Firefly Review – “Serenity”

This was the original, unaired two hour pilot episode. It also sounds like it may be the last episode ever broadcast.

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 Book

Crew

Written and directed by Joss Whedon.

The complete IMDB listings can be found here.
The official website can be found here.

Original Airdate


Serenity
originally aired on Friday,
December 20, 2002.

Premise

The original two hour pilot episode, this explains how Shepherd Book,
Simon Tam, and River Tam joined the crew.

High Point

“What do you pay him for?”

Low Point

The recycled jokes. I know they were in this one first, and then they
were used in other episodes when there was doubt this would ever air,
but the viewers have already seen them.

The Review

This would have felt incredibly original had it been aired
first. It also would have done a much better job of setting up the
technological diversity of this universe. Unfortunately, the decision
to air this later (which I do not understand) hurt its impact when it
finally arrived. I give it 4 out of 6.

The effects are a little more extravagant in some cases then
we’ve seen until now. The shots of the ship kicking up its engines,
for example, seem to be more complex than they’ve since become. I
give it 5 out of 6.

The story was well woven together; without the opening
credits, you wouldn’t know which, if any, passengers would stay on
board until after the conversation in the mess hall. There were at
least three threads going, all of which taught the viewer a lot about
the characters and their relationships. This is a good episode, and
an excellent pilot. I give it 5 out of 6.

The acting seems to be more in line with the later episodes
this season than the early ones. The cast seems to be more
comfortable with themselves now than in some of the episodes produced
just after it. I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response in this episode was strong. I laughed
at the jokes, and I actually would have cared about some of these
characters at the end of this pilot than I did at the end of the pilot
we had. This does a much better job of setting up what odds they’ll
be facing and why they’re together than The Train Job did.
Most of that is probably due to the two hour length, that provides
them with the time they needed to get these things right without
rushing them. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production was what we’ve come to expect from Mutant
Enemy and Joss Whedon. The interestingly out of sync vidual and audio
cuts while Inara was at work also did an excellent job of setting up
her duplicity between her feelings and her on the job behaviour. I
give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, this should have been the pilot that was broadcast.
It’s paced in line with most of the rest of the series, it introduces
the characters well, starting from how they actually came together,
and finishing with why they relate to each other the way they
do. Still, it never gets so mired with introductions that it stops
being interesting in its own right. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Serenity receives 35 out of 42.

27 replies on “Firefly Review – “Serenity””

  1. quecojones says:

    Last episode?
    You mention that this might be the last episode ever broadcast. Why is that exactly? Has the show been canceled?

    • tero says:

      Re: Last episode?

      You mention that this might be the last episode ever broadcast. Why is that exactly? Has the show been canceled?

      In short, yes, Firefly has been cancelled.. Check this story.

      • quecojones says:

        Re: Last episode?

        You mention that this might be the last episode ever broadcast. Why is that exactly? Has the show been canceled?

        In short, yes, Firefly has been cancelled.. Check this story.

        Excuse my french, but that sucks festering monkey butt! :(

        Thanks for the link though.

  2. Nightwanderer says:

    Have to disagree
    This episode felt like the pilot it was. I liked it mind you, but the
    train robbery episode pulled me in far faster than this one would
    have. I much prefer a show to be “happening” and in motion
    when I join it over being introduced to everyone like a debutante.

    The action of the program should give me back story, or at least
    enough to let me know why the action is going where it is going.
    To me, it is no diffent than in real life, when you walk into a small
    shop and first meet the people that work there. You don’t know
    who is married to whom, who slept with whom, or who is stealing
    what. If you get to know the people over time, you will find out,
    but not on day one. All you know then is the result.

    OK, but other than that, I liked it. Fiannly something aabout Book
    that I liked. A Baptist monk! I was expectinig something else.
    We see more about how Jayn, Zoe and some others joined the
    crew in another episode, but I definitely liked what we learned
    in this one.

    Too bad is it was cancelled. I defintely would buy the DVD if
    they ever get it together.

    Bill

    ps. I think Zoe’s husband was destined to buy it by season’s
    end. She has too much chemistry with Mal. By Season 3,
    they would be an item.

    • fiziko says:

      Re: Have to disagree

      ps. I think Zoe’s husband was destined to buy it by season’s
      end. She has too much chemistry with Mal. By Season 3,
      they would be an item.

      I think it would be Mal and Inara, if anyone. (Simon and Kaylee was actually happening.) I agree about the tension, but I’d think Zoe would die in the line of duty, and then Mal and Wash would need to live with that.

    • Babbster says:

      Re: Have to disagree
      You make some good points but the sad fact is that most people want shows spoon-fed to them, especially at the outset. This show in particular suffered from the fact that not only was it attempting to establish a new cast of characters that people have no experience with, but a new science fiction universe as well. BTVS, for example, had a setting that everyone is familiar with and so didn’t have to do any extra work in trying to flesh it out.

      I think this pilot, properly promoted, could have generated the ratings, both short- and long-term, that Fox supposedly wanted. If the more casual viewers could have gotten more back story early, it would have allowed them to better enjoy the following episodes. Heck, it would have probably allowed ME to better enjoy a couple episodes (particularly the out-of-order weeks) better than I did.

  3. TechnoGirl says:

    Too Good For Network Television
    When firefly first came out I had *many* concerns about the concept and the characters. Had I seen *this* episode I would have been an instant fan. This is a FANTASTIC series. The writig, the characters – the **camera work** simnply excel!

    IMHO you missed on of he high points. I loved the shot of the Captain zipping back up in the bathroom. How many scifi shows have shown people taking a normal pee in the past??? I think this was a tongue-in-cheek way of Wheedon saying that this is not your normal scifi show – these characters are ment to be real people.

    Another high point for me was the normally all to hackneyed scene where the villian holds a gun to the girls head in full view of everybody – not taking cover and demands that everyone do as he says. Mal walks on board and, without saying a word or breaking his stride just blows the bad guy away and tosses him off the ship. Another tongue-in-cheek commentary on trite and overplayed scenes.

    In short the series is just TOO DAMN GOOD for the likes of network television where shows like Golden Girls are more the audience’s speed. I hope Showtime picks it up because the series a potential gold mine IMHO. I’d wish the same for the SCIFI channel but they seem to busy buying shows about psychics who talk to the dead and idiots who interpret your dreams for you.

    Great Show!

    • TechnoGirl says:

      Re: Too Good For Network Television
      Opps! Missed ANOTHER high point – remember when Mal lied to the doctor that his patient had died…the doctor has a cow running back to the infirmary and in the next scene Mal is cracking up with the rest of the crew saying, "I’m a baaad man"….great twist on ANOTHER overplayed scene.

      I wish I could see more of this great show – I can’t BELEIVE the state of TV is so crappy that it’s just going to be dropped and NO ONE will pick it back up …..ohhhh…yah…I can believe it I suppose :(

      • rickyjames says:

        Re: Too Good For Network Television
        TG, I remember your initial reluctance to accept this series and become emotionally involved and I take your conversion to be an example of just what this show COULD achieve by slowly building viewership if it were just given a chance. THere’s three more eps in the can that Fox may never air. Joss is supposed to be trying to sell Firefly to UPN as a midseason replacement, the odds are estimated at 50-50. Even in its current anemic state Firefly is higher rated than all but 2 UPN shows (Enterprise and -gag – WWF wrestling!) and it’s ready to go in terms of set and cast availability. Firefly may yet fly again – but I agree, it’s too good for the drek known as network TV.

        • Daemonik says:

          Re: Too Good For Network Television

          Even in its current anemic state Firefly is higher rated than all but 2 UPN shows (Enterprise and -gag – WWF wrestling!)

          When I first heard that Joss was shopping Firefly to UPN I had some reservations about it. I mean UPN is the home of Star Trek, and they have quite a bit of their company tied up in that franchise.

          Even on its worst day, Firefly makes Enterpise look sick and pathetically formulaeic. One would wonder if UPN really wants that kind of competition around when it could potentially draw viewers away from their golden cash cow.

          • rickyjames says:

            Re: Too Good For Network Television

            One would wonder if UPN really wants that kind of competition around when it could potentially draw viewers away from their golden cash cow.

            UPN better get with a reality check and realize that not only does Enterprise suck but so did Nemesis second-week boxoffice, and the’d better scoop up the next major franchise from Joss while they can, or they’re gonna be left with nothing. I’m about ready to put Star Trek on the shelf with The Three Stooges as a historical franchise, not a viable current one.

            • TechnoGirl says:

              Re: Too Good For Network Television
              <BLOCKQUOTE TYPE="cite">
              I’m about ready to put Star Trek on the shelf with The Three Stooges as a historical franchise, not a viable current one.
              </BLOCKQUOTE>

              "Franchise"

              You can have good writing and good television ….or you can have a "franchise". But not both.

              It’s sort of like choosing to have an Italian dinner at your local family owned Italian restaurant…or at the Olive Garden.

              Don’t let Corpspeak infiltrate our daily lives pulleze…run that idea up your flagpole and let me know what ‘ya think OK?

              • rickyjames says:

                Re: Too Good For Network Television
                Well, I certainly agree that the dictates of a TV “franchise” just about make it impossible to have good TV. The “franchise” must meet the “demographics”, which is another way of saying “designed by a committee”. You know, last season I tried to get into Alias and 24, both of which were hyped as fresh and original and bold and innovative. I found both pretty stale as they suffer from Gilligan’s Disease – there ain’t gonna be no resolution this week. Which is what doomed Voyager and also why I don’t understand why John Doe is doing so much better than Firefly. That’s no reason there can’t be character development in such an environment, but even THAT is elusive. Firefly somehow had/(has) the potential that you really didn’t know where it was going but it was going SOMEWHERE. In that sense it’s not a franchise, which knows EXACTLY where it wants to go…and squeezes the innovation and sponaneous life out of its creations in the process.

        • y42 says:

          Re: Too Good For Network Television

          Joss is supposed to be trying to sell Firefly to UPN as a midseason
          replacement, the odds are estimated at 50-50. Even in its current
          anemic state Firefly is higher rated than all but 2 UPN shows
          (Enterprise and -gag – WWF wrestling!) and it’s ready to go in terms
          of set and cast availability. Firefly may yet fly again – but I agree,
          it’s too good for the drek known as network TV.

          That’s WWE now…

          Man I gots to get me a printer and some of that thick cardboard-like
          paper to let the UPN
          people know
          I wants me Firefly…

  4. y42 says:

    fox

    Unfortunately, the decision to air this later (which
    I do not understand)

    I now have a theory that the people of fox are EVIL! PURE
    AND SIMPLE!

    I think they are purposfully buying and cancelling good shows out
    of pure malice, and not out of half-assed buisness decisions as I
    once thought…anybody care to check if they have inversed
    pentagrams in their lobby or something?

    • Alexius says:

      Re: fox

      anybody care to check if they have inversed
      pentagrams in their lobby or something?

      Nit Pick, On Two Counts.

      1.) A Pentagram Is A Five Pointed Star In A Circle, Tip Pointing Down. It Has Little To Do With Paganism In General. The Star In A Circle, With Point Up Is A Pentacle. (I’m Pagan, And A Generally Good Person. I Work With A Charity Organization That Does Numerous Charity Activies In An Attempt To Dispell The Bad Names That Pagan Have Gotten From Television. Paganism Are No Better Or Worse Than Any Other Religion.)

      *Steps Off Soap Box, Mutting “How’d I Get Up There?”*

      2.) We Actually Did A Ritual (Read: Said A Prayer) To Keep Firefly On The Air (At The Request Of My High Priestesses Husband.) Per My Suggestion, We Used A Whedon Ritual. Draw A Circle On The Ground. Leap Into The Circle. Leap Out Of The Circle, Then Shake Your Gourd. (We Substitued A Rainstick For Gourd. — Bonus Points If Anyone Recognizes The Spell.)

      • y42 says:

        Re: fox

        anybody care to check if they have inversed
        pentagrams in their lobby or something?

        Nit Pick, On Two Counts.

        1.) A Pentagram Is A Five Pointed Star In A Circle, Tip Pointing
        Down. It Has Little To Do With Paganism In General. The Star In A
        Circle, With Point Up Is A Pentacle. (I’m Pagan, And A Generally
        Good Person. I Work With A Charity Organization That Does
        Numerous Charity Activies In An Attempt To Dispell The Bad
        Names That Pagan Have Gotten From Television. […])

        Don’t mean no disrespect to you, all the disrespect was aimed at
        fox (wich being a TV studio is therefore a source of the “bad name”
        you get).

        When I say I’m sure if they decided to sell out to satan in
        order to
        increase shareholder value, they would go for the inversed
        pentagram in the lobby. I’m clearly not aiming for realism. : )

      • TechnoGirl says:

        Re: fox
        I Work With A Charity Organization That Does Numerous Charity Activies In An Attempt To Dispell The Bad Names That Pagan Have Gotten From Television. Paganism Are No Better Or Worse Than Any Other Religion.)

        maybE …buT theY stilL can’T capitalizE wortH a damN .

    • rusty0101 says:

      Re: fox

      Unfortunately, the decision to air this later (which
      I do not understand)

      I now have a theory that the people of fox are EVIL! PURE
      AND SIMPLE!

      Never ascribe to mallace and evil that which can as easily be ascribed to the owners and executives at Fox just being plain stupid.

      You may not be wrong, but it is harder to prove.

      -Rusty

  5. frunk says:

    Hmm
    All I can say is, Fox must have had it in for Firefly after seeing the pilot. There was no reason to promote it the way they did, or stick it on Friday night, or not show a pilot that obviously did a better job of setting up the show than “The Train Job”. Maybe they were expecting something different? They must have watched Joss Whedon’s other shows though, right?

    • davatar2 says:

      Re: Hmm
      Joss gets ratings. We all know what fox THINKS gets ratings. So some fat cat exec decides a Joss show might be a good investment. They get the pilot and go ‘WTF is this?!?’ The ‘train job’ at least had lots of loud noises, quick action, and gruesome death – something the dullards can understand. Money is the root of all evil.

  6. Jethro says:

    Best Pilot Ever
    Before we watched this, I warned my wife that since it’s the pilot, and took place before everything we’ve seen so far, it might suck because some character development never happend, plus I thought that since they didn’t air it maybe the series changed direction or something.

    But wow, it was good. I don’t remember when I’ve seen a pilot that was this good anytime recently.

    Ok, that’s it. Screw Fox. I’m going to get a G4 iMac and a dv camera and shoot more episodes of Firefly myself! Since I probably can’t afford the original cast, I’ll be Jayne, because (A) I’ve always wanted to be called “Jane”, and this is close enoug, (B) I don’t want to shave my beard off, and (C) It’s my idea.

    Anyone else want in? Preferably someone who, like, knows how to make TV shows?

  7. Nightwanderer says:

    Alan Dean Foster
    In the latest Science Fiction Chronicle, AD Foster trashes Firefly. He saw and
    reviewed the Train Robbery, and concludes that Joss Whedon
    is just in it for the money. Hated the story, hated the execution,
    thinks the series will stink.

    Obviously, publication lead times and other factors have made the
    review badly out of date, but the perception that Firefly should be
    buried, coming from a semi-respected SF writer, is hard to
    ignore. Admittedly, the Train Robbery was lots of flash and not
    much deep characterization, but he savages everything about it,
    the plot, the physics (Serenity over the train and no one notices),
    and the settings (Old West style sets).

    I liked the episode, though I agree it could have been better. But
    what are we to do with the two contending SF crowds, one that
    wants Space Opera and damn the Plot Holes, and one that wants
    hard science with no mistakes (and no sound in Space dammit!)

    SF Chronicle is a trade magazine, in that is spends a lot of time
    on who cut a deal with who for how much. Agents, publishers,
    options, lawsuits, etc. The other half is reviews and new
    releases, mostly books.

    It isn’t like the review per se really matters at this point, but the
    point of view disturbs me.

    Bill

    • TechnoGirl says:

      Re: Alan Dean Foster

      It isn’t like the review per se really matters at this point, but the point of view disturbs me.

      I can relate to Foster’s POV because I felt exactly the same way after seeing the train robbery episode myself. It was only after seeing several other episodes that I began to get a real feel for the series and become a fan of it. FOX made a horrid mistake by airing the train robbery episode first and the pilot last. What was up with that?? !

      I’m totally convinced that the FOX execs along with 3/4’s of Hollywood are on crack. Network television SUCKS…and cable (scifi channel) is hardly better.

      What can we do? Read more books…although now that then 3 companies own 90% of all publishing houses scifi there is taking a nose dive as well…..maybe it’s time we opened up our *own* magazines and publishing outlets via the internet??

      • nyospe says:

        Re: Alan Dean Foster


        I’m totally convinced that the FOX execs along with 3/4’s of Hollywood are on crack. Network television SUCKS…and cable (scifi channel) is hardly better.

        What can we do? Read more books…although now that then 3 companies own 90% of all publishing houses scifi there is taking a nose dive as well…..maybe it’s time we opened up our *own* magazines and publishing outlets via the internet??

        First off: Foster is an extremely inconsistant writer. In all the pieces of literary analysis I’ve seen from him, he seems to go after the flaws that are most similar to his own, in the worst of his stuff. No surprise, that, but it does shed some light on the emphasis of his review.
        Now… for printed sf, we have:

        Baen (Simon & Schuster): While pointedly oriented toward material without complex psychological undertones, Baen continues to put out solid, rich mainstream sf, rather strongly stimulated by Jim Baen’s desire to play experimental chef with his authors’ styles, mixing and blending writers at will…

        Tor (Tom Doherty Associates): With less of a “feel”, Tor collects a number of the more literary writers of sf (as well as some mainstream hacks with inexplicable popularity… *cough*) under a loose confederation. On the major plus side: Tor (and, counting Sheffield and Forward books, occasionally Baen) also introduces the sf community to nonfiction of relevance to their tastes. On the major minus, Tor is a primary perpetrator of the franchise bastardization of once-great literary series. This is, after all, the publisher that keeps Kevin J. Anderson employed. ((shudder))

        Ace (Penguin Putnam): I think this is the oldest one still around, isn’t it? Certainly, they’ve been slowing to a trickle lately. Some reprints, some continued series, but I’ll confess, no new blood, no real talent except what’s been there for years…

        Del Rey (Random House): Very similar state to Tor. A mix of great writers and formulaic schlock. Again, hands off approach… this is Foster’s main publisher. It shows. While it isn’t what it was when Lester Del Rey was managing it in detail, it is a good source of high quality sf.

        Voyager Books (Harper Collins): Formerly Harper Prism. Almost all good. A range from mainstream to really creative. Heavier on fantasy than sf, but these are the people who publish Baxter.

        Aspect (Warner Books): These guys are the other publisher that Foster deals with. They’ve printed a lot of his least well written stuff, which might cause me to suspect that the editor is to blame, but… they also publish a lot of other stuff, and some authors (Kevin J. Anderson) only come out readable under their influence.

        There are several others. What’s the point of this? Well, on TV, sf is represented (such as it is) by Fox, WB, and UPN, and (in theory) by SciFi. By contrast, print sf looks pretty good.

        Count your blessings.

        • TechnoGirl says:

          Re: Publishing Houses
          Penguin-Putnam – owned by Bertelsmann
          Random House – owned by Bertelsmann

          Voyager Books – owned by Rupert Murdoch News Corp
          FoX – owned by Rupert Murdoch News Corp

          Simon & schuster – owned by Viacom
          UPN – owned by Viacom

          Warner Books – owned by Time Warner
          WB – owned by Time Warner

          SCIFI channel – owned by Vivendi Universale

          9 major media outlets mentioned – 5 corporate owners
          FYI

  8. rickyjames says:

    For The Record…Firefly Ratings Data
    September 20 Train Job* 4.0/couldn’t find viewer numbers
    September 27 Bushwacked 3.6/ 5.5 million viewers
    October 4 Our Mrs. Reynolds 3.3/ 4.9 million viewers
    October 18 Jaynestown 2.7/ 4.3 million viewers
    October 25 Out of Gas 2.9/ 4.4 million viewers
    November 1 Shindig 2.8/ 4.3 million viewers
    November 8 Safe 2.9/ 4.7 million viewers
    November 15 Ariel 2.9/ 4.5 million viewers
    December 6 War Stories 2.4/ 3.9 million viewers
    December 13 Objects in Space 2.6/ 4.1 million viewers
    December 20 Serenity 2.7/ (estimate 4.3 million viewers)

    * Doesn’t count in neilson’s because aired before season started

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