Browder, Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe
Writers: Rockne S. O'Bannon
Format: AC-3, Box set, NTSC, Widescreen
Number of discs: 20
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: A&E Entertainment
DVD Release Date: November 15, 2011
Run Time: 4086 minutes
Henson always felt that puppets could entertain adults as well as children,
and not just in a family entertainment context.
During his lifetime, he often strained against the boundaries of popular
perception, with very grown-up elements in movies like
Labyrinth and The
Dark Crystal, as well as sexually explicit sketches on Saturday Night
Live. He never quite found the magic bullet to make it work . . . but
his son Brian did.
Along with Babylon 5, Brian’s
co-creation Farscape represented the most innovative science fiction
series since the original Star Trek
back in 1966. It was bold, it was original, and to quote the fan base, even
the puppets got some. Now it’s on Blu-ray, providing an ideal opportunity to
get acquainted with its genius.
The show concerns the misadventures of John Crichton (Ben Browder), an
American astronaut shot through a wormhole to the far side of the galaxy. He
finds himself onboard a living starship, crewed by a trio of escaped
prisoners and one very cranky soldier (Claudia Black) dragged along for the
It sounds like a standard-issue set up, but from the beginning, it was clear
that Farscape had no interest in business as usual. It eschewed the
traditional dynamic of heroes and villains. There were no benevolent
governments in this end of creation: no powerful Federations or enlightened
beings battling against the forces of evil.
The two primary powers – the human-looking Peacekeepers and reptilian
Scarran – ranged from actively oppressive to flat-out genocidal. Other alien
races, such as the pale Nebari, brainwashed recalcitrant members of their
society, and even the warrior Luxans (who adhered to a rough code of honor)
had a way of flying off the handle in deeply distressing ways. Victory in
this universe meant survival and safety, not providing any grand boons of
Despite its dark overtones, Farscape
remained very witty and light on its feet. It showed no qualms about
embracing the more ridiculous side of its scenarios and its refreshingly
grown-up take on political and philosophical issues stood in stark contrast
to the po-faced preachiness of
Star Trek. Browder proved a winning hero, with a knack for clever quips
and a way of mining the fun out of his character’s constant in-over-his-head
dilemmas. He and Black made for a great pairing, both in platonic terms and
with the growing romantic chemistry that their characters developed over
As for villains, Farscape struggled a bit early on. The original bad
guy Crais (Lani Tupu) turned out to be a wet noodle, though his subsequent
morphing into an uneasy ally made his character far more interesting. It
took the arrival of Scorpius (Wayne Pygram) late in the first season to
really kick the proceedings into high gear. Television may not have seen a
better antagonist since . . . well since ever, and as great as the Ben
Linuses and C. Montgomery Burns out there can be, one look at this guy turns
them all into perennial runners up.
The puppetry performs similar wonders. Though unarguably a part of the
Henson canon, figures such as Rygel (the conniving deposed ruler of an
intergalactic Empire) and the ship’s symbiotic Pilot display a unique
quirkiness that belongs in this universe, as well as decidedly grown-up
sensibilities that had no place amongst Kermit and his friends. The show
made excellent use of those assets, bringing a special flair that no other
science fiction series could match.
It wasn’t always brilliant. Farscape shot for
the moon every week, and on those infrequent occasions where it missed, it
was a long way down. The Blu-ray set ends without a finale as well: the
fifth and final season was unceremoniously cut, though the four-hour
Peacekeeper Wars miniseries (not included here) gave fans a good sense of
Eighty-eight episodes are bound to produce a few boners, but the
remainder are absolutely unforgettable. Farscape continues to
generate passion and enthusiasm among its fans, like a lot of sci-fi shows.
But the source of that passion is truly one of a kind, and with the release
of the Blu-ray, there’s never been a better time to discover it.
THE DISC: The set contains 20 Blu-ray discs – five
for each season – each holding a handful of episodes and bonus features. The
images are sharp and good-looking, though the Blu-ray doesn’t improve upon
DVD quality. In addition, the show’s first two seasons were shot in 4:3
aspect ratios, meaning that most TVs will have black bars on the left and
right of the screen for those shows.
The supporting features are exactly the same as those on
the DVD box set released a couple of years ago, with one exception. An
informative documentary entitled Memories of Moya – featuring cast and crew
members talking about the show – is all-new for this set. The remaining
special features are fantastic, including multiple documentaries and
featurettes, a hard-to-find behind-the-scenes feature called Farscape
Undressed, audio commentaries on 31 of the 88 episodes, deleted scenes,
promo spots and tons of interviews. Owners of DVD set should have all of
those, however, and while Memories of Moya is good, it’s not $200
worth of good.
WORTH IT? Absolutely, though if you have the DVD
set, there’s no real need to double-dip.
RECOMMENDATION: This is an ideal way to
re-experience a sci-fi classic. Newcomers to the series may want to look out
for an older series of DVD, which collected two or three episodes in a
single set (like this one:
It spares you from having to commit right away, and if you like what you
see, this terrific set will be waiting for you.
- Rob Vaux