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Farscape is an Australian-Americanmarker science fiction television series filmed in Australia and produced for the Nine Network then for later seasons Sci-Fi Channel. The series was conceived by Rockne S. O'Bannon and produced by Jim Henson Productions and Hallmark Entertainment. The Jim Henson Company was largely responsible for the various alien makeup and prosthetics, and two regular characters (the animatronic puppets Rygel and Pilot) are entirely Creature Shop creations.

Although the series was under contract for five seasons, it was abruptly canceled after production had ended on its fourth season, effectively ending the series on a cliffhanger. Co-producer Brian Henson later secured the rights to Farscape, paving the way for a three-hour miniseries entitled Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars, which Henson himself directed. New webisodes have been announced, but production has been repeatedly put on hold. A comic book miniseries was released in December 2008 that was in the continuity with both the series and the hoped-for webisodes.

Plot

Farscape features a widely diverse and eclectic ensemble of characters who are all escaping from corrupt authorities called Peacekeepers. The protagonists live inside a giant space-dwelling creature named Moya, which serves as their ship. In the first episode, they are joined by the main character, John Crichton (Ben Browder), a modern-day American astronaut who accidentally flew into the entrance of a wormhole near Earth. On the same day, another stranger is picked up by Moya: a stranded Peacekeeper named Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black) who appears human. Despite his best intentions, John does make a few major enemies; the primary of these is known as Scorpius. There are a few stand-alone plots, but the show centers on the unfolding events surrounding John's battle against Scorpius, John's special abilities with wormholes, and on another front, his relationship (or lack thereof) with Aeryn.

Production

Farscape first ran on Australian TV Channel Nine Network and the Canadian YTV channel , then in the U.S.marker on the Sci-Fi Channel. The series was originally conceived in the early 1990s by Rockne S. O'Bannon and Brian Henson under the title Space Chase. The series is told in a serialized format, with each episode involving a self-contained story while contributing to a larger storyline. Nearly the entire cast originates from Australia and New Zealandmarker, with the exception of Ben Browder, who is an American actor.

Farscape's characters frequently make use of Bowdlerized slang such as "frell" and "dren" as a substitute for English expletives.

Cast



Main characters

  • John Crichton (Ben Browder), an astronaut from present-day Earth. At the start of the series, a test flight involving an experimental spacecraft goes awry, propelling Crichton through a wormhole to a distant part of the universe. He quickly runs afoul of the Peacekeepers and is recovered by the crew of Moya, a living ship which is the main setting for Farscape.


  • Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), a renegade Peacekeeper officer. At the start of the series, she is stripped of her rank and marked for death after protecting Crichton. Trained as a soldier since birth, she initially lacks any emotions or empathy. Her severance from the Peacekeepers allows Aeryn to rediscover her compassionate nature.


  • Ka D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe), an ill-tempered Luxan warrior of impressive stature. He was imprisoned by the Peacekeepers for killing his wife, a crime for which he was falsely convicted. He carries a weapon called the Qualta Blade, a broadsword capable of transforming into a rifle.


  • Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan (Virginia Hey), a bald, blue-skinned female who belongs to a plant-like species, named Delvians. Once a Priestess of her religious order, Zhaan murdered her lover after discovering he was a Peacekeeper collaborator. Regarded as an anarchist by her captors, she was jailed along with D'Argo and Rygel. Like other members of her species, Zhaan is a telepath; she can share "unity" with other beings (two minds in one body, they can share thoughts, sensations...) and also, as a Pa'u, she is able to share pain with another being.


  • Dominar Rygel XVI (voiced by Jonathan Hardy), a diminutive creature who was once ruler of the Hynerian Empire. He was deposed by his treacherous cousin and handed over to the Peacekeepers. Despite his size, he is quite arrogant and provides a source of comic relief. Rygel is one of two puppet characters who regularly appear on Farscape. When nervous, Rygel farts helium—often causing his annoyed crew mates to complain in high-pitched voices.


  • Chiana (Gigi Edgley), a mercurial thief and con artist. She is a Nebari, a grey-skinned species whose society is heavily-regimented by a governmental body called "The Establishment". Chiana's rebellious nature made her a leading candidate for reprogramming (euphemistically known as "cleansing").


  • Pilot (voiced by Lani Tupu), a multi-limbed creature who acts as the ship's pilot. He is biologically connected to Moya's nervous system and also serves as her voice to the crew. Pilot is portrayed by an animatronic puppet.


Recurring characters

The initial antagonist of the series is Bialar Crais (Lani Tupu), a Peacekeeper Captain who relentlessly hunts Moya and its crew. He is driven by the death of his brother, a pilot who accidentally collided into Crichton's ship when it exited the wormhole. At the end of the first season, Crais is usurped by Scorpius (Wayne Pygram), a rival commander of the Peacekeeper force. Scorpius is a hybrid created from the DNA of a human-like Sebacean and a reptilian Scarran. He is obsessed with extracting the secret of wormhole technology from Crichton.

As the series progressed, a revolving cast of characters joined the crew of Moya. During the first season, the crew is joined by Stark (Paul Goddard), a member of the Banik species. Stark has the power to ease the pain and suffering of others, traits which make him a highly-sought test subject for the Peacekeepers. Jool (Tammy MacIntosh) is an orange-haired academic who appears sporadically throughout seasons three and four. When frightened or enraged, her hair becomes red. Her screams can melt metal. Noranti (Melissa Jaffer) is an elderly, three-eyed alien and a skilled herbalist. At 293 years old, she occasionally appears to be senile and falls asleep at inconvenient times. Captain Meeklo Braca (David Franklin) usually serves as a subordinate to most of the series' villains, feigning obedience as he steadily rises up the ranks.

In the third season, a new antagonist arrives in the form of Commandant Grayza (Rebecca Riggs), a manipulative Peacekeeper who aims to put an end to Scorpius' wormhole research. Ruthless and ambitious, she has a gland implanted in her chest that secretes a substance which bends men to her will. Sikozu (Raelee Hill) is a brilliant Kalish woman who joins the crew at the beginning of the fourth season. Hard-edged and dangerous, she gradually allies herself with Scorpius.

Plots

John Crichton is an IASA (International Aeronautics and Space Administration) astronaut working on an experimental project dubbed "Farscape". During a test flight above Earth's orbit, a wormhole suddenly appears, hurling John to a distant part of the universe. Upon his exit, Crichton's space module clips another craft, a fighter, which then spins out of control and hits a nearby asteroid, killing the fighter's pilot. Crichton is set adrift, but is noticed by and rescued by a large nearby ship, named Moya, which has been hijacked by escaped convicts of various alien species. Early on, the crew must contend with a belligerent regime known as the Peacekeepers. Originally set up as a law enforcement agency, by the start of the series they have degenerated into a mercenary force.

In the premiere episode, they are pursued by Officer Aeryn Sun, a Peacekeeper commando sent to recapture Moya. During the chase, Aeryn's ship is caught up in the wake of Moya's propulsion system and she is taken captive. After Aeryn is bought aboard, it is discovered that the pilot who hit Crichton's ship was Tauvo Crais, brother of the Peacekeeper Captain Bialar Crais. Shortly thereafter, the vengeful Bialar boards Moya, promising to catch and dissect his brother's killer. When Aeryn comes to Crichton's defense, Crais deems her "irreversibly contaminated" from her contact with alien species. Stripped of her rank and guaranteed the death penalty upon her return, Aeryn is forced to flee along with the rest of the prisoners, providing the basis for a long-running story arc.

The first season episode "Nerve" marks the introduction of Scorpius, a ruthless Peacekeeper commander. A Peacekeeper/Scarran hybrid, Scorpius must wear a protective coolant suit at all times to prevent himself from overheating. (This is due to the nature of his biological existence: his Scarran genetics generate great amounts of heat, while his Sebacian side has an overwhelming weakness to it, and can even die from it.) Upon discovering that Crichton's brain is implanted with secrets of wormhole technology, Scorpius vainly tries to extract it, only to find that even Crichton cannot access it. Scorpius later usurps the position of Bialar Crais, becoming the main antagonist for the remainder of the series.

The love-hate relationship between Crichton and Aeryn features prominently throughout each season. Aeryn, who was once considered an exemplary soldier, has difficulty dealing with any emotions, regarding them as "weakness". For his part, Crichton is torn between his bond with Aeryn and his steadfast desire to return to Earth. This dilemma is uniquely dealt with in the third season, when an accident leaves Crichton "twinned" — effectively split into two identical beings; neither can be definitively called a copy, and are both equally John Crichton. When the crew is forced to split up in order to mislead a Peacekeeper battalion, one Crichton resumes his task of getting home, leaving the other Crichton stranded with Aeryn. This proves to be an unhappy development after Aeryn confesses her love to Crichton, only to watch him die keeping wormhole technology from the Scarrans. Though the remaining Crichton survives, the trauma of this event creates a rift between himself and Aeryn.

Miniseries

Production of a four-hour miniseries began in December 2003, written by creator Rockne S. O'Bannon and Executive Producer David Kemper and directed by Brian Henson. In May 2004, the Sci-Fi Channel, now owned by NBC Universal, announced that it would run a two-episode conclusion titled Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars that was intended to wrap up the Season Four cliffhanger and additionally tie up some general elements of the series. The miniseries first aired on Sunday October 17, 2004.

Henson refers to the four hours as episodes 4.23-4.26, though the New South Wales Film Office refers to the production as a '2 x 2 hour telemovie.' Production of the miniseries ended in March 2004 and, in addition to the announced airing on the Sci-Fi Channel in the U.S., was also scheduled to be broadcast in the UK on Sky1 on January 16 and 23, 2005, and by Five on March 8. The Peacekeeper Wars earned a 1.7 household Nielsen rating, drawing 1.96 million viewers and making the Sci Fi channel the #1 non-sports cable network for people aged 25–54 and 18-49 for the time period over the two nights.. However, the ratings were lower than those of most other SciFi Channel miniseries, and not a significant improvement on the ratings that got the series canceled in the first place.

Early fan speculation hoped that high Nielsen Ratings for The Peacekeeper Wars miniseries would prove the viability of renewing the series, but since the ratings were unexceptional, continuation as a new weekly series has been ruled out. Brian Henson has stated on many occasions that he would like to bring the Farscape saga to the big screen, but there has been no development on that front for years. In October 2005, Farscape entered syndication in the U.S., airing on Superstation WGNmarker and on a variety of local, cable, satellite and broadcast affiliates, but vanished from syndication after about two years.

Reception

Praise

Between 2000-2002, Farscape won two Saturn Awards for Best Syndicated/Cable TV Series and Best TV Actor (Browder). Additionally, in 1999, it received nominations for Best TV Actress (Claudia Black as former soldier Aeryn Sun) and Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress on Television (Virginia Hey as the Delvian Priestess Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan). In 2002, it received nominations for Best TV Actress (Claudia Black as former soldier Aeryn Sun) and Best Supporting TV Actor (Anthony Simcoe as the Luxan warrior Ka D'Argo) and Best Supporting TV Actress (Gigi Edgley as the Nebari rogue Chiana).

On July 14, 2005, Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars received an Emmy Nomination for "Outstanding Special Visual Effects For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special." In 2007, over four years after its completion, Farscape was named as #4 on TV Guide's list of "The 30 Top Cult Shows Ever".

Cancellation

In September 2002, the Sci-Fi Channel (then-owned by Vivendi Universal) unexpectedly opted to withdraw its funding of the fifth season, canceling the show, just before the fourth season was to air. While there was much fan criticism of this decision, the Sci-Fi Channel concluded that the series was too expensive to renew, as ratings had declined during the fourth season. Fans mounted a massive letter, phone, and e-mail campaign, hoping to restore the show or transfer it to another network. Early plans to scrap the sets after production were postponed after news of the cancellation broke, partly as a result of the fan campaign. The sets were instead put in storage pending a possible future revival of the show.

Cartoonist Bill Amend, creator of the syndicated comic strip FoxTrot, addressed the series' cancellation in an October 8, 2002 strip wherein the character Jason Fox petitioned to have the SciFi channel renew Farscape. Soon after the strip ran, Amend remarked that it "generated more e-mails from readers than anything else I've done in the past. I had no idea that so many people owned computers, even. I shudder to think what the mail boxes at the Sci-Fi Channel must be like these days."

Farscape's cancellation received considerable notice by news media. Thanks to the attention generated by the fan campaign, various financial backers in Europe offered their support to Brian Henson, and in 2004, The Jim Henson Company produced a four-hour mini-series to wrap up the series storyline.

Stargate SG-1 parody

Following the series' cancellation, Ben Browder and Claudia Black were both cast as series regulars on Stargate SG-1 during its final two seasons. In the 200th episode, Black's character Vala Mal Doran pitches an idea for a movie to a producer, who immediately recognizes it as The Wizard of Oz. She then pitches a second idea the producer recognizes as Gilligan's Island. He advises her that if she is going to rip something off, it should be something more obscure. This leads into a parody of Farscape, with Black reprising her role of Aeryn Sun, and various SG-1 characters dressed as D'Argo, Stark, Chiana, and Rygel. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) stands in for John Crichton, an in-joke referencing the sexual tension between Vala and Daniel on SG-1. Shanks was originally intended to play Stark, with Browder reprising the role of Crichton, but the parts were switched the day before filming at the behest of the actors. The scene also parodies the wide array of invented swear words used in the show. When the scene switches back to the real world, the producer replies that he has "no idea what that is", likely referring to Farscape's relative obscurity. Coincidentally, the announcement of Stargate SG-1's own cancellation was made shortly after this episode ran.

Multimedia

DVD releases

AD Vision originally issued Farscape in volumes which they later combined into box sets. Production of Season One box sets was discontinued after the licensing rights were ceded to Sony, who have chosen not to re-release. Due to the prohibitive price of the completed sets, the series was later re-released as individual volumes under the "Starburst Edition" heading. The Region 2 and Region 4 box sets contain Seasons 1-4 as well as the Peacekeeper Wars television movie.

More recently, A&E Network has announced plans to release both the Farscape Complete Series Collection and individual season boxed sets. The Complete Series Collection is due out November 17 2009, and season sets are to be released soon afterwards.

A&E Network announced that Farscape: The Complete Series will be released in thinpack packaging housed in a colorful space-saving packaging. On November 17, Farscape: The Complete Series as well as all four individual seasons of Farscape will be released on the same day. Farscape The Complete Series is being priced at $149.99 while Farscape Seasons 1-4 will be priced individually at $49.99. Farscape The Complete Series: Cover Art, Pricing and Release Dates

In addition, it was announced at San Diego Comic-Con International 2009 that Farscape Undressed, a Farscape special that was created to catch fans up to events that previously happened in Farscape, would be included with the release. However, Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars would not be included since Lions Gate Entertainment still retains the rights to the mini series. Farscape Comic Con Details

Other releases

In January 2008, seasons 1 and 2 were made available for download through Apple's iTunes Store for customers in the United States. Season 3 was added in March 2008, with Season 4 following in May. The episodes can be purchased individually or as entire seasons.

Seasons One, Two, and Three are available to watch for free on Netflix.

Webisodes

On July 15, 2007 it was announced that Farscape would return in ten webisode installments. The episodes are expected to be a few minutes long each and may eventually be broadcast on the Sci Fi Channel. The webisodes were to have been launched as early as fall 2007. In an interview with TV Guide, Brian Henson stated that the webisodes will be 3–6 minutes long and may feature D'Argo Sun-Crichton. TV Guide also reported that Ben Browder is in talks to appear in the webisodes. Sci-Fi Wire reported that Brian Henson and Rockne O'Bannon would pen the episodes.

Several news sources have reported that the web series may lead to an on-air revival of the series, but Sci Fi general manager Dave Howe said that there were no plans to revive the show. Brian Henson has stated that he hopes the webisodes would lead to a TV sequel.

At the Burbank 2007 Farscape Convention in November 2007, Rockne S. O'Bannon stated that the webisodes would likely be released in 2008. Farscape star Ben Browder told SCI FI Wire that he looked forward to reprising the role of astronaut John Crichton in the webisodes. The 2008 writers' strike put a damper on the plans, and Browder said that it was too early to figure out to what extent he would be involved. Browder said that he had a brief discussion with Henson about the Web series at last year's Comic-Con International in San Diego:

At Comic Con 2008, Rockne O'Bannon announced that the ongoing Farscape comic series would tie into the upcoming webisodes. The first comic was scheduled for release in November 2008. On December 4, 2008, O'Bannon told MTV "There’s a new character that you’ll meet in the very first comic book who ends up a significant player in the webisodes. Villain or hero? I’m not saying!"

On 10 June 2009, Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune announced via Twitter, "Farscape webisodes are 'still in play.' they're still being developed but not yet at script stage." [10362]

At the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con, Brian Henson stated that the webisodes were "ready to go" but that they were still looking for financing on the project.

At the 10th Anniversary Farscape Convention in Los Angeles, 2009, Brian Henson again stated that they are still waiting for funding. Ben Browder was asked how the fans could help with funding, and said he wasn't sure what could be done.

Literature

Boxtree in the UK and Tor Books in the U.S. published three Farscape novels: House of Cards by Keith R.A. DeCandido, Dark Side of the Sun by Andrew Dymond, and Ghost Ship by David Bischoff. DeCandido was in talks to do a fourth novel, to be published by Tor, but negotiations between Henson and Tor broke down, and then the show was cancelled.

Scott Andrews' Uncharted Territory: An Unauthorised and Unofficial Guide To Farscape (Virgin Publishing 2002, ISBN 0-7535-0704-8) covered Farscape's first three seasons exhaustively. Paul Simpson wrote The Illustrated Farscape Companion series for Titan Books, one book per season (Book 1 with David Hughes; Books 2 and 3 with photographer Ruth Thomas) with exclusive official content.

Jes Battis, author of Blood Relations: Chosen Families in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel (McFarland & Company 2005, ISBN 0-7864-2172-X), published the first book of critical essays on Farscape in 2007 with Investigating Farscape: Uncharted Territories of Sex and Science Fiction (ISBN 1-8451-1342-X) through U.K. publisher I.B. Taurus. The book examines Farscape from a post-colonial, Marxist, gender studies, and queer theory perspective.

The Creatures of Farscape: Inside Jim Henson's Creature Shop, released in 2004, offered a colorful look inside the famous creature shop that created the stunning array of creatures and make up effects. Previously unseen and behind the scenes images; it includes exclusive contributions from the show's stars and make-up artists, and a foreword by executive producer Brian Henson.

There is an "Illustrated Companion" for each season 1-4, a total of four, by Paul Simpson.

Farscape Forever!: Sex, Drugs and Killer Muppets released September 28, 2005; in which Science fiction and fantasy authors analyze every aspect of the innovative, action-packed, and always surprising science fiction tv series in this innovative - irreverent essay collection. Contributors include Martha Wells on characters Crichton and D'Argo's buddy relationship, P. N. Elrod on the villains she loves to hate, and Justina Robson on sex, pleasure, and feminism. Topics range from a look at how Moya was designed and an examination of vulgarity and bodily functions to a tourist's budget guide to the Farscape universe. Included is an "expert's" advice to the Peacekeepers who, despite their viciousness, yet never quite seem to pull it off.

Shortly after season 3 began airing, Titan Magazines released a Farscape magazine. Available bi-monthly, the magazine ran from its April/May 2001 issue through to its 12th issue, April/May 2003. The magazine had a lot of in-depth material, including interviews with the cast and crew, behind the scenes information on many episodes, original fiction (by O'Bannon, DeCandido, Greg Cox, John Kenneth Muir, and others), and a regular column by David Kemper. There were two versions of the magazine produced each issue, with the only difference being the front cover, and the magazine also had two special issues - a season 3 special (issue 7), and the final issue (issue 12) containing an episode guide for the four seasons to date, as well as sketches for ideas and the Horizons fiction.

"Horizons" fiction

In the final issue of its run, the Farscape magazine published a piece of fiction written by series creator Rockne S. O'Bannon. Set a long time after the end of the fourth season, this details some of the adventures the Moya crew has had since and what has happened to them all. Since "Horizons" was written before the Peacekeeper Wars miniseries, there are some plot inconsistencies between the two, which could be resolved at some later stage.

Comics

During 2002, Wildstorm Productions produced a two-part Farscape comic entitled "War Torn", with the first part available in April and the second in May. The comics featured two stories, each spanning both issues. "War Torn", the main story, featured the Moya crew becoming ensnared in a war between two planets over a third, and took up roughly three quarters of the comic. "The Forth Horseman - featuring Chiana" was a Chiana-only story as she came across old friends and foes on the run from the Nebari. Both stories seem to have been set during Season 2. The second issue also included a double-page spread of some of the preliminary sketches.

Farscape returned to the comic form in 2008 through a partnership between The Jim Henson Company and BOOM! Studios. BOOM! is publishing several four-issue mini-series that will expand and explore the Farscape universe, which will later be collected into trade paperbacks, under the direct supervision of series creator Rockne S. O'Bannon. The first two miniseries, The Beginning of the End of the Beginning (first issue on sale December 24, 2008) and Strange Detractors (first issue scheduled for March 2009) are written by O'Bannon and Keith R.A. DeCandido, author of the Farscape novel House of Cards. Art is by Tommy Patterson for the first miniseries, Will Sliney for the second. The third miniseries, D'Argo's Lament (set during the events of Season 3) is being published concurrently with Strange Detractors. Two further miniseries have been announced: Gone And Back (starting in July 2009) and D'Argo's Trial (starting in August 2009). As well as the main titles, BOOM! are also publishing the scripts of these stories separately.

Games

A video game based on the television series was produced by Red Lemon Studios and released mid-2002 for the personal computer. Set during the first season, the game featured voice acting by the original cast of the television series. Reviews of the game, however, were generally negative, with many reviewers citing poor gameplay mechanics.

A Farscape table-top role-playing game was released by Alderac Entertainment Group in 2002. It uses the d20 System and includes creatures not appearing in the established television universe. The game also features an original short story by Keith R. A. DeCandido set after the second season. The game was nominated for ENnie awards for Best Graphic Design and Layout and Best d20 Game in 2003.

See also



References

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