In Defence Of: Farscape

By Peter Wilkinson

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The internet is a wonderful and scary place, filled with pundits, critics and commentators who examine the minutiae of everything so we don’t have to. The pop-culture subconscious they generate can form our opinion for us, sometimes with very little input from ourselves. But are all those ‘bad’ films and TV shows really as bad as the internet would have us believe? Are they not at least worth another quick look, before we cast them aside as irredeemable? We decided to bravely step through the office space/time portal for a last quick look at some of the most maligned…

Science fiction has been around a very long time now, since long before there were TV and films. Even if we discount the books that predate movies, we must surely have seen it all by now. I mean, how many truly original ideas can there be, still lying around waiting to be discovered? Looking for a Sci-fi story with a surprising, new premise must be a wearying task, and rarely rewarded.

Farscape In 1999 though, something arrived on our screens that dared to be different. Farscape, brought to vibrant, rubbery life by the Jim Henson Company, gave us a considerable number of things that I had never seen a show attempt before. One of the lead alien characters, for example, was playing a vegetable. No, seriously. A big, blue, sexy form of plant life. Another of the leads was a frog-like amphibian on a flying throne. Even the ship they flew through space on was a living, sentient, biological organism, and a character in its own right. How many shows would ever even think to try to bring ideas like that, fully formed and glorious, onto our screens?

Of course, not all of Farscape’s bright ideas worked perfectly. One of the problems the show had, was in realising such big ideas in a believable way, which sometimes worked imperfectly. The CGI they used hasn’t dated well, to put it mildly. A lot of the aliens they created were either a completely outlandish puppet, or a slightly confused looking actor in body paint and a wig. And the dialogue choices the writers made led to a great many new swear words being invented for the show, some of which sounded very silly from time to time.

Farscape MoyaFarscape does have plenty of loyal followers though. Today it is almost expected that a cancelled show will have a fan campaign to try to save it, but Farscape’s cancellation after its fourth series was one of the forerunners. The ‘Save Farscape’ campaign set up websites while the internet was still relatively young, and was one of the few successes of this type of campaign. It ensured that a mini-series was made to wrap up all the story lines, and brought closure to a legion of heartbroken fans.

Farscape is intelligently written, filled with pop-culture references expertly delivered by Ben Browder, and shows a deep understanding of the genre and its fans. The performances are strong throughout, and while the puppets can be problematic, the fact that (as opposed to CGI aliens) there is a genuine performance from an actual performer in there, makes them come alive in a way not often replicated elsewhere, even with all of today’s computer technology.

In many ways, innovation is what science fiction is about and Farscape certainly has that. It is bright, brave and bold, when so much that we see in other shows can best be described as formulaic. Even when it touches on an idea or premise we have seen before, it tries very hard to bring a new spin to it. The characters are brilliantly realised, by both the writers and cast, and seem to charm the viewer effortlessly.

All in all, it’s hard to think of another show as truly original as Farscape. Time spent falling in love with Moya and her crew is never time wasted.

Read: In Defence Of:
Predator
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
Dungeons & Dragons The Movie


bright red eyesPete Wilkinson is a wanderer in many worlds, one minute holding back the Shadow in Middle-Earth, and Piloting Starships the next. But not in Middle-Earth, of course. That would be silly.