Many of you who see the headline will assume this will be a gushing list of all the things that are great about Joss Whedon’s Firefly (2002-2003) and the follow-up movie Serenity (2005). But no, this is a request for someone to tell me what’s so great about Firefly, because I just don’t get it.
I skipped Firefly when it debuted on Fox in September 2002. I’m an ardent science fiction fan, but for some reason the promos and description just didn’t appeal to me. Was it a space opera? Was it a western in science fiction trappings? Was it a drama or a comedy? What, or who, was a firefly? Whatever the show was, I was not persuaded to watch it.
And so, with millions of viewers like me who did not watch, Firefly went quickly off the air. Fan protests fell on deaf ears at Fox. To me this was just another in a long line of TV series with a small, but vocal base, and I didn’t pay any attention.
As the years went by and the fervor kept up, I thought, well maybe there’s something to this; maybe I should get the DVDs and see for myself. But again, I procrastinated.
Then in 2005, Serenity came to the big screen, reuniting the cast and crew. Again, I really had no interest, and it came and went in theaters without me seeing it. In 2006 Serenity was nominated for the long-form dramatic presentation Hugo award, and I dutifully rented the DVD and watched it on my laptop while on a vacation.
Serenity was a good movie, but it certainly didn’t blow me away. Not being familiar with the characters undoubtedly diminished my enjoyment some, but I recall thinking that nevertheless, it wasn’t too hard to figure out what was going on and why. Moreover, I’m sure it lost some impact in the translation to my small screen. But to me it was just a fairly standard action-adventure film. I voted for Batman Begins (2005). Serenity won the award.
I’ve had other chances to see Firefly. It’s been syndicated a number of times, most recently on the Science Channel. I resolved to finally see it, and even set my DVR to record the episodes. But I still couldn’t muster the motivation to actually watch them and ended up deleting them unseen.
Finally, almost ten years after it first aired, I made a deal with myself to watch the 14-episode series on Netflix streaming. For about the past six months I’ve watched the series, two or three episodes a month, and finished this week. I then re-watched Serenity for good measure.
The fact that it took me almost six months to get through the series is the first clue that I was not enraptured by it.
Now don’t get me wrong. I can’t say anything bad about Firefly. The writing, acting, and production values were fine. It’s just that I can’t really say much good about it, either. It was a nice, entertaining show, but nothing special. It was a space opera, a western, a drama, and a comedy all rolled into one. I’m glad I finally saw it, but I can’t imagine I’ll ever go out of my way to see it again. It was nice to see Serenity in context, too. It made more sense this time, and it gave the entire series a nice feeling of closure.
So, Firefly fans. What’s the big deal? Why do you hijack every online poll to vote Serenity as the best science fiction film of all time? It’s not even in the top 10. At best, the top 50. It’s really just the concluding episode of an above-average TV series. It can never compare to groundbreaking science fiction films like Star Wars (1977), Blade Runner (1982), or 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), to name a few.
Them’s fightin’ words, for sure. But in all sincerity, I would like to hear some reasoned, calm explanations as to why you love this show so much. What’s your passion that I’m missing?