20 September 2005

Firefly & Serenity

While discussing the show and film with someone today, I realized what annoyed me so much about most shows on television. Firefly is the perfect example of most of them, from the stock sci-fi characters to the grand conspiracies dreamed up and run by people too stupid to run even the simplest tests to divert people who hate them from (or at least include a functional retraining program in) the "turn cute women into super duper bionic ninjas" program.

It's about as original as burnt toast, and about as palatable.

Something else that bugs me is what I've seen referred to as "oprahfication", the making of everyone into a victim. It annoys me that a show whose main characters are all desperately seeking to control their situation, in the "frontier" of space, can't just go 'fuck it' and take off to parts unknown. No, they have to stay around and whine about not being able to. If you have blasters, don't whine, blow something up and you'll feel better.

Shows are about characters. Stories have characters in them, so that we have something to relate to, but it's not that important that the story be about the characters. It used to be that the basic conflict of man vs nature, man vs man, and man vs self were the driving force behind stories. Take some people, put them into conflicts, see how they turn out. On a tv show, this could be repeated, with older shows suffering from Gilligan's Problem always leaving the characters the same at the end as at the beginning, with the conflict not really changing them. Newer shows borrowed everchanging characters from soap operas, where they've been a staple since before burnt toast.

But now the stories are character driven. Characters change and develop relationships in preset ways and the conflicts are only there to drag the show out past episode 4. Only sitcoms don't do this, and they still stick with the Gilligan's Problem format. Sitcoms exist mostly to be funny and retain unchanging characters to provide a pre-existing foundation for that episode's jokes, instead of establishing new characters/underlying motives every episode.

Gilligans Problem: The conflicts/problems of every/almost every episode stem from an overarching problem that is the premise for the series (the castaways were stuck on the island). Solving the overarching problem solves those issues and hence ends the series.

Firefly manages to do both, ongoing character development causing Gilligan's Problem. The overarching problem is that the characters are self-contradictory idiots. They want to be left alone, but can't stop themselves from helping everyone who crosses their path. The solution to their problems is to push the lot of them out of an airlock. Unfortunately, that's the general tone of sci-fi these days, the mindless pablum of Star Trek: 90210/Gilmore Girls in Space.

Goe, can barely stand to watch Battlestar: Galactica now.


Sanctimonious Hypocrite said...

I would watch Gilmore Girls in Space, as long as I could mute the sound when they started babbling.

They way to deal with Gilligan's problem is to embrace it. The coyote never catches the roadrunner, and they never leave the desert. Gilligan should have just stayed on the island; No dream sequences, no extended flashbacks.

Also, no making friends with your enemies. Pick a villain and keep them evil, merciless, and implacable forever.

Tom Harrison

Rachmeg said...

And here I thought Firefly was a brilliant idea. Take what is doomed to be a cultish "B" movie, and pre-build a following by saving the sets, and putting together a Sci-Fi TV series.

I actually like the show, although it pretty much seems like a re-hash of the old "Wild Wild West" (future tech, shotguns and cow poop.)
I think any innovation in the show, will depend on the success of the movie. Until then any character development, is sort of locked in place.

I have to admit that I am a sucker for the Babylon5/Lost type story arc, although there is a limit to just how many plot twists you can introduce without resolving any of them.

What I really hate is when the writers of what would otherwise be a good Sci-fi show feel the need to interject their own liberal morality. Star Trek Next Gen was horrible for that. The episode that still bugs me is one where misunderstanding aliens capture the bridge crew and start to make perfect clones of them.(in the same way I think they made clones of their own people) After the good enterprise crew finds out, they immediately head down to the cloning tanks. Just as they arrive, the cloned Rieker starts to open his eyes. Setting his phaser to kill, Rieker ends his doppelgangers short life. Passing the phaser around, they all take turns murdering their now helpless but living twins. A commentary is made that we each have a personal right to decide when and how to reproduce.

From that same series, I always felt sorry for the duplicate Rieker that was created by a transporter malfunction.
The storyline goes that in his early years as an officer Rieker helped to evacuate a planet that was facing some sort of doom. Personally remaining to be the last one off the planet, he makes sure everyone gets away safely. In a fluke transporter problem he is split into two copies, one beamed up, and one remained on the surface.

The Rieker that beamed up, is rewarded as a hero for his bravery, gets a big promotion that starts his meteoric rise in stature, and ditches his girl for his job. Yet in any factual discussion of transporter theory, this guy is the copy made from the computer buffers, only the Rieker on the surface is made of the original matter.

The poor sap that actually got stuck on the planet for 15 years, gets no respect, doesn’t even get a promotion, doesn’t get the girl he still loves, and has to change his name and move to a distant part of the galaxy. So much for real heroes.

Rachmeg said...

oops, forgot a tag line

Rach saying don't drink the water

Goemagog said...

Gilligan's problem is fine for a show as long as the main problem is essentially unsolvable, and the stories are driven by the many problems created by trying to live with the big problem. When problems are created just for character development though, as it is in most non-sitcoms now instead of as a pressing need caused by the big problem, then the characters spend all their time talking instead of actually doing anything, making the show a 'gilmore girls in space'.

Goe, caught bits of 'gilmore girls' while waiting for supernatural.

Goemagog said...

and the firefly show was cancelled, that's why they made the movie. if the show had been more successful when it was on, it'd still be in production and in syndication.

But you notice that they don't mention in the ads that he's the writer of alien 4.

Goe, hated that one almost as much as 3.