Thursday, June 25, 2015

Not!Firefly

I've really missed Sci Fi (now SyFy) Fridays. I don't know how long they've been showing wrestling in that spot, but it seems like forever since the golden age of three (or more) solid hours of science fiction programming on Friday nights. Usually, there was at least one Stargate show, often two (SG-1 and Atlantis), sometimes Battlestar Galactica, sometimes Doctor Who. And for a brief time they showed the entire series of Firefly in the pre-prime time slot. I'd settle on the sofa with a pizza at six and watch all night.

And now it's back. They've moved wrestling to another night (it still doesn't belong on the network, but I guess if it helps pay the bills and keep the other stuff on, I can live with it), so we have three hours of science fiction shows on Friday night. And, wonder of wonders, two of those actually involve spaceships, something SyFy has avoided for a long time while they've focused on shows that were more "paranormal" than science fiction. I like a lot of the paranormal stuff, but I also enjoy spaceship shows.

The first hour is devoted to the returning Defiance, which is sort of a post-apocalyptic Western with aliens on earth. The next two hours are new shows that both fall into the category of Not!Firefly. Otherwise known as "we loved Firefly, so we wrote fanfic and then filed off the serial numbers and added a twist or two." I can hardly criticize, as my very first attempt at writing was Star Wars mental fanfic with the serial numbers filed off. In my defense, I was twelve. And I didn't get a TV development deal out of it. But hey, I liked (loved, obsessed over) Firefly, so a couple of hours of Almost, but Not Quite, Entirely Unlike Firefly (Really! It's Totally Different!) is fine with me.

So, the first hour of Not!Firefly Night is Killjoys, which has only had one episode so far. Basically, Not!Inara is the captain, except her mystical special training seems to have been as a ninja-like assassin instead of as a courtesan, and it seems like Not!Simon is her first officer, only he's a thief instead of a doctor, and Not!Simon and Not!Mal are brothers, and they're all bounty hunters instead of smugglers. The world is very, very Firefly. We even have the evil corporation that seems to be in charge of everything. I liked the pilot, although the weak link is Not!Mal, who has none of Mal's personality or charm. Maybe he'll warm up as they go along.

Then the next round of Not!Firefly is Dark Matter, where they barely bothered filing the serial numbers off the characters, though they're in a totally different situation. It's basically Firefly Alt-Universe fanfic with the character names changed. A group of people wakes up from some kind of cryosleep on a spaceship, with no memory of who they are, why they're there, or where they're going, but they do seem to each have some kind of skill that comes to them without any memory of having learned it or having used it. The woman who just falls into the captain role is Not!Zoe. Then there's Not!Simon and Not!Jayne. There's a young girl who's a blend of Kaylee and River, and RivLee is so obvious in her origins that I can't even put the Not! in there. I'm thinking that the Asian swordsman is maybe a gender-flipped Not!Inara (for the mystic exoticness, not so much for being a courtesan, though who knows?), and then we have Not!Book. The only slight twist is a rather snarky android with homicidal tendencies, who did not appear in Firefly (unless maybe she's our Not!Mal). We don't learn any of the characters' names until the very end of the pilot, and they refer to each other by numbers that I can't keep straight, which doesn't help my tendency to refer to them by their Firefly character names.

I was a little ho-hum on this one, mostly amusing myself by mapping all the Firefly parallels, until the very end of the episode and we learned who they were, and that intrigued me enough that I immediately watched the next episode (I was watching OnDemand). I'm kind of a sucker for "blank slate" stories, the idea of what would you be if you didn't know who you were, and I have a feeling that the identities we learned about may not be that straightforward (I have theories, based on the obvious Firefly 2.0 situation, but we shall see if I'm right).

It's not Firefly, nowhere near the same level of writing or acting, and I wouldn't recommend that they re-run the real deal in that pre-prime time slot because the newcomers would suffer in comparison, but if you have the original memorized and want something new that kind of scratches a similar itch, check these out.

2 comments:

Dan Higdon said...

I'm enjoying both shows, too. "Dark Matter" is one I'm watching with the kids. "Killjoys" looks like it's going to not be something they're interested in, but I'm a fan.

Though you nailed it - they are very much Not!Firefly shows. I'm convinced that RivLee is actually a princess, and not part of the crew, so maybe she's RivLeeNara?

Regardless, it's nice to get some more "Spaghetti Westerns in Space" on TV again. It's been a long time since Firefly and Cowboy Bebop.

Shanna Swendson said...

It's been ages since there's even been much of a show involving spaceships. Was Stargate Universe the last? (That's a show I switched off in mid-episode, midway through the first season.)

I've been wondering if they kidnapped RivLee. I don't think she's part of the crew, so either she was some kind of refugee taken in by the mercenaries with hearts of gold (as in Firefly) or they kidnapped her.