Saturday: Rockne S. O'Bannon

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Rockne S. O'Bannon is the creator of Farscape and when he first came on the stage, he had a piece of red tape across his mouth so he wouldn't inadvertantly spill any news about Farscape returning. He gave enough hints, though, like telling us he really should be at home writing hour three and that there was a huge conference call coming up the next day with about 25 people. "Hang in there," he told us. 

Rockne gave us a brief history of Farscape, which had started about 10 years ago in the mind of Brian Henson, who wanted to do a ship-show that would showcase The Jim Henson Company's talents but was a little darker than Muppets. They pitched the show to FOX network, who liked it a lot but didn't want to commit to more than a pilot. Since that was financially impossible, they began looking around for a home for the show. After crunching some numbers they decided that they needed to make at least eleven episodes. 

At that point, David Kemper came in and they began designing characters, particularly Pilot, who looks essentially the same now as he did in the beginning. Zhaan began life as a male character, a sort of a Buddha-like character. (Check out Karlsweb's Behind the Scenes pages for more info.) 

At that time, Rod Perth was running the SciFi Channel and he was looking for something that would serve as a flagship show for them, so he ordered a full season. Originally, Moya was supposed to be full of prisoners, a bit like Star Trek, but that wasn't done because of the expense and at that point the original group was decided on.

Rockne came clean in front of the audience and admitted an addiction. An addiction to ChapStick! He asked if anyone else in the audience had the same addiction - it looked to me like about half of us do. Anyway, the point of that story was that in the original pilot script, when John and Aeryn were escaping from Moya, they went down to a commerce planet and into a shop. Crichton started bartering with the alien behind the counter and began offering various items for trade - an IASA watch among other things. Everything was scoffed at until he pulled out his ChapStick, which was immediately grabbed by the vendor, causing Crichton to say, "85,000,000,000,000 miles from home! How am I gonna get another Chapstick!"

Another thing that Rockne hoped to get into the first script but that was again too expensive, was after Crichton and Aeryn got out of the cell on Moya and were looking around the ship trying to find a way to escape, they begin opening doors. Crichton pulls open a door and inside are two mechanical beings. There's soft lighting and the two of them are working on a teeny version of themselves. Crichton asks Aeryn what they're doing and she tells him that they're making a little one like them. Crichton backs out the door and says to them, "I'm sorry! Go back to screwing!"

Casting was the next step in the process. They looked in Australia for all the roles and also in the US for all the roles. Because the show was going to be an Australian co-production, a large number of the roles were going to be cast from there. Rockne said that looking back, it's a "Thank God" type of thing, but at the time they were uncertain. For Crichton, they brought in two people to the President of SciFi so they could pretend to give them a choice. SciFi said they wanted to see 50 more. Rockne and Kemper went down to the coffee shop and talked it over and decided that they'd go back and fight for Ben Browder for the role. We all know how that turned out. Looks like another "Thank God" type of thing to me!

Once Ben was on board they began looking for an Aeryn. They saw Claudia on tape and liked her so they flew Ben down to Australia to audition with her. Before they even saw the tape, Ben called and said that she was the one. 

Shortly after SciFi bought Farscape, Rod Perth left and Steven Chao took over. He didn't really know what he was buying, but he kept saying to make it darker, make it strange, which was exactly what Rockne, David and Brian wanted to hear, and the rest is history!




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