Posted by: jgurner | March 16, 2011

The Cheap Bin (Sort Of) – Farscape: The Entire Series

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anita and I pull a lot of movies from the various DVD “cheap bins.” Quite often, they are movies we’ve never even heard of or may have only heard the name. Sometimes we decide to get it because of the cast, or the blurb on the case or we thought we heard something good about the movie. Sometimes I don’t have a clue why we get them. But, since these are often the bulk of the movies we watch, I thought I’d start doing an occasional review. Often, these movies are years, even decades old, but, it’s nice to take a look back at something that might actually be really, really good (or not).
1999-2003

Starring: Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe, and a whole lot of Australian people

Creator: Rockne S. O’Bannon

Cost: Farscape: The Complete Series – Don’t remember exactly. But it was a lot cheaper at Costco than currently on Amazon. The Peacekeeper Wars – $1 at Movie Gallery Going out of business sale

This is a series that sci-fi geeks tend to have nerdgasms over. I had never seen more than a couple of episodes when it originally aired, mainly because “someone else” didn’t want to watch it, so I didn’t. The, last fall, more than 10 years later I stumbled across it in Costco. Anita had seen most of it and loved it, and she’s usually right about TV series – Keen Eddie, The Riches, Arrested Development, etc (batting a thousand so far.) So, it came home with us.

The Story: John Crichton, an astronaut, is sucked up by a wormhole while in Earth orbit and deposited in a distant part of the galaxy. He immediately runs afoul of an organization known as The Peacekeepers and immediately forced to take refuge with a rag tag group of alien escaped prisoners and a rogue Peacekeeper. Over the next four season, all of the above, plus or minus a few characters, they get chased around the galaxy inside a living ship with a symbiotic pilot by a bevy of bad guys, all after different things but all determined to do very bad things to our Earthman hero. And all Crichton really wants to do is get back to Earth. The series was unexpectedly cancelled after the fourth season, but was reasonably well wrapped up in the mini-series The Peacekeeper Wars.

What little I remembered from the series 10-plus years ago was that it looked pretty cool, mostly due to the work of Jim Henson’s creature shop, and that the episodes I saw were hard to follow. As it turns out, now that I’ve seen the whole things, it is very much a series you have to watch from the beginning. The story lines are very complicated at times. Main characters change somewhat from season to season and the dialog is laced with “alien” words – swear words, distances, time periods, etc. So, it takes a while for you to really get an idea of what everyone is saying. It’s also very heavy on story arcs, which, of course sci-fi fans love. The stories, for the most part, were strong and well done. Very few low points. Lots of action. Impressive special effects, especially for a syndicated show made “on the cheap” overseas. And it was nice having aliens with a different accent, namely Australian.

There are some nitpicks. Too often problems are solved by extremely fortunate coincidences. Too often characters seem to just go off in a completely different direction personality-wise depending on what the story calls for. And too often characters are able to survive for extended periods of time – minutes, hours, unprotected in the vacuum of space. But, on the upside, there were only two time travel episodes, there is a constant parade of attractive female characters and, to please the discerning sci-fi fans, they come in every color EXCEPT green. Some of the space muppets designed for the show are amazing. The pilot, for instance, is almost in every episode and really stands out as one of the better Henson creations.

It’s definitely on the quirky side, which is a big plus, but it is also definitely not for everyone. This is really a show more the more hardcore sci-fi and fantasy fans and less for the casual sci-fi viewer. But, for me, it was well worth the investment and, overall, a lot of fun to watch.

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