Firefly

I finally watched Firefly (all 15 episodes) this weekend. It’s been on my “to watch” list for way too long. I still have the movie to watch. It’s certainly a show that should’ve kept running for longer – definitely higher quality than the usual garbage we get (it bothers me that even Terra Nova had more episodes than Firefly!).

Some general observations:

  • Serenity (the spaceship) is ugly and I do not believe this is a design that would work too well. It’s unique and recognizable, but, I don’t know; lacks any sort of aesthetic. It has no cool factor.
  • Interior design of Serenity was impeccable, however.
  • Characters are awesome, script were mostly good, great sense of continuity from one episode to the next (event of previous episodes are mentioned; even details are kept – for example, Kaylee wants a spare part early in Ep1 which is mentioned again in Ep3 if I do not misremember; but there are a handful of such things).
  • Show makes good use of tropes and of its wild west elements.
  • The entire show matches a stereotypical Traveller campaign almost perfectly.

Now, for what really matters though: Worldbuilding.

The show does have a fairly thoroughly designed world. You get a good “sense of place”. The incorporation of Chinese elements is done well (although I do not think this is nearly as original or “inventive” as some people may think; even back in ’05 China had a very eager space program and fantastic economic growth). The blend feels fairly natural, although it’s hard to establish a meaningful pattern for when characters fall back into Chinese instead of the English they use 99.99% of the time.

(It’s done in the script in places where context lets everybody understand what is said anyway; I guess you have to pledge practicality issues and move on.)

I have some issues with the design of the physical setting though – of “the verse” itself.

From what I understand, it’s supposed to be one gigantic star system with multiple suns. Secondary/tertiary sources seem to confirm this view. In theory, this can work – but it’s highly unlikely. Moreover, the Firefly wiki states that “four of the main sequence stars orbit a central star”. Meh. Stars would be arranged hierarchically. They probably should have made the “verse” an open star cluster; those have stars packed fairly tightly at the center (1.5 stars per cubic light year) but I have to admit that I am not sure this would consist of G, K or M class stars which could potentially harbor planets suitable for human life, with or without terraforming.

I think they probably wanted to avoid FTL technology. Ironically, this also means there is an upper limit on the distance between Earth and the The Verse – even if you assume they can travel at c and accelerate to c instantly, this would be about 400 light-years. It’s probably much, much less – but without knowing more about their drive technology, even a back-of-the-napkin calculation is futile.

In the show they also state that the “gravity” of planets was changed during terraforming. You can’t do that unless you add more mass to a planet. I don’t mind some technobabble – and I do realize they have artificial gravity in the setting – but this just seems like a stretch.

Still, over all, the worldbuilding is certainly better than that of most other shows. The problems that exist certainly do not detract from the overall quality of the show… not much anyway.

I kind of feel tempted to create a “mini setting” similar to Firefly… Maybe a nice project for Wednesday.

Update: Watched Serenity. Bad movie. But I guess better than no closure at all. Not gonna analyze it much – but in the first scene, with young River, we see a map of the Verse in the background and it seems to confirm that the verse is one big solar system.

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2 thoughts on “Firefly


  1. Yeah but not NaWoBuMon 😉

    Anyway I have an idea how I can do that “mini-setting” without much of a detour from my current work so I will almost certainly do it. 🙂

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