Seldom have I been more disappointed in a film or television production that I'd been looking forward to. Widely recognized as one of the most intelligent, innovative, and flat-out excellent science fiction series on television, Farscape ended its fourth season on a cliffhanger because of the show's cancellation, leaving loose ends that the later miniseries The Peacekeeper Wars promised to tie up. At last Farscape fans would have a slam-bang finale for their beloved show! Sounds great.. except that it's everything but. It's bad enough that I wish I hadn't watched it; it's bad enough that in order to enjoy the rest of the Farscape episodes, I'm going to try very, very hard to forget I ever saw this DVD.
If I'd been told that The Peacekeeper Wars was made by a completely different group of filmmakers, using only the same actors and makeup artists, I'd have believed it. In fact, that was my first theory to explain the crash-and-burn nature of the miniseries. No dice, though: though it's under the label of Hallmark Entertainment, the main credits go to Brian Henson and Rockne O'Bannon, as with the original Farscape. So I'm left with no clear explanation of this Mr. Hyde version of Farscape.
Farscape, the television series, is witty, well-paced, cleverly plotted, edgy, complex, and above all, intelligent. Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars is none of these things. It's Farscape with the soul removed, Farscape stripped of all its characteristic elements and stuffed with standard Hollywood sci-fi/action tripe instead.
The three-hour miniseries gets off to a bad start right from the get-go. The first third of the film seems to be intended to fill in the blanks for viewers who've never seen Farscape before, which I find puzzling: exactly who did they think would be watching it, if not 99% existing Farscape fans? It's not like the miniseries is intended to drum up interest for the next season of the series. Oddly, The Peacekeeper Wars also seems to swerve to the other extreme, pulling in quite a few secondary characters from various seasons of Farscape in what I'd guess is a sop for long-time fans. This isn't a bad idea in the abstract, for a film that's wrapping things up. The only problem is that, except for Stark, none of them are particularly relevant to the plot, and their roles seem awkwardly wedged in just to get those actors on screen for a while.
In any case, there's little development of the story in the first hour, just a prolonged exposition of the overall situation: the crew of Moya are stuck on a water world, putting Crichton and Aeryn back together, while Peacekeeper and Scarran armadas converge on that location with the intention of annihilating each other and (hopefully) prying the secrets of the wormhole weapon from Crichton's brain.
Eventually something that resembles a plot gets underway. Crichton and the rest of the crew discover a way to create peace in the galaxy. To do this, they have to voyage from Point A to Point B, pick up Character C and bring him back to Point A again, all the while dodging bullets left and right. It's an utterly simplistic plot, one that could easily have been done in a 45-minute episode (in fact, many Farscape episodes had plots considerably more complex than this), and it really doesn't do justice to the Farscape premise. I mean, we've seen some pretty wild and ambitious story arcs over the course of the show's four seasons, and this save-the-galaxy treasure-hunt is the best they could come up with for the finale? (I find it ironically appropriate that the back cover blurb of the DVD manages to screw up summarizing even this simplistic plot. Quality all the way.)
With a story this simple, it takes a lot of padding to reach the three-hour mark. The secondary plot threads of Crichton and Aeryn getting married, and Aeryn having her baby, are puffed up and dragged out to the point of tedium, with the attempts at humor wearing painfully thin. Likewise, the "characters reflect on all that has happened and share their innermost feelings" scenes at the end of the film are just so much pointless fluff. The Farscape crew undoubtedly wanted to bid their characters farewell, but doing it like this on-camera just doesn't work, at least not when the previous three hours' worth of storytelling have been as trite and shallow as this.
Dragging out the skimpy plot threads only accounts for about half the bloat, though. The rest of the bloat is made up of action scene after action scene: guns blazing, ships blasting at each other, people running around and being tossed up into the air by explosions. The Peacekeeper Wars has a remarkable similarity in style to Andromeda, and let me assure you, that's not a comparison I ever would have expected to find myself making. Far too much of The Peacekeeper Wars is taken up by mindless action of the worst kind, in which there's little reason to actually care about what happens.
And then, to top it all off, one of the main characters is killed off in a completely pointless and meaningless way. I won't reveal who it is, but I was appalled at the casual way in which it was done, as if the filmmakers were desperate to toss in something to recapture Farscape's dark edge and randomly chose a character to bump off in order to push a few more of the viewer's emotional buttons. Well, they got a reaction all right, but I doubt very much that "contempt" and "disgust" were what they were looking for.
In no way does The Peacekeeper Wars feel like Farscape. (They don't even use the fantastic theme music from the series, instead using an overbearing, blatantly manipulative score – yet another little detail gone wrong.) The story is weak and much too thin for the three-hour running time, the film is peculiarly and ineffectively paced, and feels like a conglomeration of unrelated parts glued together with random action scenes tossed in at every opportunity. I suppose it's possible that Farscape fans will find some sort of consolation in the closure provided at the end of the film, but frankly I think we were all better off having to depend on our own imagination to resolve Season 4's cliffhanger ending.
Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars is a two-disc set, packaged in a slim single-wide keepcase. The three-hour feature is on Disc 1, and the special features are on Disc 2.
The Peacekeeper Wars appears in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, and is anamorphically enhanced. It doesn't look nearly as good as the Farscape episodes, especially the later-season ones. The image is quite soft and is often noticeably grainy in some scenes. Contrast tends to be a bit on the heavy side, and some edge enhancement is present. Colors look good overall. It's not a bad transfer, and certainly is watchable, but neither is it visually particularly impressive.
The audio choices are a Dolby 5.1 and a Dolby 2.0 track. The 5.1 offers a reasonable audio experience, with some use of surround and a generally clean and clear track. The music is overbearing and intrusive at times, but I think that's more a fault of the music choices than a sound problem. English and Spanish subtitles are available.
For a two-disc set, there's not a lot of bonus content here. The only real special feature of note is a half-hour featurette called "The Battle Behind the Scenes," which is essentially an overview of the making of the miniseries. If you actually liked The Peacekeeper Wars you may find this worth watching. The only other special features are a collection of art galleries: conceptual art, storyboards, spacecraft designs, and props. These offer very little of interest even to devoted fans.
I don't normally get angry when I watch a lousy sci-fi miniseries or television show. That's the breaks of reviewing DVDs: some are good, some are not. But The Peacekeeper Wars is different. It's supposed to be the grand finale for a television show that I'd gotten really hooked on, a show that I thought exemplified outstanding storytelling and creativity. And this is what we get? I'm left with a bad taste in my mouth.
If you're absolutely desperate to see your favorite Farscape characters one last time, and you don't care about the quality of the story they're in, maybe The Peacekeeper Wars will be worth watching just to get one last "fix." But frankly, even if you're a die-hard fan – actually, I'd say especially if you are a true fan – my suggestion is to skip it.