Firefly: 15th Anniversary Collector's Edition
Fox // Unrated // $29.99 // September 19, 2017
Review by Randy Miller III | posted October 1, 2017
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
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Easily one of the biggest and most deserving cult TV shows of this millennium, Joss Whedon's Firefly (2002) burned dimly for just three months on Fox before its cancellation. By now, you've likely heard of its poor treatment by the network: episodes were aired out of order, new ones were often delayed, three of them weren't even shown during the original run, and the dreaded "Friday night death slot" didn't help matters either. Low ratings plagued Firefly from the beginning and, despite an enthusiastic campaign by its most dedicated fans, it disappeared abruptly. Those who missed the boat would have to wait until its hugely successful DVD release the following year, including yours truly.

Watching the series in its intended order on DVD (or Blu-ray, if you really missed the boat) revealed something that die-hard fans likely knew all along: Firefly was a fantastically entertaining series that holds up just fine today, and the fact that only 14 episodes exist is almost painful (not counting the feature-length resurrection Serenity, which I hate to admit being kinda underwhelmed by). Its nimble mixture of sci-fi and western elements---anchored by great characters, interesting stories, clever effects, and a ridiculously confident tone---created a unique atmosphere that led to plenty of memorable moments. I've sat through Firefly at least a dozen times since 2003, and there's not a bad episode in the bunch: that's something I can't say about almost any first [half-]season of a TV series, let alone one with so much stacked against it during production. But at this point, fawning over Firefly---or even worse, complaining about "what could have been"---is pointless. New episodes will never be made, as that ship has long since sailed no matter how many petitions you sign. In any case, the lack of more episodes only makes the existing ones feel even stronger.

Given Firefly's initially disappointing ratings and the lukewarm box office performance of Serenity, it's not surprising that Fox has continued to take the easy way out by milking the property with countless home video re-releases. This new 15th Anniversary Collector's Edition is, aside from nifty new packaging and a more affordable price point, exactly the same as the last Blu-ray collection from 2008, right down to the menus. To its credit, Firefly is still impressive from a technical standpoint, and the extras are plentiful even without any new ones. But what's here is starting to show its seams a bit, and the lack of a 4K UHD option leads me to believe that Fox isn't done nickel-and-diming rabid fans just yet. Luckily though, Firefly still plays exceptionally well on home video, and the fact it's now easily available for new fans to discover is great. But if you're an established fan and don't care about fancy packaging, skip this one.

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[View descriptions with minimal spoilers]

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Video & Audio Quality

Presented in their original 1.78:1 aspect ratios, these episodes of Firefly look the same as Fox's previous Blu-ray set---not that that's a bad thing, fortunately. The series was shot in 35mm (with some 16mm footage) and, as such, translates well to home video; had it been created a few years later, it might've been stuck in that awkward initial transition from film to digital video. Texture, image detail, and earthy color reproduction are all quite good, with solid black levels that are occasionally crushed for stylistic effect. Indoor scenes, especially within the various spacecraft, hold up perfectly well with excellent shadow detail. Even the film's outstanding visual effects---which were certainly ahead of their time, especially for a TV show---blend in almost seamlessly, although their somewhat limited resolution might be a primary reason why Firefly hasn't transitioned to 4K yet. Either way, a fresh new scan might have yielded slightly better results...but I was happy with how the series looked on Blu-ray initially, and I'm still pretty happy with it now.


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The audio also holds up well, featuring a default DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that easily gets the job done. Speech and primary sound effects are very crisp and clear, with strong (but not overpowering) music cues, an ample amount of surround activity, and other atmospheric touches on occasion. Firefly has always sounded great on home video, and it's doubtful that any sort of 6.1 or 7.1 tinkering would have beefed up the overall experience in any meaningful way. As with the previous Blu-ray collection, optional dubs are provided during the episodes in German (DTS 5.1), French, and Spanish (both Dolby Digital 2.0), with subtitles available in English, Spanish, and...Dutch, for some reason.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

Fox's interface for Firefly: The Complete Series looks and sounds great, really capturing the show's feeling and style...but boy, is it sluggish. I blame the recycled Java-enhanced interface for that one, although criticizing the menus is kind of nitpicking. The real attraction here is all-new packaging, as this three-disc set is tucked inside a handsome fold-out case with three sleeves, which in turn is packed in a slightly rubberized matte-finish outer case made to resemble leather. Also included, of course, are a nine Character Cards and a Poster Map of the Firefly 'Verse. Overall, it's a sweet package...but enough for a double-dip? Depends on your level of disposable income (newcomers will love it, though!).

Bonus Features

Everything from the 2008 Blu-ray collection (most of which were initially created for the original DVDs), and spread across all three discs in the exact same order as before. These recycled goodies include eight Audio Commentaries (for "Serenity: Parts 1 and 2", "The Train Job", "Shindig", "Our Mrs. Reynolds", "Out of Gas", "War Stories", "The Message", and "Objects in Space"); a vintage Behind-the-Scenes Featurette ("Here's How It Was: The Making of Firefly"); plus a "Firefly Reunion Lunch" interview with Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, and Ron Glass from 2008.

A handful of odds and ends are also ported over, including short featurettes like "Joss Tours the Set" and Serenity: The 10th Character, the cringy "Joss Sings the Firefly Theme", a few Deleted Scenes, an enjoyable Gag Reel, and Alan Tudyk's Audition. As always, these extras offer a mixture of bittersweet moments, entertaining goofs, honest accounts of trouble behind the scenes, and more...but yeah, nothing new for die-hard fans aside from the packaging.

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Firefly was a short-lived but extremely memorable series that continues to draw in new fans almost 15 years after its brief existence on Fox. If you don't love it, you're either wrong or hold some kind of grudge against Joss Whedon and I don't want to be your friend. Its immense cult status has almost overtaken the franchise as a whole, yet the original 14 episodes stand strong and hold up quite well to repeat viewings. It's the kind of series I'll continue to revisit at least once a year, which makes owning a copy on home video pretty much mandatory. But if you have Fox's last Blu-ray set from 2008, this new Collector's Edition offers nothing more than fancy packaging. Newcomers, especially those who couldn't afford the earlier Blu-ray set after it went out of print, should consider this a no-brainer: it still looks and sounds great with plenty of extras, even if they're almost old enough to drive by now. Highly Recommended.


Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.


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