|DVDs - Region 1 Season 2 Volume 2.1|
The second season of Farscape hits DVD with the first four episodes. This Region 1 set includes: "Mind the Baby", "Vitas Mortis", "Taking the Stone" and "Crackers Don't Matter". Extras include Commentary: "Crackers Don't Matter", Deleted Scenes, Farscape Dictionary: Alien Slang, Alien Encounters, Actor Biography: Ben Browder, Character Backstory: John Crichton and Conceptual Artwork.
by Dani Moure
Season two begins a short time after the events in the first season finale, "Family Ties", with the cliffhanger (John and D'Argo left floating in space) already resolved. Due to various problems, most notably that the producers and the network felt the episode was too weak to debut the second season, the original season premiere "Re:Union" was turned into a flashback episode ("Dream a Little Dream") and shunted back in airing order (hence its appearance on the next volume), hence we begin the season with Mind the Baby. Although it can initially be frustrating because we've stepped forward in time, "Mind the Baby" is a far stronger premiere than we would have gotten in "Re:Union", and is highly enjoyable. There're plenty of action and character moments, notably the beautiful end sequence with Aeryn and Crichton in Pilot's den, and the evolution of the series really begins to take form. Crais takes off with Talyn, leaving Moya and the crew somewhat grief-stricken, while the threat of Scorpius and his quest for John's wormhole knowledge looms in the foreground the whole time, and feels like a major threat. Essentially, if you take the last four episodes of season one as a whole along with this episode, the arc really shifts the balance of power and the situations of the characters considerably. This is definitely a good opener.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said of its follow up, Vitas Mortis. The episode focuses around D'Argo, when he finds a Luxan Orican (Luxan holy woman) and is obliged to help her in the Ritual of Passing. Naturally, she has other plans, and so the episode continues. Sadly, "Vitas Mortis" fails to be anything compelling, and in fact ends up being rather dull and boring. The character of Nilaam is severely lacking in, well, character, and to be honest she just annoyed me no end. The story itself didn't help in that it was so by-the-book. There were no Farscape traits, like witty dialogue, fun or excitement, but rather a lot of blandness that perhaps you'd expect from another show, but not Farscape. Even the moral undertones in the episode were hardly played up, and largely seemed contradictory to what we know of Luxans. There were a couple of nice moments between the regular cast, such as John's considerable concern for D'Argo and Chiana's apparent growing affection for the Luxan, but these can barely save the episode from sinking to the bottom of the Farscape barrel.
The next outing, Taking the Stone, is another character-centric episode, this time focusing on Chiana, who discovers that her brother is dead. The episode somewhat explores her grief and how she deals with the loss, but sadly is also stricken by severe problems, although definitely not on the scale of "Vitas Mortis". The episode is supposed to be about Chiana and her grief, yet at the end of it all it doesn't explore them nearly as much as it should. I came away with the feeling that the character actually lacked the screen time she needed, which really wasn't good. The way the others react to her is nice to see, particularly both John and Aeryn's parental-type instincts, and there are definitely some nice moments with Chiana, but sadly the episode lacks focus, and what starts off well gradually deteriorates and left me feeling disappointed.
Crackers Don't Matter is a stark contrast to the previous episodes, and sees the show return to form. "Crackers" is disturbing, hilarious, delirious and downright insane. When the crew bring aboard some crackers and an alien called T'raltixx, who says he can make Moya completely undetectable, they set a course for his planet to do so. The trouble is, on the way they start exhibiting somewhat... peculiar behaviour. And so goes the episode. It really is quite unlike anything that had previously appeared in the show at the time, mixing some extremely dark humour with some disturbing overtones. The interaction between the crew and the factions they split into is just so much fun to watch, even when it is disturbing, and with an excellent visual style and some serious foreboding, it comes highly recommended. Of course, how could you pass up the chance to see Scorpius in a mambo shirt?
The extras on this release are really good. The main one is, of course, the commentary, done by Claudia Black and director Ian Watson on "Crackers Don't Matter". Unlike past commentaries, which have generally been fun-filled talking about what's going on on-screen, and generally the participants having a lot of fun, this one is very different. The pair barely talk about the episode at all, and instead the commentary takes the form more of a 45 minute discussion on acting and directing, and the processes and methods behind them. Now, no doubt about it, some will like it and some will hate it. Personally, I wasn't really in the frame of mind to watch such a commentary, so I didn't enjoy it that much. Nonetheless it's very informative, and deserves points just for its inclusion. Budding directors and actors in particular will probably get some use out of it.
There are four deleted scenes in this set, spread across the two discs. Three are from "Mind the Baby", including a sweet "welcome home" from Chiana to D'Argo, showing their budding relationship, and another where Aeryn tells John how she really feels about helping Crais and gets an apology from D'Argo, although perhaps it shows a little too much vulnerability for the character at this stage. On disc 2, there's one cut scene from "Taking the Stone" which is amusing just to see Aeryn's impression and the look on John's face, and a short clip from "Crackers Don't Matter" in which Scorpius sings to Crichton. These deleted scenes are a really nice addition to the DVDs, and well worth a watch.
The other extras are mainly text extras. "Farscape Dictionary: Alien Slang" presents a series of slang words used in the episodes, explains their meanings and shows them in action. "Alien Encounters" describes the aliens in the episodes in question, who played them and shows a brief clip of them in action. The actor biography for Ben Browder and the character biography for Crichton do exactly what they say – give a few pages of text on both. There're also a couple of nice galleries of conceptual drawing, which are always exquisite.
On the whole, with limited materials for the season two releases, ADV have done a nice job with this set.
Video & Audio
The audio is presented in either 5.1 or 2 channel Dolby Surround, and it sounds great with no distortions or dropouts.
The video is pretty exemplary. There are no noticeable problems with the transfer, and the image always looks crisp and clean. Quite frankly, the Farscape discs show just how good TV shows can look on DVD, and I have no problem at all with the transfer.
Packaging & Presentation
The cover art sees a change in style from the season one releases, and unfortunately I think they look a bit blander. For some reason, the season one covers just seemed more striking. Nevertheless, it features a promo shot of John in the foreground, with Aeryn, Zhaan and (just about) Pilot in the background. The back cover provides a concise rundown of the discs, and is well laid out.
The menus are, well, a bit bland. I have to say, the UK releases really have an edge over the US DVDs in terms of the menus (although perhaps I'm spoilt by the UK menus for the season 3 DVDs). They just feel a little bit plain, generally featuring clips from the show in oval shapes. They're nice and functional, although one thing I'd like to see (along with many others) is the ability to select an episode from the main menu without having to enter the scene selection menu first.
This set represents decent value for money, although if you're a casual fan you might want to skip it. The reason is simply that the episodes aren't all up to scratch, and although I feel that "Mind the Baby" and "Crackers Don't Matter" are definitely well worth one's time, the other two are just disappointing. The discs themselves are well produced, and kudos to ADV for switching to the two-disc per set release format to get things out more quickly. The inclusion of a commentary, and the deleted scenes, are also a welcome addition. This set is recommended, although casual fans may want to bear in mind the quality of the episodes before purchasing.
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Item: Farscape Season 2 Volume 2.1
Recommended Retail Price: $39.98
Distributor: ADV Films
Region: 1 (NTSC – US, Canada)
Picture Format: Pal 4:3
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Number of Discs: 1
Format: 2 x DVD9
Total Running Time: 210 mins (approx.)
Episodes: "Mind the Baby" (46:01), "Vitas Mortis" (45:59), "Taking the Stone" (46:00) and "Crackers Don't Matter" (46:01)