Wednesday, August 19, 2009

FOTM: "You Can't Take the Sky From Me."

Cowboys and Indians in space. In the wrong hands it could be one of the worst ideas ever. In the right ones it could become something almost unparalleled in the realms of science fiction and television. Luckily the hands that created and molded such a premise belong to uber-genius Joss Whedon.

FIREFLY is one of if not THE single best science fiction show to ever air on television. If you haven’t seen it and you consider yourself a fan of the genre or you know… just anything it is mandatory that you seek out the box-set of the far too brief series and have your mind blown.

This little TV show that almost no one saw became such a gargantuan cult hit on DVD that it inspired a studio to allow Whedon to carry his vision over into the world of cinema with the film SERENITY. Combined the show and the movie created one of the most unique, yet realistic versions of human life in space that has ever graced any screen, big or small.

The earth gets “used up” and mankind has to head into space and begin colonizing new planets. In doing so the “new frontier” becomes very much like the one our ancestors settled and developed centuries ago. The vast prairie of the galaxy is filled with danger and the unknown. The laws are loose or sometimes just plain nonexistent and no matter what the emergent military-industrial complex / oppressive government does they can only tame so much of the land.

While I love STAR TREK to death I have never considered it to be the most plausible future for mankind’s ventures into space. STAR TREK is an optimistic dream; it is Gene Roddenberry’s lofty and applaudable dream of how humanity will behave once it decides to conquer the vast reaches of the universe.

Space is a vast, often times scary place. It truly is the largest and last unexplored frontier. If history has taught us anything it is that every time we as a species forge new ground, every time we branch out and make an attempt to lay claim to more and more it is NEVER easy and is often times very ugly and very violent.

The universe Joss Whedon created captures that idea and that intrinsic understanding of who we are as humans and what each new exploration brings out in us in a way that very few stories, sci-fi or other wise have. It will be centuries if not millennia before we have any hope of reaching the idealistic utopias of STAR TREK and the like. Until then space will be a brutal savage place forged by the brave, unscrupulous and opportunistic alike. There will be savagery mixed in with the wonder and excitement. It won’t all be pretty but there’s no denying it will be very human. Whedon’s creation doesn’t shy away from that, in fact it embraces it and uses such notions and ideas to tell some of the most deeply human, far reaching, yet intimate stories ever filmed. It understands that the greatest, most complex and infinitely explorable landscape will always be a man’s soul and that outer space, just like every other vista will only be a reflection of what we make of ourselves.


Adam said...

Chris, this might just be the moment where you despair of me completely. I have not seen an episode of Firefly, but I have seen Serenity. I found myself laughing at things the characters said, and, for the most part, not due to the witty way the actors read the lines, but by how dreadfully juvenile and flat-out lame it was. Additionally, the story was kind of a "so-what?" for me. I was very intrigued initially, but when I found out what the big "revelation" was . . . I was underwhelmed. The movie was entertaining enough, but there were some big cons for me.

Also, I'm puzzled by something you said. While I agree that humanity's attempts to break new ground are more often than not very violent, I have no clue by what you mean by "Until then space will be a brutal savage place forged by the brave, unscrupulous and opportunistic alike." What exactly about space makes it a "brutal, savage place?" First, nobody can go there unless they're sanctioned and sponsored by the government of a fairly advanced country, so I fail to see how the unscrupulous and opportunistic are supposed to use it for selfish ends. Second, we've never discovered life of any kind out there, much less anything that's hostile. What are you saying exactly?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see that the cast is still working since I really liked them, as the film didn't do too well and the series was yanked.