Created by Rockne S. O’Bannon
March 1999 to March 2003
Sci-Fi (now SyFy) Channel
This was an amazing series. There was nothing like it before and there has been nothing like it since. In this show all the characters from the puppets to the living spaceships where much of the action took place were well-rounded. They had logical reactions to the situations in which they were placed and were not two-dimensional plot device characters. They were very human for lack of a better word. They were human characters with funny make up and were presented in such a way that you didn’t notice the makeup. This is a credit to the acting and the directing as well as the scripts of the series.
The women were strong and empowered. They were portrayed as equals of the male characters. In the course of the series it was very rare that any of the female characters needed rescuing by the men. During the course of 80+ episodes I think it only occurred maybe three times at most. More often it was one of the male characters that needed saving by the group.
This show was a space opera epic. I am not sure of too many shows that were blatantly space opera in nature. Some have had space opera aspects to them, but this was straight undiluted. It was closer to Star Wars than Star Trek. But it also had a seriously dramatic edge. Characters died. Characters survived but at the cost of one or several lives. Decisions were never easy and the results of making them could have serious and lasting consequences.
Their plans never went as planned. These weren’t mildly inconvenient hiccups but rather seriously threatening issues that would occur. The character’s lives were often put in serious jeopardy. And not only that but people often died. Lives were lost and not just those of the bad guys. Often friends and allies would perish in order for the crew to live another day. From season one this became a common plot element in the show. The show often became dark even though the creatures were fanciful in appearance, and it relied on amazing puppetry to create some of the characters.
Choices were never easy for the characters. There were always serious consequences. And while the characters had their own desires and motivations, these desires and motivations and the actions that resulted from them were never thrown in the story just to make things difficult. They were an organic outgrowth of the character.
They were flawed and dare I say very human characters. You did not think of Rygel (voice of of Jonathan Hardy) or Chiana (Gigi Edgley) or any of the other aliens as aliens but rather as people. You think of Worf from Star Trek as a Klingon first but with Farscape you think of the aliens differently. They were much more well-rounded than the two-dimensional plot devices aliens often are in science fiction.
John Crichton (Ben Browder) started out as what you would imagine just about any science-fiction nerd would. He was living a dream. He was living in a science-fiction movie but as the series went on that novelty became a reality and he realized this fun adventure had serious consequences as he had to start struggling to stay alive and even take a life to live. By the end of the first season he was a lot less buoyant and more serious. The people he had been forced to live with had become his friends even if they did not quite view him as a friend. He was a character that tried to do the right thing. He was not so much a hero as just someone trying to do the right thing and stay alive.
The character of John Crichton was not your traditional hero. I dare say he wasn’t even a hero at all. He was just an individual trying to survive and do the best he could. He started out innocent. He was all full of wonder and wide-eyed excitement at living a dream of being in a science-fiction universe. But as the series progressed and he had more and more blood on his hands he became weary of his role. He was not out trying to right wrongs. He was either trying to get home or just trying to have some peace in his life and no matter what he did or what decisions he made they were always wrong, and they always dug him in deeper.
And then there was the love of his life Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black). I think it was obvious from the start that she was supposed to be some type of romantic interest for John. Their romance was the most unusual and the most genuine on television. The actors played well off each other and had amazing onscreen chemistry. The chemistry was so good that the highs and the lows and everything else that they showed up on the screen hit you emotionally.
But Aeryn was more than the girlfriend of the main character. She was a well-rounded individual with what are the more striking character arcs in the series. The Peacekeepers were basically space fascists with serious racial biases and that is how she started out as. She thought she was superior to her crewmates but as the series went on, she saw them as capable individuals and even at times her equals.
Aeryn was also one of the more badass action heroines I have ever seen. She would go in and kick ass and look cool doing it. Why she isn’t included with the likes of Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor should be an unforgivable sin.
She came from a cold and unfeeling environment and was raised to be to see that emotional attachments were harmful, but she formed emotional attachments to those on the Moya. Zhaan (Virgina Hey) taught her empathy and then she grew close to Pilot but the one she grew closest to was John. His patience and attention and caring broke down her walls and I know this is cliché to say but she learned how to truly love because of him.
One of the interesting things about that show is it had up and coming Australian actors. Ben Mendelsohn and Jason Clarke for example appeared in minor roles in heavy character make up. Others such as Bruce Spence and Hugh Keays-Byrne who are known quantities appeared as well. I am sure there were others but those are the ones I can recall off the top of my head.
The people and the relationships in the show were complex and real. You felt their highs and lows. This was an exciting series that for some reason people discount because of the puppetry. It’s in my opinion like Star Wars but on a weekly basis. If you haven’t seen this show, then you should. It’s a fun and exciting series with great characters and amazing stories.