It all seemed to be going well, and then suddenly there was no more Farscape! Paul Spragg spoke to star Ben Browder, alias John Crichton, after the series' end...

You'd think that with his credentials, Ben Browder would be perfect for a role in another genre show. "I auditioned for Bochco's 'NYPD 2059'," he jokes, although on a serious note he explains that, "When I get the genre scripts, they tend to interest and engage me in a way that cops and lawyers don't. Most of them sound the same, and they read the same. Not nearly as exciting as blowing up planets."

What about the Big Boy of Sci-Fi, Star Trek? "I can't get an audition over there! I've had one audition in my entire career for any of the Star Trek franchises. 1 must be on, like, the 'no' list. 'This guy cannot do Science Fiction'. There must be a note across my resume over there going 'Sucks at Science Fiction'."

Apparently, a good few years back, he "read for the pilot of Deep Space Nine. I auditioned for the doctor. I didn't have a great audition though. I think I made a classic Ben Browder mistake: I asked a question. [Then] they asked a question, I glazed over. 'Let's never hire this guy', you know? 'Obviously doesn't get it'. I didn't get it!"
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In Season Four, Browder wrote his second script for Farscape, namely the surreal episode John Quixote, which saw our hero embroiled in a strange game acquired by Chiana.

"It's a love-it-or-hate-it kinda episode. I was cognizant of that when I was writing it. But I like watching John Quixote and I watch it repeatedly for a couple of things; I watch it for Claudia Black playing the princess, I watch it for Rygel as the Black Knight, I watch it for the elevator sequences with 'John Headroom'; there's a lot of stuff in it that I absolutely love. The script itself was a single A-story, which means that you have to be very critical with the timing of the script, because you're literally writing down to the last second. I think basically with John Quixote, I was a bit long with the script, and neither I nor the writing staff could figure out where to cut. I think it's an interesting piece, I don't think it's empty calories. Could it be better? Sure, if I had more minutes, if I had more money to put on the screen, if I had 12 days to shoot it rather than the seven that we're normally allotted. It was an ambitious piece, but I sort of like the results."
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Browder insists that the ending of the series was in no way tacked on to force a cliffhanger, although he does take responsibility for the :And finally on Farscape' voiceover at the start. "Now that WQS put in afterwards. I put that in because of all the images that came before. But 'To be continued' and the actual ending was as originally planned by [David] Kemper and company. Even in post production there were still discussions on how to finish the story, so it's not an add-on, it's not a tack-on,

"If you look at the final episode [of each year], it generally will set the tone for the next season. Dog with Two Bones was a very surrealistic kind of piece [that led to] strange elements in Season Four. Between john Quixote, the presence of Noranti, unrealized realities and the exploration of wormholes and Time travel, there's a different sort of tone for Season Four which is established by the end of Season Three. And Season Five is a Humpty Dumpty season. putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. Literally. So literally and figuratively you have the first beat of the next season, which is a closure of the Earth elements and putting lives back together again after they've been so fractured in the course of the last three years. So Season Five was, as planned, totally different from Season Four."

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For someone whose leading role in a Sci-Fi show was ripped away from him incredibly abruptly, Ben Browder seems like his usual jokey self. He's back home in Los Angeles with his wife and kids, and he's philosophical about his current state of unemployment. "No, I'm not depressed," he says in a tearful-sounding voice before laughing. "No, it's been interesting in a lot of ways. I'm not accustomed, after four-and-a-half years of doing Farscape, to the audition process, so I'm having to relearn that, and I'm having to relearn what it's like being an unemployed actor and the difficulties involved in that. The whole time I was on Farscape, I was always aware that this is a crapload easier than being out of work. When you're doing a show,  you have a relative level of importance. You have to show up, and they need you there to shoot the thing, and so you're important for a certain period of time. But there are few things in the world less important than an unemployed actor.

John Crichton"One of the great things that my father used to tell me was the story of the conquering Roman generals. When they would come back riding with the chariot in Rome, there would be a slave chained, riding with the Emperor on the chariot, whispering in the conqueror's ear 'Glory is fleeting'. And it was his way of reminding me that it's one thing to enjoy it, it's another thing to think it's gonna continue forever or that ultimately it is that important. So that's where I am. Now I'm auditioning, and glory is fleeting.

"I haven't booked a job yet. There have been very few scripts which I've seen which I went, 'Oh man, I gotta have this job' because most of the jobs pale in comparison to the things I was getting to do on Farscape. I was  extremely lucky in what I was asked to do for that show. So many of the scripts are cops and lawyers. 'He's a cop!' 'He's a lawyer!' 'He's a lawyer cop!' How many different ways can you do cops and lawyers shows?"

As Browder explains, Farscape possibly encountered problems because of mainstream tastes. "Farscape is a different creature from most television. Most people would rather come home and turn on Friends and eat a TV dinner and drink a couple of beers, and not have to bite off as much as watching an episode of Farscape.

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"That is what they want, that's just not what we did. That isn't what Farscape was. We weren't catering to that audience, we were catering to Farscape's audience, which I think is a slightly different breed. The Farscape audience in general is highly engaged and intelligent and demanding. The danger, of course, is that when you fall short, you're gonna get hammered by them for it but I don't think most people would hammer an episode of Friends going, 'Ah, it sucked!' With Farscape, you better believe it, every other week somebody's going, ah! What happened to this show?' And that's the beauty of it. You're writing for a really, really good audience, in the sense that they're engaged in what you're doing and that makes a challenge for you and it makes the story interesting to tell and hopefully makes the story interesting for people to watch."

The problem with this approach, as Farscape sadly proved all too readily, was that you run the risk of alienating any new viewers who might happen to channel-hop across to the show. Season Four faced severe criticisms of being dense and impenetrable from fans alone. "There are people who just started watching the show with Season Four who seemed to love it," considers Browder, "and then there are long-term fans who weren't happy, and then there are some in between. But that's taken from watching the traffic on the Internet, and that may not be an accurate assessment of Farscape's audience. Because the majority of people who watch the show aren't trafficking the Internet. Sounds like drugs, doesn't it?" he suddenly realizes. "Trafficking in Farscape on the Internet! It's an illicit activity, it's probably illegal and I'm sure there are certain executives somewhere who'd like it to stop. 'Just watch the show and don't tell us what you think!' 

My Three Crichtons

"I love hearing what people have to say. What the hell are you telling the story for if it's not for the audience? Go work in a bank, you know? Go work on Wall Street, get a job in a dentist's office, but if you're not interested in what the audience is taking from your story, why would you be involved in acting and writing and film-making and theatre and all of these things? The audience and the story is everything. What is the story and where is the audience for the story? That's it. Storytelling is a communal process. I have a story, here's my story. I hope it entertains. I hope it inspires. I hope it makes you laugh. I hope it makes you cry. And without the audience we're nothing.

"The outpouring after the show's cancellation is an example of how engaged our audience is in the story. So on the one hand we achieved that, and on the other hand we didn't get the viewers. But if we'd have achieved the numbers we wouldn't have achieved that outpouring, so you have to live and die by the sword. I'll take that any day. I'll take being cancelled for that reason as opposed to being on air and having to slow the show down to reach a proper audience."

And what about the way the series finished, with the sudden deaths of both Crichton and Aeryn shortly after a proposal of marriage? What would have happened next? "It's the afterlife!" insists Browder. "Crichton in Hell! You don't really think that the story ended when they died? No, it's the beginning! What about Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life? Technically he was dead for most of the movie! Stories do exist. There's a lot of interesting discussions about where we were going at the end of Season Four, and there's some really cool stuff at the beginning of Season Five. But it's a future plot point which I'm not allowed to discuss."

What, even now? "Even now I wouldn't discuss it, because Farscape's story ended at the end of Season Four, but a lot of stories in Science Fiction ended at a certain point and they didn't really. There's a great story to tell of Chiana, D'Argo and Rygel exploring the Uncharted Territories and finding their way back to Earth." He laughs. "Crichton and Aeryn are dead; that doesn't matter! Farscape still exists! As long as there's a Rygel, there's a Farscape. Proof positive; I always knew Rygel was the star of the show, and now I know it for sure. Season Five: Rygel in a bar with D'Argo."

On the suddenness of the deaths, Browder claims it's "Like life; one day you're fine, you're walking around, and then barn! You're hit by a bus and it's over. It's kinda like Farscape ended for us. There we were, we're shooting, we've finished ep 22, we're doing pick-ups for ep 17, and bam! Word came down: 'You're done'. We'd finished shooting ep22 completely, totally, when we found out that we weren't coming back."

As for the star-crossed lovers, Browder is happy with the attitude they demonstrated towards their doom. After all that's come after you, do you accept a moment of happiness and enjoy it no matter what may come? And they don't know they're gonna be shot; they're out there in a boat! And the fact is, they take the moment and they kiss and then they're shot. It's actually pretty good. It's like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, where they're going, 'Okay, we're gonna make that run for it' and they run and then it's over. I don't mind that as a way of telling stories. Do you want resolution to certain things? Yeah, but there are things which are not esolved. There are certainly character things and large story arcs which are not resolved, and you wanna see some resolution, particularly to the Skarran/Peacekeeper conflict. I personally wanted to see Crichton and Aeryn doing the Butch and Sundance thing, to see how they handled being together over a period of time, because I think it would be really interesting. With Aeryn being pregnant and shooting her way out of a bad situation, and Crichton going, 'Dammit honey, get out! Think of the baby!', you know? Aeryn having morning sickness, throwing up while shooting the aliens. I think there's a lot of great moments left to tell."

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