Excerpt taken from
Cult Times #57

With the reputation of Jim Henson behind it, Farscape wasn’t such a surprise hit. Nevertheless, some people find a spaceship driven by a muppet a little hard to swallow.

“It forces you to be creative,” explains star
Ben Browder to Ian Spelling. “It forces you to try harder when suspending disbelief”

Ben Browder surveys the future as Farscape's John Crichton

Ben Browder is a stranger in a strange place. Why? Well, for the star of Farscape, the beginning is starting all over again. You see, Farscape is just now débuting in Australia, where the show actually films, but it’s deep into its second season in the United States, Browder’s native land and Farscape’s primary market.

Any mistakes and missteps that Aussie critics and audiences might be keen to point out, were already pointed out by American critics and audiences and – here’s the bottom line – addressed in a prompt and satisfying manner. So, even though the series now ranks as one of the coolest shows on TV – anywhere – it’s déjà vu all over again for everyone involved, especially frontman Browder.

“Ultimately, the show wasn’t what I wanted it to be in the very beginning,” says Browder, who plays Captain John Crichton. Whipped across Space, the American astronaut is now stuck in the middle of a war and aboard Moya, a renegade, sentient ship with a motley crew...

“You can look back now on the first 10 episodes and say, ‘It’s sort of the same show, but it’s not really the same show.’ And that’s kind of right. The show has evolved. The thing that jumped out at people was the puppets, that there would be this Henson thing.

“I was watching an episode the other day and there’s something about the presence of Rygel and the presence of Pilot that forces you to make a different show. It forces you to be creative. It forces you to try harder when suspending disbelief. The same would be true if you were using CGI. At the same time, you listen to the fans bemoan the absence of non-human creatures in Sci-Fi.

"This stuff that we’re using is the cutting edge of technology that’s available in TV and film to bring non-human characters to the screen. Farscape, for better or for worse, attempts to do it. We try to bring it off with the puppets and our puppet performers are amazing performers. In The Way We Weren’t, Pilot’s performance was beautiful. And Claudia (Black, the tough ex-Peacekeeper Aeryn Sun) did these incredibly emotional scenes with a puppet.

“Without the Muppet factor, it would have been much easier to fall into a Star Trek/Babylon 5 genre. I have nothing against that. I love those shows, but they do what they do and we’re doing something that’s a little different. Not everybody is going to like it, and that’s OK. With the show débuting here in Australia I’m dealing with ‘What is the show? It’s Muppets in Space. It’s Buck Rogers. It’s this. It’s that.’ The answer is simply, ‘No, it’s not. It’s Farscape. It’s something completely different.’ And I’m happy to be doing something different...”

Ian Spelling

Browder on

“As far as Crichton goes" says Ben Browder "there are a lot of gaps we can still fill in as to what we really know about him. His backstory, in many ways, is sketchier than anyone else’s.

"We know where he came from and we know his world. We know he had friends, that he had a dad and that he was an astronaut. But there are ghosts in his closet. We’ve maybe pulled one ghost out of the closet this year. I’m sure there are other ghosts in there. We’ve all got ghosts we have to deal with at some point. And John knows that.

"In episode seven (of Season Two, The Way We Weren’t), John even said, ‘There are a lot of things we’ve done that we wouldn’t want to see on instant replay.’ That goes for all of us.

"So there’s a lot of ground to cover in terms of how he’ll change and evolve and continue to deal with this hostile environment. He’s maybe getting used to his situation, but he doesn’t have a handle on it yet.

"He’ll continue to struggle with it, and I think that’s a good thing. There was a moment there in Season One where people probably thought, ‘OK, now he’s going to be the competent, all-capable guy who can fix all situations.’ That’s not the case and I think that makes him a layered, textured, more interesting character.”

In the full version of this feature, Ben Browder discusses new character Chiana, his favourite episodes to date, and his immense enthusiasm for continuing in his role on Farscape

• Buy Cult Times #57 for the full six-page feature

Images © Henson Company
Feature © Visual Imagination 2000. Not for reproduction.