|DVDs - Region 2 Double DVD Box Set 4.2|
The fourth season of Farscape continues. This Region 2 set includes two discs featuring the next five episodes from season 4 completely uncut, in anamorphic widescreen: "Natural Election", "John Quixote", "I Shrink Therefore I Am", "A Prefect Murder" and "Coup by Clam". The extras include deleted scenes, Claudia Black interview, VFX Commentary featurette, crew profiles part 1, behind-the-scenes episode facts and gallery of stills featuring concept artwork, character and prop photography.
by Dani Moure
The season continues with a dip from the high of "Promises" at the end of the last set, in "Natural Election", with Moya becoming entangled by a space plant after Crichton predicts the opening of a wormhole. Of course, there's also the little task of the repercussions from the past episode, which saw Aeryn return to the ship. And therein lies the strength of the episode. The plot surrounding the plant is mostly uninteresting, while the interaction between the crew fairs far better. Seeing Aeryn confide in Chiana was an interesting development, and the friendship between D'Argo and John continues to blossom. The revelations regarding Sebacean pregnancies and who may, or may not, be the father of Aeryn's baby were played extremely well, but sadly the plot was substantially below par for Farscape.
Thankfully the show hits fine form again with the seminal "John Quixote". Crichton and Chiana are on their way back to Moya, when Chiana wants to try out an new virtual reality game she's acquired. John is uninterested, and eager to return to the ship when D'Argo tells him there's a problem with Scorpius. But Chiana quickly slaps him in the game, and the two become trapped in a surreal fantasy land, based partly on their history and part on the insane mind of an old friend. "John Quixote" is truly one of the most strange episodes the series has seen, and yet is undoubtedly a masterstroke of visuals and imagery. Beneath the surreal look lies a compelling tale that manages to address several ongoing threads, most notably (again) the relationship and ongoing baby saga involving John and Aeryn. Indeed, the final moments take John to a very dark place in order to get over his feelings. In all, this is one of the most inventive and creative examples of how good Farscape can be, and just has to be watched. It's also great fun to analyse and see if there are parallels between the events in the episode and the course of the season (even if any parallels were unintentional).
"I Shrink Therefore I Am" begins with Noranti and John returning to the ship this time, only to find it occupied by a group of bounty hunters who have already captured the crew, with the exception of Scorpius. And the Farscape twist? They have a device that allows them to, as the title alludes, shrink people. This episode successfully blends both humour and the sinister, and is a highly enjoyable romp. Interestingly, it seems at first like another ship-based adventure that gives us a breather from the arc, but in fact it contains a nice twist which serves as some significant foreshadowing. There is, as per usual this season, room for a little more John/Aeryn angst, too.
The saga continues in "A Prefect Murder", the first episode that sees our crew traversing the nexus of wormholes that is Tormented Space. In a nutshell, the crew are caught up on a planet inhabited by warring clans, where John and Aeryn become the centre of an assassination plot. The story is relatively straightforward, but is told in a bizarre style, as the narrative switches back and forth between the past and present, retelling parts of the story from slightly different perspectives in order to piece things together. Undoubtedly, many will find the episode fairly slow and certainly repetitive. The story probably isn't quite strong enough to carry the style, and in fact at times it seems like a bit of a ploy to extend the story to fill the 44 minutes. However, there are some very nice character moments scattered about, with some surprising character development for Sikozu, and to a certain extent, Chiana. It's definitely worth a watch, but whether it stands up to multiple viewings will really depend on your tolerance.
Unfortunately, the set is rounded out by what is, in my view, one of the worst episodes of the season. "Coup by Clam" is a ridiculous tale that sees the crew physically joined after eating some deadly molluscs, leading to them feeling what the other person (who ate the same colour as them) feels, even down to stomach pains. As if that part wasn't silly enough, You also end up with Sikozu and Aeryn being kidnapped, and John and Rygel having to try to rescue them by dressing up in drag. It could have been good, or at the very least, decent fun. Unfortunately, "Coup by Clam" is neither. Poor execution (especially for a Farscape episode) mean that the jokes just aren't funny, and the attempt to disgust the viewer has seemingly gone so far that it just became pointless by this point, as we'd seen it all in (the much funnier) "Lava's a Many Splendored Thing". It's an unfortunate low to round out the set on, but thankfully after this the season picks up in grand style, at least for a time.
The first extra on this set is an impressive, brand-new 15 minute interview with Claudia Black. She talks about all the usual things you would expect, and a lot more, including what she took away from the Farscape experience, the creative process and Aeryn's development (of course). It's a most interesting interview, in which Claudia Black speaks eloquently and honestly about the whole experience, and it's always nice to listen to her openness. This interview is definitely a keeper.
The VFX commentary is a great little feature, running just under ten minutes, in which members of the visual effects team narrate the process (which is shown) of going from pre-production to the final edit with regard to the effects. For anyone interested in film-making, or indeed just Farscape fans, will probably get a great deal out of this.
The deleted scenes on this set run just over four minutes, which is a tad disappointing, as we only get two from "Natural Election" and just the one from "A Prefect Murder". The first is a nice, sweet scene in which Chiana tells Aeryn how she will know "the one" when he comes along, and enhances the dynamic somewhat between the two characters, especially in the context of the episode. The second is a short, yet amusing scene with Noranti's latest great line, "chemistry is over-rated". The final scene is a keeper, a fairly long one between Sikozu and Tarnat from "A Prefect Murder", that really expands their relationship by extending the scene just before the two find John and Aeryn with Paroos.
The set presents a short, yet fun feature looking at some of the alien swear words in the show, describing both their meaning in context, and providing an example usage.
The behind the scenes episode facts are back yet again, much the same as before, presenting some nice snippets straight off the set of the show, as well as some other facts.
The usual gallery is present, showcasing several pieces of concept art and photos of props and the like. This is well presented, as are the character profiles. While these are always nice to have, I definitely class them under the "extras fluff" category.
Video & Audio
On my new 28" widescreen TV, the transfer on these discs looks gorgeous, in all its anamorphic widescreen glory. I couldn't find fault at all during regular playback. Some episodes are still slightly conservative in their framing at times, but overall the episodes, especially the high-budget ones like "John Quixote", really showcase the movie-like feel that Farscape possesses.
The sound is still presented in 5.1 surround; unfortunately, I don't have a surround sound system, but the mix down-converts to stereo nicely. There are no dropouts or anything of the sort.
Packaging & Presentation
This time around the box uses the art from disc 4.04, which contains an image of John in the forefront, with Barry Otto's Dr. Tumii from "Coup by Clam" grinning in the background. It's the usual nice cover, but this set is a little lacking in variety, in that John takes the main image on both discs. 4.03 focuses on "John Quixote", with a nice image of John in his armour and Aeryn in her princess getup almost kissing in the foreground, and a shot of Rygel locked up with Axikor beside him from "I Shrink Therefore I Am" in the background. The overall look is nice and consistent, and keeps the dark theme that really exemplifies the story of Farscape as a whole at this point.
There's little to say about the menus that I haven't said before. Encoded in anamorphic widescreen, they look luscious and access times are nice and fast. The only aspect of the presentation that annoys me, that I haven't ever noted in my reviews before, is the minor annoyance that is un-skippable logos. Really, there's no reason for you not to be able to forward or chapter-skip past them, and it just gets boring, especially when you have to keep popping the disc in and out when writing a review, to sit through that many logos (especially when, like the Kult-TV logo, they have annoying accompanying music). Still, this is just a small niggle.
Unfortunately, the episodes in this set are a mixed bag. Ranging from mediocre to the enormously creative, and from the fun to the not-so-fun. The set is probably worth the ride just for "John Quixote" and "I Shrink Therefore I Am", and as long as you don't expect much from the other three episodes you shouldn't be too disappointed. Thankfully, the set contains some very nice extras in the form of the interview and featurette, so as always, if you're collecting them all, this is a must buy. If not, you might want to mull it over a little before jumping for your wallet.
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Item: Farscape Season 4 Double DVD Box Set 4.2
Recommended Retail Price: £24.99
Distributor: Contender Ltd. (under Kult-TV label)
BBFC Rating: 12
Region: 2 (PAL - Europe, Australia)
Picture Format: Pal 16:9
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Number of Discs: 2
Format: 2 x DVD9
Total Running Time: 260 mins (approx.)
Episodes: "Natural Election" (44:05), "John Quixote" (44:05), "I Shrink Therefore I Am" (44:05), "A Prefect Murder" (44:05) and "Coup by Clam" (44:05)