CULT TIMES SPECIAL #26

Admirable Crichton

by Paul Spragg

Who knows, it may become a franchise yet! Ben Browder looks back on four years of the universe being against him.


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Crichton and Aeryn: not kissing because it's too tricky to explain to the kids


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A Human Reaction


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Home on the Remains


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A Clockwork Nebari


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Scratch 'n' Sniff


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John Quixote


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Crichton takes Scorpius along to make the tough decisions in an alternate reality


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Twice Shy

CTS26_SadBunny.jpg (19936 bytes)Rather disconcertingly, Ben Browder seems to be unaware of how the concept of interviewing works. "How are ya?" he asks, before I've had a chance to say anything. "How's Blighty these days?" Er, it's very nice. Quite sunny at the moment, actually. "Oh good. I'm glad to hear that. That's just the climate, not the political climate. A-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho," he says, with a fake laugh. There's a war on at this point, you see. "It's all very complicated. Or maybe it's really simple, I'm just refusing to see how simple it is. But it seems to me to be the path we've been heading down for the last, oh, 50 years?" he chuckles. "I was trying to explain war to one of my children the other day, and it's a hard one to explain. When you have difficulty explaining something to your child, you know it's a complicated subject matter. 'Daddy, why do you kiss that other woman on TV?' 'It's complicated... That's what I do for a living."'

Is that enough explanation for them? "They like Claud [Claudia Black]," he laughs. "They're probably cognisant that what I do is pretend, because in addition to kissing women, pointing guns at people, blowing up things, killing thousands of people is another one to explain; actually, it's slightly more difficult to explain away. Although I have to say that kissing women was much more difficult to explain to my grandmother when she was alive." He switches into a broad, croaky Texan accent. "'Ben, you're a married man, you shouldn't be kissing them women on TV'. 'Okay grandmother, I gotcha. That's what I do for a living.' 'What does that make you, a whore?"' He throws in a sigh. "'Well basically, grandma, I think you're right, that's what I do for a living, I'm a whore."' Actually, now he's brought it up, would he get paid more if he was in that particular line of work? "You know, I've never stopped to figure that out. I don't know, I guess it depends on how long I'm actually doing the kissing. On a per-hour basis I'm stretching it out probably less..."

CTS26_Ahkna.jpg (13922 bytes)I wonder if he's ever had one of his kids ask if they can swap their real Mummy for the nice lady off the TV. Oooh man, I hope that never happens. Ha ha haaaaa! That would be very bad. I've been using the line lately that Mummy's evil. I just point to the TV and prove it. 'Mummy's evil, look, see? She's evil. This is what it's like in the morning before the make-up comes on."' Francesca Buller, Browder's wife, was playing Ahkna, the latest of several Farscape roles, at the end of the fourth season. "That's the first time she's gone in with no make-up! " insists Browder unwisely, before adding, "No, Fran's brilliant. She's brilliant as War Minister Ahkna. It's great when Francesca's on set. What's interesting, though, is that all the crew would call her 'The Boss'. 'Is the Boss working today?' 'Yes, my boss is working today'."

Well, we seem to have finally reached the subject of Farscape. "You'd better ask some questions, otherwise I'll go off and be talking about the weather and the political situation, and there's probably not much you're gonna want to print," warns Browder. "Y'know, if I had an opinion I'd tell ya," he says when I suggest a box-out on war. "I'm afraid I'm not firm in my opinions on this one. There's a crapload of grey area on both sides that needs addressing, and I honestly believe that. I've listened to arguments from both sides, I understand the arguments from both sides and I see the validity of what it is they're saying, but like most things with passion, which war really is, there's not much room for discussion. I don't think you can make logical arguments. It's gotta be the most absurd activity that Human beings engage in, mass conflict. My God. It boggles the imagination."

CTS26_AdmCrich.jpg (28385 bytes)In the meantime, since the demise of Farscape, Browder has had auditioning to keep him busy, but it's not all plain sailing. "Well, Farscape is either the best calling card in the world or the most useless calling card in the world. People who know the show, who are aware of the show, are pretty damn enthusiastic about it: 'Oh, love the show! , And the other response is 'Far-what?' It's not on everybody's radar. When it's off the radar in Hollywood, it just doesn't matter. I really can't complain because at least it's been interesting."

On the subject of Farscape's conclusion, there was a lot of talk of Season Four alienating new viewers, thereby causing the lack of ratings improvement that would have rescued the show. "I think that the numbers indicate we came out relatively even on that score. It was a desire from the network to reach a broader audience, so we started with fewer characters and rebuilt and reintroduced the show. That led to a frustration storytelling-wise for some of the long-term audience. We were working on a two-season plan, not a one- season plan as far as advancing the big story. So where we end up at the end of Season Four, we're halfway resolved on a number of issues. Whether we handled it well or not, I don't know. I couldn't say." Does Browder knows what was to come next? "I know some of the plans, yeah, yeah. I know a fair amount of the character stuff, yeah, I'm certainly aware of it.

"[Producers] David Kemper and Ricky Manning and Rock O'Bannon could tell you the plan; we're not obligated not to tell you, but I don't think it serves any purpose for me to tell you what the plan was because I think the hope is that at some point the story will continue; the audience will get to find out then. I would hate to be accused [by the fans]: 'He lied to us when he said this was the plan!' Depending on when it's told, that could change. It depends on what future incarnation of Farscape evolves; that is dependent upon somebody with a bagful of money figuring out that there are a lot of people that still wanna see more of the story.

Having said that, I think there is a certain poetry in the way that Season Four ends. If it is the end, I think there's great poetry in that finally you have a moment of happiness, and just like Farscape, wham! They get killed. Not just killed, shattered. Reduced to crystal shards."

CTS26_JA02.jpg (22748 bytes)He suddenly gets distracted. "Could you excuse me a moment?" 

A few seconds later, he's back. Did he forget to wash up? He laughs, reiterating his conversation. "'Hey, here's the thing. Don't forget...' 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, I got it, got it, got it.' 'Farscape's over with. Don't forget! ' She's not called the boss for no reason." 

Continuing on the conclusion theme, Browder relates that, "For years I've been saying to David [Kemper], 'Y'know, David, you should pull stuff out of the paper. Someone would bring in something, Discovery magazine, or Scientific American, going 'This would be an interesting thing to do, we'll just twist it'. I'm the one that says, 'You know, with all the drive-by shootings..."' He laughs. "'Really, we should just drive-by shoot a main character, what do you think?' I just didn't think it was gonna be me!

"I would love to comment on the fractured ending, but we're in a different realm of possibilities, and even if they're dead, is [anyone] dead or not? There's a lot of stuff there. Was Jesus Christ dead or not? The large mythic elements of the series come into play." So now he's saying Crichton turns out to be Jesus? "Well, his initials . are JC, you know," Browder laughs be- fore proceeding to point out the similarities: "He's one of the most hated men of his time and place. The empires want to destroy him, to take what he knows. The large mythic elements in storytelling are similar no matter what the culture, whether the culture be real or Science Fiction."

Would the actor have preferred a happier ending to the show? "I don't know. I have to be honest with you, I don't know what I would prefer. Do I have a problem with the way Season Four ends? No, not at all. You have closure on a number of elements, and you have a new element introduced."

CTS26_JScorp01.jpg (12767 bytes)As to the abrupt conclusion of the series itself, Browder admits he wasn't best pleased. "No, I wasn't. Career-wise it probably doesn't hurt for me to be back in LA trying to find something else while I'm still a relatively young man. Being in Australia was not a great boon for my career. Doing Farscape, however, was a great experience for me, a fantastic experience and a great opportunity to tell a story, to be involved, to learn. I don't know of any other character on television that has had the range of things to do that John Crichton has had. It's this really awesome character that the writers crafted for me '. to do; a fantastic character. It was a gift; , you don't expect many of those, if any; over 88 episodes you don't expect to get that kind of boon. I didn't want that story to end, I didn't want those challenges to end, I didn't really want to leave Australia, which I loved. I didn't want to leave my friends and comrades, my mates, behind. I went to Australia, didn't know anybody, and I came away with some of the best mates I'll have in my life. And I miss them. And I knew I was gonna miss them the minute we stopped shooting, I knew I was going to miss them. Because the day was coming; it always comes."

Is the actor still in touch with everyone? "I can't keep in touch with everyone, otherwise my phone bill would be unbelievable! I saw Wayne [Pygram] out for the weekend. Saw David Franklin last week- end. I talk to Ricky Manning and David Kemper and Justin Monjo from the writing staff, Andrew Prowse, Tony Tilse, Rowan Woods from the directing staff. They're not really all that accessible be- cause they're in Australia, most of these people. You can't pop round for a cup of tea, you know? Kind of a bugger, that."

Before we finish, Browder wants to make sure I've got everything I need from the interview. "You don't have to use every- thing," he insists, "just take the bits where , I sound smart and generous and kind." He laughs. "It's your job to make me look intelligent, man! Or the opposite is, if you've got a real bone to pick, you can take stuff out and make me look like an idiot. Depends how you feel that day. So I'm hoping that when you write it, you have a good day. You go for a massage, have a beer, make sure you haven't had a fight, make sure you've had sex in the last six hours and then start to write! That's the day I want you to have when you start this article, man."

He even has the solution if sex isn't readily available. "Look, it's a business expense!" What, sex can be written off against tax? "I don't know how the tax board feels about it, but I'm saying you can. 'Look, it was research! ' You're a writer, you can write about anything, anything is research. 'I ordered a pizza, it was research be- cause I needed to know how it felt to eat pizza, and I'm writing a scene about eating pizza.' It's all research, man. That's the great thing about writing; you never know what's gonna be useful."

Apparently, he has a back-up plan. "In the letters section say, 'Look, as opposed to the normal letters, I'm accepting proposals for sex with a guarantee that I will print your letter about how good I was in the .1 sack'. You're set, man! If you can't use the 1 magazine as a dating service, what's the 1 point in having one? Look, when I went into acting, I went in because of girls. The theatre chicks were really cool, and I'm kind of convinced that probably was the main motivation. I did happen to like acting, but, you know... But really man, theatre chicks were 'Wow'! I liked the theatre chicks! I thought, 'Well, I'll just hang out with them for a while, that'll be a career.' But magazine editing is the same thing. Am I gonna see you using it as a dating service or not? Are you gonna wimp out on me?" Okay, now he's scaring me. "I'm just tryin' to protect my interests so you write something good..."

Looks like if the acting goes quiet, there's always a career as an advice columnist...


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