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No more secret

April 14, 2013

imagesAwhile back, I wrote about how I had never watched Farscape before. Actually, I had seen what I thought were the first four episodes of the series but, it turns out that it must have been some sort of best of marathon as it definitely wasn’t the first four episodes. The reason I can say this now is that I have finished season one of Farscape.  I will have to “thank” Netflix in a frenemy sort of way for making this possible but.  Netflix has this obnoxious habit of pulling shows at just the right time to make me question why bother I giving them any of my money at all.  First, they screwed over my watching of Stargate SG-1 by pulling the show on me just as I was about to started season four.  Then, about a month back, I suddenly realized I didn’t have any DVD series slotted for what I call my high priority watching queue (I watch one episode every day queue).  My friend Kevin Batchelder had previously mentioned that Farscape was best taken in as one continuous viewing, rather than alternating seasons with Stargate SG-1 which was my original plan.  Realizing that I could actually bury my dark secret once and for all, I enthusiastically jumped onto Netflix streaming to find… Farscape was no longer available.  In a complaint I am sure Kevin is tired of hearing from me, I went on about how Netflix personally hates me at which point he generously offered to lend me his entire series on DVD (including the Peacekeeper Wars).  So, I just wanted to really thank Kevin again and let Netflix know that they’re living on borrowed time with me at this point.

One of the first things I noticed about Farscape was that, like Leverage, the first season DVD set order was noticeably different from the, presumably American, broadcast order listed on IMDB.  Farscape is actually an Australian series that was produced for the Nine Network (a tv channel I know precious little about).   I ultimately went with the DVD order assuming that it was probably what the producers intended and, seeing as how I was already a few episodes in, the IMDB order didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me anyway.  When I asked Kevin about this I got the surprisingly blasé answer that the order probably wasn’t all that important.  The reason I say surprising is that I know how some hardcore show fans can get about stuff like this so, I was expecting a well established answer.

On the off chance that someone isn’t familiar with the series, the basic concept is that an astronaut named John Crichton, while testing a new orbital slingshot method to grab acceleration from a gravity well, accidentally opens a wormhole that chucks him across the galaxy into the middle of an alien space battle.  He gets picked up by a ship full of prisoners who are stealing their prison vessel to escape and we take off from there.  In this part of the galaxy, it turns out the closest thing there is to a police force is a group of cop for hire soldiers called the Peacekeepers.  Given that their services go to whoever can pay the most money, it doesn’t take much imagination to appreciate how things really work in this part of the universe.  The show goes through a couple of shifts during the first season while it finds its footing but, it is quite enjoyable to watch regardless.  The first seven episodes feature a more or less happy group who are, with a few minor personality clashes, more than ready to work as a group.  Then we learn something interesting about this part of tha galaxy.  Apparently, star charts and which planets orbit which stars is not public information like on Earth.  Instead, the information is used as a form of currency and, when this currency is suddenly made available we are quickly reminded that it’s every being for themselves in the show.  This is where Farscape really reveals some inspiration from the classic British series Blake’s 7.  Ultimately, we get another member of the crew but, the series really hits its mark with the introduction of a Peacekeeper named Scorpius who takes a personal interest in Crichton.

In addition to Crichton, who provides us the human context for the show, the show is really driven by the characters.  D’Argo is a warrior who was imprisoned for killing his wife but the story may not be all that simple.  Zhaan is a blue skinned alien who seems to be a priestess but, harbors a darker past.  I wanted to comment on Zhaan’s make-up because, while it is clearly just a practical paint job, it is a very complex one and, I found myself asking how they got it the same every single time they applied it.  I’m guessing that some sort of stencil was involved but, it is still quite impressive once you notice the complexity of it.  Rygel the XVI is a deposed ruler, another victim of a military that goes to the highest bidder, whose greed easily gets the better of him.  I found Rygel very unlikable initially but, he did grow on me with time.  Chiana, introduced later in the season, is a young self thinking thief from a society with strict limits on what is acceptable for one’s thoughts.  Aeryn is a Peacekeeper who finds herself accidentally thrown in with the group from the beginning and is ultimately forced to work with them when the Peacekeepers reject her for being “contaminated” by prolonged exposure to aliens (real charming organization there).  While she looks human, she is actually somewhat different and, ironically, is probably the most alien of all of the characters.  She was genetically created to be a soldier, was born and lived her entire life on spacecraft and was trained to do nothing but fight.  As a result, she is very good at what she does but, in her new situation in life, she is very much a fish out of water, almost mopre so than Crichton.  As a result, on exposure to situations that are other than what she was trained for, such as engineering work or something as simple as relationships, she exhibits almost child-like behavior.  Acquiring new skills is especially uncomfortable for her as she is not comfortable failing at something, which is not surprising given that in the Peacekeeper culture this can be a death sentence.  Aeryn’s character is a real testament to the acting abilities of Claudia Black.  Finally, their ship itself is a living being named Moya who has an alien grafted into her that operates her control systems who is simply named Pilot.

The one thing about Farscape that surprised me the most about the series was the current of sexuality.  We don’t actually see anything but, not only is the show not afraid of the topic, it is referenced on a very regular basis, as much if not more so, than any violence that occurs.  This is not a complaint here, in fact it’s quite the the opposite as I wish more shows would do this.  Overall, I really enjoyed the first season of Farscape and am already well into the second.

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5 Comments
  1. Great Deal on complete series:
    http://www.amazon.com/Farscape-The-Complete-Series-Blu-ray/dp/B005CXOG8M
    I like the show, but it is low on my priority list.

  2. Yay, Farscape! 🙂 I re-watch it every year– it’s definitely a continuous-watching type of show. I’m glad you’re enjoying it! 😀

  3. I love this show, especially the weird and creature effects. I think that Crichton and Aeryn’s relationship is one of the most grown up and mature depicted in Sci-Fi TV. It’s a frelling great series and I’m always hoping for a reunion TV movie.

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