On 20 September, 2002, Joss Whedon’s iconic space-western Firefly premiered on TV. Firefly is the story of the eclectic crew of the outdated Firefly class space transport “Serenity” as they take jobs to survive and stay out of the path of the oppressive “Alliance” that rules the star system, all the while staying one step ahead of their pasts. Firefly is creator/writer/director Joss Whedon at his finest, and was the creative pinnacle of his career.
Though set five centuries in the future, Firefly deals with real issues with real people, and you could drop the cast and the writing in any modern time period, and it’d still be relatable. Firefly is Joss Whedon’s love letter to libertarianism. No matter how hard the Alliance or their proxies try to keep the crew down or impose their will by violence or coercion, Mal and his crew always find a way to do the right thing, even if the right thing isn’t exactly legal. The world building is top notch, and unequaled for a low budget TV show, except maybe for the original Star Trek.
Firefly has some of the best characterization and character arcs in the business. The ship Serenity is her own character. Mal, the Serenity’s supremely competent captain keeps the crew focused while always thinking of the big picture. His war buddy Zoe complements Mal in every way without being a cliché sidekick. Zoe’s husband Wash is the ship’s pilot and is essentially the stereotypical warrant officer. Cheery Kaylee is the stupid hot ship’s mechanic. The mercenary Jayne is the ship’s muscle and says what everybody is thinking, or at least what needs to be said. The crew is rounded out by one-time passengers: the preacher Shepherd Book, the high society companion Inara, and the stuck up doctor, Simon, and his brilliant and powerful but insane little sister, River.
Unfortunately, Firefly only lasted one season because Fox aired the episodes out of order, and switched time slots three times. Viewers tuned out not knowing the context of the exceptionally deep episodes, or even when the show was being aired. Fan demand brought the crew back together for the full length movie Serenity, which tied up many of the plot lines. However, if you watch the Firefly episodes in order followed by Serenity, there are few better shows in television, and certainly no better Science Fiction shows.