Farscape - a positive opinion

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Farscape is a space-fantasy television series, filmed in Australia and produced by the Sci-Fi Channel and the Henson Company. At the time of writing (January 2002) filming of the fourth season is underway. This entry contains my personal opinion on this series.1

If you've seen bits of Farscape here and there and jumped to the conclusion that a) it's a run of the mill science fiction series, or b) it's a space fantasy for the young viewer demographic, you can be forgiven. Neither of these statements is true, however, and I'm going to list the strengths of Farscape which, in my opinion, make it unlike any other series on television.

  • It's a series for the dedicated sci-fi fan - full of references to TV shows and movies, with a central character who grew up in the same popular culture that we did, and for whom the surroundings are very trippy indeed.
  • It has excellent continuity - main characters die, leave, join, and the nature of their roles and relationships change. Experiences have lasting effects. The crew bond over time. Witness here a crew dynamic that's actually dynamic.
  • It doesn't dumb things down - Farscape is one of the most intelligent and subtle genre shows in production. The writers' stubborn refusal to bog the show down by recapping relevant events in previous episodes may not win the show any friends amongst casual viewers, but makes for a sleeker and faster experience for anyone who has followed the series from beginning to end.
  • It's not afraid to take creative risks - unlike similar shows which stay firmly sealed within their own mediocre creative envelope, the writing staff of Farscape are often so bold with their choices that they almost appear foolish. Sometimes they fail gloriously, but that's the cost of trying new things. Most of the time, they succeed.
  • When it's dark, it's very dark - come on, admit it, you heard that the series had puppets in it and you thought it was a kids show. Actually, because Farscape is made for cable, it's able to include much more mature content than most shows produced for networks. Without getting into specifics, Farscape at its darkest is very sick, graphic, and mature. (And, besides, the puppets are cool.)

I haven't mentioned any specifics or examples of episodes, because doing so would spoil some of the surprises. But if reading this has made you curious, Farscape airs on BBC2 and, more regularly, on the Sci-Fi Channel in the UK. If you're more eager, the first two seasons are available on Region 2 DVD, with the third commencing release in March 2002.

1I first published this short article in a slightly different form on my own site, then realised it was probably better suited to h2g2.

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