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EXCLUSIVE: FIREFLY's Master and Commander Speaks -- Part One
An interview with Joss Whedon about his western space adventure FIREFLY
By Patrick Sauriol
December 10, 2003
Joss Whedon owns the internet. Type his name into Google and do a search and see for yourself how many fansites there are for BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
, its spinoff series ANGEL
or even for FIREFLY
, Whedon's short-lived science fiction series with a western twist from last season. Attend a convention where Whedon will be at and see for yourself how many fans turn up to ask questions and hear his stories from the trenches of Hollywood. While many TV shows can say they have a popular following, it's rare that the writers or creator of a series ever equals the popularity of the program. In Joss Whedon's case it's absolutely true: he's a superstar.
This week marks the
FIREFLY - THE COMPLETE SERIES is on DVD.
© Fox Home Video
release of FIREFLY: THE COMPLETE SERIES
, all 13 episodes of the series including three shows that were never broadcast by Fox. While the network cites low ratings for the reason the show was cancelled, a growing and vocal fanbase -- which includes Whedon -- refuse to let the show slip quietly into the graveyard of reruns. Whedon asked for and received permission from Fox to take his creation and pitch it to other networks and then later movie studios. Against all odds Whedon struck gold when Universal Pictures stepped up and agreed to finance the development of a FIREFLY
motion picture, to pick up where the TV series left off. While these things are never a certainty that we'll see the Serenity for sure on the silver screen, the smart money would've bet against Whedon before it got to this point -- and lost.
One key component of whether there may or may not be a future FIREFLY
film will be the sales of the DVD set. With TV shows growing ever more popular and profitable on the format, and especially with the aggressive campaign Fox Home Entertainment has for releasing nicely produced sets of their shows, FIREFLY
could prove to be a surprise hit. (And it also helps that the DVD set has been a top ten seller on Amazon.com ever since it was announced earlier this year.)
I had the opportunity to speak with Joss Whedon about FIREFLY
and the new DVD set, looking for the answers to unresolved questions left behind by the series, finding out about the origins of the show and what the future may hold for Captain Malcolm Reynolds and the crew of the Serenity. Here's what was learned in part one of my interview...* * *Q:
So where did you get the idea for FIREFLY
The idea I got from, well, first from reading THE KILLER ANGELS
and sort of getting very excited about the minutia of life in the west and life in the past, life when it wasn't so convenient. And for some reason that made me think of the Millennium Falcon. It's just the kind of brain I have. And I just thought that I would love to do a show with that kind of feel, that very lived-in gritty feel of everyday life but that took place on a spaceship because if a thing can take place on a spaceship I feel it should.Q:
And what was KILLER ANGELS
?WHEDON: KILLER ANGELS
was a very, I think it won the Pulitzer, it's a novel about the battle of Gettysburg.Q:
Right, the Civil War. So it sounds like the idea was always a western that was set in space, right?WHEDON:
Only western in the sense in that I wanted people to have to make due with what existed in the world, and part of that was it was a TV show. I thought that I can't afford to do a TV show where, you know, I go to Yucca Flats and pretend it's another planet every week. I don't want that claustrophobic feel of, you know, here' s a set that's another planet. So I came up with the idea that if we terraformed planets we would make them Earth. That way every planet that they landed on we could shoot Earth and that would be financially viable. It sort of helped me develop the concept that we're living with the basics here, that the western old feel would be more literal than perhaps my first imaginings of it were.Q:
Actually, I had another question for later on but perhaps now's the best time to ask it. All the space scenes in FIREFLY
were dead quiet, just like it would be in real life since there's no sound in space, it's a vacuum. You rarely see space shows on TV or the movies where ships aren't screeching into lightspeed or shooting at each other with sound effects. Was the depiction of space in FIREFLY
a battle to get on the screen?
FIREFLY's the Serenity
© 2002 FOX Broadcasting
You know, nobody said boo about it. We didn't have giant space battles, our ship is not a fighting ship. It's a transport ship. It's their home. So apart from the occasional blasting away from somebody who's trying to get at them we really didn't have a lot that would necessitate noise and where we thought that would be improved by noise we would use music. A blasting music cue could do your work for you in terms of a galvanizing explosion. But then sometimes it was great to use the creepiness of it.Q:
That's exactly what I thought, it came across as really creepy.WHEDON:
I wanted that thing that Cameron was obsessed with TITANIC
which was how tiny we are out there.Q:
That's cool. Now, you have all thirteen episodes of the series on the DVD. When you started the show you must have had a story arc in mind. I read a bit about how Fox was getting all of the episodes out of their original order, but when you watch the shows in the way the were originally mean to be watched there's definitely a progression to the characters. For fans who are getting the disc set and left wondering what the grand plan was, can you tell now what was the idea for the characters? WHEDON:
No, not in detail I know, the movie is in development, but were people going to come in and exit like they do on your other series?WHEDON:
People come in and exit...that's just a function
Adam Baldwin, Nathan Fillion and Gina Torres star in FIREFLY.
© 2002 FOX Broadcasting
of the reality of TV. Luckily we had a show about the mundane lives of people who are travelling from place to place, [so] it would fold in perfectly. But the fact is that people quit, people get fired, people just sort of move on. People come to a show and they're so great that you can't not have them anymore. There's a flow, that's just the way it is. People get spinoffs! I mean, there's all sorts of things that happen and you just sort of roll with that.
These were the characters I loved and these were the actors I loved playing them. That's not to say that four years down the line the emphasis might have shifted slightly because of one pair or another. You just have to be ready for it. I wasn't planning on killing anybody but I'm always ready to. I explained that very carefully to them when we started. I said, "this is the airlock."Q:
"You have to be very careful around it."WHEDON:
Exactly. Unless your last name is "Firefly". Oh, nobody's name is Firefly? OK then...* * *
In part two of my interview with Joss Whedon we'll find out what his thoughts are on the DVD set, what his best and worst experience was making the show, what he thinks of his voice singing the FIREFLY
theme song and why it's on the DVD and maybe -- just maybe -- a little about why he's sworn to secrecy about the FIREFLY