DirectorJoss Whedon, Various
Release Date(s)2002-2003 (September 19, 2017)
Studio(s)Mutant Enemy/Fox Television (20th Century Fox)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: C+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B
Before Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica reboot and before The Expanse, writer/producer Joss Whedon attempted to bring his own vision for science fiction to the small screen. That TV series was Firefly, which debuted on the Fox network in September of 2002. Though it picked up an incredibly dedicated and loyal fanbase, initial broadcast ratings were considered a disappointment. With a long history of killing promising genre series too early, Fox cancelled Firefly just two months into its run, with 3 of the series’ 14 episodes as yet unaired.
The series follows the crew of an old Firefly-class deep space transport, the Serenity, as they attempt to eek out a living in the ‘Verse by hook or by crook. They’re led by Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion, Castle), a former “Browncoat” rebel who once fought in a failed war for independence against the corporate Alliance that rules all of space. Among the crew are Mal’s second-in-command Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres), his pilot “Wash” (Alan Tudyk, Star Wars: Rogue One), the mercenary Jayne (Adam Baldwin, Full Metal Jacket, Chuck), and engineer Kaylee (Jewel Staite). There are passengers along for the ride too, including a priest (Ron Glass), a doctor (Sean Maher), the doctor’s mysterious and dangerous sister (Summer Glau, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), and a professional escort (Morena Baccarin, Homeland), all of whom would prefer to avoid Alliance attention.
A number of things made Firefly interesting and unique, including its terrific cast of actors (most seen here before they really hit it big), its science fiction/western mash-up setting, and the lack of the usual aliens and robots that accompany the sci-fi genre. The show’s worldbuilding and production design had a fresh perspective even by today’s standards. Sure, the characters spoke dialogue with a bit too much “twangy” patois, but this was easy to forgive once you got used to it. In any case, and though all-too briefly, Firefly was one of the most interesting things on television in its day.
Firefly was among the first series to be produced in 1.78:1 widescreen for Fox broadcast. While the series was shot on 35mm film, its visual effects (by Zoic Studios) were only finished in 480p SD resolution. So while the film was scanned in HD for its original release on Blu-ray (in 2008), all of the visual effects shots were upsampled. Fox’s new 15th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set essentially includes those exact same discs, with the same specs and extras – it’s all 14 episodes on 3 Blu-rays. Image detail goes from quite good in live action shots to merely okay (with a bit of aliasing) in VFX, but colors are fairly rich and accurate, and shadows are decent. While it’s not up to today’s HD quality standards, this series certainly looks better here on Blu-ray than it did in the original broadcasts or on DVD. Primary audio is available in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes that are quite nice, offering fine clarity and good (if subtle) surround atmospherics. Additional audio mixes are available in German 5.1 DTS and French and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital. For some reason, subtitle options can’t be selected from the disc menus, but they’re available in English, Dutch, French, German, and Spanish (via the player remote) while you’re watching the episodes.
All of the extras from the original DVD and Blu-ray release are included here, among them:
- Audio commentary on Serenity, Parts 1 & 2
- Audio commentary on The Train Job
- Audio commentary on Shindig
- Here’s How It Was: The Making of Firefly (SD – 28:39)
- Audio commentary on Our Mrs. Reynolds
- Audio commentary on Out of Gas
- Firefly Reunion: Lunch with Joss, Nathan, Alan, and Ron (HD – 24:03)
- Audio commentary on War Stories
- Audio commentary on The Message
- Audio commentary on Objects in Space
- Serenity: The 10th Character (SD – 9:45)
- Deleted Scenes (4 scenes – SD – 12:05 in all)
- Alan Tudyk’s Audition (SD – 1:04)
- Joss Sings the Firefly Theme (SD – 1:16)
- Joss Tours the Set (SD – 1:23)
- Gag Reel (SD – 2:40)
There’s a fun Easter egg too: Click right on Joss Sings the Firefly Theme and hit enter to see Adam Sings Hero of Canton (SD – 2:37). All of this is decent material, particularly the Reunion and the commentaries. For this 15th Anniversary Edition, Fox has created beautiful new 2-piece slipcase packaging that encloses a cardboard book to hold the discs. The package also includes a gorgeous foldout map of the ‘Verse and a set of 9 character cards. Here’s a look at the open packaging…
The list of science fiction TV series that ended too soon is long and infamous, but it’s Firefly’s early death that seems like the greatest injustice. Its story was continued briefly in a 2005 feature film from Universal called Serenity (see our review of the 4K Ultra HD release here), but it still feels like this series deserves another try, a reboot, or some kind of fresh look. There were rumors for years that Whedon wanted to bring the series back to TV, but more recently he’s seemed reluctant. For now, Fox’s new Firefly: The Complete Series – 15th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set is as good as it gets.
- Bill Hunt