Judge Erick Harper warns you that his review of the second set of Farscape Season Four episodes may actually be the work of an evil Scarran/Peacekeeper hybrid whose thoughts have been implanted into his brain. Or something like that.
Our reviews of Farscape Season 1, Collection 1 (Starburst Edition) (published January 12th, 2005), Farscape: Season 1, Collection 3 (Starburst Edition) (published June 22nd, 2005), Farscape: Season 2, Collection 1 (Starburst Edition) (published September 7th, 2005), Farscape: Season 2, Collection 2 (Starburst Edition) (published October 19th, 2005), Farscape: Season 3, Collection 1 (published May 16th, 2003), Farscape: Season 3, Collection 1 (Starburst Edition) (published April 26th, 2006), Farscape: Season 3, Collection 2 (Starburst Edition) (published June 7th, 2006), Farscape: Season 3, Collection 3 (published August 20th, 2003), Farscape: Season 4, Collection 1 (published January 12th, 2005), Farscape: Season 4, Collection 1 (Starburst Edition) (published September 4th, 2006), Farscape: Season 4, Collection 4 (published January 26th, 2005), Farscape: Season 4, Collection 5 (published February 2nd, 2005), Farscape: The Complete Series (published December 7th, 2009), Farscape: The Complete Series (Blu-ray) (published December 15th, 2011), Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars (published March 23rd, 2005), Farscape: Volume 1 (published August 23rd, 2001), Farscape: Volume 2 (published August 23rd, 2001), Farscape: Volume 3 (published August 23rd, 2001), Farscape: Volume 4 (published August 23rd, 2001), and Farscape: Volume 5 (published August 23rd, 2001) are also available.
I've been around long enough to know how ignorant I am. I don't assume the universe obeys my preconceptions—but I know a frelling fact when it hits me in the face!
Farscape's final season continues with this two disc DVD collection from ADV.
Facts of the Case
Farscape: Season 4, Collection 2 includes the second set of five episodes from Farscape's ill-starred final season on two feature-packed DVDs:
• "Natural Election"
• "John Quixote"
• "I Shrink Therefore I Am"
• "A Prefect Murder"
• "Coup by Clam"
Farscape: Season 4, Collection 2 marks the point, about a quarter of the way in, where Season Four really started to find its legs and make some important contributions to the ongoing Farscape mythos in an interesting and entertaining style more in keeping with what had gone before.
Character development and interaction have always been of paramount importance in Farscape, and these episodes provide some important moments for several of the major characters. The ongoing humanization of the seemingly evil Scorpius is done in a careful, tantalizing manner that never leaves the audience—or Crichton and friends—completely sure of his sincerity. The other major character story is the ongoing development of the "new girl," Sikozu (Raelee Hill). As we see more and more of her through her interactions with the other characters, particularly Scorpius, we are not quite certain of her loyalties or sincerity either. Of course, all the old favorites are back as well, adding new layers, for instance, to the rocky relationship between Crichton and Aeryn.
The acting in Season Four is consistent with the previous seasons: a high level of quality and constant improvement from the regular players, and some less than praiseworthy performances from guests and extras. One of the real treats from an acting standpoint is "John Quixote," which allows the series regulars to play completely against the established personalities of their characters; it shows the versatility of the cast as well as the sense of cohesion and fun that must have existed on the Farscape set.
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. This is particularly clear during "A Prefect Murder," which features numerous scenes outside in bright sunlight. Complex details like foliage patterns show a lot of problems. Picture quality can be maddeningly inconsistent even within given episodes; there are moments in "Coup by Clam" or "I Shrink Therefore I Am" 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 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, for starters, an in-depth interview with Jonathan Hardy (Moulin Rouge!), the voice of Rygel, that runs for twenty-plus minutes. In particular, Hardy focuses on the virtues and vices that make even a character as strange as Rygel so thoroughly human. 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 a featurette entitled "Inside Farscape: Villains" which focuses on the three main baddies to appear over the four seasons—Scorpius (Wayne Pygram), Crais (Lani Tupu), and Commandant Grayza (Rebecca Riggs). With a scant 15 minute running time this featurette is not as in-depth as it might have been, but it does make for an informative look at some of the most interesting characters in the Farscape universe. Seeing people out of makeup and in street clothes is a treat as well. Also on this disc is a collection of animatics from the Season Three episode "Revenging Angel." This particular episode put Crichton and D'Argo into a Chuck Jones-inspired cartoon world where Crichton played the part of the Road Runner and D'Argo became Wile E. Coyote. It's one of the more creative, amusing, and innovative episodes of the show, and getting this small bit of it, comparing finished footage to concept sketches, etc., is a nice treat. Both discs also feature a few short deleted scenes.
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
I am getting a little tired of the "What is anime?" ads that run at the beginning of each and every ADV disc, along with ads for the English edition of Newtype magazine. I know what anime is, and I don't particularly care—I'm here to watch Farscape, not bug-eyed Japanese cartoons. I know that anime is ADV's main product, and I realize they have every right to hawk their products on completely unrelated DVDs, but it is getting old. On the bright side, their ads (and even their FBI warning) can be easily skipped with the Chapter Ahead button, so I guess I shouldn't be complaining.
A much bigger annoyance is the lack of English subtitles on these discs. I occasionally miss a bit of dialogue, and like to go back and see exactly what the characters said, and I can't do that here.
Farscape: Season 4, Collection 2 adds essential depth and background to our favorite group of escaped interstellar prisoners, and provides some good old-fashioned fun adventuring to boot. The special features are nice, but the video quality is something of a disappointment.
Not guilty! Aside from some ongoing concerns about picture quality, I recommend these discs without reservation.
We stand adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
• "Inside Farscape: Villains" Featurette
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