Firefly – PDR’s Final Thoughts

Okay, I watched the show and it was a good show. I can admit that. But the fact I remembered as much of it as I did meant that this was less of an interesting rewatch than the others I’ve done. Next time I’ll have to think of something I don’t remember as well. I could see delving into Lexx, but if my memory serves that one ran for several years. Maybe there’s some sci-fi cartoon that would fit the bill. Anyway, that’s for later.

The biggest appeal of Firefly is probably the setting. They’ve managed to create possibly the ideal Space Western setup. Obviously I, PDR, would prefer there be aliens, but I fully admit that aliens would have been an unnecessary complication here. I also just really love that the show gave us actual episodic plots. Sure, it had an ongoing story that advanced as it went one, but every episode gave us something complete. I’m glad to report that I think television is getting back onto that idea, but after a long time where that wasn’t a given, this show really did it well.

I still don’t like Mal. But I don’t think I’d still compare him to Venkman the way I did at the start. I never considered Venkman controlling. For all Mal talks about the importance of freedom and not having to answer to anyone, if anyone questions his orders he responds only with insults, threats, and violence. The guy doesn’t hate those in power, he just wants to be the one in power and the fact that he seems okay with limiting his power to a smaller space is the only thing keeping him from being a monster. Sure he has good qualities too, even if his bad qualities tend to surface more quickly. But he’s not a Venkman. You know how some shows that over-rely on drama will occasionally introduce some new character just to complicate things? That’s who Mal is. He’s his own one of those, inside his own body. He just has to whine any time things don’t go his way, just so we get to watch the hurt feelings of those around him.

But how do I answer the question I posed at the beginning. Would the show have been driven into the ground if it had kept going? I can’t know. I don’t have access to the alternate timeline where that happened. I still can’t help but think things would’ve gone sour, but it’s entirely a hunch. I have no proof. Still, in the unlikely event they ever make a sequel movie, I’d check it out.

Firefly – Serenity

Hey, this isn’t an episode of the science fiction show Firefly! It’s a movie! Who let that in here? Well, it would’ve felt incomplete for me not to finish my watch with the movie, so I watched that too.

Obviously one of the big benefits of becoming a big deal motion picture is you get better special effects (though I’ll admit I had more instances of noting the CGI here than in the show), so I obviously get to enjoy some big city scene. They’re not massive or anything, they don’t revel in it the way Star Trek revels in it when they get to film something that takes place on contemporary Earth, but we still get some good planetside stuff and action scenes and all that.

Like many episodes, this one starts with a crime (though this a more simple holdup than a heist) only for it to be interrupted by Reavers. Yes, we finally see the Reavers who have only been hinted at on the show and, as I said then, I was impressed with how well they built up the mystique there. They tear down that mystique in this one, fully explaining who they are and where they came from, but I don’t think it ruins them. Even the fact that really they’re just spacefaring rage zombies doesn’t bother me too much. I know it brings them down to the level of… well, rage zombie like I said, but that’s fine. And it means we don’t have to have any moral questions about mowing them down en masse or logical questions about why some of them are just running around like idiots while River balletmurders them. Overall, I think this was probably the best outcome for the Reavers we could’ve got based on what they built up on the show, and I don’t know that it would have gone as well had they done it on the show.

There’s another bad guy in here too. An Alliance operative who gets to be a foil for Mal. In the bigger picture, he’s the kind of “this is serious” foe who gets to actually kill off members of the cast (though I guess the Reavers managed one of those too, didn’t they?). When dealt with face to face the operative is, at first, built perfectly to undercut the kind of roguish bravado that Mal is all about, all while challenging Mal’s philosophy. All of which makes it very satisfying when he is defeated at the end. Good job movie.

But what I like about the movie most is that it builds to a climax where you really, really can believe that characters are going to die. They do that, as I mentioned, by actually killing off two of the cast. I sometimes feel like I’m in the minority on this one, but I like it in fiction when I can genuinely believe that the heroes can lose. This may be why I like horror so much, because that’s a genre where you can start a movie and genuinely not know if it’ll end with everyone dead or everyone fine. Those and everything in between are possible. When was the last time we saw a regular action movie where the super spy hero fails and gets gunned down and the villain launches his missiles at Paris or whatever. There’s no reason they couldn’t make movies like that.

I know there are people who argue that fiction like this should act as escapism and give us a place where the good guys win, as an antidote to the world we actually live in. But I argue that the stories we take in are what we use to measure our own life against. If we only see stories where the good guys always win, you might start to wonder what that says about you in your real life, not always winning. If victory always comes to the good, what does that make you? I’ve seen it said that one of the most important uses of art is to make us feel less alone, to make us know that other people have felt feelings and had experiences that we’ve had. We as a people, living our lives, are going to lose a lot of the time. Let’s have stories that acknowledge that. And it only makes the actual victories feel that much better.

Anyway, I feel like I’ve gotten a little off track here. To sum up, good movie. I’ll come back with my final thoughts.

Revisiting My Letter To Blaze

If one were to find a copy of Marvel’s comic Blaze volume one, number five, with the cover date of December, 1994 they could turn to the letters page and find a trace of PDR.

This was a reply to the first issue of the book. I would’ve been possibly twelve but more likely thirteen when I read that first issue (it was released in June, but what are the odds I got to it before July 18th, which is my birthday?) and for a reason I will bring up later, I was moved to write in.

It’s weird that I decided to address the letter to Icebox Bob, the villain of that first issue. I also claimed this villain was the greatest thing ever, and maybe there was some honesty in the my enthusiasm for the character. I like horror villains and did back then too. But if it is true enthusiasm, it certainly isn’t enthusiasm that carried me into continuing the book. I did not read another issue of the book until I found issue five in a back issue bin around the year 2000 and discovered that my letter had been printed. As far as I can remember Icebox Bob was a pretty generic horror villain, some kind of ghost serial killer or something, probably one who laughed and made quips like the Joker. That was the style at the time. I have no idea what ever happened to the character, but I remain somewhat fond of him just because of this letter.

I also feel the need to question my claim here that I had “always been a fan of Johnny Blaze.” I didn’t get into superhero comics until I was ten. While I fully admit that three years at that age mean a helluva lot more than they do at my current age, those three years were certainly not filled with me being a huge fan of Johnny Blaze. I’d probably read a few of his appearances in the then-current Ghost Rider book, and I could believe I’d seen some old guest appearances in Marvel Team-Up or something, but I’d expect most of what I knew about Johnny Blaze I got from trading cards and reading the Marvel Handbook. I probably liked Blaze fine, but he wasn’t my second favourite character (I have no memory of who the first would have been at that time. Darkhawk maybe if the timeline works out?).

But why was I overselling my enthusiasm for the book and characters? Because of what is not included in the letter as printed. In the first issue of Blaze, the only one I bothered to read, they mentioned that they wanted suggestions for the title of the letters page. I wanted to get that, to make a suggestion that would be emblazoned on the book that, I assumed, would go on forever. The fact that they didn’t even include my suggestion shows how good it was. If I remember correctly, which I admit isn’t necessarily the case, my suggestion was “Blazing Pens”. The winning suggestion that got to be the name of the letters page was “Writing Shotgun”. I admitted when I was twenty and I admit now, that is much better than my idea.

Firefly – Objects In Space

If I’d tried to remember the show and tell you which episode was my favourite, it’d probably have been this one. I didn’t remember all the details, but the villain here was just so villainous that he stuck with me. Jubal Early. The character impressed on me so much that I remembered his name before it came up in the episode. He’s a mix of scary and professional that reminds me of Richard Stark’s Parker, though in a different way. A weird philosophical way. And indeed it remains a watchable episode of television thanks to him.

I hope that the actress who plays Kaylee has gone on to a long career in some sort of horror franchise. She’s so good at selling fear. Also, I need to give the show the credit for quiet space that I haven’t brought up yet. Quiet space is the best, but few shows seem to realize that.

I do have to complain about one thing, though. The exchange “That sounds like something out of science fiction.” “You live in a spaceship, dear.” I really dislike that kind of joke.