A 544 page full colour hardback bursting with interviews and trivia to tie in with the 10th anniversary of FIREFLY
Publisher: Titan Books
Length: 544 pages
What’s good: behind-the-scenes info, full scripts, glossy colour images and a beautiful cover
What’s not so good: inconsistent photo quality, some filler and it’s already been published
It may be ten years since Joss Whedon’s space western was axed, but FIREFLY just keeps growing in popularity. Its fans – or Browncoats – are renowned for their loyalty and the show’s community is fiercely devout (in case you’re wondering, Browncoats are named after the independence fighters in FIREFLY). Not bad for a show that only ran for three months. I’ve always thought of FIREFLY as the one that got away – any re-viewing is a bitter-sweet experience where the super witty dialogue, astute casting and amazing sets are all overshadowed by the knowledge it’s all going to end in a mere fourteen episodes (well, apart from 2005’s SERENITY and a handful of Dark Horse comics).
So anything new to add to the FIREFLY universe is always a welcome addition. But…here’s the rub. FIREFLY: A CELEBRATION’S contents will already be very familiar to any Browncoat out there as it’s been previously published by Titan Books in three individual volumes (THE OFFICIAL COMPANION 1 & 2 and STILL FLYING).
Firstly I have to say this is a serious heavyweight of book. It’s huge. There’s no way you’d pop this into your bag to read on the train. It’s a book designed for coffee tables and it looks fantastic; the cover is a soft brown leather-like finish with foil writing, there’s 544 pages of high quality paper and a wealth of FIREFLY information lies inside including interviews with the cast.
For the first time buyer FIREFLY: A CELEBRATION is a no-brainer; it’s jam-packed with enough interviews, photos and trivia to please any FIREFLY aficionado. The best part is the scripts. Since Joss Whedon’s distinctive dialogue is so integral to the show it’s great to have them all in one place for easy reference. Each episode includes that particular script-writer’s thoughts, as well as boxes with relevant trivia, for example Morena Baccarin’s feelings on bathing nude in front of the camera or the kind of film used (Fuji Velvia) to give flashback sequences a high-contrast look. It’s this attention to detail that draws you in and gives you a deeper knowledge of each episode. But some of the images here are of slightly dubious quality – they look like fuzzy screen grabs which is a bit disappointing.
Aside from the scripts there’s a multitude of features, from pieces on costume design (complete with sketches) and explanations of props (there’s a double-page spread on Jayne’s firearm, Vera) to composer Greg Edmonson’s thoughts on the score and unused story ideas. Personally I love this sort of behind-the-scenes snooping. But of course, if you’re a Browncoat you probably know a lot of this already.
There’s also some fairly detailed interviews with the cast and Joss Whedon, all lavishly illustrated by colour studio photos. Whedon’s interview is a highlight: he explains how he wanted FIREFLY to have a very different identity to BUFFY or ANGEL – one that didn’t use all those pop-culture references.
The last part of this tome is made up by STILL FYING; here the pieces are more focused on the legacy of the series and the growth of the fan community. But there’s still all those interviews with cast and crew, pieces on stunt work and locations and a further insight into another set of props – Wash’s dinosaurs get a look in. An interview with Jane Espenson is fascinating. While she talks more about her role on BUFFY, learning about the actual script-writing process and how they “break an episode” (that’s decide where the act breaks come) is a particular high point for me, and indeed for anyone interested in the nitty-gritty of writing drama for television.
But this section also features the weakest part of the whole book: a collection of short stories set in the FIREFLY universe. Despite being written by Jane Espenson (among others) they have a bit of a whiff of not only fan-fiction, but filler to me. I’d rather see the space used up by some more behind-the-scenes info or storyboards. ‘The Story of Monkey Shines’ also left me feeling a bit bemused. It’s an account of Nathan Fillion’s dastardly kidnapping of a toy monkey with pics of the ensuing ransom note and photos from around America (there’s a tiny pic of his mum holding said monkey). Whilst I’m sure that such “fun” activities happen in offices around the world, I think it’s fair to say you generally had to be there, if you know what I mean.
So what’s new? Well, there are nine colour prints of the crew tucked into the back cover and a facsimile bank note. But are these enough to tempt you to fork out more cash if you already have all three separate volumes on your bookshelf? Most probably.
FIREFLY: A CELEBRATION is a sumptuous read with enough trivia and extras to keep you going. For a newcomer it’s perfect. However I reckon an ardent FIREFLY fan – even one who owns the separate volumes – would love to have this far superior looking edition and perhaps the lure of the special edition prints will add to its already considerable appeal.
FIREFLY: A CELEBRATION is released 28th September 2012