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FARSCAPE Convention Report

Cast and crew make the trip from Australia for their first U.S. con.

By Anna L. Kaplan     August 07, 2000

The first official FARSCAPE convention started Saturday August 5th, 2000. Approximately 1000 fans congregated at the Burbank Airport Hilton Hotel, in Southern California. Creator Rockne S. O'Bannon greeted the crowd. O'Bannon, clearly thrilled to see so many fans, asked what distance they had traveled. Many came from other parts of the United States, others from as far away as England and Japan. There were fans of all ages, a large number wearing FARSCAPE tee shirts. The costume of choice, for those who dressed up, was Peacekeeper attire: black leather pants and boots. A couple of people even constructed their own red-and-black Peacekeeper uniforms.

O'Bannon brought executive producers Brian Henson and David Kemper onto the stage. The three recounted the history of FARSCAPE. Initially called SPACE CHASE, the concept came into existence some seven years ago. Henson wanted to bring the expertise of The Henson Company to a television show. O'Bannon thought of throwing a contemporary human into the middle of an alien environment as the basis for the story that would become FARSCAPE. It took O'Bannon and Henson many years to sell the idea, eventually to the Sci-Fi Channel. Kemper came in at an early stage to help develop and write scripts. Eventually, when the show found a buyer and a home, Australia was picked as a shooting location and the characters were cast. Many of the actors shared the stories of their auditions for FARSCAPE as the day progressed.

First up, and every bit the star, came Ben Browder, who plays John Crichton. Having prepared for this experience by watching GALAXY QUEST, Browder began by trying out one-liners on the crowd. He had these written on FARSCAPE cards, which he threw into the delighted audience. The fans recognized his references, which ranged from, 'Don't move, or I'll fill you full of little, yellow bolts of light,' from the first episode of FARSCAPE, to 'By the Hynerian Gods...' which Rygel in Crichton's body said during 'Out of Their Minds.' Browder also threw out the ever popular 'Humans are superior,' in the Richard Nixon pose that Crichton tried as he was turned into a statue in 'Look At The Princess.' Browder even gave away a tiny spoiler, with permission, from the upcoming episode 'Won't Get Fooled Again,' saying 'Boogie or die, man.' Fans will have to watch the episode to understand that one. Browder proceeded to take questions. Sporting a beard and moustache, he was charismatic, energetic and funny. The fans clearly loved him, and afterwards he admitted that he enjoyed himself.

Then David Kemper returned to the stage, along with writer and co-executive producer Richard Manning and story editor Lily Taylor, for a round of 'Stump the Experts,' which turned out to be pretty difficult. One question was, for example, 'Why did Aeryn name Moya's baby Talyn?' The answer, as Scapers and experts know is, 'Talyn was the name of her father.'

The next guests were Lani Tupu, who plays both Crais, and the voice of Pilot, along with Wayne Pygram, the actor behind the Scorpius mask. These two were presumably up together as the two FARSCAPE villains. They were nervous beforehand, and decided to come out wearing sunglasses and looking evil. They fielded questions and talked about their own auditions. Pygram seems to have been born to play Scorpius. His leather pants and Betty Ford Clinic tee shirt provoked lots of commentary. Tupu went through three months of auditions as the producers decided who was going to play D'Argo. Tupu got the part of both Crais and Pilot's voice, while Anthony Simcoe became D'Argo. Tupu said he couldn't imagine it the other way around now.

Fans who missed the Friday night airing of 'Look At The Princess Part 3' then got the chance to watch a commercial-free version of the episode. A delightful screen tribute to Rygel followed. Next was a charity auction for Nightlight Foundation and Save the Children. Props from the show, ranging from a pulse rifle to D'Argo's sword raised thousands of dollars. When a Chiana action figure was put up for auction, Gigi Edgley who plays Chiana, poked her head out from behind the curtain to see what was happening. Edgley is young, blonde, and beautiful. The gorgeous, bigger-than-life Virginia Hey was also backstage. The actors and creators were doing television and online interviews most of the day. Some communicated with the fan-run FARSCAPE convention in St. Louis.

Kemper, Manning and Taylor returned to the stage to select fans to re-create a scene from 'The Flax' for Sunday's program. Some fifty men and women volunteered, and four pairs were picked. The scene, which was to be judged by Sunday's audience, involved a romantic interlude between 'John' and 'Aeryn' just before they were rescued by D'Argo in that episode.

A FARSCAPE blooper real and behind-the-scenes look followed. Then Kent McCord came out. He plays John's father on FARSCAPE, but would not tell the fans how he gets into 'Won't Get Fooled Again.' He did like one person's idea that an episode should feature his character on Earth trying to either find his son or re-create the wormhole, and said that he had talked to O'Bannon about that very idea. McCord reminded the audience of his other genre work in SEAQUEST DSV and the short-lived GALACTICA 1980.

A music video salute to Aeryn Sun came on. Then Claudia Black appeared, to the delight of the entire audience. She answered serious and not-so-serious questions at length, meeting some of her fans from Internet Bulletin Boards. She was still fielding questions long after the session was scheduled to end.

Gold Weekend Patrons, who paid extra for their seats, got the chance for celebrity autographs at the end of the day. FARSCAPE merchandise was sold in the corridors outside the meeting hall. Trading cards and tee shirts found buyers, but fans could only order the action figures, which are not yet available.

An intergalactic dance party was set up for the Saturday evening, with celebrity drop-ins. Some of the cast also visited Sunday's charity breakfast. Day two of the FARSCAPE convention featured Anthony Simcoe, Virginia Hey, and Gigi Edgley, as well as Manning, O'Bannon, Kemper, and Henson. A highlight of Sunday's program was a panel discussing the making of the episode 'A Human Reaction.' Also on the program were the scene from the 'Flax' set up on Saturday, more bloopers, and other guests including director Rowan Woods and head of The Creature Shop for FARSCAPE, Dave Elsey. The planned conclusion of the festivities followed a speech by Brian Henson, and autographs for Gold Weekend Patrons.

Fans were clearly delighted with the convention, although they might have enjoyed more time set aside for question-and-answers with the stars. The entire cast of FARSCAPE came from Australia for the events. The actors, most of whom watched GALAXY QUEST beforehand, seemed to enjoy themselves, as did the writers, producers, and other creative individuals who visited. This convention will no doubt be the first of many. As the show gets ready to gear up for production of its third season, the possibilities for FARSCAPE seem endless.

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