FARSCAPE Revisited Mini-caps / Season 1, Episodes 1-4

16 Jun

Stewart here…

A brief history lesson: I remember a time when there was something on cable called the Sci-Fi Channel (it’s now called Syfy, you may have heard) and for the longest time, it was full on reruns of classic science-fiction and Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Sometime around 1999, they started to branch out into original programming.  Among the first of the shows they wheeled out was one produced by Jim Henson’s company, and was a largely Australian production called Farscape.  It was meant to not really be a muppet-esque sci-fi show (although there are clearly puppeteered creations at work here), but a combination of puppets, make-up, and CG, and yes, regular humans.  So cut to several years later, when after four seasons and a follow-up miniseries, I was a full-blown fan.

The story in a nutshell is astronaut John Crichton (Ben Browder), on an experimental shuttle flight, ends up going through a wormhole into another galaxy, and becomes involved with a group of escaped prisoners.  Among those prisoners (all aliens, mind you), are warrior D’argo (Anthony Simcoe), priestess Zhaan (Virgnia Hey, who kind of reminds me of an Asari from Mass Effect without the weird head tendrils), deposed king Rygel (one of the few puppets on the show, voiced by Jonathan Hardy), and the ship itself: Moya, a living ship known as a Leviathan and its Pilot (another puppet, voiced by Lani Tupu, who appears as frequent nemesis Crais).  Its nice to see the whole “stranger in a strange land” concept being turned on its head by Crichton being the one forced to play catch-up with everything going on with this group and their escape from their captors, the totalitarian Peacekeepers.  He’s the audience surrogate, bringing us into the world and trying to figure out how to survive in this situation.

Also an unwilling passenger onboard Moya is captured Peacekeeper pilot Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), who tries through the first episode to escape, but due to circumstances, gets stuck with this motley crew.  Those circumstances happen to be because of Peacekeeper commander Crais, who wants Crichton dead for accidentally hitting and destroying his brother’s fighter ship with the shuttle, and then condemns Aeryn to death when she tries to save John from his fate.  A lot of the tension early on in the season comes from their need to appease for their sins or return to their home overriding their need to stay together, even though their alliance to stay alive tends to win out in the end.

“Premiere”

The first episode does a pretty good job of setting up the conflicts and relationships that will carry the series through, even though it does feel like there’s a bit of the rush in the third act to get those characters there (FYI: I’m watching the 50 minute episodes that were aired for international television for season one, which really just have extra scenes of dialogue, and don’t affect the plot of the episode).  What I appreciate about this opener is how little we really know about the characters going in, and you’re not sure about the loyalty of anyone.  Plus, Rygel farts helium.  Yep, puppet farting.

“I, E.T.”

A variation of “E.T.” in that Crichton finds himself being the alien visitor taken care of by a scientist and her son while Moya is getting a tricky Peacekeeper homing beacon removed with the help of Zhaan and Rygel.  Its clear that the show is trying to find its footing as to tone, to be friendly to audiences while having some pretty dark moments (Rygel taking a bite out of Aeryn in anger) here and there.  Not a bad episode, and certainly ends on a brighter note than later episodes in the series’ run, but like many second episodes, ends up restating things already brought up in the premiere.

“Exodus From Genesis”

While evading a Peacekeeper patrol ship, Moya picks up an organism that starts replicating the crew and messes with the ship’s environmental controls enough to endanger Aeryn’s life.  Another decent episode, which picks up a bit thanks to the third act reappearance of the Peacekeeper patrol ship.  And Aeryn finally warms to Crichton.  Awwwww!

“Throne For A Loss”

Rygel’s kidnapped by a group of aliens who believes he’s still a king, leaving John and Aeryn to rescue him from captivity, mostly because Rygel took a control circuit that is causing Moya’s orbit to deteriorate.  Out of this batch of episodes, this is probably my favorite and certainly the most action packed of the bunch.  Plus, some nice physical humor, especially with Aeryn’s method of bringing Crichton along for the rescue mission (Jab, my ass).  Oh yeah, some alien backside nudity as well (yes, kind of like Liara from Mass Effect too).  So there’s that.

Its been a few years since I last sat down to watch the show in full, and I’m surprised how well it holds up (could do without some of the synth music and slow-mo stuff though), even knowing the show is still ironing out the kinks as to how far they can push things.  Its strange seeing Crichton still relatively sane in comparison to the manic levels he gets taken to later on in the series’ run, and everyone else still wary of each other’s motives.  And yes, it reminds of my early 00’s crush on Aeryn, which may be something I should not have just brought up.  I’m sure I’ll have other embarrassing observations to make as this series of mini-caps progresses, so you can look forward to that next time.

And now, some notes:

–Crichton’s pop-culture references aren’t really dated, which is good news.

–Yes, leave the toilet humor of the show to involve Rygel somehow.  My favorite occasion of this is in “Throne For A Loss” with him returning an object he hid in…well, him.  Yeah.

Next Time: Crichton has déjà vu on a loop in “Back And Back And Back To The Future”; a pleasure-filled utopia holds danger in “Thank God Its Friday…Again”; Crichton makes a new friend in “PK Tech Girl”; and he then gets forced to fight Crais to the death by a evil sorcerer in “That Old Black Magic”.

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7 Responses to “FARSCAPE Revisited Mini-caps / Season 1, Episodes 1-4”

  1. elizabeth ann June 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    Yes, I agree- the show holds up very well. As do most of the references (comments from John about VCRs not withstanding). I’m sure Emily will comment on the science as when we caught up on these episodes the other day, that was our major gripe- have to suspend disbelief, especially in the knowledge of John as a “scientist” when he does things clearly without rational thought… but I’ll let Emily make her points.

    Personally- I still love the show. The first disk (or first four episodes) provide a nice introduction to John and the rest of Moya’s crew- as well as creating a universe that an audience can become invested in. (Oh… and Ben Browder is a damn fine looking man! Just sayin’)

    I, too, had quite the giggle at Rygel and the toilet humor. As I recall, he is the keeper of it through most of the series and that makes me happy. Helium farts are brilliant!

    I watched the show when it originally aired and though I have owned the DVDs for years, I’ve yet to crack them open. It’s nice to see the show again and share it with the rest of the crew. I look forward to the storylines that I don’t recall. Stewart mentioned the strangeness of seeing John not manic- as he gets a little whacky later in the series (but who wouldn’t when trapped so far from home with puppets)- and I can barely remember that storyline. Can’t wait to get there!

    • ladydethpool June 17, 2012 at 7:50 am #

      I gotta say- I’ve never made it past the first season of Farscape. I didn’t have cable when it came out so I only saw the first season and nothing beyond that… Being a fan of sci-fi, I’m excited to finally go back and watch what I’ve been told is one of the better television shows of the genre.

      That being said… WOW, they’re not really focusing on the science part of sci-fi. I realize they need to have a pretty boy to carry us through the series, but if we’re going to call him a IASA Scientist, at least…. I don’t know… allow him to make smart decisions? Maybe I’m too used to Battlestar Galactica and expect too much realism from my sci-fi. but when our hero first landed his little ship onto Moira, he didn’t do any kind of oxygen check, pressure or gravity check- nothing! And just popped off his helmet and walked inside like it was no big deal. Later on he does scrawl out a astrophysicist’s equation on the floor (san’s calcuation! He’s a genius!) but…. I’m going to go ahead and go out on a limb here and say he will probably Never Do That Again.

      As for the other characters- The Peacekeeper… she’s a very handsome woman. I don’t really have any problems with her character. Except for maybe her logic in “Exodus From Genesis” when she started getting overly warm and didn’t decide to remove her clothes or take a cold shower until the very last possible minute. It also exposed a pretty interesting weakness in the Peacekeeper anatomy that strikes me with the question… If they’re the badasses of the universe with this pretty simple exploit, shouldn’t our heros? (And every other ship in the ‘verse) be trying to turn up their heaters to kill them at every freakin’ opportunity? I have high hopes for this.

      Then there is Rigel… and his many bodily functions. I’ve been promised exploding pee. I’m looking forward to this.

      And of course the sexy Asari. I mean… blue priestess assassin anarchist alien… who also has mammalian boobs. I haven’t really had an episode about her yet so I don’t really have much to say.

      Yay Farscape!

      • elizabeth ann June 17, 2012 at 9:13 am #

        I vaguely recall some of the crazy that is coming with this series… wild ride! It’s a little slow to get going and find it’s feet… but it will.

        And see? I’m glad I left the science rant to you. 😉

      • elizabeth ann July 27, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

        Hey, Emily! You need to catch up! Also, I should loan you the DVDs because the commentary for ep… 14? has the creator and executive producer commenting on the helmet and the breathing stuff… and smacking people for the failure of the science. 🙂 Woohoo!

  2. stewartmoncure June 17, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    There’s a good Zhaan-centered episode in the next batch of eps (and actually another one in the batch after that too) where we deal with her past.
    Right now, I’m more than halfway through season one, and as to some of the early lackluster eps, there is one midway through the season that’s a real misfire. I’ll talk more about when it comes up, but hoo boy.

    • elizabeth ann June 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

      I recall that it took a bit to really find their feet… but that, when the show originally aired, I stuck with it because a) there wasn’t a lot of Sci-Fi on TV at the time, b) it was a Henson production and I was raised on all things Henson, and c) well… Ben Browder… I kinda just want to lick him- he’s definitely got that southern boy charm.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Where’s the Science in my Science Fiction? « NerdLush - June 20, 2012

    […] we at NerdLush are watching the late ’90s/early ’00s series, Farscape, right now. In the first mini-cap, Em questioned why the lead character- who’d spent most of the episode up to that point […]

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