Cut 'Em Off at the Horsehead Nebula!
By Bruce Bethke
So we’re sitting in the rec room, watching Serenity on the big screen with the surround sound cranked. Only we can never simply watch a movie: there’s just one degree of separation between us and the folks who did Mystery Science Theater 3000, and I’m afraid that all too often, it’s audible.
For example, right now Larry the Astronomer is in hog heaven, trying to work out the celestial mechanics of the Firefly universe in his head. (“Maybe if we start with a couple of super-Jovian worlds orbiting the blue-white primary in a Sirius-type binary system, and most of these so-called worlds are actually terraformed moons. . . .”) But John theScreenwriter is having some trouble understanding why I’m so excited about a movie based on a TV series that was canceled halfway through the first season. I briefly consider dragging out the DVD boxed set and forcing him to watch at least the two-hour series premiere, but there’s not enough time for that, so I settle for, “John, think of this as the anti-Trek.”
That’s a good opening gambit. We’ve long since agreed that Star Trek’s Federation is some kind of intrusive and heavily militarized police state. Now we only argue over whether it’s a socialist or fascist utopia.
“Firefly,” I continue, “is set some five centuries in the future, and six years after the end of a failed war for independence against the Alliance: the oppressive central government. Now, Mal here–”
John interrupts. “–is Han Solo with an actual backstory. I get …