I finished Josh Whedon‘s Firefly series on Netflix last night, 14 episodes. Like other elements of the Whedon canon, this story is science fiction/fantasy about the gradual development of family and self-awareness in a large cast of characters thrown together by circumstance.
This one is a “space western”, so slightly original on that mash-up, and consequently kind of “steampunk“. The spaceships have what look to be diesel engines, and experience normal Earth gravity in space with no talk of fancy gravity generators. So to that extent, willing suspension of disbelief is a little difficult, because although the set pieces and set design are pretty, it still looks like cowboys pretending to be on a space ride in a carnival which is firmly rooted on Earth.
If I were to assign this show an IQ and an age, I would say IQ around 119 and age around 13. For comparison, I would put a show like Breaking Bad at IQ 150 and age 45. The difference is between a clever but light YA show and a dark, smart adult show.
Whedon had some long-running commercial hits, notably Buffy and Angel. Firefly is one of Whedon’s semi-ambitious misses, another being Dollhouse, which I haven’t finished yet. This show had one run and was cancelled, I think unfairly, as he built a decent cast of characters. Episode 14 did not feel like the finale of anything, and it felt like the story could have been spun out for another 50 episodes. That is, it was a solid scaffolding, and then they just took it down. Presumably if it were done now, with Amazon, Hulu and Netflix competing for original content, it would have gotten a longer run, if maybe on a tighter budget. This show doesn’t look like it had a huge budget: The sets looked like they could have been constructed by a college theater class.
To be fair, it was something of an empty shell. We never get to know what the preacher actually is. The Captain and the Companion flirt endlessly and never get down to cases. The Companion’s philosophy doesn’t date well: She seems trite and shallow. We never find out the ultimate purpose of the Waif. So, a lot of loose ends.
Or maybe not. I haven’t watched Serenity yet (or maybe I did and I’ve forgotten it), the movie based on the show. I will go back now and watch that and see if it puts the show to bed properly.