Farscape vs Firefly

John Crichton: “I can’t be your kind of hero.”

Crichton Snr.:  “No, you can’t.  But each man gets to be his own kind of hero.”

It is this exchange in the first episode that could be used to describe the difference between these two science fiction TV series.  That difference is down to the difference between the main characters.  They are their own kind of hero, though truly, only one of them is heroic.

Mal Reynolds captains the Serenity in “Firefly”. He is a part time smuggler whose character seems lifted completely from Han Solo.

John Crichton is an American astronaut who enters a different part of space through a wormhole.  He lands close to the Moya and joins its crew of outsiders.

As I’ve hinted, I believe the main difference between the two is the character of the hero of each story.  I use the term hero for “main character” in this case.  The problem, of course, is that only one is heroic.

Reynolds is the very definition of a self-centred person.  His actions and words demonstrate this throughout.  His first concern in every situation is himself.  There are certainly numerous times that he does the right thing, but each occurrence simply coincides with Reynolds looking out for number one.  If your well-being helps him, then he’s your hero.  If not, sorry.

Crichton arrives in a generally immoral environment.  He refuses to let it compromise his morals.  He knows what’s right and he risks his safety and standing to defend it.  He abhors random violence.  He rejects bigotry.  If you need someone to help you, this is your guy.

I stopped watching Firefly after four or five episodes because its hero had nothing to offer me.  I love Han Solo as much as the next guy, but Solo changed in his hero’s journey.  He learned to care for others and rely on others.  I’m watching Farscape on Netflix and I’m in for the long haul.  Every episode has a lesson, not just snark.

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10 Responses to Farscape vs Firefly

  1. Ben November 17, 2009 at 1:52 pm #

    Matt-

    Don’t give up on Captain Malcolm Reynolds, yet. Watch the movie ‘Serenity’. It takes the entire movie and a deathbed admonishment by Shepherd to convince him that there is something greater than himself. But, Captain Reynolds gets it…finally.

    Ben out!

  2. myoctober November 17, 2009 at 2:11 pm #

    I love both series, but Crichton’s definitely my favorite hero. As much as I love the complexity of Mal’s character, I’d have to agree that Farscape would be my choice too. However, echoing Ben, you should stick out a little more Firefly. If not for Mal Reynolds, for the other characters it has to offer.

    • Kit November 17, 2009 at 3:16 pm #

      myoctober couldn’t be more right! I think the story development is superb in firefly, its been too long since I saw Farscape, but I will now revisit it. But I do agree, Mal is in it for himself for the most part, until Serenity. Sadly Fox canceled this gem of a shoe before it could get really going, which is amazing considering the cult following.

  3. F November 17, 2009 at 7:03 pm #

    I liked both, but I have to go with Firefly. I really enjoy the mix between the Old West and Sci-Fi. Farscape was enjoyable, but almost every enemy they had flipped sides. Crais, Scorpious, even the Scarrans for a bit. It’s a bit off to me.

  4. GuyverV February 24, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    it’s a really hard comparison because farscape had so much longer to develop it’s main man. i think ben is right and if whedon had had more time with mal, you’d see that people change.

  5. Browncoat_leedavidt March 11, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    I’ve been a “browncoat” for maybe 4 years now. I watched the BDM before i ever knew or saw firefly the series. I became a browncoat for life. While scrolling through sci-fi shows via Netflixi came across a show i knew the name only,farscape,and decided to start from season 1,episode 1..Now i’m almost finished with season 4 and i must tell you that, this show is awesome ! I love the storyline,the special fx,and of course,most of all, the Crew. 88 episodes.What a treat,and what a disapointment as well.Sweason 5 would have been nice.Just like i wish they had had a Season 2 of firefly.Farscape,it a nutshell? Second best sci-fi space opera to ever hit the Verse ,in my opinion !

  6. bruce June 14, 2010 at 3:23 pm #

    Obviously you’ve never watched the Firefly Episode “Heart of Gold”, where Mal helps a brothel of helpless prostitutes with no reward to speak of. Or the fact that he sticks his neck out for both River and Simon when he doesn’t have to (See Episode “Safe”.)

  7. Rich October 23, 2010 at 3:11 am #

    I think you have Mal all wrong. He was a war hero and lost the war. He didn’t want to be a hero anymore. He gave up on being a hero however deep down inside he was still a hero. Crighton on the other hand was never a hero till he came to Maya then he thrived on the leader/hero role…

  8. Usama December 4, 2010 at 10:02 pm #

    I disagree with your characterization of Mal. While it seemed as though he was only helping you if it helped him, Mal actually did value his and his crew’s safety and independence above all else. There is an episode where one of the crew turns on the rest (the episode, “Safe”) and Mal had the option of saving himself and ditching a few of the crew, but he would never do that because he cares for everyone under his command. Then, as others have mentioned, in the movie Serenity he grows even more to risk sacrificing his crew for a truth, but even then it was connected to the fight against the tyranny of the Alliance.

    I completely agree that these two heroes were different, but both would be equally helpful in a bind. I think the difference between these two is akin to Superman (John Crichton) and Batman (Mal), where Mal is willing to break some rules for the greater good (except of course that Mal kills when necessary, where most interpretations of Batman do not). I personally would prefer a Mal character because no one is perfect and I’d rather love my commander first, then respect him (how I would feel about Mal) vs the other way around with John Crichton.

  9. Ketutar April 30, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    LOL I enjoy both Firefly and Farscape, and I too think you gave up too early.
    I think the problem is that Firefly is very much about antiheros, and that the other characters are often more heroic than Mal.

    There never was made that many episodes of Firefly, so if you sacrifice a couple of hours to see them all, and then Serenity, the movie, you might find some heroism in there as well 😉

    But – life is too short to read books, watch series and so on that don’t give you much. I doubt you miss something fundamental if you choose not to 😀