So that was Season Three, for my money the best of the four, and with a run of episodes in the second half that is one of the strongest any sci-fi show has ever produced.
The series managed to raise both the narrative and the emotional stakes, and to intertwine the two in clever, thrilling and affecting ways. It’s easy to forget how much Farscape broke new ground for TV sci-fi, by showing that big production values and insane plotting do not and should not mitigate against heart, passion and knotty moral and emotional drama that we simply weren’t used to seeing a sci-fi show attempt back in 2002.
I loved Jool, although I know she didn’t connect with a lot of viewers. Tammy Macintosh’s comedy chops were a delight, especally in ‘Different Destinations,’ and by the end of the series I was deeply attached to her. It seems kind of unfair that Stark, a character who was handled far better this year than last, but who still kind of seemed to wander in and out of the show at random, was a title character whereas Jool wasn’t. I remember missing her terribly in Season Four, which may explain why I never warmed to Sikozu.
The darkness of the show increased, necessarily, following the death of Zhaan, and it was always the intention that this, as the middle chapter in the planned five-year saga, would be the Return of the Jedi segment of the story—the bit where all the characters hit rock bottom after two years of steady setbacks and decline. This gave the actors a chance to show what they could do, and Claudia Black in ‘The Choice’ and Ben Browder in ‘Lions Den’ really stepped up.
Some plotlines are kind of just… there. D’Argo seems a bit lost without the quest for his son to give him focus, and he seems to spend most of the season as a foil to other people’s storylines. I imagine the introduction of the D’Argomobile was intended to offset this, but it doesn’t really. The tentative relationship between him and Jool sort of fizzles out, as does Chiana’s psychic abilites, which also seem like a failed attempt to give an established character some new narrative drive; it just never seems to go anywhere.
This year belongs to John, Aeryn and, perhaps surprisingly Crais, whose ambiguous trek to redemption is very well handled by both writers and actor. Even Scorpius is better served than Chi and D’Argo this year, with the brilliant ‘Incubator’ being a series highlight. Rygel gets his moments in the sun, in ‘I-Yensch, You-Yensch’ and ‘Fractures,’ but he too suffers from the intense focus on John and Aeryn.
But it was the right thing to do, the story demanded it, and when what you get is this good it seems churlish to complain about the plotlones and characters that were under-served.
Favourite episode: Perhaps a little controversial, but ‘Scratch n Sniff,’ just because it’s one of those episodes that only Farscape could have pulled off. But really, it’s damned hard to pick a favourite in a season this good.
Best single moment: Scorpius, standing on the steps of the doomed Command Carrier, water cascading around him, opera soaring. Brilliant.
Worst single moment: Stupid Crichtons’ stupid death of surpassing stupidity. Just throw a shoe at it, FFS. Sheesh.
And so we come to Season Four. This marks a major change in this blog, because so far I have been updating my existing episode guide book. The book was announced in June 2002, around the time ‘Crichton Kicks’ premiered in the U.S.. At roughly the same time, Sci-Fi announced their commitment to seasons four and five.
Rather than wait for the U.K. broadcasts, I managed to watch the episodes shortly after they were aired Stateside. And I remember a growing feeling of horror during the initial few episodes, and terrible certainty that the show had lost its way and was sure to be cancelled. Sadly, I was right. I’ll speak more to that in the first few blogs.
The book came out 8 August.
Season Four went on a mid-season hiatus in the U.S. on 23 August.
On 6 September—three weeks before Season Four even premiered in the U.K.—Sci-Fi announced the show was cancelled. I had been expecting it, but it still made me all kinds of angry and upset.
It didn’t take long for the book—which had been expected to lead to a second edition covering the next two years—to make its way to the remainder bins.
Reader, I wept.
So I’m going to use this blog to complete the original plan, and write new guides for Season Four and The Peacekeeper Wars. This is going to be odd, because I watched the first three seasons at least three times, in order to write the book. But Season Four I only watched once, on transmission, so my memories of it are far less crisp.
It will be interesting to see how I react to Season Four this time around. I remember very little about it, so it’s almost going to be like watching a new series.
Titles: Same music, but with fewer regular cast. Stark and Crais are no longer included, but nobody new is added, so the core cast is John, Aeryn, D’Argo, Chiana and Scorpius. Slightly rejigged narration:
My name is John Crichton. An astronaut. Three years ago I got shot through a wormhole. I’m in a distant part of the Universe aboard this living ship of escaped prisoners—my friends. I’ve made enemies. Powerful, dangerous. Now all I want is to find a way home. To warn Earth: Look upward and share the wonders I’ve seen.
Scott K. Andrews has written episode guides, magazine articles, film and book reviews, comics, audio plays for Big Finish, far too many blogs, some poems you will never read, and three novels for Abaddon. He is, patently, absurd.