PictureFirefly is presented in a solid 1.78:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. The detail is generally good, with little softness, no noticeable edge enhancement and some grain (annoyingly apparent in some scenes much more than others). The colour scheme is dominated by browns (to give it that more Wild West feel), but all of the colours are presented perfectly well, including skin tones, the ominous green of the Alliance vessels and the bright, sunny desert sequences. Blacks are solid and deep, allowing for decent shadowing (particularly noticeable during the Ghost Ship episode).
SoundAll we get for this release is a fairly basic Dolby Digital 2.0 track, which is probably a disappointment considering the predominance of solid 5.1 tracks that now grace most modern series. The dialogue is normally clear and coherent, with an almost constant score (with plenty of string work to also add to the Wild West atmosphere) that sounds simply superb but sometimes can overwhelm the dialogue slightly. There are plenty of effects, particularly from the gunfights and conflicts, so you do miss the rears having any action but the space sequences are also quite innovative in that they are silent (which is probably fairly accurate, given that it is a vacuum). This is a relatively decent audio effort, it's just a shame that there's no 5.1
ExtrasThere is an Audio Commentary for the pilot two-parter, Serenity by Creator Joss Whedon and actor Nathan Fillion (Captain Mal Reynolds). The second episode, The Train Job also has a commentary with Joss Whedon and writer Tim Minear. Episode 4 has a commentary with writer Jim Espenson, costume designer Shawna Trpcic and actress Morena Baccarin (Inara). The eighth episode has an audio commentary by Tim Minear and director David Soloman and episode 10 has a commentary by Nathan Fillion (Captain Mal Reynolds) and Alan Tudyk (Wash). The fourth disc has an audio commentary on episode twelve with Alan Tudyk (Wash) and Jewel Staite (the lovely Kaylee) and on the final episode we get another commentary with creator Joss Whedon. I don't think I know of many other series when you get a commentary on over half of the episodes, but I guess that it does have the advantage of being both short and singular, so they are unlikely to have to record any more (although I'm hoping for one on the movie). Whedon's offerings are the most interesting, with Jewel Staite being the easiest on the ear and plenty of information on the series being revealed along the way, including line fluffs, anecdotes about on-set antics and star backgrounds (like how Summer Glau was a ballerina and how she came to be in the show). The opening and closing chapters have the most general commentaries (although the final commentary does have a great deal of specific information about its unusual nature), looking respectively at the formation of this production and the rush to round everything up and lead up to the movie (focussing more on River, who was integral to the movie, Serenity), with the in-between episode commentaries highlighting key aspects on how they got those particular stories to work.
On the fourth disc there are also some other extras. First up there is a Making-Of Documentary entitled Here's How It Was. Nearly half an hour in length, it features interviews with Joss Whedon and most of his cast (including Adam Baldwin - on particularly funny form, revealing how he based his character on the great Warren Oates from The Wild Bunch and two of the girls discussing having to put on weight for the show), talking about the show and what it is about, what has happened between now and when Firefly is set and why everybody can speak Chinese (the only two superpowers left are the US and China). We see plenty of behind the scenes footage, clips from the series itself and insights about how the show came about and what happened to it. You can see how this was a project close to Joss Whedon's heart and it is a tragedy to hear how stupid Fox could be about wrapping this one up. Apparently they did not hook the viewers in fast enough, with not enough action or humour at the start and too much character development - I can't believe how stupid an argument that is. Worse still, they ruined the TV airing of the show by playing the episodes in the wrong order! For fans of Firefly and Serenity and Joss Whedon's shows in general (Buffy, Angel) this featurette is simply going to make you even more mad at Fox, but on the plus side it makes a startlingly refreshing change from the normal promotional fluff you get in the way of making-of featurettes.
Serenity - the 10th character is a ten-minute featurette on the ship itself, with comments from all the cast members and discussions from Josh Whedon, talking about how they came up with the ship and the big part that it plays in the show. There is lots of final film footage, but it merely provides background visuals for the comments from the participants. We look at the design concepts, the colour scheme of the ship (often dependant on characters), how they created the bridge and what was actually built and what rooms were merely alternately dressed sets. It is quite an interesting addition, despite its limited focus.
Alan Tudyk's audition (he plays the character of Wash) is a minute-long segment of camcorder footage showing him do the introductory scene for his character from the pilot episode. It is quite interesting, if only to show just how close he was to his final character even in audition.
There are four Deleted Scenes - two from the opening pilot, one from an episode in the middle of the series and one from the final episode. The pilot episodes show an alternate (non-action) opening and then more of the war, whilst the mid-episode (Our Mrs. Reynolds) scene has more of River and The Preacher having their silent war (also adding to River's intuition and sense of impending danger). The scene from the final episode was originally shown when it aired but was removed and placed here because Whedon felt it did not make sense in the grand scheme of his Firefly universe. All of them are well worth watching and are quality enough to have been left in although it is understandable that when they re-jigged some of the episodes they needed to remove these segments.
There is a three minute Gag Reel that was created for the Christmas (aka final) party for the cast and crew. It is very funny, with most of the actors mocking their own goofs, line fluffs and mistakes or playing pranks on one another (the moustache touch is hilarious).
Joss Tours the Set runs for little over a minute with Whedon taking a quick run around the ship set and telling you a few brief facts about it (although the Commentary and '10th Character' Featurette both cover this aspect in much more detail.
Joss Sings the Firefly Theme also lasts little over a minute and has him singing and playing guitar for the Ballad of Serenity (the opening title sequence music, which he also wrote) as the credits play.
VerdictFirefly is excellent viewing and despite its tragically short episode run, it showed promise of being one of the best series on TV. Unfortunately, thanks to studio stupidity, that was not to be the fate for it and now we have to be grateful for what we have got. Thankfully it has been given a nice widescreen presentation along with a reasonable stereo soundtrack and a bucketful of extras that should keep fans happy until Christmas and the release of Serenity. If you haven't seen it then I strongly advise you pick it up straight away - no questions asked - for this price it is worth the risk, especially since it is such quality viewing. If you have seen it then you'll already know what I am talking about and if you've seen the movie then you should go back and see the series that brought these characters to life.
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