Farscape was a rare gem in the realm of television. Innovative, bold, striking, heartbreaking – the use of Jim Henson’s creature creations assured fans they weren’t sure what they would tune into each week.
The show had an identity crisis in the first few episodes of season one. Was it serious sci-fi or was it going to make fun of itself – especially since two of the main six characters were puppets.
Basically, Farscape was about a boy, John Crichton, trying to find himself and his place in the world having always lived under the shadow of his famous astronaut father. This boy, thanks to a wormhole during an experiment of his ship Farscape1, gets flung to another universe and winds up on a living ship named Moya with three escaping prisoners: D’Ago, Zhaan and Rygel, who is one of the two main characters who is a puppet. The other puppet is Moya’s pilot, named Pilot, a massive puppet held stationary behind his command station.
This boy John is amidst strange creatures unsure how he got there and why. Not only are the escaping prisoners being pursued by a Peacekeeper Captain, Bilar Crais – who looks very human, he is also after John as well- it seems that when John entered the new universe his ship crashed with another ship killing its occupant – which so happens to be Crais’ brother.
Alone in this distant universe only able to understand these strange creatures because he was injected with translator microbes courtesy of worker droids named DRDs, this boy John meets his destiny in the cell the escaping prisoners put him in. This boy meets a girl, well it is really THE GIRL. She is a Peacekeeper pilot sucked into the starburst stream when Moya starburst away from Crais’ pursuit.
Aeryn Sun is a soldier, she follows orders without question. She was born a Peacekeeper and that is all she knows. Bred to serve, Aeryn doesn’t know what to think of this strange creature John Crichton. When Crais catches up with all of them he deems Aeryn irreversible contaminated for her prolonged contact with this strange human, John. She is sentenced to death.
Hand-cuffed after being captured, John overtakes the guards and he and Dargo look to escape. Aeryn claims she can’t go with them because being a soldier is all she is. John delivers one of the classic lines of the series. He tells Aeryn, “You can be more.”
So, we have five individuals from different backgrounds, all with an agenda. They all want to go home – save Aeryn who doesn’t have a home.
Late in season one a young thief named Chiana is introduced. She becomes like a little sister to John and becomes a love interest, in ensuing seasons for Dargo.
The first season was all about escaping Crias, going deep into the Uncharted Territories to escape Crais and finding the strange planets and creatures that live there.
Every good show has a turning point. It is like a light switch that turns on. A defining moment that fans can go back and say if this hadn’t occurred, the show would be totally different. That moment for Farscape was the 19th and 20th episodes named “Nerve” and “Hidden Memory,” a two-parter centered around Aeryn’s impending death. The previous episode Aeryn was stabbed and in “Nerve” fans learn Aeryn has severed her peripheral nerve – and if she doesn’t get a graph of a new one she will die.
While infiltrating a Peacekeeper base, with John dressed as a Peacekeeper, so John can get the graph Aeryn needs he meets the villain that will define the series. John is captured by Scropius, a Peacekeeper hybrid who learns of John’s wormhole knowledge and chases him across the universe for that knowledge. Even after John escapes Scropius’ clutches he isn’t free because Scorpius has implanted a neural clone that John dubs Harvey that gives the audience a peek inside John’s mind.
And that is where Farscape makes a turn from a weekly tromp of fun scifi to something dark and brilliant. John’s life was changed forever when he went to that PK base to save Aeryn’s life. He acquired a new nemesis, got a neural chip in his brain that would slowly drive him crazy, and he realized Aeryn Sun was the love of his life.
From season two on John Crichton was not the white hat wearing hero. From late season one on he discarded his IASA uniform and began wearing Peacekeeper leather. And there was character growth. Aeryn Sun learned more about compassion and humanity and John learned that his humanity might get him killed – he shed parts of his humanity and it seemed this duo would meet in the middle.
Through the 88 episodes of the show there was loss and newcomers and there was treachery and deceit. Moya gave birth to a gun ship named Talyn, yes the ship gave birth, and the crew split off with some staying on Moya while others went on Talyn.
There was a twinning of John Crichton and John even died – though it was one of the twinned Johns. It was never said if the John who died was the real John or the one left on Moya was – they were both John Crichton and they both loved Aeryn Sun. One John stayed on Moya while the other went on Talyn with Aeryn. The one on Talyn died in Aeryn’s arms. Most shows play out the will they won’t they with a push and pull of the male and female leads and then try a re-boot. But Farscape was always thinking outside the box. They re-booted the Aeryn and John relationship but having her come back to Moya after the fan named “Talyn John” died to see the man she loved alive and well.
But did she love the John Crichton she watched die on Tayln or did she love John Crichton – just John. It was a question fans labored with through the end of season three.
Angst is attempted in the shows being produced today. But there has never been this gut-wrenching, heart-pounding, hard to breath relationship between John and Aeryn. Audience members felt such pain for both it was sometimes pondered if one or the other should just leave and end the pain.
Farscape may have called itself an ensemble show but the heart of it was the romance between John and Aeryn. The biggest cliffhanger of the show is a toss up between Aeryn’s supposed death at the end of season three and the announcement that Aeryn was pregnant when she left Moya at the end of season three.
But the stab in the heart was the season four finale. Months before the then SciFi, now SyFy, pulled out of a promised season five after production of season four was completed. The Farscape producers decided to keep the season four ending. And what an ending it was. After finally finding their way back to each other, John proposed to Aeryn on a boat in the middle of the ocean. After she said yes, a mysterious ship comes out of the sky and blasts them into a million crystals.
As the fans hear D’Argo scream “NOOOO” the screen turns to black with the words “To Be Continued.”
Fan outcry and support culminated in a four hour mini-series called Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars which tied up loose ends. Was it perfect? No. Did it give closure? Definitely.
In the end, Farscape is a unique look at high-brow scifi, a space soap-opera done to perfection and a lasting testament to all involved.