ADV Films // 2000 // 350 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jeff Andreasen (Retired) // October 19th, 2005
Making the old stuff new again.
The second season of Farscape continues as Crichton (Ben Browder) and the crew of Moya battle Scorpius (Wayne Pygram), thwart royal intrigue, and confront the most despicable villain in all of sci-fi: the hackneyed plot device.
It's a truism that there are no more original ideas, and it's just as sad a truth that there are often few fresh imaginations out there to twist unoriginal ideas into something new and interesting. Farscape has, fortunately, proven to be an oasis of wonder in an otherwise bleak sea of standard science fiction gloom. But even with some great acting, well-written and interesting characters, intriguing conflicts, and a fresh approach to the material, Farscape: Season 2, Collection 2 (Starburst Edition) is saddled with stale plots and unsurprising denouement. Still, the enthusiasm of the actors and the vigor of the production keep the hope alive that the series will soon hurtle headlong into its primary storyline and the conflict between space hero John Crichton and the sinister Scorpius will banish these filler episodes to the Uncharted Territories!
The episodes on this disc include:
* "Dream a Little Dream"
"RE: Union" from Farscape: Season 2, Collection 1 (Starburst Edition) with tacked on bookend scenes to give it relevance. It's a throwaway episode. The framing device is paltry and might just as well have been the producers narrating something like, "This was meant to be the second season premiere, but we got cold feet at the last minute and decided to air a good episode instead. Here is the original premiere. Enjoy!" For commentary on the episode, see the Farscape: Season 2, Collection 1 (Starburst Edition) review.
* "Out of Their Minds"
Another shrug of an episode, though a very fun one to watch. An alien ship zaps Moya with a weird ray and body-switches ensue. I got the impression that the actors were having a ball mimicking and maybe even mocking each others' delivery styles, as the gang (minus Zhaan) switches bodies and does a little...exploring. It comes off brilliantly, though the plot is tired. These sorts of "get to know the characters" stories are standard fare for any television episode, and body-switching or mind-altering episodes (such as the original Star Trek's "The Naked Time" or Stargate SG-1's "Holiday") are a cutesy, sci-fi way of executing the plot. Unfortunately, this kind of thing just seems like the producers trying to pad the episode count to fill the order.
* "Look at the Princess Part 1: A Kiss is But a Kiss"
* "Look at the Princess Part 2: I Do, I Think"
* "Look at the Princess Part 3: The Maltese Crichton"
This is a mighty three-parter, and the first of many multiple-part stories Farscape would execute to perfection throughout its four-year run. Here, the crew finds itself on a world where a young (and comely, natch) princess is next in line for the throne of her world. Alas, unless she finds a compatible suitor, her brother will inherit the throne. Enter John Crichton, who is identified as the only Sebacean (everyone thinks he's a Sebacean, because humans and Sebaceans are identical, of course) who is compatible, meaning she can carry his children. The princess's loyal bodyguard informs our hero that, unless the princess weds within a very short time, her brother will take the throne. Behind the scenes are Scorpius, a Scarran (an evil race we see for the first time in this three-parter), a female Peacekeeper spy with the hots for Crichton, D'Argo and Chianna having lots of sex, Crichton and Aeryn pining away for each other, and, to top it all off, Moya's maker showing up to decommission her! That's a powerful passel of storytelling to pull off...even in three episodes!
There's a lot to love about this three-parter: the consistently good acting; the reappearance of Scorpius to stir the pot; the first appearance of the Scarrans, who will bedevil everyone in the seasons to come; some great character moments between the regular cast; and the hilarious third part, wherein Crichton, now a "living" statue, is decapitated, with his head the object of a three-way pursuit. But this could easily have been pulled off in two parts, and seems padded as it plods along in places, notably the Zhaan/Pilot/Moya subplot with Kahaynu, Moya's creator, testing not the Leviathan, as it turns out, but Zhaan herself. Another subplot, with Aeryn and a new character, Dregon, venturing into The Barren Lands, is extraneous. It's nice to give Aeryn something to do while she pines for Crichton, but the Dr. Phil lectures by Dregon just bring groans.
But it's an ambitious story with a lot of twists and turns and fun that should keep even jaded science fiction viewers happy throughout.
* "My Three Crichtons"
Yet another standard science fiction outing, this time the "Good guy split into multiple versions of himself" plot. A strange energy force penetrates Moya and envelops Crichton in its force field, spitting him out only when it has triplicated him: the regular version, a bestial, primordial version, and a bald, bigheaded, ultra-evolved version with super-intelligence. Of course, the energy field turns out to be an alien intelligence that copied Crichton in order to collect specimens, and will slurp in all human (or alien) life on the ship if it doesn't get one of the triplicates back. A long morality play follows wherein Caveman Crichton turns out to be the most noble of all three of them, and the super-genius the most uncaring and amoral. Beast Boy hauls Brainiac into the light at the end and everything's hunky dory. Nothing at all is accomplished with the episode except to, once again, highlight the evils of intelligence. How come the smart guys are always the ones without souls?
* "Beware of Dog"
More standard plot devices as alien doppelgangers infest the ship and the crew has to rely on Dobby the Elf to hunt them down and kill them. This episode is made valuable by the "Scorpius in Crichton's Brain" subplot that was introduced in the Farscape: Season 2, Collection 1 (Starburst Edition) episode "Crackers Don't Matter" and continues deep into the series. Wayne Pygram's always a treat to watch work. Scorpius is an intriguing villain, and his few short minutes in this episode save it.
We also have a plethora of extras on these two discs, including a 30-minute interview with actress Virginia Hey (Zhaan) that covers everything from being bald to the rigors of applying all that paint on her body. There are some insights into the character, but nothing that hasn't been gleaned from the various episodes featuring our favorite blue-skinned vegetable. Of more interest are her personal stories that give insight into her portrayal of Zhaan.
"Farscape in the Raw" is another fascinating look at the juxtaposition of director's cut footage, sans special effects and sound effects, and the broadcast version, complete with everything from effects to the puppet voices we're used to. These scenes are from the first season episodes "The Flax" and "Through the Looking Glass."
The DVD also offers another visit with composer Guy Gross, who here discusses his work for "My Three Crichtons." It's a 12-minute piece that's a nice look at the scoring of a television series, particularly from the guy (no pun intended) who does it all for the soundtrack.
Speaking of puns and tomfoolery, this DVD finally offers up a blooper reel, and it's hilarious and actually informative. There's a lot of shots with the puppets in their "working phase" stage and of the actors plagued by various problems with their uncooperative makeup. This is only six minutes long, but it's worth every second.
Finally, the usual suspects of conceptual galleries, character profiles, lingo games, and behind-the-scenes text documentation round out the extras offered here, and, as usual, they're all competently assembled and appreciated (especially the conceptual galleries of the Scarrans).
The technical aspects of this edition are on par with the other offerings in this series. The image is sharp, the colors don't bleed, there's little noise, and the Dolby 5.1 audio kicks butt, especially in high-intensity episodes like "The Maltese Crichton." However...
ADV has once again used substandard materials. I experienced the same sort of playback freeze, skips, and outright shutdown with this collection as I did with the previous one. And I'm not the only one. Whether it's just a generic double-sided disc fault that isn't specific to ADV's efforts, or ADV is lazy and wants to pump out the discs and rake in the profits, or worse, if this is a ploy to grind out yet another collection of Farscape discs, this time technically perfect, there are still faults with the engineering here. Purchase at your own risk, and be sure to keep the receipt.
Aside from that, the overuse of tired plot devices continues to bedraggle this series in the short term. Most who look back on this series look back on a great and inspired group of characters brought to life by a great and inspired bunch of actors. The casting is perfect in this series, from the leads, to the puppets, right down to the most tertiary walk-on. It saves Farscape from being remembered alongside dreck like Star Trek: Voyager. All right, that was a pretty low blow, and, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, Farscape improves as the season continues, and as the series progresses to its later years. Sometimes we have to enjoy what we're given, and there's a lot, even in these episodes, to nod approvingly at.
ADV must find a way to improve its quality control. It simply cannot keep pumping out discs with such documented flaws, especially as the company already has a lot of their fans at the end of their ropes with this calculated triple-dip.
Farscape the series, on the other hand, long ago found the perfect combination of characters and character actors to carry this show. There are great good guys, perfect bad guys, and enough cool side stuff going on to intrigue even those who don't find science fiction to be their thing. Couple all those pluses with the great price on these DVDs and the outstanding extras that just keep getting better, and these Starburst Editions may just entice a few more fans into the Uncharted Territories.
ADV is found guilty of producing yet another quality entry in their Starburst series. Quality audio, video, and content goes a long way to securing amnesty though, but the studio had better iron out these technical problems with their double-sided discs, or they'll be off to the Aurora Chair for an extended session.
Review content copyright © 2005 Jeff Andreasen; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 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
* Building Zhaan (Interview with Virginia Hey)
* Farscape in the Raw (Deleted Scenes)
* Listening In with Composer Guy Gross
* Blooper Reel
* Cool Facts
* The Farscape Chronicles
* Video Profiles
* Image Galleries
* Concept Galleries
* Farscape World
* Farscape Season 2 Collection 1 (Starburst Edition)
* Farscape Starburst Edition DVD Quality Control