Firefly takes place in a low-tech setting, so there’s little in the way of geeky sci-fi nomenclature to drag things down. It’s more of a Jesse James type Western than sci-fi show. It bears very little resemblance to Star Trek.
The power of the show is in its characters. Captain Mal and his sidekick Zoe are veterans of a war, and their side lost. Bad. Now they make their living as space smugglers, and took aboard more not-so-savory types as their crew. You’ve got Jayne, the big guy who’s mean as a snake and will turn on you if the money’s right. You’ve got Wash, the ship’s pilot and Zoe’s husband, who occasionally gets jealous of Zoe’s and Mal’s relationship. You’ve got Kaylee, the most darling engineer ever. There’s also Inara, a high-class call girl who despite making tons of money and providing contacts for future crew endeavors, gets constant heat from Mal. Then there’s passengers Simon and River, brother and sister on the run from Alliance secret societies, and Book, a travelling minister with a sinister past. The bulk of their shows are about deals gone bad, or brushes with the law.
What’s so cool about the show is the way they blow away any sort of cliche. If Captain Mal walks into a hostage situation, he goes right ahead and shoots the guy than taking a second to listen to his demands.
I’m kind of “eh” about Buffy/Angel, but Firefly is simply outstanding. Non sci-fi fans definitely dig it. It’s honest, moving, and just plain plain hilarious. FOX really dropped the ball on this.