Farscape Season 1 DVD Review

  • 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 its 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 an 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 its 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 escaped 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” (as in The Doctor from Doctor Who) quality.

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