Joss Whedon is a name that official card-carrying sci-fi geeks everywhere hold in reverence and awe. He is the creative genius behind such commercially successful series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, not to mention many more that were not quite as commercially successful. Unfortunately, like many brilliant, creative minds, the television production powers-that-be did not necessarily see Joss’s vision of what a deeply thought-out series should be. This inability to fathom Joss’s direction coupled with the fact that the ultimate goal of television is the acquisition of money led to two science fiction series dying tragic deaths well before their time. These two series are, of course, Firefly and Dollhouse.
Firefly was the first of the pair to meet its beginning and its end. In 2002 Firefly premiered and, though originally intended to be seven seasons long, was cancelled after only 11 of the 14 episodes being aired, and those not even in the correct order. Fox was the perpetrator of this inhumane treatment of Whedon’s baby.
So why was Firefly cancelled? A mixture of bad timing, bad ratings and mixed critical reviews. The year of 2002 was, unfortunately, a year which saw the rise and empowerment of the ominous reality-show madness. The airwaves were plagued with these monstrosities. One might think that, with so much television programming requiring almost no brain-power to watch, a show like Firefly would be greatly appreciated by those who read books and have an active imagination. This was, sadly, not the case.
The ratings tanked and critics who were used to watching simple shows with simple plots scratched their head and wondered at what Joss had created. The space-western setting was the primary target of these blasphemous comments, as the critics did not seem to appreciate the unique world that Joss had created. So the supreme warlords at Fox decided that Firefly was not worth keeping around. The fans, however, did not agree.
Fans raised an outraged cry against Fox’s decision and demanded the return of the show, but it was too late. Firefly may have won several awards, sure, but Fox would not return to producing something that was quality when they had plenty of shows that were guaranteed money-makers. Amid tears, Firefly was laid to rest.
Dollhouse received a similar treatment in 2010. Another one of Joss Whedon’s masterpieces, Dollhouse dealt with some rather complicated subjects, including the nature of the self, brain-washing and human slavery. Again, the recipe that Joss used so well to produce an intelligent and engaging story fell short in the ratings as people and critics once again scratched their heads and wondered what it was all about.
To their credit, many critics remarked that once the series had gotten past the first half of the first season, and its introductory, bite-sized stories, that it began to take off and really become the great show that it was meant to be. One can only imagine how much deeper it would have evolved if only Fox had let it continue. Two seasons in, Dollhouse was gone. Dollhouse at least was given enough time to do a quick wrap-up on the storyline so that fans felt a measure of resolution – a luxury that Firefly was not allowed.
Luckily for fans, both these series’ storylines have been added to in comic book format, meaning that more of what Joss Whedon wanted to say is out there for people to read and appreciate. The worlds that he has created for people to get lost in are truly amazing and inspired (not to mention inspiring) and it is only a shame that there are not more like him.
Contributor: Matt Warren