Judge Erick Harper is approaching the end of Farscape's run, and is preparing for immediate starburst...
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 2 (published January 19th, 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.
"Killing him would have been merciful—I'm not that enlightened."
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"
• "Bringing Home the Beacon"
• "A Constellation of Doubt"
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.
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.
Not guilty! Aside from some ongoing concerns about picture quality and lack of subtitles, I recommend these discs without reservation.
We stand adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
• Cool Farscape Facts
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