Farscape: The Complete Series - Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Farscape: The Complete Series


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Movie: :5stars:
Video: :3stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :4.5stars:
Final Score: :4stars:




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Movie

While many younger millennials and zoomers have grown up with the normalization of serialized Sci-fi and fantasy shows, but this was not always the case. In fact, the majority of TV shows before (and during) the 90s were heavily episodic, with a few 2-3 episode arcs being shoved into the mix to spice things up. Even the massive hits like Star Trek wrapped everything up every episode, and the over arching story was simply “exploring”. There were some weird one off’s like Lexx, but as a WHOLE, the industry was very much an episodic based genre. However, 2 shows in the mid to late 90s pretty much re-wrote the entire landscape of the genre, acting as the starting point for what would become the plethora of highly serialized adult shows that are now seen as “normal” (and to be fair, we could back off on the serialization a BIT, as it has become over saturated), and those two shows would be the wildly different Brian Henson’s Farscape, and J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5 (which is actually getting released next month for the first time on Blu-ray!).

While both shows became the launching pad for serialized science fiction shows, they were only as similar as being in the same genre of television. Babylon 5 was a heavily nuanced space drama, with layers upon layers upon layers of storytelling wrapped up in a science fiction wrapper. In short, it was a Shakespearean drama put in space. But on the other hand we had a sci-fi extravaganza that pushed boundaries in story telling, costuming, ideas of what could be seen on Television, and simply some of the most fun Sci-fi storytelling to come out since Star Trek: The Next Generation. Choosing which show is the better show is like asking me which of my twin boys I love the most. They’re both 5/5 shows, but they appeal to a different aspect of my watching enjoyment, and to me Farscape is the most tragic due to how it was treated.

Back in 99 Brian Henson and Rockne S. O’Bannon crafted out one of the biggest budgeted sci-fi shows of the time period, and for some reason the Sci-Fi channel (back before the stupid SyFy rebranding) gave them the money. Based entirely in Australia and hiring mostly Australian actors, it was a show about space, the final frontier. Just with a lot of alien swearing, monsters, Henson puppetry magic for the creatures, and a barely known Ben Browder (back before his Stargate SG-1 fame) starring in what would become one of the biggest cult sci-fi shows of all time. The story revolves around John Crichton (Ben Browder), a NASA Astronaut who flies an experimental human space craft out into space around Earth, only to get sucked into a wormhole and deposited on the other side of the galaxy. Humans had always wondered what other life was out there in the galaxy, and now John is ran smack into the middle of them. Turns out that the galaxy is in upheaval, with the Humanoid Peacekeepers running a tight ship while holding off the vicious Scarran race (a race of heavily evolved lizards who want to simply wage war and dominate). Unfortunately for Crichton his wormhole displaced spacecraft lands him right in the sights of the Peacekeepers, who are tracking down an organic prison ship name Moya and her passengers, only for the NASA pilot to get mistaken for one of them, forcing him to ally himself with the escaping prisoners.

The first two seasons of the 4 season show is really the slow evolution of John learning how to live with an entirely different set of “people”. Everyone is initially at each other’s throats on Moya, as each one is a prisoner of the Peacekeepers, and none of them friendly with the other. Ka D’Argo (Anthony Simcoe) is from a race of warriors who live for battle (shares a lot of similarities with the Klingons), Zhaan (Virginia Hey) a blue skinned priestess with a clever wit and more wisdom than people give her credit for. Chiana (Gigi Edgley) is a rebellious little thief, Rygel XVI is loud mouthed disposed dictator from his home world. And then there’s Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black) the Peacekeeper commander who John accidentally “contaminates” in his initial encounter with the humanoid species, and is forced to go along with everyone else because now her own high command is after her.

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As I stated above, the first two seasons are really the introduction to the show, and the meshing of the characters. It’s a motley crew of criminals who are just trying to survive in the galaxy, and each get back what life they feel has been stolen from them. Crichton wants to get back to Earth, while Aeryn wants to get back into the ranks of the very same Peacekeepers who kicked her out. Everyone else just wants to basically cause havoc and stay under the radar, but by the third season that’s nigh impossible. The Peacekeeper command Crais (Lani Tupu, who actually voices the Pilot of Moya as well) is hunting them down mercilessly, and even worse, his half Peacekeeper half Scarran boss Scorpius is hunting them down for MUCH different reasons. It seems that the Scarran/Peacekeeper conflict is getting hotter and hotter, and much like most of what happens to Crichton, the human has accidentally gained access to the power of the same wormholes that brought him to this side of the galaxy, and is now a prize in a galactic war of power with both sides hoping to use the Human’s knowledge to create wormhole weapons to wipe the other side out.

Both Babylon 5 and Farscape had their troubles in finishing up the 5 season run that was planned, but in my opinion, Farscape was definitely the most tragic. Nearing the second half of production the Sci-Fi channel basically told Henson and the other producers that Farscape was too expensive for the channel, and they were going to cancel it at the end of the 4th season. The problem was, it was left on a DOOZY of a cliff hanger with Aeryn and Crichton finally getting together after their 4 years of push and pull relationships, they were about to take the fight to the Scarrans, only for a bounty hunter to execute the two of them in the final minutes of the show. I literally remember sitting at my computer desk in my junior year of college watching that final episode literally days after I had read the news online that the show was ended. Lets just say my rage, sadness and disappointment was not the only one out there as the entire fandom rose up and LEVIED some serious anger against the Sci-Fi channel. Petitions were sent, fans raged, Brian Henson himself tried to fund the project as the show had a 5 season arc to complete, and the finale seasons was partially produced at the time too.

Luckily we were given a partial break. Lionsgate backed the project and allowed O’Bannon and Henson to take what they had of the fifth season and re craft it into a 3 hour miniseries known as The Peacekeeper Wars. The end result you might ask? Well, it’s actually rather good, and a fitting conclusion to the series. Henson and O’Bannon took the meat of what would have been the fifth season and condensed it down to the raw elements, with all of the original actors coming back to reprise their roles for the fans. There’s some wonkiness with makeup and some set design quirks, but for the most part this is pure Farscape and the ending the show needed (and it’s a GOOD ending too. Wraps everything up incredibly well and goes to show just how meticulous they were in formulating a 5 season arc).




Rating:

Rated TV-14




Video: :3stars:
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The sad part about Farscape is that unless some major AI upscaling software algorithm comes along that really make a diamond out of a turnip, then this is the best we’re going to get for the series. The film elements for the show were famously destroyed by the studio after the 4th season’s cancellation, and the only elements that we’ve had to work with was a PAL master that was struck for the DVDS in another region. As such, Henson Productions has done the best they could with the show’s source, and upscaled it to 1080p (according to my information from Shout, Henson Productions provided them with the masters, and comparing it against my old A&E discs, these were the same masters they used for the 2011 release as well. Or at least the same base master and then tweaked a bit at the most) which is what we have here. Honestly, comparing it to the old A&E and Cinedigm releases it seems to have a slightly higher bitrate per episode as the extras have been shuffled off to their own disc instead of being included in the season discs itself. The end result is not exactly going to be noticeable, but it at least gives the disc more breathing room. The first 3 seasons were shot in 4x3 for standard TV at the time, but the final season and The Peacekeeper Wars were filmed in 1.78:1. The first couple of seasons look the roughest, but by season 4 the series had opened up a bit more and looks a bit cleaner. There’s still the standarnd noisy/grainy look that the show has always had, and being upscaled to 1080p makes it stand out a bit more. Honestly, if I’m going to rate this objectively this is a moderate ugprade over the old Starbust Edition DVDs and look as nice as they’re ever going to look. They won’t be fantastic in terms of modern day 1080p expectations, but there’s no way around that. It’s a solid upgrade over the DVDS and about on par with the old A&E and Cinedigm releases, just MAYBE a teensy bit better (hard to tell, but they’re really close).






Audio: :4stars:
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The 5.1 DTS-HD MA is a lot better than the video that’s for sure. Right off the bat I want to make mention that the audio has been pitch corrected for the series and especially The Peacekeeper Wars. Since they were taken from PAL sources, the audio sounded a bit sped up for the first couple of seasons as well as the mini series. This has been rectified here and while sometimes I can hear a weird echo, or a slightly sped of moment, it has been DEFINITELY tone matched. The 5.1 mix sparkles with life, with the intoxicating score as well as the copious amounts of gunfire from Winona, to the starbusrting of Talon and Moya during their many escapes. The Synth heavy score from Guy Gross sounds INCREDIBLE in 5.1, and shows a healthy upgrade over the bitrate starved DVD audio of old. Honestly, it may not be perfect, but Farscape’s audio has always been its best feature, and the DTS-HD MA track is more than capable.






Extras: :4.5stars:
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NEW “A Look Back At Farscape” With Executive Producer Brian Henson And Series Creator/Writer Rockne O’Bannon, Hosted By Adam Savage
• 30 Audio Commentaries
• “Memories Of Moya” Retrospective Documentary
• “In The Beginning: A Look Back With Brian Henson”
• “Making Of A Space Opera”
• “Farscape Undressed”
• Composer Guy Gross Discusses The Season Three Theme
• Season 3: A Look Back
• “Zhaan Forever” With Virginia Hey
• “Farscape: The Story So Far”
• Three “Inside Farscape” Featurettes: “Villains,” “Visual Effects,” And “Save Farscape
• Twelve “Listening In With Composer Guy Gross” Featurettes: “The Way We Weren’t,” “My Three Crichtons,” “The Locket,” “Die Me, Dichotomy,” “Eat Me,” “Revenging Angel,” “The Choice,” “Into The Lion’s Den, Part II: Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing,” “Crichton Kicks,” “John Quixote,” “Terra Firma,” And “Bad Timing.”
• Deleted Scenes, Director’s Cut Scenes, And An Alternate Version Of The Season Two Premiere
• Behind-The-Scenes Interviews With The Characters, Cast, And Creative Team Of Farscape: Jonathan Hardy, Lani John Topu, David Franklin, Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe, Ben Browder, Wayne Pygram, Gigi Edgley, Rebecca Riggs, Paul Goddard
• Video Profiles: Creator/Executive Producer Rockne O’Bannon And Executive Producer/Writer David Kemper
• Season 2 Bloopers
• Original TV Promos












Final Score: :4stars:


Needless to say, Farscape is one of the most coveted and treasured Sci-Fi shows of all time, and for good reason. It and Babylon 5 were the progenitors of heavily serialized science fiction shows that everyone copied, and it also pushed the boundaries of what we saw on TV. Brian Henson’s involvement with the puppets and set design made it a cross between Star Trek and The Dark Crystal, and the crew just worked SOOOOOO well together. 4 seasons and a mini series, and the entire crew just worked together like peanut butter and jelly. However, the frustrations with the final season being canceled mixed with the limited source materials to work with has always been a thorn in the Hi-Def fans sides for years. A&E originally released all 4 seasons back in 2011, with Cinedigm reprinting the set a few years later, but sadly no sign of The Peacekeeper Wars. Sony re-released the set a few years ago WITH The Peacekeeper Wars for the first time, but that set went out of print so fast I almost swore it wasn’t on shelves a year. Shout Studios has gone out of their way to redo the entire show with a classy box set, All the old extras, AND The Peacekeeper Wars, with a slightly boosted MSRP (sadly, but it is what it is).

For fans wondering if we’ll ever get really great quality scans of the original source material, I’d say we’re looking at a pipe dream outside of some new AI based algorithm that can build the series from the ground up. The studios trashes the original film negatives after the cancellation of the show, and the PAL master that’s been used for all the home video releases over the last 15 years are all we have. Henson Productions has done their best cleaning it up and matching pitches (this set actually has the audio pitch corrected for the mini series and the show), but we have to make do with what we have, and the show still looks moderately better than the aging DVDS (and probably longer lasting. The old Starburst Edition DVDs were notorious for discs rotting, I lost most of my collection from those stupid double sided discs). So as a finale, the show is incredible, with some of the best Science Fiction storytelling out there, a wild ride from beginning to end, and Shout Studios has used the Henson produced masters to re-print the show with their own flair AND in full completeness for the first time (that Sony set barely on the market before running out, so I almost don’t count it as the first time). Highly recommended as a show, and this boxset is a very solid entry from Shout.


Technical Specifications:

Starring: Ben Browder, Claudio Black, Anthony Simcoe, Gigi Edgley, Lani Tupo
Created by: Rockne S. O'Bannon
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 AVC / 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Studio: Shout Studios
Rated: TV-14/
Runtime: 4327 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: November 21st, 2023

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Recommendation: Absolute Must Own

 

tripplej

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Thanks for the review. I remember watching this one.. Will look for this one.
 

FargateOne

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OH MAN! I bought all the release of this show. After Firefly it is the second best sci-fi of all time. My wif and I we rewatch it once a year or . Our children question our sanity...we "love Johon and Aeryn...see my user name!!!!The idea came from one Claudia Black interview.
I'll buy it thank to you I didn't know it was coming!
Do say that it maybe done again with AI development?
 

Michael Scott

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OH MAN! I bought all the release of this show. After Firefly it is the second best sci-fi of all time. My wif and I we rewatch it once a year or . Our children question our sanity...we "love Johon and Aeryn...see my user name!!!!The idea came from one Claudia Black interview.
I'll buy it thank to you I didn't know it was coming!
Do say that it maybe done again with AI development?

yeah, Firefly, B5 and Farsscape are LEGENDS in the sci-fi community for a reason.

as for AI, I was simply stating that I don't think we're ever going to see a better looking transfer UNLESS some fancy AI algorithm is invented that can upscale it some day. We're stuck with that PAL master they've had to use for the better part of 20 years
 
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