What do you get when you combine Star Wars, the old
west, a lone space cargo ship and Joss Whedon's mind? A futuristic
show about a team of space mercenaries traveling the galaxy,
battling injustice and committing criminal acts.
In the distant future, environmental mismanagement has led
to the destruction of Earth and the expulsion of her residents.
Forced to spread in all directions, mankind found new solar
systems to live. As the planets were colonized a galaxy-wide
government called The Alliance rose up to take control of
all the planets. But it was unjust, of course, and a rebellion
arose that led to an interstellar revolutionary war.
Six years have passed since The Alliance quelled the war and
most of its rebels. Those remaining defiant ones are now forced
to the outer edges of the settled planets, finding work and
income where they can. They do the jobs that allow them to
survive, all the while trying to stay under the radar of The
Enter Firefly, a starship of rebels, runaways and ruffians.
The ship's crew includes the bold captain, the stalwart second
in command, a bullet headed warrior, a lovely mechanic, a
stunning 'companion' (figure it out), an Alliance doctor (on
the run) with his (by all appearances) insane sister and an
out of place holy man. Although it is not immediately obvious
which part they will play, each character adds a special element
to the ship.
The adventure begins on a small moon in the outer reaches
of Alliance space. Picture a bar scene worthy of the old west.
Captain Mal, Zoe, and Jayne sit in the corner of the bar playing
a futuristic game that closely resembles Chinese Checkers.
The tavern regulars are celebrating Unification Day, the day
the rebels were successfully beat down. After receiving their
work orders for a new job, the captain picks a fight with
the local Alliance supporters. The most notable props in this
scene are the futuristic drinking glasses made from the bottoms
of plastic water bottles, proving that all those non-biodegradable
water bottles Americans use will still be around 2000 years
The opening credits give a flashback to the beginning of
Enterprise, with a strumming slow song with grand space shots
as the ship careens off to parts unknown. This does more to
terrify the first time viewer than to set their mind at ease.
But it's important to keep an open mind and let the show establish
its own feel. Luckily, Firefly turns out to be so much
more than its opening credits.
River Tam is introduced as a screaming basket case. Nightmarish
shots of some sort of medical experiments flash across the
screen. These appear to be memories from her previous life
that little is known about but are actually flashes from the
original pilot episode, to be aired in December.
River's brother, Dr. Simon Tam, rushes to her aid as she awakes
from the nightmare. He truly cares for her, having given up
all that he was in The Alliance to help free his sister from
whatever torture the government imposed upon her.
The charismatic figure that pulls the crew together is the
captain, Malcolm Reynolds. His motivations remain unclear,
but he seems to take in strays like an animal shelter collects
The priestly character aptly named "Shepherd" is
trying desperately to fit in. He doesn't really know why he
is allowed to be here, and it is not yet explained why he
is there. But he wants to earn his keep and help the crew
with anything short of actual criminal acts. Mal has made
it clear that the occupants of the ship are welcome, but he
also makes it clear to the priest that his god is not.
The first exposure to the engine room reveals a tangle of
wires and engine parts establishing a strong feeling that
mechanical problems may be the plot of a future episode. However,
for now, it gives an opportunity for the captain to yell at
the mechanic for slacking on her duties and to introduce the
inside of Inara the registered companion's ship.
Stunningly beautiful, Inara has a measurable presence and
is well respected in the universe for her profession. Finally
the world of the future breaks through the satin curtain to
companionship. Who says a post-apocalyptic
world is all doom and gloom? After a quick explanation of
the guild laws that bind companions we are introduced to the
softer side of Mal. The employer for their current job is
an unsavory sort that Mal doesn't think Inara should tangle
with. So he confines her to the ship, breaking through his
hardnosed veneer for a moment.
Mr. Adalade Nisca is the unpleasant employer with a henchmen
named simply Claw. He details the job they are to perform
for the Firefly crew and threatens serious repercussions if
the job should fail. Nisca waxes eloquent about the difference
between reputation and reality. The appearance of a tortured
man hung by his ankles serves as Nisca's mechanism for bridging
the world between reputation and truth. Nisca means business
and doesn't like being messed with.
The visuals in this first episode were simply stunning. The
ship exteriors are beautiful to look at yet they contain an
element of grunge that one would expect from a well-used backworld
cargo ship. Some of the most memorable scenes involve distance
shots of The Alliance headquarters and panorama views near
a levitating monorail train. Some stages appear more like
they were shot in the dentist office down the street or a
soup kitchen in Cleveland than a mobile space ship traveling
at interstellar speeds. Still, the sets don't distract from
the integrity of the show.
And pacing only adds to it. From smoke bomb distractions to
chance encounters with 20 armed alliance soldiers, the energy
keeps you involved in the show and on the edge of your seat.
A budding romance appears to be starting between the ship's
mechanic Kaylee and the young Dr. Tam. Tam still has trouble
accepting the illicit activities of the crew, but he is grateful
for a hideout from The Alliance and willing to help where
he can. Hopefully, the romance between the two will remain
a side plot and not take over the show like so many bad sitcoms.
However, the characters' interactions are dynamic and already
the chemistry is working with the crew.
The world of Firefly appears all the more realistic
for its shades of gray and the ambiguity of who the heroes
are. Decisions are made and steps are taken that set up the
complex moral code and lives of the characters. This is Whedon's
strong suit, as made evident by his complex characters in
Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Hopefully the writing and
acting will remain strong enough to continue carrying the
At the end of the episode we are offered a lead to a potentially
ongoing storyline. On board the ship, River haves a frightful
moment as she scares the rest of the crew with her recitation
of "two by two - gloves of blue".
"They'll keep coming" she says. "They won't
stop." It's unclear at this point whether she is having
a premonition or a flashback. But she seems genuinely terrified.
The closing scene shows two men at the alliance headquarters.
They say they are looking for a woman that may have been on
the world where the recent medicine theft occurred. They show
a picture of a woman that looks a lot like River Tam, probably
because it is. And they have hands of blue. The blue hands
are in fact rubber dish gloves
But they seem ominous
If the first episode is any indication of success quality
of the overall show, this series will go far. The explanation
of why things are the way they are is clearly established.
There are still many mysteries about each character, where
they've come from, why they behave the way they do. But these
mysteries will be a running element for plot twists and character
For a pilot episode this is extremely promising. There are
a number of obstacles and trials to complete for Whedon before
the show attains classic status. But the actors, writers and
directors are off to a great start. We can hope that truly
"They'll keep coming" and "They won't stop."