Very easily among my top three greatest science fiction television series of all time, Farscapeburst dramatically onto TV screens in their first season with a sexy style, irreverent humor, dazzling special effects, unforgettable characters, and truly original stories. The series was first conceived of by the brilliant folks at The Jim Henson Company in the early '90s when Brian Henson (son of Jim Henson) came up with the idea of setting a show in space and using their innovative puppets, animatronics, and make-up effects to create a wide variety of different alien species. The series was then created by Rockne S. O'Bannon and produced by Brian Henson, O'Bannon, and David Kemper.
The series follows the adventures of an American astronaut named John Crichton who accidentally is transported into another part of the universe while testing out a theory in his space module, the Farscape 1. He finds himself in the midst of a battle where a race known as Sebaceans, who form a fascist intergalactic police force known as The Peacekeepers, are attacking a gigantic living ship. This ship, a Leviathan named Moya, carries a small group of escaped prisoners: the Delvian priestess Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan, the Luxan warrior Ka D'Argo, the Hynerian Dominar Rygel XVI, and Pilot, a symbiotic creature that is joined to Moya as a navigator. Additionally, they are joined by renegade Peacekeeper Aeryn Sun, who has been deemed "irreversibly contaminated" by her contact with alien life forms. The characters find themselves reluctantly bonded together, and often at odds, in their desperate attempts to escape the Peacekeepers and the Commander Bialar Crais who is madly seeking vengeance upon Crichton, who he blames for his brother's death.*
The first season is simply stunning, being both an innovative space opera series with some of the most groundbreaking and entertaining characters and plot lines on television. It's hard to believe that the series came out back in 1999 and yet the animatronics, the puppetry (the puppets and animatronics were created and performed by The Jim Hensony Company which also produced the series), the digital effects, and the production design all seem very much state of the art even well over 10 years after the show debuted.
Each season of Farscape ran for 22 episodes (the series lasted for four seasons before it was cancelled unwisely by the Sci-Fi Channel). The first 22 episodes of the series are pretty diverse and cover all sorts of ground in terms of developing the characters and establishing the series' mythology and overall thematic tones. Below are some of my favorite episodes from Season One:
"Premiere" - The first episode of the series in which we meet the characters and swept up in their immediate dilemmas. (for plot synopsis see above*)
"PK Tech Girl" - The seventh episode of the series in which John, Aeryn, and Rygel find themselves on board a legendary Peacekeeper ship called the Zelbinion as they attempt to salvage parts for Moya and uncover the mystery of what happened aboard over a century earlier. Meanwhile, Rygel confronts his memories and his fears as he had been tortured by the evil Captain Durka on the ship long ago. And John and Aeryn begin to acknowledge that they may share a mutual attraction to each other, but this is interrupted when a young Peacekeeper technician named Gilina is discovered trapped aboard the ship, but she may be their only hope to defend the ship against an oncoming attack.
"Till the Blood Runs Clear" - The eleventh episode sees John and Aeryn landing on a desert planet where John hopes to have his Farscape module repaired so that he can attempt to return home in a wormhole which he believes can only be created when piloting during solar flares. In addition to haggling with scheming astro-mechanic Furlow and dealing with Aeryn's temporary blindness after she catches a glimpse of an intense solar flare, they must also deal with the fact that a Peacekeeper beacon is broadcasting a message to have them detained. Unbeknownst to them a couple of Vorcarian bounty hunters are tracking them down and their first captive is none other than D'Argo.
"Nerve" - In the nineteenth episode Crichton goes on a dangerous mission infiltrating a Peackeeper Gammak Base alongside new ally Chiana, so that they may obtain a tissue sample for Aeryn who has been mortally wounded. When their plans are almost prematurely ruined by security officers at the base, Gilina shows up and helps them to avoid detection. But things don't quite go as planned because Scorpius, a half-Sebacean and half-Scarran Peacekeeper captures John and tortures him in his Aurora Chair which reveals hidden memories about wormholes.
"The Hidden Memory" - Episode twenty concerns the crew of Moya attempting to rescue John from Scorpius with the aid of Gilina and the seemingly crazy Stark. Aeryn, who has now pretty much recovered, leads an attack on the Gammak Base with D'Argo, and Zhaan. Things become more complicated when Chiana and Rygel have to help deliver Moya's baby Leviathan during her tumultuous birthing of a hybrid gunship.
"Family Ties" - Episode twenty-two and the Season One finale is perhaps one of the best episodes in the series and certainly the most emotionally satisfying episode of the first season. When Scorpius offers the crew of Moya amnesty if they turn over Crichton to him, Rygel betrays them all and flies down to the planet where he attempts to make a bargain with Scorpius. That doesn't go so well as Crais reveals that Scorpius is treacherous and will have Rygel killed. The two form a shaky alliance and head back to Moya, where John concocts a risky plan to destroy the Gammak Base, which may cost him and D'Argo their lives.
In terms of debut seasons, Farscape really does raise the bar in just about every sense and it cleverly subverts expectations while working within the rules of the space fantasy genre have helped to make it an enduring cult classic
An exciting and innovative show when it first aired, it still is out of the ordinary and creatively a head above many other sci-fi shows. FarScape is on big long story arc, so be sure to watch it from Season 1 to get the most out it.
FARSCAPE, in my humble opinion, has usurped the STAR TREK throne as presenting the finest science fiction show on television (and, hopefully someday, on the silver screen). In these two very special episodes, "Nerve" and "Hidden Memory", the show truly started to show its potential, both in special effects and plot but -- perhaps most importantly -- in dramatic character development. The introduction of Scorpius -- a grand villain if there ever was one -- gave an incredible boost for the others … more