Thanks to holiday gifts and the local library, we’ve been having a bit of a sci-fi marathon lately. My brother gifted us with the second season of Star Trek (“The Trouble with Tribbles“), and my daughter has been enjoying Captain Kirk’s unparalleled talent: talking computers out of destroying the universe (“I am NOMAD!“), as well as his amazing fighting skills (always that one little streak of blood at the side of his mouth after he takes a punch).
At the same time we started watching Star Trek I found the first season DVD of Farscape at the library and decided it would be fun to watch that again, too. I was a huge fan of the show first-run (at least the first two seasons—I started to lose track of it when the SciFi channel started messing with the schedule and the show added an annoying red-headed character), and was curious to see if it would hold up. It did. It’s just as sassy, silly and scientific as I remember it. I planned at first to watch it after the kid went to bed, but being the holidays she was staying up later, and she actually stayed awake and got into the pilot episode so much she asked to see some more. So we have been having a fun mash-up of some great television science fiction.
It’s no surprise that the two shows have many similarities. Ben Browder’s John Crichton was clearly and consciously modeled on James Tiberius Kirk, in fact, Farscape may well be the meta-Star Trek. It is full of pop-culture references and sly jokes upon itself. Crichton makes many pop culture references in the series, including worrying that Buffy the vampire slayer might be dead by the time he gets back to Earth and writes “Hi there!” on a nuclear bomb.
Farscape also takes the human-thrown-into-the-barrel-of-aliens much farther than Star Trek did with its Klingons and Romulans by making its Enterprise, the ship Moya, a living being. Farscape also has the added attraction of having main characters designed by The Jim Henson Company, which supposedly will be producing some additional webisodes with all of the characters. I’ve been a huge fan of Brian Henson since he played the Storyteller’s Dog in The Storyteller, a great series also featuring Henson Company’s human/creature collaborations. Farscape’s characters of Rigel, the selfish deposed king and Pilot, the ship’s pilot are very real and inspire as much involvement and emotion as their human costars.
Farscape can go full-steam with humor, but still keep its science where Star Trek could only occasionally do humor. A sign of the times. Star Trek was blazing the trail and had to be a bit more serious in its approach, whereas Farscape could do multiple riffs on Star Trek and just about anything else it could think of. There’s much to love in both shows, and I think our mash-up is helping point out some of the best parts of both universes. Here are some of our favorite pairings:
“Assignment: Earth“ is a great Star Trek episode, which almost spawned a spin-off featuring hipster alien Gary Seven. Seven’s job is to save the universe (I think), and he’s almost prevented by guest star Teri Garr and Kirk and Spock. This matched well with Farscape‘s “I, E.T.” where Crichton and Co. have to visit a planet (similar to all of those Star Trek episodes where Kirk and Co. go to an Earth-like planet and have to make friends to get help with something they need, for the ship or an ill comrade, etc.) to find a special substance that will heal Moya.
In Farscape‘s “Exodus from Genesis,” space bugs invade Moya and create duplicates of the crew, which is a nice counterpoint to the classic Star Trek Mirror, Mirror episode where Kirk, Uhura and Chekhov are beamed to an alternate universe where everything is different and evil and Spock has sexy sideburns and a goatee.
Crichton gets zapped in ”Back and Back and Back to the Future“ and starts experiencing potential glimpses of the future – all involving the deaths of himself and his shipmates, unless he can find a way to change the current course of events. This paired nicely with “I, Mudd,” which wasn’t exactly about multiple time warps, but the multiple androids were funny and fun and just as potentially lethal until super-Kirk figured out how to bust up their main computer link.
When watching a series that has been off the air for quite some time it always makes me wonder—where are these actors now? We all know about the main Star Trek cast, some of whom have passed on, some of whom turn up in the reboot, and some who are all over the place. But what about all those Aussie actors and transplanted American leading man from Farscape? A little searching on imdb reveals that Ben Browder is starring in a web series, Naught for Hire.
With so many of us hooking up our laptops to our televisions and watching old favorites on Hulu and similar sites, this seems like just another way to keep working. Claudia Black who played Aeryn Sun seems to be busy with voice work since having her second child. Virginia Hey has apparently stopped acting and relocated to the US, where she is launching a business based on her long interest in natural therapies. Maybe inspired by the deleterious effects all that blue make-up she had to wear as Zhaan had on her skin and kidneys.
If you can’t find the DVDs, Farscape is available on Amazon and iTunes. And Brian Henson still promises more webisodes. So there are many more mash-up possibilities in our future. And then there are the action figures …