Blu-ray Review: Farscape: The Complete Series



Remember when the Sci-Fi Channel wasn’t SyFy and overrun with low budget CGI monster movies? They enjoyed scheduling the occasional science fiction series that was a bit more innovative than grafting two creatures together. Farscape was part of the long gone time. The series came from The Jim Henson Company with Brian Henson as co-creator. But don’t start squirming that somehow this is Pigs In Space: The Series. The tone of Farscape is a little more serious than anything on The Muppet Show. The new Muppet characters are a step up from Dark Crystal and Yoda. The intergalactic humanoid characters reflected co-creator Rockne S. O’Bannon’s previous work on Alien Nation. They were edgy and not always noble. Farscape: The Complete Series brings all four seasons to Blu-ray to transport viewers into a distant galaxy.

John Crichton (Ben Browder) is a NASA test pilot. He’s always lived in the shadow of his famous astronaut dad (Adam-12‘s Kent McCord). But his next flight is going to either make him a legend or burn him to a crisp. Crichton wants to test his theory of using planet’s gravitational pulls to whip a spaceship to record speeds. Everything goes right until the ship hits a wormhole. He emerges in an unknown side of the universe. There’s little time to orient himself as a spaceship battle is in progress. This isn’t merely two rival planets battling in deep space. A tractor beam brings him on a giant space cruiser that turns out to be a prison barge. There’s been a rebellion and a dangerous inmates are now in control. Ka D’Argo (Anthony Simcoe) is a fierce Luxan. Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan (Virginia Hey) sticks out with her her blue skin and empath abilities. Dominar Rygel XVI is a deposed ruler of an empire. He’s also a Muppet. While many shows act like their big spaceship is a character, Moya really is. The Leviathan creature has been trained to be a ship. Moya’s pilot is connected to her. The early episodes deal with “freeing” Moya from the various Peacekeeper controls on her. Which brings us to Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black). She’s a former Peacekeeper that none of the prisoners trust. Crichton likes her.

A majority of the shows deal with the ex-prisoners eluding the Peacekeepers while searching for ways to get back home. Crichton’s desire is to find a wormhole that will launch him back towards Earth. But it can never be simple. The characters keep life inside Moya interesting. They’re not above reverting to their basic natures to get their way over the others. But they also understand they have to survive as a group in a hostile galaxy. The detached astronaut story can get mundane like the second half of Buck Rogers In the 25th Century. Farscape doesn’t have that letdown season that often happens when the creative team claims they’ve run out of ideas.

The series was supposed to have a fifth season, but one of the production companies called it quits. Fans were upset at being stuck with a cliffhanger. Brian Henson wheeled and dealed until he could get the rights to make the The Peacekeeper Wars miniseries that wrapped up certain aspects of the show. Because of this alteration in ownership, The Peacekeeper Wars is distributed by a different studio on DVD. Hopefully by the time you watch all 88 episodes, they’ll have it released on Blu-ray. Farscape: The Complete Series gives a sense that a Muppet can rocket into space without everything turning into a slapstick effort. Farscape: The Complete Series earns its cult following by being a compelling look at an astronaut trapped far, far from home.

The video for seasons 1 – 3 is 1.33:1 full frame. Season 4 is presented in 1.78:1 full frame. While the show was shot on 35mm film, the special effects were created in Standard Def. They’ve upconverted the image so that it’s night quite as sharp as imagined for Blu-ray. The audio is DTS-HD 5.1. This is why the Blu-ray is worth the upgrade. They went to town remixing the show so you hear things as if you’re inside the spaceships or on alien planets. The episodes are subtitled in English.

Audio Commentaries are featured on 34 episodes. Everything you want to know about the show gets told by Rockne S. O’Bannon, Brian Henson, Ben Browder, Claudia Black and Anthony Simcoe, Virginia Hey, Rowan Woods David Kemper, Lani Tupu, Peter Andrikidis and others.

Making of a Space Opera (22:27) lets the creative talent discuss their intentions for the series. It appears that all the bonus features are in standard definition.

In the Beginning: A Look Back with Brian Henson (38:10) covers what inspired the series and how he brought O’Bannon into the fold.

Farscape in the Raw: Director’s Cut Scenes compares the broadcast version scenes with early cuts. The video isn’t great since these feature timecode and a lower resolution.

Deleted Scenes are provided for nearly half of the episodes.

Listening In With Composer Guy Gross are a dozen featurettes that have him tackle how he created the scores for various episodes and the themes to characters.

“Re:Union” (44:13) is the original cut of the episode that was supposed to be the Season two premiere episode. An alternate cut was run later in the season.

Farscape Undressed 44:02) explains the changes between seasons two and three. Browder hosts the special.

Behind the Scenes Interview chats with the various stars. Included on the collection are Wayne Pygram (Scorpius) (22:07), David Franklin (Braca) (16:56), Claudia Black (Aeryn) (35:28), Anthony Simcoe (D’Argo) (27:12), Ben Browder (Crichton) (5:24), Wayne Pygram (Scorpius) (24:20), Gigi Edgley (Chiana) (7:56), Rebecca Riggs (Commandant Grayza) (29:15), Paul Goddard (Stark) (4:22), Creator/Executive Producer/Writer Rockne S. O’Bannon (19:37) and Executive Producer/Writer David Kemper (12:07)

TV Promos for 14 of the season three episodes.

Season 3: A Look Back (44:37) is a special that aired before season four.

“Zhaan Forever” with Virginia Hey (30:16) features the actress out of her blue makeup.

Memories of Moya (36:51) is more of the creative people discussing the series. It was made in 1080i.

Farscape: The Story So Far
(26:32) explains the fourth season.

From the Archives: On the Last Day – Farscape Wrap Speech from David Kemper
( 3:37) is the end of production for the series.

Inside Farscape: Save Farscape (30:44) is what got the miniseries made.

Inside Farscape: Villains (15:09) explores the baddies.

Inside Farscape: Season 4 Visual Effects (9:36) explains how they did stuff.

Farscape: The Complete Series maintains its cult status in the high resolution. The story of an astronaut launched toward the other side of the universe maintains its charms and excitement over the course of four seasons. Even the Muppet characters come off well compared to the humans in costumes. The bonus features leave no alien rock unturned about the series. This is a great set for anyone yearning for the old days of the Sci-Fi Channel.

A&ETV, RHI and the Jim Henson Company present Farscape: The Complete Series. Starring: Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe and Ben Browder. Boxset Contents: 88 episodes on 20 Blu-rays discs. Released on Blu-ray: November 15, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.

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