One area in which the series could
ultimately continue is in book form, but O'Bannon is quick to point out that
Farscape isn't an easy universe to write for. "It's always difficult to
find writers who can capture the voice of any particular show," he
explains, "and we had a lot of trouble doing that on Farscape. You'll see
a lot of one-shot names of writers and in almost every instance, what you're
watching is not necessarily their writing because it had to be re-written. So
to suddenly get novelists to come in and write a book based on a series, it's
tough to get them to capture that tone and voice as well as the writers of the
DeCandido who's written a couple of Farscape books, was the one guy who really
got the show. There were a couple of other books where I talked to the authors
ahead of time but I thumbed through the books later and was horrified by how
far off the mark some of the stuff was. On the series, if we got a draft from
a writer that just wasn't getting it, one of us could take over and re-write
it. When a book comes in, you just can't do that."
widely regarded as one of the most innovative SF series in recent
years, but critical acclaim couldn't save Farscape from an untimely end. At the end of Season
Four, the Sci-Fi Channel suddenly pulled the plug, citing a decline in viewing figures as the
reason. Not surprisingly, their decision stunned the show's cast and crew, most of whom had
been planning to return for Season Five.
those affected by the cancellation was series creator Rockne O'Bannon, who first began
developing the series in the early Nineties under its original title 'Space Chase'. After
shopping the property around for several years, the producers finally found a home at the
Sci-Fi Channel, where it quickly became the cable network's top-rated show. Several months
after Farscape's cancellation, O'Bannon is surprisingly pragmatic in discussing the various
economic issues that came into play.
think we’ve always walked a very fine tightrope in terms of the cost of the show," he
reflects, "and the structure of the financial deal that had to be put in place initially.
That involved the Australians and Channel 9 down there, and continued in this fluid
arrangement that has changed and shifted to huge degrees, and in terms of the Sci-Fi Channel's
financial commitment, which increased well over 50% over the years in terms of license fees
that they paid. The initial license fee was already hefty for any cable outlet, let alone
Sci-Fi. I don't quite know what they hope to do with that, but we obviously hope to go into
syndication after the run on Sci-Fi, but I really don't know. It's not unlike the shows that
HBO produces, like The Sopranos or Sex and the City at least in that their content in
incredibly adult, so where do you syndicate Sex and the City? The same thing with Farscape: it
will be interesting to see how the show fares in syndication."
his critical eye over the past four seasons, O'Bannon says Farscape has evolved in a number of
ways since its original conception. "The character of John Crichton obviously changed
significantly over the years," he points out. "Looking back in my view of the show,
I was totally on board with the notion that John Crichton wouldn't continue to be this kind of
fumbling, unfamiliar, always awe-struck, always uneasy in this part of the universe that he
was at the very beginning of the series. There came a time by the end of Season Two and
absolutely into Season Three, where Crichton became a little too alien, a little too familiar
with that other world. By the time you got to the beginning of Season Four, new viewers tuning
in might have been a little confused about John Crichton, not really getting any sense of a
man who had ever been on Earth. He looked just like Aeryn, and there were other characters
such as the Sebaceans, who looked like John Crichton. He would make the Earth references in
dialogue, but in terms of his character and view of this other place in Space, most if not all
of that was gone. I felt a certain loss about that, because to me, one of the tones in the
first season that appealed to me so strongly was the Sense of being so far from home and
adrift in a place with no idea how to get back to there.
was also the fact that he was a scientist and a man who would look up at the stars at night
when he was a kid and wonder as we all do, what's out there. I think that might have
dissipated a tad too much in Season Three and certainly in Season Four. The core of the series
was always a man from Earth who's dropped into a Star Trek/Star Wars kind of environment and
how he would react as you or I would react. That was at the core of the series, and again, as
you got into the later seasons, I think his character might have gotten a bit too far from
that. He needed to evolve, but he may have evolved a little bit too far."
there any storylines that O'Bannon had some doubts about, that actually worked in the end?
"The thing that I was most gleeful about was the fact that the show could take a concept
that you might have seen a version of elsewhere and really do it to such a extreme degree in
terms of twisting and turning it that it suddenly seemed incredibly fresh. I'm thinking of the
episode that Mike Cassutt wrote in the second season [Out of Their Minds]. Back in '93, I was
trying to come up with back-up scripts for the show, just thinking of the series in general
and coming up with some one-liner ideas for episodes.
One of them was that Crichton and Aeryn have their consciousness changed into each other's
bodies, so Crichton suddenly has breasts and Aeryn has things to deal with.
as we were developing stories for the second season, Michael came in and we were throwing
ideas around, and I tossed that one out as one I remembered, with that very minimal curl. I
don't know if other shows have done that specifically, but certainly the idea of body changing
isn't wholly original. The episode that came from it, where everyone is changing bodies back
and forth and then the actors absolutely relish the fun of getting to play each other, and
seeing their different acting styles. All of that became this phenomenal episode. And then
there was Won't be Fooled Again, the one that Ricky Manning wrote, which was the first
'Farscape acid trip'. That was a term that didn't apply after a while, because it eventually
applied to most episodes, but that was our first real super acid trip episode, but again, it
was a lot of fun."
recently, O'Bannon decided to hand over a big chunk of Farscape's creative decision- making to
executive producer David Kemper, who oversaw the production in Sydney. "In Season Four, I
think David was ready to take wing on his own, and obviously had some ideas for some new
characters that he had in mind and wanted to introduce. So he pretty much took that ball and
ran with it, and he'd done such admirable service during the first three seasons of the show
that I didn't begrudge him that at all. If I may, there are aspects of Season Four that make
me scratch my head, but again, I wasn't part of it, so I can't really complain."
maybe a little. But that's not a topic the writer will discuss other than offering a few
oblique and noncommittal hints. "Believe me, I" don't want to s**t on the folks who
worked really hard on Season Four. As I understand it, the intent or hope for Season Four was
to really broaden out the appeal of the show and make it more accessible for a wider audience.
I think that was the intent of bringing in this other female character, figuring that was an
opportunity because she was new, to re-explain things about the show because there was a new
character that they could tell things about. But in the maelstrom of writing a season of the
series (which I know well, believe me!), I think that may have got lost a little."
with the long-term future of Farscape still very much in doubt, what does Rockne O'Bannon
believe the legacy of his series will be? "There's no way to know," is his response.
"I'm a little uncertain of that, because of the adult nature of the series and the
serpentine storytelling style and all of that. I can't really say what I think it will be, but
I know what I hope it will be, which is a collector's item. I hope it's something that the
right people, who have never seen it before, will ultimately come across it and put in the DVD
or tape and get into it. Because they're not required to show up on a weekly basis at a
specific time on a specific network to watch it and endure all the commercials, they can pick
it up or put it down as they would a book. I hope it will develop a passionate