A year after cancellation, "Firefly" is flying again. "Firefly: The Complete Series" was released on DVD in early December as a four disc set. "Firefly" was the new teevee series from Joss Whedon, and his first outside the Buffyverse. The series was distinctly different from anything else on teevee, and marked a measure of growth for Whedon as a story-teller.
"Firefly" is a deft blend of genres, a science-fiction western with chinese cursing, and it worked. Unfortuneatly Fox, which was airing the series, didn't know what to do with what they'd bought, and the more they looked at it, they hated it, and in a master-stroke of spite set out to find an excuse to cancel. First they put it in a terrible time-slot which had doomed several SF-action series, then they yanked the pilot which introduced the setting and characters, then aired the episodes out of order, which given the serial development of Whedon's stories, meant only the truly dedicated fans could figure out what was going on. As I said last year, it looks like the future of quality teevee like "Firefly" is in DVD.
Watching the series (including three unaired episodes) in order really highlights how good right from the git-go this series was. "Firefly" is the story of the crew of the space cargo ship Serenity, set some 500 years in the future, and about five years after a war between The Alliance (a corporate state entity) and the Independents in a system of terraformed worlds. Serenity takes whatever jobs come along without much concern about the legality.
If you've seen the fourth Alien movie, "Alien: Resurrection", which was written by Joss Whedon, you can see the kernel for "Firefly", the rough sketches for several of the characters are there. As is how the series would fare. After he submitted the script for Alien 4, most of it was changed. As Whedon said in the New York Times on fan commentaries for DVDs, including "Firefly":
Mr. Whedon himself seems bemused by the project,
recognizing that he's the strangest possible viewer for
such a disc. "I find it kind of fascinating," he said. "It
starts out with bunches of praise, which, you know, works
for me." Mr. Whedon can imagine the appeal of such
commentaries to fans, although he wonders how consumers
would sort out thoughtful options from mere chatter. And
he's aware of the potential for harsh commentary: "It's
because of the feeling of intimacy and privilege of being
in this community; people feel as though they're almost
friends with the creator, and they can say such personal
stuff." (Not that Mr. Whedon is immune to such fantasies
himself: he considered creating his own angry commentary
track for the film "Alien Resurrection" - which he helped
write, only to have his work mangled in production - but
declined, for fear of being sued.)
What immediately distinguishes "Firefly" from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" (aside from lack of vampires, but that's a gimme) is the series is about grown-up adults trying to make a living, and not get dead so soon (not the living dead).