|DVDs - Region 2 Double DVD Box Set 5.1: The Peacekeeper Wars The Complete Mini-series|
The Scarran Empire has declared war. Their ships are advancing across the galaxy, system by system, unchecked. The next target in combat annihilation is the Peacekeeper Alliance, which has no idea what it's up against. Only one person can help human astronaut John Crichton, a human shot through a wormhole into a distant part of the galaxy. But Crichton may as well be dead, shattered into a million crystalline shards, along with his pregnant fiancιe Aeryn Sun...
Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars continues the fantastic journey of John Crichton and the ensemble of alien fugitives aboard Moya. With state-of-the-art special effects and an out-of-this-world cast of characters, this explosive next chapter in the Farscape saga is the most thrilling mini-series event of this and all future millennia.
John Crichton may not have started this war, but only he can end it.
The extras include The Battle Behind the War: The Making of the Peacekeeper Wars featurette, deleted scenes, character info-pods including interviews with the cast, behind-the-scenes interviews with David Kemper, Andrew Proswe and Brian Henson, gallery of stills featuring concept artwork, character and prop photography, the original trailer and DVD-Rom material.
by Dani Moure
After the cancellation of the TV series abruptly in 2002, the fan outcry was phenomenal and on a scale scarcely seen before. The Jim Henson Company, Brian Henson in particular, and many of the cast and crew never gave up hope that they'd get to continue the show, and sure enough, the fan frenzy caught the notice of investors, and the end result became a four hour (three if you take away the ad time) mini-series that would not only bring some closure to the show, but would also be more epic in scale than anything that had been done on the TV series. Given the quality of the series and how epic it was, that was quite a feat.
Fast-forward to October 2003, and the mini-series Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars premiered on Sci Fi. While much had been said ahead of its airing about how the creative team had tried to make the mini-series accessible to new viewers as well as fans, make no mistake about it; ultimately, The Peacekeeper Wars is a three hour thank you to the fans. It's really not all that accessible to newcomers at all. It jumps right back into the thick of the story, and continues at the usual Farscape break-neck pace, filled with intensity and high emotions, right until its stunning climax. There's little time given to recapping events past, outside of an obvious recap from Crichton to the Eidelons early in the first part. That's not to say that new viewers won't be interested, and can't get any enjoyment at all. The over-arching plot is there to be enjoyed, it's just like with all shows that you jump into mid-run, it'd be difficult to understand the relationships between the characters, and in Farscape they're more pivotal than most series. But for some at least, it served as a starting point, hooking them and encouraging them to go back to the beginning to see what they missed, which is a great thing.
Again though, The Peacekeeper Wars was undeniably produced as a labour of love for the fans. While not everyone will enjoy every aspect of it, I think most fans would be hard-pressed to find something not to like here. The story has its quirky moments in places, but is an epic, sprawling story of love and war. For the most part, it works superbly and fits together really well. Bringing Crichton and Aeryn back to life was never going to be an easy task, but the solution is pulled off quite well, and the slower opening really helps, before the sense of urgency picks up to a drastic pace. Likewise, the baby was handled surprisingly well in most aspects, used as a tool to drive the characters' emotions rather than becoming the centre-point of everything. The war, whilst seemingly starting a little hastily is also played out really well, with both sides having their victories as well as suffering many losses, and again drives the characters' emotions while not seeming over-bearing. The CG is fantastic, on a scale not seen in the series, with some of the most phenomenal space-battles seen on such a show, and the wormhole effects in the final 20 minutes are simply jaw dropping.
Another wonderful point is that the entire main cast, as well as numerous supporting characters, make a grand return for the mini-series. For the most part, they're all on form, and the writing is generally as witty and intelligent as you'd expect from Farscape. There are a few ropey moments, but they happen to even the best of shows so it's not something I'd generally hold against it.
It's not all rosy though. In places the pacing is a little rough, sometimes slowing down and then speeding up to frantic pace before chopping back down again. It's only really the first part that suffers from slight problems, which don't tend to be too problematic. The return of Jool isn't handled as well as it could've been, with the character seeming the most off out of all those returning. Noranti's role is unfortunately quite small, though this was a result of problems Melissa Jaffer had on set (which resulted in the character being recast, and Jaffer voicing the lines) which resulted in a drastic reduction in her role rather than a choice of the writers. In fact Stark makes out all the better for it, as it's easy to see some moments where Noranti probably was originally involved, and he takes her place. Also, the Eidelon sub-plot at times seems almost like an unnecessary diversion, but for the most part the writers worked it out well. There are some other issues with the story, but for me they tended to be more minor niggles than problems which hindered my enjoyment.
At the end of the day all I wanted from The Peacekeeper Wars was an enjoyable send-off for this chapter of the show, and I got that and then some. In the process I may have overlooked some issues I may have otherwise had, but it doesn't matter. While I really enjoyed the story, I was always attached to Farscape mostly because of the stunning array of characters, and in The Peacekeeper Wars the drama and intensity is so high, particularly in the second part, that it takes the show to another level. The last half an hour is some of the most powerful television I have ever seen, and if your eyes remain dry after several successive emotional punches, then you might just have a heart of stone. It's an excellent send off to the show that any fan should own.
I analysed the show in far more detail in my reviews of "Night One" and "Night Two".
For their release of The Peacekeeper Wars on DVD, Contender made every effort to get pretty much anything and everything available, and it makes for the most packed UK release yet, and a fantastic achievement overall.
The first major extra is the 29-minute "Battle Behind the War" making of featurette. It chronicles the making of the mini-series, featuring some behind the scenes footage that any fans will just lap up. We see the role call in the initial cast read-through, shots from filming, the actors on set, and cut in amongst it all are interviews with several of the cast members, from Ben Browder to Hugh Keays-Byrne, as well as several of the crew members including David Kemper, Brian Henson and Ricky Eyres. The featurette is really well put together, in that it does a great job of telling a story. It goes from the beginning of the mini-series through to clips of the sets being struck once filming was complete, and it's a piece that will definitely have huge appeal to the fans.
Not content with just a featurette, Contender also managed to get their hands on another major selling point, deleted scenes. There're just over 13 minutes of them here, and they're a really good collection, with the usual nice character moments that tend to be the first on the chopping board when cuts are required. In order to be as thorough as possible, we'll look at each of the scenes in turn. As you would also expect, the deleted scenes include those that were featured in the original trailer that didn't make the final cut.
The scenes are pure on-set footage, meaning there's no completed ADR voice over work or CG effects. As such, Rygel and Pilot are voiced by the on-set puppeteers.
Scene 19A (1:13) Chiana and Crichton talk just after Crichton's given his story to the Eidelons. They discuss how it's not his fight anymore, which Chiana questions ("No more fun?").
Scene 33PT Extended (0:38) A brief extension of the scene in which Sikozu and Scorpius land on the water planet, adding a bit of tension between Sikozu and Aeryn.
Scene 35E (1:00) Chiana attends to a sleeping Rygel, when Scorpius barges in. He wants to know why Crichton and the others are still sequestered with the Eidelons, and Chiana keeps him at a distance with some metal spike-like objects. He also asks if D'Argo is still Captain.
Scene 84A (0:47) Sikozu and D'Argo are on Moya, with him questioning why Scorpius would be all the way out here in the middle of nowhere, following the Tregan attack.
Scene 86B (0:44) Chiana is with Pilot in his den, and she asks if he gets sick of being chased all the time, before contemplating retirement.
Scene 88 (1:19) A really nice scene on Moya with Rygel and D'Argo, in which Rygel reflects on his time as a self-confessed "lousy" ruler of Hyneria, before reiterating his invitation to D'Argo and Chiana to live on Hyneria in peace.
Scene 171 (0:55) Jothee speaks to D'Argo to try and clear the air, before wanting to attack the Decimator.
Scene 226A (2:12) Stark is in a world of his own as Chiana looks on. Jothee enters and she contemplates that this ship isn't good for anybody. Jothee apologises for the past, and comments how she's no longer like a child. Aeryn enters and briefly discusses John, just as he returns from his trip down the wormhole.
Scene 229 (0:40) Sikozu tries to convince D'Argo that the Eidelon plan is "pure folly".
Scene 239 (0:38) Sikozu and Jothee attempt to fix Moya while discussing the planet below.
Scene 240A (2:05) Crichton searches for Stark amidst the floods of Moya, but finds Scorpius instead. Scorpius tells Crichton that use of a wormhole weapon would stop the Scarrans, and they have a tense face-off about their roles in the war and their relationship.
Scene 292A Extended (0:29) Sikozu and Grunchlk awake on the surface, and he tells her that it's splendid when the makings of a new deal come together.
Scene 339 (0:49) A nice scene as Rygel visits Crichton while he's unconscious, telling him how he's been accepted back to Hyneria, and says that as long as he lives Crichton will have a safe place to live.
The deleted scenes are wonderful to have and fill in a few little gaps in some of the character relationships of the series, in particular with respect to Rygel and Hyneria, the D'Argo/Chiana/Jothee triangle and Sikozu and Grunchlk's fates. It's a shame that some of these had to be cut, but you can see why most of them were. It's wonderful that we got this batch on the set though.
Next up are a series of new "Info-pods" for all the major characters in the mini-series. Most are made up of good biographies of the characters, though the ones for Crichton, Aeryn, D'Argo and Chiana are all fleshed out somewhat. They feature additional promotional stills (most of which will be familiar to regular readers of this site) as well as interviews with Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe and Gigi Edgley respectively. Each runs about three and a half minutes, and the actors mainly focus on a couple of points each. These interviews are additional footage shot at the same times as the interviews for the featurette.
The same is the case with the three additional behind-the-scenes interviews; each also run about three and a half minutes. David Kemper (Executive Producer/Writer) talks about the jump from series to mini-series, and how he and Creator Rockne O'Bannon went about writing the resolution to the season four cliff-hanger, as well as how they crafted strong female characters and the fans' involvement in the show's return. Andrew Prowse (Producer) talks about how things came together for the mini-series, the collaborative nature of the effort and the possible future of the show. Finally, Brian Henson (Executive Producer/Director) talks about making the mini-series bigger than anything that came before, bringing resolution to some of the characters and the fan support.
The interviews, while short, are still very nice to have, as hearing the thoughts of the creative minds behind the show is always so fascinating. Giving everyone a little bit more depth to go into outside of the featurette is a really good move and I love the fact these made it onto the disc.
Rounding out the extras is a rather short selection of behind-the-scenes images (17 in total), as well as the inclusion of the superb original trailer and some DVD-ROM material including an exclusive screensaver.
All in all, there hasn't been a better selection of extras on any of the previous releases. The combination of great selection of exclusive deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage of which has rarely been seen for Farscape and some good interviews really make this set all the better value for money.
Video & Audio
For this release, Contender chose to present the mini-series in two parts, as it was originally intended (the US release contains the entire mini-series on one disc as one long feature), and it's spread across two discs in anamorphic widescreen. Thankfully this allows the bit-rate to be a bit higher than the US release, and for the most part it's a great transfer. There's little grain noticeable, and while watching I didn't notice any major macro-blocking (there were a couple of minor instances on Disc 1 that most probably won't even notice) or other compression artefacts (again, a problem on the US release). The image is quite crisp and clear, and the level of detail is good for the most part. Blacks suffer a little, as the detail isn't quite as high, and shadows and other blacks tend to sometimes blend in with the background, but it doesn't happen consistently and is barely noticeable. The only problem with the transfer I noticed is that in a shot of Crichton's bed at the end of the second part, the gold on the cover seems to move, though it's only in one particular shot. Overall this is a very pleasing transfer, on par with the UK releases of the TV series and generally very good, and a cut above the US release.
The audio, presented in 5.1 surround sound, is great (and also downmixes to stereo well), and I noticed no dropouts or distortions during playback.
Packaging & Presentation
Packaging is always an area where the UK DVD releases have excelled, and thankfully The Peacekeeper Wars is no exception. Packaged as two individual keepcases inside a slipcase box, as with the individual TV series releases, the cover of the box is a striking piece featuring all the core characters, with Crichton, Aeryn, Chiana D'Argo and Braca taking up the main part of the box, with smaller shots of Scorpius, Sikozu and Staleek at the bottom. It's a very well arranged cover, with the traditional Farscape logo at the top of the box, and "The Peacekeeper Wars" logo at the bottom, with the tagline "The complete mini-series". The back of the cover features the logo with four of the cast credited along the top, as well as a description of the show which is accurate to the content. It also lists the extra features and technical information, though it mistakenly lists the discs as being two dual layered (DVD9) discs, when the first is actually single layer.
The keepcases have different artwork, but it's just as good. Along with the show logos arranged as they were on the box, the first disc has an image of Crichton in the foreground to the left, with Aeryn to the centre and a shot of Chiana held up by a Scarran to the right. The second disc features a menacing shot of Scorpius in the left foreground, with Sikozu in the centre and a screenshot of Ahkna holding Crichton to the right. The back covers feature a description of the content on that disc, as well as some of the show's credits, a couple of screenshots and a promotional image on each. The inside covers feature chapter listings on the left side, and a promotional still below the disc. It's all a very slick presentation, with the only error being the chapter listing on disc two, which lists the "Previously on" and opening as separate chapters, when they're actually the same one.
The menus are the same as the season 4 menus in style, though they have clips of the mini-series looping in the main part of the screen. The only gripe is still the ridiculously set of unskippable logos on loading the discs, though they have been shortened.
This is a fantastic set that is pretty much the ultimate for any fan. The only way it could be better is with a commentary from the cast and crew, but since there obviously wasn't one recorded this is a wonderful set with an array of extras that Contender clearly dug deep to find. The deleted scenes in particular are excellent to have, and the documentary is well produced with the interviews being interesting. The show itself is a must-buy for fans, and this is the best release of the mini-series we're likely to ever see. Everything comes together to form a great package that I will wholeheartedly recommend. Not only is it excellent in its own right, but it also trounces the US release in every area.
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Item: Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars The Complete Mini-series Double DVD Box Set
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: 1 x DVD5, 1 x DVD9
Total Running Time: 247 mins (approx.)