Welcome to the very first FRIDAY FLASHBACK here at Crave Online. This feature is dedicated to looking back at some of the best genre TV series of years past as well as recommending them to new fans who may never have seen them before.
It's no secret that science fiction on television is fast becoming an endangered species… even on the Syfy network itself. The recently canceled "Stargate Universe" was the last space based sci-fi show still on the air and it could be a while before we see another series like that again. Syfy seems to have embraced the "blue skies sci-fi" of "Eureka" and "Warehouse 13" to the detriment of everything else. Not to mention Syfy's odd combination of reality shows about imaginary ghost hunters and wrestling on Friday nights.
But there was a time when the former Sci-fi Channel truly did "imagine greater." And "Farscape" was the series that delivered on that promise.
"Farscape" was created by Rockne S. O'Bannon and followed an American astronaut named John Crichton (Ben Browder) who was accidentally transported across the universe where he found himself hunted and on the run on board a living ship of escaped prisoners who eventually became his friends.
I have to admit that I initially scoffed at the idea of Jim Henson Productions putting out a serious sci-fi show. "Muppets in Space," anyone?
However, the puppetry used to create the creatures in "Farscape" were designed and controlled by some of the best puppeteers in the business. They had a truly alien appearance and a major advantage over CGI in that the creatures and characters were actually interacting with the actors on camera, giving them a sense of physical reality that animation/live action hybrids just can't replicate.
Take Rygel, for example. On his own, you might think he's just another Kermit or Yoda. But he's actually one of the most vile characters on the show. Rygel's greedy, selfish, sometimes cowardly, foul mouthed and largely out for himself. But voice actor Jonathan Hardy managed to keep Rygel somewhat likable for all of his faults and the writers treated him as much a part of the cast as the rest of the characters.
Every great sci-fi show needs a great villain and "Farscape" had one of the best in Scorpius (Wayne Pygram). Think of him as a cross between Darth Vader and Spock. In his own way, Scorpius was just as compelling as Crichton and their rivalry fueled the series for most of its four season run. Even their time as uneasy allies during the fourth season was wildly entertaining.
But the heart of this show always comes back to Crichton and Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black). While Crichton was very much an everyman hero fighting to get home, his slow courtship of Aeryn brought out a more human side to her character and gave viewers a literal star-crossed romance. This is the reason that both Browder and Black ended up cast as regulars on "Stargate: SG-1" after "Farscape" ended.
The rest of the supporting cast was also very strong, from the irritable Luxan warrior D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe), the mischievous Chiana (Gigi Edgley) to the soulful Pilot and the maniacal Bialar Crais, both of whom were played by Lani Tupu. Crais was particularly interesting, as he went from the series' first villain before becoming a remorseful and reluctant ally of the crew.
There was a slight hole in the ensemble when Zhaan (Virginia Hey) was written out in the third season, but the arrival Sikozu (Raelee Hill) the following year filled that gap.
Although the third and fourth seasons are my personal favorites, the entire series is more than worthy of your time and well worth tracking down on DVD. And it even has a true ending in the form of a follow up miniseries, "Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars;" which fans had to really fight for. You see, Sci-fi abruptly canceled the series after the fourth season and almost left everyone hanging. Even though the network went on to greenlight "Battlestar Galactica" and "Stargate Universe," nothing has quite taken the sting out of losing this series well ahead of its time.
The tragedy of "Farscape" isn't that it was canceled, it's the fact that many people may never even see it because it's no longer on TV in most of the world. "Farscape: The Complete Series" is available on DVD as a box set or as individual seasons. And I highly recommend that you check them out. The ultimate theme of "Farscape" is that one man can make an impact upon the universe.
And if this article spurs anyone into discovering its wonders and those people pass on their recommendations, then maybe one day we'll be able to go back to Uncharted Territories.