Lionsgate // 2004 // 182 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Erick Harper (Retired) // March 23rd, 2005
This is insane, Crichton.
Four years on and you're finally gettin' that?
In more ways than one, Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars is the conclusion of a saga left hanging by the cancellation of Farscape. The miniseries concludes (for now) the adventures of John Crichton, Aeryn Sun, and the rest, and it also provides a satisfying moment of triumph for the fan-directed "Save Farscape" campaign, a rare victory for fans of any cancelled series.
What a difference a few years can make. Earth astronaut John Crichton (Ben Browder, Stargate SG-1) finds himself at the center of a galaxy-wide war between the human-like Peacekeepers and the reptilian creatures of the Scarran Empire. Crichton's own adventures and schemes have led to this war, a war he desperately wanted to avoid. At its core, this is a war for possession of the wormhole knowledge locked away in the recesses of his mind by a mysterious race of beings known as the Ancients. He has been the unwitting catalyst for momentous events, and their culmination will either kill him or destroy his soul unless he can find some way to put things right.
As bizarre as it may seem, the dreaded, fascistic Peacekeepers have morphed into the good guys, or at least the closest thing to be found in the Farscape universe at this point. They provide an alternative at least slightly preferable to galactic domination by the merciless Scarrans, at any rate. John's nemesis-turned-quasi-ally Scorpius (Wayne Pygram) counsels John to join forces with the Peacekeepers; John's true love Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black, Pitch Black, Queen of the Damned), a former Peacekeeper commando herself, is inclined to agree. Crichton, however, is not convinced. His only desire is to create a peaceful galaxy for himself, Aeryn, and their unborn child. Finding peace may force him down the most violent path of all.
The best parts of Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars show characters resolving long-standing internal conflicts. Aeryn must reconcile her vestigial Peacekeeper loyalties with her ultimate love for Crichton and their child. Scorpius must attempt to balance his virulent hatred of the Scarrans with his own desire for self-preservation (and even something approaching basic decency). The biggest conflict is reserved for the wayward Earthman. In order to save the lives of Aeryn and their child, and restore some level of sanity to the galaxy, Crichton must use the one bargaining chip he has available to him, the one that he has thus far refused to use and refused to believe was possible: a wormhole weapon.
Make no mistake: even with all the character development and shadowy machinations, Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars does not skimp on action. The miniseries opens with the largest scale space combat yet seen in the Farscape universe, and only escalates from there. Gunfights, fistfights, daring commando raids -- it's all here. In fact, there may a bit too much action. Too many gunfights can grow tiresome, and a case could be made that the action scenes take up too much time, unnecessarily cramping the character and plot development. These are minor concerns, however, because the various parts work well as a whole, giving viewers a quintessentially Farscape experience; an exciting yet thoughtful ride.
Lions Gate has put together a two-disc DVD release for The Peacekeeper Wars. That probably sounds a lot more impressive than it actually is. The movie, presented as one continuous whole, occupies the first disc, while the second disc is dedicated to special features. The problem is that apart from a good featurette, the special features aren't that special. The featurette "The Battle Behind the Wars" contains several on-camera appearances by key players in the Farscape universe, such as director/executive producer Brian Henson, executive producer David Kemper, and producer Andrew Prowse. Also appearing are several of the actors who made vital contributions to the show, such as Anthony Simcoe, Gigi Edgley, Wayne Pygram, and Claudia Black. Ben Browder's participation comes as a welcome change after his conspicuous absence from most of the regular season Farscape DVD supplements. Along with these "names," several lesser-known contributors get their moment in the sun, including various editors, special effects wizards, and set construction people. Henson and Kemper are forthright in acknowledging the impact of the organized fan campaign in making this miniseries happen. Finally, the featurette ends with a tantalizing hint from both Kemper and Henson that there maybe, just maybe, might be a future for Farscape -- perhaps in a theater near you. Kemper is measured in his optimism, but Henson is confident that we have not seen the last of these beloved characters. I hope he is right, but time will tell.
The picture quality on this release is a bit disappointing. The anamorphic transfer preserves the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio of the original broadcast. Colors are rendered faithfully, from the reds and blacks of Peacekeeper décor to Moya's metal/organic interior to the icy blues of Scarran warships. However, the picture is marred by serious noise and pixelation. Backgrounds just can't sit still; this is especially true in any scene taking place against the blackness of space. Heavy distortion and noise appear around solid objects, and a lack of definition often makes starships blend into their surroundings in a noisy, grainy-looking mess. Brightly lit and interior/planetside scenes look a bit better, but these too are marred by softness, noise, and some occasionally heavy edge enhancement. The problems with the video transfer go beyond the usual nitpicking and represent concerns that even the average viewer sitting back on the couch to enjoy the show will find distracting.
Audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that is surprisingly good for a made-for-TV production. There is some excellent use of surround channels to create an immersive, convincing sound environment. Particularly outstanding are the realistic sounds during the early scenes of Rygel swimming under water. My only complaint with the audio is the lack of bass punch in the normal (i.e. non-LFE) range during space battles and other action scenes; massive starships battling and being destroyed should have rattled my windows, but they did not.
Despite the presence of most of the old Farscape magic, some things in this kitchen sink approach simply don't ring true. The need to make the miniseries comprehensible to viewers who might not have been long-time Scapers creates some unwieldy moments. Almost every character goes through moments where their personality traits are underscored to the point of grotesquery to make sure that newcomers pick up on them. Thus, Chiana manages to work sexual innuendoes into just about any situation, no matter how forced or inappropriate it feels. Paul Goddard's Stark is at his most neurotically, hyperactively annoying. Even Ben Browder's well-worn glib, snarky Crichton shtick feels forced at times, like he is just going through the motions.
Elements that might have worked well over the course of a complete fifth season feel forced here, contrived to give the hard-core fans a sense of closure in almost all the myriad plot threads left hanging at the end of season four. Compressed into three hours, appearances by all of the old friends and enemies in the whole galaxy feel more like a parade than a coherent story. Squeezing in Jool, Jothee, Stark, Grunchlick, and all the rest stretches things almost to the breaking point; the sheer volume of the character appearances reduces them collectively to a "walk through and wave" situation. Worse yet, plot elements that should have developed over the course of the whole season are rushed. The principal offender here is Aeryn's pregnancy. There would have been no pleasing the fans if she did not have her baby during the miniseries, but in order to do so, technobabble of the worst kind becomes necessary.
Some changes in key characters don't make sense. We've become accustomed to Scorpius's fickle loyalties, which shift with the winds of each script, but changes in Sikozu's allegiance prove harder to swallow. The changes in her wardrobe are striking but believable; the changes in her basic makeup and look are less so. The transformation of Jool from sophisticated, super-intelligent, spoiled alien rich girl to jungle queen require even more explanation, but none is forthcoming.
Though it tries too hard to please the hard-core fans and attempts to wrap up absolutely every single loose thread, Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars has far more good than bad. It balances its two audiences well, succeeding as a fitting conclusion to the series for the long time fans and as a showcase for the uninitiated.
Not guilty! A grand conclusion to a much-beloved show. The DVD from Lions Gate is lackluster, although an impressive and insightful featurette makes up for some of it.
We stand adjourned.
Review content copyright © 2005 Erick Harper; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 182 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "The Battle Behind the Wars" Featurette
* Concept Art Gallery
* Production Storyboards
* Spacecraft Gallery
* Prop Gallery
* Official Home Page
* Home Page at the Sci-Fi Channel
* Save Farscape/Watch Farscape Home Page