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Date Posted: 12:00:54 06/20/03 Fri
Subject: Unspoiled Serenity Cruise: Serenity
Please note: as I'm going to be seeing all the eps on tape in a short space of time, I'm really, really trying hard to stay unspoiled. Please respect my lifestyle choice ;-)
I cannot believe that FOX decided to hold this episode for later. Not only does it actually introduce the original Serenity crew to Book, Simon and River, which would leave it somewhat nonsensical if shown later, I can't think of anything it could really have done better to draw me in. The first ep FOX broadcast, The Train Job, is next on the tape (SciFi channel are showing the series in what is apparently, the "official" ME order) and I'll be watching with a careful eye to see if it would have done any better. Serenity certainly did a good job of sucking me in.
Firstly, I felt a slight sinking feeling at the opening credits. It's probably some weird personal thing, but I dislike television shows whose credit sequences have lyrics. It reminded me more than a little of the Enterprise opening credits, which considering how much I flatly hated the double-length opener of that show (and never bothered again) wasn't a good omen.
However, I think that the ME characterisation magic has worked again. It's a sign of a really good series when at the end of the first episode, you can have a reasonable idea of what every character would do in a given situation (unless it's because they're cardboard), and it's an especial achievement given that Firefly's initial cast is quite large. We've got some really promising characters, and a hint of a potential long-term arc in the Simon/River/Evil!Gubmint material. At the moment my immediate fascinations are with Mal, Simon, and Book, and my immediate warm fuzzies with Wash and Kaylee, but the others may well win me over. Unfortunately, I agree with cjl a little way below that the characterisation may be what turned FOX off the ep. By any standards, and especially by the standards of the top-billed character of a mainstream US network show, Mal is not merely unsympathetic but genuinely dislikable on occasions during the ep, notably when he tells Simon that Kaylee is dead, and by implication that Simon's own death warrant is signed, merely as a practical joke. I have a nasty feeling that Jayne is going to end up as the Firefly equivalent of you-know-who (obviously the impoverished Serenity crew can't afford hair bleach), but I'll try not to let it poison my attitude to him.
Nicest pieces of setting-building: Kaylee's quasi-erotic lust for a fresh strawberry, and the way that the mere proximity of Reivers has various members of the crew preparing their final exits - if this is what a hint of them creates, if they ever appear in the flesh they'll probably give me nightmares. And I always get the giggle from a deflated action scene like Mal striding into the airlock and shooting the agent instantly after such a build-up.
I'm not entirely sure about the extent of the Western references. Yes, the whole frontier thing transfers across, and there are perfectly sensible reasons why the population of an isolated interplanetary colony might adopt a minimal-technology lifestyle with horses and so forth, but all the twanging incidental music is pushing it a bit. Also, the whole thing does strike me as somewhat politically uncongenial in its approach - the whole Evil!Gubmint/you can take our
guns land but not our freedom theme tune thing has irritating resonances, but libertarian, individualistic right-wing politics are pretty much traditional in the horse opera and the space opera. Given Joss's midatlantic background, one wonders if he ever watched Blake's Seven - some definite resonances if you allow for the playing-down of the explicit revolutionary element.
Definitely looking forward to the rest.
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