I’m not a guy who is into musicals. When I go to the theater, it’s for Mamet or Stoppard, not Andrew Lloyd Weber. But there’s one person who, in two tries, has consistently drawn me in with the musical genre, and that’s the King of the Geeks, Joss Whedon.
I love the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Once More with Feeling,” as well as Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. It doesn’t hurt that both of these have actors I’m familiar with and appreciate from other works, but I don’t think that’s the only thing that draws me, as lots of my favorite actors have participated in musicals in some form.
Joss Whedon’s musicals are set in genre fiction. It uses the tropes of science fiction and superheroes to wrap a hook around me. It makes me forget that I’m watching a musical. That and—this is what I simply can’t wrap my head around—Whedon manages to let his characters burst into song without it seeming silly. One of the brilliant things about “Once More with Feeling” is that there’s a logical reason for all the characters to be singing. As for Dr. Horrible, I think there’s just a certain magic to that set of characters as well as the tone across the show.
While there are rumors of a Dr. Horrible sequel, I’m impatient and want more now. Unfortunately, one can only dream. So I was thinking about the missed opportunities. What if Firefly had lasted longer than half a season? Could it have had a musical episode?
Let’s plot it out.
First we need, as with Buffy, a reason for it to be a musical at all. Most Firefly episodes also feature a job that can be completed (or failed) by the end of the episode. Let’s say the crew of Serenity has been tasked with stealing a device designed to create musicals out of nothing by temporarily forcing song out of any person nearby when it’s turned on. Far-fetched I know, but it’s the future, so let’s get some suspension of disbelief going. They don’t know what the device is for, but they’ve discovered that their employer is a big entertainment industry celebrity. Kaylee is too curious not to, so as they’re flying through space, she opens it, turns it on, and away we go.
Here are a few songs, which of course would be interspersed with more traditional dialogue.
- • Since Kaylee turned the device on, I guess it’s got to start with her. After the device turns on, she’s excited by her newfound gifts and the musical soundtrack the device is giving her, she runs to find Simon and tells him excitedly. He reprimands her for turning it on, also in song, and it turns into a back and forth argument/duet that plays up Kaylee’s joy for life, Simon’s earnestness, and their secret affections for each other. As Simon tries to convince Kaylee to turn off the machine and they argue in increasingly physical ways, they break the on/off switch and the crew is stuck this way.
- • We move on to Captain Malcolm Reynolds, because how long can we really go without a Nathan Fillion song? The song is all about bravado, as Mal surveys his domain. He’ll trumpet how awesome he is, and yet it takes him the entirety of the song to realize it’s odd that he’s singing at all.
- • I imagine River Tam could have a really good ballet number, Summer Glau is a dancer after all, and I can’t imagine her singing anything other than some creepy lullaby.
- • Rather than play up the comedy of the will-they won’t-they romance of Mal and Inara, why not go super schmaltzy instead? Leave the characters to figure out what happened later, and why?
- • I imagine Wash could have something fun, like “Make ‘Em Laugh” From Singin’ in the Rain, but less slapsticky.
I can’t imagine Shepherd Book having a musical number, and I know Jayne would be the only one who manages to refuse to sing. Then again, seeing him struggle with hating that he’s singing could be a lot of fun too.
The plot would take us through a struggle to find out who can fix the machine, get the ship there, and get it done without ripping the crew’s interpersonal relationships apart or falling victim to Serenity crashing, Reavers taking them out, or any of the other usual hazards. The climax could end in Wash struggling to fly the ship through all of his unintentional singing, and the others trying to help while fighting through their own inadvertent singing.
Okay, so the plot isn’t quite there. But there’s potential here. I know it. We’ve got to get this going, somehow. Serenity 2?