Thursday, April 9, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The TV That Shaped Me (Part 7)

Farscape (1999-2004 (including The Peacekeeper Wars))

Number 7, chronologically, of my ten series that had a massive impact on me, is another one I came to a little late. Don't get me wrong, I watch SF series all the time, and there was a real shortage of them for a long while, but when Farscape first aired in the UK in November 1999 all the promotion was on the fact that the Henson Company was behind it. Frell, the review in The Guardian had the headline "Muppets in Space", and that was a big problem. The other was the BBC2 6:30pm timeslot where the BBC always shoved its genre shows - Buffy included. It was edited (though not enough, there were complaints apparently) and tucked away at a time when I really didn't get chance to watch it.

I tried the first episode, but it was tea-time, and I guess I wasn't paying much attention and it slipped away under my radar for a while. But I remember a friend of ours, Mark, saying "Why aren't you watching Farscape?" and I honestly didn't have an answer. "You should watch it, it's amazing."

The BBC was still on its first season, and I thought I'd give it another go to see what I'd been missing. If Mark said it was good, I had better give it a try. The episode that week was Hidden Memory (S1ep20) when lead guy was being tortured for information and the other characters infiltrate a base to rescue him. And I had no idea who was who, but it was frelling awesome.

He was right. Why wasn't I watching Farscape?
My Farscape DVDs... oooh, time for a rewatch!

So, I started buying the DVDs. They brought them out in weird sets of two disks with four episodes, and I had the chance to start catching up on what I had been missing.

And I was missing out on loads.

I'm sure you know the story now, John Crichton experiments in his little spaceship "Farscape One" on the edges of Earth's atmosphere and ends up being catapulted across the galaxy through a wormhole and getting picked up by a living prison ship, Moya, and the bunch of escaped prisoners on board.

It's the usual "person from Earth ends up somewhere new in space" that you'd expect, along with a very Blake's 7 take on escaped prisoners stealing a ship and escaping a militaristic force of leather clad humans (sorry, Sebaceans) called Peacekeepers (who act a bit like Blake's 7's Federation). The Peacekeepers hunt them, and Crichton for the information about wormholes in his head, and they go on many adventures...

Only it goes to really, really bizarre extremes. Evil bondage-Vader "Scorpius" implants a version of himself into Crichton's head (who Crichton nicknames Harvey after the imaginary rabbit), Crichton is cloned - a work of genius that allows the sexual tension to be resolved between Crichton and Aeryn, and get reset without the Moonlighting problem. They reverse the "Stranger in a Strange Land" of Crichton being surrounded by aliens in space, by bringing the crew to Earth to warn them of the imminent arrival of hostile forces. There's even a weird animated bit where Crichton imagines himself in WB style cartoons.

The cast changes slightly and characters come and go, but there are no bad characters (Crais probably being my least favourite) and the villains are great. Henson's practical effects for the aliens mean it hasn't aged badly (sorry, looking at you Babylon 5. I love you, but the CGI does look dated now).

And, like all good things, it came to a very abrupt end at the season four finale. And what a season ending. As Crichton and Aeryn agree to get married, they are shot by an alien craft and collapse into little cubes that fall apart...

Frell. That ending punched you right in the mivonks.

Luckily, we were saved from being left there by a two part miniseries "The Peacekeeper Wars" which wrapped everything up and resolved all of the storylines (just about) in another emotional and gut-wrenching three hours.

It was awesome. Loved it, and I can't believe I wasn't on board right from the start.

When season three came out on DVD they did some brilliant limited collectors sets - each came with prints, and cool extra things like an IASA watch, comm badge, and more. I think it's one of the few times I had things on preorder at my local HMV as I didn't want to miss out on them.

When they announced a Farscape RPG I was right there when they needed playtesters. But alas, it was just as everything was D20, and there were some major omissions (I remember pointing out that Luxan injuries needed to be hit or squeezed until the blood runs clear). There was a weird moment when all the playtesting stopped abruptly and then a few months later it came out. Gorgeous book, lovely graphic design, the fixes we pointed out were done, but I wasn't a big fan of D20 so it's kinda just sat on my shelf ever since (much like the complete collection of the D20 Stargate SG-1 RPG). Shame...

Ho well. I still love Farscape, and started a rewatch about a year ago (that I haven't finished yet). May have to go back to it!

Frell, if you loved Guardians of the Galaxy and haven't seen Farscape, you seriously need to check it out...

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