Far Scape

A TV show produced for the Sci Fi Channel in the late 90s/early noughties.

My name is John Crichton. An astronaut. Three years ago, I got shot through a wormhole. I'm in a distant part of the universe, aboard this living ship of escaped prisoners...my friends. I've made enemies - powerful, dangerous. Now all I want is to find a way home, to warn Earth. Look upwards, and share the wonders I have seen. - opening narration, season four.

On discovering that Farscape Is Cancelled, Tom Anderson asked why we should care. There are several reasons.

1. Farscape is funny, in a pop-culture-referencing self-aware way. John Crichton is a brash, swaggering, bucaneer. He drinks, takes drugs, and blows stuff up. He's the perfect tour guide to the show's world.

2. Farscape is cool. Farscape is pure pulp space opera, it's just very good pure pulp space opera. It's got great stories. Living spaceships that get pregnant, wormholes used as weapons, god-like aliens, blaster fights...you name it, it's here.

3. A friend of mine once described the show as "...experimental. Emphasis on the 'mental'". This is a fair description; Farscape has done some weird-ass shit, including muppets in bondage gear, a half-cartoon episode, and having the lead character go stark raving bonkers and kill other characters. Later, Crichton gets duplicated. The duplicate proceeds to hang around for most of the season, confusing matters immensely. The important thing is, the characters tend to be smart about the situations they find themselves in; so in the obligatory 'superintelligent beings convince Crichton he's back on earth' episode, Crichton is fooled for approximately two minutes, after which he's sussed out what's going on and is trying to figure out a way to stop it.

A good episode guide is here: http://www.snurcher.com/

Particularly recommended by me --TL

Personal recommended episodes:

Like most other TV shows, though, it's fair to say you're only going to get hooked if you sit down and watch it regularly for several weeks, and give yourself a chance to get to know the characters and the setting.

Is Farscape great SF? Probably not (although it definitely has its moments, like the aforementioned '...Different Destinations', and it's a few steps above almost any other TV show you care to name thanks to (a) the absence of reset buttons and (b) the characters being, y'know, actual characters). But it's damn fine entertainment. Damn fine.

Right. So, would you say it was good in the way that Babylon Five was good?

No. The strength of B5 was its plotting; the whole 'five year arc', and so forth. Farscape doesn't have that. There's an ongoing story, but there's no indication that it's planned out very far in advance, which means that some of the plot twists can seem downright bizarre. Every time, though, the show's writers have managed to surprise me and take the plot somewhere interesting.

And on the other hand, things like dialogue, humour and acting often sucked in B5, whereas on Farscape they are almost always top-notch.

More like Lexx?

I suppose it's vaguely like Lexx. But more tasteful.


There aren't really any reference points. Blake's Seven gets mentioned because the crew of Moya, like the crew of the Liberator, argue amongst themselves as often as they work together, but that's really a superficial similarity.

I get the impression that it's space opera with a low SF content, but also very unlike Star Trek in every way imaginable. None of which makes me think that it's actually any good .

As ever, it depends how you're defining the 'S' in SF, and what you define as 'good'. You're right that Farscape is in no way, shape or form anything resembling Hard SF (but then, neither are Star Trek or B5). It took me a while to cotton on to this, but in a way the show works better if you take it as a fantasy, and just don't worry about the rules. Farscape is not about intellectual exercises, it's about the characters, and it's about the ride.

(It does do a good line in Sensa Wunda, though).

Category TVSF

Thu, 23 Feb 2006 12:32:28 GMT Front Page Recent Changes Message Of The Day