The first in a set of posts comparing other franchises to the Star Fox universe in hopes of finding something that would satisfy us Star Fox fans in absence of an actual Star Fox anime.
Today's franchise is the Firefly series, topped off with the series-ending movie Serenity. Firefly was a rather unusual space western drama, wherein the viewer follows the misadventures of the captain (Malcolm Reynolds) and the crew of the Serenity. They exist as outcasts, misfits, and mercenaries, taking on jobs and slipping their way around the grip of the Alliance, the ruling body of humanity's new solar system. Every character has a past and a reason to be there. The drama in this space western comes from the various motivations, conflicts of interest, and history of these characters, each of which is interesting. At the same time, the characters don't take themselves too seriously, and there are jokes and humorous moments all over the place, in spite of the plot's serious nature and the tragedy some of these characters have gone through. For some of them, this apathetic attitude is a coping mechanism.
Similar to Star Fox, space travel is common and we focus on a small band of people within a larger universe. These people bring unique skills to the table to accomplish missions. Unlike Star Fox, however, the missions range from questionably legal to highly illegal, with the well-meaning but ultimately authoritarian central government, the Alliance, frequently trying to stop our anti-heroes. There is a larger, underlying plot throughout the episodes (and explored deeply in the movie). It deals with the semi-psychic yet neurotic River Tam, her relationship to the Alliance's experiments, and the Reavers.
Instead of a pessimistic or optimistic future, the Firefly series has a decidedly "meh" view of the future. The same basic struggles happen. There are huge cities and small hamlets, criminals and police, earnest religion and government conspiracies, stereotypes and families. The main differences are...
- Humanity has moved to a new solar system with dozens of planets and moons to colonize
- At some point in the past America and China merged to become the dominate people of the entire galaxy
- There is a lot of space travel
- A group of highly aggressive pain zombies (Reavers) attack randomly from deep space
That last one might seem out of the ordinary and dark, but in the show and movie, these things are just another daily problem to deal with in the life of a post-Sol galaxy.
The setting is relatively strange, but in a good way. Characters use English and Chinese. The culture of the show frequently mixes stereotypical American western tropes with Chinese influences. It is probably THE best example of a Western in space. Horses, six shooters, outlaws, the misfit with the heart of gold, and other Western tropes are on full display.
Ship to ship combat is relatively rare, unlike Star Fox. For almost the entire show, they spend most of their time attempting to avoid combat and sneak around. Any combat seen is usually on the ground or within the ship with the individuals involved. The spaceship Serenity is not a combat ship, after all. It's a heavily modified cargo ship. In fact, other than a few last minute modifications, I don't think the ship even has guns mounted externally. However, in the movie, there is a lot more spaceship combat, but not in the way you're probably thinking. I personally think it's one of the most clever spaceship fight scenes ever made, but I won't ruin it for those who haven't seen it.
In 2002, Firefly premiered on Fox. Due to some weird decisions by executives at Fox, the show actually aired episodes completely out of order. Due to that and several other problems, the show got cancelled within a few months of running. It had a very short run of only 14 episodes, three of which never even aired on TV, but were instead released when the DVD was produced. It would later be picked up by Sci-Fi for rebroadcasting, where it gained a cult following very quickly. It seems the network didn't know what they had and cancelled it too early (which incidentally was similar to how the original Star Trek gained popularity: in reruns). A few years later in 2005, they tried to drum up popularity with the movie Serenity, which answered a lot of series questions but also left room to continue the series. Unfortunately, though, the movie didn't do as well as was hoped (though it did do pretty well) and the series was put on semi-permanent vacation.
Firefly and Serenity have a good sized following, with their fandom being collectively known as Browncoats. Joss Whedon, the writer and director of the series, went on to be a fantastically successful movie writer and director. He wrote and directed both The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, both of which are among the highest grossing movies of all time. What's next for Firefly? Who knows? In today's culture of remaking literally everything, even if it doesn't need it (I'm looking at you 2016 Ghostbusters), it's very possible to get a sequel or remake at some point in the coming years. Joss seems open to the idea, though he and the others who could make that happen are now very busy with other projects.
If you want to watch Firefly and Serenity, though you can get it on DVD and Blu-ray, they are both cheaper to buy as digital HD downloads through Amazon or iTunes for only $12.99 (the movie Serenity is only $9.99 on iTunes, but $13.99 digitally from Amazon).
I'm guessing at least some of you have watched this series. What did you think? Is this a good series to compare to Star Fox? Why or why not? I personally found out about the movie first from a friend of mine who was a fan, and then watched the TV show afterward. The movie is one of my all time favorites. The show was good too, though I haven't watched it very many times.