20 December 2006

Farscape. It has to be said. Farscape. It is one of my favourites when it comes to science fiction series. I love Firefly, I enjoy Star Trek and I won't skip an episode of Battlestar Galactica should it come my way, but Farscape -ohh man.

There's no series that comes close to rivalling its visual richness. And that has everything to do with its daring use of prosthetics and animatronics instead of regular 3D CG creatures. Look at the new Star Wars movies. Sure, they looked nice, but they were also kind of plasticky. No matter how well or detailed they make the models, you will always feel they're fake. But with the beautiful puppets Farscape uses, something wonderful happens. Yes, you know always that they're not real creatures, you could even argue that they're noticeably more 'fake' than CG. But that actually works to its benefit. You see their craftsmanship, you feel the puppets are there alongside the actors, and suddenly they come alive.

Obviously a prestige project for the famous Henson company; they decided to go all out and create the most marvellous creatures ever seen. In a time when everyone including myself gets increasingly jaded and loses the childlike wonder of seeing new and wonderous aliens, Farscape manages to inspire that feeling; a certain awe at the next monster-of-the-week.

Obviously, its visual appeal isn't the only thing that the series does right. The plots may sometimes be a bit soapy and standard sci-fi fare, they are always well-written and smart. Lead character John Crighton's Earth smarm enables him to tackle the alien events around him and rationalise them, not just for himself but also for the viewers. More than that though, it's the non-comformity of a few key aspects that keep the show from becoming cumbersome and predictable. This ranges from the cheeky (Rygel the XVI releases helium gas in times of distress) to the incorporation of that one element that gives the series a lot of identity: sex. And not in any distasteful pornographic sense (which is usually debilitating fare used in Hollywoodesque crap), but rather through a very convincing exoticness. Farscape, with its colour-saturated aliens and often organic design, makes a very convincing claim that life in space is just as it is here. Where series as Star Trek often deny the very existence of sex in a vision of a rigid, metallic future where everyone has suppressed their emotions, Farscape makes that feel almost a sterile and childish lacking.

But really, let's not talk down any sci-fi series. Star Trek has its merits, absolutely. But Farscape... yes, Farscape.