Firefly is an American, science fiction, television series that was created by Joss Whedon and aired on Fox in 2002. The series is set in 2517, after a joint world government called the Alliance, led by the United States & China, abandoned an Earth that had become uninhabitable due to pollution & overpopulation to terraform and colonize a new star system. It follows Mal Reynolds, a former soldier who is now the captain of the firefly-class spaceship, Serenity, and his crew as they try to survive and make a living on the fringes of the star system by transporting cargo of varying legality. Along with Captain Reynolds, the Serenity is home to Zoe Washburne; Mal's second-in-command who also fought alongside him, against the Alliance, in the Unification War, Hoban "Wash" Washburne; Zoe's wisecracking husband and Serenity's pilot, Jayne Cobb; a mercenary and the amoral muscle of the crew, Kaylee Frye; Serenity's untrained mechanic who has an innate understanding of machines and serves as the heart & conscience of the series, Inara Serra; a Companion, the Firefly equivalent of a geisha, who rents one of Serenity's shuttles and gives the crew an air or respectability, Simon Tam; the ship's doctor & his sister, River, who are on the run from the Alliance after they experimented on her and Shepherd Derrial Book; a clergyman with a mysterious past and a suspiciously thorough knowledge of the Alliance. Firefly was cancelled, due to low ratings, after 11 episodes. Many blame the show's difficulty finding an audience on Fox, who aired said episodes out of order. The series' DVD release, the following year, included three more episode that had been filmed, but never aired. Thanks to the strength of its DVD sales, a feature film based on the series, titled Serenity, was released in 2005, but due to poor box office, the film didn't lead to the revival of the series that many fans were hoping for. However, despite it's early cancellation, Firefly has amassed a significant cult following that has continued to grew in the ensuing years and several of its fans still hold out hope that the series will someday be resurrected.
There are two aspects of Firefly that set it apart from other science fiction franchises; the way it mixes genres and the way it uses language. Much like genre staples, Star Wars & Star Trek, the series mixes science fiction with the western genres. However, Firefly takes it a step further. Beyond simply mirroring some of the plot elements found in westerns, it often mimics more specific elements of the genre. Many of the planets that the crew find themselves on combine horses & revolvers with futuristic technology, the costuming mixes a elements that appear to be taken straight out of the 19th century American west with military uniforms that would look right at home in any of several other science fiction universes and occasional Chinese elements to reinforce the backstory of the universe, the crew end up in their share of bar brawls & shootouts and they even transport cattle in one episode. In addition to those genres, Firefly tackles a few others along the way as well. Episodes 2, The Train Job, & 11, Trash, are classic heist stories, with episode 9, Ariel, putting an interesting spin on those tropes. Episode 3, Bushwacked, leans into horror territory by heavily featuring the show's recurring villains; the savage, cannibalistic Reavers and Firefly's final episode, Objects in Space, ratchets up the suspense as River toys with a bounty hunter who's been hired to apprehend her & Simon. The show approaches language in an equally unique manner, contrasting the simplified, folksy dialect of the outlying planets with the more formalized one that's found on the Alliance worlds. Both of which are punctuated by bursts of Chinese, usually taking the place of profanity. Firefly's writers also employed unusual words like tetchy & mite, repurposed more common words such as prod & shiny and invented the infamous gorram, which essentially serves as a synonym for a similar sounding profanity. These elements, combined with a distinct production design style that makes the ship feel equally run-down, homey & futuristic, a compelling score that mixes traditional, orchestral sounds with folk & world music and some of the most memorable & cleverly written characters in either genre make Firefly one of the greatest franchises in science fiction and my favorite television series.
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