Farscape TV Series Blu-ray Review – Is Your Galaxy Big Enough for Another Sci-Fi?


Farscape’s protagonist, John Crichton, is an astronaut from our Earth who, during a flight, enters a wormhole that blasts him into the unknown, far away from home. John becomes imprisoned early on, and he escapes with a group of alien prisoners. Each of them is an outcast of their society, and they reluctantly decide to travel together.

There are two characters from a primarily militaristic background, one of which is Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), a so-called “Peace Keeper”, though this name is a misnomer. The other is D’Argo (Anthony Simcoe) who could be mistaken for a Klingon based on his actions and personality. Zhaan (Virginia Hey) is the mostly calm and spiritual one, a blue humanoid whose race seems to be the inspiration for the Asari of the Mass Effect video game series. Dominar Rygel the 16th (voiced by Jonathan Hardy) rounds out the core cast. He’s an annoying green, mustachioed, greedy, perverted alien with a penchant for flatulence.

After needing a bit of space from the crew, John flies off and becomes stranded on a planet inhabited with some zealously religious villagers.

Similar to Star Trek, this group traverses the galaxy, interacting with different races and cultures. The show is often a reflection of our own world, putting forth philosophical conundrums such as the ever popular one regarding whether or not people can be reformed. In one episode, it is discovered that a particular culture has their citizens undergo surgery in an attempt to fix character defects, such as violent behavior. At the end of the episode it becomes clear as to whether or not their surgical procedure is effective, though I won’t spoil it for you. Aeryn, the catalyst for many of the group’s early conflicts, is a Peace Keeper. As such, she has been bred to be a warrior and to look down upon other races deemed to be inferior. Finally being apart from her culture which has indoctrinated her, she is able to better reflect on her upbringing, though she struggles quite often with who she should be. The series repeatedly brings to question whether or not the views of certain characters are correct or not, which in turn gets the viewer to think about his/her own world.

Aeryn and John are working on their trust issues.

This rowdy crew of life forms that probably shouldn’t be together, are, and their loyalty to each other is bent, broken, and tested at every corner. Sometimes it feels a little too forced, like the only purpose their conflicts serve is to create an extra episode of misadventures. For example, in one episode John and Aeryn barely escape death and seem to have a genuinely touching emotional moment with each other. The very next episode, John is frustrated with the circumstances and yells at Aeryn, telling her that he’s sick of everyone, and her too. He then goes out into space and ends up getting stranded on a planet where said misadventures occur. I think the main problem I had is that, considering the events of the previous episode, he was much too harsh with Aeryn. There are many moments like this in the series, and it just feels like these types of instances could have been written to feel more natural. Thankfully the characters grow to be a likable group, and there are enough interesting plot twists to keep viewers’ coming back for more.

Every now and then, Farscape gets its comedy right. There is a moment when Aeryn is wearing John’s underwear (not a spoiler) and she claims they’re not his because they don’t have his name on them. She turns around, looks at them, and sees the name “Calvin Klein”, so obviously they’re not John’s. The delivery is pretty good too because it happens so casually. Then there are the other jokes. Unfortunately, John makes a lot of references to things that exist on Earth. Most of the time they’re not clever at all, and it’s at these times that it would have been better to cut them completely.

The costumes, animatronics, and makeup are often very well done, but some viewers who prefer their Sci-Fi on the more realistic side of the scale may be turned off.

Farscape’s sets, makeup, and animatronic characters are all very well done. However, some viewers may not like some of the more cartoon-like characters, as they may detract from the believability. There are a few computer graphics effects that stand out as poor (most particularly John’s ship when it’s flying), but on the whole, they’re excellent for a television series. The animatronics/puppets are something you’d more likely see in a low to mid-range budget movie, and they’re some of the best I’ve ever seen in a television show. They can be extremely detailed, and the fairly realistic facial expressions bring to them a liveliness that makes you feel more like they are actual characters and not just puppets. However, there are times when they are moving from location to location that you may be forced out of immersion.

The music is probably the worst component in the mix. Its quality seems to vary. Sometimes it’s great, livening up a scene, or bringing a soft emotional touch. At other times, it fails terribly to evoke the emotion that the scene requires. During a particular action scene, the rock guitar should be blasting through speakers, exhilarating viewers. Instead, it is merely there, and you think to yourself, “oh, that’s some rock music going on”. During a scene in which John is having an intimate chat with his girlfriend, the music is excessive, even annoying. The fact that it is noticeable is what makes it a problem. The music should be so good that viewers don’t think about it, but are pulled into the action, being absorbed in an amazing experience. It doesn’t ruin the show, but a better consistency in the music quality could have helped greatly.

Audio Quality:

The audio is in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and it sounds fantastic. Voices are clear and feel like they’re in their proper place. Things thrown into the foreground near the camera sound as if they’re landing in front of your television. The explosions of battle sequences surround the viewer, and weapon blasts whiz past in a flurry, and it’s always crystal clear. There is attention to detail as bits of the music will play in different speakers for effect. In essence, surround sound is the way to experience this series as a lot of work has gone into making the sound as good as possible.

Video Quality:

It’s difficult to say whether or not the visual quality of Farscape is just fine, or relatively bad. Some videophiles are perfectly okay with film grain, and others abhor it. The series is encoded in MPEG-4 AVC at an upscaled video resolution of 1080p. There is a graininess at times, and it is mostly noticeable in scenes in which there aren’t very many objects in the shot. For example, sometimes when there are a lot of black shadows in the frame, a lot of grain can be seen in said shadows. It can be argued that this is simply what film looks like it, or maybe the upscaling contributed to it, but for those of you who absolutely hate an unclear picture, you will not be satisfied with what is here. The sometimes poor contrast can cause a lack of pop in the visuals too. Certain videophiles will abhor the video quality, but others should be able to get past it and enjoy the show.

Extras:

You want Extras? Would you like some extras with those extras? Seriously though, there are so many extras here that it could take you weeks to pick through them. It’s really interesting to hear Brian Henson, the co-producer of the series, in the interview, “In The Beginning: A Look Back With Brian Henson”. He talks in detail about how difficult it was to keep getting funding for the series. It was quite a tumultuous production, at times having everyone on edge, wondering how long they would be able to work on the show. Just as chaotic was the creative side of the show, as apparently everyone, cast and crew alike, were having their say regarding anything and everything, though Brian says there were many good opinions put forth to improve all of the little aspects of the show. In the behind-the-scenes look, “Making Of A Space Opera”, fans can get a look at the casting of D’Argo, and I don’t mean him trying out for the part. No, Anthony Simcoe’s entire body was put into a cast to create the costume for D’Argo. There are interviews with all of the core cast, almost three dozen deleted scenes, thirteen behind-the-scenes with composer Guy Gross, twenty-seven audio commentaries for various episodes, around a dozen featurettes that amount to hours of interesting commentary on the series and its fans, some bloopers, an alternate premier episode for season two, some director’s cut scenes, several television promos, and a video profile for Rockne O’Bannon (Creator/Executive Producer/Writer) and David Kemper (Executive Producer/Writer). Almost all of it is in standard definition, but the content is so good that you shouldn’t care too much about that.

Final Reaction:

Farscape is an interesting series, but not quite as classic as something like Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is enjoyable, despite some of the poor humor. It will often cause viewers to give pause and reflect on their own world. A show that has relevance to an audience’s real life gives a boost to the interest level. Though some of the drama between characters seems forced at times, they are overall a very likeable bunch (minus Rygel). There are quite a few plot twists that will surprise viewers, and with 68 hours of show, this is a very good thing. There is also a mountain of bonus content that gives interesting insight into the making of this massive undertaking of a series. The characters of the show will gradually grow on you, and once they do, you won’t stop watching until you’ve seen everything.

Show: B
Certain elements of the story feel forced, but there are plenty of surprises in store to keep viewers hooked.
Video: C
There is some graininess to the video at times, and I assume that most Blu-ray watchers do not prefer this. However, for some people this will not be a problem.
Audio: A
Some sounds could have used a bit more force to add to the action, but overall the sound was designed very well, with everything feeling like it’s in its right place at the right volume.
Extras: A+
You could not ask for more extras. Really. This is one of the largest collection of extras I’ve ever seen.
Overall Score: B+

Farscape in its Blu-ray edition can currently be found at Amazon for $96.99 shipped. You might also want to look into getting the Farscape movie, “Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars“, as it ties up the series ($10.69 on DVD)

 

Details:

  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 20 (50 gb Blu-ray)
  • Run Time: 4086 minutes (88 episodes)
  • Rated: PG
  • Studio: A&E Entertainment
  • Release Date: November 15, 2011

Video:

  • Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • Video resolution: 1080p (upconverted)
  • Aspect ratio: 1.78:1, 1.33:1
  • Original aspect ratio: 1.78:1, 1.33:1

Audio:

  • English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
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Ryan Southard
Ryan Southard 776 posts

Ryan Southard is a video game enthusiast, dissecting games down to their tiniest details. Whether it's new or it's old, as long as it's awesome, he'll play it. Follow him on Twitter at @Ryan_Southard <a href="http://nerdreactor.com/about/">Meet the Nerd Reactor Team</a>