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FARSCAPE: Continuing Season Two
Introducing a new slice of the universe each week.
By Anna L. Kaplan
June 05, 2000
With FARSCAPE's second season well underway, executive producer David Kemper says, 'What we are doing with season two is to continue Crichton's journey, strengthen the bonds of the characters to each other, and introduce, hopefully weekly, a new slice of the universe that no one has ever seen before. We surprise Crichton [Ben Browder], thereby surprising the audience with something new and exciting each week. I don't mean exciting just in an action sense; I mean exciting and wild and wonderful. We are shooting Episode 17, so we know we have done a pretty good job so far based on what we have been seeing. I think when people look back from the end of the year, they are going to go, 'Wow. This year was better than the first.''
Season two began by resolving the problems left at the end of season one's cliffhanger. Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black) has rescued the floating Crichton and D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe) from space. To do this, she made a deal with Crais (Lani John Tupu), who is in possession of Moya's offspring, a Leviathan-Peacekeeper hybrid ship named Talyn. Scorpius (Wayne Pygram) is searching for both Crichton and the baby ship. Moya returns, with an altered Zhaan (Virginia Hey), Pilot, Rygel, and Chiana (Gigi Edgley) on board. By the end of this episode, 'Mind the Baby,' the group is back together on Moya. Scorpius has been eluded for the moment, but Crais has taken off with Talyn.
The episodes airing after 'Mind the Baby' have been diverse stories, sometimes featuring the return of previous guest stars. In 'Crackers Don't Matter,' Crichton hallucinates a version of Scorpius. The evil sorcerer Maldis (Chris Haywood) tortures the group again in 'Picture if You Will.' 'The Way We Weren't' goes into the past of Pilot, Moya, Aeryn, and Crais in a startling way. Later episodes will bring back other characters, including Kent McCord as Crichton's father.
Kemper and everyone working on FARSCAPE have found that making the show successful requires flexibility. This means that episodes may not air in the order filmed, or that something will spark an idea that leads to an unplanned episode being written and produced. Kemper and company saw something in Episode 3, 'Taking the Stone' (which was written by Justin Monjo) that they wanted to continue. In 'Taking the Stone' Chiana runs away and gets into some mind-altering experiences on a cemetery planet, as does Crichton and even Rygel. Out of this came the idea for 'Crackers Don't Matter,' which aired fourth during FARSCAPE's second season. The episode was a mind-bender, as the alien Traltixx (Danny Adcock) induced paranoid hallucinations among the group on Moya. Explains Kemper, 'We see something and we say, 'Look at that. That was so good. We must do that again.' We had this thought early in the season. 'Crackers Don't Matter' just did not exist. Everybody dropped the scripts they were working on. I had everyone focus, under the lead of Justin Monjo who wrote the script. We truncated the normal month of story process, to just break the story, in two weeks, in order then to give the writer a month to write the script, and then to get it produced. If you had seen an early schedule, the show is not on any of the schedules, and all of a sudden it appears. We thought of it after, but we knew it had to come early. Stuff like that happens all the time. We had another one where we were doing a two-part episode, and we saw some things that were so incredible, some amazing things, that we decided to make it a three-parter.'
Flexibility in scheduling and production also came into play as 'Re-Union,' the first episode shot for season two, got moved back in the airing schedule, taking with it some information about Zhaan. Says Kemper, 'In a perfect world, we would never have shot Episode 1, 'Re-Union' as the first episode. But production-wise it worked for us. We don't care what's on a piece of paper six months before things air. It's not set in stone. We create it as it goes. We watch the flow. If you are not flexible, then you miss out on incredible opportunities. Flexibility makes our show as good as it is. You've got to be able to bend over a little bit, and you've got to be able to bend backwards a lot. We looked at Episode 1 and said, 'Okay, it plays perfectly as the first episode of the year, for a variety of reasons. At the same time, if we added two or three new scenes, which we did, at great expense, this episode will play really, really nicely a little farther down the schedule.' Now, as opposed to the episode that was going to take place completely in the present, 'Re-Union' takes place on two different time frames. It becomes something that informs our characters more. We started to work on the other episodes, and said, 'If we move this back, then we can do this episode here that leads up to 'Re-Union' and then have another one that comes out of 'Re-Union.' It makes 'Re-Union' more interesting. When we put in 'Crackers Don't Matter,' it made a lot of sense; it helped us with the season; it helped us know where the characters are going. Once we did that we said, 'If we are going to air 'Crackers Don't Matter' here, then why do we need 'Re-Union' here? What if we moved 'Re-Union' back a couple of weeks? If we would have done all these episodes and looked at it later, this is the way you would have ordered it.'
In 'Mind the Baby,' Zhaan seemed out of her mind, embarking on a new stage of spiritual ascension. As Virginia Hey says, 'The first thing you see is Zhaan looking pretty dazed. Rest assured the explanation is coming. It is a shame, I think, that that particular episode wasn't shown in the right order. However, I think suspense is very good for a show. It keeps people wondering.'
What really did happen to Zhaan? Kemper answers, in part, with a question, saying, 'We talk about this all the time. How many hours or days have gone by from the last episode to this episode? That's not answered in any show. My point is, they don't start the X-FILES and say, 'It has now been 16 days since the last adventure.' You've got to figure that Mulder and Scully do not have one of these adventures every day. Time passes, but you don't tell us. So what you've got with Zhaan is a bit of mystery. We will solve that mystery for you as the season goes on. She comes out of it, but there is that lingering thing, that eventually Crichton is going to say, or Aeryn, or D'Argo, 'What was up with you when we came back? When we were gone for a couple of weeks, we came back, and you were a nut case. Tell me what happened.' Now there is something to unfold. That kind of stuff, we do that all the time. The Zhaan stuff that is missingwell, it's intended to make people wonder.'
Kemper wants the audience to be flexible, too, and willing to wait to get answers. He says, 'You don't always get to see every single thing that happens in a person's life. You did miss something with Zhaan, but there is a purpose to it. Today, you look at the episode, and go, 'I think I'm missing something.' But when you get to the end of the season, you'll look back and go, 'No, I'm not missing anything.' It will all be complete for you then. You can't be part way through the journey and say, 'How come I am not seeing my destination?' If you are going to the Grand Canyon, you can't be a twentieth of the way to the Grand Canyon and say, 'Boy, this doesn't look like the Grand Canyon to me.' You've got to wait until you get to the end. Hopefully it's a seven-year journey, or a ten-year journey. We don't know. But at least each year seems to have a beginning and an end. You spin into a new direction. Last year we had Scorpius introduced and Moya had a baby. This year, other events will happen toward the end of the year that will propel you into the third year. You are only partway through that journey, and you have only seen part of the stuff. Everybody tends to want to have it be so nice and clean and wrapped up, to know everything at the end of the episode. That's not life. At the end of today you don't know everything. You go to a doctor and they take a swab to test if you have the flu, and sometimes you don't find for a day. You go to bed that night, and you go, 'I really wish I knew if I had the flu or not.' But they don't tell you, and you just have to wait until tomorrow. That 'I want it now' afflicts everybodyme, toobut we are trying really hard not to wrap up each episode to the point where then the viewers can go, 'I can go to bed now. The FARSCAPE universe is in order.' It's not in order. There are six or seven creatures stuck together, on the run, each one in danger, each one in trouble. It doesn't get wrapped up for them. Ultimately the fans are responding really positively to that edge of the series, and so along the way, there will be bumps like the Zhaan thing where people very rightfully so, go, 'I'm missing something.' There is no way around it. We do the best we can.'
Kemper is saying that FARSCAPE does make some viewers uncomfortable some of the time, just as real life does. That is another key to the series, the reality of the characters in the midst of a fantastical and unreal universe. He says, 'Sometimes, unfortunately, people have fights and break up: lovers break up; friends break up. Sometimes there is just a car accident. Life is unexpected. People get diseases, or people get sick; people break legs. No one is intending to have a broken leg; you break your leg and your whole life changes. That kind of stuff normally does not happen on other shows, drama shows, let alone science fiction shows, and then it never gets carried on into the next week. Our show does. If someone breaks their leg they are going to have a broken leg for two or three episodes. They have to, because it is real. That kind of reality, we look for that; we look for inspiration in our own lives. When something terrible happens, it upsets people, and people initially rebel against it. They say, 'I don't like that.' Fans will go, 'I don't like that.' Our response is, 'There'll be things that are going to happen in your life you aren't going to like either. They are unfortunate, and you learn to cope with them.' That's what makes our people so dynamic and wonderful: you throw something at them, they don't like it. As they learn to deal with it they become stronger. That kind of sudden adversity is what tests them; the audience can see them grow, and they can grow with each other.'
The actors also have to be flexible and very attentive. As Kemper mentioned, a two-part episode written for mid-season became a three-part arc; with re-writes and dialogue looping, the actors were working on 3 or 4 episodes simultaneously. Laughs Anthony Simcoe on a rare day off, 'I think we are shooting about four episodes at once. We shot 10 and 11, and then we decided to expand that two-parter into a three-parter. It can get incredibly confusing considering the hours that we work, the prosthetic and makeup characters. When things start jumping and changing like that, it makes it difficult, but it also makes it interesting and exciting. It's nice to feel that you are juggling all these balls at the same time, and hopefully, feeling like your succeeding and having a win.'
Adds Gigi Edgley who has just taken a moment out from recording additional dialogue on the set in Australia, 'Sometimes it's sort of a bit like a juggling act. You start your day, and you're three and a half hours in the makeup chair. You'll be doing a scene, and spending an hour or however long you need on it, and then go in a scene of a totally different episode, and thinking, 'Where am I? Who am I? Have I said this to this character yet? What's my relationship with this character?' Sometimes it gets a bit crazy. It keeps you on your toes, definitely.'
Everyone seemed to be looking forward to seeing how fans will react to Episode 14, which brings back Kent McCord, as well as propelling the series in yet another direction. Says Simcoe, 'Episode 14 is a very bizarre, weird and wonderful episode that is going to take FARSCAPE into such new territory; we are all excited and scared about what people will think about it. We have absolutely taken one idea and run with it a thousand miles in one direction. I think it's quite a brave and exciting episode, and I am really looking forward to seeing how people respond to that.'
McCord himself isn't sure how Crichton's father gets into this episode. He laughs, 'It's a mystery to me. I'm not sure. You are going to have to tune in and see. I am going to have to tune in and see. I think it's going to be a real mind-bender for the fans.'
Of course no one will say what happens in Episode 14. The people who work on FARSCAPE try their very best not to spoil things for the fans. Says Kemper, 'I can't tell you what's going to happen because it would ruin a bunch of surprises. I am very good at not telling. We work really hard to build these in. If the fans knew what was going to happen at the end of the next episode, they would watch it, but they would watch it differently. They would miss out on so much. We work really, really hard to make these episodes different than any other science fiction show that has ever been on the air. If everybody knew the ending to the episode they would still watch it, but it would take away some of the fun.'
The next new episode of FARSCAPE, called 'Home on the Remains,' will air at different times, 6 and 9 PM Pacific Time, on Friday, June 16th.