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DVDs - Region 4 Season One Box Set

Item Description
Astronaut John Crichton, on an experimental space mission, is accidentally hurled across the universe into the midst of an intergalactic conflict. Trapped among alien creatures wielding deadly technology and hunted by a merciless military race, Crichton is on an epic odyssey more spectacular than anything he has ever imagined. This six-disc set includes all 22 episodes from season 1. Extras include Making Of featurette, Costume Design featurette, Character Profiles (5), Gallery: Character Profiles (5), Gallery: Art, Australian Creature Shop featurette, Screen Saver Web Links.

Review
by Jacqueline Lim

The Episodes

Premiere”, the first episode in this box set, establishes the premise for the entire series. John Crichton, a US astronaut takes his spacecraft on a test mission into space and is sucked through a wormhole that he has unintentionally created. He finds himself in a different galaxy amidst a space battle between the run-away living ship, Moya, her crew of escaped prisoners, and the Peacekeepers. He is brought onboard Moya and eventually bands together with her fugitive crew and together they attempt to both flee their would-be captors and find the way to their various homeworlds.

This overriding story arc is the main thrust of the season. Being the first season in this remarkable series, many of episodes do suffer from the fact that neither the writers nor the actors have completely found their feet. There is initially much effort in establishing the characters without much progression of the overriding narrative of the series. Many of the episodes such as “I, E.T.” are therefore episodic (and formulaic) in nature and while potentially frustrating in hindsight for veteran Farscape viewers, they do mean that this season is perhaps the most accessible one to newbies. There is also a sense of lightheartedness in these stand alone episodes that is missing in the rest of the series. Many of the episodes, such as “Throne for a Loss” come across as funny romps through space where most of the humour is derived from the interactions between the characters and from Crichton’s attempts to make sense of the alien galaxy he has found himself in.

It is obvious though that the creators of the show were attempting to push the boundaries a little as there are shadows of the edgier quality that characterizes the rest of the series. Zhaan’s revelation of her crime of murder while sharing unity with another Delvian in “Rhapsody in Blue” highlights the thin thread of darkness that slowly weaves its way through the season. The season does begin to find its strength when the episodes start to focus more on developing the narrative arc. This begins in earnest from “Nerve” where Crichton’s nemesis Scorpius first appears and continues consistently through till the season finale, “Family Ties”. From here on in, the series takes on a darker tone characterized by Crichton’s slow evolution into a harder, gun-toting, more battle weary character than we first encountered in “Premiere”.

The Extras

This box set holds a number of extras such as interviews, a short “making of” documentary, screen savers, images and weblinks. Unfortunately, most of the extras are brief and lacking in much substance. This is compounded by the fact that this box set does not have any commentaries associated with it. To say that this is disappointing is an understatement. Most people have come to expect a commentary track with their DVDs. This is one of the benefits of the DVD technology. Given that the Australian DVD Season One box set has been produced after DVDs from other regions which do have commentaries, it is a mystery as to why this box set does not have a commentary track. Many Farscape fans welcome the opportunity to learn more about how the show was put together, the motivations for certain story elements and the creative process. Not to have included this feature with the DVD is hopefully an oversight that will not be repeated in subsequent DVDs. The extra features that are present in this box set are discussed in more detail below.

Interviews

The box set presents interviews with all the main cast members. Though short and all too brief, the interviews do provide a forum for the cast to discuss their characters. Each actor also discusses different aspects of their experiences in working on Farscape. Ben Browder, for instance, discusses his experiences being the lone American in a cast of mostly Australian performers. Anthony Simcoe talks about the process he undergoes in transforming himself into D’Argo. Though there is little in the interviews that most fans would not already know, it is nice to be able to watch the actors tell their stories themselves. The only real drawback is that the interviews were obviously conducted in Season One so do not reflect the later evolution of the characters and the actors interpretations of future developments.

Creature Shop, Making of Documentary and Costume profile

The video profile of the Creature Shop, which makes the aliens and various prosthetic devices, is unfortunately a disappointment. Rather than a look at the processes involved in creating the puppets and prosthetics, the profile is just a short tour of the room that holds all the various pieces of equipment. Some brief descriptions are made about the making of the puppets but these comments are cursory and would not satisfy anyone remotely interested in how the “creatures” are made.

The Making of Documentary is better than the Creature Shop video profile and is a good introduction into the complicated process that is the production of Farscape. The documentary also has some informative interviews with the creators of the show. However, much like the interviews with the cast members, this documentary suffers from its brevity.

The short profile on the costumes of Farscape is also interesting and a nice behind the scenes look at another aspect of the show. Some of the footage is taken from the earlier interviews with the actors but it still stands on its own as an introduction into the thought processes behind the costumes.

Web links

There are a number of weblinks that the DVD provides. They are for the various official sites such as the Henson company site, Sci-Fi channel and the Universal site.

Screensavers, Quiz & Art Gallery

Screensavers are available for those who have a DVD driver on their computer.

A short Farscape quiz is also an amusing time-filler for those moments when you might be waiting for the kettle to boil.

A stills art gallery with 25 pictures is also part of the extra features. This is a really interesting extra as it shows a variety of artists’ impressions of the numerous sets and scenes of the season. In some ways this feature is slightly lost as part of a DVD package because it would be so much more informative to have some written information to describe and explain the pictures and thoughts behind them.

Video and Audio

Some reviews of this box set have found the video quality to be problematic however, I found nothing of concern in my viewing of the discs. In fact, I found the picture quality to be sharp and impressive. The numerous CG shots in each episode were translated particularly well. It could be though that I am coming from the point of view of someone who initially saw Farscape through poor Channel 9 reception so any improvement on this is well received.

The box set comes in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0. The audio has transferred well and the sound is quite clear and particularly spectacular when listened to on a surround sound system.

Packaging

The box set comprises of 6 disks, 2 discs per dual case. There are 4 episodes on each disc except the last one which has 2 episodes and also contains the extra features. The art work on the discs and covers is well done and attractive.

Overall

As a series, the episodes take a while to get to the place where Farscape becomes unique and interesting. It is a shame that the creators of the DVDs failed to include commentary tracks in the extra features because without them, the extras are not particularly special and do not really provide the seasoned fan with detailed information about the creative process. Nonetheless, the video and audio quality alone make this box set worthwhile viewing even though one might already have seen these episodes on television.


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Item Details
Item: Farscape Season 1 Six-disc Collector's Box Set
Recommended Retail Price: AU $144.95
Distributor: Universal Home Video (Australia)
Region: 4 (PAL - Australia)
Picture Format: Pal 4:3
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1/Dolby Digital 2.0
Language: English
Number of Discs: 6
Total Running Time: 1058 mins (approx.)
Episodes: "Premiere", "I, E.T.", "Exodus from Genesis", "Throne for a Loss", "Back and Back and Back to the Future", "Thank God It's Friday. Again.", "PK Tech Girl", "That Old Black Magic", "DNA Mad Scientist", "They've Got a Secret", "Till the Blood Runs Clear", "Rhapsody in Blue", "The Flax", "Jeremiah Crichton", "Durka Returns", "A Human Reaction", "Through the Looking Glass", "A Bug's Life", "Nerve", "The Hidden Memory", "Bone to be Wild" and "Family Ties"

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