Science Fiction

Farscape: The Epic Series

Distributed by: ADV Films

Reviewed by: Justine Manzano
 

             I have two obsessions in my life.  One is the Buffyverse.  The other is Farscape.  Returning to my pattern of reviewing cancelled masterpieces, I couldn't believe I hadn't written one for this brilliant Science Fiction Opera.  Premiering on The Sci-Fi Channel in March of 1999, the show became Sci-Fi's flagship show, outlasting any other in its first attempt at creating a batch of original series.  This series, with its exceptional special effects, make-up, and puppetry ran for four amazing seasons only to be axed after being signed for a fifth.  The fans started an uproar and suddenly, the efforts of the Save Farscape campaign (www.savefarscape.com) were parlayed into a 2-part mini-series movie, meant to wrap-up the evil cliffhanger ending of Season Four which nearly killed me and had me jumping up and down, pointing at the screen, and screaming "NOOOOO!!!!"  I care too much about TV.  I'm aware.


Choose your path and learn more about Farscape's epic tale:

 The Story        Relationships        Writing And Character Development        DVD Special Features        In Conclusion...
 

The Story

"Don't move or I'll fill you full of... little yellow bolts of light!"

- John Crichton, Premiere
 

     So, now that you know the broadcast history of Farscape, the next important thing to know is the story.  Farscape is about Commander John Crichton (Ben Browder), an astronaut who goes up in a space flight module called "Farscape 1" to test his own theory.  A scientist, even John is thrown off when his test ends up shooting him through a wormhole and lands him in the middle of an inter-galactic space war.  Shell-shocked beyond all belief, John's module is pulled into a bigger ship, where he looks around at all of the space-tacular differences between where he is now and what he is used to.  The most stand-out of which are the aliens that reside on the ship.  There is Zhaan (Virginia Hey), the bald, blue priestess, D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe), the rough, temperamental tentacled man, Rygel (voiced by Jonathon Hardy), the very small, selfish, and green creature (a product of the shows production company, Jim Henson Productions, which supplies all of the interesting creature make-up and puppetry for the series) who we quickly discover to be royalty, as well as Pilot (voiced by Lani Tupu), a symbiotic being that is attached to the ship, Moya - also a living being, helping it to fly and communicate with it's crew. 

     John is nearly as frightened of the crew of the ship as they are of him and it doesn't take long for the viewer to discover why.  When John is held captive, he meets the beautiful and violent Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), a pilot in a war unit known as The Peacekeepers which is made up of a distinctly humanoid species known as Sebaceans.  The Peacekeepers have been keeping the rest of the crew imprisoned for crimes, both rightfully and wrongfully, depending on the fugitive.  Immediately the rest of the crew begin believing that John is a Sebacean and thus, can't be trusted.

     Having landed in the middle of the war, John accidentally clipped a Peacekeeper Prowler (or a Jet in more human terms), killing the Peacekeeper inside, incidentally the brother of Captain Bailar Crais (Lani Tupu pulls double duty here).  Immediately, Crais attempts to capture John and by sheer proximity turns his back on Aeryn.  Rescued by the fugitives of Moya, John, Aeryn and the rest take off on the run from the largest law enforcement power in the galaxy with no weapons on their ship and nothing to protect them but their wit and their survival instincts.     

     Adding to the menace of Crais, the crew of Moya must face Scorpius (Wayne Pygram), a dangerous hybrid of Sebacean and an equally aggressive, more monstrous looking race called the Scarrans.  A high-ranking secret agent in the Peacekeeper army, Scorpius is desperate to develop a weapon to obliterate the Scarrans.  John's knowledge of wormholes immediately intrigues him and Scorpius believes that the key to this weapon lies with John.  But even Scorpius isn't their top foe.  He is eventually trumped by Commandant Mele-On Grayza (Rebecca Riggs) who, after three seasons of Moya's crew eluding the Peacekeepers is tired of being made a fool of.  Her rules: Capture them or kill them.  No negotiations.

     The original crew of Moya changes drastically throughout the seasons.  Some are lost, and more are gained.  Most notable of these additions is the Season 1 addition of Chiana (Gigi Edgley) a grey girl who faced the threat of being brainwashed against her rebellious ways before being rescued by John and the crew.  She is sexy, violent, and a little crazy and she makes an incredible addition to the cast.  Later, they pick up Stark (Paul Goddard), a crazy man who can help people's transition into death, Jool (Tammy Macintosh), an alien who was being harvested for parts illegally and can melt metal with her scream, Noranti (Melissa Jaffer), an old lady who the crew of Moya rescue on one of their daring missions, and Sikozu (Raelee Hill), a woman who is not quite an ally, doesn't really like any of them, and is ready to cut and run at any minute. 

Over the four seasons and four hour mini-series, the crew of Moya goes from being a mismatched bunch of misfits, surviving by the seat of their pants, to working together to effectively fight off their enemies.  Over time, we realize they are no slouches at survival.  And better than that, they are a family.
 

Relationships

John Crichton: Look, you're not in this alone. Everybody on board has had their lives derailed from what they thought they were gonna be. Should be. We're stuck together. And as long as we are, we might as well be...
Aeryn Sun: What? Family? Friends? I want neither.
John Crichton: Somebody's got to be there when you need it.
Aeryn Sun: No offense, Human, but what can I possible need from you?

- Exodus From Genesis    
 

     Over the four seasons of the series, each of the characters evolved, and their relationships deepened in a way that is rarely heard of in series television.  Stuck together indefinitely as they are ruthlessly hunted, the crew of Moya make their way through backwards planets in search of anything that will protect them - and they always run in to intense problems that requires them risking their behinds to solve.

     Many relationships evolve out of the series main characters.  D'Argo and John become best buds, constantly playing off of each other in their cockier, braver moments.  Chiana becomes something between a flirtation and a little sister for John, but becomes a full-on love interest of D'Argo's, who wants to start his life over after the murder of his wife (what he is wrongfully accused of) and the disappearance of his son.  Zhaan becomes a mother-figure for all in the group, granting wise advice.  Pilot and Aeryn share a growing bond when they end up in a situation where they are forced to share DNA and Aeryn and D'Argo bond over their warrior nature.

     Through all of this, in my opinion, there are two relationships that stand as the most important ones in the series.  The first of those is the relationship between John and Scorpius - the hero/villain relationship is always the most important in a series.  Scorpius is so obsessed with creating a wormhole weapon to use against the Scarrans and John is so obsessed with finding a wormhole that will get him back to Earth, that even when they try to stay out of each others way, they still find themselves bumping heads.  Scorpius even goes so far as to implant a chip in John's head during a brutal interrogation.  The chip manifests itself in the form of Harvey, a clone of Scorpius that lives within John's mind and tortures him incessantly, slowly driving him mad.  The fact that John and Scorpius (including Harvey) hate each other but can learn so much from each other is what makes this such an intriguing relationship.

     The second most important relationship on the show has to be John and Aeryn.  Fighting side by side for long enough tends to give plenty of characters on Sci-Fi shows a yen for each other, but nobody has done it better than John and Aeryn.  John is an all-American tough guy, but he's emotional, too and falls head over heels for Aeryn pretty early on in the series - a fact we learn pretty quickly when he puts himself undercover within a Peacekeeper war ship in order to obtain a tissue sample needed to save Aeryn's life.  Aeryn's love, however, is a little slower in coming.  She was born and bred to be a soldier and with the idea that emotions are not only unnecessary, but also dangerous.  This takes Aeryn a long time to get over, but when she lets go, the places this story goes is unbelievable.  Surviving John being split into two perfect versions, a baby whose father may not be John’s, competition from others, and both of their repeated deaths, this match comes through as one made in Sci-Fi Heaven.  Aeryn's causal tough girl demeanor works well with John and the crazy, cowboy-like character he slowly becomes.  This relationship quickly becomes the heart of the series.
 

Writing and Character Development

 Aeryn: "What's the matter with him?"
Zhaan: "He is Crichton."

- Back and Back and Back To The Future
 

     The stories of Farscape have amazing twists and turns that keep you at the edge of your seat, gasping for more.  A test of a shows true mettle comes when you can watch episodes from seasons back and see that the writers knew exactly what they were leading up to.  If you have ever watched an episode of Friends and thought, "When did Chandler start hating dogs?  I thought he'd rather have dogs than babies," you know exactly what I mean by this (and you're probably a loser like me).  I believe that some shows expect their audience to have minor intelligence.  Farscape is the kind of show that expects you to be quick-witted.  The television audience can catch on quickly and they are aware.

     Not only are the stories of Farscape written with a delicious attention to detail, but they are wonderfully imaginative, action-packed, and the dialogue is witty and fun.  It isn't even just the story that evolves beautifully over time.  The characters age well, changing as much as real people would if trapped in a similar situation. 

     Through the course of the series we watch Pilot grow more attached to the group and less logical.  We watch Rygel pretty much stay the same selfish lout as he always was, but he becomes protective of his newfound friends.  We watch as Chiana becomes less about sex and more about love and as Zhaan fights with her spirituality.  We watch D'argo learn to deal with his anger and Scorpius gain a frightening respect for John Crichton.  We watch Aeryn learn to love and we watch John go from being an awe-struck frightened man who saves himself by the seat of his pants to a strong, capable man who is willing to give up his home planet to protect it from war and enters with a plan that, though always risky, will work.

     By the time you make it to the final movie, The Peacekeeper Wars, these characters feel lived in: You know them.  You can't help but grin every time Crichton calls Rygel Spanky or Buckwheat…because you know you would, too. 
 

DVD Special Features

"Cue The Cool Stuff."

-Ben Browder and Claudia Black

- Farscape Undressed
 

     So, you missed Farscape's original airing.  That's no reason to be left out of the loop.  Every season of the series is out on DVD, including the miniseries that wrapped it all up.  The series is also being re-released with a "Starburst Edition" containing even more bonus features then the original.  So you can still catch up.

     The discs include a variety of awe inspiring special features for any kind of fan.  There are episode commentaries by cast and crew, although these die out by the fourth season's release.  My theory is that this is thanks to the beginning of the release of the Starburst Edition - and it's not fair.  This is probably my biggest complaint about the DVD release. There are also video profiles of cast and crew, a look at the conceptual artwork that gave rise to the fantastic special effects, images galleries, and production stills.  For those of you who view this as a DVD-Rom, you will gain access to Screen Savers as well!

     Since the show was made in Australia, the DVDs also contain deleted scenes that were either cut from the episode for length or couldn't make it past the censors in The States.  You can also find a wealth of bloopers-which are not cheesy like some blooper reels, but are hilarious.  There are interviews about the end of the series, a featurette containing the speech at the final taping and an in-depth look at the Save Farscape campaign. 

     There's a wealth of information to be obtained here.  Anyone who loves television a little more than is natural can have fun with the special features. 

           

In Conclusion…

 John:  "Do you want to see it? Do you want to see what you've been chasing me and my family for years for? Do you want to see a wormhole weapon?"

-Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars


            Personally, I consider Farscape to be the epitome of what a television show can be: a series of many one-hour feature films.  That's the way it should be.  The cast and crew of the series perform beautifully, the acting is skilled and evokes emotional extremes at every turn, and the behind-the-scenes work done by the Henson Company had me feeling as though even Rygel and Pilot were just very well made up actors.  The most important thing about the series is that it is brutal and real - it makes no apologies about its gritty nature and angry political views.  This is not the clean and sterile world of Star Trek.  This is a war zone.  This is what television should be.  This is what Science Fiction should be.  This is Farscape.  

Did I convince you?  Start your Farscape collection by clicking on any one of the following links:

 


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