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Farscape - Season 2

Boo, get off the stage!

D. W. McKim (3-16-01) - SPOILER WARNING: The following review contains an in-depth analysis of Farscape's second season up to and including the season finale cliffhanger. The last third of season one is also discussed. While we trust you all already know this with these reviews, we did at least want to provide ample warning for newer viewers who may currently be exploring the show via the recent DVD and video releases. There's lots of wonderful twists and turns ahead and it's best to try to remain unspoiled if possible! On the other hand, new or casual viewers may find this helpful as a way to catch up on the various plotturns as the show is set to enter its third season.

When I wrote my first Farscape review, it was after 15 out of 22 episodes had aired. You'll recall I gave it a full five Kermit head rave. Little did I know that Episode 16 onward would blow everything that had come before away with the inaugural season's remaining episodes mostly being among their best as well as steering the entire series into a new direction that would set the tone for season two.

For completest's sake, to recap - Episode #16 "A Human Reaction" finds Earthling John Crichton's supposed return to Earth where instead of a hero's welcome, he's greeted with fearful and paranoid former colleagues who are wary of the extraterrestrial modifications made to the Farscape ship and differences in his biological structure (the translator microbes colonized in his brain.) The arrival of D'Argo, Aeryn, and Rygel soonafter does not help ease any tensions... the aliens are treated not as ambassadors from another world but as beings to be feared and studied - with Rygel soon dead on a dissection table. Even though the end seems like a bit of a cheat or cop-out...the experience was not really happening but rather an experiment by a race known as the Ancients to see how this unknown planet known as Earth might receive their people were they to settle there. Tthe episode was nonetheless one of their strongest and most emotional. At first what seems like a stand-alone episode ends up being a major turning point for the series a few episodes later. In order to save Aeryn's life, Crichton needs to pose as a Peacekeeper and enter a secret base to obtain a tissue sampling. With help from Chiana and Gilena, the PK Tech Girl he had a fling with in back in Episode 7, he almost succeeds. That is until he crosses path with a very special Peacekeeper named Scorpius, who being a Sebacean/Scarren hybrid is able to detect that John is not a Sebacean. In some truly horrifying interrogation scenes, Crichton is subject to Scorpius' Aurora Chair, which rather painfully extracts the subject's memories onto a viewscreen. While sifting through his mind, Scorpius learns that as a kind of acknowledgement for being put through the Ancients' experiment, they had given John some extra subconscious knowledge of the wormhole phenomena to assist in his continuing research of the incident that propelled him to this part of the universe. Turns out wormhole research is one of Scorpius' pet projects! As if Crichton wasn't already on a PK Most Wanted List for killing Captain Crais' brother and aiding and abetting the escaped prisoner Leviathan, but now punishment for the above crimes become secondary to Scorpius' goal to gain access to his hidden knowledge. Crais himself is also subject to the Aurora Chair where Scorpius discovers his insubordination to High Command in his pursuit of revenge on Crichton. In a series of plotwists during the season finale, Crais becomes an unlikely ally/prisoner of Moya's crew up until he commandeers Moya's recently birthed baby Talyn, a previously unheard-of hybrid between Leviathan and PK gunship! Whew. Head hurt yet? Mind you, that's all just the last seven episodes of season one. Season Two obviously had some bold new territory to explore and was faced with a major challenge: sustaining the momentum and consistent quality of what's come before. After one year on the air, Farscape had become an instant classic and significant entry into the scifi genre, earning the honor of The Scifi Channel's highest rated program. Could its second year possibly live up to the standards established by its first and even surpass it?

Well, it certainly tried to. Taken as a whole, Season Two was even more experimental and gutsy than the the original. The only problem was that when one goes the experimental route, sometimes experiments don't always work and unfortunately the show got off to a slow start before it started to really take off again. Many of the series' weakest episodes happened to fall into Season Two's first third which may have turned off a number of previously faithful viewers. Those who stuck with it were eventually well rewarded, but nonetheless after a few weak entries in a row at the beginning the "word on the electronic street" was that the show had already jumped the shark. Still, Farscape at its worst is still leaps and bounds beyond most of what's on television.

So what went wrong? A number of factors combined to create a week opening. For one thing, the season literally opened on the wrong foot. Aside from the aforementioned Crais/Talyn and Scorpius stories, Episode #22 ("Family Ties")'s cliffhanger had split up the main cast - with what would arguably be the "leads" (an unfair label given the ensemble of the cast) out in space and in immediate danger and the others left on Moya having Starburst away for their own safety. Episode #23, originally titled "Re: Union" was to have been a gutsy gamble focusing solely on those still aboard Moya (Zhaan, Rygel, Chiana and obviously Pilot) as they attempted to locate their missing crewmates. As initially planned, none of the threads involving John, Aeryn, and D'Argo would have been immediately resolved and the threesome wouldn't even have been seen except as hallucinations of Zhaan - included a drastic vision of them dying that would have heightened the tension level of the audience. Perhaps wary of other programs in television history like Twin Peaks, Dallas, and the more recent infamous South Park April Fool's prank that did not provide immediate satisfaction in resolving cliffhanger threads, Scifi decided that it might be too risky to let things proceed as such despite the fact that unlike most television shows, the break between new episodes had only been a month and a half and that Farscape's audience would tend to be a bit more intelligent and accepted (even expecting) such twists. The decision was made that "Re:Union" would be postponed until later in the season and they would open with episode #24 "Mind The Baby" which picked up more of the pressing questions from "Family Ties"' conclusion. This ultimately substantially weakened two otherwise good episodes. "Re:Union" was later titled "Dream a Little Dream" and was retooled as a flashback episode with new bumpers at the beginning and end with Zhaan telling John about "what happened when". Though the new scenes were kinda cute, they couldn't save an episode that essentially lost any of its dramatic tension by being shown later. Seen first, "Mind The Baby" was confusing to watch since not only did several story elements (mostly in regards to Zhaan's apparent freak-out) not make sense without proper set-up, but the episode itself opened with a dream sequence which without appropriate context seemed like it was a "real scene" and not a dream of D'Argo's. (Even the scifi.com summary of the episode mistakenly described it as having actually taken place). Did I say the show started off on the wrong foot earlier? It really went outside with mismatched shoes - on the wrong feet! (And as an American, I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize on behalf of our nation to all the other countries that Farscape airs in. Since episode #23 had to be redone as a flashback, this basically forced other programmers to follow the same messed up airing sequence.)

The season-ending cliffhanger's become such a staple of episodic television over the last couple of decades that even shows and genres (such as sitcoms) that don't tend to follow multi-episode arcs usually feel compelled to find a way to leave the audience hanging over their breaks wondering what's ahead for their favorite characters. Part of the problem with this format is that if a show blows up everything in its season finale, then not only does it have to come up with a quick often way-too-contrived resolution to the main story elements upon its return but also needs to then slowly (but not too slowly - gotta be back up by sweeps!) rebuild itself. Even without the season-premiere fiasco, Farscape too found itself following up the season bridging arc with some less ambitious stand-alone episodes. Viewers had become a bit spoiled since they were essentially given a huge roller-coaster ride between episodes #15-24 with a continually climaxing arc that by the time they went back to some individual stories, they seemed almost destined to disappoint.

The next two episodes "Vitas Mortis" and "Taking The Stone", while each not without their individual strengths, were nonetheless quite weak and in comparison to the recently ended major arc, suffered all the more. "Vitas"'s lame story was saved by strong acting most notably by Anthony Simcoe's D'Argo and Tony Tilse's dreamlike direction. However, as much as I find Tilse to be the series' most intriguing and artful director, quite a few viewers thought "VM" was too dreamlike and bordering on slow and dull. (Altogether now in your best Gonzo voice -- "Yokels! Rubes!") While "Taking the Stone" had the potential to be a deep exploration of life, death, and mortality, it was hampered by a guest cast of young aliens that could barely be understood without closed captioning and an absolutely dreadful "what were they thinking?" clichéd sitcom-y B plot involving a curse on items Rygel stole from graves.

The next episode, "Crackers Don't Matter" was more of a return to form. Even back in Season One, after setting up the characters and situations, the show immediately started to start shake itself up and twisting what we thought we know about the characters on its ear, becoming darker and more adult as early as episodes eight and nine. Up until this point, Season Two had already developed even more of a darker tone in its stories, characterizations and look and as a story "CDM" was a marvelous exploration of dark humor - presenting an intense subject of the worst of human (and alien) nature through insane comedy. The crew's paranoid aspects are supposedly heightened by a series of pulsar lights. Those like me who adore dark humor will have counted this episode among their favorites - Aeryn eating exploded cracker bits out of her cleavage and hallucinations of the leather-clad Scorpius in a Hawaiian shirt and offering pizza and margarita shooters among its many severely warped hilarities. But along with the psycho comedy were some very disturbing serious moments, mainly an almost-rape of Chiana and D'Argo's nearly suffocating Rygel while force-feeding him "crackers" (or rectangular dried food cubes for you purists). The segment of the audience that did not appreciate the harsher moments would have also lumped this episode in the "continual decline" category.

While I'm usually not a proponent of airing episodes out of sequence, given the circumstances I think Scifi made a wise decision in showing Episode #2.7 "The Way We Weren't" before Episode #2.6 "Picture If You Will". "TWWW" was a masterpiece of an episode and definitely among Farscape's best - and at this point, it really needed a strong episode for those who weren't won over by "Crackers". "Picture" certainly would not have been a good choice to air next as it featured the return of Maldis, a rematch that was far inferior to his original appearance back in #1.8's "That Old Black Magic". With all the general comparisons that could be made between Season Two not living up to Season One, a direct example would have really hurt if something spectacular didn't proceed it. "TWWW" delved into Pilot and Aeryn's backstory as its revealed that Aeryn was one of the PK's who had assassinated Moya's original Pilot. The hour filled in much backstory on two of the series' most intriguing characters in a poignant deeply emotional manner. I would personally recommend this episode to Henson fans who weren't into the scifi genre but just wanted to see what kind of work was being done; not only does Pilot's performers give some remarkable performances, but we even get to see Pilot's full body for the first time. My only beef with the episode was that there was no attempt made to physically differentiate the original Pilot from our present one. Another puppet may have been too costly to make but given that the former Pilot was female, they could have at least tried giving it longer eyelashes or some kind of minor touchups to show a distinction.

These two installments were followed by "Home on The Remains" which was certainly stronger but not extraordinary and (finally) "Dream A Little Dream". With the airing of another "crazy" episode, "Out Of Their Minds", in which Farscape tackles the scifi standby body-switching premise in a way that's anything but clichéd or predictable, Farscape's sophomore slump has at this point pretty much passed. With guest villains that look hauntingly familiar (and let me state here that unlike the majority of Farscape reviewers, I don't believe that they were recycled Skeksis from The Dark Crystal), "OOTM" delivers an even
zanier outing than "Crackers Don't Matter"!

An epic three-part arc, "Look At The Princess" followed which also helped pull Farscape from its brief drought, providing a look at some of the history of the break-away Sebacean colonies as we visit The Royal Planet which has maintained neutrality against the Peacekeeper Sebaceans and their conflicts with the Scarrens. (You'll recall Scorpius is a Sebacean/Scarren half-breed and you can bet he figures heavily into this story!) The LATP episodes were quite ambitious, so much so that what was originally planned as a two-parter was spread out into three episodes to help fit in what writer/producer David Kemper wanted to accomplish. Unfortunately, the conclusion fell a bit flat with quite a few plot holes in its "A" plot and a decidedly anti-climatic wrap up to the "B" story of The Builders (Moya's Gods) decommissioning Moya due to her ability to produce gunship offspring (they fell back on the old well-overworn "it was all a test" revelation.)

Though the ending was slightly disappointing, the series' remaining episodes, while not without their individual weaknesses generally tended to bring the second season up to the higher standard fans knew it was capable of. A high point was one more over-the-top comic episode "Won't Get Fooled Again" where John again seems to find himself back on Earth, only this time with his friends and foes from the Uncharted Territories now part of the normal landscape (Zhaan, for example appears as his psychologist dressed smartly in a suit and seems amused at John's distress as dealing with a "person of color"). Wary of his experiences from "Human Reaction", John knows that his mind is being messed with though it soon becomes apparent that it's not the Ancients pulling the strings again. David Kemper has described this episode as "Farscape on acid" and while the viewer is treated to one hysterical scenario after the next, the episode also offers an interesting exploration of John's psyche (as Zhaan tells him back in "Rhapsody In Blue" before sharing Unity, "I always wondered what could possible be inside that mind of yours") and we also learn the most important revelation of Farscape's second year that will set the storyline for all else that follows (and sets a lot of what's happened before in a different context): Back when John was in Scorpius' Aurora Chair, he had planted a Scorpius Clone chip in Crichton' brain to both hunt and store the wormhole data within. While the chip has in some ways been beneficial to Crichton as it's protected him from death quite a few times, side effects include the inability to harm Scorpius as well as growing visions and hallucinations of the villain.

The next two episodes "The Locket" and "The Ugly Truth" bring back Stark, John's cellmate when he was on the Gammak Base in the season one finale. Played by Paul Goddard, Stark had seemed like one of the most intriguing new characters upon his introduction; one that I had hoped might permanently join the cast. When it seemed like he just may stay with Moya upon John/Stark's escape, he was suddenly vacant from the ship in the next episode with no mention of where he went or why he left (Season One's worst continuity screw-up - lines detailing that he had left on one of Moya's transport pods somehow ended up being lost in between drafts of the scripts.) Exciting as it was to see him back on Moya, his time aboard turned out to be a grave disappointment. In both episodes, he hardly seemed like a developed character but rather a plot device to serve the resolutions of each. In a Rashoman take off in "The Ugly Truth", the episode ends with Stark's capital punishment of dispersal. While the door was left open for him to come back (since he's primarily an energy being, he was optimistic he could survive such an ordeal), the guy stayed dead for.... one whole episode. When he came back (again) just in time for the four-part second season finale, the character seemed even more inconsistent. I'll return to this subject later, but I do want to note here that the main problem was that it didn't seem like the various writers had a clear consensus of what he should be. As an actor, the fault could not fairly be credited to Goddard, and in fact perhaps Paul's ability to somehow try to maintain a semblance of consistency out of the scripts may have saved Stark from really being a disaster.

After a brief excursion into Chiana's backstory in "A Clockwork Nebari" and the introduction of a Nebari contagion that may end up becoming a significant thread in season three (or maybe even four?), the four-part season climax follows last year's tradition of tying up several previous threads and elements while setting the stage for next year. The story follows D'Argo's attempts at finally being reunited with his son, Jothee (who thankfully has lost that huge head of his youth) who is about to be sold into slavery. Stark gets the crew entangled into an elaborate plot to rob a shadow depository - one that not only does Scorpius take advantage of but is also managed by Natira ("Star Wars II"'s Claudia Karvan), a sexually charged female who has quite a complex love/hate relationship with Scorpy. The currency the crew rob end up being a booby trap set for Scorpius of metal eating arachnids. Scorpius learns of the slave auction and purchases the lot and holds Jothee as hostage in return for Crichton. A number of former adversaries from Season One are contacted to act as mercenaries in the crew's rescue mission. A ninth of Moya ends up being burnt in order to kill the metallites. As a whole, the first three season-ending chapters (the "Liars, Guns, and Money" arc) are a true showcase of Farscape at its best - from the writing to the direction and acting, character design, animatronics, and CGI effects, the viewer is left with what could easily be on the big screen. The only real problems I had with this arc (besides the characterization of Stark) was that the big shoot-em-up gunfights rescuing Crichton from Scorpius's possession seemed too much of a retread of Season One's "Hidden Memory". This could be overlooked as parallelism so I'm willing to give the writers the benefit of the doubt. While it was wonderful to see several old favorite characters, I felt that it was achingly way too convenient how they were all found so easily and quickly - not just the individual races but also the individual characters previously encountered.

Assuming the Tavlek Bekhesh still is headquarted in the same location, this is passable - but finding a particular Sheyang ship that is not centered in a particular area but rather devoted to roaming and looting? Finding the sameVocarian Blood Trackers that would be thought to travel from planet to planet based on wherever the offer of profitable bounty may be? Way too contrived. (b) To even accomplish the task of finding these people, Pilot explains that Moya's been mapping their time in the Uncharted Territories as best as possible - but given what we've previously learned about StarBursts - that it invalidates previous navigation points, this just was too big a contradiction especially combined with the above implausibility. I do however, have to commend the writers on the plottwist of Rygel's seeking the Zenetan Pirates for assistance with The Flax to find that their former leader has been replaced by his former adversary Captain Durka. Not only was this a scrumptious surprise, but also quite clever being the possibility that the Nebari sector where Durka was last expelled could have been quite close to the Flax - the Flax was in Episode #13 and Durka Returns was in Episode #15. Even though Moya did perform a StarBurst in between the two in "Jeremiah Crichton"; she eventually had to find her way back to where John was stranded outside.

The final episode "Die Me, Dichotomy" also ranks among the series' best, providing an even more intense close than the previous season's "Family Ties" episode, as Crais alerts the crew to a healer who can perhaps try to save Moya and remove the chip from Crichton's brain without killing him. Unfortunately, the chip is starting to gain control of Crichton's brain, turning him into another Scorpius. Aeryn is attacked once just after she finally verbalizes her love for John, and later is killed by John in battle. Her death and subsequent funeral scene is among the most heart-wrenching, raw, emotional moments in the show's short but sweet history (marred only by the over symbolic gestures of D'Argo leaving his Qualta Blade and Rygel donating his Royal Seal to Aeryn's coffin - but given that Aeryn died drowning in an icy lake and the healer's lab was filled with frozen not-completely-dead specimens, I strongly doubt that the tomb will be of much use for long! Besides, Claudia Black's too magnificent to lose!) Scorpius manages to break in on John's surgery after the wormhole data has been restored and before John's brain can be put back together, killing the healer and making off with the data he wants. John is left with half of his memories gone and an inability to coherently speak. (So help me, I will spend the entire hour laughing my head off if the show returns for Season Three with Crichton's mumbling replacing the opening theme narration!)

The Scorpius Chip is such a major part of the story arc of Season Two and one that's not revealed until halfway through that it gives the whole season a double layer - one can watch the earlier episodes with hindsight and see how the chip may have slowly been affecting Crichton. In a strong ensemble cast of outstanding actors, this season really belonged to Ben Browder. Back in "Mind The Baby", we could tell that John was developing a thicker skin and maybe heading for a breakdown. His whole attitude was growing harsher and thickened; a nice contrast to ex-Peacekeeper Aeryn Sun's character development going in the opposite direction - a cold emotionless soldier learning to expand her horizons and discovering her heart. When two people are in an intimate relationship, the lines between the individuals' separate personalities can sometimes become rather blurred and this whole dynamic - even without the ScorpyChip, was fascinating to follow. Even John's outward appearance was a suggestion that something was drastically changing - he continued to wear Peacekeeper clothing even when it was no longer necessary to pretend to be one. At first, it seemed like he may have been undergoing major trauma after his experiences in the Aurora Chair and while that certainly may have shaped his whole mental instability, it's fun to rewatch all the episodes and realize that most of it was because of the chip. He asks Aeryn as early as "Taking The Stone" if lately he seems to be acting a little strange (Aeryn: "What do you mean lately?") and "Crackers Don't Matter" ends up being the true turning point when Crichton sees his first visions of Scorpius. Behind the scenes, it was apparently this part of "CDM" that triggered the idea of the ScorpyChip and the rest of the development of Season Two. One particularly poignant moment comes in the "My Three Crichtons" episode where a research vessel creates a primitive and an evolved clone version of John and needs to take one of them back for study. The caveman version, despite his primitive manner is all heart while FutureJohn is ruthlessly cold. In a fitting piece of symbolism, CaveJohn wraps Crichton's flightsuit around himself, and the Future version clothes itself in the Special Ops PK uniform - calling to mind the question of where John has come from in his character development and where he might be heading. Not only must these same issues be left in John's mind at episode's end, but it's also again interesting to relate what ended up being FutureCrichton given the ScorpyChip - what would it have been like without it?

Even though he had considerably less screen time and only appeared in a few episodes throughout the season, the other dramatic character arc was that of Bialar Crais. When he was introduced in the series premiere, he seemed a tad two-dimensional. But in each subsequent appearance, we learned about more about him and the character slowly became a bit more complex to where now in Season Two, away from his PK life and supposedly at peace with Crichton (he delivers a heartfelt apology to John in "Family Ties but when he escaped with Talyn, we were left to wonder how sincere it was.) He can no longer fall into any easy labels of "good guy" or "bad guy". Can we trust him? If he's a friend, he could probably be a powerful ally, but also very dangerous if he is indeed foe. I have it on good authority that we will be thankfully seeing much more of Crais next year, and I can't wait to follow his further development.

This has also been a good year for Ka D'Argo. Like Crais, he could also have easily become too archetypical but thankfully the writers had picked up on the vulnerability Anthony Simcoe was bringing to the part and used it to help flesh the character out more. We see much less of the impulsive warrior and more of his sensitive side, particularly in his growing relationship with Chiana. Fans are divided on their pairing, but I feel it makes sense. D'Argo has lost most of his adult years in prison - he still hasn't had a "real world" chance to grow up and his libido has been pretty well established. Chiana is a very sensual creature and Gigi Edgely has certainly earned her way into the already strong ensemble with ease. Both characters during their time together are very much living for the moment. Yet, at the same time, it also makes sense that once D'Argo's son Jothee came aboard that sparks would fly between Chiana and him. Reunited with his son, D'Argo is in a position where he has to grow up very quickly and be the adult...and Jothee is in many ways a younger mirror of his father's impulses. Chiana would be more apt to find the things she's looking for in Jothee and in a being closer to her own age. This will no doubt be a very painful arc for D'Argo in season three, but one that I'm also anxious to follow because its quite natural - even if the girlfriend-falls-for-partner's-son storyline seems on its surface soapish.

Zhaan and Rygel, on the other hand, have not benefited from this year. Zhaan showed some true potential - the real season opener was her time in the spotlight and we got to see some more interesting sides of her during "Home On The Remains", but "Picture if You Will" while arguably a Zhaan-centered episode didn't really reveal anything of any significance and throughout the rest of the year, she seemed to slip into the back-burner. She's the one left on the Helosian ship trying to reason with them in "Out of Their Minds" while the rest of the cast is having their fun playing each other and again in "Look At The Princess". She's left with Moya while everyone else is involved in the main story on the Royal Planet. She's almost completely absent in episodes like "Clockwork Nebari" altogether.

Rygel, though, was the season's big loser. His character has so much potential that's being wasted - a former Dominar used to the adoration of 600 billion subjects finds himself looked down upon by his fellow crewmates. His outlook and values are constantly misunderstood; he may very well be the smartest being (aside from Pilot) on Moya, but because his goals are often at odds with everyone else and because of his markedly different appearance/size, he's looked down on if not ignored. He's not been given a lot to do this year and when he is given a story, we usually just see his selfish side. Assuming he returns in season three (we last left him bargaining for outside transport independent of Moya), I really hope the writers make it more of a priority to explore his character much more - real three-dimensional arcs and not the grave-robbing no-stories that he got stuck with this year. I would also suggest it's time we really need to get a good look at his backstory - yes it would be prohibitively expensive to see a bunch of other Hynerians, but surely there's got to be ways to flesh out his past more - we know from "Jeremiah Crichton" that the Hynerian Empire was at least once one to be reckoned with. We need to know how and why. What relationships do they have with the Sebaceans/Peacekeepers - Zhaan and D'Argo, we learned were political prisoners of the PK's; I would trust Rygel's displacement from his throne came about through a similar underground coup between the PK's and his usurper cousin Bishan. I love Aeryn Sun. Crais, Scorpius, Zhaan, D'Argo, and Chiana; intriguing characters all. But if there's no major emphasis on Rygel next year, I'm really going to start feeling cheated. It's well overdue. Even Pilot - a servicer mainly - has had much more of an arc this year, growing confident in his abilities and developing more of a backbone and equal status with the passengers as opposed to a robotic follower of their demands.

We haven't learned a great deal about Jothee yet, but I'm excited by what i've seen so far and hope to see more of him next year. As mentioned, he's very much his father's son, but he's had to be more of a survivor and must have had a rougher time finding his identity and place in the universe, being an orphaned half-breed. D'Argo by contrast grew up as part of a military unit and a strong sense of Luxan identity and culture. Even without the Chiana triangle, this could be an interesting relationship to follow - or if improperly developed, could lead to "an extra 'D'Argo'". It will be interesting to see if the Luxans stay on Moya for the remainder of season three, since D'Argo's accomplished his main goal - finding his son. What's left for him now is to either regain his name and honor in his homeworld (not to mention find it), or set up a new life somewhere else altogether.

I mentioned in last year's review that Farscape is one of the best cast shows on television and I stand by that statement - Gigi Edgely, Wayne Pygram as Scorpius, and Paul Goddard (as an actor) have been strong additions to the cast. Francesca ("Mrs. Ben Browder") Buller has played TWO marvelous creations each year; M'Le in last season's "Bone to Be Wild" and the Royal Family's servant Ro-NA ("Toaster-toaster-toaster") in the "Look At The Princess" arc. I'm hoping we see her return as another character this year! But what's really impressed me this past year is how good the show is especially at casting character's relatives. We met John's father all the way back in the Premiere. Even though Kent McCord basically fell into the role via his friendship with David Kemper, this was a blessed bit of casting nonetheless - you can look at Jack and John and see a possible family resemblance (more noticeable when we got to see John as aged to an old man in "The Locket" - lots of shades of Crichton Sr in his look and speech), plus a shared accent. The Future version of John in "My Three Crichtons" sounds an awfully lot like Crichton Sr in his delivery. I've already touched on Jothee; Matt Newton's portrayal especially drives home how much he's like D'Argo. In "The Locket", when Aeryn finds herself if a different timeline, we meet her granddaughter Ennixx - Allyson Standen was a remarkable find, very much a mirror of Claudia Black's features, delivery, and mannerisms. As much as alternate reality stories make my skin crawl, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing Ennixx again just because the actress is so good. Finally, that leaves Chiana's brother Nerri. We only saw him in a recorded message and a few brief flashbacks in "Clockwork Nebari" but we'll no doubt see him again sometime so again, we have a potentially interesting character on the horizon.

As Stark, Paul Goddard was a great find, maybe too good. Part of the reason he left as quickly as he came last year and took his time coming back this year was supposedly because he had other project commitments. But i was certainly fascinated at the beginning. In his brief appearances in two episodes, I was won over and really hoped so badly to see more of him. Any of your mama's ever warn you be careful what you wish for? He came back (and died and came right back again!) but this time around it seemed like he was being written by someone different each time he was on the screen. I understand that he will be a permanent cast member this year so I pray that the writers spent a lot of time working out the kinks in his character - and he can quite easily be redeemed. When we first met him in Crichton's jail cell, he was pretending to be insane. We learned soon enough that this was a ruse to get the PK's to leave him alone. Stark has been revealed as a creature of energy. I'm thinking given some of the inconsistencies in his character and most of his behavior throughout this season's finale that this could in fact end up being a part of his profile... a being in a state of flux, a shifting identity, needing to be what's required by other people or the situation he's in. His weaknesses can still turn into a strength - and I think that in his attempt at developing his character, Goddard had picked up on this in order to make up for the writer's inconsistencies. That he's been able to do what he has with the mixed veggies he's been tossed, he's earned my respect.

From the moment he appeared on screen, Pygram's Scorpius had immediately replaced Crais as the Numero Uno Baddie. Crais couldn't hope to match him and watching some of the power struggles between the two characters was riveting. Pygram definitely has a rare screen presence - his costume must aid tremendously, but make no mistake - Wayne still earns his paycheck. Threatening with just a small bit of camp to keep it fun but not too over-the-top, he truly is the proverbial villain we love to hate and hate to love. We learned some more of his backstory this year especially in terms of how his suit serves as a means of balancing his Sebacean half who can't stand heat and the Scarren half that both thrives on and radiates it. But there's still so much more to find out such as how exactly he came to his position with the Peacekeepers and his formative years and I hope we get more of this as well (but given a choice between Scorpius and Rygel history, I'm definitely ready for Hynerian 101!) The only problem with the character is that he seems to survive an awful lot of situations that would otherwise seem fatal (How the heck did Scorpius and Lt. Braca outlast the depository exposion in the next-to-last episode? This was never addressed!)

Farscape remains one of the most impressive technical showcases on television, bringing feature film values to the small screen and yet its remained true to itself in terms of putting the stories and characters first as opposed to the usual Hollywood mentality of everything else revolving around the effects. This year saw some changes in the technical crew. The CGI company and the shooting location is different as well as the overall look of the show. The cinematography reflects the tone of the show in that it looks grittier and harsher (different camera?). Most of the characters have undergone either a wardrobe and/or design change. Crichton has ditched his t-shirts for the Peacekeeper vest; he looks dang sexy in it, but aside from looking "cooler", it also ties in with his psychological development as noted. Aeryn's wearing her hair straighter and longer and while still mainly in black leather, is starting to pick up clothing slightly separating her from her old PK identity. Pilot has had some work done internally allowing for greater expression range while Rygel's given a new puppet. At first Rygel's change didn't look so good - it literally looked like he's had all the elements of a human face lift; everything tighter and pulled back. He worked well in close-ups but otherwise he looked more like a puppet. However, it appears Henson has slowly been modifying him over the season and after a few episodes, his coloring and overall look found its niche to where it finally ended up being an improvement over last year (i now look back at the previous Rygel and cringe). D'Argo's change was the most dramatic; his whole make-up is darker - at least the script justified the change; his new look could be credited to his space exposure and moon burn. The shock wore off quickly though and I was already won over by the new look as soon as "Vitas Mortis". The new make-up enhances Simcoe's face and expressions and I'm especially thankful that the color of the nose blends in better with the rest of the face... last year's dark brown nose over his paler complexion just looked laughably silly. Zhaan's new look however can only be considered a failure. There was a change in her costuming, adapting more formal priestess robes which were more in keeping with her return to the Delvian Seek. Some fans didn't like the new robes, especially the high turtleneck, but I didn't mind those as much as I did the make-up. Virginia Hey's wearing a different kind of make-up this year which is better for her skin. While I certainly wouldn't want Virginia to suffer more than what she must already for her art (think of the poor lady's bathtub rings!), the new make-up does not translate well at all on camera. All the details are completely drowned out. Look at the rich complexity of her face in That Old Black Magic or DNA Mad Scientist and then look at her now and it's all just about gone. We can see some white freckles on her forehead and her nose but everything else is just eughh-blue...not only are all the contrasts gone but it looks like makeup pancaked on. In a way, I'm almost thankful for her reduced screen time because the look is so bad that when she comes on screen, I don't think "Oh, Zhaan" but rather "here's Virginia in her make-up". Hopefully, the staff can find a way to keep Virginia happy and healthy while tweaking the make-up to be more camera-friendly. And speaking of actresses and make-up, the body contouring on Chiana has become so dramatic that it screams "shading enhancements" rather than looking natural. Maybe in her adventures over the cycles, Chi has learned a think or two about Seduction Via Cleavage Paint.

Which brings me to one of my biggest disappointments with this season. The return of the Nebari. Chiana's introduction in "Durka Returns" was one of my favorite episodes of last year mainly because of Tilse's haunting direction - Chi's captor, Salis was creepy mainly because he was so Mister-Rogers-calm. Yet, when the Nebari return to claim Chiana in "Clockwork", both characters look like rebels themselves instead of the conformists. Varla basically looked like Chiana's mother; the exact same makeup and hair but on a different actress. The male Nebari looked just like Nerri when we saw his image. It struck me as the character designers trying to create a mod/goth look that was "cool", but it just didn't gel with what had already been established. Add to that the fact that a later effect with Crichton's eyes being pulled out way more than what could be remotely plausible let me to think someone in Australia's been watching too much "Ren & Stimpy" - this seemed like a gross-out effect just for the sake of being gratuitous. I hereby ban Rowan Woods from directing any more episodes with the Nebari and request that from now on, only Tony Tilse is allowed to touch them.

With the recent video and DVD releases, more fans should be tuning in to season three, and the program should hopefully build on the growing reputation it deserves. Enough seeds have been planted this last year for some more exciting developments, and as long as the writing staff is able to learn from past mistakes, Farscape's third year definately has the potential to maintain a consistently high quality throughout. "Deeper into the Uncharted Territories!"

 
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