Farscape heightens the prototypical space adventure format. Review by Violet Kane

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TV Shows about starship travel facilitating human and alien contact in space implicitly invites comparison to the Star Trek franchise. In its first season, Farscape manages both to meet fan expectations and fashion its own sensibilities in splendid style.

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Main character John Crichton (Ben Browder) is an astronaut and scientist on modern day Earth. As the series opens, he is ready for launch in a planned space shuttle mission to test his theory that Earth's gravitation can be used to gain the needed speed for missions deeper into space. Intent on testing the theory himself, Crichton pilots the mission—but the effort lands him deeper into space than he ever imagined. The combination of his velocity and Earth's gravity inadvertently creates a wormhole which tosses Crichton out the other end of the universe losing all contact with mission control and finding himself in the middle space traffic, and conflict. He is picked up by a bio-mechanoid ship, called a Leviathan, manned by prisoners mounting an escape. Having taken over their prison transport vessel, three prisoners—dubiously accused—from different alien races are in a desperate struggle to free the ship, which is itself bonded into the service of a militant race called the Peacekeepers. They bring Crichton aboard in the hopes that he can help them figure out how to escape. Not knowing who to trust, Crichton finds himself swayed to the cause of a captured Peacekeeper, Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black)—who also happens to be of the only alien race Crichton has yet encountered that looks anything like humans. However, when Aeryn takes Crichton back to her leader, Crichton is accused of killing a Peacekeeper solider (in truth, a chance collision when Crichton was just spat out of the wormhole) and Aeryn accused of violating protocol. After finding their way back with the crew of the Leviathan, Crichton and Aeryn find among the escaped crew a common aim—to evade Peacekeeper capture, and to figure out the way back to each of their home planets, a task that appears most daunting for Crichton.

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I'm not going to pretend that Farscape is the most original show in the history of space adventure. The Leviathan ability to "starburst" will not escape notice as the Farscape version of Warp Drive—though, the ride is bumpier, perhaps more realistically so. Some of the general plot arcs are TV standards—Crichton's and Aeryn's will-they-or-won't-they flirtation is predictable in itself (Do flirtatious couples ever weather a life-or-death situation without almost having sex?), though its further reaching arc and the character interaction is more unique. Much of Farscape's strength, however, is its variations on the typical space show elements, most notably the emphasis on the organic rather than on stark technology makes it a warmer, and perhaps for some viewers, a more fantasy-like show. Perhaps the most unique, and most immediately stunning aspect of this show is the cinema quality special effects. Farscape is a production of the Jim Henson Company—but don't let that fill your head with visions of Muppets. Farscape is an adult show with adult themes (though it's not dark enough to exclude older teens and some juvenile humor likely exists for their sake). But the Henson team makes the show visually stunning in the realism of the effects and props. Two of the regular "cast members" are elaborately detailed non-humanoid aliens, puppeted by the crew with as much realism as any actor-behind-makeup. The minds behind this show do not, however, attempt to make it stand on the strength of the effects. Rather they build strong, if not always surprising characters. Many of the shows in this season are largely episodic, but character themes gradually emerge. The chemistry among the actors and the emerging character conflicts—even if they do regularly take a back seat to plot in this first season—make the viewer believe that the characters honestly harbor affection for one another, and foster an affection in the viewer for the characters.

While Farscape certainly suffers from some predictability in this first season, it offers many more pleasant surprises.

Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.

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