Farscape: The Complete Series

A tv review article by: Karyn Pinter

Star(s): Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe, Virginia Hey, Gigi Edgley

Produced by: Jim Henson Productions

Created by: Brian Henson and Rockne O'Bannon

Do you know what science fiction shows produce? Rabidly loyal fans. Yup, for every George Clooney or Jennifer Aniston that credible drama and comedy shows produce, science fiction shows produce about 5,000 blood thirsty, borderline psychotic fans that will swarm a television studio and leave pounds of peanuts in their wake. We've all seen them, maybe we know them, maybe we are them and TV studios know this – which is why they come to Comic Con – and they market to them. What's better to market than the gateway drug that got all us fans started, the original show to own at home so all the fans can obsessively watch it over and over again?

This is why George Lucas and Co., have released so many damn copies of Star Wars. Do you think any of those guys really give a crap nowadays about enhancing the storyline? No, but they release this stuff knowing the fans will buy it because it's "new" or "remastered" and has five extra minutes of never before seen footage. It's never seen because it was cut for being useless. However, we the fans will pay extra or will buy a new copy of what we already own just to see our favorite characters get four extra line of bland dialog or have an extended scene at the breakfast table.

Remastered special editions are a crock and you can't convince me otherwise, which brings me to what this review is all about, Farscape: The Complete Series has been released on Blu-Ray.

Now I am a fan of Farscape, but I don't consider myself a superfan or a fangirl by any means. I got into the show too late. By the time I started watching, it was basically over and Sci-Fi channel was playing long block marathons on weekends – which is how I began watching it, so I've never seen the whole series and what I did see was all out of order.

I loved it though, it had something other sci-fi shows didn't have, and I'm not talking about the muppets - although the muppets played a big part. After all, part of the principle cast were puppets. The show just had something, it's hard to pinpoint.

Maybe it was the silly factor. It didn't take itself too serious the way Battlestar Galatica did or try to sweep the campiness under the rug like original Star Trek. I don't want a bunch of Trek fans jumping on me about that comment because you have to admit that Cliff Howard as Balok was the most ridiculous thing ever, but the show and the characters went without pause.

In Farscape, weird characters would pop up or strange situation would arise and John Crichton (Ben Browder) would make a confused or smart-assed comment, like any of us would in his situation. That was another large part of why Farscape was so good, the characters, and in particular John Crichton. Crichton was from Earth and got sucked through a wormhole into some new universe so that all this crazy crap was new to both us and him, thus presenting an automatic connection with the character.

Let's go back to the muppets though, not to take attention away from the human actors, but the Henson Muppets are also stars of the show. There is a reason Sesame Street and The Muppet Show were so popular; they're magic, and winsome, and cute, and Farscape, although a bit darker than those two, did get to share in some of that Jim Henson magic. CGI can only cut it so often. Yeah, it's the cutting edge of technology, but a computer can't convey the right amount of emotion a puppeteer can. For an actor I'm sure it's easier to act with an actual, physical puppet instead of a space where the creature is going to be. Having those muppets just made it feel more real and added this whole new element of fun to an already fun story.

And what a fun story it is. Some people will always make the argument that TV is idiotic and that it kills brain cells and will never, ever be as good as reading a well written book. In many instances those people can be very right, mostly because of reality show bullshit like Jersey Shore and anything having to do with the Kardashians, but then again it really depends on genre.

Doctor shows and cop dramas seem to go over big on TV; they win a crap ton of awards and produce stars. Comedies are the same way - awards and stars, tons of laughs. Then we come to the sci fi shows like Star Trek, Battlestar Galatica, Doctor Who. Science fiction is a huge draw because of the story of the unknown. It transports us to a new world, a new galaxy or universe and we get to see things the wildest imaginations have come up with. Star Trek pretty much mastered and owns the sci-fi television category but Farscape builds on it.

The writing was fun, the character design new and different, Claudia Black... all very good reasons to watch Farscape. It draws you in. Week after week you want to see what's going to happen next. What new alien will we see? It runs along the same line as other sci-fi shows, but again, muppets.

So we've got a fun sci-fi show with muppets, and now it's on Blu-Ray. Should be great, right? Right?

With every big collection, you have pros and cons, but Farscape on Blu-Ray didn't impress me the way I thought it would. The first and foremost is that this set contains only the regular TV series. So anyone expecting the whole story will be disappointed to know that The Peacekeeper Wars is not included. The second, well the second is probably the biggest problem, the one that just drove me crazy and really dampened my viewing pleasure, is that the formatting is too small.

There's full screen and widescreen (aka letterbox), and then there's whatever ratio this is. Instead of filling up the television screen from end to end, the picture is framed so that there is a black border that fills up about 40% of the screen. Now I don't have a Blu-Ray player, I'm watching these off my PS3 and I couldn't find any way to change the setting to widescreen or even a full screen. This tiny framed view is the way it played as default, which makes me believe this might be the only viewing option. If anyone knows how to change this, please let me know because watching the show reduced to that small, mounted picture size really damages the experience of having a Blu-Ray.

It's supposed to be a super crisp and clear picture, but you can't even see the image to compare and contrast. You think that after a couple episodes you wouldn't notice it anymore but no. It was like staring into a void - a black, black void. Plus, for those of us who have problems hearing or live with people who insist on talking over every show you're trying to pay attention to, there are no subtitles. No subtitles.

The show itself is the absolute highlight, of course, but there are plenty of extras included, such as the deleted scenes, featurettes, cast and crew commentaries, artwork, and behind the scenes stuff. Here lies the problem: if you don't care about all the extra stuff then there's no point in shelling out the $200 for the Blu-Ray set. With that whole screen ratio problem you can't pick out the hi-def graphics which is the entire draw of having Blu-Ray.

Honestly, the complete series on DVD is about ¼ of what the Blu-Ray costs and you could probably watch it in a full screen. So essentially you're going to end up paying and extra $150 for two hours of deleted scenes and some commentary. As just an honest fan of the show, I don't know if I would have spent the money on the Blu-Ray edition, and I don't know if rabid fans would be willing either. There is nothing on this set worth the money being asked for it.

I don't know what to say in conclusion that I haven't said already. It's a fun show and it's lovely that A&E cared to put it on Blu-Ray but it just seemed wholly unnecessary since it's so damn pricey and the extras are just so-so. This definitely does not convince me that Blu-Ray is the future of home video. Sorry, A&E, it was a nice try. 

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