Some science-fiction fans prefer one of the Star Trek or Stargate series or Babylon 5, but a good many pick Farscape as the best recent sci-fi TV series. Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars, a rollicking follow-up to the dearly departed Sci Fi Channel series, takes the swashbuckling elements that made the show so much fun and reweaves them with fresh wit, adventure and imagination.
Best known for its colorful aliens augmented by the Jim Henson Company’s puppetry, Farscape left loose ends in the final episode of its four-year saga about astronaut John Crichton, who forged bonds with a group of fugitive aliens in a distant part of the galaxy. Through cooperation, a pooling of alien perspectives and basic smarts, plus a bit of luck, Crichton and his friends survive on a sentient spacecraft in a part of the galaxy where interstellar politics, war and tyranny make life and liberty precious indeed.
The two-part miniseries, briskly directed by Brian Henson, neatly wraps up most plotlines. It‘s a rip-snorting, rifle-shooting, alien-stomach-upheaving, alien-face-opening romp through the outer limits of the vivid Farscape universe. Like the best single episodes, the miniseries deftly blends drama and comedy as Crichton‘s plans to settle down with his pregnant fiancé on a quiet planet are interrupted by full-scale war between the brutal Scarrans and the devious Peacekeepers.
Nobody really dies in science fiction especially on Farscape and writers David Kemper and Rockne S. O’Bannon have found a way for pintsized royal exile Rygel (a puppet voiced by Jonathan Hardy) to revive Crichton (Ben Browder) and Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), who were pulverized into crystals that sank into the ocean in the last episode.
Browder and Black‘s romantic chemistry remains strong. Black is funnier than ever as the Sebacean warrior who refuses to give up her rifle even when she‘s about to give birth. “Shooting makes me feel better,” she says.
Browder, a likable actor who adds passion and manly tenderness to his resourceful jock role, makes the most of the wisecracking dialogue. Hailing from 20th-century America, Crichton often relieves tension by making apt ironic references to such pop-cultural icons as Dr. Strangelove, the Death Star, Woody Allen, Kiss and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The script also finds humor by putting human rituals into an alien context. During one of several wedding attempts, Rygel provides the ring—from his own stomach. Yuck. Just wipe it off, please, Crichton, before putting it on Aeryn‘s finger.
The writers also pay satiric tribute to the final bedroom scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey in one of the paranoid dream-conflicts between Crichton and telepathic Scorpius (Wayne Pygram), the cadaverous enemy/ally obsessed with finding the secret of wormhole travel implanted by the Ancients in Crichton’s subconscious. The art design, space battles and effects are a step up from the TV series, making this the next best thing to the long-rumored Farscape feature film. The densely woven miniseries offers scant background to bring newcomers up to warp speed, but fans will like it.
“Too much fun,” complains a Crichton ally. “Can we go now?” Not yet, Farscapers—not until you share another adventure.
This is an expanded version of a review that appeared in The Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio), reprinted with permission.
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