the Sci-Fi Channel abruptly cancelled Farscape after
its fourth season, the show’s sizable fan base was outraged.
After all, if the network could see fit to finance such epic
pieces of schlock as Frankenfish, why couldn’t it
keep a high-quality show like Farscape? As it turned
out, financial conflicts were more complicated than most fans
knew, and Farscape was the victim of bad timing. But
through a Herculean effort from fans and Executive Producer
Brian Henson, Farscape is back from the dead in a
four-hour mini-series premiering Sunday, October 17 at 9:00 pm
ET on the Sci-Fi Channel. We caught up with star Ben Browder in
the Green Room for our Ten-Minute Interview.
How did you find out that Farscape had been
It was a Friday. The day
before, I was shooting the last day of main photography for our
season ender, and we were coming back to shoot pick-up shots for
an earlier episode. I had been talking to Brian the day before,
and I said, “How does it look?” And he said, “It looks
good.” “Okay, good. Look forward to next year.” Then I
woke up the next morning, got a call about 7 am from (Executive
Producer) David Kemper saying, “That’s it. We’re done.
We’re finished.” That’s how I found out.
What was the Sci-Fi Channel’s reasoning behind
canceling one of its quality shows?
It was a financial decision
that wasn’t entirely in Sci-Fi’s hands. At the time, the
Henson Company was owned by a German company, EM.TV, and
Sci-Fi’s parent company is Universal. Both of the parent
companies were cash-strapped at the time – EM had problems in
the stock market. So what basically happened was you had big
companies looking for ways to get rid of red ink on a ledger.
When the deal essentially fell apart, it was simply a case of
literally bad timing. If we had been shooting for another two
months, the money would have been available. Or if the decision
had come down four months earlier, the money would have been
available. But at that particular time, there was a logjam and
things went south.
Look, science fiction
television and something like Farscape is an expensive
proposition for any network and for any company. So you had a
lot of money being laid out to make something – not as much as
paid on a number of network shows, but nonetheless you have a
lot of money being laid out for a show as visually diverse and
interesting as Farscape. Virtually all the money that
was spent on Farscape went up on the screen – it went
into creatures or maintaining prosthetics or building sets.
What series of events happened to bring the show back?
I don’t know the exact
timeline, but what I do know is that the Internet community that
follows Farscape made a concerted and intelligent
assault upon a number of different sources to get more Farscape [episodes] made.
The Farscape fan base literally went out and found a
consortium of investors and brought it to Brian Henson’s
How would you describe the Farscape fan base?
Is it as obsessive as, say, Star Trek’s fan base?
I don’t know whether I’d
even describe them as obsessive. It’s a term that’s often
thrown around to describe people who are fans of science
fiction. But very seldom do I walk into a schoolyard and see a
bunch of people wearing Captain Picard outfits. What I do see is
a bunch of kids wearing the football jerseys of their favorite
players or baseball hats. A fan base is a group of people who
enjoy a certain thing; it doesn’t necessarily mean a TV show.
And what we find acceptable is to go crazy and scream for Green
Bay and paint yourself green and go out in the middle of winter
– and no one says that’s odd. But if you show up at a
convention and there’s a lot of Klingons running around,
people somehow think that’s odd. I personally don’t
see much difference in it. These are people who interested in
the story that’s being told, it happens to be in the science
fiction genre, and this is their way of immersing themselves
deeper into it in the same way that a football fan has to have a
Brett Favre jersey.
How did it feel to gear back up and get on the Farscape
The mini-series was shot back
in Australia, and until I hit the ground in Australia, I was not
thoroughly convinced it was ever really going to happen. Having
said that, when I walked into the offices and looked around,
every person around the table was a familiar face. The entire
cast came back, 95 percent of the crew came back. The people who
worked on Farscape in Australia seemed to have a
genuine love and affection for the show itself and for making
the show. They are creatively invested in the show. And it’s
kind of unusual in my experience – most often, you have crew
and even cast who are just doing a job. Farscape, for
the people who were making it, seemed to be more than a job.
When we were cancelled, there were actually big, burly
construction men who cried because they so loved what they were
able to add to the show.
So when I walked back down
there and saw all the familiar faces, it was like a time warp.
Everyone was there, and the year and a half from the moment we
were cancelled to the minute we started shooting again didn’t
exist. You literally walked back on sets that you had seen being
torn down and they were back in place, so it was like going back
to high school – it was an episode of the Twilight Zone.
But it was easy: You walk in, you put on leather trousers, slap
a pulse pistol on your thigh, and off you go.
How is the new show different from the original series?
Well, it’s a mini-series, so
it’s inherently different. We’re telling four hours, two
hours each night. So in the mini-series, we have a compression
of events, stuff that we would normally spread out over the
course of a year. You have a lot of things going on both for the
characters and plot-wise in an accelerated fashion. And another
advantage to shooting a mini-series was we had more tokens to
spend on CG, and the general overall budget was higher, and we
had a little more time shooting than we had shooting the series.
The only other major difference is that Farscape’s
normal season-ender was a cliffhanger, and the mini-series was
the first time we didn’t leave off with a cliffhanger. So we
have a more suitable end to that particular chapter of Farscape,
which allows us to go and do different kinds of projects.
Whether Brian wants to spin it off into a different show or do a
feature film, it’s now possible for us to do that creatively
whereas at the time we were talking about “what next?” the
mini-series was the most palatable creative choice because of
where the story was. And the reason why Farscape came
back was because a large group of people wanted to see more of
that story. So we progressed that story to a point where we can
now go launch into something else.
Can you tell us anything about the mini-series’
My tagline is: A good day
at work for me is when you blow up the universe and get to kiss
the girl. And there’s a lot of that. There’s a lot of
universe to be blowed up, and a lot of girls to kiss.
So does John Crichton finally find happiness in the
Ahhhh, I don’t know if you
could say that. He finds a certain resolution to a number of
issues, but I don’t know if he’s found happiness in the
universe or not.