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Well it was 15 years ago this week...
March 22, 2014 8:31 AM   Subscribe

It remains one of the best science-fiction shows of the last 20 cycles: Farscape. It has been 15 years since the first episode aired. So why not enjoy the 15 best frelling moments from Farscape? Or the 10 must-watch Farscape episodes (or are they?). Or ponder what the cast members think since the show was cancelled? Because, with no space shows on TV anymore, the show with the muppets, shot in Australia, still matters. And Farscape isn't dead. Or is it?
posted by Mezentian (103 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sigh, I'm just going to go to my shirtless Ben Bowder place. Such a great show, surprised it lasted as long as it it, why oh why are the DVD episode OUT OF FUCKING ORDER?! Like episode two, four and six on one disc and one, three, five on another? The fuck?

fun fact the very first slash fic I ever read online was Farscape based. MEMORIES
posted by The Whelk at 8:39 AM on March 22 [4 favorites]


why are the DVD episode OUT OF FUCKING ORDER?!

No wonder things seemed more convoluted than I remembered.

I'm trying to get my kids to watch it, but they're not sure about John, and I keep having to peek ahead in case there's any inter-species funny business going on.

Farscape is still pretty great though, once we've finished our annual rerun of LEXX (it's a Canadian thing).
posted by sneebler at 8:43 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


So much of Farscape was just great, aliens that were actually alien, but I really had trouble with the cool american vs creepy ugly space commander in a bondage getup. If they had kept more to the wagon train planet of the week it would have had more staying power than the "oh right sure" galactic conspiracy theory plotting.
posted by sammyo at 8:46 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


creepy ugly space commander in a bondage getup.

Straight guy: open-minded.
Not seeing the ugly.

When he was Grand Moff Tarkin I was "makes sense"
posted by Mezentian at 8:51 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]


I'm always surprised Farscape hasn't penetrated the US Sci-fi TV dork world more honestly. Maybe it's the aforementioned lousy distribution.
posted by The Whelk at 8:53 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]


sneebler

If I remember correctly, Ka D'Argo has fantastic sex with Chiana.
posted by The Confessor at 8:58 AM on March 22 [7 favorites]


My favourite one sentence description of Farscape: "an American walks into an Australian BDSM convention".

I miss this frelling show.
posted by fight or flight at 9:02 AM on March 22 [11 favorites]


in case there's any inter-species funny business going on.

Um. Err. Well, there's Chiana and D'Argo. And Chiana and Jothee. And Chiana and John. And Chiana and Rygel. Plus there's John and Aeryn. D'Argo and Lo'Laan. Scorpius and Sikozu. Scorpius and wassname the spider woman. And then there's the slash pairings: John/D'Argo, John/Scorpius, Scorpius/Braca, Chiana/Jool... In sum: it's basically ALL interspecies funny business, if you accept that Sebaceans are not actually human.

cool american vs creepy ugly space commander

Crichton goes off his rocker fairly early on, and never fully recovers his balance. He becomes more dangerous, sure, and Browder looks excellent in leather pants. But the show is really really not about how cool the American guy is and how he can show these silly aliens how shit gets done. It's more about trauma, and found families, and how found families can help you survive trauma.

I'm always surprised Farscape hasn't penetrated the US Sci-fi TV dork world more honestly.

It was on cable, at a time before cable was quite as universal in the market; it was made by Australians with an Australian sensibility; it had MUPPETS; there was no reset button and as a result you kind of had to watch it in order to make sense of the characters; and the network played merry hell with the schedule, at one point leaving it with an eight-month hiatus in the middle of a season. Frankly, I'm surprised it's remembered as well as it is.

My understanding is that a lot of people discovered Farscape only after seeing Ben Browder and Claudia Black on Stargate SG-1 (in which Browder, in particular, was woefully underused, sigh).

(And yes, this was My Show. More so even than the X-Files or Buffy.)
posted by suelac at 9:05 AM on March 22 [19 favorites]


Yes I do like how the overarching theme of the series seems to be " hey handsome cool guy American square jaw hero, we're here to FUCK YOUR SHIT UP. GET READY TO HAVE YOUR HORIZONS FORICLBLY EXPANDED."

I mean he's so comically wrong and at sea half the time. It's adorable.
posted by The Whelk at 9:11 AM on March 22 [13 favorites]


(And yes, this was My Show. More so even than the X-Files or Buffy.)

I am on my third watch.
I dismissed it first time, the second time Channel Nine BRISSED it to the point it made no sense, third time I had the DVDs and I loved it, and on my fourth shot I want to make it a Babylon 5 equal because it that THAT GOOD.
posted by Mezentian at 9:14 AM on March 22


HUMANS. ARE. SUPERIORRRRRRRR

Weird, I was thinking about Farscape for the first time in a while after hearing Claudia Black voice a character on Rick & Morty, but I had no idea it had been fifteen years. That is ridiculous and I refuse to believe it.

I still hold kind of a grudge against my younger self for being put off enough by the puppets that I missed most of season 1 before I realised how good it was. There's so much about it that was and still is just refreshing - the lack of heirarchies in the cast (outside of certain people's minds, anyway) and the number of times everyone just kind of doing their own thing ruins and/or saves the day, militaries mostly being antagonists, humans not really being special, the protagonist being kind of unpredictable and volatile and very much not Hero Man Guy, the number of episodes that are basically 'Crichton fights a puppet in front of an Australian open-air rave'... I want to move to the world where this show and the first two seasons of Lexx informed all the TV sci-fi that followed, because honestly the stuff here is kind of a let-down by comparison.
posted by emmtee at 9:17 AM on March 22 [8 favorites]


it had MUPPETS;

I remember having a vocal disagreement with someone who claimed Star Trek: Voyager was better than Farscape, and cited Paramount's special effects budget vs. Farscape's muppets. I kept my cool in the face of such eye gouging bad taste, but I did not keep in touch.

Farscape was awesome.

*raises a box of crackers to it*
posted by mordax at 9:18 AM on March 22 [9 favorites]


People really did get put off by the Muppets. But it was accepted in the fandom if you gave it a chance, the Muppets would make you cry. Oh, Pilot.
posted by suelac at 9:21 AM on March 22 [12 favorites]


Honestly, I don't say this often but I think the show was a solid decade before its time.

I dimly remember people comparing it unfavorably to Voyager ( puppets are dumb! WWHO SAYS THAT?!) which had just come out and booooooy does that look bad in retrospect.
posted by The Whelk at 9:23 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


I mean he's so comically wrong and at sea half the time. It's adorable.

And spouting pop culture references that no one else could understand.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:23 AM on March 22 [6 favorites]


I never realized people were so biased against Muppets. Like a great man once said: "They're not quite a mop, and they're not quite a puppet, but maaaaaaaaan!"
posted by mordax at 9:24 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


I find that baffling. I've never liked Farscape to be honest (go ahead, shoot me) but the puppets were flat out excellent special effects.
posted by edd at 9:28 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]


I remember having seen this publicity still years ago, but I forgot the name of the show. A couple years back I was in the mood for some new sci-fi and decided to look it up. For some reason, mostly based on the number of Metafilter references, I decided that it must have been Torchwood. In my own defense, there was an episode of Doctor Who where the 10th Doctor and Jack Harkness see each other in a space bar. The whole time I watched Torchwood I kept thinking, "maybe the next season is when they finally leave Wales and go into space."
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:28 AM on March 22 [4 favorites]


I still hold kind of a grudge against my younger self for being put off enough by the puppets that I missed most of season 1 before I realised how good it was.

I reckon, and I was there, you might have been "eh" about it regardless. I was.
This show was so badly treated locally, it was awful. The Footy Show made more sense.
posted by Mezentian at 9:30 AM on March 22


...in case there's any inter-species funny business going on.

And yet...

... our annual rerun of LEXX ...

Really? Lexx had nudity, and all things considered was way freakier than Farscape.
posted by Snowflake at 9:32 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]


I don't think they were watching LEXX with the kids.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:44 AM on March 22


Yeah but I wouldn't let my kids watch LEXX. Maybe year 1.

suelac: Well, there's Chiana and D'Argo. And Chiana and Jothee. And Chiana and John. And Chiana and Rygel. Plus there's John and Aeryn. D'Argo and Lo'Laan. Scorpius and Sikozu. Scorpius and wassname the spider woman. And then there's the slash pairings: John/D'Argo, John/Scorpius, Scorpius/Braca, Chiana/Jool...

Apparently I have some catching up to do!
posted by sneebler at 9:50 AM on March 22


Farscape is on my "mysteriously off-putting" list. It contains all of the elements of a show I'd really like, but no matter how many times I catch a random episode and think "That was good" I never follow it up with "I should watch more of these."
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:50 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]


And spouting pop culture references that no one else could understand.

I came into Farscape in the middle and it was hooking me quick, but when I saw the episode where Crichton bulls his way into the Shadow Depository by claiming to have the eight original herbs and spices of "KAYEFFSEE," I was pretty sure I was gonna love Farscape forever.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:51 AM on March 22 [9 favorites]


no matter how many times I catch a random episode and think "That was good" I never follow it up with "I should watch more of these."

There's a good chance you've answered your own question there. Random episodes pretty much don't work for Farscape, because the show really really builds on itself. Only occasionally is a one-off good for recruiting.

For myself, I tend to recommend people watch "Through the Looking Glass" from season 1. It's not an arc episode, it has some great character bits, it's representative of the ridiculous nature of the science-fictional plotting, and it's really funny.
posted by suelac at 9:57 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]


Also, I'm not sure that LEXX was freakier than Farscape. It could have been, but the format (after the first year) of introducing whole groups of characters in almost every episode meant it kind of walked a wobbly line of almost descending into camp. And sometimes did descend into frank camp, like the episode that's kind of a musical about something. But maybe that's a compromise needed to lower the freakiness index in order to sell the show to a network. When I saw it the first time, some of the soft-porn episodes were on at 7pm, and nobody seemed to care, which is a first of some kind.

The way LEXX presented voyages between universes, and the part about the guy who builds a whole universe of biotech cyborg drones were really cool. Farscape explored many of the same things, but did it in a more "conventional" tv FF way, which I also appreciated.
posted by sneebler at 9:59 AM on March 22


Random episodes pretty much don't work for Farscape, because the show really really builds on itself.

Initially, Farscape put me off. It didn't stay that year one show for very long at all, but I wandered away before that change happened. A long time later I randomly channel surfed into the Gammick Base episode, landed on Crichton giving the " ... this is John Crichton, somewhere in the universe ..." speech and thought, shit I must be catching the last episode or something! But then it ended on that cliffhanger with D'Argo so I watched the next week and started to figure out "oh, there's a little bit of 'last episode' stakes EVERY SINGLE WEEK."

Watching back episodes, I found the point where it changed from the show I wandered away from into the show I got obsessed with: the two-parter where this weekly sci-fi cable series took their square-jawed hero, broke him utterly, then left him broken. No reset button, like suelac said.
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:04 AM on March 22 [6 favorites]


I really liked Farscape it had the same Mil SF over a flat-out weird substrate that made me like early BSG.

As for the "cool American" thing, keep in mind he gets beat up by an Australian chick pretty regularly.
posted by spaltavian at 10:18 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


The puppet thing baffled me, since Creature Shop had been doing effects and characters for dozens of other SF&F movie of the decade. But evidently the world wanted moar aliens with silly wigs, contact lenses, and noses.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:19 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]


I love Farscape, but as an American, I often found myself wondering how all these Australians traveled to this part of space; some of them not looking too much like the other Australians I've seen. Then my imagination would go off the rails and create all these scenarios as to how Australian English came to dominate in far off space populated by advanced civilizations.

I got in trouble for trying to introduce this to my 8 year old the other day. Somebody gets a hand melted by acid or something and that's all she wrote.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:19 AM on March 22


I wasn't really the type of person who would have found Farscape on my own. While I've watched sci-fi, I'm not immediately drawn to to. Plus the really weird muppet aliens probably would have been the first sign that no, it wasn't for me.

But back then there were still TV guide publications in the local papers, and I must admit, I read them religiously. The Toronto Star TV guide, Star Weekly was my preferred choice. At the time (unlike today) it actually had smart, informed staffers write reviews and recommendations. (Now it's just freelanced out to some content farm.) Rob Salem was one of the contributors. He sung the praises of this new show, encouraging people to give it a shot. Now I didn't always agree with Rob's taste, but I knew that if he praised something, it likely had merit and was worth a few minutes of my time, so I tuned into the premier. Needless to say, it was fresh and compelling, and it made me a fan.

While there are so many more reviews and so much more criticism available online, it's actually harder to access, at least in my opinion. First you have to go searching for sites, then you have to figure out what their niches are when it comes to recommendations. I really miss the days when there was comprehensive, well edited publication right at my finger tips that covered all genres and did so in a way that was meaningful to me locally (i.e. the shows were televised on channels I could pick up locally, and didn't need to go hunting for online.)

Thanks Rob, for opening my eyes to Farscape, and to a host of other shows.
posted by sardonyx at 10:23 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


EatTheWeak: took their square-jawed hero, broke him utterly, then left him broken. No reset button, like suelac said.

He never gets over it, but (my memory is fuzzy) doesn't he actually become more of a badass after this? I remember a lot of "you know nothing, Jon Snow" before Crichton pays his dues.

Seeing Aeryn and D'Argo slowly respect him as a comrade and then as a lover and friend respectively I always thought was surprisingly rewarding. That episodic that ends with Crichton and D'Argo hopelessly floating in space about to run out of air? That was just a great scene between them.
posted by spaltavian at 10:26 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


For anybody who wants to try getting into the show, let me suggest the AV Club's relatively recent rewatch of the series. I must admit, I started reading those reviews, and they drove me into watching the whole series again, which was nice because there were episodes I missed during the initial run.

The benefit to following the reviews (and the comments) is they deal with the out-of-order episodes, and give you warning that, yes even though there are clunky episodes here and there, things get better (and weirder) very quickly.

And the comment often link to online resources such as interviews with the cast and crew.
posted by sardonyx at 10:32 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]


spaltavian - More of a badass? Once he's back in somewhat functional order, yeah, absolutely and for certain. Crichton levels up and Grows the Beard then spends the entire rest of the series working through the trauma.
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:38 AM on March 22


Farscape is on my "mysteriously off-putting" list.

Y'know, I sort of have a love-hate relationship with the show, too. I love the Farscape universe, characters, stories, etc. But, it seems like every time I watch it, I quickly remember why I found it exhausting to watch. It's like every episode is everyone running down halls YELLING EVERY WORD AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS, and unremitting paranoia. It makes for an exciting occasional episode, but, after awhile it seemed like the basic plot of every episode.

I still love the show, though. But, I'm not about to do a whole weekend of it.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:43 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]


I never understood the dislike of the "muppets" in the show (and I put that in quotes because they were light years beyond Miss Piggy). People complain that the aliens in Star Trek are just humans with bumps on their foreheads, but when Farscape comes along and you have two regular characters (one much larger than a human and one much smaller than a human), people complain that they're muppets. There's no way that those characters could've been done in CGI for a weekly show, so if they weren't some kind f puppet then they would've been (you guessed it) humans with bumps on their foreheads.
posted by jonathanhughes at 10:47 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]


So, what I hear you all saying is that I should give this another shot. I only made it through the first five episodes before I dropped it from my Netflix instant queue. I didn't mind the Muppets and such, I actually prefer practical to digital effects. It just felt inconsistent, and I didn't feel enough of a spark to push through the early bits and get to the gold you all are seeing. All right, back on the queue, and I promise to at least complete the first season.
posted by calamari kid at 10:59 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah, it changes dramatically in tone by the end of the season and you get a taste of that change around episode 9 or so. Season 2's my favorite.
posted by wiskunde at 11:02 AM on March 22


Nobody...has margaritas...with pizza.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:05 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]


oh, it's the Mambo Loud Shirt 'Lost Weekend.'
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:12 AM on March 22


I never gave this show much thought, I thought it was a big show, I seemed to see a million commercials for it. But now some are comparing it to Lexx and I’m curious. Is that a good comparison? Lexx certainly didn’t have a lot of running and screaming. I get all I need of that from Dr. Who.
posted by bongo_x at 11:16 AM on March 22


bongo_x - Farscape is either Lexx plus gravitas or Lexx is Farscape plus mescaline. They share a lot of DNA but they're different flavors of insane.
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:21 AM on March 22 [6 favorites]


Yeah, it's not the same brand of weird sexual campy space drama as Lexx, but it's definitely a brand of weird sexual campy space drama. All the ingredients are present in totally different proportions.
posted by emmtee at 11:26 AM on March 22


I've been in love, swoony love, with a few shows over my many years of TV watching and Farscape was a incredibly passionate love affair for a few years. I missed it all when it was airing but caught up between the end of the series and the release of The Peacekeeper Wars. And then it was all rewatching and diving into recaps and fan videos and metas and even some reading fanfic for me for a few years before I moved on to something else (Supernatural?)

Out of all my fan loves though, Farscape still stands out as the only show for which I was a 100% shipper. I usually think shippers make everything worse and I don't get invested in TV relationships because the writers are always going to break couples us anyway so why bother, but John and Aeryn, oh man. So much investment! And I think, due to the last few years of Buffy, and my previous love, The X-Files, becoming unwatchable, that I had a huge mistrust in the early 2000s for showrunners, so I kept waiting for the writers to screw up John and Aeryn and make it stupid and betray me and instead they just kept staying true to what I saw between the characters, while also, you know, ripping my heart out all the time to stomp on it. But such delicious pain!

And I thank Mezentian for posting this because I just started a rewatch, coincidentally, a day or so ago. It's been long enough that I've forgotten a bunch of stuff so I'm really enjoying each episode. And Aeryn is just as majestic and lovely as I recall and oh, her face, her fucking face, during "PK Tech Girl". Gah.

suelac said: My understanding is that a lot of people discovered Farscape only after seeing Ben Browder and Claudia Black on Stargate SG-1 (in which Browder, in particular, was woefully underused, sigh).

I loved Claudia Black on SG 1, but those seasons made me wonder if I was high to love Ben Browder so much, but no, he is really great as Crichton. And way boring on SG 1.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:42 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]


Farscape is one of my favorites, not least because Crichton names his gun "Winona." Because, you know, as a man born in the '70s, I feel him.

Farscape is a lot like Cowboy Bebop I think. You can enjoy most of the episodes on their own, but it's only at the end, when the MacGuffin is finally paid off, that all that's gone before really comes into focus and you understand Crichton.

Plus, Farscape had two of the best meta-jokes ever. First, the immortal line from the "Losing Time" episode, "Alright, we don't understand the R2-D2 crap. We're going to use the Star Trek system. One blink for yes, two blinks for no.." Second, the "Previously on Farscape…" of the finale.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:44 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]


"John - I'm gonna tell you something I've never actually put into words before... I love shooting things."

Farscape is so, so good. When others were watching Buffy and Angel (shows I've finally gotten around to recently) I was watching this. I think there's a rewatch in my future.
posted by brundlefly at 11:44 AM on March 22 [4 favorites]


Also, I've never understood why Browder never became a bigger star.
posted by brundlefly at 11:47 AM on March 22 [8 favorites]


obi1quixote: Plus, Farscape had two of the best meta-jokes ever. First the immortal line from the "Losing Time" episode, "Alright, we don't understand the R2-D2 crap. We're going to use the Star Trek system. One blink for yes, two blinks for no.." Second the "Previously on Farscape…" of the finale.

Crichton: You, me and Pilot, we're the only ones who aren't Nebari puppets.
Rygel: I'm nobody's puppet!
posted by tzikeh at 11:49 AM on March 22 [20 favorites]


Aeryn is just as majestic and lovely as I recall

TV crush to end all TV crushes, realtalk.

Second, the "Previously on Farscape…" of the finale.

And the big frelling middle finger to SciFi at the end of the finale: "To Be Continued"
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:06 PM on March 22 [4 favorites]


Also, I've never understood why Browder never became a bigger star.

Me neither. He's good looking, fit, a great dramatic actor, and has super comic timing. The one down side I think is that he can't do accents for shit. But that never stopped Arnold or dozens of other actors.

I did see that he's showing up on Arrow in some flashbacks, which is nice. Not as great as getting his own show, but at least he's getting work.
posted by suelac at 12:08 PM on March 22


Oh, sigh. It got kind of messy at the end, but I adored Farscape. And the young Ben Browder of season 1 was smokin' hot, for real. And Claudia Black was kickass. I fell in love somewhere between Crichton writing out equations to figure out the slingshot maneuver for Moya to escape in the pilot episode (math! so hot!) and "you can be more."
posted by TwoStride at 12:09 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Just want to give a shout out to Scorpius, one of the most interesting villains I've ever seen in any genre. he really got to grow into more than just a standard bad guy over the course of the series. also, freaky brain cooling mechanism.
posted by blakewest at 12:10 PM on March 22 [8 favorites]


Love of Farscape brought my husband and I together (and was mentioned in our wedding ceremony). Just last night he was trying to convince me that Crais is a better villain that Scorpius. So utterly wrong.
posted by chaiminda at 12:12 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


I jammed the entire series via netflix DVD about two years ago, having worked my way backward through all the other cable TV series I'd missed due to the not paying for cable thing. I thought it was really well done and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was only really disappointed in the post-miniseries, which I think was trying too hard with hijinks like Aeryn's baby getting lost in Rygel and the weird circus of her giving birth in battle; crazy as the series always was I thought that was kind of odd. But overall it had some of the best moments ever. The treatment of the twin Crichtons arc was particularly one of the best explorations of that idea I've ever seen either in print or on the screen.
posted by localroger at 12:45 PM on March 22


I love this show so, so much. Which is weird, because I tend to watch it (binge-watch, all the way through, always) only when my life is going totally to shit. And it doesn't make me feel better exactly* (especially not season 3...), but it gives me the most amazing escape. It's interesting to see who I fixate on each time -- last binge, I practically imprinted on D'Argo, and this time around I'm feeling Crichton more. His character development, in particular, is so amazing and heartbreaking, as he's forced to turn from scientist to warrior. It's not like Breaking Bad -- he doesn't choose to be evil (and he's not evil, really), but he has to change, and become okay with it, and figure out how to survive while still being the relatively kind-of good guy. Aeryn almost goes in reverse, the warrior becoming the mother, softening but in the most difficult way imaginable.

I also have a whole over-thought theory that Farscape is the immigration experience writ very, very large. It mostly kicks in when Crichton discovers that you can't really go home again, especially when home's gone all fucked in the head and, as someone earlier said, you have a found family who understands and loves you through your trauma. There's some amazing, very heavy stuff in a show that features a fart gag approximately every episode.

*Except for the fact that Browder and Black are so very, very, very easy on the eyes. Although I sort of wish they'd let Aeryn wear a whole shirt, just on principle.
posted by kalimac at 12:47 PM on March 22


By the way, Netflix fixed the audio issues they had with their Farscape collection. You no longer have to turn it up to 11 to hear dialogue only to suffer through ear bleeding explosions.
posted by clvrmnky at 1:45 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


I was 16 when Farscape aired. I ended up hanging out in an IRC chatroom around it and met a few friends through that.

Also, Chiana. Probably the defining moment when I realized I had a type.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:52 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


When A.V. Club did the re-watch, I joined in, having never seen the show. A season and a half in, I gave up, never to return.

It's not the Muppets. The Muppets are awesome. More than once, I completely forgot Pilot wasn't a real being. Seriously, every show that does aliens should call the Henson shop.

No, it was the magic. As in, physics defying, "I can do anything I please", powers of a God levels of magic.

And not just magic, the sort of magic that only some characters can do, for no apparent reason. And it just gets accepted by everyone else. 'Oh, that guy can move through space and time on his own? Huh. Weird. OK, everyone back on the ship, let's keep flying for a few more months!"

For me, that undermines so much of the storytelling. Now every time there's a problem, why doesn't someone just use magic? Oh, you can't? Well, explain why not. Why can't someone just use magic and send Crichton back home? Why doesn't Sorpius have a dozen Magic Users chained up, doing his bidding? And why does he need the big mind-reading machine, can't he just get a magic-using dude to read Crichton mind? And on and on.

I stopped mid-way through Season 2, the second time Maldis showed up, frustrated both with the storytelling, and with the fact that fans of the show seems to just shrug their shoulders at it.
posted by Frayed Knot at 2:28 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


I never got into Farscape during the original run, because the episode I happened to try was "Won't Get Fooled Again", which is probably the worst possible introductory episode. But later, SciFi ran a huge marathon before the miniseries and I almost immediately got addicted. It's great in so many ways, but one thing I really loved is that unlike most "Gilligan's Island" type shows, it actually resolved the going home plot line before it got tiresome, and so, so effectively. Showing how broken Crichton was and how home no longer was home to him.

And while the miniseries suffered from trying to stuff an entire season's worth of plot into three hours, it still had a very satisfying and suitable ending. A lot of the story of Farscape was about Crichton being broken more and more, and what happens in the end was the ultimate expression of that.
posted by tavella at 2:35 PM on March 22


I love me some Farscape. It's about so much more than what's on the surface. Great characters, (mostly) great stories, great humor, and Aeryn Sun.

Aeryn Sun..
posted by Justinian at 2:58 PM on March 22 [3 favorites]


I often found myself wondering how all these Australians traveled to this part of space

I just assumed that, in the Farscape Universe, Australia was colonized by outcast Sebaceans rather than British criminals... same thing, pretty much.

And not just AV Club, but tor.com (from the sci-fi book people, not the internet anonymizer) has done, among a bunch of good "TV Rewatch" series, a complete one for Farscape, with some appropriately subtitled sections about the various character arcs: "Buck Rogers Redux", "That Damn Peacekeeper Bitch", "Big Blue", "I Was A Teenage Luxan", "Buckwheat the Sixteenth", "Your Favourite Little Tralk", "Nosferatu in Rubber".

The first time around, I had major IRL issues interrupting my TV watching during the 3rd season, and of the arc-based shows I enjoyed, it was a LOT easier to get back into Buffy than to Farscape.

And as for "Alien Muppets", I'm old enough to have watched the first season of Saturday Night Live, where one of its least successful weekly segments involved ugly-ass alien muppets (although the talking idol, The Mighty Favog, was a hoot) and one of the first things I noticed was how much improvement had gone into Rygel and Pilot.

Aeryn Sun..

Claudia Black was awesome, but it was a bit of a distraction that her supposedly-alien first name sounded like Erin, as in Brockovich, Moran (Joanie of Happy Days) and Go Bragh.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:12 PM on March 22


Didn't see the initial run of "Farscape," but caught up via syndicated episodes (despite irregular scheduling by my local station) and DVDs, and wound up enjoying it a lot. It definitely deserves a spot in the pantheon of standout sci-fi/fantasy TV series.

I too was put off at first by the Muppet factor, but it only took an episode or two to think of them as real characters, which speaks well of all the craftspeople involved, from voice acting to model-makers to puppeteers to cameras & lighting and on to post-production effects. It's kind of mind boggling to think that it takes a couple dozen people, at least, to make Pilot and Rigel do their respective things.

Also, I'm with the others on this thread who wonder why Ben Browder doesn't get more work, as he was quite good in "Farscape, " and it's not like there's a shortage of roles for his general type. Also, more Claudia Black in just about anything would be fine with me.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 3:12 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Speaking of "frelling," EatTheWeak, I wonder was Farscape the first show to feature made-up swears like that?
posted by ob1quixote at 3:22 PM on March 22


No, Battlestar Galactica did it many years ago.
posted by Justinian at 3:26 PM on March 22


"Frak" from Battlestar Galactica came first. (How quickly we forget the original series....)

On preview - except for Justinian.
posted by tzikeh at 3:26 PM on March 22


I missed Farscape on the first run because I've never had cable, but I've since become a huge fan because, while it's got a lot of those awkward 'round Y2K sci fi tics (the kind that are campy fun on Cleopatra 2525 and unsettling and off-putting on Lexx/Andromeda/Earth: Final Conflict), I loved the muppet presence, which goes a long way to wiping out the bumpy-headed aliens that look exactly like us on the other side of the universe stupidity that made Star Trek almost unwatchable for me.

I loved the slow, complicated character building, and interesting storytelling gestures like duplicate Crichton, and yeah, I had to shrug off some bad ideas and weak plots, as all of us do when we follow a genre that is at least 10% bullshit even at its best, but at the end of the series, I was left wanting more (see also: Firefly), unlike Trek, which overstayed its welcome by a good decade.

It's comfort food watching for me at this point, which is why my friend Mickey, my favorite little Hollywood mean girl who once killed Kenny (with syphilis), made me very very happy while working with Gigi Edgley on a recent project by getting her to make me a video.

Dare I say "squee?" I did.

I could do with more, if there is any, or just be content that I've seen as much as I could, but it was definitely a breath of fresh air in the realm of either beige beigeness or bad CGI wisecracking nonsense.
posted by sonascope at 3:28 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


...and don't forget Mork from Ork's classic alien explative: "SHAZBOT!"
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:29 PM on March 22


As far as "magic" goes, I see your point, but I thought they always found some explanation for it in the show, e.g. he's an inter-dimensional being or some such. Be that as it may, you're not wrong that Farscape is more Science Fantasy than Science Fiction, laser guns and spaceships aside. For what it's worth, the episode that turned you of was the last time that particular villain appears.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:30 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


I had forgotten "frak." Although, I'm not sure the original Galactica had as broad or as frequent use of those kinds of phrases as Farscape did.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:36 PM on March 22


Also, for the record, on the SNL Land of Gorch segments, it should be said that the Muppets there didn't fail because they were ugly or necessarily poorly conceived—they failed because, for some insane reason, Lorne Michaels/NBC insisted that the Muppets crew perform scripts written not by Henson/Juhl, but by the SNL writers under Michael O'Donoghue, who was an mercurial, insufferable jerk who was a snob about the Muppets ("I don't write for felt") and saw to it that the puppets got the weakest rookie writers.

With better writing, as found on Farscape, they could breathe.
posted by sonascope at 3:43 PM on March 22


as an American, I often found myself wondering how all these Australians traveled to this part of space; some of them not looking too much like the other Australians I've seen.

Also, why was that American man walking around with a mars bar on his forehead in Star Trek and calling himself a Klingon? I have wrestled with this mystery for many years now.
posted by forgetful snow at 3:54 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


When it was on the air, I saw one or maybe two episodes by accident, but I was one of those "bleh muppets" snobs. Plus the color aesthetic was reminiscent to me of Babylon 5, another show I could never get into. Plus the little bit of Crichton I'd seen made him come off like a parody of an American asshole to me.

At the same time, I was big fan of the Stargate series. Eventually Browder and Black's stint there made me open to the idea of following them in a weekly series. So after SG:U was cancelled, at the urging of a colleague I sought out Farscape. As someone says upthread, you really have to watch it from the beginning. Otherwise it's like starting the Wizard of Oz after Dorothy's already teamed up with her three companions.
posted by xigxag at 4:01 PM on March 22


as an American, I often found myself wondering how all these Australians traveled to this part of space; some of them not looking too much like the other Australians I've seen.

Clearly, the Eidolons found the translator microbes in Australia, silly!


Yeah, if Trek can use deux ex machina to explain bumpyheaded peoplaliens…
posted by sonascope at 5:19 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


What's notable about Farscape is that its politics is more radical compared to the mainstream space-opera TV shows of that time period (e.g. Babylon 5 (yes, even JMS who is known for the political undertones of his stories), or DS9). As just one example, one of the central conflicts is Crichton's relationship with the new world he finds himself forced into. In Star Trek Voyager, the crew gets lost and they actually get home. In Farscape, the outcome is opposite—he chooses (and there's at least one crucial point in the show where this decision is almost shocking) to be forgo any hope of ever getting back to Earth. More strongly, in the last few episodes, his final choice is portrayed and explained as one of personal liberation, as opposed to giving up. You get closure, but it is an unsettling one with somewhat oblique e.g. philosophical implications, and I'd be in favor of arguing that these kinds of stories may not appeal to a more mainstream audience accustomed to Star Trek. There's a lot more psychology involved, one of the highlights being Crichton's ordeal with Scorpius. And throughout the show there are many allegorical conflicts and subplots that deal with institutional analysis, minority issues, etc.—actually, I recall there's a whole book on the feminism in Farscape [contrasted with the well-known The Physics of Star Trek. Overall I'd say that beyond the style of different shows, their content is characterized by the politics (in the broad sense) that they espouse.
posted by polymodus at 5:20 PM on March 22 [6 favorites]


There's a lot more psychology involved, one of the highlights being Crichton's ordeal with Scorpius.

I found Scorpius sort of annoying and uninteresting at first glance. Oh dear, here's another freaky pervy homoerotic good/evil pairing, and all that—but the build-up of the notion that Scorpious was (A) a brain-damaged murderous psychopathic monster and (B) quite possibly right that the Scarrans were going to go through Peacekeeper space like Sherman through Atlanta was a pretty taut little knot of not-like-your-father's-sci-fi. There's a faint echo of Gully Foyle in there, even.
posted by sonascope at 5:28 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


I think a chunk of the success of the puppet factor can be attributed to having Brian Henson as a producer. The guy practically grew up on set to become one of the leading performers and choreographers for Jim's later work. One of his comments on a DVD release that really struck home to me was that puppets become more real when they're in physical contact with human actors on set, which probably explains all the scenes of Rygel clawing, biting, and even pissing on other characters.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:04 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


And then there was that time Stargate and Farscape crossed over.
posted by Mezentian at 6:16 PM on March 22 [7 favorites]


I had forgotten "frak." Although, I'm not sure the original Galactica had as broad or as frequent use of those kinds of phrases as Farscape did.

Felgercarb!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:43 PM on March 22 [3 favorites]


Muppets are never a drawback - never!

actually, I love all good puppet work, Henson creature shop or other. At the time, puppets were far more realistic than CGI characters - they had weight and depth, and interacted so well with the other actors. The human actors on Farscape said that acting against Rygel or Pilot was just like interacting with a person -- and that it was then kind of creepy the way the puppet would just slump over dead at the end of take.

Along with animation, puppetry on film is a wonderful art.

And now I'm going to go rewatch The Dark Crystal and Jim Henson's Storyteller (check out the latter for some brilliant low-budget effects, including nice shadow work).
posted by jb at 7:02 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


I rewatched Farscape last year, and while most of it was as excellent as I remember (after the first half of the first season anyway), the one thing that I really noticed and was sort of annoyed by was that Ms. Tough Bitch Of The Universe Aeryn Sun suddenly had no agency for what felt like 2 whole seasons. Was there backstory with Claudia Black there that I'm missing 10 years after the fact? It just felt odd that after 3 seasons of kicking ass and taking names, suddenly she managed to be brought low and turned into a baby factory and wait for John and crew to come pull her out of trouble again and again.

(Bab5.. *sigh* I know JMS did what he could with the timeline he had, and at the time it was awesome, but on rewatching it was clear just how rushed he was.)
posted by Kyol at 7:42 PM on March 22


My favorite episode is the first episode. A Great American Astronaut and scientist, going into space to test his theories, goes through a wormhole and meets Intelligent Aliens!

Is it all grand and majestic and history making? No. They mostly ignore him, wondering why this alien who just showed up keeps getting in their way. And through much of the first season, they wonder why they didn't just throw this annoying guy off the ship when they first found him.

I sometimes think that this is exactly what the interaction will be like when we finally make contact with another intelligent species.
posted by eye of newt at 7:56 PM on March 22 [4 favorites]


Farscape...Lexx...Xena. Those were the days my friend.
posted by jabah at 8:40 PM on March 22 [3 favorites]


suddenly had no agency for what felt like 2 whole seasons

Blame the network, mostly. And a sudden changeover in writing staff going from season 3 to season 4, with the threat of cancellation looming because the network wanted something more "traditional" and episodic. The best veteran writers on the show spent a lot of time revising scripts from newer staff during the last season, and Aeryn's characterization and motivations was the biggest loss.

You can also blame Kemper, who along with O'Bannon is a real romantic. Aeryn's storyline was always going to end with her having a baby, from what I gather.

If I could wave my hand and make one change in Farscape, it would be to correct Aeryn's season 4 characterization, because almost none of it made any sense at all. Although to be fair, neither did John's, for much of the season--the reasons for keeping them apart made sense, but there was never any good reason for why they reconciled, other than writerly fiat.

I also loathed Aeryn's Season 4 makeover: apparently Claudia Black cut her hair during the hiatus and instead of going with it, the network insisted on that awful wig. And the new makeup artist was allowed to do whatever they wanted, with an end result that looked like Aeryn had been reading back-issues of Cosmo while she was away. None of that made any sense to me from a character perspective.

... Man, I still have all sorts of issues with Farscape Season 4. I loved the show, and there were many moments of brilliance, but much of Season 4 does not hold up on either a plot-logic or characterization level. So disappointing.
posted by suelac at 9:23 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


One other thing that is totally endearing about the show: they were willing to criticize it in the DVD commentary tracks. I highly recommend you listen to them if you get your hands on them! I was completely won over when they took whichever S1 episode it is where Crichton gets stranded and grows that hideous beard? It's like 43 minutes of the cast and probably Kemper, I can't remember, mocking that ep. It's delightful.
posted by TwoStride at 9:58 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


I got sold on Farscape by buying a book called Action Chicks and reading an essay in it called "Little Miss Tough Chick of the Universe: Farscape’s Inverted Sexual Dynamics." The essay can pretty much be summarized as "Aeryn is the guy and Crichton is the girl in that relationship." And that revelation that such a thing could exist is why I went off and watched the show. Awesome.

I love commentaries where everyone dogs on a crappy episode, so hear hear, TwoStride.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:58 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


I remember the day a friend called to tell my husband an me that Farscape was canceled "They're taking a chain saw to Moya right now!!" was the breathless news. It was a punch in the gut, Moya was being murdered and there was no going back.

. . . cool American. . .

I was just reading an essay on "manpain", part of it was the idea that men suffer greater injustices and have to have an extreme compelling, burdensome reason to feel pain and dispare, such as the lose of a girlfriend or wife tragically (women in refridgerators) or a great responsibility to express that pain and sorrow. The author specifically exempts Crichton because much of what he is in pain over is his own loss. I never thought about it that way, but they author was right, he was allowed to be upset over his own problems and loss. He was allowed to be sad and show his feelings without the need to "man up". That's plain revolutionary.

raises a box of crackers to it

To this day, my husband and I can't help but throw this line out when crackers are mentioned. "You got the wrong crackers for the party." "It'll be fine; crackers don't matter." if a show mentions crackers, we blurt out in unison "Crackers don't matter."

I have watched Farscape episodes from time to time since it was canceled, and I have one complaint that I did the notice at the time - the score was horrible. I've often wondered If it's posible to remove the music and just have the talking and sound effects to put my own soundtrack in it. The little research I did a few years back suggested it wasn't possible; removing vocals from music works, but not the opposite. Things may have changed now. I should look.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:30 AM on March 23


- the score was horrible.

As someone who has just started season two again, I just cannot agree with you.
It's there, but not overly intrusive or memorable, but the theme song is a classic.
posted by Mezentian at 12:58 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]


"the score was horrible" .. I love the score! A highlight being the destruction of the Peacekeeper command carrier- it's nothing if not Space Opera.
posted by Coaticass at 5:39 AM on March 23


I still, most weekend nights when I've stayed up too late and don't want to deal with getting ready for bed and just want to fall asleep on the sofa, wonder when we'll get our damn dentics.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:34 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]


Never swallow the dentic!
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:16 AM on March 23 [3 favorites]


First time I saw Farscape was in the first season, when I had analog cable and SciFi was bleeding through. The warped colors were appropriate at the time. Only watched a minute or two. The first full episode was "A Human Reaction". Unfortunately, since I had no investment in any of the characters, it didn't stick to me then. I finally got into it when SciFi started running it nightly, and I could start from the rough, rough beginning.

Met some of my current friends through their Farscape fan club party at a convention, in a way that was stunningly Farscape, because there was a better looking Farscape party that stole all their ideas, but had far less heart.
Claudia Black was awesome, but it was a bit of a distraction that her supposedly-alien first name sounded like Erin, as in Brockovich, Moran (Joanie of Happy Days) and Go Bragh.
posted by oneswellfoop
One of the many fan campaigns to get SciFi to bring the show back by mailing stuff to the main office was called "Aeryn Go Braless". Fan support for the show was awesomely creative, from
dance music and music videos to explaining all the chrichtonisms to fan-made commercials for the show. Cast and crew have eagerly done interviews and convention appearances, including interviews for SciFi's 20th anniversary, which have been edited into a a mini Farscape documentary that goes through the history of the series, and spoils everything.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:48 AM on March 23


Sigh, I'm just going to go to my shirtless Ben Bowder place. Such a great show, surprised it lasted as long as it it, why oh why are the DVD episode OUT OF FUCKING ORDER?! Like episode two, four and six on one disc and one, three, five on another? The fuck?

fun fact the very first slash fic I ever read online was Farscape based. MEMORIES
posted by The Whelk


DVD order alternates between broadcast order and production order. I think the DVD set you saw is in UK broadcast order. The US airing order is different too. Basically it's networks micromanaging by changing up the order of the first few episodes.

Also, the last place I've seen new Farscape fanfic is TerraFirmaScapers. My introduction to fanvids came in part due to an old collection of Farscape fanvids.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:12 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]


it kind of walked a wobbly line of almost descending into camp

Almost?
posted by juiceCake at 10:16 AM on March 23


> Aeryn Go Braless

Ugh.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:27 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]


I want to move to the world where this show and the first two seasons of Lexx informed all the TV sci-fi that followed

This is one of those things I Just Don't Get, because the times I've tried to watch Lexx it seemed like an unfunny parody of an SF show. Are people who like Lexx the same people who really wish they could see Jodorowsky's _Dune_?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:03 AM on March 23


This is one of those things I Just Don't Get, because the times I've tried to watch Lexx it seemed like an unfunny parody of an SF show.

There are some things I love that I don’t recommend. I would never say "You should watch Lexx, it’s a great show and you’ll love it". Many of my friends are fans, but even mentioning the name causes laughing and head shaking, in a "Crazy old Uncle Festus" way.

I don’t know how it translates watching it now, all as a package. It may not be the same as waiting for new episodes and never having any idea where it was going, because it obviously was being made up on the spot.
posted by bongo_x at 12:21 PM on March 23


I thought the Farscape score was a great shot at getting away from the tropes of "the future" with theremins (Star Trek) and heroic exploration (Babylon 5, even after season 1). It projected a wild, violent, and alien aesthetic that might not be "realistic" but at least wasn't what had been used before in SF.
posted by localroger at 12:52 PM on March 23 [2 favorites]


15 years?! Frell.
posted by homunculus at 5:24 PM on March 23 [2 favorites]


Oh, Farscape. Brian Henson. Rockne O'Bannon. David Kemper and Richard Manning. This was the first show that writers became important to me. If Kemper or Manning were were in the credits, it was going to be good; if O'Bannon was in the credits, it was going to be "meh."

I will not admit to participation in any 'Save Our Show' campaigns, do I know a few people who did.
posted by vhsiv at 1:09 AM on March 24


Aeryn Go Braless

There are no bras in space, right George?
posted by Mezentian at 4:27 AM on March 24


Oh, frell. I'm days late, but I'll be damned if this isn't my favorite Sci-fi series ever. Some people cite Star Trek:TNG, Babylon 5, or maybe Stargate as their favorite Sci-fi TV series ever, and I can't fault them for any of those choices, but to me, Farscape is the pinnacle of longform Sci-Fi storytelling. Anyone I know who makes it past the first two-thirds of season 1 (which is lower-budget "monster/event-of-the-week type stuff) and gets to meet good old Scorpie is hooked from then on. I'm always a little jealous of them at that point, too, because they get to experience that ride for the first time.
posted by mysterpigg at 11:25 AM on March 26 [3 favorites]


Speaking of Claudia Black: Dragon Age: Inquisition Voice Actors Claudia Black and Brian Bloom Talk About Their Craft
posted by homunculus at 3:34 PM on March 30


The Farscape Movie is Officially Happening
posted by homunculus at 5:07 PM on April 20 [2 favorites]


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