Farscape, co-created by Rockne O'Bannon (Seaquest DSV) and Brian Henson (son of Jim), is an Australian space opera. Originally airing on the Nine Network, it became the flagship show on Sci-Fi Channel from 2000-2003.
The show follows John Crichton, a space-happy astronaut who finds himself stranded aboard a ship ("a LIVING ship!") full of alien ex-cons. While en route to Earth, John and the crew find themselves targeted by both sides in an intergalactic war. At the end of the day, the half-mad (and therefore half-sane!) John is able to save everyone because he's the most deficient of all the species aboard.
It was compelling for viewers of that time because of the adult themes. Similar to their Canadian and British counterparts (Lexx and Red Dwarf), our "heroes" had more sordid backgrounds and bad habits than usual, and the clean, well-dressed military served as the antagonist. Crichton (a pacifist who would get his ass kicked constantly) would often quibble over the "right" way to do things, but he turned out to be wrong as often as not. To say nothing of the costumes: Whereas Star Trek at times looked like they robbed a fabric store, Farscape went looking in actual fetish shops. War Minister Ahkna's boots were bought from such a store.
It was also known for its tendency to use stock sci-fi plots, but then avert the Reset Button and Forgotten Fallen Friend in order to turn the screws on the characters even more - the most notable example perhaps being "Eat Me", where all the crew are cloned and all the clones conveniently die before the end of the episode... except one, leaving them with two copies of a main character for the whole of the next season. It also felt free to kill off main characters, and only a few survived the full series.
The Jim Henson Company went all out in designing non-bipedal aliens, right down to the four-armed and appropriately-named Pilot. While stupidly expensive, the puppeteering allowed them to do things that even modern sci-fi can't. There are plenty of scenes with the crew hugging Pilot, climbing on him or even slightly dismembering him that couldn't be done with CGI.
The premise of Farscape bears some resemblance to the '70s British series Blake's 7. B7 fans see the character of Grayza (Rebecca Riggs) as an acknowledgment of it, judging by her strong resemblance to the older show's Big Bad Servalan. The fact that Riggs is an avowed fan of B7 doesn't hurt. If you're a fan of Guardians of the Galaxy, you can find interviews online where James Gunn says that Farscape was a primary influence. It was Guardians before Guardians. So much so that Ben Browder was in Guardians Vol. 2 as a Sovereign.
Tie-ins and Possible RebootCancelled abruptly in 2002, Farscape was later resurrected for a two-part miniseries, The Peacekeeper Wars. It resolved the "Kill 'em All" cliffhanger from Season Four and gave fans a condensed version of the planned plot for Season Five. O'Bannon has also recently stated that he has had some discussions with the Henson company about a potential film revival, but nothing's come of it as of yet.
In 2008, BOOM! Studios started publishing ongoing — and canonical — Farscape comics, from stories written by Rockne O'Bannon and scripted by Keith R.A. DeCandido and David Allan Mack. There were two ongoing series set post-Peacekeeper Wars, one following Moya's crew (Farscape) and one following Scorpius (Farscape: Scorpius). The latter has since merged into the mainline comics as of the War for the Uncharted Territories storyline, soon to be followed by a pre-PKW series following D'Argo.
This series has its own recaps page.
- "Frell me dead!"