Firefly: S01E01: The Train Job
The shows opening sequence was pretty informative, it was narrated by the ships religious dude (known as Shepherd):
“After the Earth was used up we found a new solar system and hundreds of new Earths were terraformed and colonised. Some planets formed the Alliance and decided that ALL the planets should join under their rule. There was some disagreement on that point. After the war many of the people who had fought and lost, drifted to the edges of the system far from Alliance control. Out here,people struggled to get by with the most basic technologies. A ship would bring you work. A gun would help you keep it. A Captains goal was simple; find a crew, find a job – keep flying.”
The opening scene is in a bar (great start!) which looks a little like an old set from Star Wars without the latex. At one end is a belly dancer that slowly makes her way to where Han Solo (Captain Mal Raynolds), Chewbacca (called Jayne ?!?) and Princess Leia (Zoe) are sat playing a sort of space checkers. The belly dancer belly flops her way over to the Captain and secretly hands him a note. Mal takes it and carries on with his game. He is losing.
First impressions of the main characters… well, pretty darned good actually! The good lady wife exclaimed “Ahh, he’s cute” (meaning Captain Mal) and I almost said the same about the stunningly attractive Zoe. What Jayne lacked in charm he more than made up for with his opening remark about the Captains checkers playing ability, “Nice move dumb-ass!”
At the other end of the room, a drunk is propping up the bar. He screams for the place to quieten and insists that every-one join him in a toast to the Alliance. Mal doesn’t drink a toast and instead walks over to the bar for a drink. It’s fairly clear to the drunk that Mal is not a fan of the Alliance and you just know that a bar brawl is about to start….
Captain Mal insults: “…And I’m thinking you weren’t burdened with overabundance of schooling.” Is it me or does anyone else think Mel was schooled at Sunnydale High? Nobody else talks like that! The fight leaves Mal, Zoe and Jayne battling with the rest of the bar clientele (all stalwart supporters of the Alliance it seems). Mal calls the ships pilot of the radio, “Wash, we have some local colour happening. A grand entrance would not go amiss.” The spaceship (a Firefly class transport ship called Serenity) arrives – and it was a great entrance! Wash kindly informs the brawlers, “Every man there go back inside or we will blow a new crater in this little moon.”
A little later, back on the ship, the Captain informs his crew (Kaylee the ships very sweet Engineer, Zoe his loyal (and somewhat doting) First Officer and Wash the Ships Pilot (Zoe’s husband)), “Ladies and men-folk, we have ourselves a job. Take us outa the world Wash, we got us some crime to be done.” Ughhh! He shouldn’ta orta of gorn and done that – this ‘ere dialogue stinks higher ’an a bob-cats butt!
Then the opening credits… the Firefly theme tune is a country and western song complete with banjo and fiddle! Joss Whedon was once said, “country music is the music of pain” and believe me, it doesn’t come much more painful than this! Ironically, Joss wrote the theme song himself! The lyrics basically mean, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but I’ve got a kick ass spaceship!’ Personally, I would have preferred the tune from Rawhide with the lyrics, “Flyin’, flyin’, flyin’, Break from the Alliance, Keep them engines runnin’, Firefly…”
After reeling from the shock of the theme tune we then see a young girl lying on a doctors table dreaming of a terrible operation… needles are inserted into her by some guys dressed like surgeons. The young girl, River, wakes screaming and jumps off the table. Her brother, Simon, comes over to comfort her. They are both passengers on the Serenity.
We learn that River is a fugitive from the Alliance, more specifically a place (or institution) called the Academy. It seems that the Acadamy were responsible for performing frightful operations on River that have left her traumatised… and something else…We’re not sure what it is yet, but you just know there is something more to this girl.
Mal comes in to check on his passengers (Simon, and River) and fix his bloodied knuckles. As he leaves, River looks him and mentions quietly to her brother, “Mal. Bad. In the Latin.” I’m not sure what that means, but at least she didn’t say, “In the Biblical”.
As Mal leaves the ships surgery, he runs into Shepherd, the ships religious dude. Shepherd enquires after the health of River and provides us with a short exposition as to why Simon and River are on the ship (Simon bravely rescued his little sister from the evil clutches of the Alliance, he basically gave up a good job as a wealthy doctor on one of the better-off Alliance planets. They now hide from the Alliance on-board the Serenity).
Mal took them on (and Shepherd) for the fare money, but as Shepherd pointed out, they are collectively, poor. This scene therefore begged the question, ‘Why bother? They would surely be more hindrance than help! Possibly he felt sorry for the young River, or possibly he was attracted to a couple of her little tributaries. With the exception of Simon (now acting as the ships doctor) we will have to wait until a later episode to find out.
Kaylee is in Inara’s quarters (Inara’s own shuttle, housed in the Serenity’s Shuttle Bay). The super sweet Kaylee is having her hair brushed delicately by a high-class concubine, Inara. Yep, this was a great scene, low-cut dress, sweet smiles lots of caressing of hair and … and… more exposition.
Inara is a whore, a concubine known as a ‘Companion’ for the rich and she is also a member of a Companions Guild. This Guild for whores has a law (?!) that protects their members from having to take on clients that they don’t like (which is surely dependant on how short of money they are at the time). Inara tells Kaylee that she isn’t just interested in a clients looks, “You also look for a compatibility of spirit, and there’s an energy about a person that’s difficult to hide.” Which basically means that she is only interested in bonking nice people for money.
Mal joins them and adds, “And then you try to feel the energy of their credit account. It has a sort of aura….”
The sweet ships engineer leaves complaining and the all the lovely hair brushing and smiles and caresses cease. Mal inquires, “You’re servicing the crew now?”
“Only in your lonely pathetic dreams!” replies Inara (very unfairly I thought!), “What do you want?”
Mal tells Inara that he has a job for the crew and tries to explain that it might be dangerous and that he thinks she should not be involved. That’s all very chivalrous of him and all, but he’s quite happy for the lovely Zoe and Kaylee to be involved, why not Inara? Could it be that Mal fancies the ships bike!? It certainly seems so, Mal is all coy and insecure as Inara quietly exclaims her surprise at his concern.
The scene was very nicely played and despite my picky attention to the character, Inara does not come across as a modern-day streetwalker, more of an independent businesswoman who carries with here a certain air of authority and a very nice figure. In the series she is known as the Ambassador, which always makes me giggle. The comparison of a beautiful woman selling herself for money and an Ambassador is far too close for comfort.
When the serenity reaches it’s destination Captain Mal, Zoe and Jayne travel down to meet up with a space mafia type called Adeline Nietchka. He has a terrible Russian (or some other East European) accent and harps on about reputation and how ‘solid’ they all are.
Mal, Zoe and the big dude (called Jayne) stood listening to a stupid monologue of drivel from the old mafia dude. The only break from which appeared when he opened a door to let them see his dead nephew hung upside down on a meat hook. Apparently his only crime was, “he couldn’t do the job.”
The dialogue and accent were overdone and I kept muttering, “Enunciate you ol’ git! We haven’t got all day!” The only redeeming feature of the whole scene was a superb lamp on the old dude’s desk. This was a great! It’s a shame the rest of his office looked like a warehouse closet.
In the end, Mal is told to steal a couple of boxes from a moving train. If he does, he gets handsomely paid (there’s even a down payment). If he doesn’t he is dead.
The show moves quickly along and we see Mal and Zoe on board the train making their way to the carriage where the two boxes are located. on their way they can’t help but notice a whole regiment of Alliance forces.
Back on the Serenity, Inara and Book chat in the ships galley. Book (The Shepard) asks Inara (The Ambassador) …. Good grief, basically the old priest asks the whore what such a respectable girl is doing on a ship like this. (?!?!)
Inara tells him how it’s difficult to find good clients the further away from the Alliance you go and Book talks about how useless he feels on board. And lets face it, he is useless, all he has to offer is religion to a bunch of agnostics! Inara suggests that he pray for their safe return. And when Book complains that the Captain doesn’t want his prayers, she says, “Then don’t tell him.” She turns and whispers quietly, “I never do.” Ahhaa. So she regularly prays for his safe return huh? We must therefore conclude that Inara has a bit of a thing for Captain Mal. Aww sweet, I wonder if she thinks about him when she’s with her clients.
On the train, Mal realizes that the regiment of Alliance storm-troopers (I say storm-troopers because they’re troopers dressed in heavy wet-weather gear) aren’t guarding the cargo, they are simply being transported to another place. They make their way to the ‘goods’ and attach a harness. It’s only a small cargo so the intention is that a line will be lowered from the Serenity flying closely over the top of the train.
A few metres above, on the Serenity, Kaylee makes ready the line and is interrupted by Simon. These two definitely have a thing going on, they’re all flirty and sensitive with each other. Jayne bumbles in and tells Simon to stay the hell outa the way. Kaylee tenderly comes to Simons defence and Jayne protests by explaining that he’s a little crabby due to the fact that he’s about to be lowered by rope, onto a moving train.
Moments later he finds himself on the train and bundling up the cargo. Just as they are about to haul their booty up to the ship, an Alliance storm-trooper comes in and in the resultant fire-fight, Jayne is shot in the leg. He manages to escape with the cargo and the trooper is subdued while Mal and Zoe make their escape back into another carriage.
When the train stops at the Paradiso station, Mal and Zoe learn that the cargo contained lots of vital medical supplies for the local mining community. Without it, many women and children and blokes might die. Mal decides then, that they should return the cargo. Unfortunately they are taken in for questioning by the local sheriff who, inadvertently forgot to wear his silver star that morning.
Worse still, on a large military space station somewhere in the vicinity, the heist has attracted the attention of the Alliance military who are mildly embarrassed about the Train Job occurring right under the noses of a whole regiment. However, they have more important things to concern themselves with and refuse to assist the local sheriff with his investigations.
The Sheriff is not an unreasonable dude, but Mal and Zoe’s story is quickly discredited and they are asked to stay a while longer.
On the Serenity, Jayne has been taken to the infirmary and patched up by a non-too appreciative doctor. River too, is acting a little more strange than usual. She mutters, “They’re coming. Two by Two. Hands are blue.” Jayne helps everyone out by telling River, “How’s about you shut that crazy mouth? Is that a fun game?” Clearly he didn’t appreciate the significance of her words…… Not that we did of course, we have to wait until the end of the show.
Jayne insists that they go to the rendezvous point without Mal and Zoe but Wash is hardly going to fly off without his wife. “You know what the chain of command is?” Jayne asks Wash, “It’s the chain that I go get and beat you with until we leave here.” The Doctor comes to the rescue by injecting Jayne with a drug and the argument is over. Inara decides to go down to the planet herself and rescue Mal and Zoe.
When she arrives in Paradiso the local townsfolk look in awe, they ain’t never seen such a high class whore afore. Inara makes straight for Mal and slaps him across the face. The Sheriff looks intrigued. Inara tells him that Mal is his ‘indentured man’ (which basically means that the lucky git is bonded to her). Apparently he still had three years left on his bond before could run away with Zoe. Wadda load o’bollocks!
He’s probably bonded because he is supposed to have slept with here and not paid his bill! As punishment he must therefore endue the rigors of being a beautiful whore’s slave for three years. BUT! Mal, in his infinite wisdom, decides to run away? Yeah, right! The sheriff looks longingly at Mal as Inara leads her Captain and Zoe away. In fact, you could see what he was thinking in the expression on his face, – ‘You lucky bastard.’
Back on the ship, Jayne is stuck on the walkway (they couldn’t drag him back to the infirmary). Zoe and Mal explain that they will be returning the cargo. Jayne tries to argue, but he is still drugged. Wash points to a group of Nietchka’s men who enter the Serenity’s cargo bay. They are worried that Mal was going to leave with their money AND the cargo. Mal politely points out that they can have the money back, it’s just that the cargo is staying there. This was surely going to end badly for one of the groups and the conversation quickly deteriorates into a fire fight.
But this was no ordinary sci-fi-firefight, it was an antique-weapons-sci-fi-firefight. Yep, they has six-shooters and pump action shotguns! – projectile weapons in the 25th century. How silly is that!
If the show is supposed to be 500 years in the future, in a region of space where resources are in short supply, what is going to be the cheapest weapon to produce? Look at radios, it’s easier to produce a powerful radio the size of a wristwatch than it is to produce a radio the size of a television set with valves and things. Is it going to be projectile weapons or the more likely energy weapons made of some cheap silicon ships and a battery. I mean, get real! erm.. I mean, get 500 years in the future real!
In the end Mal’s team won.
He loaded up his beach buggy…. Oh good grief! The guns were bad enough! And rides off into a ravine near the town of Paradiso where he intends to leave his ill-gotten gains for the Police Captain to retrieve later.
However, the Police Captain was already nearby, but since he knew Mal was about to return the drugs and since the cargo was in-tact, he let them go. Which was rather nice of him I thought.
Back at the ship, Mal politely asks Nietchka’s right hand man to take the money back and tell Nietchka that the deal was off. But the big thug tells Mal to keep his money and that he’d would surely come after him and do very bad things to him. Mal kicks the thug-dude into one of the ships huge engine-turbine-air-intake-manifold thingies and the stupid big thug is no more.
Another of Nietchka’s men is asked if he will take back the money and … but there is no need for Mal to finish, the dude agrees wholeheartedly.
Erm… How can the Serenity engine have a large air intake manifold? It’s a bloody spaceship?! There is no air in space (is there?). Possibly it’s a high tech engine that takes in air when its in an atmosphere and reverts to other fuels in space. Yeah, that’ would be ok I guess, if it wasn’t for the fact that they use pump action shotguns to defend themselves!
Later, as the Serenity speeds away, Simon is patching up a scratch that Mal suffered in the fire-fight (you know, the one with the low-tech (even by our standards!) projectile weapons. Ok, ok, I know I’m going on about this, but it’s bloody silly, right!) Mal asks how River is doing. The camera moves to the next room where we see River huddled in a corner, “two, by two, hands are blue…” she whispers. I guess she’s not doing so well.
Back on the Alliance Space Station, one of the officers greets what look like two fashion rejects from the Psi Corps. The two of them have travelled 86 million miles to track down… yep, you’ve guessed it, River. And guess what? They’re hands are blue!
And there the show ended.
Hmmm. How did you feel about this show? Personally I thought that the first episode of the new Joss Whedon Sci Fi saga turned out to be something of a damp squib. The show lacked innovation and the backdrop seemed as though it was pieced together from some cool bits of other shows – like the Lone Ranger!
Don’t get me wrong, ‘The Train Job’ was not boring to watch by any means, the production and sound were terrific! Although the much talked about camera movement was childish – it was like, ‘Hey, this is a boring scene, lets giggle the camera around a little bit to make it more interesting.’ To me, this approach is deceitful.
The Train Job hardly made its mark as the first episode of a cult TV Sci Fi series did it? Sure it was fun and exciting and some of the graphics and dialogue were pretty cool, but this was a long way off the breathtaking expanse of say the first episode of Babylon 5 (The Gathering). The humour was sometimes predictable and certainly nothing as cutting as say, Red Dwarf’s first show (The End) and the graphics and action sequences were ok, but LEXX (I Worship His Shadow) was exponentially better. There just wasn’t that feeling of, ‘wow, this is different!’
Worst still were the aliens – there weren’t any! It has been reported that Joss Whedon doesn’t believe in aliens and didn’t want to see them in his show! However from the Brit point of view, the pretence that the edge of a growing solar system was like some sort of Wild West complete with root’n toot’n frontier folk that carry six-shooters and say “ain’t” was, to this Limey, completely bloody alien! I began to feel that Joss’s brain had grown fat from the success of Buffy and Angel and that he was meandering down path paved with in-jokes.
And then I remembered why I spent a month setting up this Guide. The Buffy and Angel shows ARE cult TV shows, it’s just that they are developed for main-stream TV and I don’t think Joss Whedon would argue with that. What he has done, is make a mainstream Sci Fantasy series like Buffy or Angel interesting enough for Sci Fi geeks like me, so maybe Firefly will develop into something with the same cult following as his precious endeavours.
We should also appreciate that this was NOT the pilot. The pilot episode ‘Serenity’ was axed by Fox TV because they thought it unsuitable to be shown first (the story is, that they didn’t think it had enough action) it will be shown in December as a sort of ‘Origin’ episode.
I guess we should just give the show a chance to get going.
I’d have to rate this an anticipative 28,512 out of 10.
What did you think?
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