Aeryn Sun, aliens, Anthony Simcoe, Australian television, Ben Browder, Chiana, Claudia Black, D'Argo, David Kemper, Gigi Edgley, Jim Henson, John Crichton, Jonathan Hardy, Lani Tupu, living ship, Moya, neural clone, Peacekeepers, puppets, Rockne S. O'Bannon, Rygel, sci-fi, science fiction, SciFi Channel, Scorpius, space opera, Virginia Hey, Wayne Pygram, wormholes, Zhaan
Farscape is an Australian/American science fiction series that ran for eighty-eight episodes over the course of four seasons that aired from 1999-2003. The show was planned as a five year series but was abruptly cancelled by the Sci-Fi channel after production was completed on season four. A massive fan campaign to save Farscape was launched, paving the way for a three-hour miniseries in 2004 titled Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars.
Farscape tells the tale of John Crichton, an American astronaut who gets shot through a wormhole into a distant part of the universe and is brought aboard a living ship called Moya full of escaped prisoners. These prisoners are fleeing a corrupt militaristic organization known as the Peacekeepers. It is there John meets Officer Aeryn Sun, a Peacekeeper who has been picked up by the prisoners. Aeryn is deemed “irreversibly contaminated” by her superior and stays aboard Moya as a result. John accidentally makes enemies with the Peacekeepers and becomes among the hunted. This is the basic premise of the series at its impetus but a plethora of story arcs develop from the start.
Farscape begins in a mostly episodic manner before fully adopting a more serialized form of storytelling. Farscape is a series that got darker as it progressed and better, with the fourth and final season being the best in my opinion. The Sci-Fi Channel foolishly cancelled the series during its prime. I have seen nearly every episode of Farscape at least twice. I started watching the series during its fourth season in 2002 while channel surfing. I was immediately captivated and finished the remainder of the season as it aired while also renting previous episodes from my local video store to catch up. I will always have a special place in my heart for Farscape, a truly unique series that was ground breaking, daring, sexy, unpredictable, wildly imaginative, and weird. I cannot think of another sci-fi series that created such a large lexicon of alien curse words. Frell, fekkik, and yotz are just a few.
My favorite aspect of the series is without doubt, its characters. The characters are complex and brought to life by some truly great performers. Anyone who watches the entire series can appreciate the characters and their respective journeys. John Crichton is an everyman, thrust into an alien world; an experience that the viewer shares. Crichton is no Buck Rogers, Luke Skywalker or Captain Kirk. He is a flawed character who struggles to become his own kind of hero, a theme that is first introduced in the pilot episode. One of the things that makes the series so compelling is the fact that the characters are all flawed.
My favorite is Aeryn Sun. Aeryn’s transformation from a cold, almost robotic soldier to a woman who has allowed herself to love makes her the most compelling character. As Aeryn, Claudia Black is simply fantastic. I am continually amazed by Black’s performance throughout the series. It is not surprising that Farscape had a strong female audience considering the number of strong female characters in the series with Aeryn at the helm. Aeryn’s transformation over the course of the series is more significant than any other character. John may be the human perspective and the eyes through which we see the series but ultimately, Farscape is Aeryn’s story.
The visuals in Farscape are fantastic right from the start and only get better with each subsequent season. The wizardry of the Jim Henson company’s creature shop brings to life some remarkable aliens and helps to create a world that is truly unique in the realm of science fiction. Two of the main characters, Rygel and Pilot, are puppets but thanks to the incredible puppetry of the Henson company and the great voice work by Jonathan Hardy and Lani Tupu, these characters are brought to life. The makeup and costuming (a lot of black and leather) is fantastic as well.
Even though Farscape is easy to label as science fiction/fantasy, the series blends a variety of genres. Farscape is an action packed adventure, a comedy, and a simmering romance. The ballad of John and Aeryn is one of the most compelling romances ever put to the screen. Ben Browder and Claudia Black have a remarkable chemistry.
Farscape is an epic journey and one that rewards those who stick with it from start to finish. The series does falter at times but overall, it is a space opera of the highest caliber.
Season 1 (1999-2000)
Farscape slowly finds its way in its first season particularly in the early episodes. One of the problems with the first season is the lack of a great nemesis. Lani Tupu is effective as Captain Bailar Crais but he is absent for most of the season and not fleshed out enough. He is ousted at the end of the season by Scorpius who proves to be a great villain and one of my favorite characters. Fortunately, Crais’s journey had only just begun and he would become a much more developed and complex character in season 3. Season 1 is definitely better after having seen the rest of the series because it is fun to look back and watch the early interactions and dynamics of the characters.
Season 2 (2000-2001)
Even though the second season gets off to a shaky start, it is an excellent season with many of my favorite episodes. One of the main arcs of the season is Crichton’s insanity as he realizes that Scorpius placed a neural clone in his brain that is slowly taking over.
Season 3 (2001-2002)
Many fans believe this is Farscape’s finest season. This has been dubbed the “season of death” because so many characters die. Crichton is cloned. The one Crichton stays aboard Moya while the other one goes aboard Talyn with Aeryn. Much of the season goes back and forth between ships. The use of weaponized wormhole technology is one of the major themes of this season.
Season 4 (2002-2003)
This is my favorite season of Farscape and its most serialized. The Peacekeeper/Scarran conflict becomes a major theme.
The Peacekeeper Wars (2004)
It is a shame that there never was a fifth season. Instead, this disappointing miniseries ties up the cliffhangers that were left at the end of season 4.
The following is a list of my favorite frelling episodes of Farscape:
1) DNA Mad Scientist (Episode 9)
Rygel: “You honestly believe I could find you appealing? I mean, you’re so, so, blue!”
Logline: A scientist offers the crew maps to their home worlds if they provide him with one of Pilot’s arms.
Farscape’s first truly excellent episode is a turning point into darker and more daring territory. This episode reminds us that at this point, these characters are selfish and will do whatever it takes to get home even if it means cutting off one of their Pilot’s arms. Aeryn, on the other hand, has no home. She was born and bred in Peacekeeper territory to which she cannot return. Namtar is a great villain and one of my favorite guest characters.
2) A Human Reaction (Episode 16)
Aeryn: “Rain… Is that what you call this? I like it.”
Logline: Crichton returns to Earth but not everything is as it seems.
John’s first pseudo-trip back to Earth is excellent and one of the series’ most important episodes.
3-4) Nerve/The Hidden Memory (Episodes 19-20)
Crichton: “A little while ago a commando skewered you with his Swiss Peacekeeper army knife.”
Logline: Crichton and Chiana infiltrate a Peacekeeper Gammak base to get a tissue graft for Aeryn but Crichton is captured and tortured by a new nemesis called Scorpius.
Farscape begins its tradition of multi-part season finales with this excellent two parter. The series gets considerably darker with the introduction of Scorpius, a truly great villain.
5) Family Ties (Episode 22)
Crichton: “It’s a Jerry Springer kind of family. But for what it’s worth, Zhaan, you are family.”
Logline: Crais comes aboard Moya seeking asylum while the others plan to destroy Scorpius’ Gammak base.
This, the final episode of season one, shows how close the crew of Moya has become since the start of the season. It is a beautiful episode with a wonderful cliffhanger.
6) Crackers Don’t Matter (Episode 26)
Crichton: “I got great eyes, they’re better than 20/20, and they’re blue!”
Logline: After returning from a commerce planet with a load of crackers and a small alien called T’raltixx, the crew becomes affected by an intense paranoia that turns them against each other.
This is one of Farscape’s craziest, wackiest episodes and it is hilarious. The dialogue is sharp and simply put, it is a lot of fun.
7) The Way We Weren’t (Episode 27)
Aeryn: “We’ve come a long way since then Pilot, and we’ve still got a long way to go. Take the journey with me.”
Logline: Aeryn and Pilot are forced to confront their past when a datacam tape is found that reveals Aeryn with a firing squad that destroyed Moya’s previous Pilot.
This may be Farscape’s absolute best episode, an exploration of Aeryn and Pilot’s backstory. The penultimate scene between Pilot and Aeryn still brings tears to my eyes. The fact that a puppet can invoke such emotion is a testament to the love and care that went into making this series.
8-10) Look at the Princess trilogy (Part 1: A Kiss is But a Kiss, Part 2: I Do, I Think, Part 3: The Maltese Crichton) (Episodes 33-35)
Crichton: “Better wed than dead.”
Logline: On a royal planet, John is forced to marry a princess in order to avoid capture by Scorpius.
This is a fun trilogy particularly the first part. It is Farscape’s first trilogy and it is a story of epic proportions.
11-13) Liars, Guns, and Money trilogy (Part 1: A Not So Simple Plan, Part 2: With Friends Like These…, and Part 3: Plan B) (Episodes 41-43)
Crichton: “D’Argo…kill me. D’Argo… please… kill me…”
Logline: Scorpius closes in on the crew who attempt to rob a shadow depository so they can buy a group of slaves, one of which is D’Argo’s son.
Part of the four part season finale, this action-packed trilogy gives Moya’s original crew one final mission together.
14-15) Die Me Dichotomy/Season of Death (Episodes 44-45)
Crichton: “Aeryn, did I say or do anything to piss you off? I mean other than caving in the side of your head?”
Logline: The crew hires a doctor to heal Moya’s burns and remove John’s neural chip.
The neural clone in John’s head has taken over and the results are disturbing. Aeryn professes her love to John only to be killed by him shortly after in one of the series’ most shocking scenes. Even though the season three opener, Season of Death brings Aeryn back from the dead rather quickly, it is not without a price. The writers of Farscape never take the easy way out.
16) Green Eyed Monster (Episode 52)
Aeryn: “Talyn, you’ve seen them both naked, perhaps you can tell us who’s bigger.”
Logline: Talyn gets swallowed by a giant space creature known as a budong while tensions rise between John, Aeryn, and Crais.
Farscape is more about character than story and this episode is a great example of that notion. It was penned by series star Ben Browder.
17) Infinite Possibilities Part 2: Icarus Abides (Episode 59)
Furlow: “Don’t be the hero John. Always be the one to walk away while the hero dies. That’s my motto.”
Logline: Jack unlocks the wormhole knowledge inside John’s head so that they can build a weapon to stop the approaching Scarrans.
This is an action-packed installment that ends with one of Farscape’s most heartbreaking scenes. I cried my eyes out when I last saw this scene. Claudia Black is a revelation.
18-19) Into the Lion’s Den Part 1: Lambs to the Slaughter and Part 2: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (Episodes 64-65)
Rygel: “Don’t think I’m going to miss you, any of you. I’m not. Well, maybe a little bit.”
Logline: The crew boards the Peacekeeper command carrier to stop Scorpius before he unlocks the key to wormholes.
Farscape excels at its epic multi-part season finales. Into the Lion’s Den is an action-packed two parter that brings the season to an explosive finish. One of my favorite aspects of season three is Crais’ arc. Crais turned out to be a great character and in this episode, he and Talyn make the ultimate sacrifice. In this episode, even Scorpius becomes more of a sympathetic character, proving that villains in Farscape are not just one-dimensional sociopaths. They have agendas and believe what they are doing is for the best.
20) Dog With Two Bones (Episode 66)
Old Woman: “You will know… Aeryn is with child.”
Logline: Moya wants Talyn’s remains in sacred space as the crew begins to go their separate ways.
One of Farscape’s strengths is its unpredictability. The final episode of season three is proof of that notion. It is a beautiful episode and contains the fateful coin toss scene, in which Ben Browder and Claudia Black are amazing as usual.
21) Promises (Episode 71)
Crichton: “Asylum? What is it with Peacekeepers? First they hunt us, then they want to move in. Are we a bed and breakfast? Do we have a sign outside that says “Free HBO?”
Logline: Aeryn, stricken with heat delirium, returns to Moya with Scorpius who is seeking asylum.
This is an amazing episode which brings Scorpius onboard Moya, a great decision as I love watching the dynamic between he and John. It certainly makes for one of the most compelling aspects of season four.
22-24) Unrealized Reality/Kansas/Terra Firma (Episodes 77-79)
Aeryn: “Well, merry frelling Christmas.”
Logline: John finally returns home to Earth.
We all knew the day would come when John would return to Earth and it does not disappoint. Unrealized Reality is one of Farscape’s most unusual and unique episodes, Kansas a hilarious trip back to 1985 Earth, and Terra Firma a beautiful installment set in the present. Terra Firma is right up there with The Way We Weren’t as Farscape’s absolute best.
25-27) We’re So Screwed trilogy (Part 1: Fetal Attraction, Part 2: Hot to Katrazi, and Part 3: La Bomba) (Episodes 85-87)
Noranti: “Who’s Stark?”
Rygel: “Another lunatic with the wrong number of eyes.”
Logline: The crew of Moya attempt to rescue Aeryn from the Scarrans.
This arc of episodes is a fun ride full of tension. It is familiar territory for the series but the real magic lies in the interaction between the characters, as usual.
28) Bad Timing (Episode 88)
D’Argo: “Crichton’s gone down onto his knees.”
Rygel: “I think he’s hurt himself.”
Logline: Crichton must prevent the Scarrans from invading Earth.
When this series finale first aired, I was shocked and horrified that the writers left John and Aeryn seemingly dead at the end of the episode. It was a bold and reckless move. Fortunately, the miniseries eventually came to be and tied up this cliffhanger. In retrospect, this is a truly great episode that has a pervading sense of finality.
Well, there you have it…the best of Farscape. Recently, series creator Rockne S. O’Bannon confirmed that a script is being developed for a Farscape feature-length film. This is exciting news because Farscape was such a wonderful and unique series that I miss dearly.