DVD Box Set Review: Farscape Season One – By Mike Wilson

“My name is John Crichton, an astronaut. A radiation wave hit me and I got shot through a wormhole. Now I’m lost in some distant part of the universe on a ship, a living ship, full of strange alien life forms. Help me. Listen, please, is there anybody out there who can hear me? I’m being hunted by an insane military commander. Doing everything I can. I’m just looking for a way home.”

When last I heard, there was a Farscape mini-series planned and in production to wrap up all of the plotlines and stuff when the series ended. If you were a fan of the show, then I’m certain you welcome that news. If you’ve never seen Farscape….well, buck up, little buckaroo…..there’s the box set of the first season to get, and you won’t regret watching it if you really like your sci-fi!

For those of you that don’t know, Farscape is about the adventures of John Crichton and his alien friends. You see, John is a scientist, a pilot and an all around good ol’ boy. In the series premiere he launches into space aboard his experimental craft “Farscape 1”. He’s trying to prove a theory he and his friend DK have about using a planet’s gravity to slingshot him into space at great velocity. But unexpectedly an astral phenomena occurs….its a wormhole and John is sucked out of earth orbit and dumped into….well, a galaxy far, far, far away…in the middle of a space battle no less! This region of space is ruled by the Peacekeepers…a humanoid race that looks like us humans, and they are pretty mean. Kind of like space Nazis. (Nazis….I hate those guys) While trying to avoid the battle Farscape 1 is clipped by a space fighter and the fighter spins out of control and crashes into an asteroid. Then John finds his ship towed into a huge spacecraft…this craft is Moya, a leviathan. Moya’s a living ship,. part animal, part machine and its being used as prison transport. The space battle is occurring because the prisoners have broken free and are trying to escape the Peacekeepers with Moya. And escape they do; Moya is unarmed, and the peacekeepers control her and a being merged with her called simply “Pilot” (because he’s uh…the pilot) with a massive control collar. the prisoners manage to free Moya of the collar and she uses the only defensive power she has….starburst. Moya marshals all of her power and basically commits a space warp, evading the attackers. Except one…a fighter is drawn into Moya’s starburst and quickly brought and imprisoned aboard with John. It then that John meets his alien captors in earnest.

One of the most ingenious things in this pilot is that the aliens inject John with “Translator Microbes”. They’re like the Babel fish from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy….now John can understand and speak to them and vice-versa since the Peacekeepers look like humans the escapees naturally think John is one of them. His cellmate however is Officer Aeryn Sun, a peacekeeper commando with a giant-ass chip on her shoulder. (Played by the extremely lovely Claudia Black) The prisoners are Ka Dargo, a Luxan warrior, Zahn, a blue skinned priestess from a race of plant people, and Rygel, a deposed emperor. They don’t trust John and certainly don’t trust Aeryn. Aeryn for that part is in full military mode, refusing to cooperate with them at all. And she doesn’t know, like or trust Crichton either.

Crichton’s problems get deeper….the fighter that crashed was piloted by the brother of the Peacekeeper Commander, Captain Crais. And Crais wants revenge, feeling that John murdered his brother. Against orders he takes his armada in pursuit of Moya. Eventually catching up with them, intends on killing Crichton, imprisoning the others again and condemning Aeryn Sun to death. Since she was captured he feels she has been contaminated by the aliens. this forces Aeryn to reluctantly team up with the others and escape Crais…and they escape because Crichton uses his slingshot theory to help Moya gain the speed she needs to avoid the Peacekeeper warship.

Wow, and that was only the first episode. Its difficult to get a lot of back-story in a first episode for a TV series. You have to introduce the characters, give them some kind of personality and motivation individually and still tell the story. And in a sci-fi show you have to do more than that….you have to explain and give reasons for certain things. Farscape did this quite well in the first episode which is why you’ll enjoy the rest of the first season box set. There are some great episodes and characters in there! Like, I mentioned that Zahn was a plant person? Well, she looks like a blue skinned human, and its not revealed that she is actually a vegetable person until later in the series. And its done in the way that everyone knows this….but John doesn’t, because he’s the alien here….he just judged her by appearance. Dargo and John butt heads many times in the first season…Dargo is determined not to be recaptured and he sees John as a liability. Eventually they grow to be friends, but that’s as the series evolves….its not instant. Which makes their relationship interesting. The same goes for Aeryn. She’s downright against everyone, Crichton especially, but she has to work with them in order to survive…and eventually as the show goes on begins to care about them and even love them. But the real prize in the first season is how Crichton is portrayed. He’s a fish out of water, but it’s not used for comedy. He’s truly bewildered by this strange new part of the galaxy he’s found, and he knows he can’t survive without his new friends.

Its a rare thing to find a good space opera like series on TV nowadays. Most of the new ideas are either cancelled before they can find a following (Like Firefly) or they’re just Paramount trying squeeze out what’s left in a tired series of Star Trek knockoffs. Farscape has the distinction though, of not being so “Americanized”. Its principle actors (with the exception of Crichton) are Australian or British, or from New Zealand and it shows. If this show was filmed in Hollywood Crichton probably would have learned how to pilot one of the aliens ships and boinked Aeryn by the 2nd episode. But the series was smarter than that. Everything that Crichton learns or does is built up on his experiences. Several episodes are marked by the fact that the others have to show Crichton how to use things, and Aeryn threatens to harm him several times…and means it.

Jim Henson studios created several memorable creatures and effects for this show, so it has a unique look. Rygel is as a matter of fact, a puppet, as the Pilot is. TI can tell you that if you give Farscape season 1 a try, you’ll probably be climbing the walls looking to see season II. Its a great series and Season 1 only scratched the surface of how good it was going to get.

JET JAGUAR’S TALLY: Special Features on all of the disks! They include character profiles, and interviews with the actors!

ARE THERE SUBTITLES?: Only on the first episode.

WHO’S GONNA WANT IT?: Geeks! And that’s not a slight! Sci-Fi geeks, fans of the show and generally people that like good adventure stories will love to have this!