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Farscape: Season 1 Collection 1 - Starburst Edition

ADV Films // Unrated // September 28, 2004
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted January 2, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The movie

I started watching Farscape at the beginning of Season 4 (and got thoroughly hooked), so it's an great experience to now be able to journey back to the beginning and start watching Farscape from the very first episode onward. One thing is clear: it's going to be a fun ride!

In case you've never had the pleasure of coming across Farscape before, it's a science fiction series that dares to do a lot more with its premise than your garden-variety sci-fi show. The Farscape universe is a dark and dangerous one; it's full of aliens who are genuinely alien (not just humans with funny foreheads) and there are large-scale conflicts going on that can squash the unwary space traveler like a bug. Astronaut John Crichton had no idea what was in store for him when a freak wormhole grabs him during an experimental shuttle flight, tossing him far across the galaxy into the middle of a whole lot of trouble. He's taken on board Moya, a living spaceship, and grudgingly accepted by its "crew" of escaped prisoners. It's a good thing, since Crichton has nowhere else to go, and besides that, he's now number one on the hit list of a Peacekeeper general.

Since Farscape has already been released on DVD once, the question you might be asking is, "What is this Starburst Edition?" Basically, it's a good idea: the way the Farscape DVDs should have been released in the first place. (But hey, better late than never!) It's a slim two-DVD set that contains the show's first seven episodes, plus a pile of special features... which means it's both a whole lot more affordable and a whole lot more convenient to store than the first method of release, which consisted of eleven (yes, eleven!) sets containing just two episodes each.

The seven episodes presented here amount to about the first third of Season 1. Like most television shows, Farscape is a little shaky on its legs right here in the beginning, but it really doesn't take long at all for the series to demonstrate the kind of solid storytelling that it can (and will) deliver.

"Premiere" sets the stage for the action to come, getting Crichton into the middle of the story and starting the ball rolling for later plot developments. One of the benefits of having some perspective on Farscape is knowing that it doesn't stick with the more typical "episode of the week" style of storytelling; even when an episode seems fairly self-contained, it may very well have implications further on down the line.

"I, E.T." and "Exodus from Genesis" are passable but certainly qualify as the weakest episodes on this set. In "I, E.T." Crichton finds himself in the position of an alien making first contact when Moya crash-lands on a planet that (like Earth) has no idea who else is out there. "Exodus from Genesis" features a horde of giant space cockroaches infesting the ship; fortunately, it's a better story than that capsule summary would imply, but it's still more like a weak episode of Star Trek than a good Farscape story.

"Throne for a Loss" gets things back on track, telling a very entertaining and well-crafted story in which Rygel gets the ship into a whole lot of trouble by presenting himself as the genuine (rather than deposed) Dominar in order to impress some traders... who happen to make most of their profits by kidnapping important travelers. Oops. "Back and Back and Back to the Future" doesn't have much punch in the opening part of the episode, but it soon develops into a very interesting alternate-reality story, as Crichton discovers that an accident has dislocated him in time, so he's experiencing jumps into the future where he can see that events on Moya are about to spiral out of control.

"Thank God It's Friday... Again" is another excellent story involving a planet whose inhabitants are bizarrely happy all the time... and seem to have brainwashed D'Argo into joining them. (Interestingly, this episode features some scenes and characters who are weirdly reminiscent of The Matrix and its sequels; given the release dates, there's no way Farscape could have been influenced by even the first Matrix film, so we're looking at the show being oddly prescient.) Along with an interesting and well-developed story, we get a generous helping of character development, which is handled in the best way possible: it's integrated into the story as an essential part. And, unlike many other television shows, any character development that we see in one episode really will carry over into the rest of the season. For instance, the events of the final episode on this set, "PK Tech Girl," are shaped by the experiences Aeryn Sun has had as an exiled Peacekeeper.

No matter which episode we're looking at, Farscape demonstrates that it's highly ambitious when it comes to imagining a richly detailed, deeply developed story world. Not only do the characters feel both real and genuinely alien, they also have a sense of context within the Farscape universe. For instance, D'Argo is more than just the "alien warrior character" on Moya; he's a Luxan, and as we learn, that has a lot of significance. The character of John Crichton works well here because he's more than just "token human on board the alien ship": he truly is out of his league, in a strange place, scared and often frustrated, and the writers do a good job of showing that, as well as developing his relationships with his fellow renegades slowly and consistently.


Farscape Starburst Edition: Season 1 Collection 1 is a two-disc set in a slim single-wide case. Each DVD is double-sided.


Farscape appears here in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The image quality is quite good overall, with colors looking natural and contrast handled well, even in darker scenes. The image does tend to be a bit on the soft side, with not as much clarity of detail in longer-distance shots as I'd ideally like to see, but overall it's certainly a satisfactory transfer.


The Dolby 5.1 surround soundtrack is very nicely done here, with dialogue always sounding clear and crisp and the music playing just at the right levels. The surround channels are used quite well, with some very effective effects making for an immersive viewing experience. The only small problem I ran into was in "PK Tech Girl"; in this episode, the dialogue was slightly out of synch with the image, although it may have been a problem with my DVD player. At any rate, it didn't happen with any other episodes, and it's a fairly minor issue.


Farscape fans will be pleased with the handling of the bonus material for the Starburst Edition. While I don't have the single-disc releases on hand to confirm, it looks like all the special features from those DVDs is included, plus some additional material (most notably a new 38-minute documentary). Some special features are included on each side of each disc, with the bulk of them appearing on Disc 2 Side B.

First of all, we get a commentary track for each episode on the set except for "PK Tech Girl," which is especially appreciated for a show like Farscape, which has so many things that can be discussed. "Premiere" features producers Rockne S. O'Bannon and Brian Henson, along with actor Ben Browder; "I, E.T." has actors Anthony Simcoe and Claudia Black; "Exodus from Genesis" features Brian Henson and actor Virginia Hey; "Throne for a Loss" has actors Ben Browder and Claudia Black; "Back and Back and Back to the Future" has Ben Browder and Rowan Woods; "Thank God It's Friday... Again" features Anthony Simcoe and Rockne S. O'Bannon. According to the insert card, "PK Tech Girl" is supposed to have a commentary track, but unfortunately it's not there.

Appearing on Disc 1 Side A, Disc 1 Side B, and Disc 2 Side A are various text-based features. "Cool Farscape Facts" is fairly self-explanatory, providing genuinely interesting facts about the show, while "Farscape Chronicles" goes into more detail on the making of specific episodes. "Alien Encounters" is the least interesting of the lot, as it's just text information about particular alien species (including both the main cast and secondary characters) with an associated clip from an episode.

Disc 2 Side B has the remaining special features. Of most note is "In the Beginning: A Look Back with Brian Henson." This 38-minute documentary, made in the summer of 2004 and thus unique to the Starburst Edition, offers a very interesting look back at the origins of Farscape and is definitely worth watching. Another making-of documentary is also included, "The Making of a Space Opera" (22 minutes). This is also fairly interesting, though it has slightly more of a promotional feel to it.

Two interview segments are presented here, a 10-minute "video profile" of Ben Browder and a 9-minute profile of Claudia Black. They're almost entirely of the "I play a character who..." style and so don't offer much of substance. "From the Archives: Early Make-Up Tests" runs 12 minutes and, since it doesn't have any voiceover commentary, is a little dull, but some judicious fast-forwarding does let you see some intriguing alternate possibilities for the main characters' make-up.

A set of image galleries runs a little over half an hour, with art designs and promotional photos for ships, characters, props, logos, and so on. We also get a general Farscape trailer and a set of ADV previews.

Final thoughts

Farscape is certainly one of the most imaginative and lavishly produced science fiction television series ever, and with its excellent storytelling it becomes a must-have for any science fiction fan worthy of the name. The Starburst Edition repackages the episodes into a more compact form, so that this Season 1 Collection 1 volume has the first seven episodes of the show's first season; for viewers who own some or all of the single-disc releases of Season 1, it may be worth double-dipping just for the far more convenient packaging (and the extra documentary). For viewers who haven't yet experienced Farscape, this is the perfect moment to start. Highly recommended.

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Highly Recommended

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