View Full Version : 'Farscape' Returns to a Galaxy Far, Far Away

10-13-2004, 12:55 PM

'Farscape' Returns to a Galaxy Far, Far Away
By Kate O'Hare

"We made this thing called ... hang on," executive producer and writer David Kemper says. "I always get it wrong. 'Fire Escape'? It stars Benji something."

In case you can't guess from Kemper's attitude, the mood is pretty easygoing among the cast and crew of "Farscape" (he was close), the outer-space saga that was supposed to be dead, except, not so much.

Picking up where the series left off at the end of its fourth and last regular season, the miniseries "Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars" airs Sunday and Monday, Oct. 17-18, on Sci Fi Channel. The four-hour tale resolves the show's cliffhanger finale, and opens new doors to the future.

No discussion of "Farscape" -- its creation, plot, demise or resurrection -- is ever brief or simple. But, as succinctly as possible, it's the story of a U.S. astronaut, John Crichton (Ben Browder), who's out in his space orbiter one day when he's sucked through a wormhole into a distant galaxy. There, he meets a group of escaped alien prisoners traveling aboard a living ship. Several seasons of hair-raising adventure, hairbreadth escapes and general lunacy ensue.

The Australian-shot co-production of Hallmark and The Jim Henson Company (whose Henson Creature Shop provides extraordinary creature and puppet effects) premiered in March 1999 on Sci Fi Channel, was renewed for two years in its third season, but was then canceled after only one more year, causing a fan uproar of epic proportions.

The series had wound up in the middle of a corporate financial mess involving Henson's German owners, EM.TV, resulting in Henson chief (and "Farscape" executive producer) Brian Henson and his siblings buying back the company founded by their late father, Muppet creator Jim Henson.

"Farscape" was then resurrected as a miniseries that went into production before a U.S. broadcaster was locked down. Kemper and series creator Rockne O'Bannon wrote it, and Brian Henson directed.

"Brian Henson has some large cojones," Kemper says. "Brian had a vision. He's an executive producer and a creative person. Because it's a family-owned company, Brian just said, 'Here's the money, just go do it.'

"Rock and I were sitting in my living room, scared s***less. We had Ben over; we had Brian over; we had [director/producer] Andrew Prowse on the phone. 'Come on guys, we have to write this thing in six weeks.' It's impossible."

"Farscape" has inspired a small army of extremely devoted fans for its complex, character-driven story, broad humor, rollicking adventure, and some of the most dazzling aliens ever seen on the large or small screen.

"'Farscape' is a story about family," Browder says. "It's a story about creating life in a harsh environment. That's what a lot of people relate to in the story."

Although some fans unleashed their ire on Sci Fi Channel after the show's cancellation (to the point of shutting down the cablenet's e-mail system), Kemper says there was never any question where the miniseries would eventually air.

"There was nothing to kiss and make up over," Kemper says. "That's a popular misconception. It's now continuing on Sci Fi, and you don't know that there won't even be more 'Farscapes.'"

The series ended with a scene in which Crichton finally proposed marriage to pregnant lover Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), a humanoid Sebacean warrior, while the two were sitting in a boat. Then they were blasted to smithereens.

Of course, they must be somehow resurrected for the story to continue. Without going into specifics, it does involve a lot of regurgitating by their frog-like pal (and full-on puppet character) Rygel.

Anyway, once that's all done, Crichton and Aeryn try to get married and have their baby. But the entire galaxy seems to be set against them, especially since both sides in an ongoing war believe Crichton's brain contains strategically valuable wormhole knowledge.

That's about as much backstory as the miniseries has time for (for more, there are plenty of Web sites with detailed episode synopses from earlier seasons), but Kemper's not worried. "What we've found is people who like our show generally tend to be smart. Let people catch up."

After finishing the first draft, Kemper headed to Australia for the first cast read-through, with O'Bannon weighing in on speaker phone. "When you get the DVD," Kemper says, "you will see me putting my head in my hands at the end. Literally, I'm up for 12 days, finishing the script. Then I'm in this table read for five hours; then there's a four-hour meeting afterward. The associate producer said, 'Let me drive you home.' They were afraid I'd drive off the Sydney Harbor Bridge."

Despite this inauspicious beginning, the script was wrestled into shape and production began. Among those joining Browder and Black are Anthony Simcoe as tentacled D'Argo, Gigi Edgley as Chiana, and Wayne Pygram as evil Scorpius, who's still after Crichton's hidden knowledge.

"We were rebuilding sets as we went," Browder says. "They had to take Anthony Simcoe out of a closet and screw his arms and legs back on. They had to basically put Humpty-Dumpty together again. It was chaos from beginning to end, but then, the series was always chaos from beginning to end.

"There was a great moment ... I put the costume back on, strapped the sidearm back on, got on set, put Winona in the holster, and I knew, 'Yeah, I'm back at work.' Good old Winona. You know, that's the kind of small stuff I love. I love that John's gun is named Winona."

10-13-2004, 02:40 PM
scaper here cannot wait

10-13-2004, 04:54 PM
i cannot fucking wait to see this

it still amazes me that trash like star trek voyager and buffy run for so long and an excellent series like Farscape gets canned after only 4 years

Mr. Wolf
10-22-2004, 10:12 AM
I saw it the other night...

10/10 STARS

This miniseries was better than an entire season of Stargate...

They should bring it back...