Ten Disc Set, 2002

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The Sci-Fi Channel's most successful original series was Farscape. I'd gotten rid of cable in favor of spending the money on DVDs, so I could have complete contorl over what I watched, so I'd missed the final year of Farscape until it was available on discs. For most fans of thes eries this was months & months of entertainment dished out an hour a week. It took me less than a week to catch up on it all.

Not every episode was in top form of course, & there are even elements of the series that can be considered dorky-disneyesque edging into boring unless you're a complete Farscape dorkpizzle eager to see the two least interesting characters dragging out their tedious love story.

The season starts at the point of the previous season's cliffhanger of John abandoned in space. Since it was a fake-o cliffhinger, John's merely taken on board a dying leviathon & is fine. He has a nasty run-in with vulturous mercenaries who want to harvest the leviathan, which is cruelty to animals, all the while still angst-ridden over the by-now tiresome theme of learning to control wormholes.

It's not a promising start to the season, but by episode two, we get big treats from the femme fatale peacekeeper Grayza who has tamed Scorpius on a leash. Episode 4 "Lava's A Many Splendored Thing" is a rather slapstick interlude with shoot-outs in a Star Trek style generic cave. Since the series already joky, to be doubly joky isn't an improvement; to be joky on such a cheap set isn't even imaginative. There are alas other way-too-jokey episodes & even a two-episode journey back to Earth for the entire crew who end up media personalities. It wasn't as bad as this type of budget-saving episode usually restults in being. But the follow-up episode "A Constellation of Doubt" was truly Sesame Street level, affecting to be a television news special about the recent space visitors. The producers really weren't very good at hiding the fact that some episodes were written in a way to save money on production.

These first few episodes do not make use of the whole cast who are not reunited until the fifth episode, when lovelorn John has to deal with a mentally unstable Aeryn so what else is new. Fortunately Scorpius (not successfully killed Grayza) is hanging out with Aeryn, an annoyance for John, but as a viewer, for so long as Scorpius is around, the show can't actually be boring.

One of the poorer episodes "John Quixote" takes place in a virtual reality game where nothing has to make sense & it's all sort of a dream anyway so who the hell cares, but at least Zhaan the Potato Woman who loves the Godd-Dess makes a guest appearance, which had the effect of reminding viewers that the show never was quite as good after she left the series. In of the better episodes "Bringing Home the Beacon" John shoots Aeryn in the head, but unfortunately she's just a replica. The cast is often so lackluster that the show brings strongest life only in episodes that have them threatened by Grayza with her wonderful Napoleon hair-do & little-squirt Napoleon complex. Episode atop episode, D'Argo is under-utilized or religated to the role of Tonto to John's Lone Ranger, as though the writers never realized D'Argo was a better hero-type than John by a long shot. But there's a lord's plenty of Chiana so the sex appeal is high.

Throughout the season there's way too much mugging to the fans instead of sticking to good stories. And the series has always had several built-in problems, like a totally unconvincing "relationship" between all the characters & an allegedly living ship that in reality nobody but the Pilot can communicate with & Moya the ship has zero personality (as opposed to the wonderful living ship in the less popular but far more imaginative series Lexx, the Lexx having had a real personality & always hungry). The extent of Moya's personality is she gets scared sometimes, but the effect on the crew is like any Star Trek episode where everyone leans to the right or to the left & pretends the Enterprise was hit by something.

The season cliffhanger has the ultra-evil Scarans on their way to destroy Earth, & John & Aeryn are melted into bubbly bits. The series was then cancelled causing outrage among Farscape fans until the powers that be relented & finally did one more giant episode which sewed it all up & said goodbye, Farscape: The Peacekeeper War.

For all its juvenility, somewhere at its heart Farscape really was a winner of a television sci-fi program, & despite its cuteness, its too-funny cost-saving episodes, its moronic love story, its over-reliance on Scorpius to keep stories from becoming too flacid to the point that Scorpius becomes the central character & kinda cutesie himself -- despite all its faultiness, enough really hard-edged things happen that it only rarely seems like kid's stuff exclusively.

All the characters are likeable & Scorpius in particular is a wonderful character wonderfully played. Most the rest of the cast comes off second-best to the puppetry; I mean, when the second most appealing character is Pilot who has only one facial expression & incapable of moving out from behind the puppetteers-hiding-place, you know you've got some pretty weak human performers.

Yet the cast is always trying harder than the wooden actors on the deservedly shortlived Trek series Enterprise, are no cornier than the comic book antics on Andromeda, as Farscape's cast seems wholly to believe in their characters & enjoy playing who they play. Their own belief in their roles can be infectious enough to almost pass as acting, & overall the majority of episodes pull one along a jolly good ride.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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