Monday, April 8, 2013

Firefly, a Show Ahead of its Time


If you’ve been a nerd for any length of time you’ve likely heard of a show called Firefly, a sci-fi/western that follows the heroics and antics of the colorful crew of the privately owned and operated ship Serenity. Though the show was cancelled after only one season its cast and its fans all wanted more. As a result the series was concluded with the movie Serenity which tied up many loose ends, but left some questions unanswered as well as raised some new ones. The show has also inspired a few graphic novels that help fill the void of missing content left by the show’s early cancellation.

The Ship
Serenity, as she’s named by her owner and captain, Malcolm Reynolds is named after the battle of Serenity Valley which is considered to be the turning point in the war between the Alliance and the Independents. The ship itself is a firefly class (hence the name of the show) and is frequently used by smugglers as there are several places where illicit cargo can be stored away from prying eyes. Though the ship is unarmed throughout the series, and is only lightly armed in the movie, she does manage to stir up a great deal of trouble including a full blown battle between the Alliance and the Reavers (a group of humans driven mad and living on ships on the outer edges of the system). Despite being an older model when initially purchased by Malcolm Reynolds, the ship continues on in his service even after the events of the movie.

The Crew
The crew of Serenity includes her captain, Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), her first-mate, Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres), her pilot Hoban ‘Wash’ Washburne (Alan Tudyk), her ambassador Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin), her mechanic Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite), her doctor Simon Tam (Sean Maher), her muscle Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), and a couple passengers including the doctor’s sister River Tam (Summer Glau) and a preacher known as Shepherd Book (Ron Glass). These characters make up the main part of the cast and are the focus of several misadventures throughout the system they call home. The crew is resourceful to be sure and they’ll take most any kind of job they can get (even those of a less legitimate nature). As the series progressed each character was given additional background and depth greatly enriching the quality of the series and the extent to which you can come to understand their universe. While the show plays with the idea of certain characters eventually getting together, it’s not until the movie that any of these plot lines are resolved (and some are left hanging altogether).

The Culture
Firefly is unique from other science fiction in three major aspects. First is the setting. Where most science fiction will be based on a galactic scale (like Star Wars and Star Trek) the setting for Firefly is a single star system with a number of planets and moons that have been terraformed to support human life. This process causes each planet to have its own unique traits that set it apart from the others and drives some of the plot, and was a major cause of the war between the Alliance and the Independents.

The second major feature present in the show is its choice of and takes on religion. Unlike any other science fiction IP Firefly chooses Christianity as the religion that ultimately won out on earth and continues to be prevalent in the culture. This choice allows the show’s creators to address issues of morality, and redemption and touches on both of these subjects as it explores the past of each character and how that influences their present decisions.

Finally the other feature that sets Firefly apart is the absence of additional races. The universe as it’s presented is entirely human focused which fits well with the Christian overtones of the show. Even though there is the presence of psychics (River Tam) and of course the Reavers, these are explained through means of science, experimentation, heightened perception, and psychology.

Conclusions
Though it ran for only a short time, the Firefly IP has influenced the nerd culture in very tangible ways and in some fashions has contributed more than other franchises despite their more popular nature. Because of the high quality, expertly written banter, and Christian themes Firefly will always have a place in my N3rd C0rn3r.