Firefly 2002 5*
Honorable Captain "Mal" Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion TV's Castle), former Browncoat ("it was on sale") Independents' Sergeant preserves his crew and serves justice no matter what: faithful second Zoe (Gina Torres), her husband and pilot "Wash" Washburne (Alan Tudyk - Dollhouse's Alpha), "Companion" high-class courtesan (chooses her own clients), glam eye-candy Inera (Morena Baccarin - Stargate SG-1's Adria, V's Anna - villains), unreliable muscle Jayne (Adam Baldwin - Chuck's Casey), always cheery beloved mechanic Kaylee (Jewel Staite - Stargate Atlantis' Dr Jennifer Keller).
But on the fringes, the jobs get more dangerous. No fancy ninja moves - stomp on foot, throw sand. Snappy slang, retorts, jabs (verbal and physical), kicks, shots combine action and fun. "Shiny" is good; "gorram" is cursed bad. Dictionary. I think I should find Joss Whedon for memorable quotes. Clips good if not scenes deleted for good reasons.
S1 E1 Serenity - original pilot episode - is the Firefly class cargo ship and valley of last battle where Independents lost all to Alliance. When high-grade top-density fully-supplemented ("one bar feeds a family for a month, longer if they don't like their kids too well") are salvaged, the requester Badger (Mark Shephard - Supernatural's Crowley, Dr Who 2011's Canton Everett Delaware III) denies payment, excuse being the "Alliance" government stamp.
To make money, passengers are taken onboard: brilliant surgeon Dr Simon Tam (Sean Maher), "Shepherd" pastor Book (Ron Glass) skilled in hand and gun combat, and a government mole who shoots Kaylee when confronted, and warns forces will continue to pursue Simon's secret cryo-container cargo. Mal opens the box, reveals a scared naked girl River (Summer Glau). Simon rescued his prodigy younger sister from years of painful brain experiments in a special "school". Serenity drifts safely past a big ship, dangerously radioactive full of infected crazies, but the Reavers follow them to Whitefall, closest possible market for food cargo.
After the crew expect, thus escape, mayor Patience's ambush (as soon as I saw the tall hat, I knew the first shot target), the still recovering Kaylee has to direct the others trying a fancy "Crazy Ivan" reverse manoeuvre, that works. Mal knows the Tams will only be safe by moving, like Serenity, so takes Simon on as medic.
E2 The Train Job - Final Pilot Episode (written in one weekend because higher-ups didn't like #1 Badger back-down) - Starts with bellydancing, bar fight, and "big entrance". Nasty Niska pays them to hijack a train shipment, but the sheriff (Gregg Henry) explains why all need medicine, all the terraformed worlds of this new galaxy have quirks, a degenerative disease is theirs. Mal does the right thing, always.
"Say that to my face." "I said you're a coward and a pisspot. Now what are you going to do about it?" "Nothin. I just wanted you to face me so she could get behind you."
"Know what the chain of command is? It's a chain I beat you with till you understand who's in command here." Negotiating Expert.
E3 Bushwacked - Ghost ship drifts nearby, so they check for survivors, find one, crazed from Reaver massacre (scary), and boobytrap bomb Kaylee maybe can defuse. "If I mess up, it's not like you'll be able to yell at me." When Alliance officials board and interview everyone, where can the fugitives hide? (Spoiler: in spacesuits outside. Mal saves the Alliance captain's life from maniac, so all released, without salvage.)
Commentaries: hiding in Language Selection menu choice
Unrelated points strung together as heard, news to me, maybe not you, arbitrarily paragraphed, sorry.
1 by Joss and Nathan - Mal and Zoe have very tight cream, dark sidestriped pants - mmm. Nathan split Mal's at least three times, suggests wardrobe loosen seams. Real explosions singed eyebrows. Blinks removed by CGI. Chinese phrases preferable silly. Used toy dinosaurs, couldn't afford costly effects. Guests from Buffy and Angel shows, aimed for the best. Baddies have hats. Adam busting box repeatedly scratched Nate with crowbar, held fork like shovel deliberately to characterize.
Nate has contact lenses. Reshoots add intimacy, warmth, danger hints foretell. 300 extras for Persephone port, chickens that scared off potential other lead, mule. Still had not cast Inera, knew no synergy, shot singles so subsitutable. Added Blue Sun signs, hint for later in plot reveal. Lighting warms unusual spaceship, not sterile cold boring, shuttle even sumptuous, Jeannie's bottle. Cleansing bare back scene spiritual after insults, I thought was just for skin; not full use of Juilliard training.
All about created family. Nobody needs to adlib; lines that great. Jayne says what everybody's thinking, so gets laughs, but everybody is funny. "Everybody thinks they're righteous" (Defoe); villains believe they are heroes. Mean version of shot aired, not approved. I couldn't distinguish teddy bear on Kaylee's uniform, represented her sweet true character. Cameraman David Boyd exchanged newer lenses for old to get more flares. Extra moment when cop decides additional beat-down on priest justifies later shot by Mal. Valuable contested treasure is food. Last second dive through closing doors was real, actors not told. After Ivan escape, steering wheel missing, pilot mimes empty handed.
2 by Joss and Tim - Had to repeat all intro exposition because #1 unused; ship, as character, rises behind cliff. Free motion camera, documentary style feels natural, annoying that they make such a big deal, but culture mix of theme not discussed, bypassed. Original concept was dourness gradually relieved now comedy. Villain creepier for "little old man" look beside big tattooed henchman. Trooper costumes looked like Star Wars because they did rent them there - no money. "Rule" that first six episodes are pilot, for all viewers who miss #1. Wanted dark places, uh-oh, next Reaver episode. Mal has "wet wit"? vs Zoe dry? Shot wide-screen for dvd, despite Fox policy regular width. Alliance flag combined American Chinese - I didn't even see. Nathan great fighter so used double less and less. "Hands of blue" foretelling final scene made zero impact. How to make a baby cry without making a baby cry? Cinematographer David Boyd so good at lights in scene, needed no extras. I hoped in vain for explanation how they shot henchman Crow into space Youtube Negotiation.
E4 Shindig - Writer: Jane Esperson, Director: Vern Gillum
"I've been sane a long time now, and change is good." - Wash. Back to Persephone, Badger sub-contracts. Attend elegant ball to meet Harrow, while crew play cards for chores. I like how ruffled Kaylee attracts circle of boys with machine lingo, sword duel
E5 Safe - Writer: Drew Z. Greenberg, Director: Michael Grossman
Flashbacks to younger Tams (Zac Efron, Skylar Roberge) show society-bound parents ignored River's coded distress letters, no future help. "I would never have tried to save River's life if I had known there was a dinner party at risk." Shepherd, shot when Jiangyin cattle buyers taken by law, gets instant help from Alliance cruiser medics at first sight of his ident card, hint of high status mystery. Meanwhile from town, settlers kidnap Simon; they need doctor. When River "hears" mute girl's mother killed sister, nurse cries witch. Town leader " " confirms burning when River starts to blurt out he killed previous position-holder. Mal returns for rescue "You're on my crew".
E6 Our Mrs Reynolds - Writer: Joss Whedon, Director Vondie Curtis Hall
"If your hand touches metal, I swear by my pretty flowered bonnet I will end you." - Mal in dress disguise baits bandits to save Triumph town; redhead stowaway is wifely reward Saffron (Christina Hendricks) Mal tries to turn away. "Someone ever tries to kill you, you try to kill them right back ... You got the right, same as anyone, to live and try to kill people." She knows. Dr Who 11's River Song wasn't the first with narcotic lipstick. Preacher recognizes net, carrion house, scrap shop. Jayne's biggest gun "Vera" helps.
E7 Jaynestown - Writer: Ben Edlund, Director: Marita Grabiak
Canton's business is clay/mud, workers are "mudders". Simon poses as buyer so Mal can find customer Heller while River fixes Shepherd's Bible. Inera initiates 26-year old virgin Fess Higgins. Jayne covers up, fearing recognition, finds his own statue, puzzling, because 4 years ago he crossed Magistrate Higgins. Bar guitarist sings how Robin Hood hero had to drop strongbox weighing $60K in order to fly. Small boy's sharp eyes foils Jayne's attempt of "lying low". Higgins releases one-eyed Stitch from prison box with loaded gun, saying your ex-partner that pushed you out is back.
Commentaries - participants most fun and informative, because widely different viewpoints, camaraderie and competence
E4 Shindig by writer Jayne Esperson, actor Morena Baccarin, costume designer Shawna Trpcic (really, that is the spelling given)
Original teaser was in woodland where Mal shot raccoon in eye, re-written five times to pool game in bar, shows Inara doesn't fit in her own world, because rest of episode is Mal in her world. Inara was truly scared of fighters falling on her. Writer was almost a leg double for River because she had no toenail polish. Zoe's necklace is for marriage bond and never removed. Tradition is Asian-type names for everyone regardless of ethnicity.
Wide ballroom dresses can't fit many in restroom, borrowed from "King and I" set. Set is real, 300 extras, Morena wore real wedding dress. Pink flamingos wherever possible, signature, lapel pin for Badger. Morena, and Nathan as Castle, can still say Chinese because they studied so hard. Floating chandelier was really weather balloon with mirrors, had to be moved constantly. Kaylee had to learn baby steps, or skirt swung. In cut scene, she said "I feel like the clapper of a bell"; other scenes shortened too.
* Rules for made up "Tall Card" poker-like game were said to be on website, but only guessed at on viewer discussions. Jayne's T-shirt says Soldier, every show has new custom graphic. Joss rewrites much, five times,then gives up; he wrote poem "Here lies Zoe". Hard to dance and say lines, speech too long for dance, finally over-rehearsed, so proficient, had to add line "I think I know this one."
Until Morena says these are my favorite lines, I didn't get the undercurrent of "May I call to Ath" [no lisp]; I did like "Sw[ords wh]-at??", Glowing doorknob lock fun futuristic add, physical light-bulb plug-in tricksy fit. Unique language in this show nowhere else. "Spoiled dandy". "Mis-apprehending my purpose in being here". No, we didn't know Badger handed over wrench after entering because he was banging on door with it. Coalescing corporations becoming government plausible 500 year in future.
Writer doesn't think about saying words, took 15, most ever, takes. "It takes less than a pound of pressure to cut skin" real factoid from internet research. Costumes used influences of all over, lingerie ancient Greece. Geisha tradition influenced wardrobe and script. Final gown real 1930s dress. Morena loved sword practice, did at home in driveway.
Summer good at accents, so Riveroe could fake out Badger by disappearing into his world, reads his past, startling first-time coherence of sentence strings."Spent time in lockdown, but less than you claim. And you're, what, a petty thief with delusions standing? Sad little king of sad little hill."
I wondered about Mal's canvas suspenders, from WW2. Mal most unusual hero, because he stabs villain when down, and not stoic about wound. I keep captions on, to not miss anything, but that catches goofs, like slang, when Badger says "Ta, thanks very much for a lovely night then" captions as "So, thanks". At the end, they're all misfits, don't belong in any world, find home with each other.
E8 Out of Gas - Writer: Tim Minear, Director: David Solomon
Confusing flashes from very beginning of ship, to explosion fire takes out life support so responses to imminent death, to Mal alone dripping blood, dropping parts. "Everybody dies alone." Mustacheod (smile) Wash makes future wife feel "uncomfortable". Kaylee comes aboard to bed first mechanic, fixes holdup trouble, stays. Mal sweet-talks opposing Jayne over to their side.
E9 Ariel - Writer: Jose Molina, Director: Allan Kroeker
River worsening stabs Jayne, time for Inera's annual Guild-required checkup, crew infiltrate big Alliance hospital on Ariel, to use diagnostic machine on River's brain, and steal drugs for rim. Crew learns jargon. "Patients were cynical=cyanotic, and not responding= non-responsive, and they kicked/ we couldn't bring 'em back=resuscitate." "pupils fixed and dilapidated=dilated". Jayne claims forgave "Nothin' buys bygones better'n cash." but calls in for fugitive reward, and gets caught too. Two blue-gloved baddies chase with scary gory blue scream-kill stick against capturing soldiers. Mal and Zoe rescue them in time. Mal takes Jayne's betrayal personally.
E10 War Stories - aired 12/6/02 Writer: Cheryl Cain, Director: James Contner
Shepherd knows of Shan Yu, sadist advising torture to learn nature of a man, so does E2 Train Job Niska (Michael Fairman). Kaylee asks Zoe why she and Mal both cut apples. Starving platoon ignored Mal's warning to wait, killed by Griswalds, battery size pressure grenades stuffed inside enemy gifts tossed into trench. Walsh, jealous of war stories, replaces Zoe on next mission. Landing for Inera to entertain onboard female bigshot, Niska kidnaps and tortures Mal and Wash. Zoe brings all crew's money (many times train job money), but has to choose one, her husband. Villain slices off Mal's ear, kills him, and resuscitates, but slips away during surprise rescue. Kaylee, cringing, retreating, is the only one to see River, eyes shut, shoot three invaders.
"Preacher, don't the Bible have some pretty specific things to say about killing?" Zoe
"Quite specific. It is, however, somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps." Book
"I'm smellin' a lot of "if" comin' off this plan." Jayne
"Okay, people. If it moves, shoot it." Zoe
"Unless it's the Captain." Kaylee, Zoe, crew echoes.
"I've never shot anyone before." Simon, after rescue
"I was there, son. I'm fair sure you haven't shot anyone, yet." Book, preacher reassures doc
E11 Trash - never aired Writer Ben Edlund & Jose Molina, Director: Vern Gillum
Mal, sits on rock, naked, tattoo on hip, recalls previous 72 hours, E6 Saffron brought entry codes, map, and buyer contact for tagged valuable antique Lassiter laser pistol. Inera warns of treachery, storms off to work. Kaylee reprograms garbage drone for delivery to remote desert site, so tag doesn't trigger security alerts. Owner catches Mal and Saffron in the act, welcomes return of wife gone six years, same day as "young" security programmer. I guess Mal couldn't go with waste because drone would fly unprotected in space. (Spoiler: Irena traps Saffron searching waste crate, all according to Mal's plan.)
E8 Out of Gas by writer-producer) Tim Minear, director David Solomon
Intent was submarine and enemy boarding stories. Flashback, three looks, 5 years ago = color reversal film = saturated colors, foggy background. Zoe "what's that?" something living in wreck looks at same spot where Mal's body lies in present. Blood drips through grid floor made more red in post. Around table, every role stated to inform audience. Real fireball, wires, wind, flying debris plus CGI. Zoe injured in script because Gina marrying Laurence Fishburne, away on honeymoon (daughter born 2007). Shepherd Ron is Buddhist. Dax Griffin shook engine part himself adlib. Top of Act III is halfway through show, Tim likes recap. Confusing enough without him reciting original nonsensical scene order. Unusually long sequence Mal walks through ship calmly, closing doors, wrapping army blanket, tells character. Mal says "you'll all be here when I wake up" says flashbacks over, but last scene is across lot first look falls in love with Serenity, shows story was his relationship with ship, meaning independence, freedom. Not to me. I thought it was the crew, family, home.
E10 War Stories by actors: Mal, Wash = Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk
Infirmary bed had real pedal control, real fold-down stools, noisy, glass ball held bingo numbers (or are they kidding?) Alan claims to be taller than Gina; internet claims he's 5'10"-6', Gina 5'10.5"; she's not in 2" heels, so I say he's shorter. Ceiling hooks removed from torture room because they bumped heads, really blindfolded. Fake blood in eye stained Alan's contact lense for real. Pretend shaking really hurt. Tiffany desk lamp real. "Gun-battle-y" episode. Fox had automatic go to ads on black, so had to be "fade to very dark grey" (also in earlier commentary). Adam action expert, so Jayne leads with gun and never blinks when shooting. Stunt double did Nate and Adam, knocked unconscious one time. Zoe doesn't like to cook, not so good; Gina really fantastic cook, gave Alan permission to swat her bottom. Nate rewatches episodes just for music, though theme had to grow on him. I find the theme lacking in melody, too monotone for easy hum.
E12 The Message - never aired - writer: Joss Whedon & Tim Minear, director: Tim Minear
Picking up post, Jayne gets a home-knit hat from his ma, Zoe and Mal get frozen body. Seven years earlier they repeatedly saved private Tracey (Jonathan M. Woodward) in war. Recording asks them to carry one step farther, home to snow-bound St Albans, two days hard burn. But Lt Womack (Richard Burgi) and thugs (Skunk) follow them. Expands original Whedon theme inspired by Confederates of Civil War history, how soldiers (cannot) cope after the fighting. Tear-jerker slow death, we're meant to feel sorry for foolishness.
"When you can't run you crawl. When you can't crawl, you find someone to carry you." - their old saying
E13 Heart of Gold - never aired - writer: Brett matthews, director: Thomas J. Wright,
Name of brothel (boys too), whose madam Nandi (Melinda Clarke, Nikita's Amanda) calls Inera, to protect pregnant Petaline from moon boss Rance, who swears to cut out baby if DNA test comes back Mal refuses payment, admiring Nandi, stubborn courage, outnumbered, outgunned. "You're my kind of stupid.", end kissing in bed, her back naked.. Inera runs into Mal leaving, acts hard but cries. Rance kills Nandi, kidnaps newborn, men infiltrate Serenity. Mal gallops, overtakes hovercraft, catches Rance, Petaline kills Rance. Inera announces departure.
E14 Objects in Space - aired 12/13/02 - writer & director: Joss Whedon
Mal concerned when River picks up loaded safety-off gun. "We're deep in space, corner of No and Where." But armored sadistic bounty hunter Jubal Early (Richard Brooks), sneaks aboard, takes everyone down. Why does Kaylee just stand there, not scream or kerbonk the rape-threatening villain. River knows Serenity crew fear her, goes to Early's ship, agrees to go as bounty. But Early shoots Simon. Suited up on Serenity shell, Mal pushes Early off into space, welcomes River back aboard.
E12 The Message by actors: Wash, Kaylee = Alan Tudyk, Jewel Staite
Giggle-fest by actors, unlike content. Single bar scene took 3 days. 7am early start, Jewel had hidden cup of tea behind hammock. Rightside up foam fake cow fetus supposed to be upside down. Kaylee "literally only girl in the world" champion flirt, but Simon "cryo". Morena pushed for Inera's now straight hair. Adam's idea for trademark sniff touch everything (in E8 Out of Gas commentary too). Music cues give away plot. Like other episodes, not enough episodes, drew in staff. Last episode, so planning after-parties, rolled extra film goofing around. "Mule" all terrain vehicle scorched from before, fun ride. Continuity error, Alan notes, straw in Jayne's new hat. Alan finally got to say "shadow puppets" that he wanted. "Corpsified" space western talk. They liked Ariel episode when they were an A team. "Hat trick" was all three Whedon shows, Firefly, Buffy, Angel, Woodward and E1 Carlos. Alan didn't even know Kaylee's bedroom set area. Alan knew last day, took home call-back-shuttles button from E8 Out of Gas, at home, so missing later, also took green jumpsuit. Falling styrofoam sticky in heat. Kaylee burned hands on rails hot from lights. Gummy fake blood stuck in her hair (stained his contact in E10 War Stories). Horrible snow machine chemical taste clogged nose. Funeral scene last Firefly shot, ever.
E14 Objects in Space by Joss Whedon
Summer is ballerina, played one in Angel. Now I know, I see her feet and arms in first position. Episode purpose was how to unify her into group. Theme song came before script, kept on track. Boring blather on Whedon's age 16 existential epiphany from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and his "most important" book, Sartre's "Nausea". We bring meaning to objects; River becomes object, ship. Joss babbles on and on incomprehensibly with umms,. I quit listening, skipped, hit his last line, "Hope you didn't turn it off".
1 Behind the Scenes, Making of
Here's how it was:
Clips intersperse with many talking heads cast and higher credits: producer Gareth Davies, Chris Buchanan Mutant Enemy Pres, even translator Jenny Lynn, others. Tried to compromise with Fox "jump into the action". Pressure of cancellation forced gold storytelling quality. Mandarin Chinese stuck with actors even now, censors passed curses. Nate insisted he's not tortured empty, so his lightness influenced Mal. Wanted Kaylee womanly, real, gain 20 pounds; I don't think Jewel did.
The Cheese Aspect - visual staffers.
Camera hold more haphazard, less staged. Song. composer could mix odd culture music and instruments, wrote from emotions, happy, sad, dark. Death of show was last tune.
Part of Something Bigger - Fun. Joking around, not critical. On Ariel, Nate naturally hugged Jewel.
They Kept Us Going - Fans still admire, raise money for charities still.
Going Places - Where people think show headed, secrets of characters revealed.
That was Firefly - Glass (Book) laughs to not weep. Adam appreciated then. "Best Job Ever" - Nate. "Shines" - Joss
2 Serenity the 10th character - Colossal 190', upper and lower levels. Exposed, held together with baling twine. Each person had area. Kaylee's rusted, warm. Inera's luxurious gold red. Wash comfy chief chair, three magic high switches. Kitchen for ensemble nine. Backside glow on insectoid shape for firefly. Vertical take-off jets. Foldup feet. "It's a place we all looked forward to being in and playing in." - Adam.
Deleted Scenes - helpful written explanation on menu screen, most deserve cut
E1 Serenity Sc1,75 - Slow, but back story important, how Mal protected survivors of Serenity Valley final massacre, abandoned dying by both sides haggling. "Once you've been in Serenity you never leave, you just learn to live there." - Zoe
E Our Mrs R Sc18 - River wants to marry Simon "I love you. I'll knit.", holds pillow to tummy "I'm in the family way.", warns "You're a thief." to Saffron. Mal chides "More than 75 worlds spinning in this galaxy and the meek have inherited not a one."
E Objects Sc6 - Inera leaving, River touches gun, not deleted in this dvd
Alan Tudyk's Audition (Wash) - pretended playing with dinosaurs before Alliance cruiser incoming
Gag Reel created for first Xmas party that turned out to be wrap. "My days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle." - Mal. Surprisingly small, 17 bloopers, a few real curses, zooms on Mal's backside from E Our Mrs R.Cyberment
Joss Tours the Set - less that 60 seconds, includes screen clips
Joss plays and sings Serenity theme under lead credits - flat off key, like Bob Dylan