Celebrating Farscape, Part One

farscape 3Farscape, the sci-fi TV show from the late ’90s that aired on the Sci-Fi Channel, has received some attention lately and it’s quite warranted. It’s undeniably one of the very best sci-fi TV shows ever made. Created by Rockne S. O’Bannon and produced by Jim Henson Productions and Hallmark Entertainment, Farscape rivals such classics like Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica thanks to the way it presented truly alien characters and worlds and more importantly well-written scripts with complex, nuanced characters. Though it was cancelled in 2003, the show has come back to the limelight with its availability on Netflix, daily airings on the cable channel Pivot and with recent news that one of the show’s writers (Justin Monjo) is penning a screenplay for a Farscape film.

The show starred Ben Browder who played John Crichton, an American astronaut who was testing an experimental mini-space shuttle called Farscape One. While in space, his shuttle gets sucked into a wormhole and Crichton wound up on the other side of the universe. Once there, he inadvertently joined a band of moyaescaped alien prisoners on a prison ship they commandeered called Moya that is actually alive. This gets him into trouble with the prisoners’ pursuers, the Peacekeepers, a militaristic power, who ironically enough look human. Think of them as xenophobic, intergalactic Nazis. One of them, Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black) also wound up in cahoots with Crichton and the prisoners even though she’d just as soon throw them back in their cells. For most of the show’s run, Crichton and his eclectic group evaded the Peacekeepers and other foes, while he looked for a way to create a wormhole to return home. During his experiences he bonded with his reluctant alien allies, including Sun.

No Ordinary Space Hero

From the start, Farscape had an offbeat vibe to it and it started with the main character John Crichton. He easily could’ve been the typical stoic and rugged hero, but thanks to Browder’s acting chops and comedic skills, Crichton was much more than your standard space hero. He often referenced pop culture; specifically genre fare. At every opportunity he mentioned Star Wars, Star Trek, Looney Tunes and other genre classics. Actually an animated version of Star Trek’s Enterprise ship appeared in one episode as part of a hallucination he was experiencing!

It was all part of the way he dealt with the bizarreness that he experienced during his travels. Many of these references and his sometimes erratic behavior were downright hysterical and lessened the tension during many nail biting sequences. Rather than being the straight man, Crichton was the comedian who was able to see the absurdity of many situations he was stuck in.

Yet, he was heroic and often the voice of reason amongst the crew of Moya. Despite his bravery Crichton sometimes made bad calls out of good intentions. More often than not he just charged into a situation and improvised on the fly. Certainly that got him and his friends into more trouble, but he accepted responsibility and tried to make amends. These faults made him more fallible and relatable. And when it came down to it, these characteristics made Crichton someone to root for whenever he made a humorous quip and fired away with his beloved pulse pistol affectionately called Winona.

chriton

But this didn’t mean that Crichton lacked a serious side. It was clear the humor he exhibited was to alleviate the stress he was undergoing. Crichton was obviously homesick at the start of the series and he knew returning to Earth was an impossibility, yet like a modern-day Quixote he continued looked for ways to do this. Later in the series, he realized that going home would lead to more problems and it conflicted with the life and deep relationships he established with his comrades. Often, he found himself making sacrifices for others and was rewarded with deep emotional bonds, both good and bad. Continue reading