|DVDs - Region 2 Double DVD Box Set 1|
Farscape's first double set of DVDs for Region 2 includes two discs featuring the first four episodes completely uncut in UK broadcast order – "Premiere", "Throne for a Loss", "Back and Back and Back to the Future" and "I, E.T.". Extras include two 10 minute "Behind the Scenes" star profiles (John Crichton and Aeryn Sun), a 22 minute "Making of" documentary, an original Jim Henson Company trailer, a DVD ROM Farscape PC screensaver and weblinks.
by David Pugh
"During a test mission in his experimental spacecraft the Farscape, astronaut John Crichton is swept across space and time into a Parallel Universe. Catapulted into a raging space battle, Crichton immediately has enemies and allies forced on him – and his adventures have only just begun..."
So reads the blurb on the back of the first (and indeed all from season one) box set. It is not this reviewer's job to give an in-depth review of each episode – should you wish to read them, they can be found here. Short reviews, however, will be given.
We kick off with Premiere, the very first episode of Farscape. It's one of those episodes that sets everything in motion – introduces the basic material the viewer will require in order to follow the series. Normally, these are two-parters and take 90 minutes to introduce these ideas to the viewer. That Farscape tries to do this in one episode immediately states that this is not one of those series which is content to churn out regulation plots, scripts and it will do things its own way. Unfortunately, there is a reason why these episodes are two-parters and it is that 45 minutes is simply not enough time to introduce everything satisfactorily, hence there is a slight feeling that events are rushed. We are given only the most basic introduction to the characters, which is to the detriment of the episode. On the whole though, it is a decent enough episode which provides the viewer with enough to keep their attention until the next episode.
Next up in this box set is Throne for a Loss. Fourth in the production order, it was shunted up to second in the broadcast order in the UK and this order was carried through onto the DVD release. I think it suffers from this – when viewed after Premiere, the character development has suddenly advanced by a bit with no conceivable explanation (this issue will crop up again).
The plot is simple – Rygel is kidnapped by a bunch of mercenaries whilst carrying a vital piece of Moya. A simple rescue operation follows. However, in keeping with the majority of the first few episodes, there is less focus on the story and more on the characters. Following up on the rather limited Premiere, this develops the characters more, introducing us to their backgrounds and the reasons they were on Moya, whilst providing the opportunity for stories delving into their backgrounds. It also provides an insight into their motives and what drives the characters – Zhaan's attempt to rehabilitate the young Tavlek being a prime example. Overall, whilst not an episode that will live long in the memory, it is an improvement on Premiere but I think it would still benefit from being in its proper production order.
Third up is Back and Back and Back to the Future. Immediately after Throne For A Loss in production order, this is probably the second most enjoyable of the first few episodes. Time travel is a fascination of mine and the Farscape take on it, flashes of the future with the ability to avoid certain incidents by changing the future, is both novel and intriguing.
The war between the Scorvians and Luxans/Ilanics had a lot of potential as an early storyline – whether the crew of Moya would become embroiled in this war was one option open to the writers. And the Scorvian spy was a rather unexpected plot twist – kudos to the writers for that one.
Matala was the one thing that irked me about this episode. Maybe it's my dislike of manipulative, scheming women, but I find them intensely irritating and she was no exception. But overall, it was a good episode – not brilliant, but eminently rewatchable, which is good.
Lastly is I, E.T.. Second in production order, but fourth in the line-up and this sticks out like a sore thumb; the character development in the last two episodes has gone to pot. Ignoring this, however, leads to a half-decent episode where the obvious parallel to Earth allows Crichton to wallow in the feelings of homesickness. The old sci-fi ideal of kids being terrible does again hold true – Fostro being the most annoying aspect of this episode. But it's fairly simple – again the plot is not too complex and it is easy to see why it was moved in the production order: following Premiere with an unmemorable episode would not have boded well for initial viewer ratings. I cannot understand, however, why it wasn't put back to second in the running order for the DVD release because continuity was shot to pieces by moving the episode and it is a real shame.
Farscape's format of 5 boxed sets, as opposed to releasing the episodes all in one go, is obviously an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the show by charging fans more than if the season was released in one boxed set. The DVDs can easily hold 4 episodes each and it's a shame that the high capacity of the discs is not utilised fully. However, less episodes means more space for extras but unfortunately, this is not utilised either. The character profiles are a good idea, as is the "behind-the-scenes" documentary. Inclusion of the original trailer is also a good move. The lack of commentaries though precludes the extras from being described as 'outstanding' and indeed are rather ordinary.
Those with DVD-ROM drives on their computer will find an added bonus – a Farscape screensaver and links to Farscape websites (this consists of the official homepage, Henson.com and kult-tv.co.uk). The paucity of links is more than made up for by the wonderful screensaver, which alternates stills from the episodes themselves with publicity shots of the cast displayed on a multitude of backgrounds. The links between shots are a bit shaky in places, although that may well just be my computer.
Those who have the entire set of DVDs will notice that bits of the cast profiles turn up in the "making of" documentary as well. Whilst there are many original bits in the documentary, one cannot help feeling that it would have been nicer to have an entirely new documentary. But apart from that, there are no gripes with it. It takes us from the sets in Sydney, to London with the Henson Creature Shop and back to Sydney again. All the major cast get interviews, along with Brian Henson and Rockne O'Bannon and there is a whole host of supporting interviewees, mostly from the Creature Shop. It provides a fascinating insight into how Farscape is made and also how the puppets are put together. Interspersed with clips from the shows, it really takes us through the process of getting from script to screen.
The cast profiles give a feeling of déjà vu when watching – of course, having seen half of them before, it's not surprising. Even some of the clips from the show are reused, which is slightly disappointing. But this is made up for by having others, usually Brian Henson, talking about the characters and giving a second viewpoint to support or, occasionally, counter the actor's views.
The actors themselves give a general overview of the character; backstory, motivation etc. and then move onto their feelings toward the character – how they play them, why they enjoy playing them – that sort of thing. Claudia then goes onto discussing how she handles interacting with the puppets, Rygel, especially.
Overall, there isn't much that couldn't be garnered from magazine interviews in the profiles, but hearing it from the actors themselves and the way the profile was edited together with alternating clips and interviewees seems to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Last word goes to Ms Black, when discussing her character:
"I think she's kinda like a contemporary Emma Peel – funky, groovy chick. I call her Cyber Spice"
Although the episodes themselves aren't the best the series will ever produce, they do (mostly) stand up to rewatching time and time again so you cannot really fault them. The extras aren't outstanding, especially when compared to film releases, but they are good enough. I think that had the profiles been available exclusively on DVD, as opposed to being released on the VHS tapes as well, it would have given better value for money but when the DVD set is cheaper than the two VHS tapes anyway, you cannot really complain. And for those with a DVD-ROM, the screensaver does most definitely give you another reason to buy.
Verdict: could do better, especially in terms of extras. Out-takes and commentaries please.
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Item: Farscape Season 1 Double DVD Box Set 1
Recommended Retail Price: £24.99 (£17.99 from Play247)
Distributor: Contender Ltd.
Region: 2 (PAL - Europe, Australia)
Picture Format: Pal 4:3
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Number of Discs: 2
Format: 2 x DVD5
Total Running Time: 250 mins (approx.)
Episodes: "Premiere" (48:06), "Throne for a Loss" (48:06), "Back and Back and Back to the Future" (48:06) and "I, E.T." (48:06)