Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Firefly: The Show, The Soundtrack

The Show

Before Joss Whedon directed blockbuster The Avengers, and toward the end of his highly successful Buffy series, he was the mastermind of TV's Firefly. The show bombed for the same reason that Family Guy initially bombed: Fox executives destroyed it. They played the episodes out of order, making it hard to follow, and often pre-empted it, so that its airing was unpredictable. The marketing for the show was also off-base. The result was that only 11 of the 14 episodes that had been created were aired, and the show was canceled after half a season in the fall of 2002.

But the show was extremely successful when released on DVD. I personally had no idea the show existed during its original run, being in college and not having easy access to TV at the time. But my brother convinced me to watch it, and I now own it on DVD, as well as the follow-up film Serenity released in 2005.

Firefly is, quite simply, the greatest television program ever. A space western, it combined all the excellent world-building of great fantasy with the action and relatability of old-fashioned westerns. It had themes of independence, moral obligation, loyalty, friendship, and rebellion. Like its two most obvious inspirations (Cowboy Bebop and the crew of the Millennium Falcon), it had great drama as well as just the right touch of humor. More importantly, it had what most sci-fi lacks: Compelling characters. A lot of compelling characters, each with an interesting back story.

(Exactly how in the hell are the CSI shows so popular and successful when they don't have a single character in them?)

I won't go into any greater detail on the show, except as necessary. If you don't already know it, you need to see it, and then come back for my description of the soundtrack.

After the soundtrack for Serenity was released, fans were understandably disappointed. So the soundtrack for the show was finally released. As a soundtrack, it's much more enjoyable if you love the source material, and the songs are short and not necessarily that well connected in mood. Multiple unrelated songs are tacked together into fewer tracks than there are songs, for some reason, resulting in some odd juxtapositions. I'm also not crazy about one track name, which refers to "the" Serenity (it's just Serenity, as those of you who've seen "Safe" are fully aware).

Nonetheless, I think the soundtrack is compelling in its own right. Owing to the setting of the series, which posits a world where American and Chinese culture are the dominant surviving influences, it combines Western folk and Chinese traditional music with the usual soundtrack tropes, like classical music. It also begins with the wonderful opening theme music, including vocals. That cut is a perfect example of what I would call dark Americana, and is one of the first things I ever heard in that vein.

The Verdict: The show is perfect. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. The soundtrack is something only the really hardcore fans (like myself) should check out. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Buy on DVD
Buy on Blu-Ray
Buy the soundtrack


  1. Oddly I read somewhere that Whedon developed the characters in Firefly from his characters on Alien Resurrection, which was easily one of the worst things Whedon has done.

  2. I don't remember that movie at all . . . so it must have been pretty mediocre. It's good to learn from your mistakes, though.