Review by Ernest Lilley
Check out this title at: Amazon US / Amazon UK
Even if you've been watching FarScape since the beginning, it's great to see all the special effects in all their DVD sharpness. The commentary track available has a lot of interesting information about the origins of the project, which they pitched as sort of "a Star Wars" bar... but on a weekly basis. It's really a plus to hear the directors and Ben Browder discussing the thinking behind the many choices in putting together a series like this. (continued...)
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I got a group of non-cable viewers together to see this DVD and they loved it. The special effects look just as good today as when they first aired, and the quality of the acting and writing surpasses almost anything else in the genre.
In a twist on the twist that TV visited on Buck Rogers, John Crichton, an Astronaut/Scientist, takes a ride on a space shuttle to prove an theory in astronavigation - that you can use a planet's gravity and atmosphere to accelerate a spacecraft to enormous speeds. Interestingly, this is adapted from work actually done by German rocket scientists during WWII to skip V2s across the atmosphere.
The plan backfires in the way things often to in Sci-Fi premieres and Crichton is launched through a wormhole, with great special effects by the way, into a galaxy far far away.
When and where he arrives, he has no idea, but in a tribute to Star Wars he emerges from his cosmic roller coaster ride to find he's in the middle of an asteroid field with space fighters around him and a tractor beam sucking him into a bigger starship than anything he's ever imagined.
The starship is Maya, a leviathan, al living machine, currently enslaved to the local political power, the "Peace Enforcers" a race that happens to look just like humans, but are much less friendly. The crew of the Leviatian turn out to be escaped prisoners who've taken over their transport and are trying to fight off the Peace Keepers efforts to recapture them.
John Crichton's resemblance to their former captors doesn't go unnoticed and his reception is less than warm...at least at first.
By the end of the episode, John's found a ship, joined a crew and has earned the hatred of an "insane military commander". As though the escapees didn't have enough trouble to begin with.
In the second episode on the DVD, we find out what it feels like to be a little green man, and all those UFO movies and X-Files episodes turn out to have been useful watching after all.
When Maya, the living starship needs a delicate surgical procedure to remove a transponder sending back the location of the escapees to their pursuers. Once down on a likely planet, they set off to find an element they needed to complete the repairs.
Soon, a foraging expedition turns into an alien manhunt...and the crew of the Farscape are the aliens. It's a great episode, and an interesting look at the far side of one of our favorite science fiction themes. Science Fiction legend William Tenn once wrote a delightful short story along the same lines along the same lines called "The Flat Eyed Monster" that you'll find fun as well and is worth tracking down.
The episode also explores the relationship between a living starship and its crew and is typically excellent for the secondary plot as well.
What the actors discovered about making FarScape is that the mix of CGI, Puppets and actors works much better than just actors or CGI alone. Though if you get into a fight with a puppet, the director may be tearing his hair out...considering the cost of repairs.
Farscape is some of the best SF on TV, and now can make the same claim on DVD. If you could only watch this on videotape it would be a crime, and if you've been saving money by not having cable, now's your chance to catch up. Of course, if you've been watching the series all along, you won't want to pass up the chance to own a really good copy of the pilot.