|Books - Illustrated Season 4 Companion|
Daring. Groundbreaking. Mind-frellingly original. Farscape has deservedly built up a legion of fans around the world, drawn to its unique mix of strong characters, roller-coaster story arcs and the most impressive special effects on television.
Here's the inside story on Farscape's unforgettable fourth year. Compiled with total access to the show's cast and crew, this official companion is packed with exclusive interviews and photos, a definitive episode guide and even a Foreword from Crichton himself, Ben Browder! Also inside are Afterwords from executive producer David Kemper and series creator Rockne S. O'Bannon, and an intriguing look at the future of Farscape.
by Dani Moure
The final illustrated companion follows the familiar layout carried over from previous volumes, but tweaks it slightly to add a few additional sections following the show's shock cancellation.
Unfortunately, the colour photos that appeared last time are dropped here, but it's not really surprising, since we were lucky to get a final volume for a show that was cancelled in the first place. This volume definitely has a slightly sad tone, as while reading it really hits you that you may never see a behind-the-scenes look at Farscape like this again, not to mention the potential tear-jerkers in some of the other sections.
The book starts out, as always, with a Foreword. This time, it was written by Ben Browder, and is one of those bittersweet pieces. Ben talks briefly about his first moments in Australia, the friendships he made over the course of the show, and the end. It's reading this kind of piece that really reminds you of the effects the cancellation had on everyone, and it's definitely a sombre note to start on.
Next up is a brief, two-page "Into Season Four" section, which briefly goes into some of the problems facing the production team at the start of the season. It touches on problems with Sci Fi's promotion for the new season, how that felt, and Rockne O'Bannon stepping away from day-to-day involvement.
Then we dive straight in to the episode guide. The format continues in the same manner as always, starting with the episode credits, a brief outline, and the remainder of the three pages per episode for black and white images and the behind-the-scenes interviews and information. The latter are superb, as always, with Paul Simpson (who takes a solo writing credit on this book) doing an excellent job of weeding through to find the good stuff. We get the usual amusing anecdotes from the time on set, reflections on things that happened and the episodes themselves, details on how the actors approached things, and all sorts of other behind-the-scenes facts. These are fantastic to read and are what make the book so worthwhile. The problems I've had in the past with the format are inherent here; occasionally I find the pictures to large and long for more details, and of course, since this is an official book, one can't be too critical of certain episodes that, they might not be happy with. But still, the enthusiasm and energy of all involved comes across in spades, and it never becomes boring or tiresome to read these pieces. More would be nice, but it's difficult to complain about what we get.
While three pages per episode is the standard, thankfully one episode gets a closer look, and this season it's one of the most daring – "John Quixote". This episode, written by Ben Browder, gets eight pages (including pictures) devoted entirely to the behind-the-scenes aspect. It's fantastic to read all about the creation of this episode, from the various concepts it went through to get to the videogame and fairytale format, to how Claudia Black came up with the twist in the Princess, it's an enthralling read and works very well in providing that little bit extra for the episode.
Next up are the character profiles, which will be familiar to readers of past volumes. Each main character gets four pages: one full-page character picture, with a couple of others spotted around the other three pages of each. The rest is all text, with comments from the actors, containing their thoughts on the season, their character's actions and progression, and much more. They tend to be very informative, and while it'd be nice to have them go on for pages and pages, what we get is really satisfying. In addition to the main characters (who, incidentally, are considered to be Crichton, Aeryn, D'Argo, Chiana, Scorpius, Noranti, Sikozu, Rygel and Pilot & Moya), there are also six further pages dedicated to other recurring characters: Grayza, Braca, Jool and Stark. It would've been nice to have comments from a few more people here, in particular some of the actors such as Duncan Young and Francesca Buller, who played the Scarrans as the season drew to a close. Nonetheless, the section is pretty meaty as it is, and should satisfy those looking for the actor's take on their character.
Once again, we get a favourite feature of mine, in the form of a twelve-page feature on the Creature Shop. This section is very interesting, and takes us through some of the more interesting creatures and costumes that appeared throughout the season, from newcomers Sikozu and Noranti through to the superbly crafted Scarrans. If you have even the slightest interest in how these awesome characters are designed and brought to the screen, this is a must-read section.
Following this is a short, four-page feature on Production Design, with Tim Ferrier, as he goes through the concepts of the sets, right through to design. This is immediately followed by an "Into the Future" section, which covers the cancellation at the end of filming of the fourth season, to where things stand months on. While a lot here will be familiar to many, it's a great addition to the book to make people who don't get involved with fandom to a large degree aware of what went on.
The final pages include a tear-jerking Afterword from David Kemper, full of thanks and praise for his cohorts, The Last Word from series creator Rockne S. O'Bannon, and a single page Lexicon. The two afterwords are, in particular, very touching, much like Ben Browder's Foreword.
Much like its predecessors, the season four companion is an extremely polished piece, chocked full of interesting snippets and stories from behind-the-scenes. The page count continues to be slightly disappointing, but only because when you're given this much, you can't help but want more. Compared to some shows, we actually got a lot. But for this book, it doesn't seem fare to split hairs. We were lucky to get a final volume at all, and Paul Simpson and the people at Titan really deserve kudos for making it happen. It's a more than welcome addition to complete the collection, and a darn fine read.
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Item: Farscape: The Illustrated Season 4 Companion
Recommended Retail Price: £10.99
Author: Paul Simpson
Publisher: Titan Books
Length: 160 pages