Firefly and Serenity

There are few good television series that turn into good movies. There are fewer great television series that become great movies. But there is only one great television series that spawned a great movie, but found no commercial success in either flavor. That is the series Firefly and the movie Serenity.

There are many theories as to why, the absorbing tale of a cocky captain and his capable yet flawed crew aboard a transport space ship (Serenity) was cut down so mercilessly at the end of but one season. But the truth is that not having Captain Mal (Nathan Fillion) around to mouth off his passive aggressions towards the merciless control of the Alliance has left television worse off.

Firefly is not the story of a hero. It is not the charted course of a flawed man overcoming his pitfalls to accomplish something memorable. Instead it is a character study of survival. Filled with a cast of relative unknowns, Firefly explores the reaction of a free man to an uncompromising crushing tyranny. In a way it is an exemplification of Adam Smith's invisible hand, playing out not in economics but in life.

Firefly has introduced us to a class of neurotic yet real characters, from the ever dependable second in command Zoe (Gina Torres) to her loyal yet jealous husband Wash (Alan Tudyk); from the pretty and confused Kaylee (Jewel Staite) to the elegant Inara (Morena Baccarin); from the temperamental Jayne (Adam Baldwin) to the solid conviction of Shepard Book (Ron Glass); and finally the spoiled but grounded Simon (Sean Maher) to the quietly scary River (Summer Glau). There is little but circumstance that holds this rag-tag army together. But at the same time, they complete each other in a way that almost makes their coming together fated.

Snappy dialog, deep characters, well designed space ships, a wonderful music score and an underlying tension in the story, all combine to make it a great watch. But for all that was lost, there was one part of the story that suffered the most because of an untimely cancellation - it was the story of River Tam.

And that is where Serenity the movie takes it up. With almost the same cast and a self-contained story line, Serenity, picks up shortly after the last TV episode. River, who is mostly helpless in her flight from the Alliance in the TV series comes to her own as Mal tracks down the gruesome secret the Alliance want to keep from the world by silencing River. As Mal tries desperately to broadcast the secret to the world, the crew defend against horde of blood-thirsty sub-humans to buy Mal some time. Help arrives from a very unexpected location.

Do not let the label of science fiction put you off; the series and movie do not talk about warp drives or holographic projections. Instead it is an honest to goodness story of pragmatic survival against a powerful yet hidden enemy.

October 07, 2010

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