Firefly Review – “The Train Job”

We forgot to remind you that Firefly and John Doe premiered last night (even though Daemonik tried to remind us to remind you.) Well, we’ve got the first Firefly review here. Share your thoughts on Joss Whedon’s new show. If we want to keep Fox from cancelling it, we need to get people watching, so we should get people talking. (I’ll try to dig up some ratings numbers as soon as I can.)

Cast

Nathan Fillion
as Malcolm Reynolds
Gina Torres as Zoe
Alan Tudyk as Wash
Morena
Baccarin
as Inara
Jewel Staite as Kaylee
Adam Baldwin as Jayne
Sean Maher as
Dr. Simon Tam
Summer Glau as
River Tam
Ron Glass as Shepherd

Crew

Created, co-written, and directed by Joss Whedon. Tim Minear was the
other co-writer.
Production Design by Carey Meyer, with
cinematography by David Boyd.
The complete IMDB listings can be found here.
The official website can be found here.

Original Airdate

The Train Job originally aired on Friday, September 20, on
the Fox network.

Premise

Joss Whedon set out to make a western in space, and that’s exactly
what he did. It’s got the atmosphere in the excellent sets, it’s got
the rag-tag bunch of outlaws in our heroes, and it’s got the unruly
and inconsistent law enforcement in the far reaches from the
government. There’s an interesting set-up here that was shown
flawlessly.

High Point

Jayne’s “chain of command” speech.

Low Point

Once again, every character has Joss Whedon’s sense of humour. It
would be nice to see that aspect of Joss’ characters vary a bit.

This Pilot

As some of you may have heard, this is not the original pilot
episode. The first two-hour pilot had less action than Fox expected,
so they asked Joss to make another one. Joss has said that the
original pilot will be somehow incorporated into the first season, and
will reveal how this crew got together.

Unfortunately, this is an expensive Fox show I like that isn’t
The X-Files. If past history holds true, it’ll be cancelled
by the end of November, and the original pilot will never air.

The Review

Truly original material is hard to produce. We’ve seen
characters like each individual before, and we’ve seen some of them in
combination. However, I don’t remember anyone mixing the western and
sci-fi genres together like this before. (Well, apart from the
abysmal Wild, Wild West.) I give it 4 out of 6.

The effects were well done, for the most part. The final
effects shot involving Crowe looked like an effects shot, as did some
of the shots of the ship, but the quality was pretty good considering
the volume, budget, and scheduling involved. I give it 4 out of 6.

The story was sparse and predictable. However, given the
amount of screen time and the number of characters introduced, I’d say
they did a pretty decent job. I think we’ll have to expect some
somewhat weak stories for the first few episodes while the writers and
audience get comfortable with the characters and their relationships.
I give it 3 out of 6.

The acting was better overall than a lot of pilot episodes.
Nobody did a particularly outstanding job, but they were all
comfortable and plausible in their roles. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response generated wasn’t extreme. I laughed
when they wanted me to laugh, and didn’t laugh when they didn’t want
me to, but as for the rest, I really only felt a mild curiosity. We
haven’t really had time to get to know the characters well enough to
really care for them yet. I give it 3 out of 6.

The production value was excellent. I loved the production
design and cinematography used. The atmosphere was completely
immersive, which has got to be really hard to do when you’re mixing
these two remarkably distinct genres. The directing was well paced,
and the music was excellent for setting mood within the atmosphere. I
give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, this is a great pilot for a promising series.
Highly recommended. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, The Train Job receives 29 out of 42.

The Coming Weeks

This page on the
official site has the breakdown of the next few episodes, including
the names of a number of writers and directors that fans of
Buffy and Angel will probably recognize. We’ve got
10 new episodes on the schedule between now and December 13. There
are no new episodes on the schedule for October 11 and November 29,
but I don’t know if those are reruns or pre-emptings yet.

19 replies on “Firefly Review – “The Train Job””

  1. Galacticx says:

    Missed opportunity
    I’ve been trying to get people up for the show all month . Others have mentioned it and didn’t know the name. and then I miss it! wish I could comment . I have/had great hopes for a fun active well concieved show. Andromeda just doesn’t make it for me, Enterprise is hanging in there though.

  2. Daemonik says:

    Preconceptions and Flames
    Slashdot had a post about Firefly and many people seemed to take offense at how the future was being portrayed in it. I think I’d like to take a shot at explaining why a six-shooter is a perfectly reasonable weapon in the future.

    For a beam weapon to be feasible for hand-held use, you must first have an ultra compact, ultra dense power supply if you want your beam to travel a reasonable distance with enough power to do any damage and still supply multiple shots without dependance on frequent recharges. Even 500 years into the future it isn’t unreasonable to assume that such a device hasn’t been created or that it would be less than portable.

    Even if it had, not many border colonies would have the necessary energy production to supply several hundred colonists the ability to recharge numerous such devices on short demand. Also, the last thing you want to take along to a remote location would be a delicate high maintenace piece of tech that couldn’t be repaired locally.

    Then there’s the whole “a bullet could decompress the ship/station” idea. Impossible, I say! Any vehicle that is capable of exiting and reintering an atmosphere without being serviced after every trip would have to have an extremely durable hull capable of being struck by micro-meteorites and other debris at high speeds on numerous occasions. Such a hull would easily be capable of absorbing the impact of a bullet. Even if the ship somehow relied on external energy shielding, simply using a ceramic slug, rather than metal, while inside a ship/station would still inflict considerable damage on a person and minimal damage to the vessel.

    On the other hand, a hand-held energy weapon could do more damage than a bullet!. High energy beams not based on light would likely create significant EM waves which would damage the ships electronics, lasers could potentially burn a hole through the ship.

    The farther you are based from densely populated areas, the more you depend on locally available goods, which again lends well to the use of chemical slug throwers. Cheap, easy to build, maintain and resupply while delivering a devastating degree of physical damage.

    I’m sad to see that for most people, unless there’s little beams of light flying about, or ships crewed by veritable clones of Stephen Hawking whipping out technobabble solutions to life’s problems, it’s just not sci-fi.

    • xah says:

      Re: Preconceptions and Flames
      Well said. Just to add to it one more reason a handheld beam weapon might be useless: that ultradense power supply could be highly explosive.

  3. hossman says:

    High Point


    High Point

    Jayne’s “chain of command” speech.

    I have to disagree, the High point was the “best thing for everyone” exchange between the Captin and the Tatooed Thug (and the other guy after the Tatooed Thug) just before the end of the show.

    (It’s nice to finally see a “renegade hero” who has no qualms about killing an enemy that can’t be reasoned with)

  4. xah says:

    good and bad
    This show is just getting started. It’s mostly hard sci-fi, not space fantasy. I’m sick of space fantasies. Here are some of the show’s good points, from my point of view:

    • No whooshing sounds in space. Just silence or music. Perfect! Maybe a character should comment on this to educate all the people who wonder why they are not hearing whooshing noises
    • The music is beautiful
    • The sound on the show is evocative and interesting
    • No transporter beam
    • No time travel
    • No holodeck
    • No “nerve grip”
    • The captain of the ship is not especially heroic or suave, but is pretty funny
    • People actually get injured, and when they do, the medic has to do more than just wave a little tricorder over them
    • This crew has guts. Pulling off a dangerous job is one thing. Doing so with a ship that has no weapons is another
    • People on this show actually have families. The medic and the psychic are siblings. Even the villain has a wife
    • There is religion, and no Midichlorians
    • There are no aliens who look like Neelix
    • No one on the show has some weird metallic forehead insignia thing
    • The ship doesn’t have a bar where ridiculously contrived rendevouses occur
    • The characters drink alcohol, and then actually get drunk
    • There’s no annoying character who’s always trying to probe the other side’s feelings

    There are some annoying things with Firefly, too.

    • The stupid rhyme that the psychic girl is repeating is grating on the ears
    • Why is it in sci-fi that whenever anyone has a nightmare, they are psychic? Don’t ordinary people ever have nightmares?
    • Why is the one tough dude called Jane?
    • Why is it that people with German accents are always villains? Why can’t there be a German good guy?

    Overall, though, the show has a lot of promise.

    • Jackolantern says:

      Re: good and bad

    • Why is the one tough dude called Jane?
    • Its Jayne, to me it sounded like Jane-e and it is his last name too. Lots of cool guys have odd last names.

    • Why is it that people with German accents are always villains? Why can’t there be a German good guy?
    • One word Nazi’s

      -Jack

      • xah says:

        Re: good and bad
        We Germans aren’t all Nazis.

        • Jackolantern says:

          Re: good and bad

          We Germans aren’t all Nazis.

          But a lot of (famous) Nazis are German.

          It probably has to do with the american propaganda machine begin a little to effective during WW2.

          -Jack

    • xah says:

      Re: good and bad
      Forgot to add as positives:

      • Stupid intergalactic diplomacy kept to a minimum
      • None of the characters have a child who is the messiah (Andromeda)
      • None of the characters have really bad hairdos (Babylon 5)
      • There isn’t some overhanging sense of undefeatable fate which makes you wonder why anyone even gets out of bed in the morning (Babylon 5 again)
  5. xah says:

    another review
    Here’s another review: link.

    Laser guns exist, but are expensive. Aliens don’t exist. Both are good premises, I think.

  6. Daemonik says:

    Aliens
    I’m glad that someone has finally decided to seperate themselves from the ‘alien of the week’ formulae for something that might probe where we are going in the future. Sci-Fi isn’t just about 6 legged brain suckers from Mars.

    The premise of numerous colonies of humans on other planets developing away from Earth lends itself well to interesting story lines. In some cases they may even be more alien than anything a guy in a latex head could deliver.

    Consider the sources of initial immigrants to extra-solar colonies:

    A) Rich isolationists, who want to be seperated from the common folk
    B) Forced settlements, for ethnic or population control reasons
    C) Religous fanatics who want to practice their faith out of the public eye. (Imagine a planet settled by Branch Davidians or Scientologists)
    D) Individualists who simply can’t conform to society’s expectations (lends well to the Western theme the show has so far)

    I look forward to seeing where Joss is going with this and hope that people can pull themselves away from the Star Trek view of what Sci-Fi should be long enough to give this show a chance. It’d help if Fox moved it to a less suicidal day and time too.

    • dcheesi says:

      Re: Aliens

      It’d help if Fox moved it to a less suicidal day and time too.

      Actually, now that SciFi has gutted their Friday night lineup, I imagine a lot of bored geeks will be surfing over to Fox on Friday nights. (As for me, my TiVo takes care everything. Good TiVo! :)

      • rickyjames says:

        Re: Aliens

        (As for me, my TiVo takes care everything. Good TiVo! :)

        I love my TiVo. By using it, I get to skip commercials, and nobody watching commercials is why Firefly will wind up getting canceled. I love my TiVo.

        Very Zen, no?

  7. rickyjames says:

    Cool, Cool, Cool.
    I was totally blown away by the first ep of Firefly – at last, CHARACTER-DRIVEN sci-fi that was HALFWAY INTELLIGENT and even (gasp) FUN. A few months ago I finally got on the Buffy bandwagon wathcing Season 3&4 of Buffy on FX via my trusty Tivo and I gotta say, this Joss guy knows his stuff. Best of all was the fact that the characters are basically real. I just got done reading David Brin’s Star Wars reviews recently at http://www.davidbrin.com/starwarsarticle3.html and he made the interesting point that Star Wars characters were basically Greek gods and Star Trek characters were basically only 10 times as smart / powerful as the average person. The Firefly characters are 0.5 to 1.5 times as smart / powerful as you or I and I like that. The pilot or the mechanic seems to be you or me. They’re gonna go a long way with that kind of identification factor. And all the other points made in other posts are right on target, too. Long live gunpowder!!! It’s been around a few thousand years, why not a few centuries more!

  8. dcheesi says:

    Energy usage
    I’m not a NASA scientist, but it seems to me that it would take a heck of a lot of energy to fly that ship around (esp. to reach escape velocity). I hope they don’t ignore this while showing them scrounging for cash in a border realm with limited energy production. At least I’d like to see them explain the apparent discrepency (cheap anti-grav technology or some-such).

    This is a pet peeve of mine, applying to ‘grungy’ space shows primarily. The worst case of this is Cowboy Bebop, where they can’t afford to feed themselves, yet they still have the fuel to fly around the solar system, money to pay Gate tolls, etc.

    BTW, Firefly is an otherwise pretty good show. Unfortunately, it has all the earmarks of show that’s destined to be cancelled: it’s quirky, it’s hybrid-genre, and it’s something I like.

    • davatar2 says:

      Re: Energy usage
      Energy!=freedom, unlike some people today would like you to believe. If you think about how much energy is required to power modern vehicles, it is quite alot, and something we can’t easily substitute.

      For one example, if fusion reactors could be built as standard is an internal combustion engine, fuel would be literally everywhere you go, and you wouldn’t need that much of it either.

  9. plasticpixel says:

    Cowboy Bebop meets Trigun
    From a hollywood perspective this is a pretty original show. I like it alot and hope it lasts for a while. But it is not original at all if you place it next to Anime shows like Cowboy Bebop and the Trigun series. Those two series have been around long enough to have probably inspired the creator of this show. Let’s hope we see more like this stuff in the future.

  10. theangrymob says:

    I really wanted to hate this…

    …but I couldn’t. Being billed as the “Anit-Trek” kinda irked me, but it was fun to watch. No dry moral debate, just give ’em back their medicine. Bad guy giving you guff? Chuck him into the starboard engine. Nice, simple.

  11. YaRness says:

    if i had to pick or guess about a show to be cancelled
    i’d pick firefly over john doe. firefly, at least the pilot, was a real sleeper for me. it wasn’t as original or uncliched as it was hyped up to be, and the style of the show didn’t exactly fall flat, but didn’t get me all excited about seeing it again next week. however, since it’s on right before john doe, which really did catch my eye (maybe i like the film-noir narratives or something), i’ll keep watching it to see if it improves.

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