The Big Picture
- Farscape‘s beloved and enduring favorite status is due to its excellent cast, stunning visual effects, and vibrant alien characters.
- John Crichton’s character evolution and charismatic performance by Ben Browder make him the heart of the show.
- The intense and compelling romance between John and Aeryn, along with the exceptional creature effects by The Jim Henson Company, contribute to Farscape‘s unique and immersive sci-fi experience.
March will soon mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the beloved sci-fi television series, Farscape. With the anniversary of the show’s debut on the former Sci-Fi Channel, it’s a good time to revisit what made this grand epic such a beloved and enduring favorite that’s still remembered to this day. Farscape featured an excellent cast, not to mention amazing visual effects and creature puppetry by The Jim Henson Company. However, what truly set Farscape apart were the charismatic performance of Ben Browder‘s John Crichton, Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black) and Crichton’s whirlwind romance, and the nonhuman and alien creatures as effervescent three-dimensional personalities.
Thrown into a distant part of the universe, an Earth astronaut finds himself part of a fugitive alien starship crew.
- Release Date
- March 19, 1999
- Ben Browder , Claudia Black , Hugh Keays-Byrne , Jonathan Hardy , Anthony Simcoe , John Bach , Gigi Edgley , Wayne Pygram
What Is ‘Farscape’ About?
At the heart of Farscape is the show’s long-suffering protagonist, John Crichton. In the series premiere episode, Crichton is an astronaut and scientist about to test his interstellar theory during a shuttle launch. During the process, he gets caught in a cosmic wormhole and is flung across space. Launched into a whole other galaxy, Crichton finds himself the unwitting passenger aboard a ship of fugitives: a Luxan soldier framed for his wife’s murder, Ka D’Argo (Anthony Simcoe); an ethereal Delvian, Zotoh Zhaan (Virginia Hey); and a deposed Hynerian monarch, Rygel (Jonathan Hardy). The group is on the run from the ultimate power in this corner of the universe, the Peacekeepers, who act as the galaxy’s authoritarian, fascistic security force.
Did we happen to mention that the group is on a ship that’s alive? The ship is called Moya, part of a race of sentient, interstellar ships capable of faster-than-light travel called Leviathans. Moya is bonded to her ship’s pilot and navigator, simply called Pilot (Lani Tupu). Also onboard the ship as an unwilling prisoner is the Sebacean Peacekeeper warrior, Aeryn Sun, who is eventually forced to become a reluctant member of this crew of misfits as she’s excommunicated by her own military and branded a fugitive by association. Each member of the Leviathan Moya is a lost soul, suffering from their own personal trauma. They all long for a place to call home and live free from Peacekeeper persecution.
For several seasons, John Crichton desperately searches for a way to return home to Earth while he and his friends are relentlessly chased across the galaxy by the Peacekeepers, bounty hunters, bandits, marauders, cutthroats, tyrants, and eventually the Scarrans. Through Crichton’s scientific expertise and eventual contact with a race of aliens called the Ancients, he gains knowledge of the wormhole phenomenon. However, the Peacekeepers and the Scarrans are locked in a winner-takes-all conflict and will stop at nothing to gain Crichton’s knowledge of wormholes to turn them into weapons of mass destruction, which could be catastrophic on a galactic level.
John Crichton Experiences a Major Character Evolution in ‘Farscape’
Ben Browder brought so much charisma and likable charm to the role of John Crichton in Farscape. John comes off as a blue-collar astronaut, but he’s also a talented scientist. Despite his experience, he’s constantly in over his head and must get out of scrapes by the skin of his teeth. Crichton’s journey over four seasons is very much like an odyssey in space. John is constantly and tirelessly searching for a way home, but along the way, he forms new bonds and creates a new family with the shipmates aboard Moya.
Eventually, John does return home in the fourth season, where he’s reunited with friends and family — but he’s no longer the same, since the events and traumatic experiences in space weigh heavily on him, and Browder portrays these scenes with incredibly subtle skill. When Crichton finally returns to Earth, he and the audience discover that Earth is no longer his home, and he cannot find peace there. Ultimately, John and the crew of Moya return to space, and his way back to Earth is cut off permanently.
John is a character of many facets. Browder is fearless with his performance, as Crichton endures many hardships throughout the series. He often has a joking, comedic side he uses as a self-defense mechanism, but he also nails the show’s serious, dramatic, and tragic moments. Farscape is a series that fully exploits Browder’s versatile acting talents that bind the story together.
John and Aeryn Have a Whirlwind Romance on ‘Farscape’
Another key aspect of Farscape was the romance between the two lead characters, John Crichton and Aeryn Sun. Browder and Black exhibit tremendous chemistry throughout the series, and their characters’ romance is a crackling, epic, sometimes frustrating, but always compelling experience. The tension between the two is always palpable and creator Rockne S. O’Bannon knew how to put a wrench in the works to keep them apart, despite the characters’ mutual attraction.
The romance of Aeryn and John is seemingly stuck in a perpetual state of two steps forward and five steps back. Whenever they make some progress, something usually catastrophic happens to mess things up. However, even when the relationship is at its most frustrating, that’s mostly the point. Early on in the show, it’s clear that Aeryn and John are the endgame pairing for the story, but if there had been no significant conflict, the series would’ve been boring. The constant tug of war in Aeryn and John’s relationship makes Farscape that much more of a harrowing, intense sci-fi drama.
Another major aspect of what makes their romance so indelible is that during the show’s heyday, it was not commonplace for such a deep sci-fi show to include a center-stage romance. Farscape had no problem juggling the interstellar plot, the action, and the run from the Peacekeepers, along with the intrigue of Aeryn and John’s deeply intense romance. Their evolving relationship gave the characters and series texture, offering more immersion and making Farscape one of television’s best space operas.
‘Farscape’ Boasts Excellent Creature Effects
Aside from Browder’s performance and John and Aeryn’s epic romance, enough cannot be said about the artisanal creature effects and puppetry work conducted by The Jim Henson Company. The show had plenty of aliens with a more humanoid appearance, similar to the nonhuman and extraterrestrial characters of the Star Trek franchise. However, the creators and The Jim Henson Company were not content to rest on their laurels with this series. They let their imaginations run wild, and now, twenty-five years later, Farscape has a look and feel unlike any other sci-fi series.
The biggest takeaway is that even when the show deals with heavy animatronic characters, such as Pilot and Rygel, they are fully realized characters that never become goofy gimmicks or sight gags. Instead, they’re integral members of the core cast and are given fleshed-out character arcs. Considering the premise, the alien worlds and beings encountered across Farscape made the show play in a much more immersive, organic fashion. The influence of Farscape can clearly be seen in popular modern-day sci-fi franchises such as Guardians of the Galaxy. Characters like Rocket Raccoon and Groot easily could have failed, and audiences might have had difficulty accepting their odd nature, but they were imbued with such rich characterization that audiences fell in love with them. Even when the Moya crew met strange new alien races, The Jim Henson Company always strove to truly bring their creations to life. These characters are not just window dressing. They are functional, living, breathing characters with hopes, dreams, and flaws of their own.
In scenes where alien and nonhuman characters require deep special effects makeup or animatronic work, the characters always provide a vibrant screen presence. The creature and effects work in the show has a natural, organic quality. Although the show is set on planets and far corners of a galaxy unfamiliar to Earth, the various aliens always move and act in a way that progresses the show’s immersion. In the nearly twenty years since The Peacekeeper Wars aired, nothing has truly come close, other than perhaps the big-screen Guardians of the Galaxy film franchise.
Now Is the Perfect Time to Revisit ‘Farscape’
While the Peacekeeper Wars acts as a formal ending to the series and is viewed as the true series finale, there was talk of a continuation that sadly never came to fruition. But considering that just about every notable property or IP is getting some sort of update, it wouldn’t be that big a surprise if Farscape gets another shot at revival at some point. It would be nice to check in with Aeryn and John and see how their son D’Argo Sun-Crichton has turned out, and what’s going on with the rest of the galaxy since John brought an end to the Peacekeeper-Scarran conflict. Perhaps that story will be told someday, but for now, Farscape is more than worth a first-time watch — or a re-watch — in celebration of the show’s upcoming silver anniversary.
All four seasons of Farscape, and the subsequent Peacekeeper Wars miniseries, are available to stream now on Peacock.
Watch on Peacock