Best Show in the Verse


Zoë: I know something ain’t right.
Wash: Sweetie, we’re crooks. If everything were right, we’d be in jail.


Onelowerlight Rising, thoughtful Mormon blogger, explains why Firefly is not good SF. His criticisms fall under three headings: too much sex, no explanation (not even handwaving) to explain the scientific impossibilities, too much preaching for the modern liberal secular world view.

    So, in short, the things that (IMO) made Firefly bad sci fi were: too much sex, not balancing sex with other aspects of human relationships, failure to address the classic problems of the genre (such as FTL travel and terraforming), too much preachiness (for gay rights and for a “naturalistic” worldview, ie atheism), and clumsy treatment of the role of religion in human interactions and the big unanswerable questions. There were a lot of other things I didn’t like about Firefly in general, but these here were the big things that mad it a poor piece of sci fi.

My comment: Much as I respect where Onelowerlight is coming from, here I have to disagree respectfully.

Too much sex? The fact that Wash and Zoe were happily married was one of the more delightful aspect of the show. The relationship there was quirky and perfectly normal at the same time: there was no hint of any extramarital affairs or Robert Heinlein-style alternate lifestyles.

The only time I thought there was too much sex in FIREFLY was one scene where the cute little engineer was whoring around (excuse me, of course I mean, ‘Companionizing’) the other engineering candidate in the pilot. It seemed out of character for her–in a Western, a nice girl would get married first, and I assume the same is true for a space Western.

The idea that a future society might pay as much respect to whores as we pay to, for example, actors and singers, is a perfectly cromulent use of SF. It also led to amusing scenes where the cops were afraid of the hooker instead of the hooker afraid of the cops. I do not think the human relationship between Mal and Inara was unrealistic or unaffected by her loathsome profession: the two of them could not get close to each other because he disapproved of her work and she was emotionally crippled as a result of that same work.

I am not obsessed with Zoe from Firefly

One of the scientific impossibilities in the television show (which sparked much heated debate in the Wright household) was the assertion in the opening credits of a “hundred new earths” being colonized in a new “solar system”. The question about terraforming and FTL is answered in movie. The whole verse is one solar system where every single planet and moon has been terraformed–rendered habitable by artificial means. There is no faster than light drive. That most of the outer system planets looked like Arizona is not any more unrealistic a conceit than that the planets could all be terraformed.

It is not unrealistic in science fiction to assume the star is not a small g-type star: a giant like Rigel might have hundreds of worlds and asteroids orbiting it. The terraforming technology could be highly advanced, able to make a greenhouse of Pluto, a garden of Venus.

I do not have a weird fanboy obsession with Zoe from Firefly

Joss Whedon’s preachiness, I think, was kept to a minimum, and will not disturb anyone who is not too sensitive to it. (One has to be a little thick skinned to be a conservative Christian in these days, as in most ages: the world doesn’t like us. No big surprise.) Merely the fact that a preacher was included in the crew at all, and the preacher was not portrayed as an ax murderer or child eater or something, is a large-hearted gesture, coming from modern Hollywood, after all.

Whedon could have just as easily pulled a Pullman, and made the main badguys the Uber-Church of Evil (a la Jim Starlin’s DREADSTAR) instead of making the badguys the Union from the reconstruction. Scarlett O’Hara would approve.

Honestly. I am NOT obsessed with Zoe from Firefly.

No: I have to respectfully disagree with the criticism by Onelowerlight. FIREFLY and the movie SERENITY were both good space opera and good horse opera. In my humble opinion, Mal was a more interesting character than either Buffy or Angel, Whedon’s two other famous creations. An embittered ex-military man with a heart of gold and a longing for freedom in a world that is slowly fencing him in–that is a mature character idea, one with more dimensions to it than, let us say, a cheerleader vampire-slayer or a moody self-pitying vampire.

Whedon can portray thugs like Jayne and doctors and preachers and whores with the same sympathy and humanity–it is simply one of the better shows that has been on TV for the last ten years.

Rush out right now and buy the DVD collection.

I am, however, obsessed with Hel from Cleopatra 2525. You see? An entirely different matter!