Ten Minutes with Ben Browder
We Discuss the Fall and Rise of "Farscape"

from G4TV

by Coury Turczyn, October 14, 2004

When 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 canceled?

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 attention.

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 set?

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’ storyline?

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 universe?

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.

Farscape is owned by The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Entertainment, Nine Network (Australia) and the Sci-Fi Channel. No copyright infringement is intended and no financial gain has been made by any of the staff of this web site.