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Christopher Webster [Cathode Ray Mission 01.28.10] Tuvalu review scifi

Year: 2009
Creators: Rockne S. O'Bannon / David Kemper
Writers: Various
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Show Rating: 8.5 out of 10
DVD Rating: 8 out out of 10

"Boy was Spielberg wrong. Close Encounters my ass." -- John Crichton

In 1999, space opera was as stale as day-old bread. Television viewers (read: people not interested in tepid Star Trek spin-offs or look-a-likes) were desperate for something totally fresh to come along, kick the genre in the junk and bring back some high adventure. Then two amazing things happened. George Lucas brought Star Wars back to the forefront of popular culture with the release of Episode I, and SyFy launched a new flagship show called Farscape. All of sudden space opera was back in big way.

Describing Farscape to people who've never seen it has always been tricky business. The show is "epic" in the grandest possible sense. It's also the kind of show where absolutely anything is possible and where the writers have no issue taking you down some totally unforeseen narrative paths. For example, in an episode called "Eat Me" (a s#!t-scary homage to the horror genre) the main character, John Crichton, is cloned. Any other scifi show would have resolved the issue of having two lead characters by the end of the episode, but not Farscape. For the rest of the show's third season, the writers kept both Crichtons around, creating a very strange love triangle and causing all kinds of problems for new viewers hoping to figure out what the hell was going on. Those of us in the know, however, loved it.

So, what is Farscape? Basically it's a surreal science fiction experiment that worked. It's a show that doesn't always play by the rules and is chock-full of action and irreverent humor. It's got a cast of flawed, strange and unforgettable characters including the single greatest baddie in scifi history. And, of course, it brought inter-species sex to scifi television years before Battlestar Galactica was even a glimmer in Ron Moore's creative eye.

And it has puppets. Oh glory-be the puppets of Farscape.

Farscape was the perfect vehicle to bring the Jim Henson company out from under the shadow of its own glory years and is easily the most ambitious thing they've done since. From the word go they were all over the show, not just supplying insane costumes and make-up for aliens-of-the-week, but sophisticated anamatronic creations that would become beloved main characters. I always loved that humans hugged puppets in Farscape. I don't know why. Maybe because whenever humans hug CGI is looks weird.

But anyway, onto the saga of the Farscape DVDs which is an epic tale in its own right. Basically, anime company, ADV, started releasing the DVDs back around 2000 when TV-on-DVD was not nearly as rampant as it is now. Back then, you couldn't get entire series as sets and if you wanted to own Farscape you had to by two episodes at a time at over 30 dollars a pop. Thankfully I held out. A few years later (and after much fan uproar), ADV relented and started to put out "Starburst Editions" which were essentially two-disc sets that featured about six episodes each and the same features off the original discs. The price was starting to make sense, but fans were still shelling out a fortune per season. Enter A&E, who picked up the rights after ADV went under. It took 10 years, but Farscape fans can now buy the entire series for as little as 99 bucks, depending on where you find it.

The A&E set is the one I've just finished muscling through and I must say it's a worthy set. It won't satisfy videophiles, and maybe not the most die-hard Scaper, but it's got a ton going for it. For one thing, it's extremely compact cramming 26 discs in five cases. It's also got virtually all the bonus material from the original ADV discs. The only stuff missing as far as I can tell are the art galleries and text-based features (remember when DVDs had text features? Ha!)

Perhaps the biggest draw for long time Farscape experts is that the televised documentary, Farscape: Undressed, is presented here for the first time. This doc only aired once and has been much sought after for years.

The biggest two drawBACKs are that, a) the 2-hour Farscape: Peacekeeper Wars, which aired post show cancellation is NOT included. This will leave new viewers in the lurch when they reach the end of the series, but it's still around so at least it's easy to pick up. And b) the video could be a little crisper. An unavoidable ramification of squishing too many episodes onto each disc I'm afraid.

Bottom line: Farscape is an acquired taste and it will probably date poorly. V hates it for example because she just can't do guys-in-funny-make-up shows. And you know what? I get that. But Farscape is cool because it takes scifi tv to crazy places and yet manages to stay down to earth, focusing on characters that you can relate too and who you really fall in love with. Check it out.

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badfrog (11 years ago) Reply

I have entered several contests on various sites lately that are giving this away, chances in winning are zilch, but I can always hope. I would really love to see this in a blu ray offering:-)


sonaboy (11 years ago) Reply

"single greatest baddie in the history of sci fi..." - nothing like a little hyperbole to completely squash my interest in watching another TV show.


agentorange (11 years ago) Reply

Seriously man. Scorpius is easily the most charismatic and weird-a$$ villain ever IMHO. Wayne Pygram is a great actor.


Kresh (11 years ago) Reply

""single greatest baddie in the history of sci fi..." - nothing like a little hyperbole to completely squash my interest in watching another TV show"

No hyperbole. Scorpius was so fully fleshed out through the writing and brilliant acting that even though you hated him to pieces, and you wanted him thrown into a sun, you still wanted him involved in the episode.

Still, nothing beats Crais in Red Pumps. Amirite?


Anonymous (11 years ago) Reply

@ sonaboy - If you read QE haven't you come to expect piles of hyperbole in every post by this point?


donc48 (11 years ago) Reply

At the risk of a being accused of spewing more heresy on QE, I have to confess I didn’t like Farscape not only because of the puppets it just never got it. Science Fiction shows either film or TV like Horror is acquired taste, as well as villains my favorite of all time if Khan of Wrath of Khan. Some may scoff, some may agree, some may go WTF? Maybe now that I’m older I’ll give Farscape another chance, I didn’t get into Seinfeld until well after the show stopped production. Oh yeah my second favorite villain is Newman.


sm (11 years ago) Reply

Farscape is essentially Buck Rogers done with intelligence... seriously outstanding makeup work across the board as far as aliens are concerned, and none looked the same (ie. STNG). Clever writing, and excellent acting, a very underrated show.


FALLEN101 (11 years ago) Reply

This is the show that really got me into Sci-fi, I mean Star Wars did the trick to get me to actually tune into the Sci-fi channel, but Farscape sold me. Fun plot, good writing, and actually good humor throughout (hard to come by these days) made for a very very cool show. I recommend it to anyone out there who is willing to lose a couple days out of their life watching it. Television sci-fi at some of its best, I agree with QE completely.


Lee (11 years ago) Reply

I just can't wrap my head around anyone listing "the puppets" as a reason to skip/ not like the show. They are amazing characters and beautifully realized from a technical point of view.

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