DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Firefly – The Complete Series, Blu-ray (2002/2008)

The demise of the innovative series - with three of these original 14 episodes not even aired - was evidently premature.

Published on December 4, 2008

Firefly – The Complete Series, Blu-ray (2002/2008)
Firefly – The Complete Series, Blu-ray (2002/2008)

14 Episodes of the series on 3 discs
Executive Producer: Joss Whedon
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 color 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, German DTS 5.1, Spanish & French DD surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Dutch, captioned
Extras: Audio commentary on selected episodes; Firefly Cast Roundtable; 3 Behind-the-Scenes featurettes incl. “The Making of Firefly”; 4 Deleted scenes; Gag reel; Audition tape; Joss Sings the Firefly Theme
Length: 665 minutes total
Rating: *****

A very well-written and innovative series which its many devoted fans were sorry to see leave the air. I’m not a fan of Westerns at all but found the show’s quirky blend of the old West and sci-fi to work beautifully.  Its demise – with three of the original 14 episodes not even aired – was evidently premature. In 2005 two of the episodes were joined together and released as the excellent theatrical feature titled Serenity. (That’s the name of the spaceship, but it’s also one of the now-obsolete Firefly-class.)  Firefly takes place 500 years in the future, after a war between the fascist Alliance empire and The Independents has ended with the former having won. The human race has expanded thru the galaxy via terraforming previously-uninhabitable planets and then developing them with new settlers living a type of Old West lifestyle.

Serenity’s captain is war veteran Malcolm, and he has a crew of nine quite different and highly-developed characters. One never knows what they’re going to do next. They pay for food and fuel by taking most any job that pays well, and Mal enjoys getting in bar fights with baddies.  But when it comes down to brass tacks, he does the moral and ethical thing – such as in the pilot episode after learning the goods he stole from a train for a shady character are actually medical supplies needed to prevent the deaths of a group of settlers.  He returns the medicine at risk of his life or freedom.

Among the crew are a sweet always-optimistic girl-next-door who happens to be a crack solve-everything engineer, a beautiful woman the captain calls “Ambassador,” who is really a courtesan, a black & white couple, a “parson” who just left a monastery, and a brother and stowaway sister who are fugitives from The Alliance. In addition to the not-all-bad Alliance representatives and the various low-lifes that Mal does business with, there are the 100% evil Reavers inhabiting the edges of the galaxy – sort of outer space zombies.  The mix of cultures is constantly fascinating, and not just the wild West/sci-fi aspects.  The two prominent earth cultures are American and Chinese, so there are numerous Chinese clothing and design touches, the crew play Chinese checkers in one bar scene, and some people speak both languages fluently. There’s an interesting back-story and this is an adult series with some violent and sexy elements.

Some of the “brown coats” (rabid Firefly fans) who already owned the standard DVD version of the series feel the Blu-ray is not that much of an improvement, and doesn’t add to the extras. They also point out that the CGI effects are still at 480i level rather than 1080p.  But not having the DVDs, I found both picture quality and surround sound first rate, with plenty of detail in the dark areas – and there are plenty of them, not just in outer space.  It was frustrating to navigate to the five or so episodes on each disc if you didn’t select Play All, but that might just be the result of my present exceedingly annoying first-gen Blu-ray player.

Episode List:
The Train Job
Serenity Parts 1 & 2
Our Mrs. Reynolds
Out of Gas
War Stories
The Message
Heart of Gold
Objects in Space

– John Sunier

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