From SciFi Magazine, February 2003


David Kemper and Ben Browder promise a roller-coaster ride to the finale of Farscape's fourth season. By John Sullivan -

When Farscape viewers last saw John Crichton, he was floating in orbit above the Earth. That was at the end of "Unrealized Reality," the last episode of Farscape to air before the midpoint break of the show's fourth season on Sci Fi. For those who've followed the castaway astronaut's quest to find his way home despite some of the most potent distractions in the universe, that was an affecting moment. But by now, fans of Farscape are far too wary to relax and assume that Crichton has gotten home and all is well.

And they're right. Executive producer David Kemper describes the remaining 11 episodes, which begin airing on the SciFi Channel on Jan. 10, as "a good roller-coaster ride." Within the first couple episodes, he says, the show "will remind you that Farscape doesn't do things like anyone else."

What's more, Kemper sees the remaining episodes as something special. "We're at the height of our prowess in the back 11 episodes," he says. "Creatively, production-wise, acting, it's never been better. They probably are our best 11 episodes in a row ever."

Of course, that's about all he'll say. Given that the episodes haven't aired yet, Kemper doesn't want to ruin the story's surprises. And given Farscape's famously woven plotlines, those surprises are particularly easy to ruin. Any apparently minor detail could turn out to be a crucial hint to a development that will ultimately upend the Farscape universe. Again.

"As everyone who watches Farscape knows," says Kemper, "we tackle these themes, and then six or 12 episodes later you realize, 'Oh my God, they were building this in to pay it off here.'"

The show's fans have gotten very, very good at playing along with this game. "One actor will say one thing," says star Ben Browder, "and then a producer will say another thing and a grip will say something online, and before you know it, someone has pieced together your entire plot structure!"

That puts Kemper and Browder in a bit of a bind as air dates for the upcoming episodes approach. Talking to them, their excitement about the upcoming story arc is almost palpable, and they want to convey that excitement to the fans who have supported the show for so long. But how to do it without spoiling the story?

Ultimately, Browder knows, Farscape fans don't need a lot of clues to anticipate some of what's coming. As the story left off in "Unrealized Reality," it was dealing with themes that have been at the heart of the show from the beginning.

"You have a lot of plot threads going all the way back to season one, beginning with 'Human Reaction,' which are sort of tied together in that episode," says Browder. "And they're major arc questions relating to wormhole travel and time and space and John Crichton and the ancients. So you have a lot of big questions which are answered. It also raises other questions, of course. Some of them relating to wormholes," he adds, "some of them relating to making babies and some of them relating to. ..the meaning of life. " At this point in the conversation, it's becoming clear that Browder is starting to have a little too much fun with the whole coy act. "Who was it that had that joke about the meaning of life?" he asks. "The answer is three, but you're not asking the question correctly?" Then Browder notes that he has all the remaining episodes on tape and hints that perhaps he can be bought "I can tell you that Crichton's situation at the end of the year is radically different from his situation in the middle of the year, in typical Farscape fashion," he says. "I can't tell you what's coming up, but 1 can tell you we're going to see some new critters. We're going to see some old critters. We're going to see episodes that have a lot of critters. I can say we've got new aliens, new spaceships. I can tell you that the last moments of Farscape are in some ways as twisted as any moment in Farscape. There are some things that you might see coming and there are other things that, quite frankly, you wouldn't see coming in a million years."

And, of course, Browder has managed to touch on something that also affects the way the upcoming episodes will be viewed. They are not only the last episodes of the fourth season, but the last new episodes of Farscape. Fans have to be asking, how well do these episodes wrap up not just the season but the larger story?

It wasn't what had been planned for those episodes. Although Sc Fi and The Jim Henson Co. knew a fifth season was in doubt for several months, negotiations to continue the series were ongoing until Friday, the same day that principal photography was to be completed on episode 22, the season finale. All that remained were four days in which to shoot pickups for various episodes across the back half of the season. These included scenes that hadn't yet been shot

for one reason or another, that had to be redone, reaction shots to be edited into existing scenes, and so on.

"We had four more days to shoot and we were only planning to shoot little things that didn't matter," says Kemper. "But how we used those four days, that was really kind of up to us, and we used them the way we wanted to use them."

Again, Kemper insists on keeping details close to his vest, but clearly an effort was made, within the framework of the season's story arc and the fact that all the episodes were essentially finished, to account for the overall end of the show. "With the cancellation, some thought took place and we wrote some material between that Friday and the end of the series," says Kemper. "Four days later, I'd been up for three straight days writing. I was still up writing on the morning of our last day of shooting."

Kemper describes a whirlwind of work taking place at his home, with scenes being sent off to the set to be shot as soon as they came off the printer. "The pages I wrote at nine in the morning got shot at "," he says. "The pages I wrote at" got shot at one, and the pages I wrote at two got shot at five. I didn't get to the set until the last shot of the series. They held up the last shot of the series so I could drive an hour and be there when the series ended."

So when all is said and done, is Kemper satisfied with the way his series ends? Was he able to bring Farscape, in those four days of pickup shooting, to something like an ending instead of just having the show suddenly stop? Obviously, Kemper wasn't able to bring the show to a deliberate conclusion, but he seems happy with what he was able to do.

"The dilemma was, this was designed to be the end of season four," he says. "How much do we change what we're doing to accommodate the end of the whole series? If you make massive changes to accommodate the end of the series, you might ruin the story of season four. Everyone agreed with me, we have to end season four the way season four was supposed to end. We couldn't butcher the season-ender to do some kind of quick wrap-up. Then, within that, was there anything we could do to make this satisfying as the end of the series?"

Then Kemper describes watching rough cuts of those last episodes in a screening room with the people with whom he had worked for four years-Andrew Prowse, Rockne S. O'Bannon, Ben Browder and others. "When we saw that last frame, we had a lump in our throats. Whether or not it satisfies everybody as the end of the series, it satisfies us on a lot of levels."

Of course from the beginning of the season, viewers have known that they're probably in for another Farscape-style season ending. What Kemper and the rest of Farscape's creative team find satisfying is never quite what you would expect from any other show. Kemper makes no promises about this one either.

"My intention with a season-ender is never to have everybody at the end of the season go 'awww, wasn't that a beautiful, wonder- ful thing,'" he says. "I want people to sit up in their seats and throw popcorn at the screen, because that shows the passion that the viewers and the fans have. I like that."

There's certainly been plenty of that in Farscape's run. Kemper is especially proud of how the show handled its first lead villain, Crais, the Peacekeeper who relentlessly pursued Crichton for the first season before finding himself at odds with his superiors. "Rock [O'Bannon] always says that's the thing he's most proud of," says Kemper, "and I'll take his side on that. Everyone needs to remember, Crais was a horrible villain. In the first season, he tortured Crichton. He's the one that made Aeryn irreversibly contaminated. Yet when we brought him around and he passed away, everyone's lamenting him a year later."

Kemper still delights in turning the show on edge, pulling the rug out from under viewers who get lazy and try to coast for a few episodes. "That's what our series does," he says, "so everyone needs to buckle up and watch these 11 episodes, and really have a good time, because we had a good time making them, and we're having a good time watching them and post-producing them." His overall message to fans? "just watch Farscape in the spirit that we make it, and know that there's some stuff coming that's going to make you happy, and some stuff that's going to make you sad, and the show doesn't deviate from Farscape. It doesn't turn into some other show. Fans who like Farscape are going to love the last 11 episodes."

For Browder as well, the end of the show is bittersweet, but he's just as excited as Kemper about the upcoming episodes.

"We have 11 hours of television," he says, "that are still telling a story, and those 11 hours are like any 11 hours of Farscape. They're worth watching. They're worth watching if you've never seen the show before. For people who haven't seen it, if they pick it up now, they have the joy of going back and seeing 77 episodes that they've never seen. If you've watched it this far, is it worth seeing? Damn right it's worth seeing. People who are interested in the show, they still have another 11 episodes. They still have 11 hours to see and experience and then to talk about."

For Browder, what makes Farscape worth doing is its willingness to take risks in an effort to achieve something that is truly worth watching. "When it has its moments, it's great," he says, "and there is some interesting stuff coming up. We sort of stick ourselves out on a limb yet again and wait to gloriously fall on our faces."

And if viewers are left throwing their popcorn at the screen when episode 22 is done, Browder can live with that. He knows they do that because they care about the way Farscape offers up what he calls "life in a crucible," and about the characters and world that he and the others on Farscape's cast and crew have created.

"In a lot of ways, that's all you can ask of a story," he says, "for the audience to respond to it, for it to answer a few questions and raise a few questions, both on a philosophical level and on a story and character level. Hopefully, by the end of it, you still care what happens to these people. I think you do. I'm kind of interested in what happens to the crew of Moya."