Jewel Staite, Sean Maher,
Summer Glau, Ron Glass
- Buy the Blu-ray
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ever being a fan of Joss Whedon’s earlier television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” I was reluctant to check out his short-lived cult hit “Firefly.” Still, Whedon's reputation as a solid writer was intriguing enough, and it didn’t take long before I found myself a victim of his addictive storytelling. “Firefly” is one of the best television dramas of the past decade, and is worthy of being lumped together with the group of new shows (like “24,” “The Shield,” and “Alias”) that gave tired viewers a reason to watch television again.
Perhaps the tough competition is a valid reason for its unlikely cancellation mid-season, but a network would still be foolish to junk a series with its potential and rabid fan base. Then again, that’s but a single tale for the “E! True Hollywood Story” of an impatient little network we call FOX, and much like fans of “Family Guy” proved by resurrecting their favorite series with massive support and DVD sales, the fans of “Firefly” did the same. The series has yet to experience the same once-in-a-lifetime revival as the satirical cartoon, but it did land its very own major motion picture.
Taking place 500 years in the future, Whedon's unique vision involves a curious mix of science fiction and the Wild West, as well as major influences by Chinese culture. Following a civil war between the government-run Alliance and the rebel Browncoats, Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) captains a small, Firefly-class space freighter alongside war buddy and first mate, Zoe (Gina Torres). Taking jobs whenever they can, Malcolm and Zoe continue their rebel lifestyles as modern-day pirates, leading their crew around the outskirts of space and engaging in a number of interesting adventures, legal or otherwise. Joining them on the ship is Zoe’s husband, and pilot, Wash (Alan Tudyk), happy-go-lucky mechanic Kaylee (Jewel Staite), mercenary-for-hire Jayne (Adam Baldwin), beautiful companion Inarra (Morena Baccarin), and Shepard Book (Ron Glass). Along the way, two fugitives running from the Alliance join the crew: a brilliant doctor named Simon (Sean Maher) and his younger sister, River (Summer Glau). After Simon rescues his sister from a top secret, Alliance-led science experiment, the siblings find refugee onboard Mal’s boat and draw even more attention to the crew’s illegal dealings.
What’s great about the series, along with the fantastic writing and casting, is that you don’t have to be a fan of the sci-fi genre to enjoy “Firefly.” In fact, it’s almost better if you’re not. The show is really just like any other drama on television, save for the fact that these characters happen to live on a space ship. Nathan Fillion (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jason Bateman) is a solid leading man, but the colorful cast of supporting characters is what really separates it from other shows. Most notable are Alan Tudyk and Adam Baldwin, as well as the über-cute Jewel Staite – one of Whedon's many trademark female characters on the show.
It’s a real shame that “Firefly” was never given the chance to survive network syndication, but you would think that a cable channel like Sci-Fi would have picked up the option to continue producing more episodes. A lot of questions were left unanswered with its sudden cancellation, and the universe holds thousands of possibilities for adventurers. Still, the series’ resurrection on the big screen is definitely a good start, and it’s shaping up to be one of the best movies of the year. If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out “Firefly: The Complete Series,” be sure to do so before making the trip to the theater. It’s not a necessity, but it will certainly enhance both the experience and your inevitable love for the source material.
Special Features: It’s a little strange to be seeing a catalog TV title released on Blu-ray when so many new shows have yet to make the leap to the HD format, but I guess if there’s one show popular enough (and cheap enough) to warrant release, it’s “Firefly.” After all, it’s not like Fox has committed to releasing a seven-season series like “Buffy,” and after the show’s phenomenal DVD sales, it makes a lot of sense. With that said, however, it’s a shame that more new special features haven’t been included. You still get all of the old bonus material from the initial release – including seven audio commentaries with the cast and crew, the making-of featurette “Here’s How It Was,” “Serenity: The 10th Character,” deleted scenes, a gag reel, Alan Tudyk’s audition tape, and two short bits of Joss Whedon visiting the set and singing the theme song – but only two new extras have been added to the Blu-ray set. The first is an audio commentary for “Our Mrs. Reynolds” with creator Joss Whedon and stars Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk and Ron Glass, and the second is a cast roundtable luncheon with the same four guests. It may upset some not to see everyone involved in the latter (especially when cast members like Adam Baldwin and Jewel Staite have been very vocal about their love for “Firefly”), but it’s still a cool addition that gives added value to the set beyond the HD upgrade.