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Be Warned: A Very Slow Start; Take Rave Reviews Warily
on March 31, 2011
I felt that it might be useful to give my brief opinion on Season 1 of Farscape. This is the only season that I have watched, so I cannot comment on the subsequent progression of the show. However, based on this season, it truly astounds me that other reviewers say things like "arguably the best SF ever produced for television" and so forth. I almost wonder if I was watching the same show as them.
But I will allow that maybe it gets better. The first season is very slow, and does not even become baseline interesting (for me) until maybe the latter third of its episodes. It took me well over a year to watch Season 1, because I lost interest early and only came back many months later because I was bored and did not have anything else on hand. It does get better with episodes like "Nerve" and "Bone to be Wild" and once the character Scorpius is introduced. Great? No, but decent.
Have you heard/read the premise for this show? An astronaut gets sucked by a wormhole to someplace else in the universe? Not a revolutionary concept, but okay. He finds himself in the middle of a jailbreak, surrounded by aliens? More like gets drunk and wakes up on the set of a much less witty version of the Muppet Show. I love the Muppets, but most of these feel more like puppets (the pilot being the exception). They are all on a living spaceship? More like they're all on a nice television set that we are repeatedly told is a living spaceship. Claudia Black's character is an alien? Yes, but she looks like a human, just with invisibly different physiology. I say all of these things not to insult this show, but to point out that it's not quite as actually exotic or fantastic as it sounds. Again, maybe in Season 2+ it does live up to its hype. But not in Season 1.
The most unique thing about this show is its incorporation of Henson creatures, i.e. basically sci-fi Muppets and imaginitive costume and makeup creations. A few of them are outstanding, such as the pilot, the menacing catlike "DNA Mad Scientist" character and a few others. But some of them are like Halloween costumes, or cheap puppets. So this show cannot sell itself as too terribly serious. Okay, but does it have lots of humor? Not from my perspective. Ben Browder's character is a wisecracking, pop-culture-referencing type, but that only goes so far. The acting is not anything too outstanding. Is the writing good? Occasionally, but for as much people talk about Farscape being unique or surprising, Season 1 at least feels like just another cliche-ridden, predictable sci-fi series. Probably great if you are a kid. I really mean that. But as an adult, it just feels flat.
I love science fiction television, including most of the Star Trek versions (maybe not Voyager). I adore Babylon 5 and Firefly, and have a lot of respect for Battlestar Galactica. I've watched all ten seasons of Stargate SG-1. Amongst all of those, Farscape is clearly at the bottom in my opinion. Now, there is no accounting for subjective tastes. But making a case for this show as one of the greatest in sci-fi television seems like unwarranted hyperbole to me. That is just my take.