The Firefly Quandary

“So, did you see ‘Serenity?'”

“Oh yes. ‘I’m like a leaf in the wind…'”

“‘Splunk!’ Wasn’t it the greatest?”

“Pretty damn good. Actually much, much better than I thought it would be.”

“Come on, it’s Joss Whedon. The man’s a god. ‘Firefly’ is the best science fiction series of recent note!”

“Aah, I’m more of a ‘Farscape’ fan, myself.”

“Yeah, well, ‘Farscape’ had four seasons; ‘Firefly’ only had the thirteen episodes.”


“Well, had ‘Firefly’ run as long as ‘Farscape’ it would have been the better series…”

You can see my quandary, readers. If ‘Firefly had run four years, then it would have been better than ‘Farscape.’ To evaluate such a claim you would need to look at what else Mr. Whedon has written and produced.

(Nota bene: I like Joss Whedon as a writer; what follows is simply honest commentary on what I did and did not like of his works and whether, based upon this, I (not anyone else) would infer about future works. No fundamentalist backlash, please.)

It’s not small secret that I was a huge ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ fan; ‘was’ being the operative word. I still like ‘Buffy’ but I haven’t felt any need to revisit it in quite some years. I love the end of the season one, all of seasons two and three, tiny bits (mostly with Spike) of four, most of five, a little of six and probably eight episodes of season seven. ‘Buffy’ is a patchy show; when it works it works brilliantly; when it falls flat it suffers.

Then there is the sibling show, ‘Angel.’ I love season one; punchy, new and very different, especially the first half with Doyle. Seasons two to about halfway through four? Rubbish. Not just rubbish but badly written rubbish with inconsistent characterisation and a ‘Why should I care about this?’ feeling to it. Then season five happens and everything is good again, which is a good way to end a show (I really like the final scene of ‘Angel;’ “I want to kill the dragon.”).

The crapness seems explainable. Season one of Angel was contemporaneous with season four of ‘Buffy;’ Whedon changed his focus to his new show and his old show faltered. Come season two of ‘Angel’ Whedon went back to looking after ‘Buffy’ full time because it might have been the last series. He stays with ‘Buffy’ for season six because it has just switched networks and we get several years of ‘Angel’ that really had me wondering why I continued to down… watch this stuff. Season seven of ‘Buffy’ was contemporaneous with ‘Firefly;’ once again, for the first half of the season Whedon’s work was on the new and not on the old. Thus ‘Buffy’ suffers as well as ‘Angel;’ when ‘Firefly’s cancellation comes through both ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’ jump up in quality. ‘Buffy’ then ends and we get a superb season five for ‘Angel…’

Joss Whedon is, to an extent, a mono-tasker in that he focuses on his new show to what appears to be the detriment of his established and continuing works. That which he focuses on ends up being very good, but you can’t guarantee that focus. I am sure that if his attention had stayed upon ‘Firefly’ for the duration of its life the show might well have been great. Would it have been the best of all recent scifi shows? Even when Joss Whedon was the creative force on his chosen shows not everything about them was golden; season five ‘Buffy’ is fun and epic but there are moments where it falters and storylines that, on repeat watching, make little sense (I’m thinking about Glory’s stupidity here).

To compare a might-have-been and claim it would have been better than something that actually was seems like a strange claim. I liked ‘Firefly’ and I loved ‘Serenity.’ I also love ‘Farscape.’ I would like to think that had ‘Firefly’ made it to season two that I would be singing its praises from the hilltops. It did not and so I’m pleased by what success it had.

In the end, however, D’Argo is my daddy.