The Firefly movie leaves me with two reactions. First, it confirms my bias for good television over good cinema. Second, it really does remind me of the old BBC show Blake’s 7. (Warning: major spoilers follow.)
I have described previously how much I enjoyed the Firefly TV show. Before its cancellation, it promised to develop a complex collection of fascinating and sympathetic characters. This is probably the great strength of television: it has the time to build up depth and familiarity. Serenity‘s couple of hours couldn’t hope to compete. The plot suffered too: the discovery of Miranda lacked the impact it could have had if it had built up over weeks and months of cliffhangers. Forced to trade plot and character dimensions for glitter and action, it was inevitably disappointing: a decent film, but nothing special.
Serenity did, however, remind me of the Star One, the season two finale of Blake’s 7. This is not to say it is any sort of rip-off, more an echo. Firefly has often been compared to Blake’s 7 anyway:
- Blake’s 7 was the anti-Trek. The Federation is an evil hegemon; the heroes are a gang of crooks and political prisoners on the run in a spaceship, committing crimes and fomenting rebellion. The situation in Firefly is virtually identical1.
- Star One, like Miranda, is a secret planet on the edge of space: few know of its existence, and its location is hidden.
- Star One houses the critical computer complex of the Federation. It is also an outpost guarding against invasion from a neighboring galaxy – an invasion that shows up as the protagonists arrive. Serenity‘s Miranda is a major Alliance government research experiment; it is also the source of the marauding Reavers, who are led by the heroes to attack the Alliance.
- When the protagonists reach Star One, its crew have been murdered. Similarly, Miranda’s population is all dead.
- Blake faces off against his arch-nemesis in a battle around a circular pit on Star One, and dispatches him into it. Mal fights his battle against his antagonist on a platform over a circular pit in Serenity.
- Star One ends with an emergency message to the Federation and the heroes facing off against the alien invasion. Serenity concludes with a battle with Reavers, then the truth being broadcast to the Alliance.
I loved Star One when I saw it as a kid. If there is any of it in Serenity, I congratulate Joss on his influences.
1 The word “rebellion” is too strong for Serenity, and some of the characters were losers in a civil war rather than political prisoners. And the Alliance, although definitely a repressive hegemon, is presented with some sympathy.