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October 14 2005

(SPOILER) Shack reviews Serenity. A negative review from Television Without Pity's former recapper for Firefly.

Ok, this is obviously a review from someone who doesn't get Joss' writing in a big way.

A lot of the points are just plain wrong, like "Oh yeah, if you need just one plot and want to make it drag on and on, Joss is your man.". If that was so then there wouldn't be a host of minor characters from all the shows who have their own fans because of the complex and interesting back story of almost every character.

"...a mess of concepts with no real direction" - you could equally say this about B5 or BSG. It is the interaction of all the concepts that make these shows interesting. It also rather contradicts the "one plot" comment.

I don't think the argument that show embodied "conceptual mediocrity" is reasonable either. I have yet to find anybody who. once they saw some of the series, didn't love it. That's what Joss always said he wanted to do and with the strength of the fanbase it is absolutely obvious he succeeded. There may be exceptions like Shack but they seem to be a minority. The more interesting question is how does Joss get a larger number of 'non fans' to watch in the first place?

One point I do have some sympathy with is the point about Simon having a strength of character at the start of the film that he does not develop until Ariel. This bothered me as well. Thinking about it a bit more I realised that it was necessary to make the film flow properly. I hadn't realised just how tough a job going from the series to the film was going to be, until I saw the movie. Joss uses a lot of technical skill to get out of the trap, the exposition sequences at the start are amazingly well done, but the trap is still there. The inconsistencies in Simon's character end up being the 'least bad' way of getting out of it.

At the heart of the review, and my response to it, is the writer's opinion of Joss. I've watched, listened to and read, a lot of his stuff and I'm convinced he is a very smart guy. Whenever I see something that looks like an inconsistency I'm more likely to believe he is setting something up. Somebody like Shack who has developed a negative view will see it as a mistake. Sometimes Shack is right, even Joss doesn't get it right every time, but if you turn away from Joss' work because of that you will be missing scenes of absolute magic that show up in his work much too often for it to be by chance.

For instance "If Joss Whedon told me that he actually had a real plan or reason to make Inara a space hooker, I would call him a liar to his face.". Well he certainly had at least one reason. Right from the beginning; The scene of Book, the Shepherd, receiving consolation, and something like absolution, from Inara, the companion, was surprising and intriguing. I would also say it is pretty obvious that Inara represents the right of women to control their own sexual behaviour. In the Companions even behaviour that is currently frowned on is shown as being used as a civilising influence on the society around them. I'm personally convinced that the Companions have some agenda like this.

[ edited by technovamp on 2005-10-14 12:50 ]
I quite like Shack and Strega's rants. You have to take them in a I'm-going-to-snark-all-over-this capacity, in which case they become quite funny. Also, Strega's Tru Calling recaps? Best. Thing. Ever. You could make a book from them.

That said, I think Shack is well off the mark with some of the critism here. Inara, case of point: she's a space hooker because he wanted one. That's what a genre show creator does: they make worlds. With characters. Who do things. Don't LIKE the characters? Tough shit.

I don't think Firefly was designed as an arc heavy show - certainly, no mapping out 5 years Babylon 5 style story telling as some would have you believe. And I don't care about that. I didn't want Babylon 5 again. The arc elements that were there, I beleive, were added on request of Fox to give it a story to build towards. Which, by the way, makes Fox wise.

Shack has some points, but they get lost on people in the way they are delivered I think, but I don't think those points have much relevance in the wider scheme. I do like the fact he delivers them without compromise in this case, it tends to make it worth a read just for that factor.

Really, though, Television Without Pity? That's a good place for snark. TWoP needs Shack. And more importantly, Strega.
I got to the part where he said, "If Joss Whedon told me he had a reason for making Inara a space hooker, I would call him a liar to his face."

I kind of stopped reading after that.
The Inara thing? There's many reasons for it, but it comes down to the "Western"-inspired backdrop--she's Joss' version of that prostitute, but with his usual twist (thanks to his wife ;-).

How is that hard to get?

ETA: I've never understood these "Simon inconsistencies" from show to movie, though--whenever it comes to River, Simon steps up to bat.

In the film, when he all that stemmed from his desire to keep River safe, which seems pretty consistent to me. He showed similar strength in the show, right from the pilot with Dobson.

And plus, time has passed. He's clearly stressed, and somewhat hardened by the life he's living, so he's gained a toughness from that.

[ edited by pat32082 on 2005-10-14 14:30 ]

[ edited by pat32082 on 2005-10-14 14:34 ]

[ edited by pat32082 on 2005-10-14 14:43 ]
I'd prefer it if this thread stayed focussed on the review per se rather than the writer or a web forum elsewhere.
I retract my TWOP statement.
I love Shack's writing. I have all his "Firefly" recaps printed out, in a binder. I also love "Firefly" and I've seen "Serenity" five times, twice in previews. How can I love both? Because while I recognize the shows structural flaws I fell in love with the characters.

I think that's the difference between the players and the player-haters: If you buy into the characters you can roll with any plotting inconsistencies. And I'm a sucker for the pretty.

Shack's entitled to his opinion and I still love his writing. I appreciate his comments much more than some other negative reviews that have cropped up on the internet. At least Shack's watched the show from the beginning.
A good test of a review is whether the people who created the work being reviewed can learn anything from it.
I have really enjoyed Shack's writing in the past too.

I just didn't agree with this "review" much.
I'm another who doesn't see that big a change in Simon's character. Right from the pilot we know he "aint weak".

Yes, the flashbacks in the film don't tally with what he told the crew, but that can easily be explained (fan-wanked) by saying he didn't tell Mal et al the truth. Why? Because he knew she was a possible weapon and knew that the crew wouldn't have helped him save a killing-machine.

But there hasn't been a huge shift in his character, imo. Firefly saw him "fall in with a bad crowd" and learn all about violence, and getting punched, Serenity just shows us how far he was willing to be pushed before he punches back.
On the subject of Simon: Mostly, what Fence said.

As for the review/post/whatever: It's obvious this guy didn't want to like Serenity in the first place. Really, I wouldn't worry about it.

His mention of Farscape as a superior show to Firefly leads me to ask (off-topic, so apologies): What do other Whedonesquers think of that show (in general, not in relation to FF)? I tried reeeaallly hard to like it, but just couldn't. I'm curious if that's just me.

Also, apparently I like colons. Who knew?
His mention of Farscape as a superior show to Firefly leads me to ask (off-topic, so apologies): What do other Whedonesquers think of that show (in general, not in relation to FF)? I tried reeeaallly hard to like it, but just couldn't.

Me too. There are definitely things to like about it, but I've never found it as interesting as a lot of people profess it to be.
In my opinion Farscape is fantastic, but, in the 88 episodes, there are a fair few stinkers, while I'm sure there would have eventually been a bad episode of Firefly there isn't one, and if the show had continued going as it started there would have been far less bad episodes after 88 than Farscape had, for starters Firefly was excellent right from the off, Farscape took the best part of a season. Farscape is really something of an aquired taste (I spent months watching it purely because it was on BBC2 after The Simpsons and I'd rather watch it than do my homework, it was near the end of season 1 when I really started to like the show), Firefly is definitely the better show.

Really disliked this review, mostly just 'cos I disagree with it.

Didn't agree with his comment about sequels, of course Joss could come up with worthy stories for them, I doubt he would have agreed to possibly make sequels if he didn't have ideas for them, there are so many possibilities for that crew, are they going to become even more hunted by a pissed off alliance, this time not just after River and Simon, but after the whole crew, or is life going to become easier for them for a time.
Just glanced at this review. For me, it's a reminder why TWOP is at first interesting, but to me seems ultimately empty and a bit nasty (in a bad way). I have no problem with him disagreeing with me about the show, I do have a problem with the tone, which is just plain unpleasant and way too self-serious. (Which may be why he doesn't like Whedon much. It's not for people who are humor-challenged.)

[ edited by bobster on 2005-10-14 19:53 ]
One thing I find puzzling is that Firefly only had 14 episodes, and the vast majority of people who've actually watched the show in the correct order (that I've met) have really enjoyed it. There is a lot of potential in those 14 episodes, but I felt that Firefly definitely "found" itself straight from the word go, whereas Buffy and Angel took a little longer to work out where they were going.

I mean how can this person possibly know that elements like Book's past or Inara being a Companion weren't going to be explored and developed much more satisfactorily in the long-term?

I also hate it when someone writing a criticism always puts in a nasty comment like "Of course all his mindless fans will disagree with me..." so any counter-argument can be dismissed just because it's from someone who loves Joss's work, like being a fan of something means you automatically give up the right to have an opinion on it.

In my opinion, fans can be even more critical about someone's work than an unbiased person. How many times have people complaing about the occasional poor episode of Buffy or Angel? How often have plot twists infuritated or impressed fans? Even now, with Serenity, some people are saying they are disappointed with it, however generally the Browncoat community, including myself, have been hugely impressed.

But had Serenity been a total flop, failing to meet any of our expectations after such a massive build up, we would probably all have been critical of it. I think that fans are just as entitled to an opinion as anyone else, and most of us have the ability to view something from a rational perspective as well as from that of a fan.

Personally I didn't see any conflict between Simon in Firefly and in Serenity. If you think of how the events unfolded chronologically, it makes sense. Simon tells the crew in the episode "Serenity" that a mysterious group helped him rescue River, and doesn't mention his level of involvement, which is exactly what happens in the film. Throughout Firefly he is always fiercely protective of River, and towards the end of the series we could see how he was adapting to his new life, getting more involved with crime and his clothing was slowly becoming less formal, small signs of how his character was developing.

I think in order to bridge the gap between "Objects in Space" and the film, it was necessary for Joss to make some changes, have Inara and Book leave the ship, and obviously other things have happened in that time. It is also noticeable that Simon's clothing has become even less formal and stuffy, shwoing how he has adapted to life aboard Serenity, and that he feels much more comfortable there.
Fence, Joss has agreed that there is an inconsistancy about Simon's story of how he got River out and what is seen in the movie. He even joked that he could do a fanwank about it but wouldn't bother. Although it might really be a Josswank, huh?
tried Farscape as well, and the writing didn't sit well with me. And well, I'm not really a big genre fan, willing to watch something just b/c it is sci-fi or whatever. I have a gut instinct that Farscape is better geared to people who love SF, and Firefly to people who don't love genre all that especially. It wasn't the muppets or the random aliens that put me off Farscape though -- it was the writing, which seemed lackluster (I'm an english major and a prose whore; I'll watch anything with good prose and dialogue) and not very good at mining character depths. The one thing I really reall enjoyed was Aeryn Sun, who is utterly kick-ass and amazing. I'm 'eh' about BSG as well, but I love the 2 female characters, Starbuck and Roslin. I just can't watch the entire show for them.
I like Farscape. I love the puppets. They became real people to me. I think John and Aeryn have dynamic chemistry, and John Crichton's entire arc is one of the most compelling stories in sci-fi, imo. It's a shame it was cancelled before the story was finished. At least we got a good finish with The Peacekeeper Wars.

I only began watching Farscape this year and I couldn't stop. I think I finished it in 3 months. A lot of the episodes are worth re-watching, but some I never want to watch again, but those were only in the first season.

As for comparing Firefly to Farscape, I have a hard time doing so. I of course love Firefly so much more, but I'm just that way about Joss' shows. Farscape is in a higher class than some sci-fi programs, even Babylon 5. I agree that Farscape is an acquired taste. Some people are put off by the puppets, and it has a sort of unique futuristic tribal feel to it. I like that though because it's kind of special.

And, whoa, can Ben Browder act, or what? Scorpius Crichton. Wow.

ETA: Why can I never for the life of me spell the name Crichton correctly? Must be a thing.

[ edited by electricspacegirl on 2005-10-15 01:22 ]
Snark, unaccompanied by any real insight, understanding, or anything that adds any enlightenment whatsoever on the topic, just doesn't do it for me. Self-aggrandizement and name-calling really take it down several pegs, too. It's hard to give the review any credence.
I loved Farscape. It took me a long time to get into it (same with Angel, which was my gateway drug into the Whedonverse). I kept flicking by and watching a bit, tuning out and then flicking back and thinking it was so silly, but once I got to know the characters I was hooked.

It had the same ability to create humour out of dire situations and had wonderful, fully distinct characters. After awhile you didn't even notice that they were blue, or alien, or even puppets. It had a ship that was a character rather than a prop and made you love it/her. I can't think of a show that had a better villain than Scorpius. The villains also usually ended up joining the ragtag band of fugatives in the end. Imagine Lilah and Angelus joining the Scooby gang.

Actually, pretty much any reason that I can give for loving Firefly are the same ones that I would give for loving Farscape. The biggest difference is that Farscape had 4 seasons to create some less than stellar episodes and it had the inevitable decline in the last season. I would say that it was on par with Firefly, but it was not vastly superior as the article would suggest. I don't know what my opinion would be if Firefly had run for a few more seasons.

I also love BSG. I think it's the best show on television right now. But it's a completely different animal to Firefly. BSG is basically a serious drama that happens to be set in space. To say that one is superior to the other is comparing apples to oranges.


[ edited by alexreager on 2005-10-15 04:34 ]
I love Shack.

And there is never any reason for ASSCAPS.

That is all.
Allyson, except in scripts ;)

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