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A Fantastic Show With A Fantastic Makeover
on November 29, 2009
I first started watching this program somewhere in the Second Season during its initial run on the SyFy Channel at the urging of my wife, who had been an avid viewer since day one. I had seen the Pilot when it was first broadcast, but never watched with regularity (at the time I was working a lot of overtime on Friday nights). I did come away from the Pilot very impressed by what appeared to be a great premise, excellent special effects, and potentially some great characters. Eventually my Friday evening schedule cleared up and once I started watching a couple of episodes I was completely hooked.
There is a definite 4 year story arc here; most of the episodes do tie together as the later seasons demonstrate. I won't elaborate on all the details of the program, mainly because there are many reviews here that do just that. What I will discuss is the quality of the box set that A&E has released, and has done an outstanding job of packaging and remastering the episodes. I had collected the old ADV releases over the years, and they did a good job of reproducing very good audio and video for the most part. What this set has done is go WAY beyond anything that has been on DVD previously. I don't know if this is the case, but it certainly looks as if A&E did a complete makeover on the video and audio on this set, and it is nothing short of SPECTACULAR.
Some quick notes about this wonderful package:
VIDEO: These episodes are presented in their original aspect ratios of 4:3 for Seasons 1-3 and 1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen for Season 4. Do not be mislead by other reviewers who claim that the final season of the show (which was indeed the only one filmed in widescreen) is not in its proper format. The quality of the video is STUNNING: details of all levels of color jump out at you, and the detail in close-ups and special effects are truly amazing. (A note here: I watched this on an Oppo BD-83 Blu Ray player which upscales standard DVDs to 1080i). The video is so good, I would swear I was watching a Blu Ray at times; THAT's how good it is. It is a remarkable improvement from the ADV releases of a few years ago (which up until the release of this set, were fetching a hefty price on eBay). I truly was stunned at the video...I don't think this show ever looked this good.
AUDIO: One word: phenomenal. The 5.1 mix totally immerses you in the story. All speakers and the sub-woofer are used perfectly and to to any extremes. The ADV releases had a very good 5.1 soundtrack, but the new A&E version has absolutely jaw dropping audio. Yes, it is THAT good.
PACKAGING: 5 "sets" of DVDs gathered in one glossy box keeping them all together. Each Season has its own "set" with the final set being reserved for a number of special features ("making of" documentaries, mostly). The other Special Features as promised in the description of the set here, are scattered throughout the various discs. I wish the glossy box was a bit more sturdy and easier to access the sets (do you open from the left or right? you decide). A minor quibble though compared to the overall satisfaction I've gotten so far from this new A&E release.
BOTTOM LINE: "Farscape" is truly an incredible show with excellent writing and some fine acting throughout its 4 year run. It would have been nice to have the final 3 hour installment "The Peacekeeper Wars" (which somewhat neatly ties up and concludes the series) included in the box, but rights issues prevented that from happening. You can certainly buy it separately on Amazon (and you REALLY must do so in order to see the conclusion of the show) and keep it next to this on your shelf. Speaking of which, the amount of shelf space saved with this package compared to the original 2 disc ADV volumes is incredible. Even if you own every ADV release like I do, this set is more than worth getting. The video and audio are markedly improved (even though it is never mentioned that the episodes are remastered, one look and you will be able to tell in an instant); and it truly does make a HUGE difference compared with the original ADV releases. The aforementioned amount of shelf space saved is indeed a plus.
Overall, 5 stars for the quality of the show, and this incredible new release with remastered video and audio. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!