Farscape: Complete First Season (1999)
Review by Dindrane

Starring Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe, Virginia Hey, Lani Tupu, Gigi Edgley, Jonathan Hardy and Wayne Pygram
Special Effects by Jim Hensonís Creature Shop and Garner MacLennan Design


Rating: NR, suitable for 13+

Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Buy it. Sets the example for all DVD productions

What happens when an experimental space pilot from near-future Earth gets sucked into a wormhole, shot across the galaxy, and finds himself directly in the middle of an interstellar war? You get Farscape...or something like it. And really, if you think about it, it's a play off of Buck Rogers for a new generation. Ah-ha, but what really makes this series interesting and worth watching is the creative characterization and the fine acting to match. Watching this show unfold, you couldnít imagine it working with any detail changed--a shorter DíArgo, a less...blue Zhaan. Change any of the actors, and the show would be less than it is.

In this first season, we arrive in the mysterious world with Crichton (Browder), our unlucky human pilot, and meet with him the strange cast of characters who will become his only chance at survival in the seasons to come: DíArgo (Simcoe), the powerful warrior, the priestess Zhaan (Hey), Aeryn the Peacekeeper soldier (Black) with conflicting values, Moya the sentient ship, Chiana the thief (Edgley), and Rygel the little pest (voiced by Hardy) who happens to be a deposed despot. Some of the episodes focus more on one character than another, giving viewers a chance to learn about all of them--the good and the bad--but luckily, the shows are more than just exposition vehicles. Theyíre darn good storytelling, too, and how often does that happen on TV anymore?

Given that most shows take a while for the actors to settle into their roles, this one is really ahead of the curve. From the start, we get a good impression of who these people are and what they are like. But this is not to say that there are no surprises or shadings to their characters...peaceful Zhaan, for example, has an anarchist/dark side and DíArgo is a caring father. Crichton, as the clueless, smart-mouthed Earthling, is just perfect: heís everyman, as he should be, but his own man, too--fun to watch, and this season will leave you wondering where he will eventually fit in all this interstellar craziness. Long before Scorpius (Pygram) drives him batty, Crichton was the perfect foil for uber-serious DíArgo, the straight-arrow cynic Aeryn, and the pushy Rygel. All of this is set off by excellent special effects and cinematography that truly makes use of the alien atmosphere and sets the stage for drama, humor, and character interaction. The small touches make this series great.

The special features list is phenomenal. Each disc varies in details, but all of them have previously unbroadcast footage and a host of other goodies, to include: making-of documentaries, commentaries with actors and crew, actor profiles and image galleries, conceptual drawings...basically anything a fan could ever dream of having is here. The making-of documentaries are quite interesting, showing a great deal of behind-the-scenes information on such things as the special effects, the trials of creating a space opera with a grounding, or more. The commentaries are also quite good; we have actors like Claudia Black talking about what it was like to make the show and not just hyping their new projects. We learn more about how such a series is actually conceptualized and created, which is fascinating from a fan perspective, but also from an artistís perspective. Itís amazing--so many times I would think a film needed a profile on the costumer or the special effects guys or so on...and this time, finally, itís all here!

There should be a mention about the packaging. The six DVD cases come slipcased in a sturdy box, and the box is decorated very nicely with character images. The dual image of DíArgo and Zhaan on the back is particularly nice--very meditative and lovely. The cases have very small type on the back, but the white type against the dark image is still easier to read than most DVD cases are and provides all kinds of information about the disc. Having seen a slew of artsy, yet impractical cases lately, these are a nice change.

The bottom line is that this set is a solid bet for fans of science fiction, even if you are new to the show. Fans of the show will be very pleased with the production values on this set, and even people who stopped watching this one as it went on will say that this first season is still worth watching...probably several times to catch all the nuances and story links. Even if you donít typically like science fiction, you should give this one a shot, regardless. Itís filled with good characters and equally solid stories; itís even pretty to look at, and what more can you ask? If you like solid science fiction with creative political situations, new aliens, fun characters, good stories, and basically likable, talented actors, then Farscape is for you.

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