Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Farscape S1 Ep1: Premiere

"My name is John Crichton, an astronaut. A radiation wave hit and I got shot through a wormhole. Now I'm lost in some distant part of the universe on a ship, a living ship, full of strange alien life forms. Help me. Help me. Listen, please. Is there anybody out there who can hear me? I'm being hunted by an insane military commander - doing everything I can. I'm just looking for a way home." -John Crichton-

"Farscape depends on the eccentricities of its apparently mismatched group to tell some of the most interesting genre stories since the original Star Trek burned brightly over 30 years ago." -James E. Brooks [Starburst #257]-
 
My short attention span had me itching for something new and fresh [new and fresh to me]. I've been watching Dexter and Deadwood and enjoying those series immensely, but I was looking to roll the dice with a science fiction series that would match that kind of quality television within my favorite genre - science fiction. Farscape is science fiction ecstasy for a guy like me. Farscape takes place in another universe, because it is an off the charts revelation. Farscape does everything but disappoint. It is a vibrant, crazy, inventive, wacky, ultra-cool and snappily written series with a capital 'F' for FUN. As Crichton himself notes, "There's life out here Dad. Weird, amazing, psychotic life. And death. In Technicolor."
 
I did have my reservations about Farscape. The brainchild of Creator Rockne S. O'Bannon and The Jim Henson Company, helmed by Brian Henson, clearly Farscape would be given unfettered access to Muppet insanity. While I liked Jim Henson's The Muppet Show [1976-1981] as a child, and Yoda [Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back] was genius, was I ready for unchecked, unregulated Muppets in full-on, unbridled dramatic situations within my adult science fiction programming? After all, I still need to really revisit The Dark Crystal [1982] and Labyrinth [1986] in good faith to make an honest assessment on those films. Nevertheless, while Jim Henson's creations were more fantasy-oriented, his son, Brian Henson, went straight for the science fiction jugular co-producing Farscape.
 
I was equally cautious due to my pre-established perceptions of both Ben Browder and Claudia Black. Having watched all of Stargate SG-1 Season 9 and 10, starring Ben Browder and Claudia Black, I had my doubts about Farscape. It wasn't at all that the two actors offered poor performances in SG-1 by any means. In fact, I don't think the creators of Stargate SG-1 could have come up with a better alternative to losing actor Richard Dean Anderson following Season 8 then to fill the void with Browder and Black. They were terrific replacements for the absent comic timing of Richard Dean Anderson, but like any good franchise it just wasn't the same. The SG-1 formula was established and it lost a little something, while gaining a different dynamic for the remaining two seasons. Black and Browder were wonderful to watch, but SG-1 had changed. On SG-1, often referred by some fans of the genre as Fargate, Browder and Black certainly brought with them their unique talents and their on screen personal charisma as well as their chemistry [minus the romantic elements; Black saved the romantic link for actor Michael Shanks on SG-1]. The Browder character's sometimes irreverent, cheeky sense of humor certainly compensated for the absence of Jack O'Neil, but Claudia Black became a bit of an irritant in her role on the series for me. Having watched some Farscape, I've quickly learned Black clearly played her character differently on SG-1 than she does on Farscape and I'm thankful for the difference. Black's performance on Farscape is played with an almost tough, guarded, leadership-styled machismo with moments of vulnerability, while she's a bit of a loose cannon or an almost flaky con on SG-1. The latter became tiresome and I was concerned I might see more of it on Farscape. Not so. I discovered Browder and Black [one of the best in television teams] are brilliantly cast and opposite one another are a joy to behold. Black really emphasizes her handle on the Farscape role in a wonderful interview captured in Starlog #283. "In order to play her the way I do, I shut down as a person. I become very closed and the boundaries come up." This is a unique approach from the character she would play on Stargate SG-1. On Farscape, together, Black and Browder, opposite an all around stellar ensemble cast, generate a science fiction adventure that far exceeded my expectations. I may need to revisit SG-1 someday to enjoy the contrast in the performances from these fine actors.
 
1-Adam-12, 1-Adam-12, the son of Kent McCord has gone missing.
On Farscape, Black and Browder seem very much at home in their performances, ironic, given Browder's fish-out-of-water character, John Crichton, is out of sorts and a long, long way from home. Aboard Moya [potentially one of my favorite vessels next to the Eagle, Enterprise and Galactica] the two clearly bounce off one another with outrageously fun abandon. Everything is extreme, rules are out the window and Farscape is quite simply a wild ride. The entire cast seems to quickly play to each other's strengths on the series catapulting quite naturally into the essence of the show. There is a touch of the awkward initially, but nothing too obvious. By comparison, Babylon 5 was a mess in its introductory season. It took a bit of time for the characters to click there for me. With Farscape, like Firefly, the ensemble hits the ground running. There's a good, old-fashioned, Star Wars-like zest to the excitement. It's clear right away that the creators grounded John Crichton in their insane reality by allowing Browder's character to reference popular culture and pay tribute to the science fiction he loved back on Earth making him an every man like us. There is no shortage of homage to the best in popular culture throughout Farscape, but it's welcomed. It's often a comic infusion that informs and anchors the character and brings us back home when the tension is high in Crichton's alien universe. I have a feeling I'll be enjoying the series' mythology, relationships and strong concepts immensely. Browder and Black belong to Farscape in a way I could never quite embrace or reconcile for SG-1. Right away, the Farscape wormhole has delivered me to a place I'm excited to investigate in a way the Earthbound SG-1 never could. Farscape clearly deconstructs and establishes no rules. Anything can go. The crew travels inside Moya, a living ship!
 
Farscape offers a seamless blend of fantastical science fiction, rich with imagination, fortified by strong writing and character delevelopment. Welcome to Farscape, Season One, Episode 1, Premiere. What a premiere it is.
 
The opening shot of John Crichton is a powerful one with the space shuttle in the foreground of the setting sun. It is an image emphasizing Crichton's final moments on Earth. Inside NASA's launch facilities, Crichton is seen off by his father, Jack Crichton [Kent McCord]. You'll remember McCord from the disastrous Galactica 1980, but also the classic Adam-12 [1968-1975]. He leaves his son with some inspired words about being his own man. "Each man gets a chance to be his own kind of hero." He gives his son his ring. It is clear from the exchange that his father was once an astronaut and once walked on the moon. To some degree, his son walks in his shadow and clearly has big shoes to fill. But Commander John Crichton is a scientist about to pilot his own self-designed spacecraft dubbed Farscape 1 into a little experiment utilizing the Earth's gravity as a "speed booster" to slingshot himself at unrecorded speeds into space. The reasonably risky, complex, but pioneering idea quickly goes awry when a little bitty wormhole gobbles him up and Crichton disappears from radar and winds up somewhere else in a galaxy far, far away. This is important. It is a unique concept. Luke Skywalker was already established and living in a galaxy far, far away. The crew of the Enterprise knew their coordinates. John Crichton is floating out there in the great unknown and attempting to get his bearings. The wormhole effects are impressive and even more exciting in their design than those established on Stargate SG-1. At least this was my initial awe factor. It's a thrilling sequence.

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John Crichton is now a long way from home. The opening credits sequence is exceptional and the music provided by SubVision [the Neal family] and Composer Guy Gross is weirdly epic enough to heighten the sense of uncharted sci-fi adventure. The theme itself was orchestrated by SubVision with female vocals delivered by Avigail Herman. The credits are given a slight makeover, with narration included, provided by Ben Browder, following Premiere with Episode 2. We will have that sequence for you next episode.
 
Crichton is floating in space when he is hit by an unidentified vessel on his wing. That craft crashes and explodes. Crichton is clearly lost with no absolutely no coordinate information and no communication back to NASA. He happens upon the Leviathan biomechanoid-vessel known as Moya, which is well under siege. Moya is a beautifully imagined and designed creation. It is smooth, rounded and aero dynamic in design resembling that of Earth's own ocean-based life forms. Crichton is pulled aboard the space-going Moya. His craft, now docked inside, is scanned by a small, electronic, mustard-yellow, mouse-like creature dubbed a DRD. The creation immediately brings to mind the mouse droids of Star Wars as they scurry about Moya. The instruments of Farscape 1 ignite on fire and Crichton exits his craft. The small droid escorts him to the helm where he meets two of the regular cast members, Ka D'Argo [Anthony Simcoe] and Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan [played with alluring sensuality and sex appeal by Virginia Hey]. Both are busy navigating the craft and doing everything possible to keep the enemy fighters at bay and fend off their attacks. How do you like this for clever? This is how the creators decided John Crichton and all of the aliens would understand one another - Translator Microbes. The microbes colonize at the base of the brain. It's an effective technique and reminds me of inventive moves by filmmakers in the handling of foreign language translations. Director John McTiernan handled the move from Russian nicely in The Hunt For Red October [1990] and Director Howard McCain hammered home a technological angle in Outlander [2008] in the move to Nordic/English. Writer Rockne S. O'Bannon and Director Andrew Prowse are flawless in their execution here.

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D'Argo and Zhaan work in conjunction with Moya's central navigational brain dubbed Pilot, an extraordinary animatronic creature, designed by the brains of the Jim Henson Creature Shop in London, England and exported to Australia. Moya is clearly unable to escape and break free from the assault because she has been harnessed by a "control collar." The prosthetic and make-up work on D'Argo and Zhaan is stunning, meticulous and truly beautiful in detail. The set designs spare no expense. They offer lush, alien, gorgeous realizations of Moya's interior. The effects, too, are splendid and manage to look remarkably strong considering their vintage. Enter Dominar Rygel XVI, another animatronic/Muppet revelation. Rygel informs his fleeing shipmates that Moya was scheduled to take them to Terran Ran. The passengers are clearly on the run and were scheduled for imprisonment. Rygel informs Crichton he will look after him if he looks after Rygel later in return. Moya's hull integrity is fast approaching compromise as a result of the assault and battering of laser fire against it. She is failing quickly. With a stroke of luck, D'Argo's brute strength rips a number of Moya's many living cables [like bleeding arteries] and the restraining collar around the hull breaks apart. D'Argo calls for "Immediate Starburst!" It's Moya's version of the Battlestar Galactica hyper jump and it is gloriously cool. The Leviathan known as Moya escapes with mere moments to spare.

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Cut to the ships left in the wake of Moya's exit and we meet the Peacekeepers led by Captain Bialar Crais. Crais' brother was killed in his Prowler in the collision with Crichton's Farscape 1. Despite the fact it was an accident Crais wants Crichton's head. My son, who is loving the show as much as me, noticed there are many Leviathans and we can only deduct that Moya, while alive, is not in complete control of her destiny, but is rather dependent on her occupants including Pilot and the crew. The multi-armed Pilot appears biologically fused with Moya. Whether Pilot is a separate, parasitic creature or more of a symbiote is unknown. There is much we will learn going forward. Could the control collar be something the Peacekeepers have harnessed across the Leviathan species to control them? Perhaps Moya is as free as its occupants now.
Back on Moya, Crichton is snotted upon by Rygel and D'Argo has a frog-like tongue capable of disabling an individual on contact as he does with Crichton. These are the types of moments that really inject Farscape with fun and emphasize this won't be your Daddy's science fiction adventure.

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During Starburst a Prowler shoots through the wormhole along with Moya. With things calmed down Zhaan and D'Argo officially introduce themselves to one another. Zhaan is a Delvian priest and the two discuss the "fourth sensation" as developed by her people. She was imprisoned for being an anarchist, "the leading anarchist." D'Argo is a Luxan warrior who has seen "only two" battle campaigns, so scoffs Zhaan. The two aliens discuss aspects of their past lives. Peackeepers, though anything but, appear to be more like an Imperial army hell-bent on quashing anyone or anything that doesn't comply with their concept of "peace." This is certainly reminiscent of Star Wars on its face.

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Zhaan concludes, "then perhaps together a warrior and a priest can help save each other."
Elsewhere on Moya, Crichton awakens in a cell. The irascible, Yoda-like [in size] Hynerian Dominar Rygel XVI informs Crichton he was the overseer of over 600 billion people of the Hynerian Empire before he was falsely imprisoned by his cousin, which he plans on correcting in the future. Do you just love the toad-looking character that is Rygel?

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Rygel indicates Translator Microbes are typically injected at birth for any species. Crichton realizes he is imprisoned with a Peacekeeper, Officer Aeryn Sun, Icarion Company, Pleisar Regiment. Upon greeting her Crichton is quickly beaten down. The violent scene between her and Crichton reminded me of a sequence from Stargate SG-1. In the SG-1, Season 8, Episode 12, Prometheus Unbound, Claudia Black's character is also encased in black garb and the scene plays out in a beat down of Michael Shanks character Daniel Jackson that reminisces of this original introduction. That SG-1 episode feels like an homage to this scene. Officer Sun is a special Peacekeeping commando. Crichton attempts to make his case to Zhaan that he is human, but they are taken to eat. There's a sense that Crichton's precarious existence in this strange new world might land him on the menu.

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Farscape: a place where blue is the new green. Yes, blue aliens are hot too!
This is indeed a snapshot of the chemistry that is quickly developing between the unlikely team of alien castaways. Farscape is strong out of the box. In fact, I would go so far as to say the character drama in play within Farscape is equivalent to the strength of the writing that would be found in Firefly's brief run. Ship Moya, again - a life form, is hurting following D'Argo's attempts to remove the Peacekeeper restraining harness and is unable to generate great speeds at this time. The team plans to land on a local planet despite little intel of a Peacekeeper presence there. The discussion is interrupted by a gaseous fart comprised of helium compliments of Rygel. All in the room begin speaking like Mickey Mouse. How many science fiction shows are this unabashed in their humor? Crichton is shocked to find Rygel can pass pure helium flatulence. Rygel indicates it occurs when he is nervous or angry.

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Once on the planet, Rygel makes an effort to barter with a local monstrosity. There is indeed a bit of Star Wars Mos Eilsey Cantina about the terrific costume work in play on a planet that looks remarkably similar in style to Coruscant upon entry. Meanwhile on Moya, Crichton comes to the realization he must have made his way to this reality via a wormhole. Moments later, Sun and Crichton escape their confinement on Moya. Here's a classic exchange between Crichton and Sun played beautifully by Browder and Black.

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Sun and Crichton head to the planet below in her Prowler. Crais and company pick up her signal and send Peacekeepers to the planet. Crichton realizes he's not in Kansas anymore. "I'm on another planet." Sun has relayed her position to Crais. D'Argo arrives on the planet and threatens both Sun and Crichton just before the arrival of Crais and company. D'Argo is quickly subdued. Sun attempts to make a case for Crichton as a human from "Earp." She states, untruthfully and knowingly, that Crichton is not intelligent or brave enough to attack a Prowler. Crais believes Sun has spent too much time with the enemy Crichton. Crichton attempts to disown any type of connection made between he and Sun out of concern for her treatment by her own. Sun's race is Sebacean and are primarily Peacekeepers. This group is led by Crais who alludes to a concern regarding Sun's detention and the proverbial Stockholm syndrome whereby a prisoner can develop sympathy or feeling towards their captor[s]. Crais refers to the Peacekeeper High Command's clear parameters regarding contact with unclassified alien life forms and exceeding a specific length of time in their care. Peacekeepers consider their people contaminated beyond a certain point. Sun, along with Crichton, are quickly arrested along with D'Argo. Crais is certain Crichton intentionally murdered his brother. It's all perception and clearly Crais sees things his own way.
 
Crichton and friends overpower their Peacekeeper detainers. Crichton fires one of their laser pistols. "Don't move or I'll fill you full of little yellow bolts of light." This is the classic kind of tongue-in-cheek humor that runs abound in Farscape. This is a fine moment between some of the principals once again.

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The show speaks to human nature and our own cultural hang ups with such insightfully sharp dialogue. All of the characters reconvene on Moya. The Peacekeepers are in hot pursuit. The starburst escape option is unavailable. Crichton wants to attempt his theory by heading back to the planet via gravitational pull with Moya. "Can this ship thing be flown manually?," inquires Crichton. Crais readies weapon cannons. Zhaan declares "death" is their only alternative. Rygel responds "what a charmer." Pilot places Moya in manual mode for Sun to pilot. She dives straight into the planet's atmosphere at Crichton's instruction. Pulling out of the planet's gravitational drag Moya soars into space safely. Crais has lost her.
 
The exploration of sensuality and sexuality begins.
Following their escape Zhaan presses her face to Crichton's causing an intense sensation, perhaps the Delvian equivalent of a kiss or something more. The sensual world of Farscape is certainly another layer or component of the show often absent in science fiction. Later, Crichton and the crew take a little time for themselves. Zhaan meditates nude [there ya go]. D'Argo sharpens the blade of his Qualta Blade. Unafraid of getting off on the wrong foot, D'Argo threatens Crichton that he should not stand in the way of his freedom. Sun calls the Luxans brutal, violent and indiscriminate. Crichton pipes up mockingly referring to the Peacekeepers, "unlike your people."

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Crichton affectionately takes some time to repair, with blue tape, his little DRD droid friend. Rygel tries to knick Crichton's equipment proving himself to be a bit of a thief, but Crichton informs him that it is his equipment. Rygel asks if he is a sound sleeper.

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Farscape is a wild ride in, as Crichton calls it, "technicolor." The reason why the humor is so potent is explained best by Rockne S. O'Bannon in Farscape: The Illustrated Companion. "The idea of Farscape is taking essentially any one of us, and dropping us into Star Wars. John Crichton has seen Star Wars; he's seen all the Star Trek films. He's seen all the same television shows, movies, books and all those things that we know, like Monty Python, and can bring that to bear on the world that he's in." With tongue firmly in cheek, Farscape brazenly combines humor, emotional power, character drama and riveting yarns inside of a strong, well-planned science fiction mythos. Farscape promises to be one hell of an absorbing good time ride. I am on board the good ship Moya. This is rare, brilliant, emotional stuff fused with thoughtful ideas and a promise to defy convention. Premiere may be a touch busy, but rarely do season openers spin this much excitement with seeming ease in a first go. I've never been happier with the wormhole concept and we're right there with you John Crichton.

Premiere: B+
Writer: Rockne S. O'Bannon
Director: Andrew Prowse

Pop Culture Reference: "Boy was Spielberg ever wrong. Close Encounters my ass." -John Crichton-

The Creators: "We wanted it to be more alien than any other series - bolder, more emotional - and to have stronger, richer characters than on other SF shows. We knew we needed a concept that allowed the characters to be a little more dialled up." -Brian Henson-

"Brian was looking for a television series that would really show all the facets of what the Henson Company could do.... They wanted to do something on board a ship that had an animal team - a more Star Wars-like series. ... It would be very dissimilar from Star Trek. Rather than have the Star Trek military hierarchy and all that, it would be a situation of anarchy." -Rockne S. O'Bannon-

Season One Cast:
Ben Browder [John Crichton]
Claudia Black [Aeryn Sun]
Anthony Simcoe [Ka D'Argo]
Virginia Hey [Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan]
Jonathan Hardy [voice of Dominar Rygel XVI]
Gigi Edgley [Chiana]
Lani Tupu [Pilot]
Paul Goddard [Stark]
Lani Tupu [Bialar Crais]
Wayne Pygram [Scorpius]

Special Guest: Kent McCord [1942-present]. American born. McCord is no stranger to science fiction having taken a co-lead as Troy in the original Battlestar Galactica spin-off Galactica 1980. He appeared in Seasons 1 and 2 as a recurring character in SeaQuest DSV [1993-1995]. He also made appearances in Batman [1989] and Predator 2 [1990]. His greatest role came as Jim Reed in the classic Adam-12 [1968-1975] opposite Martin Milner for 175 episodes.

26 comments:

Tristan said...

It is my favorite show. I watch all the episodes of Farscape tv show from this link . There are many unforgettable moments in this show which i can't forget. Characters of this show are just remarkable.

ixchup said...

The other cool thing about the show that is different from Stargate and Star Trek is that each of the characters grow and change based on what happens. There is no rewind button. There are repercussions and wonderful consistency even between Season 1 and Season 4. You have to watch the entire series to understand the intricate plotting and character development.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Tristan- Terrific series. You are precisely right. Intricate characters and character development is clearly a hallmark of the show. I hope to capture many of those special moments here for the blog.

Ixchup- I am quickly discovery the complex nature of the series' developments and character growth. Having finished Season One I can honestly say it has already been a fulfilling and wonderful ride that is fascinating to watch.

I would agree that character growth is indeed a hallmark of this series over the more stagnant movement of those on the series you mentioned. Babylon 5 was another fine example of character development.

Farscape truly puts to shame the series you mentioned in its colorful and unconventional manner within the science fiction universe. This is impressive stuff. The first season alone witnesses marked growth in this stunning ensemble cast [I have not gone further than Season One]. I expect much more is to come.

The intricate plotting and weaving of storylines and subtleties is notable already. Thank you both for writing.

Anonymous said...

Oh, dear, you're at it already! I haven't had rewatched the episode yet. Will do tomorrow and then get back to you!

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Ha. You're funny M. "Oh, dear". Not to worry, in fact, I think your timing is impeccable. I look forward to your analysis and commentary here when you get around to it. Cheers.

EP said...

Great critique. I'm looking forward to your thoughts as you work through the episodes.

This is definitely not SG1 as it pertains to Browder and Black; you'll get to see how talented they are, along with the rest of the cast. If Vala annoyed you, you'll love Aeryn. She's the un-Vala.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Aeryn as the Un-Vala. I like it. Isn't that the truth! The two actors really shined SG-1, but were granted a limited range of growth. I believe it was there, but Farscape is far different.

The character growth is leaps and bounds beyond SG-1 and it's easy to understand why Black and Browder loved their Farscape roles so much.

Season One was wonderful and if you love great characters it's easy to see why there is plenty here for science fiction fans to love.

Your comment was perfect. The Un -Vala! Amen. Thank you for the kind words.

Anonymous said...

Hm... just watched the first episode. Just watched it.

The mouse droid has some characteristics of R2D2 as well. I agree about the wormhole effects being cool.

The entire father stuff in the beginning was a bit tiresome. The dialogue is a mixed bag. The exchange between Zaan and D'Argo I found awfully expository and clunky. Great exchanges between Aeryn and John, though.

I like Rigel. D'Argo's getting on my nerves, he feels just like a stereotypical warrior type at this point. Same for Crais - stereotypical slimy villain.

Didn't the mutual support between John and Aeryn come a bit fast?

Still finding it difficult to get into that show. Coming right from a rewatch of nBSG probably doesn't help. They're like total opposites.

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

M

I think it's safe to say Farscape crammed alot into its debut. Many of the characters as they appear now will change based on the evidence of Season One.

I agree with you that Aeryn and Crichton supported one another a bit too conveniently in the scene you are referring, but again, I think they were trying to establish certain things very quickly.

You used the word "clunky" and I believe I use the word awkward or some such thing in this review or the next one, but for a debut it establishes a great number of elements that I wholeheartedly want to watch evolve.

I know BSG is like science fiction on steroids, but Farscape has loads of terrific energy throughout Season One. As much as I was gripped by BSG's intense relationships, I do find the relationships on Farscape a little more interesting. It is comparing apples to oranges.

It's also a colorful production with bizarre elements and is visually stimulating throughout the series so far.

I think you need to ride this wave. My high marks are on the episode as a premiere. I think the show gets more aggressive, more weird, more inventive, more clever, and far less conventional as it goes along. There's no question the exposition is weaker in this one. It's just the beginning.

And where new Battlestar Galactica is all about distrust and uncertainty, Farscape is about attempting to build trust within a dysfunctional unit that is indeed a family. Crichton is the foundation of that trust.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't attempting to compare nBSG to Farscape. There's really no point to it; they're just completely different on every level imaginable. In nBSG there are no aliens, Farscape is full of aliens. nBSG is very bleak, Farscape a lot more optimistic. nBSG is realistic, Farscape doesn't even attempt that. nBSG is mystical to the point of being esoteric, Farscape, apart from Z'aan, has little such elements.

One guy in a forum in my country wrote that whilst earlier SciFi series were SciFi prose, nBSG is SciFi lyrics. A remarkably fitting description IMO. I admire the show for the unique blend between bleak and gritty realism and that beautiful lyrical imagery in its mystical elements. The show has a tone all of its own. (I don't agree it's full of distrust. Quite the contrary. It brought about the most unlikely alliances during its course and in the end).

Babylon 5 went the first steps into that direction but nBSG takes it uncomparably further.

Farscape, as I recall has a quite unique tone as well. But it's more a crazy romantic comedic adventure.

It's just that coming from an nBSG rewatch precisely that contrast makes it difficult for me to get into the show.

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

I didn't think you were trying to compare them, I was just making a few points.

Farscape is indeed more hopeful. BSG certainly had alliances. I'm not sure how strong trusts were, but it was a solid show that I still need to revisit. I'm still not sure the writers really had a cyclon "plan."

I think Farscape certainly can be crazy in a brilliant way conceptually, sometimes funny, and there is certainly a special connection forming between Sun and Crichton, but I never feel like I'm watching a "crazy romantic comedic adventure," though those elements exist, at least not in Season One. It's indeed a great adventure story though.

Anonymous said...

The nBSG writers never claimed to have had a plan. In fact, they've always said they're not planning out for more than the rest of the season and maybe the beginning of the next. They were quite open about that. I'll never know how the fans got the idea that there was a plan. The cylons had a plan in the beginning, not the writers.

As for trust. Well, Adama and Roslin came to trust each other, Athena came to trust Helo, Adama came to trust Athena, Baltar came to trust Head Six, the humans came to trust the cylon rebels and vice versa. How is that a show full of distrust? Sure, there was a lot of distrust in the beginning, but doesn't it take that much more trust to overcome this? There was no distrust between the survivors in the end.

I've now rewatched the first thre episodes, and seeing the trust be built up as fast as it does between the characters feels a bit stretched for me. Crichton has just arrived there, no one can know what a human even is, yet him and Aeryn are already best friends, and so seem Zhaan and D'Argo. Would it really happen that way?

M.

Anonymous said...

Something else: Didn't the scene with Crichton and Sun in the cell remind you of a ST:TOS episode where McCoy and Spock had a very similar discussion? Spock in Aeryn's place trying to break the bars, and McCoy at the back of the cell, sitting down? I don't remember which episode that was in, though

There are countless scenes like that in Farscape.

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

M.
There are indeed many moments throughout Farscape that remind me of other SF, not just ST:TOS. There are plenty of nods abound. I would agree with that. It doesn't take away from the originality Farscape injects into the mix for me though.

And, like I said, I agree that there is much crammed into the first entry. Thus far, I have been embracing the series for what it offers. I'm certainly not here to convince you otherwise. Perhaps it is too rushed for you to suspend your belief in it.

I do think Farscape and BSG had a similar approach about letting things unfold naturally as it went along. They have that in common. Going back to your original point, I definitely wouldn't compare the two series myself. They offer two entirely different stories.

My only point was the Cylons had a plan and the writers are kind of writing the cylon plan. It felt a bit unresolved. I still enjoyed most of that series. I wouldn't qualify myself as a fan per se, as I didn't follow it as closely as yourself, but I was hooked by the opening where the writers always mentioned the cylon "plan."

Your points about nBSG building trusts is well-taken. Saul and Adama come to mind as well. I will need to watch that series again someday.

How about that oft-discussed ending?

Anonymous said...

The ending? Well, I agree it had problems, though I wasn't as disappointed as some others.

I feel that the blend I mentioned earlier, trying to bring together that very realistic approach on the one hand and the mythological and esoteric elements on the other, caused a lot of problems not only for the finale but for season 4 in general.

nBSG has a great story on the symbolic level. It's literally about "the exodus and rebirth of the human race", as the scrolls of Pythia said. It's a new take on Joseph Campbell's hero's journey, albeit on the level of the human race in general. To be reborn, you must first die. They were nearly extinguished, had to confront themselves on many levels, from political struggles to self-awareness, some of them (the sleeper cylons) had to face that they are literally their own enemy. This is very Jungian stuff.

To be reborn, the humans and the cylons had to die and become anew as a new race, a cylon-human hybrid, in Hera. Much fun has been made of the idea that in nBSG love was necessary to conceive Hera but on a mythological level it makes perfect sense. The rebirth of the human and cylon race was only possible by getting together and learning to love the enemy. The result was the new human/cylon being, Hera. People who ask why Hera was important haven't understood at all what RDM and co. were trying to do.

Same goes for the abandonment of all technology. If the races are to be reborn, it must make tabula rasa, leave the old behind and start anew. The show brought them to the promised land, an untouched planet with no technology. This is the return to garden Eden, and they were led there by angels. It's the chance to start over, letting go of all the old burdens.

So, on a mythological, symbolic level the ending makes perfect sense. Any resolution involving Kara being an alien or using the old technology would have totally destroyed the message. Again, people who say the finale was "stupid" don't understand what it was trying to do.

The trouble is, while this works beautifully on the symbolic level it's very hard to translate into a believable story in nBSGs very realistically portrayed everyday life. Precisely because nBSG was so focused on realism in that realm, and there were no aliens or super-technologies to bring about miracles, the task of reconciling the mythological and the realistic side of the story amounted to squaring the circle. This was apparent during all of season 4 and most obvious in the finale. It was all but impossible to uphold the mythological logic and at the same time tell a credible story about everyday life. One side had to be sacrificed, and RDM and co. chose the story about everyday life. Unfortunately that's the only story many people see, because they have no understanding of mythology or symbolism. Hence their conclusion the ending was total crap. I don't think it was. I totally see the problems with the idea of giving up all technology but if they intended to bring the mythological arc to its logical conclusion it was inevitable. I don't know how one could resolve that credibly and in a realistic way for the everyday life side of the story.

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

M

That may have been the most articulate explanation of the nBSG ending I've heard and the most sensible in many ways. So was Starbuck an angel through Season Four?

I suppose I had the most trouble with Season Four, but I never discarded it as crap by any means. It was indeed challenging my ability to make sense of it all and for that I did appreciate it.

Perhaps my love for Greek mythology and mythologies in general allowed for me to enjoy nBSG on these levels you mentioned. I think the show was solid and I rank Season One and Two among my very favorites of any series. Having said that, Season Three and Season Four had moments that I rank among my favorite as well, Unfinished Business for one.

Anyway, your analysis of nBSG is excellent. I shall point people to it should I ever get to that series.

See how far Farscape takes us. ;^) Great commentary M. It makes me want to go back and rewatch those DVDs again.

Anonymous said...

Kara was a messenger of higher power. I liked how the show left open who or what this "God" actually was. We had always different perspectives - the cylons', the head characters, Baltar's...

So, on to Farscape, episode 2 :)

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

I definitely appreciate the interpretive nature of nBSG. There plenty of food for thought abound. Yes, onto Farscape 2. Cheers M

Anonymous said...

I recently bought the soundtrack to all four seasons, and I think it's a thing of sheer beauty. It perfectly mirrors the show's approach of bringing together the supposedly irreconcilable. Celtic flutes, violin quartets, Stravinsky, and Jimi Hendrix.

A propos Hendrix: Did you notice that as early as in the miniseries Gaius says "there must be some way outa here"? They may not have had a plan, but certain things came together beautifully.

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Well said.

I actually bought a few of those soundtracks as well. I think I have the first three. I don't know who did it M off the top of my head, but I love that remake of All Along The Watchtower. Sheer genius.

Anonymous said...

I never missed a episode of Farscape !!! :),It was My 2nd favorite show,number 1 being Babylon 5 of course,lol :)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Interesting. B5 and Farscape are so different. If Farscape keeps up the way it's going, it may become my number one. We'll see. Thx.

Anonymous said...

I know,thats why I LOVED it so !!!,It was just so awesome,so different :),even the ship(Moya) was aliving being,WOW :)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thanks for stopping. I'm right there with you. "So different." It's refreshing on a number of levels.

EP said...

I read through the discussion of Battlestar Galactica/Farscape with interest.

I have seen both shows through their respective runs. I agree, they are apples and oranges, but they both feature ensemble casts with strong leads and do touch upon human nature.

For myself, though, I sum it up this way: Battlestar Galactica challenged my intellect. Farscape grabbed my heart (and still hasn't let go, damn them!)

Perhaps I'm more led by the heart than the intellect because once I finished watching Battlestar, I didn't have a lot of need to rewatch it; actually, I had no need to rewatch it. Once I finished Farscape, I wanted to share it with everyone I knew. And watch it with them.

Again. And again...

maybe they put something in the broadcast, like a beacon, that just brings me back every time...

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

EP

Your additional point to this conversation truly gets to the heart of it for me too.

It is an insightful breakdown. I agree BG was indeed a challenge of the mind more than Farscape. I think that is fair to say.

Farscape, in all its glorious technicolor, does indeed capture the heart with all of its emotional power, not that it doesn't exist in BG.

In fact, I would add the intellectual and emotional strengths of these series are certainly not exclusive, both offer elements of the other, but they are stronger in the areas you suggest.

Finally, I think Farscape is more infinitely rewatchable for me too. Perhaps it's the use of color and make-up and production alien production work. There is much more for my eye to enjoy. I love the look of BG, but it is entirely different and much darker.

Anyway, wonderful points EP.