From Metromix.chicagotribune.comWhy the frenzy over ’Farscape’ ? (firefly mention)
By Maureen Ryan
Monday 11 October 2004, by Webmaster
What inspires fans’ extreme commitment to "Farscape"? After all, even some sci-fi aficionados don’t get it.
"Ben Browder and [female lead] Claudia Black are terrific," "Stargate SG-1" executive producer Brad Wright said in an e-mail. "The show itself was always a mystery to me. I didn’t get it. Maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance because I couldn’t get past the muppet."
Actually, there are two puppets on the show — Rygel, a small, voracious alien who is the deposed "dominar" of an outer-space empire, and Pilot, a multiarmed creature who is biologically connected to Moya.
Who’s Moya, you ask? She’s the living space ship on which American astronaut John Crichton (Browder) lives — with a few escaped prisoners he ran into when his ship accidentally got sucked into a wormhole that deposited him in a strange and dicey part of outer space.
For those who got past the puppets — which was easy to do, given that they were brought to life by the top-notch puppeteers from the Creature Shop founded by Brian Henson’s father, Jim Henson — "Farscape" presented an absorbing, confounding, challengingly complex universe that gleefully defied many of the conventions of televised science fiction.
Epic love story
For one thing, contrary to conventional television wisdom, the two lead characters, Crichton and former soldier Aeryn Sun (Black), began an epic love story early on in the show, and that crazily complicated romance (at one point, there were two John Crichtons for Sun to love) ended up stretching across several seasons.
And pop-culture devotee Crichton wasn’t exactly the stereotypically straight-laced, super-competent sci-fi hero. "`E.T.’ my [behind]," a disoriented Crichton says in an early episode. "Spielberg was wrong."
"The charm of `Farscape’ is that [Crichton’s] not MacGyver," says Black, from the set of an independent film in London. "He can’t make a compass out of tape. He’s kind of a `Let’s make it up as we go’ [kind of guy]. He’s just trying to save the world so he can be with his girl."
"And we always screw it up, of course," she adds with a throaty laugh.
Black’s character, Aeryn Sun, was arresting as well. Before she became part of Moya’s crew — unwillingly at first — Sun was one of a human-looking race of highly trained soldiers called the Peacekeepers. Not exactly the shy, retiring type, to say the least.
But her slow evolution from no-nonsense butt-kicking military woman to . . . a more compassionate, caring butt-kicking woman was one of "Farscape’s" best executed story lines.
"There are very few girls who could kick your [butt] and make you want to kiss them at same time," Browder says of Black’s character.
The show’s greatest strength is that whatever crisis Moya and her motley crew confronts, the richly drawn characters always come first. In the mini-series, for example, Sun and Crichton don’t let a military assault get in the way of a domestic spat.
"I love that about `Farscape,’" Browder says. "The characters don’t go away when things start to blow up."
But if the "Farscape" TV series had one flaw, it was that the stories it told got a trifle complex at times, even for devotees of the show.
Hence the daunting task faced by the writers of the mini-series, David Kemper and show creator Rockne S. O’Bannon, both of whom were executive producers on all four seasons of the show.
"The task at the very beginning was to make it something that `Farscape’ virgins shouldn’t be afraid of," O’Bannon says.
And the other task, of course, was pleasing all the Scapers who’d campaigned for its comeback.
Satisfying the fans
"We had a healthier budget than we had for the series, and we also just wanted to make it bigger and more special so that we could really satisfy the fans," O’Bannon says. "They had worked so hard for this. To present them with something that was [equivalent to] a C-plus or B-minus episode from the show — that would have been pretty horrific."
What’s next for "Farscape"? Executive producer Brian Henson says he’s waiting to see how the mini-series is received, but it sounds like his ideal plan would be to make a "Farscape" feature film, as Joss Whedon is doing with "Serenity," the upcoming big-screen version of the canceled but beloved TV show "Firefly."
"I think what will happen coming out of this is that the strength of the fan base creates a good business for any broadcaster or distributor, because of the amount of push and attention the fans can put into the property," Henson says.