I assume that by now all of you have read that there is a Firefly-derived MMPORG in the works. There seems to be some disagreement as to whether or not Firefly will (will? can?) work in that medium.
Okay, so let's think this through. What exactly was it that created the "Firefly feel"?
- the writing, which means not only the sparkling, insouciant dialogue, but also the characters, the plot twists, and the very disciplined editing. Didn't advance the plot or characters? Out it went.
- The very good-looking but slightly odd actors. Not a single blonde cheerleader or big-chinned Hero among them. For example, the conscious decision to have Jewel Staite put on a few pounds before they started shooting.
- The Alliance, which is itself a writing challenge. They must be implacable, huge, determined, but kinda ineffectual at the end of the day and with a consistant bullying but sincere desire to "do the right thing." They are not Nazis, or the Empire from Star Wars. Many of them truly think that they are doing what's best for everybody and while this makes some of them prissy, it also makes the whole situation much creepier. So Alliance stuff, from things they say to their policies should be self-important, intolerant, and a bit insulting. But not simply Eeee-vil.
- The same goes for the "sympathetic" characters. Inara supported the alliance. Look at Jayne. We never did get the lowdown on Shepard Book; he may have been simply waiting for his moment. Even your friends may rat you out. Everybody has an agenda and you almost certainly don't know what most of it is.
- The mixed grimy/ornamented/bazaar/gleaming tech esthetic. All, mind you, mixed with ten percent Chinese and two percent other non Euro-American. Not only is this difficult to pull off, but it was used, again, in a very disciplined fashion such that each look went with a particular venue.
Miserable weather, old west clothes and setting and grimy 1930's industrial exceptions means outer world. Usually with some bits of gleaming Rollerball white and chrome in the hands of the bad guys.
Beautiful, elegant, but usually just a bit sterile, cluttered and harried means inner worlds. Kinda New Age fantasy tech as run for ten years by Edwardian Brits.
Funky, exposed rivets and cramped, with improvised bits of decoration and Cuisinart/Mac Plus looking appliances means the good guys, whether we're talking Firefly or the brothel, which exchanges rivets for wood beams.
The same complexity and specifity goes for clothes, music, and lighting and each, except for Alliance spaces like the hospital, requires a subtle touch.
- The shooting esthetic. Lens flare, the camera "having trouble" following the subject, the subject moving off camera, and, best of all, the lighting. I am so bloody sick of aren't-I-clever, M.Night Shymalan, massively unnatural lighting and palates. It's cute the first time but enough is enough people! And Firefly has consistantly given this trend a miss. Does this matter for other media? I think that it does. It speaks a naturalistic approach that applies to everything from ASCII on up.
The same goes for movement. Actors were given a positively sacriligious option on Firefly. Don't worry too much about hitting the mark - we'll have the camera follow you. This changed their body language, where they would sit down, lean against a wall, and so on. Again, naturalistic.
- The ages of the characters. Liberation from the world of twenty-three-year-olds. Characters are old, young, and in between. Most of the protaganists have seen some hard wear in their time, to the point that the few comparative exceptions, Dr. Tam and Kaylee, seem odd. Like NYPD Blue or so much of British television, it's a hard world out there and you're seeing it in the company of folks experienced enough to know it and act accordingly.
Many shows have taken this excuse to become enervated, passive. That wasn't done here. Anybody who doubts that the captain was willing and ready to kill Jayne as they talked across the cargo door wasn't paying attention.
There are some other issues about the Firefly universe that deserve some attention. Joss Whedon modeled much of his world on the south and west after the Civil War. If this holds true, then there is probably at least one sizable and possibly growing secret organization of veterans, romantics, and others, earnestly squirelling away arms and talking about how it was only because of flukes that they lost and next time, AND THERE WILL BE A NEXT TIME, they assure you, they'll win. There are probably also browncoat enclaves w-a-y out there. Someday it would be nice to see one. If there had been more episodes, I would like to think that Joss would have shown us such people and chances are that they would come across as wrong-headed.
Now, I'm not saying that these are all good or all bad. But they are all deviations from the big media s.f. norm. OTOH, to me they all seem like they'ld be right at home in a game of Traveller. Now, personally, there are a few things that I think are more than ripe for change.
First of all, what the hell happened to the rest of Asia? Some more bits of Indian-derived culture would be long overdue. Serve up some curry there, dudes; add a few words of Hindi slang. And also where are all the Asian actors? Let's see some more Asian faces. Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Thai, whatever. I know that Joss' premise is that America and China made it and everybody else didn't but he's sure willing enough to turn to Indian culture for clothes to give the impression that Indian influences are out there. So let's see some in less surreptitious ways.
And we still have an awful lot of questions, don't we? I'm delighted that the Reavers have been explained but there are plenty more big ol' enigmas. What is it like in those floating cities that the Alliance uses to project force? Look again at the first episode. That thing isn't the size of an aircraft carrier - it's the size of an apartment complex.
How did the Companions come to be? How elite is their status? We can be damned sure that they played a significanr part in the war and oh my, there must be some stories to tell about that.
How did Shepard Book really choose Serenity? I'ld lay odds that there was lot more going on than he ever said about why he was there.
So, what now? The Dark Horse comics are finished for now. The mini-eps of River cracking up are done. If the folks at Fox or Universal wanted the show to do well, then they at least could be shooting an occasional additional mini-ep. A snippet of video now and again for Youtube distribution and eventual high-res release. Failing that, animated episodes would be great. I would love to see fan-produced content get done.I wish that I had the time to properly help the folks at Into The Black.
And someday, not too far away, the rights will start to revert to Joss Whedon.
Well, I guess that we simply don't know what that will mean, do we? Thoughts?