Wed
Feb 6 2013 4:00pm

Farscape Rewatch: Season Two Overview, Season Three Primer

So that was Season Two, and it was a mixed bag for me. Whereas I found myself far more impressed with Season One this time around, Season Two slipped somewhat in my estimation. I agree with a comment from Colin R on last week’s episode—there were a lot of mediocre episodes front-loaded at the start of the year which made getting into this season a bit of a slog. It did redeem itself, and when the episodes were good they were VERY good, but in retrospect there were more duds than I remembered.

The show definitely benefitted from losing the extra Europe-only minutes, and the costuming, music and makeup all improved noticeably this year. The introduction of Scorpius as a regular threat also gave the show a huge lift—he’s the antagonist the show needed. And the evolution of Crais and Talyn has been really interesting—I like a bit of ambiguity in my characters.

But the good character work on the bad guys was nearly offset by the dreadful development of Stark, whose character veered wildly all over the place, never finding a consistent tone or place in the crew.

Ben Browder and Claudia Black were both given more and more interesting stuff to do, as the writers began paying to the strengths of their leading couple and kept finding that they were equal to anything they were given. This process will continue in Season Three which, first time around, was my favourite run of the show.

Favourite episode: ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ (with ‘Out Of Their Minds,’ ‘The Way We Weren’t’ and ‘Crackers Don’t Matter’ getting honourable mentions)

Least favourite episode: ‘Taking The Stone’ (with ‘Home on the Remains’ running close second)

Best single moment: There were so many this year, it’s hard to pick just one, but I’ll go with—HUMANS ARE SUPERIOR!

Honorable mention: ‘Go on John, do it! Then we can go to the beach. I know a place with naked Sebacean girls and margarita shooters!’

 

So, next week we kick off Season Three, the season of death. Here’s the behind the scenes info you need to know.

‘Season of Death’ was preceded by a one hour primer called Farscape Undressed, designed to welcome in new viewers. It’s on the DVD and Blu-Ray releases.

Episodes

1. Season of Death

2. Suns and Lovers

3. Self Inflicted Wounds I: Could’a, Would’a, Should’a

4. Self Inflicted Wounds II: Wait for the Wheel

5. Different Destinations

6. Eat Me

7. Thanks for Sharing

8. Green-eyed Monster

9. Losing Time

10. Relativity

11. Incubator

12. Meltdown

13. Scratch ‘n’ Sniff

14. Infinite Possibilities I: Daedalus Deamnds

15. Infinite Possibilities II: Icarus Abides

16. Revenging Angel

17. The Choice

18. Fractures

19. I-Yensch, You-Yensch

20. Into The Lion’s Den I: Lambs to the Slaughter

21. Into The Lion’s Den II: Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

22. Dog With Two Bones

Unlike previous seasons the story-arc is so strong this year that it’s impossible to change the order of the episodes and so everyone got to see them in the right order.

Broadcast: In the U.S. Season Three was originally broadcast on the SciFi Channel.

In the U.K. it was shown on BBC2 in an early evening slot, normally either 6 pm or 6:45. This slot necessitated some cuts for content. ‘Scratch ‘n’ Sniff’ was completely impossible to cut for this timeslot and so was shown late Saturday night.

Titles: New music by Guy Gross, new title sequence (in which Lani Tupu, Paul Goddard and Wayne Pygram get credited as regulars), new narration:

“My name is John Crichton (I'm lost), an astronaut, (shot through a wormhole) in some distant part of the universe (I'm trying to stay alive) aboard this ship (this living ship) of escaped prisoners (my friends). If you can hear me, (beware). If I make it back, (will they follow)? If I open a door, (are you ready)? Earth is unprepared (helpless) for the nightmares I've seen. Or should I stay, protect my home, not show them you exist? But then you'll never know 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.

Farscape Rewatch on Tor.com: ‹ previous | index | next ›
11 comments
Colin R
1. Colin R
Awww yeah, Season 3 is my jam. The whole series, from this point on, has a feeling of terrible momentum pushing the cast (and the viewer) along to the end. I can imagine a lot of people starting to watch Farscape and giving up early in season 1 or 2. If you make it to season 3 though, you are trapped.

It was suggested last week that Season 3 has as many poor episodes as Season 2, but looking over the list here I'm going to disagree. I think the creators made a nearly disastrous decision at the start of Season 2 by trying to 'reset' the series. There was pressure from Syfy, I know, to keep the series episodic, picaresque, and easy to jump into. So early Season 2 spends a lot of time basically retreading ground that had already been done to death in Season 1; an episode like Picture if you Will was not really bad--it had a lot of good points actually--but it didn't advance the story or the characters.

That kind of thing is almost totally gone by now. Suns and Lovers might not show up on anybody's top 20 list of great Farscape episodes, but I think it still holds up as a solid episode. Even lesser episodes keep a tone that is consistent with everything else going on in the season.

...I'll also put in a word of support for Stark. There is a bit of inconsistency early about his character early on, but once you get past that I think he is sometimes kind of great--childishly optimistic and idealistic, but also alarmingly unstable and menacing. That's exactly the kind of dualism that Season 3 expresses. I think that Stark makes a lot more sense as a character than Crais ever does.
George Brell
2. gbrell
A couple random thoughts (mostly riffing off Colin R):

Season 3 does have more linear continuity than S2, mostly thanks to the season-arching wormhole plot. I also feel like its finale feels the most like a series finale (even though there's not a whole lot of difference between Dog With Two Bones and Bad Timing).

Looking back at the episode list, I think I'll amend my clunkers list to: Suns and Lovers, Eat Me, Meltdown, Scratch 'n Sniff and I-Yensch, You-Yensch, with only I-Yensch and Scratch 'n Sniff really bugging me.

Randomly, I feel like I remembered really disliking Green-John's episode run. But after re-watching (and again getting that reaction), I'm hard-pressed to understand it. Kind of ignoring Incubator (which isn't really a Green-John episode, though it takes its place), maybe it has to do with thinking Revenging Angel isn't nearly as good as Infinite Possibilities/Green Eyed Monster (the two group's high points) and that Scratch is worse than Meltdown.

I-Yensch is the only episode I can think of that clearly breaks the season's tone. Possibly also Scratch.

I've never disliked Stark as much as others have on this re-watch. The only time I really didn't like him was in S4, because his return was so random.
Iain Cupples
3. NumberNone
@Colin R: sadly, there is no 'once you get past that' with Stark. He never gets past the inconsistency. The writers can't make him work, and they keep trying different things.

'Unstable Stark' is too disruptive (and besides, John is frequently the unstable one), so they dial it down and try to turn him into a love interest for Zhaan. This doesn't work - there's absolutely zero chemistry compared to Aeryn/John or even D'Argo/Chiana. Hell, Zhaan had more chemistry with John or D'Argo than she ever has with Stark.

Then when there's no more Zhaan, they try to slot him into her 'mystic-of-the-group' role, which should actually work, but just doesn't. Possibly this is because Zhaan was the heart of the group, Stark is peripheral: but even Noranti manages this better than Stark does.

They keep trying, but every twist just makes the character less coherent and less interesting.

Crais just isn't as bad. Yeah, he does some quick face/heel turns, but to me that feels more natural, as Crais is established (after season 1, anyway) as something of a lost soul. He's always looking for a purpose, a way to prove himself. Whether he's looking out for his brother, avenging his brother, looking out for Talyn, or forming a dysfunctional pseudofamily with Talyn and Aeryn, he's all about the latest obsession.
Colin R
4. Colin R
Gosh, I guess I'll have a lot to talk about this season, since Crais and Stark both have pretty large roles. I'll just comment on what we've already seen this season for now. Crais was introduced in season 1 as basically a plot point--I think Rockne O'Bannon and David Kemper have basically acknowledged that. His behavior in Season 1 is almost cartoonishly villainous. I mean he's practically frothing at the mouth in the first Maldis episode. How did such an unstable guy manage to rise into the upper echelons of Peacekeeper command? Then in late season two he starts spouting off about avoiding violence and appreciating compassion? Bwuh?? Violence was his only motivation for the first season!

They never really satisfactorily resolve that contradiction, and as a result I can never really believe Crais means anything he says. But Lani Tupu almost makes that work--the fact that the audience doesn't trust Crais is going to work to his advantange in a lot of Season 3 episodes. Still, there is a conceptual problem here.

We haven't seen nearly as much of Stark up to this point, and I think most of the complaint of inconsistency rests on a single episode, The Locket, where he is re-introduced without much explanation, and where he seems a lot more calm and collected than he does at any other point. Even in The Ugly Truth he's obviously a bit unstable, or at least has more principles than sense--even though he failed, he is the one who tried to blow away the Plokavoids. And his brush with incorporeality seems like explanation enough as to why he starts going bonkers again.

I'll just say two things about Stark going forward into Season 3, and save the rest for later episodes. One is that Stark is put under a lot of pressure by the crew of Moya. Even if it wasn't their intention, they're partly responsible for him cracking up, and I think that's part of why they put up with him. And the second is that of course he can't replace Zhaan; no one can replace Zhaan. The whole crew is falling apart at the seams without her, and Stark is exacerbating that slow disintegration. That's Stark's purpose in Season 3.
Iain Cupples
5. NumberNone
@Colin R: that dichotomy with Crais' attitude to violence is something I see as explicable within the idea I mentioned of him switching from one obsession to another. (Although tbh it does really stem from changing ideas on the part of the writers!) In season 1, he's devastated by the loss of his brother, obsessed with revenge, desperate to make up for his failure, on the edge. Naturally he's a bit nuts.

His later switch on the topic of violence, I always took as hypocritical, sure, but done in some misguided attempt to become a 'new man' (and also maybe to score some points on John and the guys, as I think was noted in the comments on that ep...)

I dunno. Certainly, Lani Tupu's performance helps to 'sell' Crais to me as a character: he works wonders with the material. Paul Goddard also has his strengths, but I do feel he's given even tougher material to work with. Even if the writers shifted their ideas on where Crais was coming from, at least I felt like they *had* ideas of where he was coming from.

Stark in season 2 is surely every bit as much a plot device as Crais, since he actually shows up solely to kick off episode plots not once but twice!
Keith DeCandido
6. krad
"I-Yensch, You-Yensch" is my favorite episode of the series, and it disheartens me to see it listed as a dud of the season. That episode firmly established what had been clear to me all along: Rygel is the smartest person on Farscape. And it's not even close. There is not a single moment in that episode when Rygel isn't 100% in control of the situation, which is more than can be said for Scorpius, who isn't exactly a slouch at this sort of thing.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Colin R
7. Colin R
It's not my favorite, but I like I-Yensch, You Yensch. The only episodes of the season that don't quite work for me are Self-Inflicted Wounds and Revenging Angel. The two-parter doesn't work for me mostly because it's just too long; it's simulatenously too crowded with stuff going on, and yet the conflict isn't really substantial enough to justify the two episodes. And well... it's a bit maudlin. It's forgivable, but it's true. Revenging Angel is just disappointing in execution--the animation isn't any good, and that's the central concept of the episode.

RE: gbrell and Dog With Two Bones: It is a similar episode in some ways to Bad Timing, but I think it's an intentional similarity--the episodes are mirror images of one another. In Dog the crew is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, completely coming unraveled. In Bad Timing they are defiantly united in the face of defeat (morally, narratively, and literally, since the show was being cancelled!)
George Brell
8. gbrell
@6.krad/7.Colin R:

Maybe I'll have to give it another shot now, but I just find the vaudeville aspect of it kind of stupid. And I think I just really hate the diner subplot. I think they could've come up with a more clever method of trapping the four principals (Scorpius, Rygel, D'Argo, Braca) together - or even come up with simply a better executed method (e.g., the pirates in Lava's a Many Splendored Thing, which is otherwise not a great episode). I also found the bracelets to be a weak means of allowing John to visit the carrier without completely submitting to Scorpius's control.
Colin R
9. Colin R
Now Lava actually is one of my favorite episodes.

I think both episodes are important to the overall series. In I-Yensch for example, the defining mood is chaos--Talyn is losing it, and even the meticulous Scorpius can have his plans thrown off by totally random elements like two yahoos sticking up a diner. And that mood of chaos continues to build as it flows into the next three episodes. It's a good Rygel episode because Rygel is by necessity an opportunist--he can't compete with people on level terms, but he knows how to exploit chaos.
gary blaney
10. wordbird
i'm going to chime in in support of I-Yensch as well.

i think the near-slapstick physical humour with Braca and D'Argo actually works (by season 3, i'd say most attempts at injecting humour into episodes are pretty sucessful. i even like the first half or so of Scratch 'n Sniff, too bad it ends up turning so icky/creepy later in the ep).

We also get to see two master manipulators, Rygel and Scorpy, at their individual best. I've always liked that we're continuously shown different 'sides' of Scorpius, just when we think we've finally sussed him out.

The diner couple are a little tedious, but oh well. Sko and Wa are awesome, IMHO. Loud, bumbling, strange, twitchy, paranoid idiots.

There still are occasional situations where i yell out "WHY SO DIFFICULT?!!?!", much to the bemusement of friends and colleagues.
George Brell
11. gbrell
Having now re-watched it yesterday, I'm going to reiterate my dislike of I-Yensch and I'll provide some specific complaints.

The diner couple are bad characters. The writers seem to have fallen between giving them a backstory and not and, in the process, failed at both. We get snippets from her ("You were a great chef") and a weird problem from him ("I can't cook Livenk") and he at one point exclaims that the diner is killing them, but the character of the two seems to rest on the audience's knowledge of classic tropes.

Their story has no resolution either. He dies (kind of trying to do the right thing...) and she appears to ultimately burn down the diner, but since we were never really presented with their problem (WHY is the diner killing them?), I have no idea if the problem was solved. Did she burn down the diner or did the Peacekeepers help? Did she collect the insurance money?

Also, it doesn't help that they both fall into the early-Star Trek alien vein, they look too human. Also, what were they constantly drinking? The implication is that it's alcohol, but why were they both chugging it constantly.

I don't like Sko and Wa because they seem too stupid for the role they were entrusted with. Again, the two are simply tropes - the thinks-he-smart leader who's actually not and the dull-witted sidekick - it's just George and Lenny from Of Mice and Men given space guns and weird makeup (the makeup is okay and has some nice touches, but I just don't understand the weird monkey-sounds/reactions they decided to use).

I will agree that "Why So Difficult!?!" is a great line, however.

And this brings me to my real complaint: the episode totally short-changes the Talyn plotline.

Talyn kills hundreds of innocent people and attacks Moya. This is the culmination of at least four episodes worth of previous plotting (possibly starting way back in Out of Their Minds, but definitely at least by The Ugly Truth; referenced in Liars, Guns, and Money (part of Crais's rationale not to help); and then re-appearing in Green-Eyed Monster and Meltdown).

And the entire thing is a secondary plotline! Aeryn's pleading with Moya to let them "help" Talyn is over in minutes when it could have been a much longer argument. Jool on one side (hating Talyn for Nazgil), Chiana on the other (because she should defend Talyn), Aeryn torn, John wanting to support Aeryn, but afraid of Talyn (and secretly worried that Talyn is going to screw up his attempt to screw Scorpius). This would've been a pretty fascinating bottle episode, but instead we only get the highlights. And they are cheapened because of it.

I will admit, however, that the slapstick was much less obvious than I remember it. And D'Argo slamming his head at the end even after they won is funny.

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