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.