Tag Archives: firefly

Oh, My Giddy Aunt!


The history of science fiction and fantasy television is riddled with tragedies.

There are the minor tragedies; the mishaps and unfortunate choices and events that mar what would have otherwise been shining testaments to the greatness of quality entertainment. These sad disappointments are exemplified by declines in quality such as The X-Files turning into the paranormal version of Moonlighting, Linda Hamilton being written out of Beauty and the Beast, Lost being revealed as random and pointless after the first season, Farscape not being renewed after a cliffhanger ending…

There are the major tragedies; those devastating losses and errors in judgment that cause your inner geek to sob itself into catatonia and to shrivel pathetically into a fetal position, its only sign of life an occasional mewling shudder whenever the pain becomes too acute and unbearable.

The premature cancellation of Firefly is the most recent of these tragedies. Eleven years and a miraculous sequel movie later, the wound still feels fresh.

But sometimes it’s the oldest scars that cut the deepest. I hadn’t been born when Doctor Who first aired in 1963. It wasn’t until the 1980s that I discovered the show, becoming an instant, rabid convert after just half an episode (it was the last half of episode four of The Power of Kroll that did it). But even as a latecomer to the fandom, I still remember that sense of outrage when I first learned of the BBC’s practice of destroying old tape, effectively erasing from existence entire swaths of television history. Luckily, Doctor Who remained relatively unscathed in comparison to other programs. We could at least see the majority of William Hartnell’s stories, and bits and pieces of Patrick Troughton’s years. Other shows weren’t so fortunate. Luckily, Doctor Who has long been adored around the world by a very obsessive and passionate fanbase, making the search for missing episodes something of a priority. The result has been the successful discovery of several missing episodes over the last several years.

Until today, the number of episodes still missing numbered at 106. Now, today, we Doctor Who fans can gleefully giggle and tingle over that number dropping to 97.

The rumors of found episodes have been circulating for a while, but it wasn’t until the BBC confirmed that episodes had, in fact, been found, that I began hoping that, through some miracle, the found episodes would include the final episode of The Tenth Planet (William Hartnell’s final episode, marking the first time that the title character regenerated) and the entirety of The Power of the Daleks, possibly one of the best Dalek stories of all time, and also Patrick Troughton’s first story.

I didn’t get my wish, but what we did end up getting was almost just as good, because we got two Second Doctor stories, and more Patrick Troughton is always a good thing. The Enemy of the World is a wonderful find because of Troughton’s dual role as both the Doctor and the maniacal and devious dictator Salamander. Even better may be that all but one episode of The Web of Fear was found. This one is notable for being the second appearance of the Great Intelligence (the Big Bad of New Who Series 7), as well as the first appearance of Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, better known as the Brigadier, one of the show’s longest-running recurring characters, and a beloved fan-favorite.

I can hardly be bothered to care anymore about the upcoming 50th Anniversary episode, or any other specials or celebrations. More of the brilliant Patrick Troughton is the best 50th Anniversary gift ever.


Stranger than Science Fiction

Do you ever have one of those moments where you realize that reality has become more science fiction than science fiction? And then you realize that the moment really shouldn’t be so surprising, because the time we’re living in is already so science fiction.

Gas stations are amazing. It’s utterly futuristic that you can scan your credit or debit card at the pump and avoid the hassle of dealing with the station attendant or cashier (pesky human interaction). The majority of convenience stores have only been using this technology since about 2002. Just over ten years, but it feels like forever. But it’s not a big deal. Banking is all electronic, and credit and debit systems have been in existence for at least decades, and we all know that everything is connected through a vast web of data, and automatic teller machines are everywhere. Pay-at-the-pump only makes sense. It would be dumb to not have pay-at-the-pump.

But then there’s that moment where everything you were taking for granted suddenly feels like science fiction. My family and I pull our mini-van into the local gas station. We don’t have our smart card on us (another nifty bit of technology that allows you to save a few cents on each gallon), but the wife, being stubborn, uses her smartphone to access the smart card site, which auto-enters our location with the phone’s global positioning system, which then prompts us to enter the pump number, which then activates the pump. We activated the pump and paid for the gas with a telephone. It feels like magic, but it shouldn’t. It’s just another clever use of existing technology.

Joss Whedon’s Firefly has a throw-away scene that is an example of these little moments of epiphany. Or, I suppose, un-epiphany, once the quick rush of epiphany wears off and you realize that the moment is actually rather mundane.

Wash: Psychic, though? That sounds like something out of science fiction.

Zoë: You live in a spaceship, dear.

Wash: So?

Nah, I’m going to stick with epiphany, because no matter how commonplace the science fiction realities we experience become, we’re still living the reality of science fiction. How cool is that? We’re living in a freaking spaceship.

Metaphors Be With You

Metaphors are capable of cutting to the truth of a matter, or of casting images that sear and brand the mind, in a way that simple descriptions or statements of fact are not always capable of.

Odysseus threw the stool.

Odysseus let the stool fly.

The first example perfectly explains what happened. Odysseus threw the stool. The second example explains the exact same action, but it simply and poetically implies the grace and strength with which Odysseus hurls the stool, as though the stool has a mind of its own and wants to fly toward its target. The second example is laced with a sense of power and truth that the first lacks.

Fantasy and science fiction can have a lasting, hard hitting impact on audiences because fantasy and science fiction are fundamentally geared toward the delivery of striking, powerful metaphors. More than that, fantasy and science fiction are fundamentally geared toward being read and interpreted as extended metaphors. When a story is set in a fictional world, or an altered world, it’s easy to begin perceiving it all as symbolic and metaphorical. Witness the compulsive need that some readers have to interpret The Lord of the Rings as an allegory for World War II, despite all the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The human brain is so adept at perceiving patterns that it perceives patterns even where none exist. Fantasy and science fiction, lacking a one-to-one parallel to reality, is open to being formed into very personal and deeply held patterns that the reader places onto them, even in the lack of such a pattern.

I wonder if this is why some fans (myself included, if I’m being perfectly honest) develop fan obsessions that can resemble some form of religious zealotry.

Luke Skywalker is not really a young farm boy who becomes a Jedi. He’s a metaphor for the pains of transitioning from youth to adulthood.

Buffy Summers doesn’t really battle demons, but rather the perils and hurts of high school adolescence.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds isn’t really hiding from and ineffectually railing against the Alliance.  In truth, he’s the geek’s patron saint of lost causes.

These are metaphors that can speak to us in very personal, meaningful ways.

I wonder if this is why some of us fly into a rage when our favorite properties “betray” us by transitioning to a new mood and tone, to a new storyline, to new characters, to new themes… Perhaps we become so lost in our personalizing of these stories that when these stories change, it doesn’t simply feel like change, but like a personal attack on aspects of ourselves that we hold dear.

But before we become angry, maybe we should consider the opportunity that’s being offered us to discover and formulate new metaphors, new patterns, and new meanings.

And sometimes we simply outgrow our stories, or our stories outgrow us. That’s just life.

And sometimes something is just not very good, but still, that doesn’t mean that the Star Wars prequels kicked your puppy or ate all your french fries.

Metaphors be with you.

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