Blue-hued priestess, alien friend... a normal day on Farscape

It's the story of a human in a galaxy far away… Producers Rockne S O’Bannon and David Kemper take us inside Farscape.
By James E Brooks

Somewhere, in a far corner of the galaxy, there is a quiet revolution going on. Although there are spaceships and energy weapons, none of it is being accomplished through those traditional methods. Instead, hiding in the wild and woolly spaces of cable TV, is a show called Farscape that probably wouldn’t have lasted more than a few weeks in the feeding frenzy of broadcast network ratings wars...

Selected from Starburst #257

In the safer harbors of the Sci-Fi Channel, though, the series is managing to not only stay alive, but thrive as well. Oh, and it’s also pretty good.

Far and away

During a recent trip to publicize the show in Los Angeles, series creator and executive producer Rockne S O’Bannon was joined by fellow executive producer David Kemper to talk about Farscape. Sitting near each other at a huge conference table in the USA Network building, they seem perfectly in sync as they discuss what Farscape has achieved so far and the future they have planned for it.

In case you haven’t caught it yet, Farscape follows the adventures of the motley crew of a living starship called Moya. They include a Terran astronaut who arrived through a Space anomaly, a disgraced soldier, a huge alien warrior, a blue-skinned priestess, and a three-foot-tall deposed tyrant, the latter courtesy of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.

Far from the norm

In spite of the wealth of Science Fiction cinema and television running through O’Bannon and Kemper’s backgrounds, they quickly point out that in many ways the series is its own creature, unique in a field of shows working to the franchise model. Although this was certainly a plus in the long run, they admit that sometimes standing outside the mainstream makes it more of a challenge to find an audience. But, to quote Field of Dreams, ‘If you build it, they will come’.

“In those early episodes,” O’Bannon says, “we had a series that didn’t have any reference points. We didn’t have the original Star Trek, we didn’t have the Next Generation, we didn’t have any of the things that people latch onto.” Kemper adds: “One of our intentions is to never let the series stay in the same place for any length of time, to change the dynamics whenever we can. Our big advantage over other series such as the Star Trek spin-offs is that we don’t have a military hierarchy in our cast of characters.

“They are a ship of escaped prisoners on the run, so the first season was really a season of meeting the various personalities and getting an idea of how they could fit together, kind of like trying on a new suit of clothes. For Crichton [Ben Browder] this is his first encounter with them – as it is for the audience.”

“Right,” O’Bannon agrees, “There was a lot of brashness the first year. In the second season we want to kind of change the interactions, come up with new combinations within the crew and also introduce some new people. At the end of this [first] season we are introducing a new villain that will continue to spin the series in really surprising ways.”

Evil personified

Scorpius makes an ally (Born to be WIld)Although Kemper and O’Bannon are reluctant to get specific for fear of ruining the audience’s fun when the episodes air, they do give a few tantalizing details. “The character’s name is Scorpius and he’s played by Wayne Pygram,” O’Bannon says, indicating a projected image of a humanoid alien with skin the colour of dead fish, clad in a black leather suit suggesting a collision of Hellraiser and stripped-down Samurai armor.

“His origin comes from the observation that even though Mr Spock from the original Star Trek was extremely intelligent and stronger than any of the humans he worked with, he was still willing to play subordinate to Captain Kirk and the others..."

All images here © Sci-Fi Channel. Feature © Visual Imagination 2000. Not for reproduction
More from this interview when you get Starburst 257 – complete with mini-guides to Farscape's leading characters!
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