Farscape: Australians IN SPACE!
If a space opera's not "Star Trek," it often seems like it's doomed to obscurity. I definitely remember only ever seeing episodes of "Babylon 5" until I was intentionally working my way through the series, except for one random episode I randomly caught on the Sci-fi channel. The same is true of this show, which I only decided to watch because SFDebris did a positive review of the first episode and I discovered it was streaming on Netflix. I'm really glad that I did, because this show, like "Babylon 5," is a hidden gem, both similar to and radically different from the typical kinds of stories we're used to from the various Star Trek shows.
The plot revolves around John Crichton (Ben Browder), an astronaut who accidentally creates a wormhole while flying a test flight just outside of Earth's orbit. Flying through it, he ends up on the other side of the galaxy, and in the middle of a firefight where the Peacekeepers (a somewhat fascist police force/empire) are trying to recapture an escaped Leviathan (a living ship with a symbiotic pilot) that has been commandeered by escaped prisoners. John gets snatched up by the Leviathan (named Moya), as well as Peacekeeper pilot Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), and both are taken prisoner by the escaped prisoners. You see, humans look identical to Sebaceans, the race that makes up the Peacekeepers, so the group is initially skeptical of Crichton. However, after both Crichton and Aeryn end up with prices on their heads from the Peacekeepers, the group decides to work together to get all of them home and away from the pursuing Captain Crais, who wants the lot of them back in prison and Crichton dead.
As the story goes along Crichton is given the gift of knowledge of how to control wormholes by godlike aliens to assist him in his quest to get home, but this unfortunately attracts the attention of Scorpius (Wayne Pygram), a Peacekeeper commander who is half Sebacean and half Scarran, the Peacekeepers' mortal enemies, who is obsessed with harnessing wormholes for military purposes. The rest of the series is the struggle for Crichton and Moya's crew to keep Scorpius and the Scarrans away from Crichton, while simultaneously allowing him to figure out wormholes in order to allow him to get back home.
The strength of this show is in its cast. The relationships between the crew of Moya are fascinating, from the somewhat more typical (John and Aeryn are star-crossed lovers for most of the series, for example) to the more unexpected (for instance, the big-brother/little sister dynamic mixed with occasional playful flirting that characterizes John's relationship with Chiana, a rebel who has escaped her culture's conformist society). I particularly liked how John softens Aeryn significantly with his example of how to be a caring person, while never ever making her less than a badass; as well as the unusual relationship between Aeryn and Moya's Pilot, a squid-like alien who serves as an interface between the ship and the crew.
Wayne Pygram deserves much kudos for his role as Scorpius. Even though his name is kinda stupid, his character is an amazing villain, both cultured and vicious, terrifying and extremely charismatic. In the fourth season and the miniseries "The Peacekeeper Wars," when he and John are forced to work together, the way the two of them play off each other is amazing to behold, as he is able to push all of John's buttons to get almost everything he wants. Also worth mentioning is Harvey, a copy of Scorpius' personality implanted into John's brain who is soon infected with John's tendency to crack jokes and make constant pop cultural references. Harvey provides some of the series' most surreal moments, as well as some of the funniest.
Claudia Black is amazing as Aeryn, and her performance was a big part of what made Aeryn my favorite character. Starting out a cold, hard soldier, Aeryn softens up as she is exposed to Crichton's kindness and empathy (as is the rest of the cast, who in the first season had an alarming tendency to abandon one another if John didn't step in to stop it). Falling in love with John fairly early in the show, it was especially fun to watch her try to fight it, as her Peacekeeper upbringing instilled in her a distrust of all of the mushier emotions. It also made her inevitable giving in to her emotions all the more thrilling. Seriously, watching this stern and somewhat cold woman finally crack a smile and admit that John has changed her for the better is one of the best reasons to watch the show.
Ben Browder is hamming it up throughout the show, and it makes his character a barrel of fun to watch. He is easily one of the most energetic actors in the cast, and it's hard to not like Crichton, as he is just so fun to watch, with his tendency to constantly drop pop culture references and quips at a mile a minute. He's also the sort of person who takes the insane situation around him and tries to make the best of it. This also makes the few episodes where the plot takes place inside Crichton's mind to be awesome, as he has a tendency to under- and then overact as he deals with the craziness contained therein. Even though the cast as a whole is amazing, Ben Browder is a head above the res,t the same as Claudia Black and Wayne Pygram, in that he is consistently watchable.
all in all, an excellent story. Its flaws are fairly minor, and far outweighed by the talent of the actors and insanity of the plots. if you haven't checked it out yet, you most definitely should. It is well worth the effort to watch all 4 seasons and the miniseries, as this show surpasses all epectations I had for it.