In which Colleen reviews the “Farscape” pilot.
Full disclosure: I’m a die-hard fan of the bizarre 1999 space opera Farscape. I’ve seen every single episode at least twice (and some quite a bit more than twice), so I’m not exactly the most impartial reviewer. That said, I will strive to be as neutral and objective as possible. Here we go!
Farscape is a sci-fi series that aired in the first part of the decade in the U.S. and Australia and featured both live actors and puppets supplied by the Jim Henson Company. Sounds weird, right? It is, and yet it’s still totally fantastic. Super, super awesome fantastic.
Oh right, back to impartiality.
The Farscape pilot is called, unoriginally, “Premiere.” It tells the tale of an American astronaut named John Crichton (Ben Browder) who leaves Earth on a solo mission to fly a shuttle around the moon fast enough to test some scientific theory about interstellar space travel. Unfortunately, he flies straight into a rogue wormhole and gets sucked halfway across the universe to a galaxy far more advanced than ours. There, he meets a group of escaped alien prisoners running from the fascist, militaristic Peacekeepers aboard their living spaceship. There’s Ka D’Argo (Anthony Simcoe), a large reddish dude with rad dreadlock/ tentacle things and serious anger issues; Zhaan (Virginia Hey), a serene blue lady descended from plants; Dominar Rygel XVI (Jonathan Hardy & various puppeteers), a lazy, diminutive, mustachioed ruler recently usurped from his throne; and Pilot (Lani Tupu & puppeteers), a crab-like alien who is physically bound to the living ship. There is also Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), a very human-looking but nonetheless alien Peacekeeper who is captured by the prisoner crew, tries to betray them, hijinks ensue, etc. etc. Long story short, they all survive an eye-opening brush with evil and continue on their merry way for many more adventures over the seasons to come.
What do I like about this pilot?
To be honest, most of the appeal is in the utter late-1990’s, low-budget ambition. It sets up an epic story, uninhibited by realities like half of the characters being puppets and the FX money being decidedly low. The characters are unique and fun, the world is new and exciting, and it’s just different enough from other space operas to keep you guessing.
What don’t I like?
The puppets. I got over them eventually, of course, but the first time you realize two of the major characters are being played by Jim Henson creations, it comes as a bit of a nasty shock. The main baddie for the episode, a Peacekeeper leader named Crais, is a little too obviously “bad”: creepy voice, perpetual frown, short temper. And there’s something about the octopus-print Hawaiian shirt that Crichton wears at the beginning of the episode that really gets on my nerves.
I’d have to give this about 5 out of 10 Leviathans. It is, honestly, merely a passable pilot and it’s dated enough that I wouldn’t dare recommend Farscape to anyone but a sci-fi fan. But if you do like science fiction and you’ve somehow neglected to watch this series, DO SO IMMEDIATELY. I promise, it gets really freaking good!