Blu-ray Review: FIREFLY

Fox Home Entertainment
Release date: November 11th, 2008
MSRP: $89.98

Stars: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Ron Glass, Sean Maher, Summer Glau

I could watch Firefly every year for the rest of my life and not get bored with it. It is like Caddyshack or Casablanca in that regard. How does one get tired of well-written characters and entertaining dialogue?

Firefly aired, on Fox, for part of the 2002-03 season. The powers that be at Fox were crack-smoking morons and did their best to make sure nobody saw the series. They aired the episodes out of order and often skipped a week or two, with something else in its place. It worked because the show was soon canceled.

Television is poorer for it, because I would be hard-pressed to name another series with as much potential as Firefly had.

While the series is set in the year 2517, and much takes place on a spaceship, it is really a western at heart. Even the theme song has a western/country vibe to it.

Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) is the captain of the Serenity. Mal, along with his second in command Zoe (Gina Torres) fought on the losing side of a brutal civil war six years earlier. While Zoe seems to have accepted her fate, Mal is still bitter and comes across as a surly opportunist that does whatever he has to for a buck. It becomes clear early on that he has a set of principals that he holds dear.

With them are Wash (Alan Tudyk) , the ship’s pilot and husband of Zoe. Kaylee (Jewel Staite) is the ship’s engineer and is an odd mix of tomboy and sweet young thing (Except that her first visit on the ship was while she was getting busy with the original engineer). Jane Cobb (Adam Baldwin) is a mercenary that acts as the muscle, though it is never quite clear just how loyal he is to them.

The Serenity has a handful of passengers that are also regulars. Inarra (Morena Baccarin) is an Ambassador (It seems that prostitution is not only legal in the future, but organized and ever semi-respected) that rents space on the ship. Her presence works because she provides them with access to places they might not normally be able to go (She and Mal also have chemistry in the love/hate sense).

Book (Ron Glass) is a reverend with a mysterious past. Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher) comes on board with his sister River (Summer Glau) in tow. They are on the run from the government as River was part of an experiment that has left her a bit scattered, but with great skills and even powers that lie just beneath her surface.

The galaxy is governed by the Alliance, which appears to be a semi-fascist organization. The outer reaches of the galaxy is full of colonized planets that often appear to resemble border towns in the wild west. The Alliance’s presence is only slightly felt there, with civilization being in the early stages…kind like Iowa or North Dakota only more interesting.

Most shows spend their first season developing chemistry, but Firefly hit the ground running with a cast that seems to have known each other for years. The interaction is often magical.

[A tied-up Crow is made to kneel outside Serenity as it prepares to
lift off]
Mal: Now this is all the money Niska gave us in advance. You give it back to him, tell him the job didn’t work out. We’re not thieves — well, we are thieves, but the point is we’re not taking what’s his. We’ll stay out of his way as best we can from here on in. You’ll explain that’s best for everyone, okay?
Crow: [stands up] Keep the money. Use it to buy a funeral. It doesn’t matter where you go, or how far you fly — I will hunt you down, and the last thing you see will be my blade.
Mal: Darn. [kicks Crow into Serenity’s
engine intake]
[Cut to another henchman being placed before Mal]
Mal: Now this is all the money Niska gave us in advance–
Henchman: Oh, I get it! I’m good. Best thing for everybody. [desperate grin] I’m right there with you.

Joss Whedon created a show with a very distinct style and feel. The dialogue is peppered with Chinese, to suggest that the Chinese culture became a global influence over the centuries between now and the time of the show. No funky sound effects are used in the space scenes, no roar of engines or squeal of laser cannons (In the reality, there is no sound in space). Even though there are rockets and lasers, most of the weapons are bullet based (adding to the western feel) and the most of the ships have a worn, dirty look to them.

The show is presented in a 1.78.1 ratio in 1080p. The crew took great pains developing the look of the show, with some shots in 35mm as well as using various lenses to give the show a 70s western look and feel. The HD presentation really highlights all the little things that made the show distinct.

Sound is presented in DTS HD5.1, with a German track in DTS 5.1 and Spanish and French in Dolby surround. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and Dutch. I guess the Dutch must be big fans of the show…or at least deaf Dutch.

All of the supplements from the 2003 release are here, along with a new commentary track (Our Mrs. Reynolds) and a 30-minute discussion (over a meal) with Whedon, Fillion, Tudyk and Glass. The discussion is enjoyable and shows just how much the cast and crew like one another. Some interesting info, but mainly just fun banter.
For anyone not familiar with this show, I can’t recommend it enough. Good stories, an enjoyably distinct style, fun dialogue and a cast with outstanding chemistry. Firefly is as good as any sci-fi series in the history of television.

Order the Blu-ray of Firefly from Amazon.

Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from myself, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.