Mark Watches ‘Farscape’: S01E01 – Premiere

In the first episode of the first season of Farscape, SIGN ME THE HELL UP FOR THIS JOURNEY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to start Farscape.

The day has arrived, and I AM SO PLEASED I’M DOING THIS BECAUSE THAT EPISODE WAS SO GOOD. And before things get started proper, let’s open with a refresher of the rules, just so that newcomers know what they’re getting into.

1) Please do not spoil me. Mark Watches is an experiment, one that works best if you imagine that I am John Crichton. I watch things as unspoiled as humanly possible, and I guarantee you that this experience works better if we keep it that way. While you should absolutely look at my Spoiler Policy, which explains things in far more detail, an easy rule of thumb is to think of it this way: If you are about to tell me anything about this show that is obtained from something I have not seen yet, DO NOT SAY IT. At times, this will be frustrating to you, I know, but I promise you it’ll pay off in the end. It is also entirely possible that I will interpret things wrong, fall for misdirects and red herrings, and look like… well, John Crichton. PLEASE LET IT HAPPEN. It will make the eventual moment of understanding a billion times more entertaining. I realize that there is a tendency in fandoms to make sure a person watches something “correctly,” that they understand every nuance and subtext. Please curb your urge to spoil me, even in subtle ways.

2) Please use rot13 to discuss all things spoiler-y. You will see a lot of gibberish in the comments. This is rot13.com, a cypher we use so that you can post spoilers and discuss plot points with other people who have seen this show. This is best used to cackle openly at how wrong I am with others. (This is also the explanation for my community’s apparent obsession with nuns. In rot13, “ahahaha” becomes “nununun,” so. NUNS.)

3) If you link this project to other people, WARN THEM THAT I DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED. I had to block four people on Twitter within five minutes of finishing this episode because of this problem. I am more than flattered when y’all want to share my writing with others, but often, new people come to my site and immediately spoil me in the comments or on Twitter. Please append your links to me with a warning not to spoil me.

4) Please read the Site Rules and listen to my moderators. I would check out the Site Rules and the FAQ pages. The moderators and I are trying to make our community an exception to the rule that you shouldn’t read the comments on anything online. This means that on the surface, we are a lot more strict than you might be used to. We support having an open, international, and accessible community, so you may be warned about certain behavior. Due to the large and international angle of the comments, we ask that folks do not openly use slurs. If you are warned not to use one, please do not take it as a personal judgment on your character. We’re just trying to make sure this place is not alienating to others. The same goes for things like not posting gore or flashing GIFS.

My moderators are all listed on the FAQ page; their IntenseDebate bars are light blue. My own IntenseDebate account is here, and you’re welcome to follow it, as I do visit the comments as often as I can.

5) Video commentary files are $0.99 a piece, and you can find a link to the item in the store at the bottom of the review. These videos are a live form of commentary that is recorded while I watch each episode for the first time. I cuss a lot, I will probably yell at you and tell you I hate you for ruining my life, and I’ve been known to cry on camera because I hate you for ruining my life with fiction. Each file you purchase can be downloaded 10 times, meaning that you are welcome to share it anywhere. This system allows people to support me to offset the immense cost of hosting videos while still giving folks who cannot afford the videos a chance to watch them for free. The lovely folks over at Mark Spoils run a Black Market to help facilitate the exchange of extra downloads; you are also always welcome to use the comments or Twitter to ask for help or extra downloads!

If you’re interested in supporting me, I would suggest getting a Video Pass, which will give you a discounted rate on the videos since you are technically buying them in bulk.

Additionally, the first video for “Premiere” will be available for download for free until I’m done watching season one. This way, you can preview the video to see what they’re like or send it to anyone else so they can do the same!

6) Barring any emergencies, I have every intention of there never being a break in Double Features. Please check my Master Schedule to see when I’ll get to each episode. Reviews go up at 8am Pacific time; videos are available the week prior, since I write/record a week in advance. I announce their availability on Twitter!

Okay, enough of this. LET’S TALK ABOUT FARSCAPE.

*

I am certain that a great deal of you were giddy about the twist of fate that would allow me to watch Farscape and Star Trek at the exact same time. I knew only one thing about Farscape going into it: It was set in space. THAT’S IT. So, as this episode progressed and about a thousand tropes were upended and subverted through the process, I realized that I would be getting a very unique chance to experience two sides to the same coin in terms of space sagas.

(I should say that I am writing this review on July 7th; I have just finished writing in advance of my upcoming tour and that means I’ve completed all regular posts through August 29th. While I won’t put any spoilers in plaintext for Star Trek: The Original Series, I have seen the first 26 episodes of season one. That means I have a better idea of what that show is like than I used to. I just didn’t want to confuse folks if they saw I was barely starting the show in terms of what reviews were posted versus what I’m actually talking about.)

Farscape starts off innocently enough, which I feel was an intentional thing. The characters all felt fairly saccharine in nature, and even the setup wasn’t all that interesting. I imagine this is the only time we’re ever going to see John’s father or D.K. But it establishes a baseline for this series and then IMMEDIATELY DESTROYS IT. We’re given a heartwarming tale of a son following in his father’s footsteps while experimenting in space, and guess what? Gone. It’s all gone. John’s attempt to slingshot off the Earth’s atmosphere works, but careens him into a wormhole and into –

Well, chaos. It’s one of many impressive and engaging aspects of “Premiere.” The show throws us into Crichton’s experience by having the audience exist on the same level as him. Crichton doesn’t just end up in some unknown part of the universe; he’s in the midst of a battle, and then he’s kidnapped, and then he’s face-to-face with alien creatures, and he’s the first human being to see aliens, and he has approximately five seconds to deal with this before another alien floats into the room, and then there’s a drone, and then he’s traveling faster than the speed of light and THIS IS ALL IN THE FIRST FIFTEEN MINUTES. The pacing of this episode is a work of fucking art, y’all. And it’s a brilliant way to introduce us to the world of Farscape. The worldbuilding here is intense, it’s given to us in rapid fire, and it’s never condescending. It’s confusing at times, sure, because the writers don’t make it easy for us. (Yet another sign that we’re meant to see this through John’s eyes.)

But before I can even begin to address anything else here, I have to talk about the best part of all of this: THE ALIENS. THE MAKE-UP. THE COSTUMES. THE PROSTHETICS. Look, I don’t want to shit all over Star Trek or Doctor Who because I enjoy those shows. (Plus, I’ve barely seen any Star Trek episodes. By my calculations, I’ve seen 3.6% of the Star Trek canon right now. HAHA OH MY GOD I’M A BABY.) But LOOK HOW MANY ALIEN RACES ARE IN THIS PILOT. That commerce planet set was unreal!!! And I just love that this show has given us only one main character in a space saga who looks… well, normal. Aeryn Sun is humanoid, but I don’t think she’s a human. We’ve got Rygel XVI, some sort of king? Emperor? WHATEVER. Then there’s Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan, a Delvian priest, and Ka D’Argo, a Luxan warrior.

And they’re all criminals. ALL OF THEM.

The dynamic set here is a reversal of what I expect from space dramas. I’m so used to stories that involve a heroic force fighting the evil Bad Guys; that goes for Star WarsStar Trek, and Battlestar Galactica. Here, though, the characters are deliberately made to be anti-heroes of a sort who are forced onto a single ship out of necessity. They don’t truly get along, and if anything, they’re all ready to betray one another if necessary. On top of that, we’ve got Aeryn Sun, a Peacekeeper guard, who is part of a clear antagonistic force, yet she’s also stuck on Moya as well. (MOYA IS A LIVING SHIP WHAT THE FUCK. THIS IS SO GREAT.) Do I understand the Peacekeepers? NOT A BIT. I don’t know why they have jurisdiction or authority; I don’t know why the prisoners all despise them so much. I have a suspicion that they’re almost like a more realistic (and more cynical) version of the Federation of United Planets from Star Trek, a governing body in this part of space.

What’s clear to me is that we’re absolutely missing any sort of good guy. Even John Crichton himself doesn’t fit into that. He’s the sole force of neutrality in the midst of all this chaos. One of my favorite things about his utilization in this pilot is that the narrative deliberately puts him below the other characters. I’m so used to the white male being used as a sign of superiority and authority that it’s refreshing to see how Farscape instead makes Crichton the perpetually ignorant and useless observer. Granted, he does have value to the other prisoners by the end of the episode, and I’m eager to see how his knowledge of physics will be applicable. But even then, the show doesn’t put him on a pedestal at all. He knows the least out of anyone, and the writers are deeply aware of this. Watch that scene down on the commerce planet again where Crichton takes one of the guns from a Peacekeeper. The script openly acknowledges that Crichton has no idea how to properly fire one of those things! THAT’S SO AMAZING TO ME.

Aside from this? This pilot episode is funny and thrilling. It is rich with detail, more than I have ever seen from a science fiction show, and it’s beautifully overwhelming. I have SO MANY QUESTIONS. What is the Delvian religion? What are Luxans? AM I GOING TO GET A BACKSTORY EPISODE TO EXPLAIN WHAT BROUGHT ALL THESE PEOPLE TO PRISON? We get brief mentions of that, but I want to know more. What’s the Pilot’s name? Are there other Leviathans? Will Crais spend this show constantly wanting to avenge the death of his brother? Will Rygel ever stop eating? (No, don’t let him, it’s so entertaining to watch.)

Y’all. Y’ALL. This was a pleasant surprise for a first episode. Goddamn, I’m hooked already! And I don’t even know if this show has a serialized narrative or an overarching story arc to its season. I know nothing. And goddamn it, IT’S REALLY EXCITING.

The video for “Premiere” can be downloaded here for $0.99. As promised, you can also download it for free here until I finish reviewing season one.

Mark Links Stuff

– If you would like to support this website and keep Mark Does Stuff running, I’ve put up a detailed post explaining how you can!
– Please check out the MarkDoesStuff.com. All Mark Watches videos for past shows/season are now archived there!
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often.
– I will be at quite a few conventions and will be hosting events throughout the US, Canada, and Europe in 2014, so check my Tour Dates / Appearances page often to see if I’m coming to your city!
– Inspired by last year’s impromptu event in London, I am taking Mark in the Park on the road! You can see all currently planned dates and pitch your own city here.

 

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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