I wrote an analysis of Firefly and Serenity, but I found that I wasn’t done with thinking about it. So I started doing audio commentaries. I love audio commentaries found on DVDs and often listen to fan commentaries of movies I especially like. In fact, the presence of commentaries by the director, producer, stars, and effects guys regularly sway my DVD purchase. I hate bare-bones DVDs and often wait for special editions. Are you listening Hollywood?
You can download my Firefly and Serenity commentaries by episode. Unfortunately, I was suffering from tuberculosis* at the time I did these, but
I cut out most of the coughing.
* Or pneumonia or a bronchial infection or something.
I did these watching the Firefly region 1 boxed set DVDs and Serenity region 1 movie, so don’t be surprised if your pirated R4 DVD or bit torrent rip gets out of synch.
Unlike some fan commentaries, mine don’t expect you to start the movie at the same time you start the commentary. Firefly uses cold openings, so the action starts right away; therefore, I like to introduce the ep and myself first. So….
Wait for the instruction to start the episode.
- Serenity on Firefly wiki, with diagrams and views.
- Firefly universe on Firefly wiki
- Serenity movie official site
- Big Damn Commentaries, the (apparently dormant) home of Firefly fan commentaries
1: "Serenity" the pilot
This is the double-length original pilot, wherein we meet our crew illegally salvaging a ship, and we meet the various passengers who set sail that day for a three hour tour. Failing to sell their loot to the man in a very fine hat, they fly to Whitefall to sell it to a woman who once shot Mal, and she eats it. They are betrayed by an enemy within who is, surprisingly, not Jayne. Jayne promises to betray Mal in the future. I say "trifecta" when I mean "triumvirate" and compare Mal to Han Solo, Zoe and Jayne to Chewbacca, and the Serenity to the Nostromo. (40 MB)
2: "The Train Job"
A second try at a pilot (and, coincidentally, my second try at doing a commentary for this ep) has a cheerier Mal taking on a job from Niska to rob a train, but our heroes have a change of heart, and that causes Niska to have a change of henchmen. Zoe expresses her love for Mal. Inara slaps Mal, who takes it and likes it. I continue to explain the similarities between Mal and Han Solo and point out that the inefficiencies of 1-on-1 chat scenes to develop character relationships.
Revisiting the darker atmosphere of the original pilot already, the crew answers the distress call of a ship ravaged by reavers and then has to explain themselves to an Alliance commander who decides to investigate the horror… and the APB on a Firefly transport harboring brother and sister fugitives. The survivor the heroes pull from the derelict turns out to have space madness and is becoming a reaver himself. I compare the episode to Alien and to late-night talk shows.
In one of my least favorite episodes, Mal accidentally gets into a duel to the death with swords at a ball where everyone dresses like they’re in Gone with the Wind. A sheep walks on its hind legs in a ruffled dress. I mistakenly refer to a Star Trek character as "Squire Trelawney," when I mean "Trelane" from TOS "Squire of Gothos." (Squire Trelawney was a character in Treasure Island). Inara teaches Mal to swordfight because that’s what she learned in whore school. Benny from LA Law thinks a man who doesn’t fight too hard would make a fine cowherd.
Today, Simon is pompous and his sister is crazy. They get captured by hill folk and are never seen again. It’s the best day ever. Meanwhile, after a gunfight at a so-so corral, Mal inexplicably abandons the trauma surgeon and his sis to seek medical help for the wounded Book via the Alliance. But the Alliance doesn’t care until Book whips out his HMO card. All ends well when the big damn heroes raid the hill folk’s backward village and steal their witch back.
6: "Our Mrs. Reynolds"
In one of the best eps, and yet like an episode of Gilligan’s Island, Mal accidentally gets married to a nubile slave girl after a party at Amish Acres. The girl calls herself Saffron and quickly slips him a Mickey Finn in a naked and articulate glass. Wash finds that true love is like a kick in the head. And, in five seconds, Saffron rigs the helm to take Serenity to rendezvous with salvage bandits. Jayne and Vera save the day with a few well-aimed shots. I again say "trifecta" when I mean "triumvirate." Or maybe "troika."
In a good, if simple, tale, Jayne is wary about returning to Canton on Higgins’ Moon, which I misidentify as Beaumonde (where they were headed at the end of episode 6). His concern is compounded when the crew finds a painted Sears mannequin that looks like Jayne, erected as a tribute for his losing the loot of a heist from the local magistrate… over the mudders’ stinking town. Inara finally gets another client—the magistrate’s son. Songs are sung, mudders’ milk is drunk, Simon boobishly insults Kaylee, River gets frightened by Book’s hair, and Jayne stands up for the common man by telling them not to believe in heroes because he’s just a son of a bitch.
8: "Out of Gas"
The damn catalyzer goes out when the McGuffin explodes. Zoe gets hurt so she can marry Lawrence Fishburne. Mal and I fail to negotiate a Quentin Tarantino plot in the dark. We meet all the heroes when they first join the crew of the Serenity, mustaches and all. We learn that Kaylee can diagnose engine trouble on her back during sex. Wash rigs the Big Red Button. I forget that gravity is a major force in making planets orbit their stars; not just inertia. I neglect to mention that the "gas" in "Out of Gas" is oxygen, but don’t worry: they’ll freeze to death first.
In another of the best episodes, Simon comes up with a plan to keep the Jayneocidal River from getting them thrown off the ship: rob an Alliance hospital of its valuable drugs. Meanwhile, he will subject River to a brain scan to help him diagnose her. But Jayne throws a wrench into the works and exposes them to the Hands of Blue, leading Mal to throw a wrench into Jayne. Book is away visiting Superfluous Character Abbey, and Inara goes in for a cootchie exam.
10: "War Stories"
Wash is thirsty for heroism and insists on going on a milk run. Mal is angry and armed, but not well enough to avoid getting captured by The Convenient Return of Niska. Zoe buys her husband and gets change. Every Hamlet, Dicklet, and Harriet takes up arms against Mal’s oppressor, but with varying degrees of success, some more surprising than others. We find that there are some things the captain has to do for himself, but Mal’s list is different from Zoe’s. And my video projector bulb burns out mid-episode! The horror! The horror!
I get my projector bulb replaced and do one the better episodes, wherein we meet Saffron again (or Bridget or Yolanda) in a story of trust. She has a plan to steal the Lassiter, an ancient laser pistol apparently named after the director of Toy Story. The crew of the Serenity double-crosses her; she double-crosses them right back. Or maybe that was just her original double-cross playing out. They might even triple-cross her; I’m not sure how those things work. Simon and Jayne come to an agreement to trust one another, to be enforced by River’s brain. Saffron exposes herself to Mal and then forces him to expose himself more literally. Mal trusts everyone not to look down on his shortcomings.
12: "The Message"
In one of the weaker episodes, at least plot-wise, Jayne gets a hat and Mal and Zoe get a dead guy. Simon squanders 12 bits and an opportunity with a pretty girl alone in the dark. We visit what might be the crappiest post office in the Alliance. Simon can’t compete with a guy who can talk his way out of the grave. Mal and Book concoct an unspoken plan that really should have been spoken. Wash flies a spaceship like Jerry Lewis. And there’s no welcome for an old army buddy like shooting him a couple of times due to a misunderstanding… except maybe not bothering to render basic first aid to him afterwards.
13: "Heart of Gold"
The subject of prostitution returns to underscore a central theme of (strangely enough) family, as Inara gets a request to help an old friend and her bordello. The local villain has knocked up one of her girls and wants the baby for his barren wife. Zoe and Wash have a perfunctory argument about having their own baby. Inara denies her feelings about everything to everyone, but secretly envies her friend’s "family" of hookers (and her friend’s night of passion with Mal). Jayne abides in Jayneful bliss.
14: "Objects in Space"
In the final, weird, psycho-philosophical episode, River’s mind-reading/psychic ability is revealed, discussed, and put to the test. Bounty hunter Jubal Early gets inside Serenity and Serenity gets inside Jubal Early. Simon fails to get inside Kaylee, but that’s to be expected. Like Sean Maher, I say "Summer" when I mean "River." And I say "Magic Merlin" when I mean "Master Merlin." We learn that Book is definitely not a shepherd, Inara is as closed off as ever, and that Jayne is getting smarter—or, at least—righter.