|In association with Amazon.ca.||In association with Amazon.com.||In association with Amazon.co.uk.|
Mutant Enemy, Inc./20th Century Fox Television, 2002
Rated: 12 in the UK
Directors: Joss Whedon, Tim Minear, Vern Gillum, Michael Grossman, Vondie Curtis Hall, Marita Grabiak, David Solomon, Allan Kroeker, James Contner, Thomas J. Wright
Producers: Gareth Davies, Ben Edlund
Amazon.com: NTSC DVD
Amazon.ca: NTSC DVD
Amazon.co.uk: PAL DVD
Recommended by: Greg Slade
Up until this year, I hadn't owned a TV since 1992, so I have missed a lot of science fiction TV shows. In fact, it wasn't until a Firefly fan showed up at a weekly fanmeet which I helped to organise that I even heard that there was show called Firefly. Even if I'd had a TV, I would have missed the broadcast of the first couple of episodes because I was out of the country, and then the network cancelled the show only 11 episodes in. (Let's just take my rant against the networks in general, and Fox in particular as read, shall we?)
There have been any number of shows which I personally liked which got yanked off the air before they managed to establish an audience, dating back to the original series of Star Trek (yes, I am that old), but the cancellation of Fireflyannoys me far more than most of them. That's because it's what I call a "perfect" show. That doesn't mean that there is nothing which could be improved (for instance, I have now watched the episodes enough times that I can spot continuity errors without having them pointed out to me by people who are more adept at picking nits than I am), but it does mean that it was a show which satisfied all of the expectations I have for a good television show. It had believable characters, and made the audience care about what happened to them, the dialogue was frequently extremely funny, the acting was terrific, the effects much better than you would expect, especially given the budget, and the scientific goofs were, if not kept to a minimum, at least relegated to set dressing.
Particularly interesting to me was the character of Shepherd Book, who is in a monastic order, but whose theology appears to be roughly mainline Protestant. (In the director's commentary, Whedon refers to Book as "Protestant.") There is one tantalising glimpse into Book's thinking, when he finds River cutting up his Bible, saying that she's fixing it:
Book: River, you don't... fix the Bible.
River: It's broken. It doesn't make sense.
Book: It's not about... making sense. It's about believing in something. And letting that belief be real enough to change your life. It's about faith. You don't fix faith, River. It fixes you.
The implication seems to be that Book is a Christian, not because he is convinced of the truth of Christianity, but because he sees it as doing him some good. There are hints as to why Book might have felt that he needed to be "fixed": he seems to be gentle and harmless, but there are numerous scenes throughout the series where he demonstrates a knowledge of the workings of the underworld, and the ability to handle his fists, and a gun. The implication is that Book has some kind of dark and violent past, but unfortunately, the series never lasted long enough to unpack his story.
You might even see Book as emblematic of the series' treatment of religion in general. On the one hand, he's a sympathetic character, but on the other, we're never really quite sure whether he's actually a believer, or using religion as a cover. In the same way, the show sometimes treats religion in general (and Christianity in particular) with respect, and other times not. In the pilot, Mal is first shown as being a devout believer, and then having lost his faith and not wanting to hear any talk of God, and the episode ends with Inara, a prostitute, in essence giving absolution to Book, the shepherd. Throughout the series, there are bits like that, here a very unsympathetic character spouts Christian-sounding phrases to justify his evil actions, and there Book is showed as a positive influence on the crew. In fact, sometimes you see that ambivalence in a single scene, as in "Jaynestown", when River says that the Bible is "broken" and "doesn't make sense", and then goes on to say, "So we'll integrate non-progressional evolution theory with God's creation of Eden. Eleven inherent metaphoric parallels already there." (This is important to her because eleven is a prime number.) In other words, she rejects some things in the Bible while regarding others as important. In this way, she represents not only the show as a whole, but much of contemporary culture, which is inclined to take a sort of "smorgasbord" approach to religion.
In short, I get to the end of this boxed set craving more, and while the release of Serenity has brought out a bit more of the story, I still want more. A curse upon Fox for cancelling the series so prematurely. (July, 2006)
[Home] [Creativity] [Genres] [Resources] [About Us]
[Fantasy] [Horror] [Science Fiction] [Western]
[Audio] [Books] [Film] [Stories]