Firefly Reconsidered: Why Firefly Isn't "Hall of Fame" Great

Ryujin

Legend
Oh, stop. There is nothing more chilling to conversation and understanding than condescension and throwing around terms like "gatekeeping."

The "real" was in those quotes for a reason. I wasn't defining the genre. Instead I was going into the more common point that Firefly is, for all practical purposes, a western (and a "Lost Cause" inspired western, at that). This is not any different than someone saying that Star Wars is really fantasy.

Define things however you like, and leave the nastiness elsewhere, please.

B5 was most certainly as hard as you'd get for the time. It famously had the JPL advise on the science in the show, and the JPL advised on the science used in B5- the writing was changed due to their input at times. Moreover, they strived to do things "correctly" (such as the spinning for gravity, or explanations when there wasn't spinning) unlike the vast majority of science fiction at the time.
It also didn't hurt that they specifically employed Harlan Ellison as a "continuity consultant." His ego may be as big as the galactic disk, however, it's almost (almost) justified.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
Completeness of story isn't necessary either. There should be the potential for a series to burn with the brightness of potential only to have it snuffed out by corporate fecklessness. Any criteria about needing to tell a complete story or last for many seasons is just arbitrary at best, biased against any series killed before their time at the worst.

shrug

Not the point. The point is this ... "Sustained excellence counts for something."

Miniseries, and shows that are complete in telling their story (such as The Prisoner, or The Leftovers) can be judged in toto.

The problem is judging shows like Firefly against shows that had to keep plugging away. Lost had an amazing two seasons, and some really good ones after that. But it gets dinged because it had to keep churning out episodes. Same with so many other shows- when a show is cancelled, what could be in the imagination is always greater than what can be produced. Moreso when it's in the first season- the first two seasons are usually when the show's creators use up most of their best material.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
Secondly, your definition of "real" SciFi is far too narrow.

That wasn't the point. Science fiction is broad enough to cover Buffy, or Angel. It covers Person of Interest. It's 3% and the Handmaid's Tale. Watchmen and Russian Doll.

It's all SciFi.
 


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
It also didn't hurt that they specifically employed Harlan Ellison as a "continuity consultant." His ego may be as big as the galactic disk, however, it's almost (almost) justified.

Harlan's vast talent ensured that he continued to get work, and his personality ensured that the work was in short supply and not commensurate to his talent.

It was one heckuva balance. ;)
 

I have a suspicion that all Whedon shows age terribly. You can definitely grade them on a curve, based on when they were made, the fact there was little to no prestige TV at the time (and so everything that requires tons of wacky sets and special effects looks like dinner theater), and that a lot of writer rooms sort of lifted his best qualities and distributed them across subsequent TV and movies, retroactively making him seem less innovative...but whatever the reasons, fair or unfair, I think the end-result is just not very rewatchable.

That's my experience, at least, and I really really liked Dollhouse and Firefly at the time. I also rewatched the first Avengers recently and thought it really held up, with a waaaaaaay better sense of story, pacing and characters than Endgame or Infinity. And Cabin in the Woods is great! Still!! The guy could write.

But something seems to have happened to him after that first Avengers movie. Age of Ultron is just limping through story beats. Justice League? The Snyder Cut's no masterpiece but it revealed that the worst, just laughably bad parts of the original were almost all Whedon. And then whatever happened with the Nevers, who knows. But it's like he just imploded, creatively, around 2012. It's obvious now that he was always a complete naughty word to work with, but that's not the only thing killing his career. He was in a tail spin well before Ray Fisher exposed him.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Oh, stop. There is nothing more chilling to conversation and understanding that condescension and throwing around terms like "gatekeeping."

How about you listen to dissent before you accuse folks of condescension or chilling conversation.

The "real" was in those quotes for a reason. I wasn't defining the genre. Instead I was going into the more common point that Firefly is, for all practical purposes, a western (and a "Lost Cause" inspired western, at that). This is not any different than someone saying that Star Wars is really fantasy.

Membership in genres is inclusive, not exclusive. You can be a western and sci-fi. Or sci-fi and a noir mystery. Embrace the power of AND.

Snarf Zagyg said:
Define things however you like, and leave the nastiness elsewhere, please.

Well, dude, one of the major supports for your thesis is this classification. There's nothing nasty about pointing out that you rather abitrarily drew a line in the sand and said, "This is Out". And there's a word for that.

B5 was most certainly as hard as you'd get for the time.

In the genre as a whole? Goodness no. The genre is much, much larger than the TV medium.

Hard SF is when the story is about or largely driven by the details of physical laws of the fictional universe. Soft SF is when the story forgoes the technical details, to get at the sociology, psychology, politics, economics, and anthropology speculation that results from the science and engineering.

Babylon 5 largely foregoes the technical details to get at the sociology and politics. Ergo, it fits in the soft bucket.

But both B5 and Firefly fit n the Sci-fi bucket overall.

"It's been said that science fiction and fantasy are two different things; science-fiction the improbable made possible, fantasy the impossible made probable."
Rod Serling


It famously had the JPL advise on the science in the show, and the JPL advised on the science used in B5- the writing was changed due to their input at times. Moreover, they strived to do things "correctly" (such as the spinning for gravity, or explanations when there wasn't spinning) unlike the vast majority of science fiction at the time.

Pretty much none of this had relevance to the plot, though. It was window dressing. JMS is many things, but willing to allow technicalities to get in the way of a good story isn't one of them :)

Note: I love B5. I am currently rewatching Season 2.
 
Last edited:

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
shrug

Not the point. The point is this ... "Sustained excellence counts for something."
And sustained excellence should count for something. But so should excellence even if it's cut short. Nobody's gonna say Jimi Hendrix shouldn't be in the same Hall of Fame as Eric Clapton simply because he only survived long enough to make 3 studio albums compared to Clapton's 40+. It just means there should be multiple ways to be considered.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
I have a suspicion that all Whedon shows age terribly. You can definitely grade them on a curve, based on when they were made, the fact there was little to no prestige TV at the time (and so everything that requires tons of wacky sets and special effects looks like dinner theater), and that a lot of writer rooms sort of lifted his best qualities and distributed them across subsequent TV and movies, retroactively making him seem less innovative...but whatever the reasons, fair or unfair, I think the end-result is just not very rewatchable.

That's my experience, at least, and I really really liked Dollhouse and Firefly at the time. I also rewatched the first Avengers recently and thought it really held up, with a waaaaaaay better sense of story, pacing and characters than Endgame or Infinity. And Cabin in the Woods is great! Still!! The guy could write.

But something seems to have happened to him after that first Avengers movie. Age of Ultron is just limping through story beats. Justice League? The Snyder Cut's no masterpiece but it revealed that the worst, just laughably bad parts of the original were almost all Whedon. And then whatever happened with the Nevers, who knows. But it's like he just imploded, creatively, around 2012. It's obvious now that he was always a complete naughty word to work with, but that's not the only thing killing his career. He was in a tail spin well before Ray Fisher exposed him.

I don't want to derail this into a Whedon thread (his issues are ... well-known).

I do think that it's possible to at least partly separate the art and the artist, and that he helped to create some powerful and meaningful works. OTOH, I also think it can be difficult to separate aspects at times, and having just re-watched Buffy in its entirety, there were a few parts that were more cringe-y, in hindsight (and with Whedon-knowledge) than expected.

That said, I would disagree that his shows "age terribly."

I think that, FOR ME-
Dollhouse aged worst. I enjoyed it at the time, but I can't imagine watching it again, now, given ... everything.
Firefly is second-worst. Every thing about it, from the Lost Cause mythology, to Inara, to the Inara/Reaver plot, that slightly skeeved me out before ... is so much worse now. I can't see re-visiting it.
Angel & Buffy? Not too bad. Buffy has a few moments, but what's surprising is how well parts of it aged. IMO. Angel, however ... the Charisma Carpenter stuff goes from "What? What happened?" to "C'mon, man, you really suck."

Agree on first Avengers and Cabin in the Woods.
 

Ryujin

Legend
That wasn't the point. Science fiction is broad enough to cover Buffy, or Angel. It covers Person of Interest. It's 3% and the Handmaid's Tale. Watchmen and Russian Doll.

It's all SciFi.
You made a specific point of defining "real" Science Fiction. I simply responded to that. Your original statement doesn't really support this response, in my estimation.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top