Farscape-Season 1 Box Set (Universal) (1999)
Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Quiz-Trivia Quiz (11)
Featurette-Character Profiles (5)
Gallery-Character Profiles (5)
Featurette-Australian Creature Shop
|Year Of Production||1999|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (6)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||None Given|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
When I first heard that the Henson workshop would be producing a new science fiction series I was very excited. I was already a fan of The Muppets and The Dark Crystal and had high hopes for the new series. When Farscape arrived, I was very impressed with the entire show. The characters produced by the Henson workshop are great and are completely believable.
They set out to produce something a bit different from the usual series that we have seen over the last few years and I believe they have succeeded admirably. One key aspect of the show for me is the humour - it is very Australian in flavour and in its irreverence. I hope that if we do ever meet someone from out there that they land in Australia. The Americans would probably shoot them, and the Europeans would probably be rude to them. The Aussies, well...we would introduce them to beer and then sleep with them, thus ensuring a peaceful coexistence.
For those that have not seen this series, herewith is a quick overall look at the show.
Farscape is set in the near future where a young Earth scientist is performing an experiment. His small spacecraft is launched from a shuttle and is attempting to gain speed though something like a gravity well manoeuvre. During this experiment, a sun spot opens a wormhole, and our poor scientist is transported across the universe. Just after he pops out of the wormhole, he has an unfortunate collision with another ship, and the pilot of the other ship does not survive the experience.
He is picked up by a strange spacecraft. On board he finds a group of escaped prisoners trying to outrun the local law enforcement agency, the peace keepers. At first he is completely confused and lost in a universe that is far from what he knows. We follow along through the season as he slowly comes to terms with being very lost in space. The very diverse group that he is now part of eventually comes to accept him, and this slow acceptance and learning is one of the best parts of the show. Everyone on the ship is trying to get to their respective homes, a task complicated by the local peace keeper commander who has a personal vendetta to settle (it was his brother that was piloting the ship that crashed).
The characters in Farscape are a strange and wonderful collection. The ship itself is actually alive, a bio-mechanoid creature capable of starburst. It is piloted by a creature that is grafted permanently in place, a sort of symbiosis. On board are Aeryun Sun, a female peace keeper who was forced to flee with the others when she was accused of being contaminated by contact with the other aliens. She is a from a race that looks human but is in fact different, at least on the inside. Also on board are Ka D'Argo (a Luxan warrior), Rygel XVI (the deposed Dominar of the Hynerian Empire), and Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan, a Delvian priestess who is over 800 years old, but who definitely does not look it.
The concepts and storylines in this season are amongst some of the best and most original science fiction that we have seen on any screen in a fair while.
The premiere episode. We start on Earth and meet John Crichton and his father. During John's experimental space flight, he is sucked into a wormhole and transported to the far reaches of the galaxy. After being dragged aboard a large and strange craft, he is injected with translator microbes giving him the ability to understand what the strange aliens he finds on board are saying to him. At first what he hears is probably not quite what he expected. Using the theory that he was working on back at Earth, he and the others escape their pursers and run to the uncharted territories.
A wonderful choice as one of the first episodes; poor old Crichton has not even worked out what is going on and suddenly he is thrown into a reversal of roles. Landing on a nearby planet to try and stop a homing beacon that has been secretly attached to Moya, Crichton meets some of the locals who have never before encountered an alien race, placing Crichton squarely in the role of ET.
Moya becomes infested with a large number of space cockroaches, and they take over control of the ship for a purpose of their own. Part of what they do requires a high temperature. Unfortunately, Aeryun is a Sebacean and they cannot survive even moderately high temperatures. It is up to Crichton and the rest of the crew to discover what is going on and correct the problem before Aeryun is permanently turned into a vegetable.
Trying to barter with the Tavleks is not a particularly good idea. The Tavleks are a very hostile race that boost their physical abilities with a combined weapon/drug delivery system that clamps around the forearm. After a critical part of Moya is stolen, first D'Argo, then Aeryun and finally Crichton use the weapon and the drug. It has some rather bad side effects.
Groundhog Day in space. Crichton is thrown into a series of time loops after touching a strange containment device that is brought aboard by a passing spaceship. He starts to experience flashes of the future and does not like what he sees. Each time through the loop, he tries to improve the outcome, and it becomes a race against time to save everyone aboard the ship.
A seeming utopia that does not ring true. A planet where everyone seems happy in an agrarian society, planting, caring for and harvesting a single plant. The plant is their only source of food and is also collected into a large warehouse. Other members of the crew eat the food and join this society and cannot understand why Crichton does not want to join them. An underground movement ask Crichton to help them free their people.
Gee those alien Sebaceans sure do look mighty good. The crew of Moya discover the remains of a massive peace keeper warship, one that has been nearly destroyed. On board they find a peace keeper technician that Crichton finds very attractive. While exploring they come under attack from another race. Crichton and the technician must race to complete repairs on the warship or they will all be killed.
Crichton is kidnapped, or at least his mind is kidnapped, by a powerful evil sorcerer called Maldis. Maldis also kidnaps Captain Crais and places the two together with predictable results. To save Crichton, Zhaan must step off her chosen path of peace and rekindle the dark side that she has spent many years trying to suppress.
The desperate need to find a way home leads D'Argo, Zhaan, and Rygel to betray one of their own. A mad scientist collects DNA from races throughout the galaxy and can provide a map back to their home worlds, but the price is high. The scientist betrays them and attempts to turn Aeryn into a hybrid of sebacean and the race that Pilot belongs to.
While exploring a section of Moya, D'Argo dislodges a peace keeper seal that was covering a part of Moya. Suddenly Moya begins acting very strangely and the DRDs appear to have become violent. Crichton convinces the DRDs that he means no harm and discovers what is troubling Moya.
While attempting to recreate the conditions that brought him to the far reaches of the galaxy, Crichton damages his ship and is forced to land on a nearby plane for repairs. While there, a couple of bounty hunters turns up to look for the crew of Moya. Crichton attempts to bluff the bounty hunters, but as usual all does not go to plan.
An outlying colony of Delvians trick the crew of Moya into visiting their planet. Their goal is to take from Zhaan her ability to control her dark side, an ability that has taken many years to perfect. Once taken from her, Zhaan reverts to who she was before her training - a very bad girl indeed. It is up to Crichton, who is having his own problems with the mind games that the Delvians are playing, to convince Zhaan that she can still control her dark side.
Crichton and Aeryn are out in one of Moya's shuttles, with Crichton learning to drive it. They become entrapped in an invisible space dragnet that is patrolled by pirates looking for victims. Because of damage to their ship, one of them must be exposed to the vacuum of space while the other repairs the life support systems. Meanwhile, a rather strange little creature has turned up at Moya and offers to help. D'Argo is faced with the choice of rescuing Crichton and Aeryn or looking for a map that might lead him home.
Crichton loses it with his crewmates and decides to go for a drive around the block. While out, Moya makes an unscheduled starburst and leaves Crichton behind. He ends up on an idyllic planet with a culture not dissimilar to the Polynesian islands before contact with the outside world. Believing that the others have left him deliberately, he sets up home on the planet and is not very friendly when they finally find him. Things become a little complicated when it turns out that the natives believe that Rygel is their God.
During an unscheduled starburst, Moya collides with another vessel. The vessel is brought aboard and has three passengers; Durka, a peace keeper that tortured Rygel many years ago; a strange being that comes from a race that 're-educates' criminals; and a prisoner. Durka has been 're-educated' and claims to have renounced his previous evil ways. Rygel does not believe this for a moment and attempts to kill Durka. Unfortunately, he does not succeed in killing him, only in reversing the reprogramming that had been performed. The prisoner escapes and the strange being turns up dead while Durka takes over control of the ship. This episode sees the introduction of a new character, Chiana, a street urchin with a deplorable lack of morals.
Crichton discovers a wormhole and returns to Earth. Unfortunately, his welcome is not what he hoped for and he is arrested and isolated. The authorities do not believe that he is human, and even his father has doubts. When the others follow him through the wormhole, things go from bad to worse. But all is not as it seems.
While attempting to starburst before she is ready, Moya becomes trapped in a strange dimension. There appears to be four ships, each interconnected by strange interdimensional doorways. Each ship contains a strange and dangerous environment. Each of the crew ends up in a different reality, each pursued by a strange creature from yet another dimension. Crichton must find the doors between the ships and work out how to save the day.
A special forces group of peace keepers is forced to dock on Moya due to a fuel leak. Crichton attempts to convince the peace keepers that the ship is still under peace keeper control. The special forces group was on a mission to capture a very dangerous virus, one that is intelligent and can take over a person's body. As the virus escapes and leaps from body to body, the level of tension reaches paranoia level as both crews work together to recapture the virus. At the very last moment, Aeryn is wounded.
Unfortunately Aeryn's wound is far more serious than first believed. She will die if they do not find a compatible donor very quickly. The only sebaceans anywhere nearby are at a secret military base, the last place escaped criminals would normally be heading for. Crichton continues his masquerade as a peace keeper and attempts to infiltrate the base. By a strange quirk of fate, the technician that he was attracted to in PK Tech Girl is aboard and helps him out. Unfortunately, he is discovered and comes to the notice of Scorpius. Scorpius discovers that Crichton knows many things about wormholes and is determined to extract that knowledge at any cost. This is part one of a two part episode.
While the pregnant Moya starts to give birth, Crichton is being examined in a torture device that can read one's memory and display it on a screen. A quick reprogram of the machine by his tech friend implicates Captain Crais who ends up in the chair himself. Aeryn infiltrates the base and with a little help manages to get Crichton out of his cell. Now, they just have to get off the base.
While hiding from the peace keepers, the crew of Moya are called to an asteroid by a distress signal. They discover a lush garden world with two inhabitants. One appears to be a monster and the other a victim. The problem is in sorting out which is which.
Captain Crais loses control of his ship to Scorpius and ends up, of all places, on board Moya asking for asylum. Unable to starburst because her baby is too young to follow her, the crew are trapped and Scorpius is getting closer. A desperate plan is formulated and the crew all end up in the usual places for a series finale - facing death or capture.
As many have noted in the comments below, my initial impressions of this transfer differed from what I have outlined below. There are a couple of reasons for this. These are the first really bad discs that I have received for review since I upgraded my DVD player to one that includes the Fordua line doubler. The macroblocking that is present in this transfer is not as obvious when played as a progressive scan image, and it also looks different to what it appears like on an interlaced player. Here I must admit fault - I am so used to spotting problems on my old player that these problems were missed.
The image in between the problem scenes is very good and in many cases the problem sections are very short. They also occur in sections where there is lots of movement. You can get lulled into a false sense of security where the colours are excellent, close-ups of the characters contain such great detail and the storyline is so involving. This, combined with an audio track that left me with my jaw on the ground, did blindside me somewhat to the problems with this transfer.
I did see one comment from someone that has a bitrate meter on their player stating that the bitrate appeared to be constant throughout the transfer. This would concur with what I saw in the transfer in that there seemed to be a threshold above which the image broke down but below which the image was great. In fact, the in-between sections look better than great as they appear to have received a far higher bitrate than they would have normally.
The minute the comments appeared on this review, I reinstalled my old player in the equipment rack, and it will remain there from now on - I was shocked at what I saw. Single stepping some of the worst scenes is an education in just how important it is to get the encoding correct, as the image completely breaks down in some scenes.
The transfers on all six discs are the most confused that I have ever seen. Within seconds the transfer can go from perfect to the worst I have ever seen. The key difference is the amount of movement or change in the scene.
The material is presented at 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. This is the original aspect ratio. The first three series of Farscape were filmed at 1.33:1 - the fourth is going widescreen.
The transfer presents a beautifully sharp image with lots of detail present when there is no fast movement. The minute something starts moving it starts to lose sharpness. As the speed of movement increases, the object becomes more blurred and it finally reaches a point where it becomes almost transparent. A clear example of this is in Episode 3 at 12:13 where Crichton jumps off a couch - watch his arm as it sweeps down. The shadow detail is perfect and there is no low level noise.
Colours are great as are the skin tones, be they pink, blue or other. The overall colour saturation is great and there is no chroma noise.
Scenes with little or no movement, either from a character or the camera, are clear and free of blocking. As the amount of change in a scene increases, we suddenly reach a point where macro-blocking starts to appear. Above a certain threshold, the entire screen dissolves in complete break-up. Take a look at Episode 1, starting at 0:25. In this scene, someone walks in front of the camera, causing macroblocking over most of the screen. At 3:37 we see the launch of the shuttle. At the start of the scene, there is no blocking but as it continues and the smoke spreads out from the launch we suddenly reach the threshold and again the scene breaks up. One of the worst examples of this on any of the discs is the wormhole transit at 5:40. In this section there is camera movement as well as many flashing lights causing brightness changes across a large portion of the screen - one scene here is completely macroblocked. This pattern continues throughout the remaining discs. Examples from Disc 2 include: Episode 6 at 7:47 where someone walks across the front of the camera; Episode 7 at 17:03 and so on. I have never seen a disc with such a contrast between the good and bad sections. As there is only just under 200 minutes of material to fit onto two layers and a reportedly perfect PAL transfer already exists in Region 2, I am at a loss as to why this transfer is so bad.
There is also some minor aliasing present such as on the computer console at 1:58 in Episode 5 on Disc 2. There are only couple of tiny white flecks visible in any episode - the film masters are in excellent condition.
There are no subtitles.
The discs are dual layered, with what appears to be two episodes per layer.
There are two audio tracks present on these DVDs; an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The 2.0 track is called stereo on the menus and does not have the surround bit set but certainly appears to have surround information encoded within. The opening studio clips and the extras all have Linear PCM 2.0 48kHz/16bit soundtracks.
There appear to be two very tiny audio dropouts on the first disc in the second episode. At 2:39 and 2:46, the background ambience disappears for a split second. Unless you are really listening, you won't even notice these.
Dialogue quality was excellent throughout. I particularly liked the episode on 'Earth' where we hear the characters' native languages. There are no problems with audio sync.
There is some really great music used in this show, starting with the very original theme music and continuing right throughout the show.
The surrounds are in constant use with music, ambience and some great split rear effects - a real showcase for the 5.1 format.
The subwoofer is also pretty much in constant use, with some real house-shaking, neighbour-waking, dog-scaring effects present.
|Surround Channel Use|
The disc opens with quite a number of credits including Channel 9, Jim Henson Workshops and others. We then see the standard opening from the show with the opening credits and Crichton's voice over. Thankfully, this can be skipped by the use of the menu button. The menus have a very nice themed background with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Selecting the play or chapter selection buttons plays a short video clip where Crichton's ship is thrown away from Moya when she starbursts without him aboard. The submenu loop is quite short, about 10 seconds in length, which sometimes makes making a selection a little difficult depending on your DVD player's restart speed. Selecting play plays all four episodes on a given disc without stopping.
An excellent, if slightly short, documentary on the making of the show. It includes excerpts from the other special features such as the character interviews. We hear from the producer, the director and many of the people that make the show possible. They talk about their ideas for the show and about the characters.
An interview with the designer of the costumes for the show. Again, a very interesting look at how the costumes were designed, the colours that were chosen and the materials used.
For each character there is a video interview and a small picture gallery. These are all very good. Seeing Ka D'Argo without his costume was a bit of a surprise. The pictures are not full screen but inset into a small box in the centre of the screen.
25 pictures inset into a small centre screen covering the conceptual designs. These are a series of drawings in both black and white and colour.
A look inside the creature shop that was set up to support the show. The main characters were made in England but each week many 'extras' and other background or special guests had to be produced. As they mention, producing this number of characters for a weekly show was unheard of before this show.
The first 5 discs each have two sets of trivia questions related to the episodes on that disc. The 6th disc has a single set of questions for the two episodes on that disc. These are a real giggle and contain the same sort of humour that pervades the show itself.
Those with a DVD ROM can access some screen savers for both Mac and IBM computers.
A single page with 5 web links.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This is going to be a very difficult comparison. Region 1 has seen Season 1 released on a series of discs with two episodes on each. The complete set of these discs seems to equate to our box set except for the inclusion of audio commentaries for some episodes. The other material, such as the character profiles, appears to be present on the Region 1 release but spread over a number of discs.
Region 2 seems to have had the season broken up into mini boxed sets with 4 or 5 episodes on two discs. There is mention of a trailer and of an extra character profile on Rygel that we have not received, but otherwise the content appears again similar.
Region 4 is out of the running completely due to transfer problems. This leaves a PAL transfer in R2 that is missing the commentaries and an NTSC transfer with the commentaries. The commentaries are described by one R1 reviewer as hilarious so they seem to be a sad exclusion from the other regions. If you insist on PAL R2 is the go. If you don't mind NTSC and want the commentaries then R1 is the winner.
Farscape is one of the best Sci-Fi series ever produced, and that is coming from a die-hard Star Trek TOS man. Farscape features great characters and stories with just the right mix of humour. If you did not see it the first time around then you should definably consider getting these discs.
The video is problematic.
The audio is amazing.
The extras are fun and informative.
|DVD||Skyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output|
|Display||Sony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.|
|Speakers||B&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)|