Thursday, September 13, 2007

oooh, look! Something shiny!

Watched another episode of Firefly tonight! The "Firefly" is the class of ship they fly. See? It even looks like a firefly with that shiny back portion!

My wife is thoroughly unimpressed by the concept. Went right upstairs to read Harry Potter of all things. Evidently she just feigned being a Star Wars fan so I would ask her to marry me. Sigh.

It takes place 500 years in the future and is a cross between Star Wars and The Old West! Oh, have I already blogged about that?

Let me add a few words to entice you to watch. 500 years in the future there are only two superpowers on Earth: America and China. They have become "The Alliance" and govern the newly discovered worlds in a nearby, however distant, star system. The planets there have been terra-formed and colonized by people from Earth, which has become over-populated (though it's never really explained -it only ran for one season, you see.) The people are pioneers, really, arriving after a long journey, their possessions consisting only of what they could carry, and having to make everything on their own. At one point, the colonies didn't like the way they were being governed and rebelled against The Alliance, only to succumb to a tighter-fisted rule ("either controlled completely or ignored entirely").

Do you see where this is going?

But there are no aliens. There is no light-speed. And there is no sound in space. Joss Whedon, the show's creator, was inspired by Star Wars and Post-Reconstruction American history (aren't we all?) -more specifically the story of those people from the south who lost the Civil War and then moved out to the frontier to start a new life. It's a concept I'd never considered before: you just lost a war in your own country, you gave nearly everything for what you believed in. Now what do you do?

The difference here is the good side lost. And so here we are in space on a spaceship with a captain who once fought in the failed rebellion and now has a group of passengers who make their way around this solar system looking for work, either legal or otherwise. There aren't a million spaceships, like Star Wars or anything like that. These are guys just trying to get along, all with a history, all with something to prove, all with no family but each other. There's the Captain, the Pilot, his wife (!) who is a bad-ass, and then there's the Engineer (some cute chick) and a Pastor, and a Prostitute (more of a Courtesan) and a few others. So it's a little contrived, but there's horses and bar fights and sawed-off shotguns and train robberies, and yet every now and then they get on a spaceship and you think, oh yeah, we're in space.

What really makes the show work, though, is that it sticks with the old themes of the classic western -chivalry, heroism, the challenge of free will, doing what's right when there is no reward to be had, subscribing to a higher law in a land without one. So it's pretty cool.

Also, since America and China have long since united, there's a strange Asian influence on the show's environment, which lends itself to an interesting outer-spacey look. They speak a bunch of Mandarin, too, which (to American sensibilities) gives outer space a certain alien texture to it.

Anyway, it made my day to watch and I have a few more episodes left. Don't worry. Unless they really WOW me, I won't mention it here again. Except... there is the feature film of the series, Serenity which, even though I own, I refuse to watch until I see all the TV episodes. Serenity, by the way, was named 'Best Science Fiction Film Of All Time" by the readers of SFX Magazine. Holy Mother of Oats, that's shiny! ("Shiny" means "cool" on Firefly.)

In closing, it must be noted that NASA astronaut Steven Swanson, a fan of the show, took the Firefly and Serenity DVDs with him on Space Shuttle Atlantis' STS-117 mission, which lifted off a couple months ago. The DVDs will permanently reside on the International Space Station as entertainment for the station's crews.

They have a DVD player up there?