The four seasons of Australian science fiction series Farscape ran from 1999 through 2003 when it was cancelled before the fifth (and intended to be final) season could be finished (co-producer Brian Henson would finish the series with a mini-series called Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars but that's a different story). So while the series' time on TV was short, it was long enough that the show developed a pretty sizeable cult following. The series was released on DVD and then on Blu-ray by A&E sometime back, but those sets have been out of print for ages. The rights have now moved over to New Video/Cinedigm, and the series is once again back in print, with all of the extras in tow from the previous releases accompanying the series content.
So what's it all about? Well the series revolves around the adventures of an American astronaut named John Crichton (Ben Browder) who is piloting a ship on a test flight that winds up accidently taking him through a worm hole and into the far reaches of outer space. He soon realizes that the alien life forms around him seem to be involved in some sort of battle and soon enough he's pulled inside a ‘biomechanoid' called Moya, basically a giant space creature that also serves as a ship. Here he meets up with the crew and learns that they're basically criminals on the run from ‘The Peacekeepers.' Before long, one of those Peacekeepers, Aeryn Sun (Claudi Black), is also pulled into Moya, and conflict of course arises. All of this and a whole lot more takes place in the first season.
When the second seasons kicks off, a lot of the relationships that were forming in the first season have become more involved. Crichton and the crew of Moya are involved in a conflict with a Peacekeeper named Scorpius (Wayne Pygram) who wants to access the knowledge inside Crichton's brain. Complicating matters further is the issue of the Sebacean Princess, unable to mate with any male of her kind. When she meets Crichton, her mother the Queen she thinks he might be a worthy substitute and insists that the two marry. If Crichton refuses, she'll hand him over to Scorpius without a second thought. D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe) and Chiana (Gigi Edgley) get involved physically, if not romantically, which results in some expected drama, and as this plays out we learn a lot more about Chiana's background, her family and how she wound up joining the resistance.
In the latter half of the season, Crichton is kidnapped by Scarren fighters who know the connection between he and Scorpius, while a mystic named Stark (Paul Goddard) finds out some important information about D'Argo's son, Jothee (Matthew Newton), who has spent time amongst Banik slaves. As the crew race to save Crichton, Scorpius catches up with them and ups his game against them and perfectly willing to kill anyone who might get in his way.
The complete run of episodes that makes up the second season of Farscape is laid out as follows:
Mind The Baby / Vitas Mortis / Taking The Stone / Crackers Don't Matter / The Way We Weren't / Picture If You Won't / Home On The Remains / Dream A Little Dream / Out Of Their Minds / My Three Crichtons / Look At The Princess Part One: A Kiss Is But A Kiss / Look At The Princess Part Two: I Do, I Think / Look At The Princess Part Three: The Maltese Crichton / Beware Of Dog / Won't Get Fooled Again / The Locket / The Ugly Truth / A Clockwork Nebari / Liars Guns And Money Part One: A Not So Simple Plan / Liars Guns And Money Part Two: With Friends Like These / Liars Guns And Money Part Three: Plan B / Die Me, Dichotomy
How does Farscape hold up fifteen years later? Quite well, actually. Ben Browder makes for a fun leading man, he's got the charisma and enthusiasm to pull it off and his back and forth with the lovely Claudia Brown, also very good in her role, is enjoyable to watch. As their relationship, and others in the series, evolve there's more depth to things and the characters start to mean more to us. There's interesting personalities throughout the series and the cast of regulars in the show all do fine work on the series.
The effects and specifically the creature design (handled by the good people at the Jim Henson workshop) also holds up well. There's a lot of creative work on display here, great use of color and interesting alien beings on display throughout the run of the show. There's also a lot of attention to detail evident throughout that makes this a visual treat. Most of the episodes are well paced and there's frequently some decent humor throughout the show as well. Farscape wasn't afraid to go into strange territory, one of the traits that helped make the show stand out, as it sometimes switches back and forth between Crichton's conscious and subconscious realities. This gives the show a somewhat surreal feeling at times, one that works well in its favor. It's easy to see why the series developed its cult following, it's a solid mix of drama, action and adventure all wrapped up in some interesting space opera trappings.The Blu-ray
Farscape arrives on Blu-ray framed at 1.33.1 fullframe in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. As the story goes, the 35mm film elements on which the series was originally shot have been lost and the best remaining source material are PAL master tapes. These tapes were upconverted and used for the previous Blu-ray release and appear to have been used for this 15th Anniversary edition as well. As such, detail can't and doesn't compete with true HD quality, but it looks better than DVD. Some of the blacks show some crush and some murky black levels but colors are generally reproduced quite well here. There's a bit of noise here and there that's hard not to miss but generally the picture is pretty clean. This isn't going to blow anyone away but until those original 35mm elements show up, this is likely as good as it's going to get for the series.Sound:
Each episode gets the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio treatment and thankfully, the set scores very high marks here. Not surprisingly most of the dialogue comes out of the front left, right and center channels, rarely from the rears, but that back part of your surround system isn't going to be left wanting. Effects and music use all channels in the mix and quite frequently at that, with plenty of directional action coming at you from all angles throughout the duration of any given episode. The audio here is quite aggressive and involved, but the levels remain properly balanced throughout. Dialogue is crisp and clear and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion. Farscape sounds great on Blu-ray. Optional English closed captioning is provided.Extras:
The extras in the set start off with five audio commentaries for the following episodes: Crackers Don't Matter (with Claudia Black and Ian Watson), The Way We Weren't (with Claudia Black and Ben Browder), Won't Get Fooled Again (with Rowan Woods and Richard Manning), The Locket (with Claudia Black and Ben Browder) and Die Me, Dichotomy (with Claudia Black, Ben Browder and David Kemper). These track are pretty solid primers in the history of their respective episodes and they cover not only what we see happening in front of the camera, scene specific style, but they also tend to go into the nitty-gritty in regards to the behind the scenes goings on and some of the challenges and obstacles that the cast and crew ran into while working on the show.
We also get deleted scenes for the following episodes: Mind The Baby, Taking The Stone, Crackers Don't Matter, Dream A Little Dream, Look At The Princess Part One: A Kiss Is But A Kiss, Look At The Princess Part Three: The Maltese Crichton, The Locket and Liars, Guns And Money Part Two: With Friends Like These. There's roughly fifteen minutes worth of material included here, most of which isn't terribly important but all of which is nice to see and a welcome addition to the set. Complimenting these are the Farscape In The Raw: Directors Cut Scenes that are included for the following eight episodes: Re:Union, Mind The Baby, Vitas Mortis and Taking The Stone. There's about thirty five minutes' worth of material here, all sourced from some rather rough looking VHS sources with time code on it. Interesting to see though, some of this material fleshes out some of the episodes' plot lines rather well.
Up next, we get Listening In With composer Guy Gross featurettes for the following four episodes: The Way We Weren't, My Three Crichtons, The Locket and Die Me, Dichotomy. These run between nine and eleven minutes each and they're pretty interesting. They give us some insight into how Gross went about creating the music for each episode and sometimes specifically for each set piece. We learn how the show's modest budget sometimes lead to the need to be resourceful in terms of the series' instrumentation and what he was going for with his work on the show.
From there we move onto a few different featurettes, starting with two Behind-The-Scenes interviews, the first of which is with Wayne Pygram and runs just over twenty-two minutes and the second of which is with David Franklin and runs seventeen minutes. Also included is the Farscape Undressed: Behind-the-Scenes Special runs just over forty-four minutes in length and which is hosted by Ben Browder. It's basically a primer that covers what happened in the series up to the start of the third episode and is a decent way to get up to speed and learn about the history of the show at the same time.
Moving right along, we also get the Re:Union: Original Season Two Premiere episode, which is an interesting alternate version of the season's inaugural opener. Finally, a seven minute Blooper Reel is included, as are animated menus and chapter selection for each episode.Final Thoughts:
The fifteenth anniversary re-issue of Farscape: The Complete Second Season is a good one, though it has to be said that the complete series releases that came out a few months back (and at a very fair price) is the better deal and the better way to experience the show. But yeah, if you don't want to shell out that much all at once or have an aversion to the later series, this is it. The episodes look… okay, it seems to be case of doing the best with what you've got in terms of the transfers. The audio, however, is excellent and the set is loaded with extras. This is a fun show, one well worth revisiting and this five disc set comes recommended.