Case Number 06061

FARSCAPE: SEASON 4, COLLECTION 4

ADV Films // 2003 // 200 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Erick Harper (Retired) // January 26th, 2005

The Charge

"Killing him would have been merciful -- I'm not that enlightened."

Opening Statement

Farscape's final season continues with this two-disc DVD collection from ADV.

Facts of the Case

Farscape: Season 4, Collection 4 includes four episodes of Farscape's ill-starred final season on two feature-packed DVDs:

* "Mental as Anything"
At the urging of Scorpius (Wayne Pygram), Crichton (Ben Browder), D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe) and Rygel (voice of Jonathan Hardy) enroll in a "mental arts" training course. The purpose of the course is to learn discipline and resistance to mental attacks or inner drives and instincts. Scorpy's main purpose in bringing them there is to harden Crichton against torture that might persuade him to reveal his wormhole secrets; specifically, he is to be trained to withstand Scarran heat torture. The main focus of the episode, however, is D'Argo's battle against the man who killed his wife: her brother, the Peacekeeper Macton.

* "Bringing Home the Beacon"
In this all-female episode, Aeryn (Claudia Black), Sikozu (Raelee Hill), Chiana (Gigi Edgley), and Noranti (Melissa Jaffer) journey to a hidden smuggling outpost to purchase an illegal sensor disguise for Moya. While there, they stumble upon secret, unauthorized negotiations between Peacekeeper Commandant Grayza (Rebecca Riggs) and Scarran War Minister Akhna (Francesca Buller, the real life spouse of Ben Browder). Aeryn decides that the scheme cooked up by the two arch-rivals must be stopped, even if it means assassination.

* "A Constellation of Doubt"
Sikozu believes that the Scarrans have taken Aeryn to Katratzi, a highly secret base. Crichton knows that he has heard of Katratzi before, but he can't figure out where. While searching for an answer, he watches an intercepted transmission from Earth -- a news special about the recent alien visits. After witnessing Earth's reaction to him and his friends, he realizes that the planet is too backward and simply not ready for sustained alien contacts. During the documentary, one clue sparks his memory about where he has heard the word Katratzi before.

* "Prayer"
Aeryn, tortured almost out of her mind and headed with the Scarrans to parts unknown, remembers an ancient Sebacean myth about a goddess worshipped by the people of six different planets. In desperation she turns to prayer as her only solace in a seemingly hopeless situation. Meanwhile, Crichton and Scorpius, who have struck a devil's bargain, venture into a wormhole to find an alternate reality version of Moya where a much different version of Sikozu knows where to find the mysterious Katratzi. Getting it from her, though, may require Crichton to kill the alternate reality version of one of his dearest friends from the real Moya.

The Evidence

Farscape: Season 4, Collection 4 accelerates the buildup to the end of the season and, ultimately, the series. These episodes are particularly dense with elements of the ongoing plot of the entire series, and newcomers may find some of the revelations baffling without a bit of explanation. Fortunately, each episode does start with a handy "Previously on Farscape" segment, but even this might not provide all the information one needs to dive in to the series at this late date in the proceedings.

Notable in this collection are two episodes that add considerable depth and emotion to Claudia Black's character, the former Peacekeeper Aeryn Sun. "Bringing Home the Beacon" shows her in her element, in charge and devising a daring plan to disrupt the Grayza/Ahkna negotiations. Just two episodes later, "Prayer" finds her at her most vulnerable, on the verge of both death and mental collapse. Taken together, these episodes show pretty clearly the attention to character development that has always been a major part of Farscape's appeal to the fans. Also, by using Aeryn's pregnancy and some pretty clear rape metaphors in both situations and imagery, the episodes show a much more feminine perspective on the character. This is a side of her that we have not always gotten to see, and it is developed in a raw, emotional way that helps make the character a much more complex and complete feminine persona.

The other notable character development, apart from Crichton's ongoing feelings about leaving Earth behind yet again, is D'Argo's backstory in "Mental as Anything." There are some cheesy moments here, such as the first time we see Luxan hyper-rage, but overall it is a remarkably sensitive look at the emotional development of a character who by nature and disposition is inclined to be somewhat violent, brutish, and lacking in introspection.

As is true with all of the two-disc Season Four releases, video quality for these episodes is inconsistent and somewhat disappointing. While they look considerably better than the initial broadcasts and vastly better than subsequent reruns, there are considerable issues with the transfers. Picture quality can be maddeningly inconsistent even within given episodes; there are moments that are breathtakingly clear, followed almost instantly by scenes that are soft, grainy, and full of digital ailments. 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 both the original broadcast two-channel surround mix and a new Dolby 5.1 mix. As far as surround mixes of television shows go, the 5.1 track is quite nice, and creates a satisfactorily immersive audio environment, with adequate use of directionality and limited but effective tracking from channel to channel. This becomes quite evident in action scenes, which make very good use of the entire sound environment.

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, for starters, an in-depth interview with Wayne Pygram, the man behind the menace of Scorpius. Pygram provides some important insights into this mesmerizing character, including his relationship to his mirror image, John Crichton. As always in these sets 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 an interview with David Franklin, better known to fans as the scheming, sycophantic Captain Braca, the Smithers to Scorpius's Mr. Burns. These discs carry the most extensive collection of deleted scenes to date, including a great deal of unused footage from the news documentary in "A Constellation of Doubt." A blooper reel for Season Three provides a few laughs along the way.

In addition to all this, there is an informational booklet entitled "A Dren Load of Farscape" 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.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

My main complaint about the Farscape releases is the ongoing lack of English subtitles.

Closing Statement

Farscape: Season 4, Collection 4 is a rather dark collection of episodes. The climactic crisis of the entire series, and of John Crichton's life, is looming large. Such tortured times, however, make for some of the best acting and writing yet seen on Farscape.

The Verdict

Not guilty! Aside from some ongoing concerns about picture quality and lack of subtitles, I recommend these discs without reservation.

We stand adjourned.

Review content copyright © 2005 Erick Harper; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 78
Audio: 93
Extras: 89
Acting: 95
Story: 92
Judgment: 93

Perp Profile
Studio: ADV Films
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 200 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Cool Farscape Facts
* Alien Encounters
* Set, Prop, and Costume Gallery
* Interview with Wayne Pygram
* Interview with David Franklin
* Season Three Bloopers
* Deleted Scenes
* Farscape Trailers
* ADV Trailers

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0187636/combined

* Official Home Page
http://www.farscape.com

* Home Page at the Sci-Fi Channel
http://www.scifi.com/farscape