DirectorJoss Whedon, Various
Release Date(s)2002 (November 11, 2008)
Studio(s)20th Century Fox
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: C+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
Fox TV is well known in fanboy circles for creating incredible genre television, and then quickly abandoning it. After The X-Files completed its run on the network, common sense seemed to leave the building. They scheduled Space Above and Beyond (whose tapes were accidently sent to Ron Moore – he later remade the wrong show!) in a Sunday time slot against ratings behemoth 60 Minutes, where it fell victim to football overruns and was quickly killed.
Millennium soon followed, as did Harsh Realm, Dark Angel, The Lone Gunmen and others. So by the time Joss Whedon’s science fiction/western fusion, Firefly, arrived on the scene in 2002, Fox had killing genre programming down to a science.
First, the network advertised Firefly’s pilot episode, but then didn’t show it. Then, they pre-empted the series three weeks for baseball, during which they advertised the show heavily to people who couldn’t care less about it. Having failed accordingly to gain much of an audience, the show languished with poor ratings and was finally cancelled, leaving three episodes completely unaired. As a result of all this, Whedon’s brilliant take on the aftermath of a civil war in space, told through the unlikely eyes of smugglers, rogues, a preacher and a whore, wouldn’t really find its true audience until it was eventually released on DVD. And now, Fox Home Entertainment has released Firefly in an HD-upgraded Blu-ray version that’s easily the best way to enjoy the series, bar none.
All 14 episodes of the series are included here. At the time the show was made, Fox was airing “enhanced widescreen” 480p content on their digital feed rather than full high-definition material, so when finishing the effects for a show like this one, they often cut production costs. As a result, Firefly isn’t going to stand up well in comparison to the video quality of genre shows produced today in high-definition. But compared to the original DVD release, the Blu-ray looks terrific. Gone is the crushed-looking video, the banding and heavy artifacting, and the general lack of detail. As a result of the budget-cutting mentioned above, all of the show’s visual effects were produced in 480p and have been upconverted for high-definition. That one issue aside, what you get on Blu-ray is a soft and grainy image to be sure, but one that’s still well defined and warm looking. It’s very pleasing and is far and away the best Firefly has ever looked. The audio mix is DTS-HD MA, and I’m happy to report that the show’s theme sounds absolutely glorious. While it’s certainly not a whiz banger, this a great surround mix for a TV show, particularly when it comes to the score, with its yearning fiddle play. It’s a genuine sonic upgrade from the DVD on fidelity and warmth alone.
I’m pleased to report that all of the DVD special features have been included here, including the How It Was: The Making of Firefly, The Tenth Character, Joss Tours the Ship and Joss Sings the Firefly Theme featurettes. You also get the gag reel (the 3-minute version, not the 10-minute one due to music rights), the deleted scenes, the audition tape and the ever-classic Easter egg, featuring Adam Baldwin’s rendition of Hero of Canton. All of the original audio commentaries with the cast and crew are here as well, and you get a new commentary (for Our Mrs. Reynolds) that was recorded exclusively for the Blu-ray. There’s one other new Blu-ray extra – the Dinner for Four (or as they call it on the disc, Firefly Reunion) featurette, which reunites three of our Big Damn Heroes (Fillion, Glass and Tudyk) with Joss for a half hour of hilarity. It culminates in tales of petty sock larceny, and even a quickly improved new episode of the series too. I won’t spoil any of this, but fans will cherish every second.
Six years and (reportedly) a half a million DVD units later, Firefly remains an evergreen catalog title for Fox – one that continues to grow its fan base every day. Short-lived though it was, Firefly was the Star Trek for Generation Y, a little show that dared to be different and “done the impossible.” Hopefully, the millions of copies Firefly’s feature film follow-up, Serenity, moved on DVD will convince Universal that a sequel might not be such a bad idea. (Serenity is set for Blu-ray release on 12/30, I should add.) In the meantime, Joss has a new Fox genre show, Dollhouse, coming in January. It was originally planned to be the lead-in for the return of 24, but it’s now set to air on Friday nights... in the so-called death slot. Surely those fans who have already registered ’savedollhouse.com’ are just being overly pessimistic. Right?
- Jeff Kleist