Something’s got to be your least favorite of a show’s run, and “Safe” is the Firefly that I really don’t enjoy, but I remember, when I first saw this show, watching these episodes together in one evening, and it’s actually structured so well that episode six addressed my main complaint with episode five. In “Safe,” the Tams get abducted by some “hill folk” in need of a doctor for their very isolated town, but River’s weird psychic connection with people, which they’re only starting to explore at this point (Summer Glau doesn’t even have any lines in episode six and is hardly seen, as though she was unavailable for filming) freaks out the locals, who decide to burn her at the stake because she’s a witch.
And I remember thinking “Really? We’re still doing crazy religious people plots in the 26th Century? We’re not saying that the future isn’t better on that point?” And the very next episode proves that we are not.
“Our Mrs. Reynolds” is one of everybody’s favorite episodes, and the kid liked it tremendously. It guest stars Christina Hendricks as somebody from another crazy religious community who ends up married to Mal in a local ceremony that he did not understand was a ceremony, and only wants to please him, like her Bible said. Our son loved the business of everybody being either furious with Mal or finding great comedy in his situation, and indeed it’s completely splendid on that front, so much so that when we learn that Hendricks is not actually from such a crazy religious community as we believed, he was so wrong-footed that it took him ages to catch up.
But I also really admire the very casual and very believable world building. There are lots and lots of planets and moons in this system, and a scarcity of resources has meant that most of these far-afield settlements have had to be built with no tech at all. We get hints that the cities on the major planets are full of corruption and pollution so dense the sky can’t be seen, and see that life on the outlying places is incredibly tough, with no electricity, very scarce resources, and rare deliveries of goods. These are worlds where ignorance and superstition are bound to come back into play, because there’s no modern world to keep them out. In fact, the next episode is all about the power of myth, in its way.