Firefly is one of the greatest pieces of television probably ever created. The show that started a craze, kickstarted numerous actors’ careers, and made Joss Whedon a household name for nerds everywhere. Equal parts science-fiction and western, Firefly is unlike anything else, and despite its premature cancellation, still lives on today, more than ten years since it first aired.
What makes Firefly special, though, isn’t its setting, themes, or even its action, but its characters. I watch a lot of TV, maybe too much, but not once have I found a cast of characters so unique as Captain Malcolm and his crew of misfits. Sure, some of them are inspired by classic character tropes, but yet they still feel original in their own right, subtly turning your expectations on their heads at nearly every turn.
By now we’re all well aware of who Joss Whedon (he did do The Avengers after all, one of the biggest movies of all time), but before all that he worked in the television realm. He started with the hit show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a huge hit in its own right, but it’s Firefly that elevated Whedon to a status higher than you normally see from someone involved in TV.
The premise of Firefly alone is worth drooling over, I mean, a sci-fi western? It shouldn’t work, and yet somehow it does. Incredibly well, in fact. It’s hard to pitch in words, which is likely why it was so shamefully canceled, but the universe Whedon creates in just 14 episodes is one very much worth exploring, and it opens itself up in such a way that the stories could’ve been endless.
But with only 14 episodes, Firefly still manages to give us some of the best science fiction storytelling I’ve ever seen, and you all know how much sci-fi I watch. The scripts are always exciting, and range from brutally intense to lighthearted fun. There’s a train job, romance, torture, betrayal, and of course a conspiracy. There’s something for everyone here, and while some plot lines are left unfinished, the show itself can’t really be faulted for that.
Firefly was supposed to have a number of seasons, and the episodes reflect that. Some don’t progress the over-arcing plot all that much, and others are left so open-ended that you just know they were meant to finished off in following seasons. While hardly a flaw, as every episode here is an absolute joy to watch, it is definitely disappointing to know as you go through the series that many of the stories you see go unfinished.
That is just a testament to how good this show is though, because you don’t want it to end. But even with such a short life span, Firefly gives its all in every single episode, and even though you’ll probably wish there was more, Firefly manages to create some of the best science fiction storytelling out there.
Of course, with a show this ambitious, there’s always risks. And in this case one those risks was the special effects. Sci-fi shows have a terrible history of being too expensive, and while this was probably the case for Firefly as well, the visuals for the show are quite impressive, and still hold up today.
There are some obviously fake shots every now and then, but for the most part the visuals do their job perfectly well, and occasionally even capture the sense of wonder that’s so important to intergalactic space travel.
Some of my favorite episodes, however, come packed with little to no special effects, and that’s part of the beauty of this show: it doesn’t need any shiny makeup to make it worthwhile. Joss Whedon knows how to take advantage of whatever he’s given, and it shows here.
Firefly is just real, if you can believe. Sure, it’s fantastical and mixes together two very different genres, but it works better than I think anyone imagined possible. Even the characters shouldn’t work well together (who expected a pastor to get along with a mercenary so well?), but they do, and the chemistry amongst the cast is truly something special.
Firefly will always be my favorite show of all time, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. It captured me the way I know it captured millions of others, and I revisit the show in its entirety at least once a year. It has its rare misstep from time to time, but they’re so few and far between that its forgivable because everything else is just so good.
If you haven’t watched Firefly, then I hope I’ve at least piqued your interest here, because it’s very much worth experiencing. This is TV at its best, and will be beloved for many years to come.