I know exactly when my tastes in Science Fiction and Fantasy began to change to what they are today - December, 2003. While driving a friend up Burlington, we stopped by the University Mall in South Burlington, ostensibly to do some Christmas shopping. Earlier that week, I was reading a copy of SciFi Magazine, which had run a review of the recently released Firefly DVD set. It had an outstanding review, and with a little more followup research on Amazon.com, I was stunned to see this with a full five star review almost universally. I hadn't seen any of the show, so picking it up from the mall that day was a somewhat whim purchase. It looked interesting, and with the coming vacation, I would have plenty of time to watch it.
When I returned home, I sat down and watched the first episode. It wasn't until a couple minutes into the show, after the opening introduction that the show hooked me, hard. There was something about it - the superior CGI, witty dialog and interesting storytelling that I really hadn't seen in a whole lot of television shows before. To be fair, I hadn't really watched a lot of SciFi TV prior to this - some Stargate, some Star Trek, but not a whole lot beyond that. For the next three days, I watched the entire series, bouncing around the house humming the theme song, before telling my siblings about the show and marathoned it with them over the next couple days.
I can extoll the virtues of the show endlessly. After Star Wars, Firefly became a new series for me to completely obsess over. Watching the show from that point, and eventually watching the commentaries, I began to view science fiction in a far different manner than I had before. Whedon's technical commentaries on how the show was shot - how they did the lighting, what the dialog meant, and how the characters came to be - as well as seeing something completely different - made me begin to look at television and how science fiction should be in a far more critical level.
Shortly on the heels of Firefly came a second franchise that I like just as much - the 2003 version of Battlestar Galactica, which was released as a pilot miniseries in December. I watched it after reading several articles (again from SciFi Magazine) and like Firefly, fell completely for the show, but in a different way. Like Firefly, Galactica presented a non-conventional approach to space sci-fi with its presentation and storytelling, and I really liked that, along with the fantastic CGI, characters and stories.
Both shows are rarities in the genre. There are very few shows that have similar content, which is a huge shame. I like space ships, visiting new planets, especially in the manner that Battlestar Galactica and Firefly went about it. A third show that I came across several months later, Farscape is also up there.
The way that I viewed these shows percolated down to other elements of how I viewed television shows, movies, books and comics. I began to take in these while paying far more attention to the story, characters and the smaller details that I'd previously missed or never paid a whole lot of attention to. Instead of taking things at face value, liking things simply for the sake of liking them, a critical perspective helps to fully realize and enjoy the story for all of its points.
So, this December, I'll be back to my roots and revisiting some of my more favorite episodes. It's liely been a year or so since I've actually sat down to watch an episode of Firefly, and it's been a while since I've watched Battlestar Galactica. It will be a fitting thing to do as that paticular show draws to a close with the final season this spring.