|DVDs - Region 2 Double DVD Box Set 3.1 (Deluxe)|
The third season of Farscape hits DVD, with the shocking conclusion to one of the most evil cliffhangers ever devised, the death of a crewmember and the introduction of a new one. The Region 2 set includes two discs featuring the first five season 3 episodes completely uncut: "Season of Death", "Suns and Lovers", Self Inflicted Wounds, Part 1: "Could'a, Would'a, Should'a", Part 2: "Wait for the Wheel" and "...Different Destinations". The extras include the episode-length story recap Farscape: Undressed, presented by Ben Browder and Claudia Black, info-pods on Aeryn (including a Claudia Black interview) and Zhaan, a Guy Gross featurette, behind-the-scenes episode facts, original SciFi episode trailers, a gallery of stills featuring concept art, character and prop photography and a hidden easter egg. The limited Deluxe edition also includes a Farscape-1 watch, a lithograph album and two lithograph prints.
by Dani Moure
The first disc of this set kicks off with a bang, with the season three premiere, "Season of Death". Quickly resolving the urgent cliffhanger at the end of season two, we find out what happens to John who was left with brains all over the operating table, and the Diagnosan who was apparently left dead. Scorpius has the neural chip, but he is stranded on the ice planet and forced into hiding when the crew of Moya return for John. Not only all that, but another problem lurks on the planet for both Scorpius and Moya's crew, and one of the crew will stop at nothing to try and bring Aeryn back to life. This is a great season opener, with questions answered and even more asked. The tension is high throughout the episode, and characters are forced to make choices that will affect them for a long time to come. There's plenty of deceit running strong throughout the episode, and on the whole it works really well.
Fairing less well is "Suns and Lovers". Rygel sees Chiana and Jothee going at it, while the crew are visiting a commerce station to stock up on various supplies. Things don't go to plan as they discover that one of the people on the station is not what they seem, and is related to the storms that could possibly destroy the station. Meanwhile, D'Argo uncovers the ultimate betrayal. While this is by no means a bad episode, it's a little bit by-the-book in many respects. There is some great characterisation for D'Argo, Chiana and even Jothee locked in there though, and a couple of priceless scenes (think John and Aeryn in the tunnels and Rygel headbutting). It's pretty much a must-see though, when you consider how the first four episodes of the season really do form a min-arc of their own.
Next comes the fabled two-parter. After this, nothing will be the same and one will be gone forever... Or so went the SciFi promo. And it's true. Self Inflicted Wounds, Part 1: "Could'a, Would'a, Should'a" opens with an alien ship coming out of a nearby wormhole and colliding with Moya, fusing the ships together. The crash leaves Pilot and Moya dying, and holds up getting Zhaan to a planet to heal her. The crew have to work with the other ship's crew, but as always things are most definitely not what they seem. As if that wasn't enough, Rygel unintentionally wakes the remaining Interion, and hence introduces the latest character to join Moya's crew. In Part 2, "Wait for the Wheel", the crew's dilemma worsens and they are forced to abandon Moya. At least until they discover that Neeyala's crew are intentionally sabotaging Moya. Of course, they set out to stop her crew, but they are running out of time. They need to separate the two ships, but to do so, one of Moya's crew will need to make the ultimate sacrifice. The first part of this epic is a hit-and-miss episode; in many ways it is very, very good, with some great scenes and ideas scattered throughout. The one thing that holds it back is that it seems to busy – it tries to pack in a little too much. With all the characters around them dying and what not, the introduction of a new character really doesn't get the time it needs. On the other hand, the second part has much better pacing, with more time spent on certain elements of the plot. It's actually a very good episode, which annoyed me initially from a jarring point towards the end of the show. There's a constant sense of urgency throughout, then at one point things stop dead for a number of minutes while everyone says their farewells. But despite that one problem, it's great, and there shouldn't be a dry eye in the house when one of the crew is left with little choice but to sacrifice themselves. For that reason, and the introduction of a new crewmember, this two-parter is essential, if flawed viewing.
But my favourite episode of the initial bunch has to be "...Different Destinations". Stark, Aeryn, Jool, D'Argo and John are visiting a Peacekeeper memorial, when they are suddenly thrown back into the past, where the events the memorial is for took place. With their presence significantly altering the timeline, they must attempt to fix it in any way they can. OK, so granted it sounds like a plot right out of the Star Trek bible, but believe me when I say this is a very different time travel affair. The actions of our crew in the past have overwhelming consequences, and the story turns out to be one of the most tragic Farscape instalments yet. The characterisation is very rich, even in the three major guest stars who just amaze in their roles. This is a fantastic episode, and one I highly recommend.
I'll start this section by saying kudos to Contender for continuing to work so hard in getting some excellent extras for these releases. We'll begin with "Farscape: Undressed", an episode-length documentary presented by Ben Browder and Claudia Black. This originally aired in the US prior to the third season premiere, and has never been aired outside the US. So it's a very welcome addition here. The purpose of Undressed is to catch everyone up on the storyline situation from seasons one and two, ready for three. Ben and Claudia again show what fantastic chemistry they have, and it even features guest appearances from Pilot and Rygel. These scenes are interspersed with relevant clips from the show's first two seasons, illustrating what the presenters are talking about. In all, while it essentially is a recap of the story so far, it is still a great extra, and worth watching even for fans, just to see the non-clip show scenes.
Then come the "info-pods". These are very informative, and are presented in a similar way to the character profiles at this site. They detail the character's history, in text form, then follow with a gallery of a few images of that character. Here we get ones for Zhaan and Aeryn. The Aeryn "info-pod" also comes with a short interview with Claudia Black, running just over seven minutes. It's a surprisingly informative interview, and well worth watching. It appears to have been shot around the time of Undressed (from Claudia's outfit), so don't expect season three spoilers (obviously).
There's also a short, just under three minutes, featurette with series composer Guy Gross. It's interesting, since Guy mainly discusses how he went about creating the new season three theme. Again, it's a nice little inclusion.
Next up are the behind the scenes facts. These present a number of snippets from various things that went on during an episode's production, similar to the "Did you know?" portion of the reviews on this site. Some of the facts are very interesting, so they're well worth a read.
Contender have also seen fit to include one of the things I really wanted – the original SciFi promos for these episode. Well, kind of. For the record, I have a number of these downloaded on my hard drive, which kind of shows how much I like them. So I was really happy to get them on this release, but they're actually slightly different – they're voiced over by some man by Contender, instead of the SciFi lady. Unfortunately, Contender could not get the rights to use her voice on the promos, so it's unfortunate but unavoidable. Not that the man is bad, but it's not the same. Anyways, the promos themselves are what matters, and they're included, so aside from that small niggle I'm happy.
Finally there are the obligatory galleries of concept artwork and character and prop photography. While these are nice to have, I don't really get excited about them, although they are well presented.
There's also a hidden easter egg on the first DVD set, and it's something akin to what us anime fans are used to. I must say I was really happy to find it myself, since I've never found an easter egg before! What it is, is a textless opening sequence. That is, the same opening theme music and clips, but just with no text, so the stars names are gone, as is Rockne O'Bannon's. While most probably won't see the point, I love the theme music and so this was a real nice treat for me.
Being a huge fan, I just had to get myself a copy of the Deluxe set of DVD 3.1. These sets are strictly limited to 2500 copies, so you had to act fairly fast to nab a copy.
Included is a "personal item" of John Crichton, a Farscape-1 watch. This has been fobbed off as tacky, and while admittedly I wouldn't wear it I actually thought it was quite nice as a collector's item. Still, I wouldn't say no to something better for the next set's item.
Much, much better was the lithograph album, and first two of ten prints. The album is of the nice, black variety, with the show's logo on the front. It has ten plastic wallets, one for each print. The prints themselves are the real attraction though. The first is of concept art for D'Argo, and the second is the original pod design. These prints are large A4-ish size, and just look really nice. I can't wait to get the rest.
Video & Audio
For the first time with a Farscape release, I think I found a problem with the video. There was one problem – in "Suns and Lovers", when John is in his spacesuit and begins to climb up the ladder to go outside Moya, on my standalone Pioneer player, for about two seconds the bottom of the picture suffered from extreme macro-blocking. Strangely, I could not duplicate this on my PC through PowerDVD, but I have seen others report problems during the end of "Suns and Lovers", so it must be player dependent. Other than that, this is probably the best looking Farscape set yet. Even the artefacting that was occasionally present in backgrounds in earlier volumes seems to be gone here. A great transfer.
The audio is good as always, and on par with the rest of the discs. It's worth noting though that these disc do feature Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound, but the bitstream for the audio was incorrectly flagged as 2 channel stereo. This is simply a "misprint" of sorts, as the sound itself is 5.1.
Packaging & Presentation
Easily the most stylish, and best, packaging from Contender yet, the box art for DVD 3.1 is sublime. The front covers of the individual discs are really nice (disc 1 is the same as the box), and thankfully the box is not tight, so removing the keepcases is easy. Other than still despising the three-prong cases Contender use now instead of Amarays, I really love the packaging. The back has all the technical info, and a summary of the show/episodes. Once again the spines will form a cast montage.
The first thing that struck me in terms of the DVDs themselves though were the menus. These are fantastic, with looping clips from season three in the background. They are just wonderfully designed, look really great and professional, and really surprised me. Everything is well laid out and access times are minimal, and the style of the menus really fits with the feel of season three. A big "thumbs up" in this department.
Again popping back to the Deluxe edition, the individual DVD 3.1 box set is included inside this hefty black box. The deluxe box looks beautiful and dark, again, really fitting with the theme of the show. I was extremely happy with the package.
The episodes on this disc overall are very good, although there are some disappointing areas. But making up for those disappointments are the great episodes on this disc – "Season of Death", "...Different Destinations" and to an extent "Wait for the Wheel". The DVDs themselves though are simply a must buy. Most will want them just to complete their collection, and given the vast array of extras, I wholeheartedly recommend this set as Contender's best set yet (yes, I know I said that about the last one, but this set is better from a technical standpoint). While it's difficult to recommend the Deluxe edition to anyone other than a real collector (since they are a bit pricey for what you get), I was not disappointed with my set, so I think that decision should rest on your own shoulders. But if you're looking for a recommendation to but this set, regular or deluxe, then look no further. Buy it.
Buy from Amazon UK (Regular) (Click to view their website)
Item: Farscape Season 3 Double DVD Box Set 3.1 (Deluxe)
Recommended Retail Price: £24.99, £39.99 for Deluxe edition
Distributor: Contender Ltd. (under Kult-TV label)
BBFC Rating: 15
Region: 2 (PAL - Europe, Australia)
Picture Format: Pal 4:3
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Number of Discs: 2
Format: 2 x DVD9
Total Running Time: 282 mins (approx.)
Episodes: "Season of Death" (44:06), "Suns and Lovers" (44:05), Self Inflicted Wounds, Part 1: "Could'a, Would'a, Should'a" (44:05), Part 2: "Wait for the Wheel" (44:05) and "...Different Destinations" (44:05)