Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Farscape - Season 4 Collection 3 |
Actors: Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe, Lani John Tupu, Jonathan Hardy
Directors: Geoff Bennett, Ian Watson, Tony Tilse
Genres: Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Anime & Manga, Animation
Farscape is an enduring sci-fi franchise, thanks to thrilling yarns, plenty of space opera, and a menagerie of captivating aliens, courtesy of the Jim Henson Creature Shop. Now, thanks to the Starburst Editions, fans can... more »
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One of my all time favorite Sci-fi series comes to a close
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 08/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Two things stand out about the episodes in this set: first, they bring to an end what many people regard as the most innovative and finest Sci-fi series in the history of television and, second, that they very nearly created the worst series finale in the history of television. The latter occurred because the people on the show all believed that FARSCAPE was going to be renewed for a fifth season. After all, it was the most critically acclaimed show on the Sci-Fi Channel as well as its most watched. For instance, STARGATE SG-1 never achieved (and though it is still on the air, it has yet much in the way of critical regard) critical success that FARSCAPE did and it has never been as widely watched as FARSCAPE was. Yet STARGATE SG-1 was renewed and FARSCAPE was cancelled. The reason isn't hard to discover. FARSCAPE was a much more expensive show to produce, with a larger permanent cast, more and better special effects, and more overhead. I was frankly never a huge fan of the puppets (except for Pilot), but shooting scenes with them was both expensive and time difficult, requiring teams of puppeteers. On top of this, FARSCAPE was shot in Sydney, Australia, whereas STARGATE SG-1 is produced in Vancouver. For a host of not very good reasons, the Sci-fi Channel decided not to renew the show, but far too late for the FARSCAPE people to make any attempt to wrap up the series. Despite a huge fan campaign to get the series renewed (including many female fans who mailed in their bras in support, the Sci-fi Channel would not relent. So for a long while, the last image Scapers had of their beloved show was two of the main characters on the show collapsing into a pile of pellets as the result of a mysterious ray that struck them. It was the most horrifyingly unsatisfying moment for me in all the years I've been a fan of quality TV.
Luckily, the Sci-Fi Channel eventually repented of their horrible decision and the result was the PEACEKEEPER WARS mini series, which essentially collapsed what would have been Season Five and the eventual series final arc into a four-hour special. It was not entirely satisfying, in that the mini-series was forced both to resolve the loose threads from Season Four and then rapidly segue into the closing arc. The whole thing felt rushed, short on narrative detail, and not entirely satisfying. But at least it wiped away that final awful image of Season Four. Some fans dislike the finale, I'll take the final image of the mini-series over the final image of the series any day of the month. If you live by the sword you die by the sword, and if you live by the cliffhanger ending you die by the cliffhanger ending. Other shows that tend to leave their shows each year on a huge cliffhanger--STARGATE SG-1 and its spin off ATLANTIS as well as SMALLVILLE spring to mind--face the same kind of risk that FARSCAPE did. I only hope that all these shows will be given more forewarning than FARSCAPE did before bringing things to a close.
The episodes themselves are highly entertaining, in usual FARSCAPE fashion. The focus is on the attempt to rescue Aeryn from kidnappers and it is handled in the best FARSCAPE manner. It might not be quite as thrilling as the ends of Seasons 2 and 3, but those have possibly never been equaled in any other TV Sci-fi series for sheer excitement and entertainment (though interestingly the Season One finale of STARGATE ATLANTIS comes close). And I'll confess that if I did my list of my ten favorite FARSCAPE episodes, perhaps none of the ones on this set would be among them. But while it might not have been quite up to the show's own standards, but was still thrilling to the very end, and I have no doubt that the series could have continued to thrill fans for at least a couple of more seasons. The greatest problem is that the show was never allowed to wrap up its narrative at its own pace.
I find it fascinating how few non-Sci-fi fans know of FARSCAPE even to this day. When TV GUIDE came out with its list of the "Top Twenty-Five Cult Shows," I remember looking through the list with a bunch of friends. No one quibbled with STAR TREK as number one, and while everyone felt that BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER should have been number two instead of THE X-FILES we all agreed that those were the next two shows that most deserved inclusion on the list. But among the half dozen of us, I was the only one who had seen FARSCAPE, which made the list at Number 4. Moreover, I've had a lot of trouble interesting friends in seeing this for themselves. I've gotten a half dozen friends interested in VERONICA MARS by lending my DVDs and created a number of fans of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, BUFFY, DEAD LIKE ME, and WONDERFALLS by lending out my DVDs. But the only person who tried to watch FARSCAPE quit pretty early on. Why is this? I think largely because Season One starts off pretty slowly. The show is good but not great until pretty near the end of Season One, about the time that Chiana and Scorpius join the show.
I think part of the reason that FARSCAPE has not expanded its initial fan base has been the terrible situation with the DVDs. The initial DVD releases were extortionist in their pricing. Even now it is bewildering to the casual fan. Two completely different DVD lines with a confusing set of cases. I think until the Starburst edition is released with a price in the $40 to $50 price range in a single box set per season the audience for this show won't build like it ought.
Where does FARSCAPE belong in the history of TV Sci-fi? For my money, at the top. I think FIREFLY had the potential to be the very best, but it never got the opportunity. FARSCAPE is interesting on so many levels. For one thing, along with FIREFLY it is the only Sci-fi series not structured around the military. Like FIREFLY, its crew is made up of fugitives. Like FIREFLY, it is very much about family. But unlike any other Sci-fi series, even FIREFLY, it was about romance. The star-crossed love affair between John Crichton and Aeryn Sun is not just the finest romance in the history of TV Sci-fi, but among the great love stories in the history of TV regardless of genre. No show has negotiated the difficulties facing couples in the post-MOONLIGHTING age of TV. Because the ratings of MOONLIGHTING plummeted after David and Maddie got together, a phenomenon that also afflicted LOIS AND CLARK when they got together, all shows now try to keep their romantic leads apart while keeping the fire alive. No other show has come close to FARSCAPE in handling this problem. On top of this, FARSCAPE did amazing things with gender issues. Though hardly a wimp, John was not a fighter; he preferred to think and reason first, and fight second. Not so Aeryn, trained from her youth to be a warrior. Moreover, it was Aeryn and not John who had trouble expressing her emotions and allowing herself to feel. In many ways Aeryn took the traditional male role and John the female, and it was obvious from a host of other considerations that the creative staff was acutely aware of this. No show ever has had so many strong female characters (except perhaps some of Joss Whedon's). On gender issues the show was somewhat utopian. The part of the universe John discovers through his friends was not one in which men and women were equal, it was a part of the universe where it didn't arise as an issue because no role in society was based on gender. I think this was one of the reasons why FARSCAPE was one of the very rare Sci-fi series that was more popular with women than with men.
This show was simply too good to be forgotten. Ben Browder, who played John, has reemerged on the Sci-fi Channel on STARGATE SG-1 as Richard Dean Anderson's replacement. In my opinion, while he has been very good on that show, he is essentially a tamer version of John Crichton. Claudia Black, who played the stoic, almost Spartan Aeryn Sun, has also joined STARGATE. But while Browder has mainly functioned as an adequate replacement for Richard Dean Anderson, Black has brought incredible new things to the show. Her character, Vala, is nearly the polar opposite of Aeryn: impassioned, sexual, unprincipled, conniving, manipulative, fun loving. In short, it is almost like she is playing Vala as Chiana. Many fans of STARGATE SG-1 now refer to the show as FARGATE, in recognition of the presence of FARSCAPE two stars. But the show itself has changed, more and more abandoning the stand-alone episodes that defined the show from Seasons 1 through 8 to embrace the kind of episode to episode narrative that drove FARSCAPE and made it so addictive.
By any standard, this is one of the most fascinating shows ever. It was not always at its best. The show took enormous risks and the occasional episode would lay an egg. But at its best--and it was frequently at its best--it was as exciting as TV can possibly be. After several episodes I remember thinking that the movies could never get this good. So now the entire series is available in twelve easily affordable slip cases. I urge anyone who loves Sci-fi or simply great TV to get this. Don't give up on it in Season One! You need to watch it for the development of the characters and background, but be prepared for it to get very, very good at the end of Season One and to stay that way through three more very, very exciting seasons."
Greek Tragedy in a Spaceship and Love Down a Wormhole
Thomas Sefton | 10/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Most people say that Season Three was the best season Farscape had, and they are probably right. Season Three starts out with dynamite and gets more intense as it goes along. We have known Zhaan for two seasons, but the first four episodes tell the story of her death. There's a very dark episode where Crichton's well-meaning decisions kill innocent people he is trying to protect, then in a horror episode featuring cannibal half-men, Crichton gets, not cloned, but split into two equal and original Crichtons. The rest of the season is one continuous story. Aeryn finds herself in the company of one of the Crichtons, falls passionately and completely in love with him, until he dies in her arms in one of the better scenes I have ever seen. Aeryn must then deal with the other Crichton who is completely in love with her, and who is and is not the man she loves. Meanwhile Aeryn's mother spends two episodes trying to kill her, dies instead, Aeryn has to watch. The man who is and is not the man Aeryn loves decides to embark on an utterly hopeless and probably suicidal attempt to keep Scorpius from acquiring enough power to subjugate the galaxy. If he is not her man, he is not different from her man in any way-- especially in his propensity to do things as stupid as this. While the others hesitate she crosses the room and stands by his side; the two of them will do this alone if necessary. In fact Crichton doesn't stop Scorpius, Crais does, and Crais and Talyn commit suicide in the process. (If you haven't got Season Three, get it.) All this is told with scriptwriting and acting that is good beyond hope. This is what Season Four has to measure up to.
At first, it just doesn't. All the early Season Four episodes are good, some better than others, but they don't really measure up to the intensity of Season Three. Then, as Crichton is obsessively trying to understand the knowledge about wormholes that an alien planted in his brain back in Season One, he gets sucked into one. There he meets another alien who explaines the unimaginable dangers of wormhole travel. If you don't navigate the wormhole properly, you can easily arrive at where you're going but at an earlier time. And if you do this you can easily kick open one of the infinite number of "Unrealized Realities" which will then replace the one that had actually happened, and you need to be very, very afraid of doing this. Crichton has been in space for three and a half years now, and he is no longer overly impressed by things dangerous. The alien proceeds to educate him. He shows Crichton reality after reality, any of which he could realize by taking a wrong turn, where he and the people he loves not only get hurt or killed but change inside and become contemptible. He starts moving through the wormhole again, winds up in orbit around planet Earth, his friends join him, and they spend the next two episodes on Earth. Crichton's alien friends try to deal with Earth's very primitive, very complicated and very dissonant society, and the earthlings try to deal with them. The result is, among other things, very funny. Aeryn Sun watching Sesame Street and Wheel of Fortune and laughing is one of the great Farscape moments. These three episodes are among the best in Farscape, and they establish the new groove that will characterize the second half of Season Four.
Then there is an independent episode. We meet a shape-changer that is sometimes a beautiful young girl and sometimes a monstrous spider who kills slowly and horribly. When the girl-spider is finally dispached, the gang eats her-- spider soup. Gee Toto, this definitely isn't Stargate.
The rest of the episodes, all of which are on Season Four, Collection Three, are all one continuous story. Aeryn is captured by the Scarrans, and Crichton, whom we have just seen make a seemingly suicidal and hopeless attempt to stop Scorpius from acquiring the power wormhole knowledge would give him, now freely offers that knowledge if Scorpius will help him save Aeryn. Aeryn calls to an ancient Goddess her people once worshiped; she asks for a sign that Crichton is coming for her. The Goddess is hard of hearing, and Aeryn then swears that she will make any deal with anyone who will help save the unborn baby she is carrying (Crichton's). Crichton and Scorpius travel through the wormhole to get Aeryn's location from one of the unrealized people in one of the unrealized realities, and they eventually manage to rescue Aeryn. There's another great Earth episode. Then Crichton barges into a peace conference between the two bad-guy factions with a nuclear bomb strapped to his leg. If his heart stops or if it goes too fast (like if he were to be tortured), the bomb goes boom. He then makes a speech, striding maniacally around the floor and on the conference tables. He will sell his knowledge to whichever side can guarantee that everyone will henceforth stay out of his and his friend's faces, and he demonstrates what a really excellent actor Ben Browder is. Stargate won't let Browder do stuff like this. Later on, he accidently leaves the bomb on an elevator. Then it turns out that the Scarrans need bird-of-paradise flowers to keep from devolving into something dumber than a Stegosaurus, and they find out that Earth has lots of bird-of-paradise flowers, and so the Scarrans are on the way to the wormhole that leads to Earth, to destroy and enslave mankind. (This is one of the unrealized realities we have seen.) Crichton figures out a way to close the wormhole with them in it, but now he has no way of getting back to Earth.
Season Three was Greek tragedy on a spaceship, Season Four, once it finds its groove, is more like straight-up science fiction and interesting in the way good sci-fi always is. It is also much funnier and also more relaxed, and that brings out one of the best things that happen in Farscape. Crichton and Aeryn are attracted to one another right away, but they go through a very long period of, I love you, don't touch me, I need you, I don't trust you, yes, no, maybe. This discord stops for a while when Aeryn falls unambiguously in love with one of the Crichtons in Season Three. But the oneness that Crichton and Aeryn find in Season Four doesn't happen there, probably because Season Three is all about conflict. At the beginning of Season Four, Collection Three, the last barrier between Aeryn and the surviving Crichton falls away and they become completely at peace in each other's presence. Love without tension or separation is a very difficult thing for actors to portray and one rarely sees it, normally they have to end the movie as soon as that happens. Not here, Ben Browder and Claudia Black have a rare chemistry between them and also a rare ability to act and the peace the characters feels with one another is a palpable presence. They do this better than anybody I can think of, and they are wonderful to watch.
I don't think there is going to be a Starburst Edition of The Peacekeeper Wars, so I'll just say one thing about that. The Peacekeeper Wars was supposed to replace the canceled fifth season, it was supposed to complete the story arc and bring the whole immense story and all the substories home. Apart from a very few small bad spots, I think it does that superbly well. The general tone of the last half of Season Four continues, the oneness between Crichton and Aeryn continues, and the ending is awesome enough to be worthy of the whole five-year story.
We have watched Aeryn Sun develop. She starts out a lot like Data of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but like everything else on Farscape, she moves on a very deep level. Because she was trained as a Peacekeeper, she was trained to be disciplined, effective, to ignore pain and fear and never to think or feel or act as an individual. She wasn't human. She is forced to leave the Peacekeepers, she falls in with a group of strangers, held together by nothing but whatever internal decency they might be able to muster, and among them is Crichton. The rules are all gone, Crichton is there, and she spends the next four years learning to be human. Claudia Black, the actress, is in real life one of those rare people who for genetic reasons never gets scared. She will get screwed up over emotional situations, but she doesn't get scared. So she is uniquely qualified to play Aeryn Sun, who never tries to be tough, every cell in her body is tough, but who keeps making confused and hesitant attempts to be human. You never stop learning a thing like that, but in the last half of Season Four she basically succeeds. Then in one of the last scenes of The Peacekeeper Wars, we see that the arc of her story is complete. She and Crichton have finally married, but other things have happened as well and now he is lying dead at her feet, her friends are staring at her, impotent. And Aeryn Sun, who has never asked for anyone's help in her life, and who certainly never wanted any, is screaming, HELP ME! HELP ME! HELP ME! If it is a good thing to be human, she is now human. Though at that point, she would rather be a stone."
Farscape is great!
Charles Cooper | Seattle, Wa USA | 04/02/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I started watching Farscape in Season 3. I watched all episodes and reruns I could get my hands on. I think they were INSANE to drop it from television.
I eventually bought the entire collection at once.
The only reason I gave this a 4 out of 5 stars, is because of the quality of the DVD. The inner clips of the box break very easily. The DVD always defaults back to subtitles between episodes, which is really annoying.
Even with the problems of the DVD, I love this set."