Karen Barlow interviewed Ben Browder
for Australian radio station Triple J
, in which he talks a fair bit about the show's cancellation, and we have a transcript of the interview thanks to massive Ozscaper Sue
(WITGOB). The audio of the interview can be found on FreePilot.org
Karen: WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT FARSCAPE? WHY SHOULD IT BE SAVED?
Ben: "Farscape is unique in my experience working and it is unique culturally in that it is essentially an Australian show with an American style television budget. So what happened when we got down here was cause we were so far removed from the network, so far removed from the sources of money, we were basically allowed to run rampant and what that meant was the Australians were getting pretty ramped to make the kinda show that they wanted to make so it is an unique show and it has a cross cultural pollination which makes it special and makes it different. It has an Australian sensibility about it. It has an Australian sense of humour. 99 percent of the people on the show are Australian. I am kind of the unusual voice around."
K: I SUPPOSE WE CAN'T DISCOUNT IT HAS A BIT OF HENSON MAGIC?
B: "It certainly has a different look he he.. We have the Henson Creature Shop as our basis for the look of the show. So you have animatronics and puppets and prosthetics which are first class and really the most remarkable things you'll see on television.
K: IS IT HARD TO EXPLAIN TO AUSTRALIANS ABOUT THE SHOW AND WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING TO IT.. GIVEN THAT MOST OF THEM DON'T KNOW THAT IT EXISTS, THAT IT'S BEING PRODUCED HERE WITH SO MANY AUSTRALIAN ACTORS?
B: Australian actors, Australian directors, Australian writers and Australian crew.. umm everybody in my day to day existance for four years was Australian. I am the exception in the cast. I am the only non-Australian in the cast. It is hard to explain because no-one sees it .. in fact, most of our crew I think got the sense that they were Willie Loman. That they were going off to sit at a park bench and everyone wondered what they did all day. If you work in the film and TV industry unless people see your work it is almost as though you don't exist."
K: SO IN YOUR UNDERSTANDING WHY WAS FARSCAPE CANCELLED MID-STRIDE AT THE END OF THE FOURTH SEASON?
K: "It was a financial decision which was made primarily by a USA network Sci-Fi as to where they wanted their money to go for the most return they could get for it. Farscape has a dedicated and hardcore fanbase which has grown over four years. It just hadn't grown to the desires and expectations of the USA network. It was number one on the network for three years.. they brought Stargate over and Stargate pulled higher numbers taking over our old timeslot and they shifted us to ten o'clock. We went from 9 o'clock to 10 o'clock and for some reason someone in a suit did some math and they applied the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to it and came up with an answer that said we want to spend our money some where else."
K: DOES THAT WASH WITH YOU?
B: "It is their decision.. It is their choice. They are spend a lot of money. Farscape has poured a quarter of a billion dollars into the Australian film industry over four years. They have to decide where they are going to get the return and where they where they want to spend their money. So it is their choice. Did it make me happy? NO! Did it make the people I work with happy? NO! We love doing the show and had a fantastic and unique time doing it .. (laughs) Of course it is not going to wash with me personally.. but it is not a decision I was party to or had anything to say about."
K: WHAT WAS THE CREW REACTION? WHAT HAPPENED ON SET WHEN YOU FOUND OUT IT WAS GOING TO BE CANCELLED?
B: "Well because the show is a very difficult show to shoot and it is a unique kinda of show, this crew and this cast are as close as any crew and cast that I have ever worked with. So over four years you become a kinda of family. What essentially happens when a show like this is cancelled, or certainly when this show was cancelled, you are bereft. There is a sense of grief and loss.. and also because we hadn't finished telling the story. We'd been told we were shooting a fifth season that had been promised to us and fans. But there was out-clause in the financial negotiations which the US network exercised."
K: WHAT HAVE YOU NOTICED ABOUT THE FAN REACTION?
B: (laughs) Well most of our contact with the fans is via the Internet because the show is essentially not on air in Australia. It'll soon be coming to FOX. I wish it was going to be free to air so all of Australia can see some of the finest television product in the world. But our interaction with the fans being via the Internet, the response on the Internet has been .. how do you say this.. it has been akin to a riot! I have been down here for four years and have had .. done very little press, other than say phone interviews with science fiction magazines. Within a week of the fan reaction on the Internet I was on CNN with a live uplink and that is directly due to the fact that our fans are very unhappy about the decision not to do a fifth year."
K: SCIENCE FICTION FANS ARE RENOWNED FOR BEING A BIT OBSESSIVE .. A BIT FULL ON?
B: "They are very smart. That is one of the things that the show catered to. It is a smart show. It is a complex show. It is not the easiest show to come in and watch one episode and pick up on. In fact you virtually can't. You have to watch a few episodes and suddenly you are locked into these characters and locked into the quality of the show. So .. umm .. I.. wouldn't want to call our fans more fanatical than say supporters of the Swans! HE HE.. Because they are not. They are fans in the same sense. You know you don't see many of our fans walking around in Nebari gear or Sebacean gear or some other alien gear, but I see a lot of Swannie scarves around. He he he"
K: DO YOU THINK THOUGH THAT THEIR VIEWING HABITS, THAT THEY PROBABLY DOWNLOADED THE EPISODE FROM THE INTERNET OR WATCHED IT IN A ROOM WITH A BUNCH OF OTHER FANS CONTRIBUTED IN SOME WAY TO THE RATINGS PROBLEM?
B: "Well I think that availability of the show given that it is on a cable network in the States creates a problem when using an antiquated ratings system. Any ratings system used.. when you shift it over ratings systems in Australia recently you noticed a change in what the advertisers then perceived as the actual audience. The Neilsen system is designed for network TV ratings which is free to air. I am not actually sure how well they reflect a show that is on Sci-Fi which is cable station which is on channel 33 on your cable dial. A lot of our fans do receive the tapes from other fans. They receive it over the Internet. There are fans literally world-wide who are downloading the episodes. They get mail from all sorts of places where the show isn't even on air. All of the Australian fans have been dependant on what they call tape ferries, which are people in the States that tape the show and then either they deliver it or they download it if they have a high speed connection. So there are more people watching the show than the ratings would indicate. Yeah."
K: DO YOU THINK SCI-FI WAS AWARE OF THAT?
B: "I think Sci-Fi was probably aware of that, but Sci-Fi is basing their choices on the Neilsen ratings system and on who exactly is watching the show as it airs. The ratings system doesn't reflect who tapes the shows - shows on at ten o'clock on a Friday night. Well I know where most of how fans are on a Friday night.. they are like you and me.. they are out! Like most people on Triple J were out on a Friday night were out on a Saturday night when Farscape was aired here in Australia.. and this not reflected in the ratings."
K: THERE IS A HUGE CAMPAIGN NOW TO PUT THE SHOW BACK ON THE SCHEDULE AND FANS ARE TOTALLY BEHIND THAT. THEY ARE DOING GLOBAL RALLIES AND PETITIONS AND MANY MANY OTHER THINGS. IS THERE HOPE?
B: "I think there is hope that we will in some point will be able to finish the story. I am not sure what the possibility is for seeing the fifth season of Farscape at the least not in the immediate future. But the future of Farscape has aways been in the hands of the fans. It depends on who's watching. When it goes back to air in the States in January if the numbers are higher than they were previously, which I probably imagine they will be given the fact we now have more press than we have had to the existence of the show thanks to the fans, that we see a better chance of completing the story either in the form of a mini-series, possibly another half season or a film."
K: THERE ARE PRECEDENTS OUT THERE WITH FANS SAVING SHOWS. I AM THINKING STAR TREK AND ROSWELL. DOES THAT GIVE YOU HOPE?
B: "There is actually a lot of shows that have been saved by the fans over the course of television history. Since the advent of the Internet, I was involved in a show called Party of Five which was essentially saved from first year demolition by the Internet and the response there. The problem with Farscape is that it was late in the day when our fans got word of the precarious situation that we were in. In fact we got it so late in the day that we had actually finished shooting the final episode of season four when WE found out. Star Trek is something that has come back in many incarnations and with Farscape it will certainly be possible to do that and there maybe the chance and opportunity for it to happen.. but that is in the hands in people other than you and me."
K: I AM TOLD THAT THE LAST FRAME OF THE LAST SHOW HAS "TO BE CONTINUED" THAT CERTAINLY GOT TO BE INSPIRATION?
B: "He he. Well that was the way the show was written. We knew at that time was that we were coming back for season five. Let that be lesson to you.. Be careful what you know! So our entire season four arc was planned with another year in mind. So the story IS to be continued. There is no two ways about it. It is not finished therefore "to be continued" was written into the script and that is the way we shot it and damn it we are in Australia we are going to keep it that way. He He"
K: THE OTHER THING ABOUT SCI-FI IS THAT "NEVER SAY DIE" I SUPPOSE, BECAUSE PEOPLE KEEP COMING BACK FROM THE DEAD!!
B: "No.. they don't always come back from the dead!! HE HE We have actually killed a number of characters who have not come back from the dead. You may actually see then occasionally in a flashback or see them in some sort of strange recreated form, but we have probably killed more characters thnt any television show in history as far as main characters are concerned. We kill em off like crazy! We had a season called "Season of Death" which was true to its title.. we killed.. I think we killed three or four main characters that year? and they are still dead!!"
K: DON'T SAY THAT!
B:"HE HE.. THAT DOESN'T MEAN THEY CAN'T COME BACK!! Yeah there are those moments where you think they are dead, everybody dies in Sci-Fi and they come back once or twice, but after a while they just stay dead! He he."
B: (laughing) Who exactly did you want to bring back?
K: I WAS TALKING ABOUT THE SHOW!
B: "Oh no the SHOW being dead! I thought you meant about the characters being dead! Umm.. Never say die? Look.. the scary thing is that Gilligan's Island came back he he.. Spiderman has come back. Everything comes back on some sort of sequel or form .. and nothing is anything if it is not a prequel these days. In fact networks design their shows with either the film that has already been made or the film that is going to be made in mind. Or the spin off series in mind. The different incarnations of a show .. of a world.. that has been created for television. It is certainly possible that Farscape will come back in some different form. I think they are planning an animated form right now as we speak someone sitting somewhere doing the animation. It'll exist in some form or another. Our wish would be that it continued and we were shooting the same show that we wrapped about a month ago. It is just a damn shame cause it was just an incredible crew that was put together to make this show and you have your good episodes and your bad episodes but I am exceedingly proud of the show as a whole. It took a lot of chances and it took a lot of chances that no American show would have been allowed to take and it had a unique fusion which doesn't exist anywhere but in the world of Farscape, which is created in Sydney Australia."
Thanks again to Sue, and also Karen for conducting the interview.