Farscape The Peacekeeper Wars DVD Review (Spoilers)

Wormhole weapons – the only way to win, is not to play.

  • Title:  Farscape The Peacekeeper Wars
  • Format:  Miniseries (241 minutes) 2-DVD set
  • Cast:  Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe, Wayne Pygram, Gigi Edgley, Paul Goddard
  • Creative Team:  Rockne S. O’Bannon, Jim Henson Productions (Brian Henson)

I actually watched the entire mini-series two nights in a row, all the way through.  It seems the original production was a two-night event, on the DVD it’s edited into a single long movie, which is fine.

The first time I watched this, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.  Not only because it’s a very intense, action-packed mini-series, but because I honestly expected them to “Blake’s 7” the show, in other words, I expected all the main characters to die, especially John Crichton.

The second time through I was able to enjoy the story more, knowing that, despite even the hints dropped during the mini-series itself, that John would survive.

The mini-series opens two months after the last episode of Season 4, with Rygel swimming underwater picking up something in his mouth.  It turns out what he is doing is capturing the bits and pieces of John and Aeryn from the ocean floor.  I loved seeing Rygel in his element so to speak, and his swimming was rather elegant.  John and Aeryn are quickly re-assembled.  They are fine, but to her shock Aeryn is no longer pregnant.  It’s quickly discovered that Rygel is now carrying Aeryn and John’s baby.  The Hynerian will do so until after the first quad-mester and the large enough baby can be transferred to Aeryn.

Aeryn and John decide to get married by the priestess on the non-quite uninhabited water planet, only to have the ceremony interrupted.  This will be a theme, as their wedding on Moya with Rygel officiating is also interrupted when the Leviathan is attacked.

Things happen.  Essentially, the Scarrans and Peacekeepers are now at all-out war with each other.  The natives of the water planet are the descendants of a famous race of peace-making diplomats, who have lost their genetic ability to influence people into a state of calm and rationality.  John agrees to ferry two of these people to the temple planet (from Season 4’s “What Was Lost”).  They are attacked en route, and “reunited” with Scorpius and Sikozu (sporting a new “punk” haircut).  Moya, damaged, manages to get to the temple.  At the temple, they are reunited with Jool, and it’s John who convinces the 1200-year-old diplomatic race to train the guy from the other planet, so he, in turn, can train his people.

However, a Scarran vessel turns up.  The ship destroys the temple, including Jool.  John, Aeryn, Rygel, Stark,  the head priest/diplomat from the temple, the acolyte from the other planet, and the acolyte’s guard, as well as Sikozu and Scorpius are taken prisoner by the Scarrans.  The Scarrans want John’s wormhole weapons knowledge, and hold the pregnant Rygel (as well as Aeryn and the others) hostage against John.

Meanwhile, D’Argo and Chiana are in D’argo’s invisible spaceship.  Chiana, who had been blinded at the end of Season 4, has had her eyes replaced, with a few upgrades.  She’s able to read energy signatures on the ship and tell D’Argo how to disable it.

John, knowing the threat to his unborn child (and Rygel’s life) is real, and fearing for Aeryn, and with no place to turn after the Scarrans have killed the head priest, finds he has no choice.  He takes the Scarran in his module down the wormhole to meet the ancient alien, “Einstein”, who still looks like Simon Pegg”s “Editor” in the Doctor Who episode, “The Long Game”.  The Scarran is convinced that John can sense and navigate wormholes, even cause them to appear, but he cannot create a worm-hole weapon, and to do so would be a really bad idea.

The Scarrans meanwhile, destroy D’Argo’s ship.  The Scarran general’s chief assistant and war minister, meanwhile intends to kill Rygel.  The general and John return just in time to prevent it.  Aeryn tells John, D’Argo and Chiana are dead.  The Scarrans attempt to kill everyone, flooding the room they are being held in with deadly gas, while Rygel’s to the point in his pregnancy that the embryo needs to be transferred to Aeryn or he’ll die.  Sizozu creates an explosion so they can escape, as a group of Luxans arrive to attack the Scarran vessel, having rescued D’Argo and Chiana.  The Luxan attack squad is headed by Jothee, D’Argo’s son, who is now a military commander.

Everyone is rescued.  Stark is more bonkers than normal from having absorbed the high priest’s essence.  They return to Moya and high-tail it back to the water planet, because John and the others know that the Peacekeepers and Scarrans know of the location of the planet, and it’s a target.

Arriving at the planet, a major battle ensues.  Braca is there with a few troops, though most of his men have been killed.  The Luxan assault force is there.  Moya’s crew lands, with the intent of rescuing the diplomatic race and trying to end the war.  Aeryn’s child has been transferred to her from Rygel successfully.

On the planet, in the midst of the  chaos, John and Aeryn are finally married by Stark while Aeryn is in labor.  The child is born in the midst of a battle.  D’Argo is stabbed with a pike, and, dying, agrees to cover their retreat.  With some help from Jothee (who’s primary, and successful mission was to rescue as many of the descendant-race diplomat-priests as possible), and Moya (who has finally recovered, after a time on the seabed under repair) John’s crew escape the planet, with some of the diplomat-priests.

Arriving on Moya, in command, John sees the wormhole weapon device. He had gone down a wormhole a second time, and obtained the knowledge necessary to build it.  And he had discussed it with Pilot.  Though Pilot had many misgivings, and sounded like he was going to say “no”, he had changed his mind and had the DRDs construct the device while John and Aeryn were planetside.

John sends out a message, giving the Scarrans and the Peacekeepers one last chance to make peace.  The Scarrans and Peacekeepers instead continue to fire intensely at each other.  John ignites the weapon, which produces an expontentially-growing Black Hole.  The hole’s gravity captures and destroys everything close enough to be caught in the gravity well, and as it grows, doubling each time, that gravity well also increases in size.  The planet below is destroyed, ripped apart by gravity.  John points out, Moya is next, then each of the battle fleets, and who knows what next – the galaxy, the universe?  The Scarrans and Peacekeepers stand down.  John gets them to agree to have the diplomat-priests broker a lasting accord, which they do.  He goes back into his machine to reverse the black hole.  He succeeds but collapses, looking like he’s dead.

However, Aeryn brings their child to Crichton, where his “body” lies on a bed, Crichton wakes. He and Aeryn have a formal naming ceremony for their child, looking out among the stars, and name the boy, “D’Argo Sun Crichton”.

The Peacekeeper Wars is busy and intense.  It’s obviously a compressed version of what Season 5 would have been.  However, the story also works.  Surprisingly, the second time around, I caught a certain amount of foreshadowing that I didn’t even notice the first time. That means the foreshadowing was used correctly – it prepares you for what’s going to happen, without spoiling the fun.  The only obvious “spoilers” or “foreshadowing” was Aeryn and later Crichton’s voice-overs, which clarify the plot.  But the subtler ones really work.

The action scenes are very intense – which often means character suffers.  And, though, their would have been more character-stuff in a full 22-episode season (or even a shorter season of 16 or 13 episodes) the mini-series still works.  When D’Argo’s ship was destroyed and D’Argo and Chiana were assumed dead — I believed it.  I was expecting everyone to die anyway, so I believed it.  And that scene, Aeryn’s reaction to it, and later John’s reaction when Aeryn tells him what’s happened, is no less intense when you know that at that point D’Argo isn’t really dead and Chiana survives ‘til the end.

One of the most difficult plot points for the story to sell is John actually triggering the wormhole weapon device.  Yet, when he does, it’s totally believable.  John’s rant on how everyone – Scorpius, Rygel, the Peacekeepers, the Scarrans, wanted the weapon – is brilliantly played by Browder.

And Aeryn and John’s attempts to get married, which are finally finished with Stark marrying them while Aeryn gives birth is beautiful (as is Aeryn’s water birth of her son, and Crichton’s pure joy at becoming a father).  Though, for their story, I think the naming scene… with their child being told the stars are his playground, and John saying that he hopes that his child will never know war was the most beautiful scene in the mini-series.

I enjoyed the mini-series very much.  I think they did an incredible writing and editing job to get a season’s worth of material into between three and four hours.  All of the cast were terrific as always, especially Ben Browder and Claudia Black.  There were references to events, people, and characters from throughout the four years of Farscape, which I felt were there for the fans, but they worked and didn’t stand out like a sore thumb, the way “inside” references sometimes can.  The only person I would have liked to see or at least referenced was John’s father, Jack. But other than that tiny detail, I loved the mini-series, it was really well-done, and it gave a satisfying conclusion to the Farscape television series.

Farscape Season 4 DVD Review (Spoilers)

  • Title:  Farscape Season 4
  • Format:  ADV Video  (22 eps, 10 DVDs) 
  • Cast:  Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Gigi Edgley, Anthony Simcoe, Wayne Pygram
  • Creative Team:  Rockne S. O’Bannon, Henson Productions (Brian Henson)

Season Four of Farscape starts off a bit slow, Claudia Black isn’t in the first four episodes, and she’s sorely missed.  Also, the first half of the season felt very disconnected, as if they were producing left-over episodes from previous seasons, perhaps slightly re-written to fit the current cast.  But all that changes with “Unrealized Reality” and the season is a rocketing steam train from that point on.

Jool is dropped early in the season, fortunately.  I never liked her.  Actually, she’s one of the most disagreeable fictional characters I’ve ever come across – whenever the character was in danger, I kept hoping she’d die.  The screaming was just too much.

She’s replaced with a character, Sikozu, who at first seems a toned-down version of Jool.  She has red hair; she’s smart with plenty of “book-learning”, but unlike Jool – she has practical skills too.  She doesn’t just tell Moya’s crew she’s an expert in Leviathans and in medicine – she shows it, which puts her miles above Jool.  However, she also gets her own storyline, which sneaks up on you and proves fascinating.

The season really picks up with “Unrealized Reality”, where John falls down a wormhole and meets an ancient alien who looks like Simon Pegg in the Doctor Who episode, “The Long Game”.  This alien taught The Ancients about wormholes, and is trying to figure out what John knows, exactly.  Over the course of their conversation, John learns that wormholes aren’t just short-cuts through space, they can lead to different times.  But if John were to travel to a different time, the repercussions could be catastrophic.  John “travels” to several alternate realities, each worse than the one before.  Finally, he learns that by concentrating – he can travel home.  Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, he concentrates on home, and finds himself floating above Earth.  In “Kansas” – John discovers he’s arrived on Earth in 1986 – and he must prevent his father from being on the Challenger, while guaranteeing that his younger self will be positioned to create the Farscape Project.  In “Terra Firma” John and his crew arrive on Earth in 2003 and make the existence of aliens known.  Kent McCord again plays John’s father, but it’s not a flashback or an alien pretending to be Jack Crichton.  The scene at the end of “Terra Firma” when they say goodbye to each other was heart-breaking.

From that point on, the season really moves.  I’d say that the “Unrealized Reality” trilogy was one of the best of the series.  And once John and Moya’s crew are back in Tormented Space the series just moves like a freight train.  John finally admits to Aeryn why he’s been so cold to her.  He’s not angry at her – he’s protecting her from Scorpius who’s now traveling on Moya. Sikozu proves to be an agent working with Scorpius, though we’re still unsure of motivations of both characters.

In “Bringing Home the Beacon”, Moya’s crew tries to get a camouflage beacon for Moya to throw off the Scarrans and Peacekeepers pursuing them.  They get the beacon, but Aeryn is captured.  To rescue Aeryn, John and company must go directly into a Scarran base in Scarran space.  The final trilogy is awesome!  Definitely some of the best work of the series, and watching John become slightly unhinged is again some of Ben Browder’s best work.

In the final episode of the series, it opens with a montage of “previously on Farscape” that includes the entire four years in a few minutes (yeah, I need to re-watch that in slo-mo) and opens with Crichton’s voice, “Finally on Farscape…” which just tears into your heart.  John, knowing that the Scarrans now definitely know the location of Earth, and the Peacekeepers may know the location of Earth, decides to collapse the wormhole to Earth.  He, Pilot, and Aeryn, in one of Moya’s transport pods, travel there. John lands on the moon, and calls his father, leaving his tape recorder next to the American flag at Serenity base.  The conversation between John and his dad (again, Kent McCord) is incredible, heart-breaking, and made me cry.  John leaves, knowing he can’t ever go back to Earth or see his family again.  He, Aeryn, and Pilot are to collapse the wormhole as they leave near-Earth space.

(SPOILERS) It works, and as everyone on Moya recovers (including Pilot who is now re-installed back in his den, and reconnected to Moya, and the living ship herself) – John and Crichton are in a boat on a planet.  Aeryn finally tells John she’s pregnant, she’s OK, and it’s his child.  John gives Aeryn his mother’s wedding ring, proposing marriage.  From Moya,  D’Argo is describing what he sees to a temporary-blind Chiana.  It’s Chiana who realizes that far from being angry, John has proposed to Aeryn.  Aeryn and John kiss and hold each other.  Then from nowhere a ship appears and blows them up (into a pile of little pieces).  D’Argo screams in agony.  And the series ends with “To Be Continued”.  It’s devastating.

Farscape really is a unique, well-made, incredible SF series.  It’s unique.  The aliens really look alien, in no small part due to the work of the Jim Henson Creature Shop and Brian Henson.  John Crichton is a point-of-view character for the entire series – we see this incredible journey through his eyes.  And, by the third season it’s like Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, or Neverwhere – having landed in an incredible universe, John wants to go home.  Yet, when given that chance he chooses to stay with his friends on Moya, in no small part because he is in love with Aeryn and he feels a responsibility to his unborn son.  Aeryn and John’s relationship, builds during each season.  By the end of a season, they can say “I love you”, to each other.  Yet, something then happens to pull them apart, and the following season, they again need to find that sense of love and trust.  This is especially true in Seasons 3 and 4.  But both also deal with the death of the other.  At the end of Season 2 – Aeryn dies, and it’s a Scorpius-controlled John who kills her.  It’s Zhann who trades her life for Aeryn, bringing her back.  In Season 3, John Two (Talon John) dies in Aeryn’s arms – after they had fallen deeply in love.  Its no surprise that she can’t immediately accept John One – she even disappears for a while at the beginning of Season 4.  But Season 4 really picks-up as John and Aeryn begin to reconnect.  The saddest thing about the last five minutes of “Bad Timing”, is that John is finally, completely and totally happy.  He experiences a brief, shining moment of pure happiness – then is killed.  Aeryn too is happy, and in love.  So their story becomes a tragedy, which gives even more weight to the entire series.  The entire brilliant series.

My only regret is that I missed this show when it was on.  It’s still effective, brilliant, unique, fun, romantic, adventurous, and an incredible science fiction series.  And even ten years on, it doesn’t look dated – if anything, the filmed look is just gorgeous.  But it’s less fun to watch a show like this in a vacuum.  Highly recommended!

Farscape Season 3 DVD Review (Spoilers)

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  • Title:  Farscape Season 3
  • Format:  22 episodes on 10 discs (ADV Video) 
  • Cast:  Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe, Gigi Edgley, Paul Goddard, Lani Tupu, Wayne Pygram
  • Creative Team:  Rockne S. O’Bannon, Jim Henson Productions (Brian Henson)

I enjoyed Season 3 of Farscape more than Season 2.  Captain Bylar Crais, Stark, and Scorpius have all been promoted to regulars.  Zhann is quickly killed off (to heal Aeryn, who “died” at the end of last Season). Most of this season is split into two distinct plot threads, as we now have ten (depending on how you count them) regular characters.  In the zombie episode, “Eat Me”, Chiana, D’Argo, and John are cloned, twinned, or doubled by a mad scientist to provide zombie food.  The extra Chiana and D’Argo are killed, but when they finally escape the Leviathan of the  Living Dead — it’s with two Johns.  One John stays aboard Moya with D’Argo, Chiana, and a new character called Jool.

The other John joins Aeryn, Crais, and Rygel aboard Talon.  ”Eat Me” was a really gross and disgusting episode that I could barely watch – but then, I don’t like zombie movies.  However, it also serves only a single purpose – producing a duplicate of John.  The episode ends with both Johns playing rock-paper-scissors and always throwing the same thing.

I preferred the Talon episodes for two reasons – they were the more dramatic episodes, and I’m a sucker for drama and melodrama.  But I also really liked Capt. Crais.  You saw a lot of growth in his character, from a man in Season 1 who only wanted revenge on John (for an accident no less) to a man willing to sacrifice himself by the end of the season.  Crais was a complicated character and you really did not know which why he’d jump, what he really wanted, or what he’d do.  You could never completely trust Crais, but honestly, on Farscape – you could never completely trust anyone.  I loved the character development for Bylar Crais.  Like Aeryn, once outside the Peacekeeper sphere of influence (and likely their brainwashing and propaganda) Crais began to think for himself and chose his own  path.

The Moya episodes tended to be silly.  Yes, they were the comic relief following the dramatic episodes in the Talon storyline, but I felt they went overboard.  ”Scratch-and-Sniff” felt like something written after the writer had had a few too many Pina Coladas.  Or, like someone’s explanation of Spring Break. Essentially, John has to explain to Pilot, who’s now acting like an exasperated parent, just how he got himself and D’Argo banned from a pleasure planet.  I just thought it didn’t quite measure up to Farscape standards.  ”Revenging Angel” or “John challenges Scorpius in Looney Tunes land”, was probably novel at the time it aired (tho’ the “Jessica Rabbit” comment indicates the creative team knew about Who Framed Roger Rabbit) but it didn’t work for me. I just thought some of those episodes, especially “Scratch ‘N’ Sniff” and “Revenging Angel” went overboard in the humor and had characters, especially D’Argo acting out of character.

Also – I couldn’t stand Jool.  Or screaming girl, which was about the only thing she could do. Every time she got in the least bit of danger, I didn’t feel any sympathy for her at all – I wanted her to get killed off.  Which is not something you want for a major character.

I really liked “Infinite Possiblities” parts 1 and 2, because finally, John (or John 2 — the one aboard Talon) gets everything he wants:  Aeryn’s in love with him and even willing to go with him to Earth if he can find a wormhole, he’s destroyed the Scorpius clone in his head, and he’s figured out the wormhole equations. So, what happens to John 2?  He dies of course.  The death scene is marvelous, and I loved that Aeryn was with him.  I also thought Rygel’s funeral for John was beautiful, but it’s the nature of the show that once John gets everything… he dies.  And Aeryn is in such shock after the death of “her John” she can’t accept the other Crichton on Moya.

After John 2’s death, all the characters re-connect.  Stark, who disappears again after “Infinite Possibilities”, leaves a message for John 1 (Moya John) from John 2 (Talon John), dying Talon John warns Moya John about wormhole weapons.  But the last thing he does is throw rock-paper-scissors. Moya John does the same thing.  The throws are different.  This suggests that although the two started from the same place, they are now different.

The combined crew quickly form a new plan, to assault and destroy Scorpius’s command carrier, so that Wormhole Technology cannot be used as a weapon.  You know this won’t go well, right?  They do manage to destroy the ship.  They do so in such a way that the majority of the 50,000 men, women, and children aboard can escape, abandon ship and survive.  Crais and a now suddenly-mad Talon (that was introduced too quickly) sacrifice themselves to destroy the command carrier.  All of Scorpius’s wormhole data is destroyed.  It was unclear to me if Scorpius died or not.  It’s suggested he did – but he also seems to always return, so I wouldn’t bet on it.

After the successful assault, everyone is seriously ready to split up.  D’Argo wants to go back to the Luxans to warn them not  to ally themselves with the Peacekeepers.  Chiana wants to find her brother and the Nibari resistance.  Rygel wants to try to take back his throne as Dominar.  Aeryn, unable to face a double of her lover, just wants to leave.  And even John, thinking he might now be able to figure out wormholes, wants to return to Earth.  They decide they will help Moya take Talon‘s remains to the Leviathan burial space, then split up.

The last episode of Season 3, “Dog with Two Bones”, felt rushed and confused.  Suddenly, there’s a mysterious witch or shaman on Moya, who’s messing with John’s head.  This John’s head is pretty busy, because Scorpius’s neural clone is still there.  Moya’s attacked by another Leviathan, without a pilot, so that takes up much of the episode.  Aeryn in her new prowler, and John and D’Argo in his Luxan ship attack and easily destroy the mad Leviathan, which disappears.  Somehow, I expect that plot line will be revisited (or at least I hope so).  However, at the end, John, almost out of fuel, in his Farscape module, is still trying to figure out what to do.  A wormhole appears and sucks in Moya.  Aeryn’s already gone in her prowler.  And John is left, sitting alone, in his low on fuel capsule, drifting by himself in space.

Technically, for Season 3, it seemed they decided to film two episodes simultaneously – the Talon episode and the Moya episode.  This gave everyone time off except Ben Browder who played two characters – and Lani Tupu, who played both the voice of Pilot and Capt. Crais, tho’ the dubbing of Pilot’s voice may have been done in separate post-filming blocks.  The “making of” featurette on the Farscape Season 1 set, suggested that during filming Rygel was voiced by the puppeteer, and Jonathan Hardy dubbed in the voice later.  I’d guess the same thing was true for Lani Tupu and pilot.  It must of been exhausting for Browder – but then, he’d been the point of view character for this show for three years.

Overall, I really liked Season 3.  It was especially successful on DVD.  When I watch a TV series on DVD it’s like reading a book, and the individual episodes are chapters.  Well, with a structure like this, with one episode following one set of characters, and the next episode following a different set of characters, it was like reading a book that flips between different settings and characters – I wanted to know what was happening to everyone so I read, or in this case, watched it faster, normally four or five episodes a day. That’s a lot of Farscape.  But I liked it.  Oh, and the creatures were back!  Yeah, for the interesting, different, and unique creatures!

Farscape Season 2 DVD Review

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  • Farscape Season 2
  • ADV Video Releases
  • 10 Discs / 22 Episodes in set
  • Cast:  Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe, Virginia Hey, Gigi Edgley


I didn’t enjoy the second season of Farscape as much as the first; however, there were some excellent episodes.  I’ll discuss what I didn’t like first, then get on to the specifics of what I liked.  Whereas in the first season, John Crichton had been a scientist and explorer, someone who’s innate curiosity often allowed him to see situations differently than the rest of the beings on Moya, in the second season, John is much closer to becoming just another soldier.  No longer wearing parts of his IASA uniform, John now dresses like a Peacekeeper.  And as good as Ben Browder looked in the floor-length black duster, by halfway through the season – I wanted the old John back.  There are also far less creatures in season two, and more humans, or human-like aliens. I missed the creatures!

However, I did really like “Look to the Princess” — John’s willingness to sacrifice everything because of the situation was refreshing, and showed his, I hesitate to say moral, but his moral thinking and upbringing.  When he’s told an entire star-system’s well-being depends on him marrying the princess – he does so.  And when he finds out he’s the father of the princess’s child (thru’ in-vitro fertilization, basically) he’s willing to give up everything and be frozen for 80 years to raise his daughter.  However, the re-set button is pushed (Crichton won’t survive the freezing process again).

The four-episode finale’ — “Liars, Guns, & Money” parts 1-3 and “Die Me, Dichotomy”, were truly, truly, awesome.  And, it explained why Crichton had been acting so strange throughout the entire season. He was slowly going insane due to a neural chip implanted in his head by Scorpius.  Scorpius being a half-Scarran/half-Sabacean hybrid who is, himself, obsessed with obtaining “worm hole technology” from John.  The problem is, John accidentally fell through the worm-hole.  Though he has some theoretical knowledge of the subject – he truly doesn’t understand worm-holes, and he certainly can’t control them. It’s a bit like asking Dorothy to re-produce a tornado on the spot.

However, I’d challenge anybody who thinks Ben Browder isn’t a good actor to watch the end of Season 2 of Farscape.  Browder has the ability to play a man who is truly going insane without overacting or making fun of the character.  It’s something to watch.

I have the ADV DVD version of Farscape.  The DVDs for the most part only put two episodes per disc. This is annoying — I’m used to three or four.  Also, for the last set, the episodes are out of sequence on the discs.  I watched “Die Me, Dichtomy” before “Liars, Guns, & Money” and was extremely confused — I ended up having to re-watch it in it’s proper sequence as the last episode in the season.  Also, stretching the show to ten discs takes up a lot of space (especially in the double-wide cases).  I ended-up re-packaging the discs in slim-line cases, but the more compact season 1 is a much better design, and still protects the discs.  OTOH, I received sets 2-4 as a gift from a friend, so I can’t really complain.  I’d just recommend not buying this version, but rather the more compact “complete season 2” version.

Overall, since the season both explained John’s odd behavior, and ended on a cliff-hanger leading into season three, even with the changes from season 1, I still think Farscape is an unusual, highly watchable, and excellent series.  Recommended!

Farscape Season 1 DVD Review

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  • Series:  Farscape
  • Season: 1
  • Format:  DVD
  • Creative Team:  Rockne S. O’Bannon, Brian Henson, Henson Productions
  • Cast:  Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Virginia Hey, Anthony Simcoe

Farscape was a series that frustrated me to no end when it originally aired, running first in first-run syndication, where it was impossible to find, and later on the Sci-Fi channel (which I didn’t have access to at the time), Farscape was a show I wanted to watch but couldn’t.  Farscape also had bad luck for it’s first DVD release – it was sold by episode, not by season set.  This made the show prohibitively expensive to buy – and collecting it would also take up too much space.  In short, the only series I’m willing to buy that way is original (classic) Doctor Who – and that only because the original stories were movie length.

Farscape is one of the most unique SF programs I’ve seen.  The only analogies I can compare it to are:  Blake’s 7 and a role-playing adventure game like D&D but set in space.  Like Blake’s 7, the characters are all fugitives, thrown together, who don’t trust each other – and may even sell each other out for the right price/motivation.  Like a adventure game, the characters are a priest, a warrior, a thief/deposed king, a warrior/romantic interest, and The New Guy ™, however, the setting isn’t medieval Europe, or a hidden cave system, but deep, deep space.

In the pilot, John Crichton, an astronaut and scientist is performing an experiment in Earth’s orbit in a one-man capsule.  It goes horribly wrong, and John is shot through a worm-hole.  He’s picked up by a living ship, called Moya, with it’s convict crew who are in the midst of an escape attempt.  John’s shot up with translator microbes allowing him to understand his very strange, alien shipmates.  His shipmates include:  D’Argo — a Lexan Warrior, who’s still young for his species, although at first he seems the tough “shoot first” type, later he turns out to have a heart and to be completely innocent of his accused crime of murder.  Zhaan is a priestess, though her encounter with Moya’s crew is already turning her down a darker, more violent path.  Zhaan is also a living, breathing, thinking, talking plant – who’s bright blue.  Rygel the 16th, Dominar, is a deposed despot and thief – he’s also small and green, and normally gets around on a floating throne chair.  Though he looks Yoda-like and cute — he can be nasty.  Pilot is built into the ship and pilots Moya – translating between the ship’s needs and the crew’s commands.  Finally, Officer Aeryn Sun looks Human but she is a Sabacean, and a Peace-keeper (law officer).  In the pilot, she’s accused of desertion and “irreversible contamination” and has no choice but to join John and Moya’s escape prisoner crew.  At first the others see Aeryn as an enemy (they all were, after all, at some point prisoners of the peacekeepers), but Aeryn proves her mettle and loyalty.

Farscape has a very unique look, in part because of the work of the Jim Henson creature shop (now run by Brian Henson).  The aliens, both regulars and the many varied guest creatures are very different.  This show does not, like Star Trek or Stargate, merely stick funny ears or a funky face mask on an actor – and call them alien.  The aliens all look very different and have different reactions to things.  Aeryn is extremely sensitive to heat – prolonged exposure can even produce ‘the living death”, a condition of mental debilitation like Alzhiemers.  Zhaan is a living plant – who even experiences “photogasms” when exposed to high levels of radiation or sunlight.  These types of examples make the universe of Farscape feel strange and alien.

John Crichton, in the first season, is shown to be a scientist, not only with the ability to figure things out or build stuff, but with an intense curiosity about the new world he finds himself in.  Where one or more of his shipmates might want to shoot something, John often asks questions and tries to figure out what something that looks like an alien or monster might want.  He has, in a strange way, a “Doctor-ish” quality.

Overall, I enjoyed the first season of this show that I missed the first time around.

Justice League Doom

  • Title: Justice League Doom
  • Director: Lauren Montgomery
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2012
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, Drama, Animation
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Susan Eisenberg, Nathan Fillion, Carl Lumbly, Michael Rosenbaum, Claudia Black, Paul Blackthorne, Olivia D’abo, Alexis Denisoff, Phil Morris, Robin Atkin Downes
  • Format: Widescreen, Color animation
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“When we fought before, I broke the bat; today I break the man.” — Bane to Bruce Wayne

“No, you weren’t afraid, not really. You were dosed with a synthesized version of the Scarecrow’s fear gas. Because will is the source of your strength.”— Batman
“And fear is the enemy of will.” — Green Lantern, Hal Jordan

Justice League Doom brings back most of the original cast from the original Justice League animated television series, only substituting Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern Hal Jordan, rather than keeping Phil LaMarr as GL Jon Stewart or introducing Guy Gardner. There is also a stellar cast of “guest stars” as the Leaguers greatest foes.

Vandal Savage uses Mirror Master to obtain secret files from the Batcave – files that Batman created containing plans on how to bring down any of the main Justice League members in case they went rogue. The villains then begin to attack and defeat the League members. Mirror Master gets Flash to put his hand inside a Schrodinger’s cat box to rescue an old woman. Flash ends up with a bomb in his wrist that will explode if he stops, de-accelerates, or does nothing when the timer runs out. Cheetah fist-fights Wonder Woman, but poisons her with her finger nails so everyone she sees looks and sounds like Cheetah. Green Lantern Hal Jordan is sent to a Salt Mine to rescue some hostages from a militia group and the rescue goes wrong – a woman who is a dead ringer for Carol (Hal’s former girlfriend) is killed. Even running into Star Sapphire doesn’t help Hal realize he’s been set up. Martian Manhunter is slipped a poison that caused him to sweat Magnesium, which bursts into flame, even under water. Superman is shot in the chest with a Kryptonite bullet. Bane takes Bruce’s parents out of their graves. A groundskeeper (not Alfred) reports this to Bruce, who goes out to investigate in civilian clothes. He’s jumped by Bane, who beats him up, then drops him into his mother’s (new) grave, and buries him alive, with her skeleton in her coffin.

Bruce, stranded underground, takes the keys out of his pocket and starts to pummel the coffin lid. He’s about to give up, when he turns and sees his mother’s skeleton staring at him — and he renews his attack and escapes. It’s a very eerie and spooky image — but it’s also something that is just “so Batman” and “so Bruce” — he cannot ever give up on the oath he swore to his parents that faithful night when he was only eight years old.

Once he’s escaped, Batman contacts the other Justice League members to get them out of their immediate danger, then they meet to find out what’s going on.

Meanwhile, Vandal Savage has gathered the villains together to take out the Justice League, so he can put a secondary plan into motion. Once the various villains report their success — they insist on joining Savage in his plans. Savage’s plan is to fire a missile into the sun, causing a massive solar flare which will destroy the sunward side of the Earth as well as send out an EMP that will fry anything electronic. The Justice League arrives, and each member fights his or her opposite number villain. However, despite the assistance of Cyborg, Savage’s missile is fired. Superman and Green Lantern attempt to stop the missile at the sun, but fail, giving the League seven minutes to figure out what to do. They come up with something — and Earth is saved.

I really liked the first part of  the story — that Batman would have contingency plans for taking out everyone in the League (though his plans were non-lethal) is both scary, and yet fitting with his personality. I would have liked to see more of a sense of the League’s sense of betrayal though — not only that Batman would do that, but that he’d keep detailed records of his potential plans. After the Justice League saves Earth, they discuss what to do with Batman, and it’s Clark who tells Bruce that he was right, then asks what safety valve exists for Bruce — Bruce responds, “The Justice League”. In other words, he’s created an equal and balanced system. But, I would have liked more. More storyline, more background, especially for the villains, even more dialogue between the Leaguers (and between Alfred and Bruce. Alfred appears and then suddenly disappears, before just as suddenly appearing again. It was very frustrating). With six heroes and seven villains, including Savage, plus the opening gambit with the Royal Flush Gang, the film really should have been longer than 76 Minutes, and more flushed out.

I also felt the film fell a little flat at the end. It sort of turns into, “Of course the Justice League will win,” and really loses momentum. There’s some great stuff with Superman and Hal in space as they try to stop the missile and fail, but there’s still no real sense of danger — in part because Savage’s plan is just too big. I like the more subtle villains with subtle plans (like Lex Luthor becoming the US president — which he did in the DC Universe).

Still, it was great to see the re-united Justice League cast together again. I’d like to see Doom as the pilot for a new Justice League series, but I doubt it will happen. Still, one can hope. I will admit it was great to see the Legion of Doom appear threatening instead of as a joke, though. If you’re a DC fan you’ll enjoy this!

Recommendation: See it, especially if you’re a DC fan.
Rating: 4 out of 5