Blu-ray Review: Farscape: The Complete Series



 

Genre: Sci-Fi | Fantasy | Mystery

Creators: Brian Henson and Rockne S. O’Bannon

Directors: Tony Tilse, Rowan Woods, Andrew Prowse, Ian Watson, Peter Andrikidis, Geoff Bennett, Catherine Millar, Pino Amenta, Ian Barry

Cast: Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe, Lani John Tupu, Jonathan Hardy, Gigi Edgley, Wayne Pygram, Virginia Hey

Summary:

John Crichton. Astronaut. Flung through a wormhole and lost in a galaxy far from home. He fines himself in the middle of a prison break, surrounded by hostile aliens, soaring through space inside a glorious living space ship called Moya. Hunted by the relentless Peacekeepers, Crichton (Ben Browder) allies himself with Moya’s crew — Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), Luxan warrior Ka D’Argo (Anthony Simcoe), azure priestess Zhaan (Virginia Hey), spritely Nebari thief Chiana (Gigi Edgley), Dominar Rygel, the deposed royal ruler of the Hynerian Empire and Pilot – to search for a way out of this inconceivably alien world and return home.

So begins the epic sci-fi classic Farscape. A fusion of live action, state-of-the-art puppetry, prosthetics and CGI, Farscape, produced by The Jim Henson Company in association with RHI Entertainment, features mind-boggling alien life forms, dazzling special effects, edge-of-your-seat thrills, irreverent humor and unforgettable characters — all brought to rich life by the creative minds at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop™. No wonder it’s been called the most imaginative sci-fi series in television history.


For a show that is so effects-rich, Blu-ray could have gone either way. We’ve all seen HD TV broadcasts that show exactly how thick and poorly matched a newscaster’s makeup is. This series, which began early enough that the first three seasons are NOT in widescreen, was in danger of having all sorts of warts revealed under the microscope of Blu-ray. Instead, in Blu-ray this series blossoms. The extraordinarily meticulous detail is breathtaking. If you’ve never seen the series, or haven’t seen it recently, do yourself a favor and watch an episode or two on Netflix before you pop the first Blu-ray disc in your player so that you can truly appreciate the gift that Blu-ray gives to this series.

If you’re unfamiliar with the series, along with the summary above, you may want to know that there is a great chemistry amongst the cast, the scripts are tight, the dialogue is handled beautifully by the cast, the direction is clean, and there is a nice level of snappy snarky comments by the main character that keep the series feeling clever and not overly dark, except when the storyline calls for it. Not as dark as the updated Battlestar Galactica, it is also not nearly as light as the original Battlestar Galactica. It’s visually darker than Star Trek: The Next Generation, but is generally similar in overall tone, though nearly totally unrelated in theme.

This set includes all of the bonus features that were included in the DVD set, which was released two years ago. There is one new bonus feature that is exclusive to this Blu-ray set, though, and it’s lovely. Entitled “Memories of Moya: An Epic Journey Explored,” it is made up of new interviews with creators Brian Henson and Rockne O’Bannon, writer Richard Manning, and stars Ben Browder, Claudia Black and Virginia Hey. It’s basically a summary of the whole series, from pitching the original story, through its pickup by SciFi (now Syfy), a general overview of the main storylines through the four seasons, to its untimely cancellation and the protests that the cancellation generated. If you know and love the series, it’s wonderful to see. If you are new to the series, it’s a great overview, and although there are spoilers, it will still enhance your viewing, and you will be given a nice head’s up about the series finale. They don’t really discuss the miniseries; I expect they’re saving that for a Blu-ray release.

Which brings me to the only real disappointment of the set: it does not include the miniseries Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars, reportedly because the distribution rights are under different ownership. It is, however, currently available separately in DVD format.

The packaging is pretty standard. Each season has its own case. The seasons are also available individually and it looks as though this complete series box set is made up of those individual seasons and put into the nice slipcover box. It’s not extra-special,  but on the other hand this set will fit very nicely on a shelf with other series Blu-ray or DVD sets. A very brief season summary and general list of bonus features is on the back cover of each season.

Each disc within a season has printed on it a list of the episodes it contains, but not which if any episodes have commentary, deleted scenes, or any other extras; you need to be in the disc to discover that. It’s frustrating that only the last disc of each season says “Bonus” when in fact there are bonus features on each disc, but again you need to be in the disc to see what they are. In fact, you can’t even tell which episode has a commentary available until you click on the actual episode; it will either go straight into the episode, meaning no commentary, or it will then give you a choice of with or without commentary. There is also no booklet with this set, so there’s no other source of information about each episode or bonus feature. All of these things are picky details, but make a difference when you’re just in the mood to check out a commentary or bonus features. They shouldn’t, however, dissuade you from getting this very excellent complete series.

As for the technical Blu-ray issues, reportedly the original 35mm negatives and prints used to create the series are missing, so A+E Networks Home Entertainment used the PAL videotape (which is at a higher resolution compared to NTSC videotape and is therefore the highest quality source material available) as masters for the Blu-ray discs. These discs are therefore not in 1080p but at 576i (interlace)and at 25 frames per second, and have been upscaled for 1080p. Reportedly there are some digital artifacts in evidence in the transfer, but not to my eyes.

Here are the details about this set:

  • Format: AC-3, Box set, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 20
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: A&E Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: November 15, 2011
  • Run Time: 4086 minutes
  • 20 Blu-ray discs featuring 88 complete and unedited episodes from the four-season run (1999-2003), remastered from the highest quality source material available
  • Collectible packaging featuring all-new series artwork
  • 29 Episode Commentaries, including “Premiere” with Rockne S. O’Bannon, Brian Henson and Ben Browder; “Jeremiah Crichton” with Claudia Black, Producer/Writer David Kemper, Browder and O’Bannon; “Bone to Be Wild” with Anthony Simcoe;“Relativity” with Lani Tupu (Crais/Voice of Pilot) and Director Peter Andrikidis; and, “Bad Timing” which features Browder, Black and Kemper discussing the series’ final episode.
  • A BRAND-NEW documentary – Memories of Moya: An Epic Journey Explored featuring revealing new interviews with the cast and creators.
  • Multiple featurettes and documentaries including “In the Beginning: A Look Back with Brian Henson”; “Making of a Space Opera” and “Inside Farscape: Save Farscape,” on which fans, cast and crew discuss the fate of their beloved series.
  • Multiple video profiles featuring archival clips and cast/crew discussing their characters and roles on Farscape.
  • Over 90 minutes of deleted scenes.
  • Slideshows and archival photo galleries, including character concepts and promo photos.
  • Production design galleries featuring screenshots, rough drafts and concept slide shows.
  • Behind-the-Scenes interviews with Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe, Virginia Hey, Gigi Edgley, Paul Goddard (Stark), Wayne Pygram (Scorpius) and more.
  • Original TV promos and trailers

This is a box set that every fan of the series, of eyepoppingly detailed special effects (wait til you see Moya, and the aliens) and/or of great sci-fi series, should own. It is gorgeous, engaging, and a great way to spend your time for many days and nights to come.

I give Farscape: The Complete Series on Blu-ray, Five out of Five Stars.

 

 

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Erin Willard
Written by Erin Willard

Erin is the Editor In Chief and West Coast Correspondent for SciFiMafia.com