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Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
ost of the sci-fi shows you enjoy today owe some kind of debt to “Farscape.” On the flip side, most of the sci-fi shows you grew up on, “Farscape” liberally stole bits and pieces from. It’s quite possibly the most unoriginally original series ever made. Here’s a show that came along at a time when space opera wasn’t doing a whole lot of experimentation, and yet that’s almost exclusively what “Farscape” did. It took heaping platefuls of well-worn sci-fi clichés and ideas and turned them on their ear, seemingly just to find out what would happen. Most of it worked, some of it did not, but that’s the price you pay for innovation. The show was primarily a drama, but that didn’t stop it from working in jokes and sight gags whenever possible. This was considerably different when compared to the various, dry “Star Trek” series that were around at the time. It also featured loads of monsters and aliens, most of which stand the test of time, which is unsurprising since The Jim Henson Company was behind the show, and they are, after all, the folks who built an empire on a frog and a pig.
But “The Muppet Show” “Farscape” is not, and don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise. It’s a serious show for people who take their sci-fi seriously but can still appreciate a good fart gag every now and then. Over the course of 88 hour-long episodes, it tells the story of Earth astronaut John Crichton (Ben Browder) who, within the first 10 minutes of the pilot episode, is flung halfway across the universe via a wormhole, only to end up smack in the middle of an epic space battle. He soon finds himself living onboard a living ship called Moya amongst a group of alien prisoners who are on the run from their captors, the Peacekeepers, a militant group of human-looking aliens. As the series progresses, Crichton goes from inchworm to King Cobra, and eventually ends up being the most important man in the Uncharted Territories because of one thing: the wormhole knowledge planted deep in his psyche by an alien race known as the Ancients. Whoever possesses this knowledge will be able to build a weapon of awesome might, although what Crichton really wants is to just get home; too bad every alien the other side of the Milky Way wants a piece of him along the way.
It’s tempting to describe “Farscape” as deep and layered, but I’m not so sure that’s the case. As long as the viewer pays attention, and watches the series in order, it’s relatively straightforward in its narrative. This show’s got nothing on the complexity of something like “Battlestar Galactica” (the new version, of course). Where “Farscape” excelled, however, was in how its storyline meandered all over the place. The basic building blocks of the concept are slowly unveiled throughout the first and second seasons, and then the third and fourth seasons spend a great deal of time knocking them down and rearranging them in as many different ways possible. The beauty of “Farscape” for the uninitiated is in how surprising the show can be; you genuinely never know what the writers are going to throw at you next, and I truly envy anyone who gets to imbibe in the series for the first time via this box set.
I’ve been a sci-fi nut since seeing “Star Wars” when I was six years old, and I can say, without hesitation, that I’ve never been caught up in a sci-fi concept’s universe in the same way that I was when this show was on the air. It was the most exhilarating, operatic ride I’ve ever taken, and it delivered a new dose every Friday night. Because “Farscape” is so smart and sexy, it attracts a certain type of viewer. “Farscape” fans were, in fact, so intelligent and well organized, that when the show was cancelled by Syfy after four seasons, they put together a “Save Farscape” campaign that actually worked. Their efforts led to the production of a miniseries, “The Peacekeeper Wars,” which allowed for the story to have an ending. After you watch the end of Season Four, you will understand the miniseries was a dramatic necessity.
Since this is Bullz-Eye, it feels right to point out something else, and that’s the female characters of “Farscape.” They are smoking hot, these ladies, and you’ll find yourself quite reasonably lusting over alien babes who are both blue and gray. But it would be heresy to merely describe the women of “Farscape” as hot, because they are so much more than that. These women are strong and empowered, and yet, unlike in some other series, they lose none of their sexuality or femininity as a result (I’m looking at you Kara Thrace). The upshot of all this is that chicks dig “Farscape.” Of course, not every woman is going to love it, but in this day and age of geek as chic – which, mind you, wasn’t so much the case back in 1999 – there are more potential fans of both sexes waiting to discover this very cool series than ever before. You can watch “Farscape” with your significant other and both of you will have a blast.
Special Features: “Farscape” arrives on Blu-ray a mere two years after A&E released a similar box set on DVD. The series has not been given the same kind of overhaul that Paramount is in the process of giving “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” but then “Farscape” as a franchise is certainly no “Trek”-like behemoth, and The Jim Henson Company is no Paramount Studios. Nevertheless, some effort has been put into bringing this series to BD, and the results are quite surprising. The audio is killer and the picture is free of any kind of compression or artifacting; in the words of Brian Henson, the series does indeed “look better than ever before.” (The Digital Bits has an excellent interview piece which details the technical specs of this set.) It seems highly unlikely that “Farscape” will ever be given the same kind of overhaul “TNG” is getting, but then again, two years ago it seemed unlikely that “Farscape” would be coming to Blu-ray as soon as it has. This is a beautiful set and I’d proudly convert someone to the series with what’s presented here. As far as new goodies? There’s just one: a 35-minute talking heads and clips documentary called “Memories of Moya: An Epic Journey Explored, featuring most of the cast and crew, and it’s presented in HD. It’s a lovely piece, although I don’t think there’s any info here we haven’t heard in some form or fashion before.
Ported over from the DVD set are 31 episodes commentaries, featuring just about every combination of actor, writer, director and producer you could hope for. All of the other video extras are presented in SD. There are 90 minutes worth of deleted scenes, and outside of tediously calculating that figure, I’m going to assume that’s accurate. There’s an alternate version of the Season Two premiere, which was called “Re:Union,” and at the last minute was scrapped in favor of kicking off the season with Episode Two. The episode was later recut and aired as a reminiscence installment called “Dream a Little Dream.” There’s something called “Director’s Cut Scenes” which are sort of like deleted scenes, only the quality isn’t nearly as good. There are loads of interviews with just about every person associated with the show over the years. “Listening In” is a series of 12 featurettes looking back at the music of specific episodes with composer Guy Gross. There are probably a dozen more featurettes exploring numerous aspects of the show, as well as a blooper reel.
This set does not contain the three-hour miniseries wrap-up, “The Peacekeeper Wars,” however, as the rights for the mini are held by Lionsgate. Rumor has it that Lionsgate will bringing it out on Blu-ray shortly.