ADV Films // 2000 // 350 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jeff Andreasen (Retired) // September 7th, 2005
Vagrancy. Resisting arrest.
When last we left our heroes, they weren't faring too well! Crichton (Ben Browder, Stargate SG-1) and D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe) were left floating in outer space after their "suicide" attack on Scorpius's (Wayne Pygram, Revenge of the Sith) Gammack Scientific Base. Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black, Pitch Black, Stargate SG-1), ready to rescue the intrepid duo in her Prowler after they ditched their shuttlecraft, can't get close enough to them because the bad guys are all over the place. Crais (Lani John Tupu), slapped out of the Peacekeepers by Scorpius, found haven aboard Moya, much to the chagrin of her fugitive crew. Much more to their chagrin, however, is that Talyn, Moya's Peacekeeper/Leviathan combo offspring, took a shine to Crais and the two ditched mom and the crew for a new life together. And then Moya (admittedly, at our heroes' urging) up and starbursted away, leaving Aeryn, D'Argo, and Crichton to fend for themselves. Whew!
If I've lost you with the weird names, the arcane terminology, and undeveloped references, check out the Farscape Season 1 Collection 3 review (shameless plug). Or read on and try to keep up.
Thus does ADV's rampant double dip continue. Again, while holders of ADV's previous release of the Farscape series may gnash their teeth and crack their knuckles with furious wrath, I didn't think enough of the series at the time to drop that kind of dough. Smart of me, as it turns out, because the Starburst Collections are a really good deal. A handful of episodes packed with lots of goodies for fans and the curious alike in relatively cheap packages. Like a few episodes of a season, but loathe others? Chances are the Starburst Collections will have broken up the season enough so you can get the ones you like and eschew the others. Of course, if you're a Farscapist, you'll wind up throwing away another 50 or 60 bucks per season to acquire every episode.
Be that as it may, Farscape Season 2 Collection 1 (hereafter referred to as FS2C1) is a decent collection of episodes ranging from really great to really lame that more or less continues what the first season began, developing character backgrounds, providing harrowing danger for our heroes, and generally continuing the establishment of the Farscape mythology.
Turns out Aeryn rescued Crichton and D'Argo with no problem, and the three are holed up in an old mining station in the same asteroid field where they hid from Scorpius at the end of season one. Aeryn has to make occasional runs in her Prowler to find food, and they all have to plan some way to get in touch with Moya and escape the asteroid field (and Scorpius), but otherwise all is copacetic. Apparently. Aeryn, however, has been less than forthcoming with her comrades. In order to ensure Crichton's, D'Argo's, and her own survival, she had to make a deal with Crais, who commandeered Talyn in the season one finale. This leads to some friction betwixt our fugitive heroes, though all is eventually worked out when Moya returns, everyone is reunited, Scorpius attacks, and everyone escapes. True, Talyn chose Crais over his own mother, but sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.
And that was only the first episode!
The other scenarios in FS2C1 vary in worth, but each at least has redeeming qualities. The episodes included here are:
"Mind The Baby" -- The premiere. The good guys get back together. The bad guys get foiled. The youngster leaves the nest. Next!
"Vitas Mortis" -- D'Argo, Crichton, and Aeryn come across an ancient Luxan crone looking for some loving. And for some youth. She seduces D'Argo and bad things happen. Our heroes finally convince her that what she's doing really isn't for the best and that she should just go ahead and die with a little dignity.
"Taking The Stone" -- Chiana (Gigi Edgley) bails on her Moya shipmates in order to hang on a graveyard planet with a rad group of stoners desperate to leap to their deaths at early ages. A cross between Logan's Run, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and extreme sports, this is by far the lamest episode in this collection.
"Crackers Don't Matter" -- One of the two best episodes here. Chiana, out grocery shopping for the crew, returns with a boatload of crackers...and a hitchhiker, T'raltixx, who offers to hook Moya up with a cloaking device that will make her untraceable. All he needs is to take Moya to his planet to fit her with the device. But this hitchhiker is not all he seems, and paranoia, hostility, and insanity ensue.
"The Way We Weren't" -- Another smashing episode, wherein Aeryn is revealed as having been among the Peacekeepers responsible for the murder of Moya's original pilot, and the shanghaiing of the Pilot we all know and love today. The others question her loyalties when it's discovered she was aboard the ship during their incarcerations. A field day for fans of character development.
"Picture If You Will" -- A cool premise devolves to a disappointing dénouement as first season baddie Maldis returns to vex our heroes. As before, Zhaan (Virginia Hey, The Road Warrior) saves the day. A cool setup with an interesting problem evaporates into generic comic book pap. Yawn.
"Home On The Remains" -- Our starving heroes, desperate for some chow, set down on a mining colony situated on the gigantic corpse of an interstellar beast. But nothing ever comes easy for this bunch: a carnivorous critter prowls the mines; plant-person Zhaan begins budding, exuding toxins that threaten Moya and becoming generally ornery in her hunger; the away team has to deal with the greedy camp boss, and they're starving. A graphic episode with a lot of cool effects. Not for the easily nauseated.
"RE: Union" -- The original season premiere in its original presentation (it was aired in altered form as the mid-second season episode "Dream a Little Dream"). A nice episode that shows the camaraderie of the "other three" fugitives, Chiana, Rygel, and Zhaan, as they navigate the perfidious undercurrents of a lawyer world. They find that they all work well together, and that sometimes greed, deceit, and treachery are not character flaws, but actual necessities. Sounds like Hollywood!
FS2C1 has enough going for it to demand purchase, if for nothing else than it is the best science fiction show out there since the original Star Trek, and it contains at least two pivotal episodes.
The technical standards remain quite high, as the video is as sharp as any previous release and the Dolby 5.1 audio resounds on all speakers. The starburst sound effect continues to blow the listener out of the room on high volume, and the plethora of background sound effects and a second-to-none science fiction score give a fabulous listening experience.
Speaking of listening experience, the most interesting extra in this loaded collection is the short piece on composer Guy Gross. It consists entirely of an interview with him at his synthesizer as he prepares music for an episode on his monitor. This highly interesting featurette is the first you should visit.
The other extras are more or less the same as previous Starburst discs: throwaway character profiles, genial but forgettable commentary tracks, fun interactive trivia games (fun when you answer, whether right or wrong), and interesting design concept art. There are deleted scenes and "scenes in progress," where raw footage sans effects is shown juxtaposed with the finished product. This is pretty entertaining. The episode "Re: Union" is also included as an extra, though it is of as high quality and presentation as any of the regular episodes.
Storywise, there's a lot to recommend this collection. Starting with the season premiere, not an episode goes by that doesn't carry some fascinating characterization (well, "Taking The Stone" is pretty much devoid of anything interesting, but we do learn about Chiana's brother, so that has to count for something). The two major beneficiaries of these seven episodes are Zhaan, who enjoys significant character moments in every episode, and Crichton, who, though again blandly played by Ben Browder, begins his bout with insanity on these very discs.
The effects are a huge step forward in Season Two as well, or maybe the locales are just more incredible, making the effects people stretch their talents to meet the imagination of the writers. The graveyard planet in "Taking the Stone" is a dour and depressing sight, perfect for the story. The Budong corpse in "Home on the Remains" is probably the most impressive creation to this point in Farscape, and certainly the most original. And the pulsar in "Crackers Don't Matter" is a sight to behold.
But the best thing about Farscape in general and these episodes in particular is that there are consequences to the characters' actions, consequences that reverberate in later episodes and later seasons. Nobody on Moya likes Rygel, that's been made abundantly clear, yet they tolerate him because he's a fugitive like the rest of them and he has suffered at the Peacekeepers' hands, just like they have. But never has this dislike of Rygel been more apparent than in "Crackers Don't Matter," when latent hostilities are fanned and flare up, and inhibitions blocking impulsive action are removed by T'raltixx's power, and D'Argo almost kills the Dominar in a fit of rage. Even Pilot finally comes clean with an honest assessment of his shipmates...and it's not complimentary.
"The Way We Weren't" shows us all just how far Aeryn Sun has evolved since her initial involvement with the fugitives. She's genuinely and deeply ashamed of her actions in the flashback portions of the episode, and you sense the guilt over her betrayal of Velorek in the past in how she reacts to Crichton in the present. This deep level of interest in the characters and in expanding the audience's understanding of their motivations and inclinations is crucial to the success of the series, and is something sorely lacking in not only most science fiction shows, but in television in general.
Then there's the beginning of the insanity of John Crichton. In "Crackers Don't Matter," Crichton, alone of all Moya's crew, experiences a bizarre hallucination: Scorpius, in very disparate states of dress. The hallucination alternately counsels, cajoles, and provokes Crichton into a variety of actions. Later in the series, this hallucination is explained and plays a key role in the development of the main plot, but it appears here for the first time. It's hilarious at times, horrifying at others. Basically it's Farscape.
Season Two takes too long to get going. When this series was in its first run on the Sci-Fi Channel, it looked a lot like any other Star Trek clone, with interesting episodes occasional oases in a very large desert of ordinariness. As the second season progressed, things got more interesting and more time was spent with the mythology of the show instead of standalone episodes like most of those included here. Aside from the season premiere, "Crackers Don't Matter," and "The Way We Weren't," there isn't an episode on this disc that comes back to haunt the series later on. Granted, television shows have to have some down time to let viewers catch their breaths...or do they? The non-stop action of shows like 24 and Lost belies the previous wisdom that operatic narratives can't sustain viewer involvement for 20-odd episodes, and that episodic television is the way to go. In seasons three and four, Farscape became much more operatic, but in the early going, it's frustrating to see so much time wasted on meaningless forays that do little to drive the series forward, no matter how cool the episodes look at the time.
I also experienced significant playback problems with "Crackers Don't Matter" and "Home on the Remains." Both episodes worked swell in my Sony Vaio's DVD ROM, but both failed miserably to work in the DVD/VCR combo player on my 58-inch monster. I understand from viewing some online blogs that this is a technical problem experienced by quite a few owners of these double-sided "flipper" Starburst Collections. ADV take note: this is no fluke.
FS2C1 is another triumphant entry in the Farscape library, with more excellent technical quality and enough worthwhile extras to warrant dropping the 20 bucks. Diehards will snap it up, sci-fi aficionados should snap it up for the series' importance and for the relevance of several of the episodes, and television viewers in general might snap it up because it's just good viewing.
Guilty of vagrancy and resisting arrest, but the court wouldn't have it any other way. Sure the fugitives aboard Moya flout the established authority, but wouldn't blind acquiescence to tyranny make for a pretty bland existence? Just look at the news!
ADV is freed on bail as long as these Starburst Collections continue with the amount of extras and high technical quality we've seen so far. And if the studio swears before the Light of Truth to correct the playback issues on many of their darned flipper discs, the court will certainly see fit to dismiss all charges.
Review content copyright © 2005 Jeff Andreasen; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 350 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary Tracks
* Cool Facts
* The Farscape Chronicles
* Video Profiles
* Image Galleries
* Concept Galleries
* Farscape World