ADV Films // 2003 // 260 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Erick Harper (Retired) // January 12th, 2005
Congratulations. You made it through the day without being shoved out the airlock. Of course, this day is not quite over.
As the fourth season of Farscape began, fans the world over had high hopes. Season Three ended, as is apparently required of all science fiction television programs these days, with a tantalizing cliffhanger. Moya's crew of fugitives had all gone their separate ways; would the break-up of the old gang be permanent? How would Crichton deal with the revelation, in the final seconds of the cliffhanger, that Aeryn was pregnant with his child? Would Crichton ever unlock the secret wormhole knowledge implanted in his brain and make it home to Earth? How would he deal with the Peacekeepers, Scarrans, and various and sundry other unsavory characters chasing him?
And so the science fiction/fantasy/adventure serial/soap opera known as Farscape entered what was supposed to be the fourth of five seasons.
Farscape: Season 4, Collection 1 includes the first five episodes of Farscape's ill-starred final season on two feature-packed DVDs:
* "Crichton Kicks"
The Moya gang have gone their separate ways. Crichton (Ben Browder, Memphis Belle, Party of Five) finds himself stranded aboard Elack, a decaying Leviathan. The wormhole knowledge in his head is finally bubbling to the surface, and he spends his waking hours scrawling equations over every available surface in Elack's maintenance bay. Crichton has also found a new friend, a DRD that he has taken to calling 1812, has painted blue, white, and red, and has taught to play the "1812 Overture." All is well, or at least calm, until an intelligent, devious, and pretty alien named Sikozu (Raelee Hill) shows up, fleeing from a gang of Leviathan "whalers," by whom she had previously been employed. Her former bosses, the Grudeks, show up shortly after her, making life difficult for all concerned. Rygel (voiced by Jonathan Hardy) and Chiana (Gigi Edgley) also return.
* "What Was Lost Part 1: Sacrifice"
* "What Was Lost Part 2: Resurrection"
This two-part episode finds Crichton, Rygel, Chiana, and their new pal Sikozu on the planet Arnessk, where they reunite with even more of the old Moya gang. D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe) and Jool (Tammy McIntosh) have been working on an archaeological dig with Jool's people, the Interions. This planet was once home to an order of priests who kept the peace between the Scarrans and the Peacekeepers for thousands of years. They disappeared when a mysterious weapon, the "Darnaz Triangle," landed on Arnessk, causing bizarre electromagnetic pulses that make the planet uninhabitable most of the time. The head of the expedition thinks that if she can reunite the three separate probes of the Darnaz Triangle, she can reverse the damage. An eccentric, annoying old mystic named Noranti (Melissa Jaffer) opposes these efforts, because she fears the Interions will take the probes and sell them for use as a weapon. She uses some sort of chemical to make Crichton see the past so that he will side with her, but she unwittingly shows him the location of third probe. Complicating matters is the arrival of Commandant Grayza (Rebecca Riggs) and her Peacekeeper forces, as well as a strange amphibious creature with whom Crichton must do battle.
* "Lava's a Many Splendored Thing"
Just what we've always wanted! An entire Farscape episode where the plot hinges on bodily functions! After eating some bad chow from Noranti, the entire crew stops on a deserted planet of rock and lava to hurl their guts out. Rygel, looking for a place to take a massive dump, stumbles upon a cache of stolen valuables, but gets himself caught in a particularly nasty anti-theft system which encases miscreants in amber. It's a race against time for Crichton, D'Argo, and Noranti to defeat the bad guys and rescue Rygel before his bowels explode.
Crichton and the others are finally reunited with Moya and Pilot (voiced by Lani Tupu). Aboard Moya they find a much-missed member of their crew: Aeryn (Claudia Black, Queen of the Damned, Pitch Black). Joy turns to shock and concern when Crichton learns that she is suffering from Sebacean heat delirium and that she has promised asylum to the man who saved her -- the dreaded Scorpius (Wayne Pygram, Return to the Blue Lagoon, Risk). The crew must overcome their fear and loathing of Scorpius as they encounter the alien who infected Aeryn with an organism causing her heat delirium as revenge for an assassination plot that wiped out the leaders of his race. As if all this weren't enough, Grayza and the Peacekeepers are closing in with a new, deadly weapon: a missile that homes in on Leviathans, threatening to destroy Moya once and for all.
Video quality for these episodes is disappointing. While they do look vastly better than they did on television, there are considerable issues with the transfers. This is particularly clear during the "What Was Lost" two-parter, which features numerous scenes outside in bright sunlight. Complex details like foliage patterns shimmer, sparkle, and shift like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Even purportedly solid surfaces like the rock walls of the ancient temple complex seem to flow like sands through the hourglass at times. Edge enhancement and haloing are disturbingly evident, and the whole affair seems like it was compressed just a little too much. On the other hand, colors are rich and vibrant, and blacks are deep, solid, and true. Most viewers will be able to sit back and watch the episodes without noticing the defects; however, once one notices them, they are significant enough to be distracting. On the bright side, Season Four was the only season of Farscape to be shot in widescreen, and these episodes are all presented in a 16:9 anamorphic format.
Audio is a much happier story. Each episode in this collection comes with either the original two-channel surround mix as originally broadcast, or a Dolby 5.1 mix. As surround mixes of television show go it is quite nice, and creates a satisfactorily immersive audio environment, with adequate use of directionality and limited but effective tracking from channel to channel.
One thing that ADV has done well with these collections is the special features. Each disc is packed with interesting bits of information about the Farscape universe in a variety of formats. Disc One carries a lengthy primer on "The Story So Far," which is 22 minutes of film clips set to a musical background and with interstitial title cards providing needed narration and background information. It summarizes the previous three seasons nicely, and presents the essentials to get a newcomer caught up in a fast-moving and entertaining manner. There is a selection of "Cool Farscape Facts," featuring little-known behind the scenes information along with stills. A recurring feature on ADV's two-disc sets is the "Alien Encounters" segment, featuring brief descriptions of characters or creatures, along with optional illustrative video clips. The ubiquitous "Set, Prop, and Costume Galleries" are nicely done, although a bit boring, essentially a ten-minute slideshow of various sketches, stills, and production photos set to music. Disc Two carries some more substantial fare, including an interview with Rebecca Riggs (Alien Cargo), the actress behind the seductive and devious Commandant Grayza. The interview runs for about 30 minutes, and also features various video clips to illustrate points that Riggs wants to make. Also on this disc is an effects featurette narrated by the various people, both at Farscape and at the Animal Logic effects house, responsible for creating passably high-quality eye candy on a weekly basis. Rounding out the collection is a blooper reel from Season Two and a collection of ADV previews.
In addition to all this, there is an informational booklet in the case for each two-disc collection that makes up Season Four. Most of the time I disregard printed material stuck in a DVD case, but in this instance there is some quality information about the show, including episode synopses, character histories, and more. Overall, the quality and amount of extra material stays fairly consistent throughout the five two-discs sets comprising Season Four, and shows a good deal of TLC on the part of both ADV and the makers of the show.
As much as I love Farscape it is easy to see why some of these early Season Four episodes might have caused the SciFi Channel to question their commitment to the series. Within the first five episodes "Crichton Kicks" is a cheesy, Die Hard-in-space that serves little purpose other than introducing a new character and catching up with a few old ones in the most formulaic way possible; and "Lava's a Many Splendored Thing" is a completely wasted episode. Yes, Crichton and D'Argo pick up a nifty little gadget that might be useful later on, but it's hardly crucial to the ongoing story arc and could easily have been included as a throwaway bit in a much better episode. Even the two-part "What Was Lost," while giving essential background that will help move the broader storylines along in new and unexpected ways, is a chore to sit through. Of the five episodes in this two-disc collection, only "Promises" is up to the level of the better episodes in the series, and it has its weak moments as well. The saving grace of "Promises" is that it does what Farscape has always done best: it maintains a focus on character complexity and development while adding new, unforeseen wrinkles to the overall long-range plot of the series. These are clearly not the episodes to turn to if one is new to Farscape. Once Season Four picked up steam, though, it got a lot better than this.
Farscape: Season 4, Collection 1is something of a disappointment, even for a diehard Farscape fan such as myself. The special features are nice, but the video quality is something of a disappointment, as are the majority of these episodes.
Not guilty! This particular collection has some of the weaker episodes of Season Four, and the video quality is a bit sub-par, but the overall quality of the show and a good collection of special features tilt the balance in the defendant's favor.
We stand adjourned.
Review content copyright © 2005 Erick Harper; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 260 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Farscape -- The Story So Far" Featurette
* Cool Farscape Facts
* Alien Encounters
* Set, Prop, and Costume Gallery
* Interview with Rebecca Riggs
* Season Four Visual Effects Featurette
* Season Two Bloopers
* Farscape Trailers
* ADV Trailers
* Official Site
* Sci-Fi Channel Farscape Site