Article – Why I Love Farscape

TL;DR – This is a show that is bold, funny, weird, and heartwarming, one of the best Science Fiction shows I have ever had the pleasure of watching.

Farscape. Image Credit: The Jim Henson Company.

Review

Last year I had some time and sat down to write about my love for Star Trek Deep Space Nine and the impact it had on my like and joy of film/TV. Since then I have been looking for the next subject to write about and it never quite worked out. However, with the announcement that Farscape is about to drop on Amazon and a whole new generation of people will be able to understand what frell means, well sometimes life lines it up for you. With this in mind, today we will be exploring what makes Farscape so special for me, and why you should check it out.

So to set the scene, John Crichton (Ben Browder) is an astronaut from Earth, from a family of astronauts. He is testing a new slingshot engine on Farscape-1 hoping to use the Earth’s gravity to send astronauts across the Solar System. Only on this test flight he accidentally stumbles across a wormhole that flings him across the galaxy and into the middle of a war. On board the prison transport Moya, the prisoners Ka D’Argo (Anthony Simcoe), Pa-u Zotoh Zhaan (Virginia Hey), and Dominar Rygel XVI (Jonathan Hardy) have escaped and are trying to remove its control collar. While captain Bialar Crais (Lani Tupu) is sending Prowler fighter crafts to take the ship back before it could escape. The prisoners detect John’s unusual ship and bring it on board not before John accidentally crashed into one of the pursuing Prowlers sending it crashing into an asteroid (it may have had Crais’ brother on-board). Everyone was able to get the control collar off with thanks to Moya’s pilot Pilot (Lani Tupu) and she starbursts away, dragging one the Prowlers with then containing Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black) a Sebacean that looks very human. Aeryn is declared contaminated and has to go on the run with the rest as they flee pursuit by an insane military commander while doing everything to find a way home.

Farscape. Image Credit: The Jim Henson Company.
Farscape was a show let the characters shine in every situation. Image Credit: The Jim Henson Company.

It is in the first season that really captured my attention because they take what is a good setup and then power it to life with an ever-increasing world. John has a dual role within the show, especially at the start. He is both the audience point-of-view character because he knows about as much about the world that he has just been dropped in as we do. He gets to ask all those dumb questions that we would, and he would have the same flabbergasted expression when discovering that say Zhaan was a plant. However, as well as this, he is a neutral presence because he has no history to pick one side over another which in a ship of former prisoners all with their own history and relations is very important. This would be good, just by itself, but it gets complicated when he gets feelings for Aeryn and he stumbles onto a secret Peacekeeper base run by Scorpius (Wayne Pygram), oh and a little thing about wormhole tech being stored in his head by advanced aliens that now everyone wants.

Over the four seasons (and one mini-series) we get time to explore everyone’s backstory and motivations because there was a reason that they were prisoners. What did they do to Moya when they had her captured? What is Chiana (Gigi Edgley) running from? What is in that stew that Noranti (Melissa Jaffer) just made? Who is Scorpius and what does he want? All of these are questions that are answered throughout the series, and this is not even coming close to looking at every plot thread. This creates a world full of nuance that you want to explore. It allows returning characters like Miklo Braca (David Franklin) to pop up throughout the series in unexpected ways. People come and go, we say goodbye to those we love, and hello to those who are new, sacrifices are made, and love is lost and won. It makes a show that you want to watch every moment.           

Farscape. Image Credit: The Jim Henson Company.
It was filled with iconic characters that permeated into the world of Science Fiction. Image Credit: The Jim Henson Company.

All of this means is that Farscape truly excels is in its character work that builds a world full of complications and a world full of fascinating people. You have a former Dominar of 16 billion people who was deposed in a coup as he slept. Rigel spends most of his time floating around on his throne chair and crawling through Moya’s less assessable areas trying to steal everything that was not nailed down. He is completely selfish and brash, but as time goes on you see that this is all a defence mechanism. Pilot is the emotional heart of the show, being the shoulder for everyone to cry on, but he has a dark past. D’Argo seems like he has it all going on with the best bluster, but then he has known the deepest pain that he ever could and that still shapes his future. Everything about Chiana says that she is carefree, it would be almost immature if not for what her people did to her. Or indeed John who goes from being the complete outsider to the most important person in the galaxy, and has to work out how not to get consumed by his own passions.    

What is important is that many of these characters are covered in prosthetics that make emoting very difficult or in many cases completely create through puppetry. When I watch the show, I felt that Pilot and Rygel were real even if I did know they are puppets. This is due to a combination of great writing, superb voice work, and some of the best puppeteers in the business from the Jim Henson Company. Add to this some iconic character design and you have people that feel real. It is this attention to detail that has you buy into this world, it’s what makes characters like Scorpius so memorable. Just from a single frame, you know that he will be a memorable character, but then when he speaks and commands the room, that that almost friendly yet deeply menacing tone you become instantly captivated.

Farscape. Image Credit: The Jim Henson Company.
They took the time to explore what motivated every character. Image Credit: The Jim Henson Company.

This is all supported by a production that was one of the best that I have ever seen. Every set felt tangible and that it somehow told a story. So for example when you have Moya who is a biological ship, so everything in the ship is full of curves almost like the liveable sections of the ship were repurposed lungs and airways. However, there is also the sheen of something metallic blended in, giving a completely unique look. There are little details on set like Scorpius’ flower that would take seasons to fully reveal itself. Added to all this is a musical score from Guy Gross that just rocks and some of the best special effects for the time that still holds up today, and you get a show that still calls to me all these years later.

It is also a show that is not afraid to get weird once and a while, and by once in a while, I mean all the time. This is a show that builds upon years of pop culture references to having an episode where John is stuck in his head as it plays his life in a cartoon. A cartoon that harkens back to both the joyous work of Chuck Jones but also to an animation style that would be familiar to anyone who grew up in Australia. Indeed, even though Farscape was very much a US show, it was also a deeply Australian one. From the cast to the tone, to the stories being told. It is what set it apart in the world of Science Fiction and it is something that we have not really seen replicated ever since.

Farscape. Image Credit: The Jim Henson Company.
They showed how through puppetry you could create characters that felt real. Image Credit: The Jim Henson Company.

Then, of course, it got cancelled and as someone who was Australian and in love with Science Fiction, it was one of that news stories that you never wanted to hear. It was a heart-breaking moment and not just because it ended on a cliff hanger, but because there was a real likely hood that the story would never be concluded. This was well before the Stargate: The Ark of Truth (2008) or Serenity (2005) and shows just didn’t get second lives like this. Sitting down and getting to watch The Peacekeeper Wars is one of those moments that you never get a second chance at because they mean so much to you.

In the end, I don’t think we will ever get a show that captured a moment in time like Farscape did. It was bold, funny, weird, heartwarming, and also completely brutal. It was a universe filled with unique characters and civilizations that I wish we had more time to explore it. Now is the perfect time to dive back into a show if only to pick a whole new range of swear words that you can use in daily life.                            

By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.

Have you seen Farscape yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.    


Credits –
All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Farscape
Directed by
– Tony Tilse, Rowan Woods, Andrew Prowse, Ian Watson, Peter Andrikidis & others   
Written by – Rockne S. O’Bannon, David Kemper, Justin Monjo, Richard Manning & others   
Created by – Rockne S. O’Bannon
Production/Distribution Companies – The Jim Henson Company, Channel 9 Australia, Syfy Channel & Hallmark Entertainment
Starring – Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Gigi Edgley, Anthony Simcoe, Virginia Hey, Jonathan Hardy, Gigi Edgley, Lani Tupu, Wayne Pygram, Paul Goddard, Tammy MacIntosh, Melissa Jaffer & Raelee Hill with David Franklin, Rebecca Riggs, Duncan Young, Francesca Buller, Magda Szubanski, Kent McCord, Thomas Holesgrove, Linda Cropper & John Bach

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