This is the story of John Crichton, IASA astronaut, somewhere in the universe...
Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.
Rockne O'Bannon - series creator and writer of this episode - clearly had a lot of material he wanted to plough through for this series debut. The task that you face when writing a pilot is a huge one, especially with a show like Farscape where a whole new universe, new characters and story must be introduced. Most shows have trouble fitting everything in to a feature-length pilot, but Farscape attempts to manage it in just a single episode. You have to commend O'Bannon for at least trying, and doing a pretty good job. But a lot of the episode sadly seemed rushed.
I remember when I was something of a Farscape virgin. The tapes in the shop caught my eye and I went home and checked the TV listings. It just so happened that another episode was on that week, but it was good enough to make me buy the tapes, featuring the first 4 episodes in UK order. I watched Premiere first, to see who all these characters were, and have to say I thought it was pants. Clichéd and tiresome, it seemed to rush through everything and really didn't take my fancy. If the next episode hadn't been better, I may never have become the Farscape fan I am today.
But, after seeing the entire first series, and now second, and having re-watched the episode a couple of times, I have to say it stands up much better. It's still not great by any means, but it has its moments, and does set the stage for things to come. I suppose that kind of defeats the point – the first episode is supposed to set up everything else, but it works better when you've seen everything else.
The episode begins by introducing us to John Crichton, IASA astronaut who's out to prove a theory with his childhood friend. The scenes between John and his father work well in setting up their relationship that is used as a platform later in the series. Of course, the experiment goes wrong, and John is flung to the other side of the galaxy through a wormhole. There, he has a collision on his "death pod", becomes the first human to make extraterrestrial contact, gets mixed up in the fight for escaped prisoners, and becomes a wanted man. Not bad for a day's work!
One thing the episode did get across was the alien-ness of everything. The scenes where John boards Moya and is looking around, and then when he sees D'Argo and Zhaan talking in their native tongues, are very good in making us understand that nothing like this has been seen before. John is so gob-smacked by everything that he does very little until he's tongued by D'Argo and placed in the cell.
The first scenes with Aeryn really set up the relationship that will grow into something interesting. They clearly have a good on-screen chemistry, and it shows from the off. The way their relationship develops over the course of such a short time is nice, and doesn't seem entirely unreal, since they look alike so will naturally trust each other in an unknown situation as opposed to the others.
One other thing that was great was the way the puppets are integrated into the show. Both Rygel and Pilot (although it's not evident with Pilot as much until later episodes) are treated as part of the crew. Some shows and actors would tend to be put off by acting with a puppet, but on Farscape it's embraced and the actors and production crew work them into the episodes perfectly, and for the time you watch the episode you don't even think about the fact that what you are watching is not real, it's just a puppet. This is partly due to the huge range of expressions and mannerisms that the puppets have, but also due to the way the actors do their scenes as if they are acting with another person. It's great because the puppets give the show a less human feel.
But, the episode does have its problems. The main one, and a big downfall, is the fact that everything's so rushed; it seems at first as though it's all rammed down our throats. So much happens to John, the lead character who we all identify with, in this short episode it can seem a little too much. For instance, though Aeryn would naturally trust him more, she has known him for such little time that from her ruthless background, it may be a bit hard to believe that she'd stand up to Crais on behalf of John. I think later in the series once she's developed as a character she may, but at this point it does seem a little rushed. The escape from the Peacekeepers also happens too quickly to seem that effective.
It's because of this rushed feel that the episode may seem worse if you watch it first. My advice would be for new fans to watch a later episode first, to get to know the characters a little first, then go back and watch it later to see their origins. It works better in that manner, and you have more of a tendency to forgive its shortcomings, such as the clichés that clearly exist. But overall, though it would have definitely benefited from more time as a feature-length episode, it still does a better job than most pilots at setting up the premise for everything to come.
I love to hear your views, whether you agree or disagree, so feel free to e-mail me your feedback. Review by Dani Moure.
Did You Know?
In the original script, Zhaan was called "Pa'u Zotah Zenn"! Yes, Zenn!
John was originally written to be a NASA astronaut, but by the time it hit the screen he was part of the "IASA".
When we first hear D'Argo and Zhaan speaking in their native languages, it sounds more like garble than a definitive language that we hear when they speak later. Could this be due to the fact that John doesn't have translator microbes yet?
This episode was originally much longer as a script, but many scenes were re-worked and change from the script due to time constraints.
Well, since it's the pilot, everything that comes after it!
John: "They haven't hurt us! How about we show them a little compassion?"
Aeryn: "Compassion... what is compassion?"
John: "Compassion? Wha... you're kidding right? It's a feeling you have when you see someone else's pain, and instead of taking advantage of their weakness you help them."
Aeryn: "I know this feeling."
John: "Yeah, well it is a fairly common human feeling."
Aeryn: "I hate it!"
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