Thursday, July 17, 2008

In Defense of Farscape

(Etarran-style rejected title: "Lay off my favourite TV show, you frelling dren-faced farbot phillistines!")

It has been the policy of certain “friends” of mine – for exactly how long I cannot say – to make fun of/ get a rise out of me by disparaging the Australo-American Sci-Fi/Comedy/Romance masterpiece, Farscape. While this not-particularly-good-natured teasing is very little about the show itself (few of these “friends” of mine have seen so much as an episode. In an unprecedented feat of being absolutely no fun at all, one claims to have seen an entire season and not found it enjoyable), I would not be writing this post merely to bitch about the means by which they cause me distress*. My worry in this matter is for their sake, and not my own; I fear that should they not already accept their petty fabrications as the honest truth by virtue of endless repetition, they soon will. More than anything I am distressed by the idea that these otherwise intelligent and humourous individuals would predispose themselves against the pure, unadulterated joy that is Farscape. It almost did it to myself, years ago, and I cannot in good faith allow them to do the same.

*I would be blogging about Star, were that my purpose here.

It was my mother, of all people, who first brought Farscape to my attention. I was actively disinterested in this low-budget australian muppety romance...thing, and can you blame me? The recommendation had come to my dear mum by way of a romance readers news group, for crying out loud! I'm not known for being a good sport, so I suspect it was a pointed reminder about the (flawless) track record of mom in recommending fiction in literature or on screen that had me grudgingly agree to watch an episode. It took maybe half of that episode for me to figure out that not only had I lost a potential counterexample for those times when my parents would bring icky, boring looking movies home to their infernally infallible chorus of “you'll like it!”, I had also discovered a kickass TV series. And so it was that Friday nights in our house became synonymous with Farscape...a glorious tradition that lasted until the bastard network execs canceled it for a “drop in ratings” in season 4**, leaving us among the legions of angry, heartbroken fans (Farscape's writing team having no warning to modify their final episode to achieve closure meant for Season 5 resulted in the most egregious cliffhanger finale EVER -spoiler After four years of torturous uncertainty and sexual tension, the main characters agree to be married. Also she is pregnant with his child. Also he has been forced to cut his one remaining connection to Earth (a wormhole) due to circumstances arising from flowers, careless words, and a small nuclear explosive...and then they, in their little rowboat are spotted by an alien starfighter and reduced to an equivalent mass of small, marble-sized pebbles by some esoteric weapon, THE END /spoiler)

.**I'm not a census bureau, but I know that the show became rather more arc-based in its final season, hence some casual viewers would have reason to balk. The third season was also marginally stronger, but it's not as if that's unique to Farscape.

The question you may be asking with regards to this post, besides “why bother?”, is probably something along the lines of “ok, but what was it that made Farscape so good?”. This is an excellent question, which is perhaps best answered by the show itself. As a Jim Henson production, Farscape was a fundamentally positive show. It was about the value of friendship (incidental note on the acting: this is from the episode where everyone is being driven mad, and not indicative of the acting in the series-at-large):

it was a work of subtle, intellectual humour:

A show that stressed the importance of nonviolence in all things:

...And which featured the best obligatory-episode-where-everyone-swaps-bodies of them all (note: at this point in the episode, Crichton (the human) inhabits Aeryn(the hot space Aussie)'s body):

I am somewhat constrained by what the fans have managed to upload so far, which seems to be a pretty random assortment, so what's there isn't really my ideal range of clips, but it will have to suffice for the moment. It's mostly fun and games above, but the show does shine equally in its silly and serious segments. Moreover, there really is a Jim Henson vibe to be found underneath the layers of twisted muppets, sex and violence. There is a real message about the value of peace, friendship, and love in a universe so full of evil things. It's perhaps more overt in the Peacekeeper Wars miniseries (a paltry 4 hours where Season 5 would have gone, but they made pretty epic use of those hours), but if you watch the series, it's there. The trademark Jim Henson glee is there, even in the darkest episodes. Farscape is a show where you cannot imagine that anyone on stage isn't having a blast at any given time, because they are acutely aware of just how awesome this thing they are part of is. You and I both know another show of which this is true, a show that you don't needlessly malign. A show that was also canceled well before it's time.

That's right, Drive – I mean, uh – Firefly, of course!


PS. I suppose the one thing you could say against Farscape is that while Jim Henson could demonstrably get David Bowie to act in their stuff (Labrynth, for people who live under rocks), I don't recall ever seeing him on Farscape. Possible Explanation: it would have created a singularity of pure awesome and destroyed Television.

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