Farscape (1999-2004) series review

Rated: 4 / 5

One of the few shows out there that managed to maintain being consistent in quality throughout its existence. It’s a show I never appreciated as much as I should’ve. Mainly because at the time I was thinking, “Yeah, this show is fun. It’s a sign of better things to come if sci-fi television keeps improving like this.” How naïve I was. This show, along with Babylon 5, and Star Trek TOS & TNG (still need to see DS9) are about as good as we’re going to get when it comes to sci-fi television. Sure there’s stuff like Stargate SG-1 & Atlantis (it’s not primarily set in space with spaceships and space stations, that doesn’t count, and Atlantis never concluded and SG-1 had too many dips in quality in the later seasons), and maybe another unique one here and there that was either cancelled or ruined by later seasons (like Andromeda and Battlestar Galactica). But as far as sci-fi series go, that are sci-fi enough to be set in locations outside of Earth (and even outside other planets), with alien races involved, I think we’ve pretty much reached the pinnacle a decade ago. But maybe that’s just me, someone who thinks The Expanse should’ve ended on Season 3, and who is just that picky about the quality of shows.

And Farscape is not a perfect series. I’m not so sure a perfect series exists for me, at least in this genre. There are some episodes and plot twists that are on the eye-rolling side. A few too many immature moments for the sake of comedy (ironically enough, I found these to be more prevalent in seasons 3 and 4, the seasons with overall greater emotional weight, where the show got more serious). But in my opinion, the pros vastly outweigh the cons in the grand scheme of things.

First of all, the Jim Henson company is involved which brought about some great animatronics and puppetry, creating some creatures who look like they should be getting their own movie rather than just being a minor character that only shows up in one or two episodes. Second of all, for the most part, the show strikes a fine balance between taking itself seriously, and not taking itself seriously (to the point of cracking the 4th wall), sometimes doing one more than the other (but almost never going too far in the goofy aspect, always managing to come up with a valid excuse as to why they’re taking it so far, while at the same time the viewer can tell the creators and actors and clearly just letting themselves go). It made the show a bit inconsistent in tone, which isn’t a bad thing in the case of a series that’s mostly episodic. Sure there’s an overarching plot to the whole thing, and most episodes move it forward in some way (or at least develop characters in some way), but this is made in such a way that some episodes are basically their own self-contained sci-fi story that just so happens to have these characters in them. Kinda makes me wonder what other sorts of insane adventures others in that universe are going on.

Seriously, this is a creature that needs it’s own monster movie.

The overarching plot is solid. It starts out small, primarily based on the fish-out-of-water perspective from the protagonist (who must’ve been raised on more films than I have, which is a bit strange considering how intelligent he is when it comes to physics and space flight and aerodynamics; pretty much a rocket scientist who can pilot a ship). Just trying to fit in and survive. Then he gets inadvertently caught up in plots that threaten entire races, and eventually the entire universe (which always ends up being the stakes in shows like this; ain’t that a bitch?). The way it’s all developed is good stuff, for the most part. It’s best to cover what I find to be the highlights from each season to give an idea.

Season 1

So it all starts out with Crichton getting sucked through a wormhole in a space module, that will be viewed as a very primitive ship in the galaxy he winds up in. Winds up on board a living ship with 3 escaped prisoners, each of which are of a different species. There’s the small greedy toad called Rygel, who was a ruler of his own people at one point. There’s this blue chick Zhaan who’s mostly pacifist and focuses primarily on herbal and mental healing. There’s D’Argo who’s a tall thick dreadlocks-headed creature, mostly of an aggressive nature, who can knock people out with his long tongue (and he also carries a sword that can shoot). And, of course, there’s the pilot of the living ship (the ship’s called Moya), who’s named Pilot, who stays in the control center. They also get a Peacekeeper soldier named Aeryn, who was initially assigned to bring them in to custody, but circumstances forced her into allying with them, begrudgingly. She eventually becomes the love interest for Crichton (as if there was any doubt, from the moment she first showed up).

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They all speak a different language, but translator microbes that get injected into Crichton allows him to understand what they’re saying. And I guess they already know his language thanks to the microbes (I’m uncertain if they come with pre-programmed languages from some database, or if they have an AI adaptive learning element to them; it doesn’t matter all that much considering a major plot hole in one episode in season 4, which I’ll get to later). The translator microbes solve a lot of communication problems, and they’re something I’d be tempted to try if they ever came into existence through modern Earth science (even if that means I’d have to consent to having AI microchips injected into my bloodstream, without worrying about side effects and whatnot).

The whole season proceeds with each character getting to know one another, gradually becoming friends, reconciling differences, and moving towards their goals of getting back to their home planets with their own people. Though in Arin’s case, she’s in a more difficult position, as she is a Peacekeeper, who are after Moya and her crew, who are thus now after her now that they’ve decided she’s in league with them.

The first episode of this season I had an eye-roll moment with was the I, E.T. episode. It’s the typical BS episode where the human is the alien invader of the planet schtick. A role reversal thing that’s been done to death well before this show came into existence, and I couldn’t wait for this one to be over; even if there was a little bond-growth happening between Aeryn and D’Argo.

Then there’s the DNA Mad Scientist episode. Now, up until this point, the show wasn’t all that dark, and the characters were shown some faults, but nothing major or sinister. Then this episode happens, showcasing a serious dark side to D’Argo, Rigel, and even Zhaan (in spite of how pacifist she seems). They are desperate enough to get the coordinates to their home worlds, that they’re willing to chop off one of pilot’s 4 arms, and possibly even kill each other to do it. That threw me for a loop, showcasing the terrible things people are willing to do when desperate enough to get something they want. Not to mention what happens to Aeryn in this episode.

Durka Returns, basically the episode where another significant character gets introduced who becomes another member of the crew. Chiana. The other blue chick who has a thing for seducing people.

A Human Reaction. One of two episodes in the series where Crichton is put into a situation where he has to tell reality from fiction. But this would also be the most significant episode in the series at this point, as he is unknowingly given knowledge that many in the universe would want, pretty much setting the stakes for the rest of the series. The thing is, neither he nor the viewer would know it yet.

Through the Looking Glass. One of my favorites from the series. Where Moya starbursts (ie does a warp speed jump, thing) and end up getting split into 3 different dimensions. It’s a wild trip of an episode, that also ends on a significant note that would have an effect on the next two seasons.

A Bug’s Life. This episode sucks. It’s fucking boring and I hate it. And I hate it more because Aeryn takes a serious wound that causes Crichton and the others to take certain actions in the next episode that leads to a domino effect for the rest of the season. Which makes it a mandatory episode to watch for the sake of the narrative.

Nerve and The Hidden Memory. Basically two episodes in one. We get introduced to a character who would be the main antagonist for the rest of this season, and future seasons, Scorpius. A fantastic well-rounded villain. And we also learn more about what happened to Crichton in the A Human Reaction episode that leads to him being hunted by Scorpius and the Peacekeepers (among others) for the rest of the series. Oh yeah, and this character who proves to be more annoying than endearing named Stark shows up (but at least he’s the one character whose name is as easy to spell as it is to pronounce). Did have this one BS moment where Scorpius had Crichton at gunpoint during an escape attempt and nothing really resulted from it.

Family Ties. Hectic season finale, that starts the tradition of each season ending on a cliffhanger with the good guys being in seemingly inescapable peril.

Season 2

Taking the Stone. Meh, this episode was kinda weird, but not in a good way. Kinda boring. And sets up something regarding a family member of Chiana that ends up not going anywhere interesting.

Crackers Don’t Matter. One of my favorite episodes. This is one of those examples where the creators and actors were clearly having the times of their lives making it, and it probably took an insane (her-har) amount of effort not to bust up laughing at the shit they were doing and dressing up as. Very fun episode.

The Way We Weren’t. In complete contrast to the previous episode. Very dark backstory given to Pilot and Aeryn. Also showcases how Peacekeepers tend to handle these Moya ships.

Dream a Little Dream. I question the timing of this episode, in terms of episode release order. And it’s not even all that strong of an episode either. It basically confirms to me that Zhaan has been losing her mind ever since the start of this season, and her character has been getting worse (in terms of me finding her entertaining/interesting to watch). This could’ve been a more decent episode if it actually told a better story about how a planet ruled by lawyers is a miserable fucking place that no society should ever be like. Something about there being too many laws being detrimental to all but the worst aspects of society. This episode wasn’t good enough to tackle that topic.

Out of Their Minds. Hey, it’s the skeksies from the Dark Crystal. And they’ve got their own ship and weapon. Another tongue-in-cheek episode where bodies are being swapped, allowing the actors to act as each other. It’s the episode I blame for starting this trend of the actor playing D’Argo just begging for an excuse to act flamboyant and feminine, to stand in complete contrast to his regular brooding mood.

My Three Crichtons. Pretty good episode about past, present, and future evolution of man, and what the changed mindset would entail for the same individual. Priorities of emotion and logic.

Look at the Princess 1-3. A 3-parter that is nowhere near as good as it should be. And this is mainly for one reason: security. The security at this royal palace fucking sucks. Princes can get assassinated in broad daylight with no one around. The one place that should be the most heavily guarded considering it holds the future of their kingdom is the one place that isn’t very well guarded. And it goes from having a son to having a daughter. Fuck you you fucking trilogy. And fuck you for having a significant plot development regarding Crichton’s mental state too, making this one of the mandatory trio of episodes to watch. Let alone being the episode that gives us a main introduction to the Skarens, who would eventually become the other major force in the universe next to the Peacekeepers.

#Farscape from Accio your face.

Won’t Get Fooled Again. It’s basically like that A Human Reaction episode, except it allows actors to run wild basically doing whatever they want. Thought it was as hilarious as it was genius to see Pilot playing the drums. Does end on a very sinister note though, which brings into focus this issue that Crichton had been having ever since, uh, I guess ever since Crackers Don’t Matter; and had been extremely noticeable in the last episode of Look at the Princess.

The Ugly Truth. Basically the Rashomon episode. Only significant thing about it was how it ended, with what happens to Stark. I find it strange though, that his character doesn’t seem like it can die. It’s not a concept that’s ever really explored all that much, in spite of what that entails.

Liars, Guns, and Money 1-3, and Die Me, Dichotomy. Finally, a good trio of episodes, plus the finale they lead into. The stakes are raised as a robbery is plotted while Crichton’s mental stake is on the brink of collapsing. It’s when I really started to feel sorry for the guy, with all the mental torment he’s beginning to endure because of something that happened near the end of last season. How he’s losing his ability for independent thought and action. And the consequences this entails, leading up to a finale that’s far more shocking and emotionally charged than the last season (and I argue more-so than the future seasons). A finale that made me extremely eager to see what would happen next. This is not one of those finales you would ever want your show to end on, and thankfully it doesn’t.

Season 3

While the previous season began to indicate that the crew of Moya were wanting to go their separate ways, this would be the season that truly damaged relationships that had been built up for the first two seasons, making it one of the more emotional seasons out there. I won’t go much into the details, for those who are reading this who haven’t seen the series (trying not to go too heavy into the spoilers, but telling enough so that those who have an interest in the show and want to know what to expect to reach a certain level of expectations will be satisfied). But I am going to be revealing a couple things here that are worth a spoiler warning.

Self Inflicted Wounds 1-2. It’s nice that this show actually managed to have consequences it’s willing to stick with. How bringing back someone from the past will result in a trade-off that winds up being unavoidable. Consequences that have to be lived with. That aside, this two-parter episode sets up for something that… For the life of me, I can’t recall what came about as a result of this temporary ship fusion thing that the aliens on board warned about. They stated that some other alien species would be pursuing Moya as a result of this. I vaguely recall some other episode where this indication led to some small thing. But whatever it was, it seemed to miniscule and insignificant. This sinister foreshadowing was unnecessary in hindsight. I really hate it when an episode or film drops a heavy hint about something bad/significant that will happen later on, then doesn’t end up delivering on it, as if it wasn’t well thought-out. Oh yeah, and this annoying screaming redhead shows up.

Farscape GIF

…Different Destinations. An episode where the group wind up traveling back in time, and have to prevent their actions from changing the future (or present). It’s rather refreshing, albeit depressing, to see this episode take a bit of a different approach to the scenario. In that the crew ultimately fail. And not only do they fail, but Crichton himself is the one who fails the most. Every plan he makes, every action he takes, winds up screwing things up even more. And that’s a bit refreshing (albeit depressing) to see in this series, where up until now he was the smart one who made all the right choices and corrected everyone else when they were wrong. Not that I viewed him as someone who was perfect before, but it’s nice for there to be an episode or two like this every once in a while to show that the protagonists are fallible.

Eat Me. A bit disturbing with what happens to the Pilot on this episode. But it also leads to there being two duplicate Crichtons, which sets up for the same character going on different paths and multiple storylines for a good portion of this season. That being said, I knew how this would ultimately turn out in the long run once this happened.

Relativity. Now this episode just flat-out insults my intelligence. On the one hand, we get to see Aeryn’s mother who is one of the leading Peacekeepers hunting down the protagonists. On the other hand, it ends in one of those, “character got killed off screen,” moments. You know, one of those moments where you just know for a 100% verifiable fact that this character is going to show up again, because they didn’t actually die. I really fucking hate that trope, with every fiber of my being. It’s extremely difficult to pull off without coming off as treating the viewer as a moron. A fucking 8-year-old could see that coming.

Incubator. Scorpius is given backstory, and we learn more about the Skarens and the threat they pose.

Infinite Possibilities 1-2. The episode I knew was coming ever since Eat Me. Despite that, it’s still a good duo of episodes, that manage to be emotional. Also implies how dangerous the wormhole knowledge Crichton has really is. But it’s just a small hint, where the implications won’t be shown to full effect until, well, post-series.

Into the Lion’s Den 1-2. Part one sets the stakes so well, I would be amazed if part 2 could follow it up and maintain that level of intensity. I wouldn’t say it succeeds, in spite of the action-finale it delivers. Plus it suffers a bit from shitty security much like Look at the Princess did (it’s not as bad; but considering these are Peacekeepers we’re dealing with, on a space station with Scorpius, arguably the most intelligent and methodical leader they’ve got, I’d argue it’s on par, given the faction comparisons). Sacrifices are made, certain characters are killed off that are a bit surprising (given the ongoing development they’ve been having), and a serious blow is finally dealt to Scorpius. But it’s a bittersweet victory, not just because of the sacrifices, but also because there’s the lingering question of whether or not they did the right thing, given the repercussions this could have regarding the interstellar conflict between the Skarens and Peacekeepers. Something that would be addressed more heavily in the next season.

Dog With Two Bones. Yeah yeah, another one of those traditional perilous cliffhangers. With the added bonus of relationships torn asunder that seem irreparable, now that everyone actually does seem to be going their separate ways. Plus this three-eyed granny shows up out of nowhere, who sticks around for the rest of the show, and ends up irritating me more than entertaining me.

Season 4

Crichton Kicks. Crichton being stranded for a long time has had enough time to himself to learn more about wormholes. And the last major character to get introduced shows up, Sikozu. This character kinda baffles me, and not in a good way. It’s something that would only concern viewers in-hindsight after watching this season and the movie that came afterwards. It’s this chick who hates Skarens almost as much as Scorpius does given what they’ve done to her people. She can learn languages very quickly without the need (or want) of translator microbes, can walk on walls with some gravity trick, and has a certain special ability that isn’t revealed until near the season finale that only a select few of her own race has, which is what makes them so despised by the Skarens. Yet despite all that, there was always something a bit mysterious about her. Something about the looks she gives under certain circumstances, the implication of ulterior motives. And what this resulted in with the final movie just doesn’t seem to add up. I fault the film for this more than the show. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Sikozu is hot.

What was Lost 1-2. Basically an introduction to the new big baddy of the season, this pale/painted chick who showed up briefly in the last season who has her own methods of interrogation that involve putting a bit of that paint/pheromones on others, and constantly showing some boobage. It would probably work on me. That aside, we also get to hear some voices/singing in the background of these episodes, that sound somewhat similar to the singing done in the opening intro of the show. Indicating we’ve headed to a planet where things were destined to wind up at. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t be revisiting it until post-series. Main thing I thought was bullshit about this episode was how easily the 3 girls managed to escape from their confinement.

Plenty of time to shoot them.

Promises. Hey look, the crew are getting reunited. And Scorpius joins them. What a turn of events! My initial reaction was to call loads of bullshit with the contrivance and convenience. But they do end up with a reasonable explanation for it.

I Shrink Therefore I Am. An episode with a new race plus a Skaren. And they have technology that allows for them to shrink people. And it’s also one of those episodes where the creators wanted to address these science nerds out there who state the implausibilities of the science in the show, by having Sikozu state that they shouldn’t even be able to breath or be alive, as the science of their shrunken state doesn’t make any sense. And Chiana responds with something along the lines of, “Who cares! We’re here, and it has happened, therefore it’s happening. Don’t overthink it!” I mean, given what episodes we have had in the past, and what kind of series this is, I doubt the average viewer would want to take this concept all that seriously. So I couldn’t help but laugh at this 4th wall poke.

Unrealized Reality. An interesting episode that I won’t say much about. But it’s an important one that expresses warning about Crichton’s ability for understanding wormholes.

Terra Firma. I was wondering if the show would have an episode like this (or if it would be the series finale). Crichton manages to make it back to Earth, as does his alien friends. And we learn about what’s happened on Earth since then, the government’s intentions with alien technology and the aliens themselves, and other stuff regarding Crichton’s family and friends.

Bringing Home the Beacon. The episode that sets the stakes for the Peacekeeper and Skaren conflict. Plus it has this very interesting moment regarding Aeryn and a cyborg. Now, this moment is unrealized potential in hindsight, because it only happens once, here. It would’ve made sense to me if they also did this with Sikozu. More on that later.

A Constellation of Doubt. Here’s the episode with the translator microbe plot hole I was telling you about earlier. So on Earth, they make this documentary that is heavily biased and shows the aliens in a bad light. But all the aliens are speaking English, even though they shouldn’t be. I mean, what’s happening here? All that the viewers would be hearing back on Earth is, “isquilkafalosukimediceeya.” They wouldn’t understand what these aliens are saying, unless I blanked out on a plot detail regarding Earth getting a shitload of these alien microbes and injecting everyone on Earth with them so that they could not only comprehend this, but any language spoken on Earth. But I seriously doubt this would be mentioned offhand.

We’re So Screwed 1-3. A fun episode trio where the Skarens are confronted up front. And we learn about Sikozu’s ability. And a bunch of other shit happens that I won’t get into. Except this really stupid plot twist of Scorpius being a triple agent. That twist brought nothing to anything that came before, and is dismissed almost as quickly as it is brought up. The entire series would’ve been better off if this wasn’t something put into it, as it changes absolutely nothing that happens before or after. One of those signs that the series was running out of good ideas.

Bad Timing. Most ironic episode title in history, given that this ends on yet another traditional perilous cliffhanger, and then the series got cancelled. So for a while, everyone thought the series would end on a sad note with Crichton and Aeryn finally confessing their love for one another, and then getting blown to pieces. Well, under the right mindset, I guess that could be considered a happy ending.

But thankfully, the franchise didn’t end there. They managed to pull off a movie to tie things up. And honestly, it’s probably for the best that it happened this way. Because during the last few episodes of season 4, there was this line of thinking of everything that’s old is new then old again. As in they’re starting to get monotonous, that they were starting to do the same old schtick at this point. And I myself could feel it. There was only so many times they could do the, “will they won’t they” schtick between Aeryn and Crichton. Only so far they could stretch this plot (the main overarching plot is fine, but the foundations that it’s build upon, that being the main characters and their dynamics, were wearing out their welcome at this point). I’m not so sure a 5th season, even if it was to be the final season, would’ve managed to maintain the consistent quality the series had up to that point. Babylon 5 is an example of this (not that season 5 was completely terrible, but it did have a lot of bullshit the show could’ve done without; that season could’ve been half as long as it was and it would’ve been fine). So a cancellation with a follow-up movie to patch-in an ending was probably the best case scenario in my opinion, in spite of some faults.

The Peacekeeper Wars

Rated: 3 / 5

All things considered, this movie isn’t half-bad. It does rush things, indicating this should’ve been in an episodic format (they probably could’ve done it in 5 episodes, maybe 4). But it accomplished what it set out to do. The Skarens and Peacekeepers break out into an all-out war that threatens the fate of the universe (or at least this section of it), to determine who would ultimately rule. Aeryn and Crichton are restored (and this doesn’t come off as a cheap and easy way to bring them back into things, especially when considering what the pilot who blew them to pieces actually says before doing so). And it’s not long before they’re forced to deal with this conflict that has broken out. And the key to resolving the conflict conveniently lies with the people on the planet they are brought back to life on, and on this planet they visited in the last season (where that singing was heard). Regarding the fate of a race once thought lost that the Skarens want eradicated. A race that is capable of resolving conflict in a peaceful way, a race that has a past history with the Skarens and Peacekeepers, which initially helped bring the Peacekeepers into power and gave them their name (bringing the “Peace” in “Peacekeeper”). And how this race is the key to broaching a peace between the Skarens and Peacekeepers, before it’s too late.

Meanwhile, Crichton gains the ability to create and use a weapon that is capable of destroying everything. And once it is revealed, the sight of it and the implications as to how far its destructive powers can reach are truly frightening.

Everything the show has been building to is brought up and resolved, which as at the very least the bare-minimum everyone can ask for. The question is whether or not it is executed in a good way, or if it happened shittily like it did with Hey Arnold. Well, I will say it was pulled off well enough, I just wouldn’t go so far as to say as well as could be hoped. I’m not saying this movie is bad, it’s good. It’s just the few things it did that didn’t live up to my high expectations. For example:

  • Sikozu. She winds up being a spy for the Skarens in spite of everything. I know it brings up the whole, “They have my family and are threatening to kill them,” thing as a motivation, but that’s not really saying much if the Skarens are already threatening her people in general. Her whole motivation that became more clear during the final of Season 4 was that she hated the Skarens as much as Scorpius did, which is why she had not only a personal alliance with him, but also a romantic attraction. Stupid “what a twist” shock tripe that exists more for the sake of shocking the viewer than it does bring something significant and consistently logical (as far as character arcs/motivations are concerned). If they wanted to make this work, they would’ve made a plot twist of her being captured at some earlier point in time and being replaced with an android like what they did to Aeryn in Bringing Home the Beacon. That would’ve made a hell of a lot more sense, and would follow-through on something that was brought up in the series.

  • Too much action during the second half. Once they got back on that water planet and began engaging in skirmishes with the Skarens, it just got mind-numbingly dull after a while. Thing improved once they got off the planet, but until then I was getting bored with everything. It didn’t help that they seemed to be killing off these Skarens too easily, considering how tough they are supposed to be.

  • Stark is more annoying than ever.

Those annoyances aside, the film does act as a solid ending to the franchise. A franchise that was starting to wear thin (wasn’t quite there, but the symptoms were becoming noticeable, even to the point of self-acknowledgment). It’s good that it ended where it did. 4 seasons seems to be the maximum length episodic shows seem to be capable of running before they start to go downhill. Even Star Trek TNG was only good for 4 seasons (3-6, though I argue 3 was only considered good just because of a few stand-out episodes, even season 6 had some problems).

And all things considered, with what I’ve seen, sci-fi shows don’t get much better than this. A well-rounded series that manages to pull off a definitive ending, and it stayed consistent in style and quality, a few hiccups aside (I would be shocked if there wasn’t a weak episode). The only other one I’ve seen that’s this good is Babylon 5. The other noteworthy one aside from Star Trek is Lexx, but I’ve covered how that show has it’s own issues during its 4 season run (it’s more like 3 seasons with 4 movies to start it off, but whatever). I can’t recommend this one enough for those who haven’t seen it who are in to sci-fi.

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