Even though it's far out, 'Farscape' is a great sci-fi romp
By G. Michael Dobbs
A great boxed set and a re-release are in this week's DVD review column.
Farscape: The Completes Series
"Farscape' may be the best television science fiction series you've never heard of and now you can discover it -- or rediscover it -- with this boxed set that contains almost all of the show's run.
I have to write "almost," because the set doesn't include "The Peacekeeper Wars" mini-series that was the conclusion for the series. It's too bad the producers of the DVD set were not able to include this three-hour production that ties up the major storylines of the four-year series.
Broadcast from 1999 to 2002, "Farscape" had been released on DVD in the past, but this new A&E release logically groups the episodes together in one boxed set or by individual seasons.
A lot of television science fiction had a neatness to it in how the premise of the series is presented and how stories are told. Not in "Farscape," which has the distinction of being one of the most unpredictable series I've seen. Characters are introduced for a story arc and then go -- and then come back. The stories themselves sometimes reinforce the overall direction of the series and sometimes go in completely unexpected directions, including one in which the characters are in a Roadrunner cartoon parody!
The leading characters themselves are all wonderfully flawed and twisted, giving the actors and the writers plenty of room to create people who seem very real, even if they are aliens. They swear -- in an alien language -- they fight among themselves and several of them eventually fall in love with one another.
"Farscape" tells the story of John Crichton (Ben Browder), a NASA astronaut who is swept into a wormhole during a routine flight and is brought into a remote part of the universe where alien races are in various conflicts. One of those races, the human-like Peacekeepers, immediately view Crichton as dangerous. He manages to escape with a Peacekeeper in tow aboard Moya, a huge living cargo ship. His fellow crewmembers are all on the run from the Peacekeepers.
From that simple premise grew a rich group of stories, many of which revolve around the growing love between Crichton and the Peacekeeper who was forced to become a fugitive, Aeryn Sun (played by Claudia Black), and the efforts to avoid capture by a Peacekeeper scientist Scorpius who is convinced Crichton knows how to turn wormholes into weapons.
The boxed set has a number of extras, including several interviews with producer Brian Henson, as well as a seldom-seen introduction special to the third season.
With lavish production values, great performances and adventurous writing, "Farscape" is worth seeing over and over.
Monty Python: The Other British Invasion
A while back, A&E Home Video released the ultimate Monty Python television collection, a deluxe boxed set with everything Python in it other than the theatrical features, of course.
Two of the set's extras were a pair of documentaries that explained how the Pythons came to be and how they were able to break into the American market with success.
It's difficult to imagine that Monty Python, which has proven to be a huge influence on modern comedy, was once completely unknown in this country and was thought to be "too British" to have a chance here.
Both documentaries are quite well done and are essential viewing for any Python fan.
They are now in a separate two-disc set for those people who have the Python series on previous VHS or DVD releases and who didn't want to upgrade to the new boxed set.
I'm sure the release of a new Python documentary series on the IFC cable network may have promoted A&E's decision to get their documentaries out before that series makes its way to home video as well.
If you've missed these two sets, then pick up the set or put it on your Christmas list.