Inspiration – Stealing from the Best of Both Worlds in Firefly

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I am a huge Joss Whedon fan. Joss Whedon, something of a cult icon in the worlds of fandom and television, is probably now best and most widely known as the director of the unbelievably successful Avengers film, which came out in 2012. But Whedon was creating compelling storylines long before his first blockbuster, though mostly on the smaller screen. Fans refer to his collection of shows as the “Whedon Canon”, and actors who appear at least once in all of what some consider to be his three main shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, are called “hat tricks”.

I was fortunate enough to meet Joss Whedon at the Seattle premier of Much Ado About Nothing in 2013. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)
I was fortunate enough to meet Joss Whedon at the Seattle premier of Much Ado About Nothing in 2013. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

I could spend hours talking about Whedon’s work, and have, to some very understanding friends. The man is instrumental in my becoming a writer and in my growing up, period. But, for the moment, I’m going to restrict myself to a quick examination of his show Firefly.

Firefly first aired in September of 2002 and was canceled that same season. But the show wouldn’t die, gaining a massive underground following of fans, who truly show why fan is short for fanatic, and the 14 episode series has since spawned multiple comic book titles, academic works, board and online games, as well as a feature-length film which was released in 2005 called Serenity, which picks up exactly where the show left off.

For those of you who aren’t browncoats, here’s a quick summary of the show: Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his crew of misfits and escapees roam the outer reaches of Alliance space, looking for work, honest or otherwise, that pays enough to keep their beloved ship Serenity flying. Each character has his or her own complicated back story, giving them a depth that is seldom seen in ensemble shows, and something for which Whedon has a particular knack. But perhaps the most ambitious thing about Firefly (and perhaps the reason skittish TV executives foolishly canceled it), is the way in which it seeks to blend two disparate genres: the western and the science fiction.

The crew of Serenity
The crew of Serenity

Malcolm Reynolds fits the archetype of the western hero perfectly; he is a cowboy, a gunslinger with a conscience and a dark past he’d prefer to leave undisturbed. The border planets on which the crew finds most of their work are your typical Wild West towns, with ladies of ill-repute, saloons, and homesteads trying to scratch out a living out of nothing but sweat and determination. Yet, the malignant Alliance, with her massive starships, cold, unfeeling uniformed soldiers, political stranglehold on a whole system of worlds, is straight out of a science fiction story. River Tam is a genius level psychic, upon whom horrible experiments were done, Hoban Washburne is a first class spaceship pilot, and the horrific Reavers have to be aliens from some horrid world…right?

The final shot of the show's credit sequence, the mixture of western and sci=fi is inescapably clear.
The final shot of the show’s credit sequence, the mixture of western and sci-fi is inescapably clear.

Firefly is the ultimate genre busting series. It takes the best things from both of the worlds it inhabits and seamlessly blends them together in a way that is interesting, new, and frankly exciting to the audience! Whether you’re a person who devours science fiction films and novels, or someone who prefers a good old-fashioned yarn where good triumphs over evil in a wild landscape of lawless, but morally conscious, heroes, Firefly is for you. By working within the frameworks of two genres, Whedon greatly expands his potential audience as well as expanding the possibility of storylines and events within the show itself. One episode can be about the smuggling of grown human organs and the next can be a thrilling train heist out in the desert. If you’re feeling stuck in your own work, consider adding another genre into the mix. The only thing it can do is make things more interesting.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Published by rsjeffrey

Robin Jeffrey was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming to a psychologist and a librarian, giving her a love of literature and a consuming interest in the inner workings of people’s minds.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: