|DVDs - Region 2 Double DVD Box Set 2.3|
Farscape's third season 2 box set takes us past the halfway mark in the landmark second season, featuring Farscape's biggest, most epic story yet. The Region 2 set includes two discs featuring five season 2 episodes completely uncut in UK broadcast order – Look at the Princess, Part 1: "A Kiss is But a Kiss", Part 2: "I Do, I Think", Part 3: "The Maltese Crichton", "My Three Crichtons" and "Beware of Dog". The extras include three deleted scenes, Farscape Quiz and a gallery of 20 stills featuring concept art, character and prop photography.
by Dani Moure
The first disc in this set marks Farscape's most ambitious storyline yet, in that it's the first three-part Farscape story. It's a format that would be revisited later in this season (coming on box set 2.5) to great success. Originally, the "Look at the Princess" story began life as a two-part story, but after filming they realised they had almost half an episodes worth of material that needed to be cut, but since the quality was so high, it was used for a third part and the plot was expanded to accommodate this. You wouldn't notice this on first glimpse though, as the quality of the first part, A Kiss is But a Kiss, shines through, with no noticeable filler or anything of the like. A fast-moving, eventful story moves all the pieces into place, as Crichton ends up kissing a princess and being left with little choice but to propose to her, or become food for the Scarran or be turned over to Scorpius. This is a superb episode, with rich characterisation for all the key players, including some of the guest stars, and everything in the Farscape universe is turned on its head. An exceptionally well-done entrance from Scorpius, plus the introduction of a new major threat, the Scarrans, just adds even more bonus points. Part two, I Do, I Think, the "added" section of the story, lacks some of the pizzazz of the first part, but nonetheless continues to move the plot forward in an interesting manner. All sorts of deception and revelations come here, as Crichton survives his assassination thanks to some timely help, Aeryn leaves all upset to go rock climbing with a new man, and Crichton is placed in a most precarious situation. The scene in which Crichton seemingly goes a little mad before jumping into space out of a ship that is about to explode is simply awesome to watch, and coupled with more unlikely twists, and the "statue for 80 cycles" cliff-hanger, you have another winner. The final part, The Maltese Crichton, concludes the arc in a most emotional manner. High praise is deserved for making Crichton, quite literally, lose his head, as well as forcing Scorpius to become an unlikely ally and providing more intrigue when Crichton is unable to kill him. The heart-wrenching scenes with Crichton's would-be daughter, and the amazing, speechless yet perfect final scene leave a wonderful taste in your mouth, as you realise that this is one journey the crew will never forget. Though it doesn't quite match the dizzy heights of part one, it nonetheless is a great conclusion and a wonderful slice of Farscape.
Next up comes My Three Crichtons, a story in which Crichton gets duplicated by a flying yellow ball of energy not once, but twice. With three Crichtons running around Moya you know you're in for trouble! The story is solid, if somewhat disappointing after the previous three episodes. Particularly nice is the resolution to the story, in which a caveman-like Crichton is forced to do the honourable thing and sacrifice himself to save the crew. Another interesting aspect is the look at what humans may become in the future, through super-evolved Crichton, and it's not pretty. It's a fairly well thought out and produced story, but it's nothing to be up in arms about.
Finishing off this set is the light-hearted Beware of Dog. Underneath what appears to be a rather stupid story is actually a wonderful tale of emotional attachment, as Aeryn gradually becomes close to the lovable Vorc. The story has some hilarious moments, mostly involving the Vorc and its attempts to "befriend" Aeryn, a particular highlight being a scene in her quarters fairly early on. The great thing about this episode is the characters, and the high level of emotion running throughout between all the various characters. The D'Argo-Chiana relationship continues to develop, as does that between Aeryn and Crichton, both naturally following from the events of the "Princess" trilogy. It's not the most outstanding episode, but it's great fun to watch.
Well, the lack of extras available for the season 2 discs becomes ever more apparent with this third release. With the nature of the "Princess" trilogy being what it was, there was obviously not that much footage left over. It's surprising then that the paltry three deleted scenes all come from these episodes. The first involves Zhaan's decision to remain on Moya without the others, but is really a poor excuse for what is simply a slightly longer (and a little altered) version of the scene used in its place. The other two run at around thirty seconds, and both come from part 3. One is a great little gem featuring Chiana having a go at D'Argo for letting Crichton being turned into a statue, with Rygel looking on in dismay. The other is a not-so-good scene involving Aeryn and Dregon. But three paltry scenes, one good and the others throwaway, do not make good enough extras. This is not to be blamed on Contender (who release the sets), as they can only use what Henson send them. Unfortunately, this falls into the "not a lot" category. It's a shame, because even the advertising of "uncut" episodes is nothing as spectacular as it was for season one, as with the running time reduced to just over 45 minutes for every episode, there's very little that was cut out for broadcast. Even updated character profiles would have been nice.
We are ever so slightly appeased by inclusion of a nice little Farscape quiz. It's not particularly difficult, but there should be some brainteasers in there. The reward for completion? A nice video of still images of each character set to the theme tune. It's not particularly long, but a nice inclusion.
Finally there's the still gallery. Yes, there are 20 stills, all of which are nice and interesting, but I have never warranted such galleries as "real" extras. If you're going to class it as an extra, then something more akin to the 4500+ seen in the recent Region 1 Akira Limited Edition release would be more appropriate (although probably not that viable).
So it's a thumbs down for the extras this time... If only Henson could give us more. Even the deleted scenes have been better in earlier sets.
Video & Audio
Well, I admit I don't have the best set up (I have to watch on my PC for surround sound!), but the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is as good as you're going to get for a TV show, and excellent use is made of the different channels really helping immerse you in the action. The audio is clear as crystal, and I generally have no problem whatsoever. It's not a sound problem with the disc, but the sound effect used when Katralla was slapping John did sound more like she was hitting a tin than skin!
The video is again superb. Thankfully Contender aren't stupid enough to use single layer discs for every disc, as the ones with three episodes are always DVD9 (dual layer), which obviously allows the video quality to be sustained throughout. It'd be nice if they would use DVD9s for the two-episode discs as well, but that's just nitpicking. The video is very clear, with no noticeable artefacts, even when the scenes descend into dark blacks. Generally, the transfer is very high quality, and each disc this season has been superb.
Grr! They've done it again! I don't know what it is, or why it happens (or even if it affects every copy), but for a number of the sets I own the box is actually a little too small, meaning the keepcases are extremely hard to remove. This season the other two of mine have been OK, but for this one I had to have a tug of war with the box just to get the cases to move slightly. Even in the other tighter boxes, I can usually give it a whack and the cases come out slightly, but not this one. This is my biggest annoyance, seconded by the switch to non-Amaray cheaper cases. Like the last set when the change was made, the keepcases here have a very cheap feel and are very bend and not all that nice. The spindle that holds the disc is also a little harder to get out than the normal Amaray design (although not bad like some of the other cheaper alternatives).
As for the artwork used on the packaging, I've liked the season 2 designs much better than season 1's designs. The box is vibrant and colourful, with a nice shot of Zhaan in the foreground with action from the episodes in the background. The design is lifted from the cover to disc 1, whilst disc 2 is even better with a menacing image of Rygel. Personally, I would've preferred this one on the box, but they're both nice. Having seen the later covers though, I know the best is yet to come!
Whilst the lack of extras is alarming, if you're looking for a Farscape fix it doesn't come much better than this. The DVD sets work out cheaper than if you by the videos, and offer good value (particularly if you know where to buy them), plus with the great content in terms of episodes on the disc, this is probably the best set this season, with not a dud in sight (unlike the last 2). With high video and audio quality, I really recommend this disc. If you can forgive the lack of extras, it's well worth your time.
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Item: Farscape Season 2 Double DVD Box Set 3
Recommended Retail Price: £24.99 (£17.99 from Play247)
Distributor: Contender Ltd. (under Kult-TV label)
Region: 2 (PAL - Europe, Australia)
Picture Format: Pal 4:3
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Number of Discs: 2
Format: 1 x DVD5, 1 x DVD9
Total Running Time: 224 mins (approx.)
Episodes: Look at the Princess trilogy: Part 1: "A Kiss is But a Kiss" (44:05), Part 2: "I Do, I Think" (42:34) and Part 3: "The Maltese Crichton" (41:55), "My Three Crichtons" (44:06) and "Beware of Dog" (44:06)