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FARSCAPE: "Liars, Guns and Money"

The series returns from reruns and hiatus for an ambitious new three-parter.

By Anna L. Kaplan     January 08, 2001

Fans of Farscape may have heard the second season's 'Liars, Guns and Money,' three-parter described as the show's version of the classic films The Seven Samurai or The Dirty Dozen, in which unlikely teams are gathered for deadly missions. After seeing Part I, subtitled 'A Not So Simple Plan,' this past Friday, Jan. 5, on the Sci-Fi Channel, audience members might well be asking where the heck this mismatched team is. All will be revealed, with time. In fact, the Farscape gang goes out to collect some of their old enemies in Part II, titled 'With Friends Like These,' which airs Friday, Jan. 12.

For those who may have missed Part I, the three-part 'Liars, Guns and Money' weaves a number of stories and long-brewing subplots together. To begin with, Stark (Paul Goddard) has re-corporealized with the knowledge of where to find Jothee (Matt Newton), the missing son of D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe). In 'A Not So Simple Plan,' which was written by Grant McAloon and directed by Andrew Prowse, Stark has to convince everyone that robbing a shadow depository, an alien bank for criminals, will gain them enough money to buy a lot of 10,000 slaves that includes Jothee and a number of Stark's people.

Since shadow depositories are heavily guarded, Aeryn (Claudia Black), Crichton (Ben Browder) and Chiana (Gigi Edgley) doubt Stark's plan. As a result, D'Argo goes down to the bank alone (although Crichton and Aeryn follow him) and is rapidly apprehended and beaten by guards, as well as the head of the depository, Natira (Claudia Karvan). The group on Moya then agrees to Stark's ideas, with modifications of their own. Zhaan (Virginia Hey) masquerades as a pirate, and with Chiana's help, frees D'Argo. She also gets Rygel stuffed into a deposit container and stored in the bank, the plan being to have him switch his container for some real riches and await a quick recovery.

Unfortunately, Scorpius (Wayne Pygram) uses this bank, and is old friends with Natira. Crichton, who is already hallucinating about Scorpius, comes face to face with the real thing. When he sees Scorpius' cooling rod for the first time, he tries to kill him, wrestling with both Scorpius and the clone in his head. Scorpius finally tells him about the clone, revealing to Crichton what's really happened to his sanity. By the end of Part I, Crichton leaves Scorpius for dead, the group's obtained the containers full of money and everyone returns safely to Moya. That is, until something living pops out of the depository containers...

Upping the Ante

So Part I was an apparently successful bank heist, complicated by Scorpius' interaction with Crichton. But as Part II begins, things get more complicated when the Moya crew learn that Scorpius has bought the lot of slaves and is willing to trade Crichton for Jothee. As a result, Crichton comes up with his plan to bring mercenaries to Moya to help take the bank again. The actual fight will take place in Part III, subtitled 'Plan B,' written by Justin Monjo and directed by Tony Tilse.

'It was designed to be a three-parter,' says executive producer David Kemper. 'Let's rob a bank [and] get the money to get Jothee. The first hour we rob the bank successfully with very little trouble, but we were supposed to, because it is all part of Scorpius' plan. I'd always been trying to find ways to bring back the people we liked from the first season. The second hour, we said, let's just bring them all back in one, and we'll do like The Seven Samurai, The Dirty Dozen. Then the third hour was always 'Tony Woo.' How many explosions [can we do]? How much can we make one hour of television look like a feature film? How good are we?'

The fact that Scorpius has planned the whole affair complicates everything the group does, so that their attempt to rob a bank and use the money to rescue Jothee becomes something much, much bigger. But they do get to revisit some of their old enemies, mercenaries who Crichton thinks will help them for a price. These old favorites include the blood trackers from 'Till The Blood Runs Clear,' Zenetan pirates from 'The Flax,' a Tavlek from 'Throne For A Loss' and a Sheyang, first seen in 'PK Tech Girl.'

There are many surprises from this group in Part II, which was written by executive producer Naren Shankar and directed by Catherine Millar. 'I loved writing the middle one, because my job is simply to make the following writer's job as difficult as possible,' laughs Shankar. 'That's really easy. All I have to do is put everybody in the worst spots possible, and then walk away, and give it to somebody else to resolve. What it really is, that three-parter, the first part of it is a set up, and the next two parts are kind of a classic cliffhanger two-parter.

'As a piece, it has continuing characters in it, and a continuing goal in it, but it's more in the original Star Wars trilogy vein. Each part of it has a distinctive character. The beginning is a heist; it's a bank job. The middle part, think of it like The Magnificent Seven or The Seven Samurai, like we are recruiting help. It's got that feel to it. We are going back to the characters and villains and people that we saw in Season One, and get them to help us out. It's not The Seven Samurai. It's The Dirty Dozen.'

'It is fantastic to have some of my favorite characters come back, and have all of them on Moya,' adds in Simcoe. 'I love it when Moya is busy. It's so empty sometimes. In that sense, where all these other characters come back to Moya, it's great to see Moya a little bit busier and command having twelve people in it instead of four. It's just a beautiful new visual look; [it] makes it a little bit more sumptuous.'

An Alien Affair

Pygram, as Scorpius, really enjoyed working with Karvan, a highly-regarded Australian actress who played the prosthetically-encased Natira. 'Scorpius actually has a lover, which is pretty fabulous,' enthuses Pygram. 'You get to see some alien sex. You get to see him, I wouldn't go so far as to say vulnerable, but you certainly see another side to him, that he can actually celebrate another being, shall we say.

'She looks like a blue swimmer crab, encased in this shell. She's a full-on creature. It's a fabulous prosthetic and costume, all blue, not unlike the tones of Zhaan. She has crab claws on her forehead, which operate. She actually gouges people's eyes out with these crab claws. She's a nasty bit of business, as well. She's a merchant banker. Beware of pirates and such.'

'We did an amazing scene between the two of them, where they are engaged in whatever things simulate alien sex,' recalls director Millar. 'It was quite controversial coming up with that one, because you can't have it like it's human. It's got to be something a bit really odd. She has all these amazing crab claws on her head, so that when she gets excited they all move up and down and around and tingle. Here you are acting, and you've got these guys from The Creature Shop making your head move. She coped with that amazingly well and still put in a great performance.

'It's just fascinating to see the actors deal with the amount of technology they have to deal with and the amount of makeup and prosthetics. In a way they must feel alienated I suppose from their true self because they have so much stuff to get through, but they can still penetrate through all that with these really strong emotional performances.'

End Game

It fell to Justin Monjo to write the trilogy's third act and try to get everyone out of the mess set up in Parts I and II. 'The three-parter is basically a Dirty Dozen type of thing,' says Monjo, reaffirming the crew's take on the episodes. 'In One they have a problem. Two, they go and collect all the bad guys they have ever [contacted] to do this job. And Three, they have got to go do the job. With nine thousand guest cast in it, 'Plan B' is the end of the big, shoot-em-up of a depository. It's a combination of The Dirty Dozen and Mission Impossible, and something else.

'We have to take this bank to pay for some stuff, so we go and round up a lot of the bad guys that we have met before in Seasons One and Two of Farscape to come and help us on this mission, because they are the only people who have enough fire power. We get the Tavleks back, and the blood-trackers. We get the Zenetan pirates. And we get four or five guest cast back in. The trick for writing the end of that three-parter is being able to service them all. Literally there are ten or twelve main cast. A few of them die, and you've got to make sure they have good death scenes. Then, even after the hold-up story is over, you've got tell where everybody has gone. It's really, really hard.

'It's the size of a movie, in terms of the technical stuff they do with the shoot-em-ups. Because if you are going to spend three episodes trying to break into a place, the final attack of the place has to be spectacular. I know it's pushing the envelope, but everyone has seen Matrix, and if you don't at least attempt to do something like that big and great, even the attempt will seem unsatisfying. You've got to at least go out there. That's TV's dilemma in a way. People have seen so much, you have to give them really good character stuff, and then if you are going to do an action one, you've got to do it.'

Black, for one, really enjoyed the three-parter, especially the third episode in which she was very much an action woman. Even though it lead to at least one minor accident, she didn't really mind, because she enjoyed the shoot, and viewers won't even notice her injury.

'I have quite a dramatic sequence physically that I perform, and got punched in the face accidentally,' laughs Black. 'We were vision-impaired. We were shooting on a set that was supposed to be pitch black, and our characters are wearing night vision glasses over one eye. As an actor you are not supposed to look through the eye that the ocular thing is over. [There was] total darkness, explosions all around you and about fifty to a hundred extrasI'm not sure how many.

'One character, Bekhesh, whose eyes are completely covered, was in 'Throne For A Loss' in season one. The actor, John Adam, couldn't see anything at all, and he's got the gauntlet on. He spun around at the end of the shot, and he can't see anythingit's not his fault at all. I got punched in the nose, and got a fat lip.'

Series star Browder may have had the hardest work of all in the three-parter, showing a descent into madness as he tries to deal with Scorpius and the clone in his head. He runs through just about every emotion. 'The second three-parter I have only seen the rough cut on,' says Browder simply about the episodes. 'It's good, it's very, very good.'

Kemper is a bit more outspoken. 'It's probably the most ambitious three-parter that anyone has ever seen,' says Kemper. 'Our stunt crew and special effects crew did The Matrix. So we kind of threw it at them and said, 'Show us what you can do.' It's so huge. There are so many people. There are so many explosions. There are so many CGI shots. It's just stunning how much stuff there is. It's really amazing.'

What's even more amazing is that this isn't the end of the season. The cliffhanger finale of Farscape Season Two, called 'Die Me Dichotomy' will air on the Sci-Fi Channel on Jan. 26. Season Three will begin on March 16, 2001.

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