Firefly series ready for liftoff

BILL BRIOUX

, Last Updated: 5:12 PM ET

PASADENA, Calif. -- Gene Roddenberry pitched Star Trek as "Wagon Train to the stars." Now the brains behind Buffy The Vampire Slayer wants to launch his own space age western.

Joss Whedon hosted his second set visit in a week as critics were shuttled out to Twentieth Century Fox studios Friday for a tour of his upcoming series, Firefly. The hour-long drama, set 500 years into the future, stars Edmonton-native Nathan Fillion as the captain of an orphaned spaceship.

Dressed in Civil War pants, boots and leather suspenders, Fillion, who previously starred in Two Guys And A Girl and the soap One Life To Live, looked more like Woody than a would be Buzz Lightyear. He and Whedon were dwarfed by their set, consisting mainly of the cargo bay of the ship flanked by three- storey-high turbines.

"Ilove space ships. Ilove vampires," said Whedon. "This show is about people."

But not about space monsters. Whedon has a strict no aliens, no mutants policy.

Firefly is dressed in the same thrift shop style found in Buffy. Dumpy chairs, lamps and tables are strewn around the spaceship. The tiny, cell-like sleeping kennels sport metal magazine racks. There's a sick bay that looks almost as outdated and neglected as any Ontario hospital.

Whedon says he was inspired by reading an account of Gettysburg during the Civil War. His cowboys carry old fashioned guns not because phasers don't exist in the future, but because this rag-tag crew can't afford them.

Not all the critics were impressed with the partial screening tape of the series. "In space, no one can hear you yawn," was how one wit dismissed it. The original two-hour pilot has been shelved and Whedon is still fine tuning his vision. "It's just about life when it's hard," said Whedon. "When Ipitched the show, I said this is about nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things."

As for the latest Emmy snub of Buffy, this time, the producer can't blame the academy. Someone on his staff forgot to put forth an episode for consideration. Whoops!


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