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season one |
Farscape: The Complete Series Four|
cast: Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Wayne Pygram, Anthony Simcoe, and Gigi Edgley
Creator: Rockne S. O'Bannon
968 minutes (15) 2002
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Contender DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Debbie Moon
"Previously on Farscape" (as the voiceovers say): US astronaut John
Crichton (Ben Browder) was piloting an experimental shuttle when it was sucked through
a wormhole to the other end of the universe. Hunted by the local evil empire, the Peacekeepers,
he falls in with some escaped prisoners - noble warrior D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe), deposed
despot Rigel, over-sexed innocent Chiana (Gigi Edgley), and feisty former Peacekeeper
Aeryn (Claudia Black) - and their ship, a living being named Moya, but the Scarrans,
reptilian rivals to the Peacekeepers, want Crichton's wormhole expertise. Pursued by
half-Scarran Scorpius, Crichton has become the most valuable and dangerous man in the
universe. And all he wants is to go home...
Season four begins with the crew scattered to evade pursuit after blowing up a Peacekeeper
destroyer - and Crichton only discovering that Aeryn is pregnant with his child after
she's gone... The first five episodes gather everyone back together in potboilers involving
pirates and scrap merchants (though Lava's A Many Splendoured Thing has some
hilarious dialogue), and a two-parter, What Was Lost. Our heroes search for the
secret of a civilisation that resisted both the Peacekeepers and the Scarrans. Then
Peacekeeper Commandant Grazer, a kind of Antipodean Servalan able to hypnotise men
with her pheromones, arrives. Can Crichton keep Grazer busy long enough for D'Argo
to plan an escape - and at what cost?
The fifth episode sees the return of Aeryn - who has brought the disgraced Scorpius
aboard as a refugee after he saved her life. No one believes his claim that he's just
here to protect Crichton - who can now, impossibly, predict the appearance of wormholes,
and is on the verge of cracking their mathematical secrets. (I thought astronauts were
mostly test pilots, not maths geniuses, but never mind...)
The next few episodes ramble along with stories of the week, as our heroes take to
uncharted territory to evade Grazer. John Quixote (written by Ben Browder) dabbles
with VR, with imaginative results, but finally unravels in slapstick and cod philosophy.
I Shrink Therefore I Am is the best episode here: bounty hunters have seized Moya
and the crew, and only Crichton and Scorpius remain free. The situation is complicated
when the bounty hunters miniaturise their hostages and hide them in their armour...
Sounds tacky, but works wonderfully, mainly thanks to the alliance between Crichton
and the barely trustworthy Scorpius.
Then all that wormhole knowledge finally pays off (via some dull philosophical higher
beings), and our heroes reach Earth. Kansas brings the crew to Crichton's hometown -
but it's the 1980s, and Crichton's dad is about to be appointed to the doomed Challenger
shuttle mission. Crichton teams up with his unwitting younger self to stop him, and
a cop gets a shock on Halloween night...
Having suckered us into thinking there'll be no real homecoming, the episode then delivers
the crew to Earth in the present - and to Terra Firma, the best 'first contact'
episode ever. At first, Earth is welcoming to the varied aliens. Crichton tries to
prepare humanity for the threat of the Peacekeepers and Scarrans without causing mass
panic - but post-9/11 America is loath to share alien technology with the rest of the
world. Soon there's xenophobia in the media, even Crichton's dad doesn't know whether
to trust him, and his on-off relationship with Aeryn is disintegrating. Maybe the only
safe thing John can do is leave... A moving episode about ethics, paranoia, and the
disappointments of coming home, one of Farscape's real high points.
Back in Peacekeeper space, the season enters its final phase as Aeryn is captured by
the Scarrans. The child she carries is valuable leverage to get Crichton's wormhole
knowledge - and John will do anything, even ally himself with Scorpius, to save the
woman he loves. A couple of the best standalone episodes crop up here too. A Constellation
Of Doubt uses a TV broadcast picked up from Earth to unravel Crichton's dreams of
alien-human cooperation; and Mental As Anything is a showcase for D'Argo (the
always excellent Simcoe) as he finally confronts his wife's killer, only to begin doubting
what really happened...
Finishing off with a rollicking three-parter as the crew gatecrash a Scarran-Peacekeeper
peace conference with a nuclear bomb - and you've got to admire any series that would
call its end-of-season three-parter We're So Screwed - the season winds down
with the rushed but often moving Bad Timing: admirable for John's final chat
with his dad, and a shock ending to beat them all...
This is a typical Farscape season: hugely ambitious, often shocking and moving,
with a level of real adult emotion rare in SF TV, but hampered by tuppence ha'penny
budgets that force repetitive, cheap storylines. The believable, fallible characters
are among the best loved in TV SF, but the complexity of the backstory makes it impossible
for new viewers to catch up. In short, it is what Farscape always was: too clever
for its budget, for its kid's TV slot, and for its own good. But is that really a bad
If you're a Farscape fan, you'll buy this anyway. If not, it might be wiser to
start at the beginning - but wherever you start, do give it a go. Look past the weaknesses,
and you'll find a truly original and startling show.
DVD extras: commentaries on five episodes, mostly one techie and one actor; various
deleted scenes and outtakes; a talking heads on the cancellation of the series, a
dictionary of alien terms, and a series of odd facts about various episodes, fun for
anyone interested in the tricks of TV production.