The wife and I began watching Whedon’s short-lived, but masterful, television series Firefly again last night. For me it was the second time on dvd (after watching it on Fox during its original run), and for the wife it was the first.
The show holds up as well or better than it did when originally broadcast in 2002. Though Whedon has a great sense of humor, Firefly is his most tragic work, following the crew of the spaceship Serenity about the planets as they run from the demons of their past, principal of which is that many of them were on the losing side of a stellar civil war in which the central-planet “Alliance” (forces of progressivism, nationalism, multi-planet corporations, state security, big government, or if you want to summarize it as a whole, “the East”) crushed the outer-system Browncoats (so named because they couldn’t afford uniforms) or “Independents” (anarcho-syndicalism, libertarianism, mom-and-pop commerce, minarchism, “the West”).
Plus a subplot about government mind control that can’t be revealed because it would spoil the conclusion of the series, the somehow-produced, and somehow-profitable, science fiction film Serenity.
And of course Fox, where good television goes to be born only to suffer infanticide at the hands of executives, ruined the show, broadcasting a tragic space-opera serial out of order because some of the episodes they front-loaded were funnier than the intended earlier episodes. So normal people watching the show had no idea what was going on. It was cancelled before its full run was complete, due to low ratings. Today Firefly lives only on dvd.
And it did occur to me, if HBO or Showtime, networks which aren’t afraid to challenge audiences and which take the long view, had access to the show, it might have had its second or third or fourth season. Hell, Big Love is now on its fifth season.
And which comes back round to my other point. Firefly, as cool a piece of anti-authoritarian agitprop as was ever made, is more relevant today than ever. In 2002 only freaks on the left or the libertarian fringe feared their government and their banks. Today, everyone fears the Man.
If you’ve never seen Firefly, I strongly urge you to watch the show in the original order. And wear your brown coat with pride.