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FARSCAPE: Wrapping Up Season One
Creator Rockne S. O'Bannon sets the stage for the show's next season.
By Anna L. Kaplan
December 13, 1999
Have you been watching FARSCAPE on the Sci-Fi Channel? If not, Ben Browder, who plays John Crichton, wants you to sample the end of the season. He explains, 'If you were going to watch the show, and you hadn't seen the first 18 episodes, you could start at 19, I think, and you would not be lost for almost any amount of time. You would catch up to speed really quickly. If you have been watching, you see the breadth and depth and height that have been put into the show. It's there in those episodes, not for the first time, but I think in the most clear fashion.'
John Crichton has spent season one on board the living ship called Moya, along with a group of escaped prisoners. During the first 18 episodes, he has managed to learn a bit more about all the alien life around him, and get to know his shipmates. Nothing on Earth prepared him for life on the other side of the universe. Sometimes the characters on FARSCAPE seem familiar. Crichton comes from our time, so we recognize his behavior and his reference points, as well as his occasional resemblance to Captain Kirk or Han Solo. Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black) looks like a human commando, but she is Sebacean. Each episode shows more about what separates her from her own species and the other aliens. Since she was a Peacekeeper, part of the group that imprisoned all the others, there is no love lost between them.
Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan (Virginia Hey), the Delvian priestess, seems deceptively calm. Her blue color, demeanor, deep spirituality and ability to bond with others, all make her sympathetic, and Crichton tends to trust her. That is, until parts of her darker side start to creep out. Ka D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe), on the other hand, is full of rage and anger, and knows nothing beyond the code of the warrior. As Browder notes, 'People thinks it's Worf. Is he a Klingon? They want to know.' But D'Argo isn't Worf. His shipmates discover that he in fact married a Sebacean and had a child with her, against all tradition. His wife's brother, a Peacekeeper, killed her, and arrested D'Argo for the crime.
As for Rygel (main puppeteer John Eccleston, voice by Jonathan Hardy), many episodes go by before any of his few positive characteristics come into view. His skills as a negotiator and his ability to crawl into small spaces do come in handy. Pilot, also a puppet from Jim Henson's Creature Shop, is physically joined to Moya, the Leviathan spaceship that becomes pregnant during the first season. Chiana (Gigi Edgley) joins the group in 'Durka Returns.' She has left her people because she is rebellious, given to larceny, lying, and just about anything she wants to do.
All these characters are present as they head toward season's end. Executive producer David Kemper says, 'Our last four episodes are tied together by a theme. Even more than a theme, there is an undercurrent of a storyline that runs through them.'
Added series creator and executive producer Rockne S. O'Bannon, 'Something very interesting happens with Captain Crais [Lani Tupu], who is the primary villain this season. We are introducing an additional villain, someone new, that I think will just continue to spin the series in really surprising ways.'
The new villain is named Scorpius, played by Wayne Pygram. Says Kemper, 'His origins came from the observations that on the original STAR TREK, Mr. Spock was a Vulcan, extremely intelligent, smarter, stronger than any of the humans, and was willing to play subordinate to Captain Kirk and the others. Our notion was, what if there was a character, a race, that was in among a group like the Federation, a race that was smarter, physically stronger, and was playing subordinate, but that was really just a subterfuge. It's our version of an evil Mr. Spock.' He continues, 'Are you familiar with MARATHON MAN, when Dustin Hoffman is in the chair? That was a little bit of an inspiration for something called the Aurora chair. Scorpius, the bad guy, brings the Aurora chair with him. It's something that he uses to let's just say, extract information from people who don't give it willingly. Ben gets put into the Aurora chair, in what is a rather startling performance. There is a chillingness to it.'
Francesca Buller, Browder's wife, guest stars in episode 21. Says Browder, 'She plays a character who, like many of the characters in FARSCAPE, is not what she appears to be in the beginning. She is, in Crichton's terms, another dangerous critter.'
Adds O'Bannon, 'Our people do not, as a matter of course, go down to effect rescue missions, or help other people, because they are hanging on by the skin of their teeth just to survive themselves. This is the first instance where our people actually go to aid someone else, and it goes horribly awry--a big mistake. They'll never do that again.'
Says Kemper of the character, 'Think of the most dangerous animal--and I mean animal--on our planet, that you would not want to be in a cage with. Then, all of a sudden, imagine if that animal was as intelligent as you were. Then figure that Crichton is going to be in that position. She turns in, Francesca Buller, one of the most startling guest star performances you are going to see on any show, let alone our show. It's really, balls out. She just kills in this episode.'
Trying to describe the last four episodes of the season without spoiling them for viewers, Kemper continues, 'Let's just say, we leave our people at the end of 22 in a position where some of them may not be able to be in episode one next year. The word cliffhanger--you've never seen it like this. You've never seen an ending of a series, like the last shot that you are going to see of this series, of 22. Watch Crais, watch Lani, what he does with his character these four episodes. Then we had the same kind of amazing revelation. When they saw the first two, people at Sci-Fi were calling, going 'More, more.' Crais does something different, and his character just blossoms. Scorpius comes in and knocks everybody's eyes out. We bring some people back from earlier in the season. We don't want to say who, because it's a surprise. We have a guest star who is playing a character named Stark. Watch him. It was one of those things where everybody just brought their A game. We were all exhausted at the end of the year, and somehow, magic happened.'
Adds Kemper, 'In the final four part arc, Moya, who is pregnant, will have its baby, and then not go any further. But what you think is so totally wrong, and where it's going to go, is so disturbing and comforting at the same time, it will piss some people off. The second thing, which is really interesting, we have known something about Zhaan since the beginning of the year. In episode 21, the audience is going to find out something about Zhaan that totally changes how you view her. It's not necessarily bad, but it's a complete and radical departure, certainly on television the first time a character has ever been defined this way. You not only learn something about Zhaan as an individual, but honestly, it also makes you look at our interactions with various the forms of life on Earth, differently. Instead of getting it out right way, we said, this will be a fun thing for people. We started to have fun layering in all these clues. Crichton's reaction as a human being, an actor playing a character, is brilliant, when he discovers this thing.'
Adds O'Bannon, 'It also makes you look at the whole damn series, and it makes you look at the whole thing and go, it's there. Yes, of course it's there. I just never saw it.'
This is true of much of FARSCAPE, which is layered, and filled with clues that pay off later. Notes Browder, 'We bite off a lot with the acting and with the direction and with the writing. The show is dense. There is so much texture. It has held up to the avid viewers going back and watching shows again and again and again. For a first year series, I'm pleased bordering on proud of what's come out of our efforts.'
Browder explains that since the cast is in Australia most of the time, they keep in touch with fans by watching the Sci-Fi Channels Internet sites devoted to FARSCAPE, checking in with the chat rooms and bulletin board. He continued, 'When we are making it on the floor, in the back of my head, being a bit of a sci-fi fanatic anyway, I'm thinking to myself, 'Are we going to get away with this?' You know that the story on the surface has been done. You are thinking, 'How do we twist this?' You have to keep the science fiction audience happy, and they are actually not an easy audience. They are a discerning audience. They keep track of more stuff in some ways than we do. It is fascinating to watch them try to pick things apart. There's a lot of things which come to fruition in the final four episodes, which are things which we planted, one word that will be laid somewhere way down the track. It's there because it's real. John Crichton is now stuck living in a science fiction universe, and so we don't spell out all the details for our audience. We don't talk down to the audience, and we don't try to over-explain. Yet at the same time we will be laying a seed with one phrase, in an episode, and ten later, that seen comes to fruition. The hardcore fans will go back, and they'll pluck it out.'
Browder is pleased with the development of the show and his character. He says, 'He does evolve. If you saw episode 16, 'Human Reaction,' John Crichton kicks a guy in the head. There is no way he would have done that in episode one. It has to do with the fact that he is changing based on the environment which he is living in. The universe that he is living in shapes the direction of the character.'
Kemper described how the end of season one leads into season two.' The first two episodes of next year play off of the last two episodes of this year. We finished the season, and we realized the story that we thought might have ended there, hadn't ended, and we could do some amazing things with it. Rock is writing the premiere of the second season, as he did of course for the first season. We have another script coming behind it, and that will essentially wrap up this mega-story. Then we will go back to what we do really well, episodic stuff, continuing the growth of the characters, and the thematic growth of the crew as a whole, but telling wildly diverse stories. There will be some entanglements that go on amongst our people, that will further complicate the issues aboard Moya, before they even encounter the people on the outside. Inside there are going to be some problems that will get heightened as the season goes along.'
Kemper adds, 'It's weird that we are all saying we are actually proud of the series. Sometimes magic happens, and it has happened. We are at the front edge of what could be a long run of really good magic, and we are getting better as we go. Our best moments are when it's comforting to know our people, and it's also really, really disturbing. That is what we have tried to achieve, and putting it into words, it's what we will continue to achieve.'