it, but I really think this works better as a pilot.
j p
60. sps49
The only high-tech weapon not listed on imfdb.org/Firefly is used by the "Hands of Blue" two.
Nathan Martin
61. lerris
Re-watched the first DVD this weekend.

As far as the Chinese issue, this was part of the backstory ( as Whedon indicated in some of the special features on either the series or movie DVDs, I forget exactly where but I'll get to them eventually). The truth is, Whedon was not given sufficient time to reveal the entire backstory over the course of the story.

The simple explanation is, of course, casting.
Trench
62. kluelos
What, you mean there's not enough oriental-looking actors wanting jobs? Uhhh.... You want chinese, you tell your casting person. *Poof*, you got many, many, working in between kung-fu movies.


If you've hired somebody just for the purpose of teaching your actors current Chinese slang, making sure they intone and pronounce correctly, spending considerable time and effort at it, then that reasoning hardly works.

Given all the work you're putting in on it, any variation of "that just got by us" doesn't really work. I think you have to assume that something which jumps out at so many of us, at least occurred to Whedon & Co. who decided not to. It's not such a huge leap to speculate that there was a particular reason for it which we would have learned if the series continued.

@Calimac, not them, just you. Others are quite interested. IOW, a polite suggestion, not taken, that "oh, don't talk about that, I think it's lame" is somewhere south of futile, and approaching the vicinity of rude -- a line you're crowding. Nobody appointed you cop OR judge. And as you may note, it's quite unsuccessful.
Trench
63. kluelos
@57 This story from the making of TOS is that they needed a salt shaker, so they sent a prop guy out to get one. He came back with this weird assortment of salt shakers. Trouble was, they didn't look like salt shakers. They became Dr. McCoy's medical instruments.

A gun's got to look like a gun, at least enough so that people watching don't go, "what's that?".
Church Tucker
64. Church
Slightly OT, but why does the link from the FF rewatch index open in a new window? Most other internal links here don't.
Alice Arneson
65. Wetlandernw
Church @64 - No idea why it works that way, but it generally does here on tordotcom. Links from the index or from within the blogger's post open a new window; links embedded in the comments redirect the current window. It Just Works That Way. Which ought to be a trope of some sort, but if I go looking for it I'll be stuck there all night.
Trench
66. Calimac
Here's the deal, kluelos: You say what you think, and I'll say what I think. Neither of us has veto powers on posting, so nobody's ordering anybody to do anything. It's not the topic that's lame, it's the explanations. And if people offer lame explanations for something, they're gonna get called lame. That's how it works.
Vincent Lane
67. Aegnor
I didn't ever catch Firefly during the original run. I had a friend that regularly watched it, but he didn't mention it too much. I first watched it when the movie was getting ready to come out, and Sci-Fi channel re-aired the episodes (in the correct order). I watched all of them, then called up my friend and chewed him out for not making me watch this series.

I didn't especially like Train Job, it was ok, but I sometimes skip it during rewatches. I love the pilot though. It was just sheer stupidity not airing it first. My favorite episode, by far, is "Out of Gas". It is after watching that episode that I went from really liking this show, to loving it.

After watching the last episode for the first time, I was struck by the feeling of loss that I had. There are so few shows that transcend from mere entertainment, into a true life experience. From something to pass the time, into something that you will remember for years to come.

So here this show had actually accomplished that in just one season, and showed so much potential for even greater things, and yet it had been canceled. So then you go through the stages...Denial: Well, surely a series as great as this can be picked up by some network and we'll get more Firefly. Anger: Those %!@ %!!$% bastards at Fox! How could they be so stupid! Bargaining: Just one more season, if there was one more season, they could wrap things up. Maybe on the internet, or straight to DVD! Depression: Its Over! No more....

And finally acceptance. Appreciation for what we did get, which are 13 episodes and a movie with incredible story telling.
Trench
68. tigerstripes
I was on a train in Russia once, and saw someone who had to be a Tartar -- Asian features and blonde and blue. And not just any ol' b & b, *bright* blond and *bright* blue. So I stand by my theory.

My thanks to anyone here who had my back, even if just in the name of courtesy. It's a rare thing to find online.
Trench
69. kluelos
Calimac, dude, you can think it's lame, and even say so, all you want. Calling for the discussion to stop because YOU aren't pleased with it, is 'way over the line. Here, I'll help you remember what you said:

CALIMAC: "Please stop now".

You really need to grow up and apologize a lot here. This forum does not revolve around you, topics that you do not like, and theories that you consider imperfect, may in fact be put forth here. This will happen and continue to happen whether you approve of it or not. You contribute nothing to the discussion by content-free remarks like "it's lame", offering nothing further, neither relevant fact or reasoned theory.

Instead, such comments are pointlessly inflammatory, rhetoric on the level of a very young child pitching a temper tantrum. It's quite embarrassing for you, and I wonder that you don't see that and feel mortified for doing it.

Do you have a theory to offer that you consider non-lame? You certainly haven't offered one so far. Do you have anything at all constructive to say on the whole subject? Do you have any positive, or at least some non-inflammatory thing to add? Anything even a LITTLE bit more advanced than, "it's lame!"?

If not, then the best thing to say may be nothing at all. When others are discussing a subject, it really is quite ill-mannered to march up and announce that you don't approve of everyone else's remarks, and ask them not to talk about it. You see, they aren't there to please you. The forum is a common resource, and it's important to learn how to share it with other people, respecting their rights to have and express opinions -- even, Calimac, if you think those opinions might be wrong.

While you are certainly free to express disagreement with those opinions, it would be nice if your disagreement were expressed with a bare minimum of, well, perhaps courtesy is expecting too much, but maybe civility is within reach? It would also be advantageous to you if you could put forth some reasons why you disagree, but maybe we need to work up to things like that later.
Trench
70. filkferengi
dsolo@13

Excellent as the Emerald Rose song undoubtedly is, to my mind the song I'm hearing for this first episode is "Mal's Song" by the inimitable Michelle "Vixy" Dockrey. Lyrics are here:
http://www.vixyandtony.com/lyrics_mal.html

Thank you all for the wonderful re-watch & discussion!
Trench
71. Browncoat Whit
Coming late to the shindig here -- but can I just say that Zoe's the gal I'd want for Christmas? I have such a ridiculously fierce girl-crush on that woman -- she's hot, she's the most competent member of the crew, and I'm sure Jayne knows she could take him if it came to a fight. ;) It breaks my x?nzàng that we didn't get to see more of her backstory...

Aegnor, I really appreciate your comments regarding the sense of loss I've felt over this show -- I'd like to think that in some alternate 'verse somewhere, these characters are still flying (and that the events of the film simply don't come to pass... that, too! Hard to imagine Serenity without Wash at her helm!)
Trench
72. Kaladorn (TomB)
I'm still trying to figure out why anyone would want to choose between posters of Inara or Kaylee...

It seems obvious to me the best poster would feature BOTH of them. Throw in Zoey and Saffron and you've got the makings of a distraction power so potent it could consume the spacetime continuum.

I've enjoyed Jewel on Stargate:Atlantis as well as Dr. Keller. She played a similar sort of sympathetic, competent, people-aware character with a good heart and an aversion to violence.

Inara was also good in Stargate:SG-1 as Adria, the halfway ascended evil chick.

Last thought:

I have a T-shirt with some stylistic palm trees, some very obviously plastic dinosaurs, and the quote under it reads "Wash Lives!".

You have no idea how many times I've been asked why I would need to wash lives (as in life). Those people... they just don't know... and I feel the tragedy of loss for them that they know not...

Now, where's my brown duster and my sixgun? There's a storm a-comin' and its time to fly ahead of it...

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment