GregHowley.com

Farscape

Thursday, September 30th 2004

You may be familiar with a science fiction television show called "Farscape", and you may not. The show's writing is wonderfully creative, and more dynamic than any other sci-fi series I've ever watched. The directions in which the plot heads constantly take you off-guard. At first, I thought of characters like Rygel and Pilot as badly-animated muppets, but in time they grew on me, the personality overshadowing the form, and they became my favorite two characters.

Not to belittle Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is another favorite television Sci-Fi series of mine, but I'll be using it as comparison throughout this article since it's the closest show to Farscape of which I can think.

Aside from Farscape's distinct disdain for techno-talk, one of the most obvious differences between Star Trek and Farscape is that in Star Trek, the main characters are all part of the military - they must follow orders from their captain, and he from his superiors. Farscape's characters are less bound by rules and are free to pursue their own goals, whether those be finding someone, reclaiming an empire, seeking spiritual enlightenment, or simply finding their way home. In fact, since they are all essentially lost at the start of the series, all they can do is flee their enemies in a random direction, hoping to happen across some hint that will lead them to their goals.

Farscape is primarily about people and relationships. At first, they are bound together merely by circumstance and rely on each other only because they have no other choice. It takes nearly half of the first season for them to become friends, and watching the relationships develop is very absorbing.

One thing that Star Trek and Farscape do have in common is the tendancy for nonhuman races to be very human-like. However, in Farscape, John Crichton is the only human. There is a fairly common race known as Sebacians who appear essentially identical to humans, but are genetically a different race. This also means that the prevalent culture in the show is not human culture. There is no peaceful ruling federation. There is no galactic law to protect people. There is no universal language. Yet luckily, there are "translator microbes" - genetically engineered parasites which nest at the base of one's brain and translate others' speech so that one can understand it.

Another significant difference between Farscape and other science fiction shows I've watched is farscape's humor. The writers do an excellent job of working in humor where you least expect it. John Crichton's constant allusions to American culture are wonderfully funny when juxtaposed against such an alien backdrop. And where the Star Trek franchise has worked to be "mature" and "evolved", Farscape makes excellent use of even such crude humor as jokes about urination and farts without being eye-rollingly juvenile. Hey - it's part of life!

Farscape has also been able to add a bit of faux-edginess by using profanity, but rather than *bleep*ing it out, they've simply replaced the swear words with their equivalents in another language. Can you frelling believe that dren?

Although Farscape was cancelled after four seasons before achieving any final resolution to the plot, the Sci Fi channel is airing a two hour series finale on October 17th called The Peacekeeper Wars. If you're looking to get involved before then, the Sci Fi channel is airing all 88 episodes of Farscape in order, every weekday from 8AM-4PM ET/PT, Oct. 1 through Oct. 15. Linda and I are currently halfway through season 2, and will continue to rent episodes through Netflix, and tape Peacekeeper Wars when it comes on so that we can watch everything in order. Doing otherwise would ruin all the fun.

When astronaut John Crichton was accidentally shot through a wormhole, he didn't just end up on the other side of the galaxy - he ended up stuck in the middle of a space battle. Three prisoners - D'Argo, a Luxan warrior framed for the murder of his Sebacean wife; Zhaan, a Delvian priestess jailed for the brutal murder of her lover; and Rygel, a deposed monarch of the Hynerian Empire out for revenge against the cousin who betrayed him and took his throne - were escaping their confinement aboard a living ship named Moya. Officer Aeryn Sun, a loyal Peacekeeper commando pilot, was among those trying to stop them. By the end of the day, the prisoners were free, Aeryn had been exiled from her people, and Crichton was a fugitive. The arrival of Chiana, a Nebari runaway, brought even more complications...

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