Reviews: Farscape

1.01 Premiere

It must be said that while the very first "Farscape" episode is quite stunning visually, it's pace and overall theme are pretty choppy. The main problem, and most critics and fans agree on this point, is that at 49 minutes, it is just too short. Not enough time is given to the relationship between John and Aeryn, and yet by the end, we are expected to believe that she would just run off with Crichton and D'Argo even though they are the reason that she's been 'irretrievably contaminated.' As brainwashed with Peacekeeper indoctrination as she is, I find it hard to believe that she wouldn't blame them more than Crais-who's technically acting within Peacekeeper doctrine, even if it is for very personal reasons. The big scene that is missing is one in which Crichton does something to make Aeryn's defense of him far more plausible. If the episode had been 50 minutes longer, then the writers could have added a scene where he saves her life-or at least endears her to him in some other way. As it stands, it is a major plot hole.

Another problem I have is with the very quick introduction to the Crichton character, although to be fair the acting really does sell the scene between John and his father. A few more minutes of background would have improved the overall quality I think.

All that having been said, it's still not a bad episode. The visuals, as previously mentioned are quite impressive. I always love the scene on the commerce planet where Crichton is mezmorized by the fact he's on an alien world-while Aeryn thinks it's a hellhole and wants off ASAP. The nice thing about watching the episodes on the season one dvds is that you can also see the extra five minutes which were chopped out of the Sc-Fi airing. The scene between D'Argo and Zh'aan talking about their captivity and past lives is a beautifuly little slice of life moment, that the show became famous for in later years.

Overall I'd rate it a 6 out of 10.

Season 2: The Human Element

If Farscape found its footing towards the end of Season 1, then Season 2 starts running. An incredible leap in quality happened this season, and it made for a lot of fun. There are no bad episodes at all this season. There are, however, some disappointing episodes. I fell asleep through 'Vitas Mortis' 'Taking the Stone' was full of wasted potential, and 'Beware of Dog' was really cliched. And that's not even mentioning several of the later episodes. Still, 'Mind the Baby' was a good, jarring opening. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There were a lot of really hilarious episodes this season, but they were balanced with plenty of serious ones. The two best on the humor side are obviously 'Crackers Don't Matter' (NOBODY eats pizza with margaritas) and 'Out of Their Minds' (one of the BEST takes on body-swaps ever televised). However, on the more dramatic side were episodes like 'The Way We Weren't', and 'The Ugly Truth'. Then of course we have the two three-parters, 'Look at the Princess' and 'Liars, Guns, and Money'. Both were well-written, very character-driven stories that also were a lot of fun. The scene where Aeryn and John take the compatibility test is mesmerizing, and something that really has to be seen to truly appreciate. And then of course, there's 'Die Me, Dichotomy'. Even better than 'Family Ties', this one will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. It's action-packed, suspenseful, and heart-breaking, all at the same time. The characters all reach even greater highs in this season, and manage to really gel with the show. The only one wthat doesn't quite reach this is Zahn, who sadly is pretty underused this season. But regardless, this season was a triumph, and for anyone in the middle of the first season thinking of quitting: Don't. Stay with it, because this season more than makes up for the choppiness early on. Until next time, with the 'Season of Death', this has been a great ride.

Season 1: Choppy, but Overall Good

Farscape is a show that constantly tries to find the envelope and push it off the desk, though the first season doesn't always live up to this. It's very choppy, featuring some great episodes, some bad episodes, some average, and some that just plain suck. The first episode, 'Premiere', is a great set-up for the show, very fast, but it does also take time to appreciate the little things, like John's reaction to being the first human on another planet, or just how alone he feels. The next five are a little iffy, mostly just being okay, though the plot of 'Back and Back and Back to the Future' is really interesting. The season starts to improve afterwards, with stand-out episodes being 'They've Got A Secret', 'The Flax', 'A Human Reaction' and 'Through the Looking Glass'. Unfortunately, there are also some bad episodes, the forerunner being the infamous 'Jeremiah Crichton', known for its bad effects, ridiculous plot, and very skewed characterization of Crichton. However, once they hit 'A Bug's Life', things really pick up. The show becomes much more willing to take risks, and they pay off. 'Nerve/The Hidden Memory' is an excellent two-parter, and do a great job of setting up the new villain, Scorpius (NOT the one from Power Rangers Lost Galaxy). 'Bone to Be Wild' is a bit jarring, but the parts that further the current arc are well worth it. The final episode, 'Family Ties', is an absolute gem, really tugging at your emotions. What helps sell it is that nearly every character gets a scene with everyone, showing how much they've grown in their time together. The cliffhanger is excellent, really leaving you excited to find out what's going to happen next. Overall, it does have some flaws, but when it's good, it's really good, and I can't wait for more.

1.04 Throne For A Loss

Of the first six episodes, this one is clearly the best. For the first time we see the actors, writers and production crew starting to come together to create an episode that is a starting point for the direction that the show would eventually take. An essentially 'all about Rygel' episode, there is quite a bit of character development for the little green guy which highlights the abilities of the puppeteers, led by John Eccleston (yes, boys and girls-Rygel is a puppet-despite being so incredibly lifeilke). The story is interesting-Rygel gets kidnapped by a group of drug-addicted bandits and held for ransom-which of course the crew doesn't have...because at this point, they're about a half step above the bandits on the social food chain.

There are a number of factors that stand out here:

1. This is where Ben Browder starts doing his famous (or infamous if you were a writer) changing the dialogue routine to reflect the 'American-ness' of John Crichton. And of course it works. I also like how they continue to play on his awkwardness and inability to adjust to his new environment. The scene where he blows up Aeryn's pulse rifle is a scream. It's also refreshing to see the hero get knocked out (easily) by a girl...and then argue with her about it, playing on male/female role reversal quite cleverly.

2. This is where the show started developing into the "Anti Star-Trek" vehicle that it is known for. Yes, there are societal issues brought into the story, principally drug abuse and the use of teen soldiers but instead of taking the easy way out, the show (in the form of Zhann) concedes that sometimes you're just not going to win a fight. In this case, the crew barely survives, without making anything better, even if they haven't made them any worse.

3. The supporting cast is very, very good here especially John Adam as the Bandit leader Bekhesh, who while violent and ruthless, is also shown to have a certain sense of honor and actually cares about his men. The show-down between him and Crichton is both funny and rather poignant.

4. The character development, while slow, is certainly there. Natural enemies D'Argo and Aeryn are beginning to understand one another and work together, with Crichton being able to be of at least some use.

Overall, I'd rate it an 8 out of 10.

1.03 Exodus From Genesis

As most fans of the show know, the first six episodes of "Farscape" were shot in pairs-which is apparently a uniquely Australian way to make television. It is quick and cheap but as Claudia Black will tell you (on the dvd commentaries) it's not usually that good in quality. The biggest problem is that when actors and crew are torn between two episodes, they will tend to favor one over the other and put most of their energy into making their favored episode better while neglecting the not so favored one. This is, apparently, what happened to "Exodus From Genesis" (which was paired with "Premiere.")

The plot starts out interestly enough and I must say that the episode is considerably better written than the previous one. There is some very nice character development for both Rygel and Aeryn as well. This is the episode where Sabacean Heat Delerium aka The Living Death is first introduced and it plays a big part in the episode, as well as being used later on in the series. (For the record-those wondering why genetically engineered super-soldiers would have a 'design flaw' this big-the graphic novels-which are canon-apparently state that it was done to be used as a fail safe if the little bastards ever got too unruly and tried to revolt.) It is also the first time we really see Aeryn in peril-a theme repeated a couple of times in S1. I like the story well enough as I mentioned. It's the actual execution of the story line by the production crew that is the big let-down here.

In the dvd commentary, Brian Henson pretty much sums up what went wrong here. The various departments were still new to one another and miscommunication was the primary factor in the various blunders that went on. The worst part of the episode are the Peacekeeper commandos, who are just...silly. Apparently some genius in the make-up department read Henson's request for distinguishing marks on the soldiers to make them look fierce as an excuse to apply a LOT of eye-makeup. The result is a bunch of hysterically lame wussies crawling around on the floor gasping for breath. If this is supposed to be the most evil military force in the Galaxy, then we're all pretty safe. The space roaches (Draks) are both creepy and a little ridiculous but that's not a big problem for me.

Overall I'd give it a 5 out of 10.

1.02 I, E.T.

The second episode of the series (although not shot second) is probably the weakest of the rather infamous 'first six.' Again, despite some really nifty special effects and some really nice camerawork, this episode falls down heavily in the plot department. The writing is of course the weakest point of the entire episode-it looks like they were rushed and sent a half finished script to production ahead of schedule-and yes, Sally Lapiduss (if that is indeed your real name)-I'm looking at you. The main story, and there really is no secondary plot here, looks like a rework of an old Star Trek episode; or actually, more like a really crappy episode of the Battlestar Galactica (1978). You all know the one; Starbuck crashes on a backwater planet and meets a woman living all alone with her son. God that just sucked. At least the idea of the paddac beacon being triggered by the crew's escape lets us remember that the Peacekeepers are still after them.

Of course, "Farscape" being "Farscape", this episode is considerably better than that mess but it still suffers from a trite and meandering storyline. This is one of the few early episodes that doesn't tie back to the main story arc later on down the line and while it does offer some nice scenes between the regular characters, it's essentially pointless. And please don't get me started on the whole "we can understand you even though we don't have translator microbes. Yes, I know that Word of God is that the microbes grow naturally on that planet so the natives ingest them at birth. It's a clever wank but it's still just that: wank.

There are a few saving graces however:

1. The scene with D'Argo and Aeryn in the tree discussing what a loser Crichton is never fails to amuse me. Claudia Black and Anthony Simcoe are just that frelling funny (if yout don't believe me, listen to the dvd commentary some time. It's a riot). It's a nice hint to what their relationship eventually became.

2. As mentioned, the special effects are very nice, particularly Moya flying over and crashing into the swamp. This is also where we get our very first John/Aeryn 'proximity alert.'

3. The supporting cast, particularly Mary Mara is fairly good. They just don't have that much to work with.

Overall, I give it a 4 out of 10.