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The best science fiction is always about Earth
on 10 October 2007
Congratulations to Contender for finally making this unforgettable series available in a complete box set (including the mini-series finale Peacekeeper Wars). If there was ever a series - sci-fi or otherwise - which deserves to be watched from start to finish, Farscape is it.
It has been said that the best science fiction is always about Earth. While most episodes of Farscape take place in galaxies far away, its tie to Earth is always maintained in the person of the main character, astronaut and physicist John Crichton. Furthermore, Crichton's Earth is contemporary. Earth as we know it right now.
The opening episode's first image is of Crichton watching the sun rise over the familiar shuttle launch pad at Cape Canaveral. He is about to board the shuttle in a space module of his own design, to test a theory he's just developed regarding propulsion outwith Earth's gravity. He figures this will be a routine flight and test - he's been up in the shuttle a couple of times before - but Crichton is in for what can only be mundanely described as a 'life-changing moment.'
No sooner has he entered space and begun the trial in his module, than Crichton is engulfed by a wormhole - a tornado in space - which appears out of nowhere between the Earth and the Moon. He and his module are shot down the wormhole's funnel in a gut-churning sequence, then spat out the other end into the middle of a space battle, elsewhere in the Universe!
The shocked Crichton and his module are scooped up by a huge ship called a Leviathan, populated by only three escaped convicts - (1) a bald woman with blue skin, (2) a male warrior with tentacles, a loud voice and a short temper, and (3) a selfish little despot who resembles a hairy slug riding a pillow! Turns out these three convict aliens have just stolen the ship and are being pursued and fired upon by the current rulers of their bit of space, a group of human-like aliens called Peacekeepers.
Of course Crichton's first goal - after survival! - is to get back 'home.' However, as the series progresses, this goal becomes more complicated and less clear-cut. As the old song says: how can you keep them happy down on the farm, when they've seen Berlin? (And received Translator Microbes??)
Through Crichton as 'Everyman' we get to watch humans interacting with 'aliens' who, amusingly and disturbingly, aren't actually all that interested in Earth or humans. In fact, most of them regard Crichton as a weak specimen, annoying and lacking intelligence. They have no idea where Earth might be, and they don't much care.
We certainly identify with Crichton and his trials and tribulations with these alien societies, but it turns out Crichton is NOT Everyman - not even EveryAmerican. Crichton is an individual human being with his own strengths and weaknesses. As the series moves toward conclusion, we slowly realise our mistake in believing Crichton is Everyman, and begin to see where this will lead us.
The central story arc revolves around Crichton's search for Earth and the meaning of 'home' and 'humanity.' Farscape's other major story arc deals with the insanity of weapons of mass destruction, an issue Crichton must confront and take responsibility for, albeit against his will.
Another major subplot is a most believable and heartbreaking love story between Crichton and the troubled Peacekeeper deserter named Aeryn Sun. All story arcs get resolved by the end, I'm happy to report. Indeed, I can't recollect any TV series - sci-fi or not - which has been so strongly focused for five (almost!) seasons, and so satisfactorily concluded.
Season One is vital for understanding the series, and is totally enjoyable to watch, but unlike most other TV series, Farscape actually gets stronger season by season. Season Four provides the most memorable and shattering moments of the lot, with the exception of the wonderful final scene in Peacekeeper Wars, which actually finishes the story. Many other series start strongly then fizzle out. Not this one. It's a corker, from Day One.
(Farscape was meant to have had five complete seasons, but the Sci-Fi channel pulled the plug on production after the fourth season wrap, due to 'high production costs.' Fortunately the channel was later persuaded by Farscape's appalled fan base to at least finish the story with the truncated 4-part Peacekeeper Wars. It's a bummer that there is no more new Farscape to come, but what is contained in this collection will provide around 90 hours of mesmerising viewing, as well as many subsequent years of contemplation, re-viewing and debate.)
I can't recommend Farscape highly enough. Many people who do not normally watch science fiction have been hooked by this series - providing they started at the beginning and understand where Crichton is coming from. Why? Because the story is believable and accessible, despite its strange locale.
You love Crichton immediately, because of his wacky sense of humour, his intelligence, his compassion, and ability to roll with the punches. The other characters wow your socks off, including the most compelling villain (Scorpius) ever committed to film. No character in Farscape is ever what they seem to be at first, and none of the myriad plots end the way you expect. Take nothing for granted and keep an open mind! Another lesson to learn from Farscape.
Farscape still makes me cry, sweat, gulp, laugh my head off (figuratively), jump out of my chair with glee (literally, at least twice!), and THINK THINK THINK - every time I watch it. All this and complete entertainment as well? Can anyone ask for more?
Do shell out for this magnificent Farscape box set. I know it seems expensive, but you will watch it again and again, and you will never be sorry.