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Posts Tagged ‘Firefly’

Following my list of Space Adventure movies in the century so far, I thought I would take a similar look at TV from the same time period. 

Farscape (1999 – 2003), Where better to start a list of programs from this century, than in the previous one! The Australian-American series ran for four seasons, before being concluded with a three hour mini-series.  The Jim Henson Company, were responsible for both the alien make-up/prosthetics and animatronic puppets. The show had a great cast, the highlight being Claudia Black.  The world-building was excellent, but the standout was the story.  In a time before longform TV as we know it now, most of the episodes were standalone or short narratives over a small number of episodes, however, there is always an overarching story arc.  Farscape

Frank Herbert’s Dune (2000) Produced by the Sci Fi Channel, and regarded by many as the definitive version of Frank Herbert’s novel.  I found it a little tedious, and prefer David Lynch’s 1984 film version.  A second series: Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune (sometimes called Dune Apocalypse) followed in 2003.  Based on the books Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune.  A better series overall, mainly thanks to James McAvoy as Leto II.Frank Herbert's Dune

Andromeda (2000 – 2005) Marketed as Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, it was based on an and unused material by the late Roddenberry.  The show ran for 110 episodes over five seasons.  Set in a future dystopian, post-apocalyptic universe, the premise of the show is fighting against the odds to make things better, a very Roddenberry idea.  I seem to remember the show was no very late at night in the UK, I watched the first episode and then saw odd episodes over the years.  I remember enjoying what I saw, but never enough to seek out a whole series. Andromeda

Cowboy Bebop (2001 -2002) – Japanese animated series made up of 26 episodes and a movie.  Set in a future where Earth almost uninhabitable, and humanity has colonized most of the Solar System.  The story concentrates on a an Inter Solar System Police. Described as a cyberpunk blend of Western and pulp fiction, it meets all the space opera credentials for this list.  An American live action version is reported to be in production for Netflix, although recent reports suggest it will be much delayed due to a knee injury suffered by star John Cho. Cowboy Bebop

Star Trek Enterprise (2001-2005) Running for 98 episodes across four seasons, Enterprise was set around a century before the original series and captain Kirk’s five-year mission telling the early years of Starfleet, and the first starship Enterprise. I lost interest during the first season, but understand it got better. Star Trek Enterprise

Firefly (2002 – 2003) The show that gives this article its title.  Cruelly cancelled mid season, there are only 14 episodes, but they are all fantastic. Although episodic, flashback episodes tell the origins of the characters.  Set on the fringes of civilised society echoing pioneer culture and western movies, key members of the crew fought on the losing side of a civil war.  Handled differently this could have been very problematic.  A combination of fantastic world-building and characters set the short lived show head and shoulders above others, this made it easy for them to transition into Serenity, the movie that finished the story. Firefly

Battlestar Galactica (2004-09) When I was kid in the early 80’s I used to watch the original Battlestar Galactica every Sunday evening for years. Or did I? How the mind plays tricks on us, it only ran for 21 episodes (plus 10 episodes of Galactica 1980, which I didn’t see).  While I loved the show at the time, re-watching it in the 90’s revealed that it wasn’t very good.  However, the re-imagined version is nothing short of a masterpiece.  Retaining the original concept, and technically a sequel to the original show.  The action and drama of the show were enhanced by a smart script with political undertones with contemporary relevance.Battlestar Galactica

Stargate Atlantis (2004 – 2009) Although I watched and enjoyed the original Stardgate movie, I have never seen any of the TV show.  I did however start watching Stargate Atlantis, which I understand to be a continuation of the original show.  A military survival series, set in a new galaxy and unable to contact earth, I enjoyed the first season, them it moved from free to air TV and I haven’t seen any further episodes. Stargate Atlantis - Season 5

Doctor Who (2005 – ) Doctor Who ran for over 700 episodes from 1963 to 1989.  When it returned in 2005, nobody knew what to expect, I don’t think anybody expected it to be so good and to re-cement itself as a British institution.  It has lost its way since the departure of Steven Moffat, but still remains fun and watchable. Doctor Who

Star Wars The Clone Wars (2008 – 2020) The clone wars were mentioned by Princess Leia, and then again by Luke and Ben in Star Wars, without any explanation as to what they were. Following the prequels (clones were introduced in Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)) came The Clone Wars filling in the can between episodes II and III.  I have never seen any of them, but understand they are popular. Star Wars The Clone Wars

Stargate Universe (2009 -2011) An exploration team find themselves onboard an Ancient spaceship several billion light years from our Galaxy. Running for 40 episodes over two seasons, the show was cancelled after the final season was in the can resulting in an ending described as a semi-cliffhanger.  A shame, as I enjoyed the show. Stargate Universe

Caprica (2010) – Set a generation before Battlestar Galactica and telling the story of the creation of Cylon’s and sowing the seeds for the destruction of the twelve colonies.  The show was filled with interesting characters played by some really good actors.  Sadly the story unfolded too slowly and it failed to find an audience and was cancelled before the first season had finished airing.  This is a great shame, the tease real for the unmade second season look really good.Caprica

Agents of SHIELD (2013-2020) The MCU’s longest running TV show is largely earth based, but the whole firth season is set in space, and is pretty good.Agents of SHIELD

Dark Matter (2015) Six people wake up on a deserted spaceship with no memory of who they are or what they’re doing there. Running for three seasons, I am yet to see it. Dark Matter

Killjoys (2015-2019) What started out looking like it was going to be a second-rate Syfy channel space opera gradually became more interesting and compelling.  As well as an overriding story arc, it also included more relevant characters and storylines.  Beyond all this, the real reason for watching is the shows secret weapon, rising star Hannah John-Kamen in the lead role.Killjoys

The Expanse (2015- ) Based on a series of novels by James S. A. Corey (the pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck).  Set in a future with a colonized Solar System, a fragile cold war like peace exists between Earth, Mars and the Belt (an asteroid belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter). Essentially a cold war/conspiracy thriller, the brilliance of the show is that as an audience we don’t take sides; all three sides are represented, and there are good and bad on all sides.  This is further complicated as the good characters are flawed, and the bad ones have redeeming features, just like real life!  Simply one of the best shows around at the moment.The Expanse

Lost in Space (2018 – ) When I was kid in the 80’s I loved the re-run of the 1960’s show.  I only watched the first two or three episodes of the new version before loosing interest.  It appears to be popular with a third season being commissioned. Lost in Space

Star Trek Discovery (2018 – ) Moving away from the single episodes of most of the Trek franchise to telling one long form story per season has changed the show dramatically.  Interesting stories and fantastic casting have made it a positive move.  Set before the events of the original show, the writers have done an amazing job of fitting the story into existing narratives. Star Trek Discovery

Altered Carbon (2018 – ) With two seasons aired so far, Altered Carbon has become legendary for its cost of production.  The high budget really shows with the lavish production design.  Based on the 2002 novel of the same title by Richard K. Morgan, a key to the story is how, memories and consciousness can be transferred from one body to another allowing recasting to  become part of the narrative. Altered Carbon

Krypton (2018 – 2019) Set on Superman’s doomed home planet around 200 years before his birth. Running for twenty episodes across two seasons to mixed reviews.  I haven’t seen any so can’t comment further.Krypton - Season 2

Nightflyers (2018) Billed as a psychological thriller (aka a pretentious horror) about a spaceship exploring the universe for alien life.  Based on a novella by George R.R. Martin.  It ran for 10 episodes, I lost interest by the second. Nightflyers - Season 1

Another Life (2019-2020) A crew travel into space to try and unlock the mystery of an alien artifact that may be threatening life on earth.  Combining adventure with mystery thriller the concept of this show looks really good.  Unfortunately It didn’t work for me, I gave up after two episodes. Another Life

The Mandalorian (2019- ) Episode One of Jon Favreau’s Star Wars TV show snuck in before the nations cinemas closed, and screened in UK cinema’s as part of the Disney streaming launch.  All the hype seems to have surrounded the character who has erroneously become known as baby Yoda.  The show, is actually very good! The Mandelorian

Star Trek Picard (2020- ) Patrick Stewart returns to the Star Trek universe as a now retired Jean-Luc Picard.  The story makes reference to the events of Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) and brings back a few characters from the past, and introduces some really good new ones.  On the whole it is excellent, but isn’t as consistently good as the first season of Star Trek Discovery. Star Trek Picard

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Unless you have been living under a rock, you will know that in their ongoing effort to take over the world, Disney have announced a series of television programmes in the Star Wars universe. You would be forgiven for thinking by the title this is about those shows, it isn’t!  This is about other Star Wars television programmes, in other words television programmes from the past and currently airing that like Star Wars are set in space and feature some form of conflict.  There are many other shows that fit the criteria, some that I have seen, others that I haven’t, these are my recommendations: 

Blake’s 7 (1978-81) I saw the last ever episode of Blake’s 7 as a kid, I then watched the whole series over thirty years later.  Made by the BBC in the late 70’s and early 80’s, the production design is amazing but the production values are on a par with early Doctor Who.  A group of political dissident’s, rebels and criminals escape the totalitarian federation who rules Earth and its colonised planets. As with many of the best shows on this list the thing that makes it great is a combination of a great cast of characters and timeless political subtext. blakes 7

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993–1999) The most relevant Star Trek show to this list.  A spinoff from The Next Generation, DS9.  Set on a space station rather than a exploring starship,it is a departure from the other shows in the Star Trek Franchise.  There are two distinct story arcs the involving conflict with other races.  Although not as initially popular as The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine holds up better to repeat viewings. Star Trek Deep Space Nine

Babylon 5 (1994–1998) Airing at the same time as DS9 above and sharing some similar ideas.  Set in the 23rd Century on the Earth Alliance space station Babylon 5, located in neutral territory, it becomes the centre of the universe and its best chance at peace, and survival.  Filled with diverse characters and interesting stories with contemporary relevance.  revolutionary  in its day as the creators went into the project with a five season story arc planned out.  It dived opinion in its day, but has been hugely influential since. Babylon 5

Farscape (1999–2003) Similar to Blake’s 7 and Firefly with its mismatched crew of fugitives and the totalitarian regime.  Our way into the show is a modern-day America who arrives via a wormhole.  The notable thing about the show is the Henson Company puppets.  I haven’t actually seen the final season of the show, but like what I have seen enough to include it on this list.  Farscape

Firefly (2002 -03) – Running for just fourteen episodes and often referred to as the most prematurely cancelled shows.  Created by Joss Whedon, it is essentially a space western.  Set in a future where mankind has colonised space.  A mismatched crew are living on the edge of society run by the totalitarian “Alliance”.  Keeping exposition to a minimum, the brilliance of the show is a snappy script, universally relevant stories, and a fantastic cast. firefly

Battlestar Galactica (2004-09) When I was kid in the early 80’s I used to watch the original Battlestar Galactica every Sunday evening for years. Or did I? How the mind plays tricks on us, it only ran for 21 episodes (plus 10 episodes of Galactica 1980, which I didn’t see).  While I loved the show at the time, re-watching it in the 90’s revealed that it wasn’t very good.  However, the re-imagined version is nothing short of a masterpiece.  Retaining the original concept, and technically a sequel to the original show.  The action and drama of the show were enhanced by a smart script with political undertones with contemporary relevance. Battlestar Galactica

Killjoys (2015- ) What started out looking like it was going to be a second-rate Syfy channel space opera gradually became more interesting and compelling.  As well as an overriding story arc, it also included more relevant characters and storylines.  Beyond all this, the real reason for watching is the shows secret weapon, rising star Hannah John-Kamen in the lead role. Killjoys

The Expanse (2015- ) Based on a series of novels by James S. A. Corey (the pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck).  Set in a future with a colonized Solar System, a fragile cold war like peace exists between Earth, Mars and the Belt (an asteroid belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter). Essentially a cold war/conspiracy thriller, the brilliance of the show is that as an audience we don’t take sides; all three sides are represented, and there are good and bad on all sides.  This is further complicated as the good characters are flawed, and the bad ones have redeeming features, just like real life!  Simply one of the best shows around at the moment.  The Expanse

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The big movie news earlier this month was the Kickstarter fundraiser campaign to get a Veronica Mars movie made. The aim was to raise $2million, if successful Warner Bros agreed to distribute the movie. Reaching its goal in just ten hours it became the most successful Kickstarter film project to date.

As neither a fanboy or detractor Veronica Mars, I can look at it subjectively. I have seen a handful (I’m guessing around 10) of the 64 episodes of the TV show so kind of know what its about. I liked what I saw but not so much so as to make me want to hunt out the other episodes. For those who know even less than me, the show revolves around high school, then college student Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) who moonlights as a private investigator.veronica mars Kristen Bell

Getting the green light is only the start, now they need to make the movie. That starts with a script, that in turn starts with an idea. That idea needs to be a great one for the show to make the transition form the small screen. The two mediums are very different and to succeed a balance has to be found the way Joss Whedon did with Serenity based on the TV show Firefly. The TV show was made up of individual episodes with an overriding story arc/back story. The film version created one larger story centred on the larger story. It also worked equally as well for fans of the show and people with n prior knowledge. Can this work for Veronica Mars? The TV took the “case of the week” format but was elevated by an overarching story. So the same could work. The only problem, it has been six years since the show was cancelled and its star Kristen Bell is now 32. It is possible to engineer a storyline where the character is still in collage, if not she will have to be in a profession that does not ruin the dynamic of the show. It would easy to make her a Cop or private investigator, but would that work? The story will also need a suitable mystery.Veronica Mars cast

Then we have the issue of the audience. With an audience of around 2.5million on its original American release and around 50,000 in the UK, it is far from having a readymade audience. Although a fans favourite Kristen Bell is far from “A list” and isn’t going to open a movie. This is why a great story that will gain positive reviews and word of mouth is possibly the only way the film can be successful. It would be a shame to go to all this effort for the movie to of straight to DVD and never see the inside of a cinema.

What Next?

What next for the Kickstarter concept? The internet is awash with suggestions of show fans would like to see revived. Pushing Daisies and Firefly seem to be the two that keep coming up. Personally I favour a different Nathan Fillion show, Drive. Made by FOX and lasting for just six episodes and also featuring a young and relatively unknown Emma Stone. Based around a cross country road race, the show offered nothing new or original but was good fun and could work well as a 100 minute movie.Drive

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As I work on my inevitable list of best films of 2012 I started thinking about Argo. Not the Ben Affleck film that we saw, but the un-filmed Star Wars rip-off Sci-Fi movie that featured in it. For as long as I can remember Star Wars has been essential Christmas viewing, but why? Probably because as an action adventure fantasy film it is yet to be surpassed. It is often stated that Star Wars changed films for ever, it certainly built on the idea of the summer blockbuster that began with Jaws two years before. All this is most probably true, but surprisingly Star Wars has never inspired a successful and credible action adventure set within a alien universe. The greatest failing of most of them is an unnecessary attempt to ground the plot in the reality or to earth, this is true from The Last Starfighter (1984) through to Avatar (2009). It worked for Star Trek as the idea of humanity exploring space was central to the premise. After its cancellation in 1969, it gained cult status, around the time of Star Wars a plan to resurrect the television series as Star Trek: Phase II.  It was a planned and quickly abandoned, ideas from the pilot were however saved and became Star Trek (1979). The  highlights of the film series that followed are: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), Star Trek: First Contact (1996) and the reboot Star Trek (2009). 1977 star wars

The latest failed attempt of the genre was John Carter (2012) based on A Princess of Mars by (Tarzan author) Edgar Rice Burroughs. So uncomfortable in its own skin the producers dropped the Sci-Fi “of Mars” title from the movie shortly before it hit cinema screens. Telling the story of a civil war era gent who is transported to Mars that is going through its own Civil War. A lot of the story involves the fish out of water scenarios as Carter adapts to the culture of the society and then imports his own sensibility. Going back to the time of Star Wars, the biggest of the early attempts to cash in on the Star Wars was unsurprisingly by Disney. The Black Hole (1979) had a budget of around $20million, around double that of Star Wars but only grossed around the same as Star Wars took in its first weekend. There is a good reason, for all its technical accomplishments, the movie is just plain dull. I have seen it at least twice and remember very little about it. With a budget of around $4million Starcrash (1978) is certainly low budget but isn’t quite the Z Movie it is often claimed to be. Poorly acted with terrible effects and unintentionally funny moments it isn’t very good. However it does deserve a certain amount of praise as a low budget movie that has grander ambitions than many of its contempt competitors, it is also good silly fun at times.

Starcrash

The one success of the genre (artistically if not financially) was Flash Gordon (1980). The plot is a rehash of the original thirteen part film serial starring Buster Crabbe from 1936. One of the reasons the movie looks so good and worked so well is the retro design including long shiny almost phallic spaceships that were inspired by the original 1930’s comic books. The result is utter camp, the characters and the performances are totally bonkers and over the top in the vein of Barbarella (1968). All this was held together by a an equally camp and over the top score by Queen.

Flash Gordon

The story goes that David Lynch turned down Return of the Jedi instead opting to replace Ridley Scott as the director of Dune (1984). Unlike most people, I am glad he did. I first saw Dune on video in 1985 and loved it. A few years later I read the first three or four of Frank Herbert’s novels. It was the first David Lynch film I saw, I have seen and loved everything he has made since. The movie shares producer Dino De Laurentiis with Flash Gordon, that is where the similarity ends. While Flash Gordon is fun and camp, Dune is sombre serious but when you strip away all the religious symbolism, mythology and the ideas of loyalty and betrayal it is simply a story of trade and politics, possibly an allegory for the fight for the control of the worlds supply. The TV mini series is heralded as a superior adaptation, it may be but it is painfully dull, something the movie can not be accused of even in its three hour cut.Dune

Star Wars often plays like a western set in space.  This is where the genre has found the most sucess.  A film that took this idea a stage further was the Roger Corman produced Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) that took its plot from Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai. It has a certain degree of pedigree with a screenplay by John Sayles, a score composed by James Horner, and the special effects directed by a young James Cameron. A similar idea had been attempted in the “High Noon in space” Outland (1981) with Sean Connery in the Gary Cooper role. Not a classic, but far better than its reputation. The best space western is probably Serenity (2005) based on the too short-lived TV show Firefly (2002-2003). It is still rooted in the reality of humanity but unlike the movies that suffer for this, Serenity plays its hand perfectly.Battle Beyond the Stars

The Star Wars prequels failed to live up to their billing, will the new Disney produced movies be more successful or will we have to wait for someone else to create a new Space Opera in a believable alien universe? Star Wars: Episode VII is expected in 2015.

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