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"Farscape: The Complete Series" {Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: A&E
Genre:
TV-Series
Release Date:
11/15/11
Special Features:

Commentary tracks, featurettes, interviews, video profiles, Rating: NR but there are sexual situations

Review:

Before "Battlestar Galatica" captured the attention of critics and fans alike "Farscape" stormed onto TV screens with a mission; kick ass, take names, dazzle with alien worlds, strong stories and a big dollop of humor. ***

A note for fans upfront--this DOESN'T include the mini-series conclusion "Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars" that aired on Sci-Fi as the rights belong to another company. Hopefully this set will sell well enough so that mini-series will be reissued on Blu-ray (and, if I recall correctly, the source for the mini-series IS available for upgrading). Let's keep our fingers crossed that the mini-series shows up on Blu-ray as the series does deserve the proper ending that it got on TV on home video as well. ***

Ben Browder played all American astronaut and physicist John Crichton who solves the problem of space travel to other worlds when he comes up with a way to generate wormholes; the only problem is that on one experimental flight Crichton's ship takes him on an intergalactic Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Crichton ends up landing on a Leviathian class prison ship named Moya (named Moya because it's alive). He finds himself smackdab in the middle of a battle between the prisoners led by Ka D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe) an alien that makes Klingon's look handsome; Zhaan (Virginia Hey) a bald blue woman who also happens to be a priestess, Rygel (a puppet courtesy of co-producer Brian Henson). At first treated with hostility and suspcion by the prisoners because he is believed to be a Peacekeeper a humanoid species which is the Intergalatica police force (or Nazi's depending on your point-of-view I suppose), Crichton eventually earns their trust and the begruding respect of one Peacekeeper named Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black). As this motley crew including con artist Chiana (Gigi Edgley) travels throughout space trying to avoid the Peacekeeper Crais (Lani Tupu) who has a personal score to settle with Crichton and Scorpius (Wayne Pygram) a creepy crawly half breed creature that wants the secret of wormhole travel and will do anything possible to get it. ***

A marvelously creative, colorful series that pushed the boundaries of science fiction on TV much the same way that "Star Trek" did decades before, "Farscape" maybe have been a hodge podge mixture of other TV shows (and some that hadn't ever appeared before) but series creator Rockne O'Bannon ("Seaquest DSV", "Alien Nation", "Triangle" and the 1980's version of "The Twilight Zone") and producer David Kemper (who collaborated together on "Seaquest DSV") put together a show that wasn't afraid to combine humor with its heady brand of science fiction. Browder brought his quirky sense of humor to the seriers as well (which probably explains why he fit in so well on "Stargate SG-1") as well and the show caught on despite every attempt by the Sci-Fi Channel (which initially championed the series) to kill it off with some of their unrealistic demands. Shot in Australia the series benefited from the lower production costs and the terrific talent that had been hidden Down Under. The show managed to run four seasons due to the combined production efforts of Robert Halmi, Henson and the other resources the producers had to draw from. ---

Image & Sound:

Let's get the bad news out of the way first--"Farscape" WAS shot on film but was composited on standard definition video and the visual effects were created for that format as well. Unfortunately, the film elements are (surprise!) missing for the show so the series can't put together again for high definition with NEW transfers from the 35mm elements and recomposited visual effects. That's too bad because if any show really deserved a high def presentation it is this show. ***

The good news is that the originao PAL videotape used for the series was used as the source element for this set and they are inherently superior to the NTSC transfers that were shown on TV and used as the source for the original DVDs back in the day. They have a higher resolution but they STILL aren't high definition. That said, "Farscape" looks a lot better than its previous DVD incarnations for the most part. Colors are bolder and detail is better but there is an inherent softness to the images that are inescapable. Having said that, the presentation is good if not spectacular given the limitations of the source material. So the images are upscaled for Blu-ray and those thinking about purchasing the show should keep this in mind. ***

The first three seasons were presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 while the fourth season is in 1.78:1. The show is presented in these original aspect ratios pillor boxed for the first three seasons. The 80 plus episodes are spread over 20 dual layered discs allowing more "breathing" room for the show with its MPEG-4 AVC codec. ***

Audio sounds marvelous with a strong, full 5.1 lossless DTS presentation. Dialogue comes through strong and crisp but the surround effects are also quite good here as well.

Special Features:

I haven't had time to dig into ALL the special features for the series here but this set carries over all the supplements that were also featured on the 2009 Complete Series (and, in fact, this uses the same transfers although upscaled). ***

We get the following commentary tracks: ***

The first season:

Premiere: Rockne S. O'Bannon, Brian Henson and Ben BrowderI, E.T.: Claudia Black and Anthony Simcoe Exodus from Genesis: Brian Henson and Virginia Hey***

Throne for a Loss: Ben Browder and Claudia Black***

Back and Back and Back to the Future: Ben Browder and Rowan Woods***

Thank God It's Friday--Again: Rockne S. O'Bannon and Anthony Simcoe***

DNA Mad Scientist: a) Ben Browder and Claudia Black; b) Rockne S. O'Bannon and David Kemper***

Jeremiah Crichton: Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Rockne S. O'Bannon and David Kemper (this commentary bears the humorous subtitle "When Bad Things Happen to Good Shows")***

A Human Reaction: Ben Browder and Claudia Black***

Nerve: Ben Browder and Claudia Black***

Born to be Wild: Anthony Simcoe***

Family Ties: a) Ben Browder and Claudia Black; b) Rockne S. O'Bannon and David Kemper ***

The second season:

Crackers Don't Matter: Claudia Black and Ian Watson***

The Way We Weren't: Ben Browder and Claudia Black***

Won't Get Fooled Again: Rowan Woods and Richard Manning***

The Locket: Ben Browder and Claudia Black***

Die Me, Dichotomy: Ben Browder, Claudia Black and David Kemper ***

The third season:

Self Inflicted Wounds Part II: Wait for the Wheel: Claudia Black***

Eat Me: Guy Gross***

Green Eyed Monster: Ben Browder and Tony Tilse***

Relativity: Lani Tupu and Peter Andrikidis***

The Choice: a) Claudia Black; b) Rowan Woods and Justin Monjo***

Into the Lion's Den Part II: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Rockne S. O'Bannon and David Kemper***

Dog With Two Bones: Ben Browder and Claudia Black ***

The fourth season:

John Quixote: Ben Browder and Claudia Black***

Kansas: Ben Browder, Claudia Black and David Kemper***

Bad Timing: Ben Browder, Claudia Black and David Kemper ***

 

There are numerous deleted scenes for a variety of episodes over the four seasons. There are also a variety of interviews with the cast and crew covering the show from creation to the call that the show had been cancelled on the Sci-Fi channel. ***

There are numerous featurettes covering everything from the visual effects to the storyline of the series as well as video proifles of the creator O'Bannon and main producer of the series David Kemper. Some of these were previously released and/or were repurposed for this set from the previous DVD releases both overseas and here and some are more recent additions to the set (although, as I recall, the commentary tracks were all pretty much pulled from the original DVD releases). ---

Final Words:

"Farscape" provided a much needed bridge from the increasingly stuffy "Star Trek" series that Paramount was producing to the wonderfully reimagined "Battlestar: Galatica". Unlike most of those shows "Farscape" had a conclusion worthy of the series that didn't disappoint and although the first season or two was a bit sketchy with a strong episode followed by a fairly routine one the show had found its creative "legs" by the third season. ***

As long as one tempers one's expectations on the Blu-ray image quality for this set and recognizing that the only existing source has limitations, fans will enjoy the Blu-ray presentation and it DOES improve on the previous DVD releases with better detail, bolder colors. Although the image quality is soft compared to most contemporary Blu-ray releases from more recent shows (and even the 1960's "Star Trek" which received a marvelous restoration and upgrade to Blu-ray something, sadly, I think even if they DO find the original 35mm negatives, will probably NOT happen for "Farscape" because it is much more of a cult show), "Farscape" is a slight step up over the most recent 2009 Complete Series release which was a marked improvement over the previous DVD releases. ***

Should you spent the coin on the Blu-ray? If you can get it at a good price and don't have it on or have the earliest DVD releases--yes. If you purchased the 2009 reissue it's not a huge step up although the compression used here does improve some of the image quality compared to that set.

 

 
 
 
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