So what brought this innovative series to such an abrupt end? Are there any lessons to be learnt? And what of the future for Science Fiction on Television? Paul Spragg draws some conclusions...

The Farscape is one of sadness tempered with joy. Four years is a good run for any series, and the fact that the show continued to improve and expand over its time on air will mark it down as one of the genre greats. Thereís never been another show like it, and there probably never will.

The fourth season, while not perfect, was typical Farscape. On the one hand, it was interesting watching, and continued in the Farscape tradition of making its viewers think and work out their own answers. On the other, there was an increasing feeling that maybe the show was becoming too dense and over-complicated for its own good, bringing in new characters with no warning, spicing things up with a few mysteries and putting established characters in unlikely new situations. While it may not have reached levels of being smug and self-satisfied, eschewing popularity in order to become increasingly outlandish, it did start to aim itself more towards the fans. Hardly a major offence, but if you start to complicate things needlessly for those already watching, then you automatically eliminate a large proportion of your potential audience, ie those tuning in and catching the show by channel surfing and there will be a problem. Not so much of a problem on the Sci-Fi Channel, you might think, where SF fans are exactly what is wanted, but apparently thatís simply not the case. The channel cited dropping viewing figures and an inability to appeal to an audience outside of its fan base as reasons to pull the plug on the series, seemingly vindictively splitting the final 22 stories into two 11-episode chunks in order to get round the contractual necessity of two further seasons.

Did Farscape pus itself too far too fast? Maybe it did. Was its desire to take these kinds of risks on the reasons it became a critical darling? Definitely. Yet in the end, as so many series have before, it fell foul of one of the oldest problems facing any TV programme: low viewing figures. Itís difficult to say if it could have recovered; ratings for the last few ep9isodes were down, but that might have been because viewers werenít interested in seeing the death throes of an already-cancelled series.

It lived fast and died, maybe not young, but certainly before its time. Hopefully it will one day rise again, but until then it remains something to aspire to fro other genre creaters; its influence will live on. 

 

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