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Firefly - Season 1 - Episode 01

Firefly - 1x01 - Serenity, Part 1 - Originally Aired: 2002-12-20

My Rating - 8

Fan Rating Average - 4.44

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Synopsis
Mal Reynolds, a veteran of the War of Independence, is captaining a Firefly-class boat, the Serenity. He and his crew, Zoe, one of his fellow "browncoats"; Jayne, a mercenary; Wash, an ace pilot and Zoe's husband; and Kaylee, a crack mechanic are salvaging a dead ship when an Alliance vessel detects them. They get away, but the Alliance bulletin about their doings means their cargo is now too hot to sell.

They take on passengers on the planet Persephone, including a doctor named Simon Tam, who is carrying a large piece of cargo; a shepherd who calls himself Book; and a man named Dobson.

En route to find another buyer for their loot, Dobson reveals himself to be an Alliance agent. He's not after Mal and his crew, but Dr. Tam and his cargo. Dobson shoots Kaylee, then Dobson is captured, with surprising help from Book.

Simon agrees to operate on Kaylee only if Mal helps him flee the Alliance. Mal opens Simon's cargo, which turns out to be a naked woman. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
None

Factoids
- The people in the Firefly universe supposedly speak both English and Chinese, as those two languages are what became dominant deep in the future.
- The entire Serenity was constructed as a single set, so that the camera could follow the crew all over the ship without cuts.
- Inara was born in a place called Xenon.
- Book never married.
- Mal was a sergeant on the side of the Browncoats during the war of independence. The Browncoats lost.
- Simon was a trauma surgeon on Osiris in Capital City.
- This episode won an award for "best visual effects in a television series" from Visual Effects Society.
- This episode was nominated for the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.
- This episode was not aired until after Firefly was canceled because Fox considered it an unsuitable pilot which is what prompted the development of the subsequent episode, The Train Job. In my reviews I ignore Fox' asinine airing order and instead number the episodes by their intended viewing order.

Remarkable Scenes
- The flashback to the battle.
- Wash playing with his dinosaurs. Wash: "Yes, yes, this is a fertile land and we will thrive. We will rule over all this land and we will call it... this land."
- The sight of the Alliance cruiser "Dortmunder."
- Serenity's escape from the Alliance cruiser.
- Wash: "Sweetie, we're crooks. If everything was all right we'd be in jail."
- Kaylee convincing Book to travel with them.
- Mal: "She's a whore, shepherd." Kaylee: "The term is companion." Mal: "I always get those mixed up."
- Jayne's faux pas at dinner, insulting Kaylee's attraction to Simon.
- Mal's decidedly ironic response to Simon's inquiry regarding what Mal pays Jayne for: "Public relations."
- Dobson shooting Kaylee.
- Book punching out Dobson.
- Mal discovering a naked girl in cold storage in Simon's cargo.

My Review
The first part of the pilot episode, Serenity, introduces us to the Firefly universe in a very broad way. We don't get a lot of details about what's going on and why everything is the way it is, but there are some pretty clear implications from various character dialog and events in the episode. It's pretty clear that there is no Earth any longer and that humanity must have left Earth at some point for whatever reason and that this show takes place deep in the future. The Alliance which governs the remnants of humanity is deeply flawed and as a result, the colonies which they do not have direct control over have degenerated into a sort of frontier land of outlaws similar to that of the ancient American west. Normally the genres of the Western and science fiction are polar opposites, but Joss Whedon's Firefly universe skillfully combines them in a very unique way.

Also, groundbreaking about Firefly is its use of Newtonian physics as well as far more realistic weaponry than most other science fiction shows. Like other sci fi, Firefly depicts the use of advanced energy weapons, but implies that they are only used for certain purposes by certain people and require certain resources that are not always present. So supplementing the lack of energy weapons' ability to be appropriate for every situation, more traditional chemically propelled weapons are used just prevalently if not moreso. In 1990s, Babylon 5 was a groundbreaking show because, among other things, it was the first show to heavily emphasize realistic physics in space. Firefly follows in Babylon 5's lead and not only places heavy emphasis on Newtonian physics, but takes it a step further with its more realistic weaponry, silent space scenes, and documentary style directing.

As for the plot itself, we open with an intense battle of proportions not quite understood, but at the same time, not necessary to understand. What matters is you're with the main characters in humble circumstances. They lose not only the battle, but the war itself in this very moment. The story jumps ahead six years, and you're still with the same characters still being humbled by their circumstances of now making a living as thieves. The circumstances become even more humbling as what seems to be their perhaps only employer cuts them loose for being seen by the Alliance. This changes the implied dynamic of what they've been doing for the past six years.

In addition to this, a new situation begins to brew. As the Serenity begins to search for new opportunities further and further away from the center of the planetary system, and thus further and further away from civilization they take on passengers for what little cash they can get out of it and one of the passengers is discovered to be an Alliance mole who is on an undercover mission to apprehend a fugitive, Simon, who is running from the Alliance for reasons not understood. The cliffhanger depicts Simon transporting a naked girl in cold storage for also reasons not understood. But it's made clear that whoever she is, Simon is willing to kill for her.

Overall, Serenity Part 1 comes off as kind of a jumble, but remains largely coherent despite a rather large set of characters, intentions, and settings. Humor is used effectively throughout without coming off as campy or lame, but the Western tone sometimes bleeds through too heavily, though not necessarily to the point of genre mashup nausea.

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