Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Teacher: "..there are dangers on the outer planets. So with so many social and medical advancements we can bring to the Independents, why would they fight so hard against us?"
River: "We meddle."
Teacher: "River?"
River: "People don't like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think. Don't run, don't walk. We're in their homes and in their heads and we haven't the right. We're meddlesome."
Teacher: "River, we're not telling people what to think. We're just trying to show them how."
- Serenity opening sequence in the school

I watched Serenity a couple weeks back. And I liked it.

Recently I went to the video store for Firefly (the TV series the movie Serenity is based on). And I throughly enjoyed the series as well.

This may not be news to the legions of Firefly fans out there, but I have to qualify by saying that before the film I had never watched an episode of Firefly and never really understood the uproar when it was cancelled. In fact I started with a negative bias to the film, knowing it was the same scriptwriter who did Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Like, you know, I am not – like - a big - you know - fan of Buffy. Or scary vampires for that matter.

Joss Whedon is an impressive storyteller indeed. Serenity is not so much about big ideas and universal concepts and grand visions, but more of the homely story of the characters in it. I enjoy the stories about complex anti-heroes. Be they set in spaceships ("Serenity"), or in the wild west ("Unforgiven"), or on a space station ("Babylon5"). For me a good thinking movie is not about the action, or the special effects or even the quality of production, but about telling a story about how flawed characters respond to difficult situations.

For what fun is there watching idealised hobbits, elves and humans battle the external forces of darkness and evil in epic battles? *cue howls of protests from LOTR fans* I would prefer to watch Disney cartoons for that sort of setup – and I know I will get an entertaining soundtrack and a happy ending thrown in for sure. For a movie that will draw me in and make me think, it has got to have flawed characters responding in a realistic world.

After watching Serenity, it totally blows away Star Trek: The New Generation. *cue howls of protest from ST:TNG fans*. Serenity (or more precisely, the Firefly universe) addresses many of the facets of Star Trek that has always annoyed me. For the record, I am a fan of ST:TOS and of Captain "Shields up. We come in peace. Arm photon torpedoes" Kirk. However I find the utopian world of ST:TNG just a tad unrealistic and downright annoying at times. Firefly has been called the anti-Trek and rightly so, in my opinion.

Moving swifly along.. now that I have upset both fans of LOTR and ST:TNG - which probably compose of 99% of the readers..

A government is a body of people, usually notably ungoverned.
- Shepherd Book

Governments are for getting in a man's way.
- Malcolm Reynolds

The main point of this post is to say that I can with identify Josh Whedon's vision of government. In the Firefly/Serenity universe, the United Alliance of Planets (the "Alliance") brings many good things to the planets under their rule - notably, medical facilities, police and military forces, terraforming technology and human "civilisation". It is a bureaucratic pragmatic government tightly interlinked with corporate influences.

It can be a good life - for those who accept and choose to live under the largely benevolent rule of the Alliance. Or for those who do not know any better. The Firefly/Serenity story tells it from the point of view of those who are unable, or choose not to accept the restrictions (and obedience) required by the Alliance. Which in my opinion is a very refreshing change from the utopian sterile world of Star Trek's United Federation of Planets.

The Operative: Nothing here is what it seems. He isn't the plucky hero, the Alliance isn't some evil empire, this is not the grand arena.

Malcolm Reynolds: Why? Do you even know why they sent you?
The Operative: It's not my place to ask. I believe in something greater than myself. A better world. A world without sin.
Malcolm Reynolds: So me and mine gotta lay down and die... so you can live in your better world?

Malcolm Reynolds: We're still flying.
Simon Tam: That's not much.
Malcolm Reynolds: It's enough.


Blogger Calamity Man said...

i watched serenity a month ago and i too loved it. it's just a reflection of what is happening in the world today set in outer space.

i have to admit i thought it was a dodgy show judging from the cover. i was glad i decided to have a go anyway.

June 06, 2006 8:45 PM  
Blogger vandice said...

Yeah!!! You're back!!! You're back!!! I ish so happy!!!

Welcome back to blogville, bro... Yours is one of them blogs I've consumed from 1st page to last... except there isn't a last page to this story... not yet at least...

June 07, 2006 3:19 AM  
Blogger singaporean said...

The show is special in many ways. The best kick I get from Serenity is their attempt to mix in Chinese/Mandarin...perhaps they hoped to use it to enter the "huge Chinese market".

But I felt the ending was an anticlimax, and the economics and politics of Reevers bugs me big time: Why dont they attack each other? How do such angry folks work together? Why wont they burn out and just die? Are they even reproducing?

I have to agree I have outgrown Star Trek, and the Trek universe just looks plain silly now, although crap series like Voyager and Enterprise sped up the process big time.

I am currently a fan of Battlestar Galactica, the reimagined series. Their universe is so depressing, it rocks! And in the same vein as Firefly, the heroes are deeply flawed, while the villains are not always evil.

June 07, 2006 4:19 PM  
Blogger Calamity Man said...

i think they were trying to be logical. as it is, mandarin looks like it'd be the language of choice for the world in time to come, at least side by side with english.

that is how they imagine the people of tomorrow to be in the movie, to be proficient in both languages at least.

June 07, 2006 8:32 PM  
Blogger Tym said...

You're back! I'm obviously coming late to the party and have a lot to catch up on.

And welcome to the Whedonverse. It's a messy place, but an infinitely more fascinating and challenging one :)

PS: I find myself able to love Firefly AND LoTR AND ST:TNG. Such mixed-up individuals as myself do exist.

June 10, 2006 2:31 PM  
Blogger singaporean said...

For trekkies, current and former:Patrick Stewart on Extras!

June 10, 2006 3:06 PM  
Blogger Meow said...

I haven't watched Serenity but damn, do I want to! Still working on finishing the rest of Firefly, and I love it. I can't even imagine it's the same people who did Buffy. *shudder*

July 02, 2006 2:30 PM  

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