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Let's Go Again

First aired: The Signal: Season 6, Episode 1
Written by Helen Eaton
Read by Helen Eaton
Don't you just love this party? Everything's so fancy and there's some kind of hot cheese over there.
It's not as good as last year.

A few weeks ago I realised that I had gone about eight months without watching Firefly or the BDM from start to finish. Sure, I’d watched an episode here and there with friends or family I was in the middle of converting, and I’d watched bits and pieces in order to write articles for The Signal, but it had been a long time since I’d sat down to watch with no other purpose than enjoyment. So I made a new year’s resolution to rewatch Firefly and Serenity over a couple of weeks.

As I sat down to watch the pilot episode, I felt a little trepidation. Would I be bored? Would I find that it wasn’t as good as I remembered? Would I spend my time picking up on plot holes and continuity errors? Well, as you can probably guess, since I wouldn’t have written an article about this if the answer to any of those questions had been yes, the answer in all cases was a resounding no. I was not bored, it was just as good as I remembered, and I got so distracted by how good it was that all plot holes and continuity errors passed me by.

For the first three days of my rewatching experiment, I went through a respectable two episodes a night, but after that my self-discipline went out the window and my pace increased. It seemed like every time I intended to stop, the next episode was one I loved for some particular reason and I decided to watch “just one more”! And before I knew it, I’d gone through all fourteen episodes and the film in a week!

After rewatching the series, my main observations could be summed up in two words: variety and beauty. I was struck by how an episode is often very different in style and tone from the ones surrounding it, yet despite that the episodes do all clearly belong to one and the same show. There is nothing formulaic or procedural about Firefly: Bushwhacked could be termed a horror, for example, Shindig a romcom, Trash a heist and Heart of Gold a Western. The variety is impressive, and so is the way the main characters seem equally at home in all of these different types of episode. Nothing seems forced, everything seems real.

I also noticed the rich variety of the worlds visited, the scenery, the sets, the costumes, and even the weather. Take the bar in the opening scenes of The Train Job as an example. Next time you watch this episode, have a look in the background at the detail and care that was put into a set that is only on screen for a few minutes. As for costumes, the variety in the minor characters and extras is breathtaking. Badger, Niska, the ball attendees in Shindig, the settlers in Safe, the mudders in Jaynestown, the whores in Heart of Gold – all have distinct and interesting looks. And I mustn’t neglect to mention the music, which has a variety and beauty all of its own.

I think perhaps I noticed the visual aspects of Firefly more after many repeated viewings because I’m usually more of a words person. That is, I now know the dialogue so well that there’s room for me to pay more attention to what I’m watching, rather than what I’m hearing. And, wow, is it worth paying some attention to the visuals! I was particularly struck this time by how beautifully lit and framed every shot is, and by how cinematic the television series is. Simply put, it’s gorgeous!

Once I started focusing on the visual aspects of the show, I realised how many inventively framed shots there are. Firefly certainly makes other shows look lazy in this respect. Inside Serenity, the walkways, steps and doorways are often utilised to create interesting camera angles. And similar techniques are employed elsewhere. In Shindig, for example, the camera looks through the windows of a coach on Persephone to catch the crew admiring the dresses. Or in Heart of Gold, we look in on one scene as if from inside the fireplace.

Another visual aspect which caught my attention during this latest viewing was the still photos that form part of the credit sequence for each episode. As time passes, these photos seem to be gaining poignance for me, representing nine brilliant character portrayals, frozen in time. And these characters are so richly drawn that even after countless repeated viewings, I still found myself noticing something new in their depictions. In Serenity the pilot episode, for example, I was struck by how it is just after Mal has been very clearly loving towards Kaylee that he describes himself as a “mean old man”. And Simon’s reaction when he thinks Kaylee is dead, is it because he thinks he is heading for an airlock, or because he feels guilty?

I also found myself noticing new things in the background of scenes. Or at least, I did, if I could manage to concentrate on the background for a while. Most of the time my attention drifted back to where it was supposed to be because the foreground action was far too interesting! But it’s a worthwhile exercise to try to focus on the background for a while. By doing so I noticed for the first time the decorations on the tree River dances around in Safe and the Chinese characters on the medical monitors in Ariel, plus a number of other interesting little details.

As for the individual episodes, the pilot just blew me away with the fantastic way it sets up the ‘verse and Mal and his crew’s place in it. The Train Job made me want Mal as my captain. Bushwhacked made me want to see more stories set entirely in space. Shindig just made me smile. Safe made me feel even more for Simon and River. Our Mrs Reynolds made me wish I could write dialogue like Joss Whedon. Jaynestown made me fall in love with Jayne all over again. Out of Gas reminded me how much I love the whole crew. Ariel made me wonder how I could even like Jayne. War Stories made me realise how superbly written the relationship between Wash and Zoe is. Trash made me want to see more stories with Mal and Saffron. The Message got me thinking more about Mal and Zoe’s experiences in the war. Heart of Gold made me want to try watching more Westerns. Objects in Space made me think.

And as for the BDM, what a ride! I got so caught up with watching it that the only coherent thoughts that came to my mind were, “This is glorious” and “I want another one”!

I could go on, but maybe I should simply end here by saying that regardless of how many times you have watched Firefly and Serenity, I would thoroughly recommend setting some time aside to watch them again. If my experience is anything to go by, you won’t regret it. To use a word that’s not normally in my vocabulary, but is really the only appropriate word for Firefly and Serenity... they’re awesome!

Let’s go again.

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