Underrated Classics: Farscape
Underrated Sci-Fi shows: Farscape
Honestly, when I started watching this show, I didn’t think I’d make it through the first five episodes, let alone the first season. The pilot was good enough to intrigue me, but the show (especially the first season) had the bad habit of switching from acceptable, to good, to downright horrible episodes.
I know a lot of people don’t like the show’s costumes and make-up, but that’s one point I never really understood. Granted two or three characters looked too puppet-y, but overall I thought the species were well thought out and designed. I absolutely adored the concept of a living ship and the symbiosis that needed to happen between the ship and its pilot.
What some people also may not know is that Farscape was an Australian show, and, as such, they had a lower budget than say Star Trek or Stargate.
Farscape followed hero, John Crichton, as he was sent halfway through the universe when a test flight around Earth’s orbit went horribly wrong. He quickly became mixed up with a strange crew of bandits and had to integrate with them if he ever wished to find his way back home—good old planet Earth.
Farscape contains some of the most original episodes I’ve seen in Sci-Fi as well as some of the funniest (and yes, some of the worst episodes, too). I especially loved the one where the crew changed bodies, each of their minds jumping to between each other; granted that was not a new concept, but it made for some really good comedy.
I also liked that Farscape could be lighthearted at times as well as really serious when the subject matters warranted it. That’s the strength of Sci-Fi in general, to put pew-pews, colorful skins/makeup and alien faces on a subject that resonates in everyday lives.
But, the show started coming into its own when it not only focused on the “problem of the week” format but introduced an overarching storyline that we gave a damn about. The show tried that with the enraged commander who wanted Crichton’s head for accidentally killing the commander's brother, but that particular one didn’t really work, and I think the writers realized that and created a new one, more interesting one in the shape of Scorpius. To this day, one of the most complex and interesting bad guys on any show. Definitely one of my favorites.
His look alone was somewhat interesting, especially how he had to cool down his body; I always loved seeing that cooling cylinder unscrew from the side of his head.
Farscape might not have been the most amazing of shows, and it had a lot of forgettable episodes and some truly bad ones, but when it got it right, it could be a true thing of beauty. I also loved that the show didn’t wait until the end to explore episodes back on Earth, with some varying degree of success. I like that the writers went that way with some of the episodes.
And the more the Scorpius-Crichton relationship was developed, the more interesting the show became. After all, the main thing that matters in most stories are characters, and I thought Farscape gave some very interesting, and sometimes frustrating, arcs to its cast. At least it didn’t go into totally strange territory as Andromeda did in its final season.
After a true WTF cliffhanger the show delivered at the end of season 4, I feared it would leave us hanging... that would have been truly bad to end like this (I'm sure those of you who saw the show agree). Fortunately, Farscape received a three-hour mini-series to wrap up everything, with what looked like a budget boost, too. Back then, I clearly remember being amazed at how awesomely polished the Peacekeeper Wars looked.
The three-hour mini-series did a bang-up job at tying almost every loose end and provided viewers with a rather satisfying ending to the show.
The show probably hasn’t aged gracefully, so if you haven’t seen Farscape, you’ll probably be in for a surprise when it comes to special effects and possibly the make-up of the diverse alien cast (not more so than Babylon 5, and that's still one of the best Sci-Fi shows of all time, no matter how "weak" it may appear to a new audience today). I personally think it still holds up pretty well in that department, but I never really had a problem in the first place, unlike so many detractors of the show.
I’m not going to lie though, if you would start watching today, the first season will be as hard to watch as it was back then. But if you’re a die-hard Sci-Fi fan that has never seen the show, I encourage you to check it out. If you are annoyed after three episodes, fret not, I still suggest you jump to the first episode where Scorpius is introduced and keep watching from there. You’ll undoubtedly miss some context here and there, but you should be fine.
What about you? Did you watch the Sci-Fi hit from down under? Did you enjoy it? If so, who was your favorite character? Do you miss it? Let us know in the comments below.
Until next time,
Christian Kallias – Bestselling Sci-Fi author of the Universe in Flames saga.