Monday, June 18, 2012

Back And Back And Back To The Future

This episode is a classic Season One mixed bag - some great ideas and some terrible execution.  On the plus side, we have John's "time-flashes".  Getting a glimpse of your (possible) future is a classic sci-fi trope and it works well here.  The episode doesn't play fair though - at first the time flashes have a visual effect associated with them, so we know that John is having them.  Eventually when they start getting longer and more elaborate, there is no transition.  It just seems like normal action up until the point where the timeline gets hopeless, then, boom, we're back before it all happened.  It doesn't matter though, this part of the story works, and is quite entertaining.

On the negative side, we have the guest actors.  Matalla is terrible, with the sort of mannered affectation that has ruined a lot of the alien guest stars so far.  Unfortunately she's a rather large part of the episode.

I am a sucker for time-travel shenanigans though, and this episode has them in spades.  It's worth watching for that aspect of the plot alone.

Thank God It's Friday Again

Around this point I started to question whether my rewatch project was worth it.  Maybe I could just skip episodes like this and get on with the good stuff?  But no, I stuck with it.  Learn from my mistakes people - read this and skip watching the episode itself.

Zhann and D'Argo are on a new planet, acting all giddy and going to raves.  Are they under mind control?  Duh.  Will Aeryn become a scientist and discover the cure?  Who cares.  The main thought I had watching this episode was "sloooooooooooooow".  The pace is positively glacial.  The guest acting is terrible.  The albino lady acts like the dwarf from Twin Peaks, trying hard to be alien, struggling to speak, as if English is a weird and unfamiliar language.  It's a nice try, but it just doesn't work.  All it does is make a slow story even slower.

At about the halfway point I was so bored I started to notice things like the fact that the door hinges are decisively Earth-like. Apparently they have Home Depot in the Uncharted Territories.

The episode wraps up with Rygel saving the day through explosive urine.  That's not a bad description of this episode actually.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Throne For A Loss

Rygel is captured by the Tavleks, a race of warrior/mercenaries, who want to ransom him off.  The crew try to rescue him.

There is so much going in this episode that seems like it was inserted purely to say "this is not Star Trek".  It's kind of painful, because it doesn't always work.  Foremost is John and Aeryn's big argument before they go down to the planet.  Yes, we get it, they don't always see eye-to-eye on things.  There's a difference between distrust and dislike, though, and I feel like they didn't always nail the balance.  The conflict feels forced.

Once again the pacing is a bit off.  Not a lot happens.

The Tavloid/Tavlek joke is only funny once.  Actually, maybe not even that much.

The young Tavlek/Zhann plot on the ship is interesting, and not just for Virginia Hey's very, um, interesting backside.  Zhann says she's not going to try to proselytize, she'll just treat him decently and with respect.  It doesn't work out for her, and she doesn't seem terribly disappointed at the end.  Again, it's not the way Trek would have handled it, but different doesn't necessarily equal better.

Down on the planet, Rygel is thrown into a cell.  His neighbor in captivity is Jotheb, ruler of the Consortium Of Trao.  This is, perhaps surprisingly, one of the best parts of this episode.  Despite the fact that it's just two puppets talking to each other, what they talk about is quite interesting.  Their general respect for each other as rulers of great empires is fun and refreshing.

Last minute random thoughts: The lead Tavlek looks awesome with his battle-scarred metal helmet.  How does he see?

Jargon watch: still using "minutes" not microns or microts or microdots or whatever the hell it is.

Exodus From Genesis

Ah, that's better.  Much better.  Although the plot is pure recycled Star Trek (alien invades ship, attacks crew, communication is established whereupon it turns out to be a big misunderstanding, everybody lives happily ever after) it's almost a good thing in this case. It gives us a chance to get into the personalities and interpersonal relationships of the main characters without having to pay too much attention to the plot.

And what personalities!  John is not your typical action hero, instead jumping up on the table and squealing like a 60's sitcom housewife when he sees the first bug.  Aeryn begs for death instead of becoming a Sebacean heat-stroke zombie. Rygel walks into the disgusting gloopy egg tube of a giant alien queen in order to hold diplomatic negotiations.  The only characters who get short shrift are Zhann, who remains the peaceful "all life is sacred" scientist, and D'Argo, who wants to shoot first and ask questions later.

I will say again that I think the 50 minute format doesn't do the show any favors. Although this is a much better paced episode than the last one, it's still too long. The plot with the bugs is resolved around the 40 minute mark, so they bring in a bunch of Peacekeepers to keep the wheels spinning for another 10.

Interestingly, the Peacekeepers have weird eye makeup and tattoos - traits that Aeryn doesn't have, and that don't show up again on any other Peacekeepers in the rest of the series.

You can tell that the show is still finding its feet, but at least it's heading in the right direction now.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I, E.T.

Farscape was never the runaway smash hit its creators hoped it would be.  Perhaps part of the blame for that lies in the uneven tone of the first series.  It's standard practice for TV shows to take a little time to find their footing, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating to watch.  All the goodwill engendered by the tense and efficient premiere episode is frittered away by this lifeless second outing.

The crew discover that a Peacekeeper beacon wired into Moya is broadcasting their location far and wide. Their quest to disable the beacon leads them to a backwater planet where the inhabitants look vaguely like 1940's/1950's Earth farmers, but with alien prosthetic makeup because, well, they're aliens.

The script tries to draw some parallels between the alien mother and her son, who discovers Crichton hiding in their barn, and Crichton's own situation (they are both new to alien encounters), but beyond remarking on the superficial similarity, it doesn't really go anywhere with it.

The story also unwisely splits up the Moya crew.  At this point, we don't really know them that well, so taking some time to see how they interact would probably be a good idea, but instead they are all shunted off into separate subplots that don't really amount to a whole heck of a lot.  D'Argo gets captured, then fairly quickly freed.  Zan and Rygel attempt to disconnect the Peacekeeper device from Moya.

All in all, a most unsatisfying and rather listless episode.

Jargon watch: "What in hezmana is going on?"  Interestingly, Aeryn has the line: "I'm new to all this escaped prisoner crap".  No "dren" yet!

Friday, May 25, 2012


Efficient.  That's the word that springs to mind on rewatching this.  All the major characters are introduced, the world is set in motion, motivations are explained, jargon is deployed, all within 50 minutes.  We learn everything we need to know about John Crichton in 7 minutes.  He's living in the shadow of his father.  In a neat bit of foreshadowing, his father tells him "everybody is their own kind of hero."

8 minutes in, Crichton Jr encounters the fateful wormhole and the show is off to the races.

One thing that stands up even now is the sense of disorientation/dislocation.  The wormhole graphics look great, and the sound design and camera work contribute greatly.  Emerging from the wormhole, John is dazed and confused.  He's quickly snared by a giant ship.  I was hoping for some sort of Star Wars tractor beam reference, but those sorts of lines are not being used much yet.  The closest we get is John's musing later on that "Spielberg got it all wrong".

We meet Zan and D'argo first.  It's a nice progression.  They are humanoid but clearly alien.  Next, we meet Rygel, who is the first of the puppets, and although the initial impression is that he's clearly sharing some DNA with Kermit The Frog, the voice acting by Jonathan Hardy really sets him apart.  It's a testament to the skill of the production team that we quickly accept him as a serious character.  We also find out that despite not looking like much, he was instrumental in the escape plan.

Crais is a fascinating villain.  His motivation seems sound from his point of view, but he's obviously going to be Ahab and Crichton will be his whale.

Random thought: Crichton is awfully buff and sunburnt for a scientist.  You'd expect that sort of rocket scientist to be scrawny and pasty.

Although the story at this point is looking like it's cobbled together out of familiar pieces, the production design is so striking that it doesn't really matter.

One thing I want to mention is the music.  Obviously the title music is striking with the tribal drums, wild grunting and crazy melismatic female vocalizations, but the incidental cues are great as well.  Countless hours of televised Star Trek had led us to expect fairly dull aural wallpaper, but there are some striking touches with ethnic percussion, guitars, and general weird synth noises.

Despite the show's reputation for exotic (and sometimes silly) futuristic slang, terms like "frell" are nowhere to be found.  The only one I noticed was "metra".

So, after 50 minutes, we've got a crew of misfits who don't really like each other but are forced to work for a common cause, a ship, and a mission.  Nothing groundbreaking really but done with a great sense of pacing and style.  I can't wait to see where we're going next.


Another Farscape blog?  Really?  What is this, the 90's again?  Well, to be fair, Farscape first aired when blogging wasn't really a thing.  In fact, compared to the amount of Internet attention a modern SF show garners, Farscape got notoriously short shrift.  One can only imagine the tumblrs and twitters that would have sprung up around it, if only those services had existed.

I watched the entire show during its original run but have not revisited it since then.  I was curious to know if it stood the test of time.  I certainly have memories of it being pretty good, and doing some new and exciting things.  We'll see if the memory cheats.

The show was reissued on BluRay in the last few years.  Although it's not a true HD show (it was edited on SD video, and the CGI FX were only ever rendered at SD resolution), it still looks and sounds decent enough.  Armed with this box set, I am going to rewatch every episode in order and offer my thoughts.  I hope you'll stick around for the journey.