I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and it’s given me a chance to start tackling the Farscape Megaset that arrived back in November. I’d caught assorted episodes during its run from 1999 through 2003, but watching sequentially has given me a deeper appreciation for a show I’d mostly sloughed off as overly dramatic and full of muppets.
The series, if you had better things to do during the turn of the Millennium than tune into the SciFi channel, followed an American astronaut, John Crichton (Ben Browder), who fell through a worm-hole during a scientific flight, and landed on the other side of the galaxy, the Uncharted Territories. He quickly finds his lot cast with a handful of escaped prisoners.
The premise is as old as science fiction itself—an earthling far from home, trying to get back to our little, blue planet. But all good sci-fi must imagine some new wonder out in the cosmos. For Farscape it’s the Leviathan, a living ship, biomechanical, in symbiosis with a neurologically connected pilot and fulfilled by a crew. She can get emotional, especially when a little baby ship is growing inside.
Chrichton is a good ‘ol fashioned hero, but his shipmates all have their shortcomings. Ka D’Argo (Anthony Simcoe) is a surly warrior, the Uncharted Territory’s version of a Klingon. Officer Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black) is a soldier betrayed by her superior. Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan (Virginia Hey) gives the series its token spiritual element as she controls her inner rage through religious practice. Chiana (Gigi Edgley) is the rebellious thief who’s escaped her people’s habit of reprogramming non-comformity. And Dominar Rygel XVI (Jonathan Hardy) is a deposed sovereign, spoiled by a life of wealth and power and modeled after Kermit’s toady cousin. It takes a while for any of them to trust each other, but Chrichton serves as the naive glue to an unlikely alliance.
Chrichton is also our window into the strangeness of Rockne S. O’Bannon’s and The Henson Company’s vision of distant worlds. He amuses himself with cultural references that only we’re in on, processing new discoveries through our shared modern lens. This isn’t a vision of the future but of a concurrent present just as fantastical. His Odyssean tale is enough of a familiar peg for us to relate to as we’re constantly reminded that his inter-stellar search is for the place we still call home. And even if those comments are now a decade old, Farscape has aged much better than I’d have guessed.
Josh Jackson is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Paste magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @joshjackson