Monday, May 28, 2007

Take My Love, Take My Land...

...Take me where I cannot stand.
I don't care, I'm still free.
You can't take the sky from me.

For the uninitiated, these are the opening lyrics for the title theme of the 2001 television series, "Firefly." Every night before Sera goes to bed, we watch a video together. Right now we're watching this great space western on DVD.

Never heard of "Firefly?" Not surprising, since Fox canceled it before the 13 existing episodes even finished airing. Not only did they not show all the episodes, but the ones that they did show were shown out of order. That means the full-length two-hour pilot wasn't shown until several episodes into the run. It's kind of helpful knowing who all the characters are and where they came from before the show gets too far into its season, right?

I didn't learn about "Firefly" until I read a friend's blog, where he described going to the premiere of "Serenity," the motion picture made from the series. Now, you probably wouldn't think that anyone would invest in a movie made from a short-lived TV series, especially one that didn't even get a full season, but apparently the DVD sales were so high that Universal decided to gamble on it.

I went to the store and picked up the DVD set two years ago, and I've probably watched the series a dozen times. In the commentary, series creator Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) described his inspiration for Firefly as coming from his reading of The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. The Killer Angels is historical fiction set around the battle of Gettysburg, and Joss Whedon combined that idea with Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon. How could he miss with that?

The series revolves around the crew of Serenity, a Firefly-class spaceship used to do salvage and hauling operations throughout a solar system terraformed and inhabited by new pioneers from Earth. The government of this new solar system is called the Alliance and it is essentially an amalgam of the US and Chinese governments. The Alliance's interference with the settlers of these new planets brought about an uprising by the Independents, and allegory for the Confederacy but without the slavery. After the Independents lost the war following the battle of Serenity Valley, Sgt. Malcolm Reynolds bought a ship and began working for those who could pay. Along with his first officer Zoe, Reynolds' crew is rounded out by the pilot, Wash, who is Zoe's Hawaiian-shirt clad husband; Kaylee, the 20-something mechanic who has an affinity for engines; and my favorite, Jayne Cobb, a mercenary whose lack of wit is only matched by his greed. Jayne's lines are almost always the funniest, even though the character is not trying to be funny. The rest of the crew come aboard in the pilot. I don't want to give away their particulars, since they are integral to the plot.

The setting is one of the most interesting parts of the series. The planets and moons that the people inhabit are frontier-like, with evidence of high technology, but with livestock and farms as well. These people have a way of speaking that is just charming. There is a mix of good old fashioned country talk right alongside Mandarin phrases, which are used when swearing would be appropriate. They have their cute science fiction euphemisms as well. "Ain't no ruttin' way" is an example, as is "Did a piece just fall off my gorram ship?"

There are so many memorable moments in this show that I would love to list them all. But I don't want to spoil them for you. Just trust in what I say by this example: When was the last time you saw cattle being smuggled in a space ship?

We bought DVD sets of the show two years ago for Christmas presents and gave them to our entire family. They all loved the show too.

It's late now and I have to work in the morning. I'll be in my bunk.

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