“Farscape” Season Three: The Season of Death
The third season of FARSCAPE, the SCI FI Channel’s highest-rated, original series continued to amaze, surprise, and engage its viewers. The deftly plotted stories delivered satisfying and deep character development against a background of galactic politics that increasingly involved John Crichton (Ben Browder), Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black) and the others. FARSCAPE Season Three, although darker in tone than the previous two seasons, offered something for everyone, with the promise of more to come in seasons four and five.
In Season One, astronaut John Crichton got lost on the other side of the universe, sucked through a wormhole. He spent most of the first season trying to stay alive. Season two, he learned the cost of living amongst aliens in the Uncharted Territories, as the clone of the Scorpius (Wayne Pygram) slowly took over his mind. Season three, John was sane, but still facing peril at every turn, even in the most unexpected places. He coped with extraordinary situations, and increasingly involved himself in the bigger issues of war and peace and the balance of power in the Uncharted Territories.
Explained creator and executive consultant Rockne S. O’Bannon, “First season John Crichton was like a little puppy dog who has found himself some place he doesn’t recognize, and was just struggling to find his way. Second season, he was far more effective, starting to understand the technology, and the personalities of the people he was with. Dealing with aliens was no longer a matter of strangeness and awe, like it was in the first year. Third year to me is just kind of a natural extension of that. It’s obviously born from a non-conventional drama place, from a science fiction place. It is full-bore emotion, FARSCAPE at its best.”
Browder said, “The thing that people forget about John Crichton is that he still wakes up every day and does not have a clue as to what’s going to jump at him from around the corner. Every new place they go to, he still encounters something that he is completely unfamiliar with. The people around him are still using words like drannit and hesmana, and he may or may not know what these words are. Half the time he doesn’t even understand what Chiana [Gigi Edgley] is talking about. But he’s managed to cope with that. Every other week somebody is going to die. That’s a pretty stressful existence. The only people that you have had around you for the last two-and-a-half years and care about, every one is in danger.”
The people making FARSCAPE, lead by executive producer David Kemper, faced their own problems in the real world in getting season three to air. FARSCAPE, which won a Saturn Award season two for best cable or syndicated sci-fi series, is produced in Australia by The Jim Henson Company in association with Hallmark Entertainment. Other executive producers include Richard Manning, Brian Henson, Robert Halmi, Jr. and Juliet Blake, with producer Anthony Winley, consulting producer Sue Milliken, and line producer Lesley Parker. The company was forced out of their space by the Olympics in Sydney, Australia during the summer of 2000, so they started work late on season three. Early on in the year, a fire on the set of Talyn mandated scheduling changes and a rebuild of the set. They got the show started on time, not only with episode one, “Season of Death,” but also a primer called “FARSCAPE Undressed” and a new title sequence underscoring the dangerous choices John Crichton might have to face if he tried to get back home. By the end of the season everyone was struggling to finish on time. SCI FI Channel viewers had to wait from August 2001 to April 2002 to see the last four episodes of season three.
David Kemper explained that work on season three started and ended late. The company needed a break before starting production on season four. Since fourth season work did not start until almost 2002, new episodes would not be ready until June. He said, “The Olympics threw us off the schedule. Once we got off the schedule, we’ve been behind. At the end of [season three], if we had come back after sixty days off, the show would have folded. Everyone was exhausted, including me. We needed 120 days off. The core thirty or forty people collapsed in mass. It’s just too hard. Everybody has got to have three months off, once in awhile, after three years. We needed the break, and SCI FI decided to hold the last four shows, instead of airing them in December. If they had aired them in December, there wouldn’t have been anything to air January through June anyway. So they made the decision, rather than blow four eps by themselves, they would rather hold those four eps, and air them right before the start of [fourth] year.”
Kemper outlined the major themes of FARSCAPE’s season three. He explained, “The first great catastrophe to befall the group was the death of Zhaan [Virginia Hey]. Rockne created this cast, to which we added Chiana. You have a really nice balance. Then an actress says, ‘I don’t want to do the part anymore.’ We didn’t want to lose Zhaan, but Virginia wanted to leave. Zhaan was the spiritual center of the show. What are you going to do? You are missing mommy. We decided to play the year as if mommy had disappeared. The strong matriarch of the family was gone, and they kind of dissolved a little bit into some dysfunctionality. When the mother is gone, this is what you are left with. You’re in trouble. We played that, and we made it work, and the characters made it great.”
The next challenge occurred when John Crichton was twinned. Said Kemper, “Splitting the Crichtons was the central theme of the year. [It] was a huge risk. I don’t know if everyone has ever done it for half a season, have two characters, same guy, and then killed one off. We liked it because none of us in our collective memory could remember a show where that had happened. That took up the middle of the year. The splitting of the Crichtons [was] intertwined with the Aeryn-Crichton relationship. You can’t get one away from the other.”
Woven throughout season three was Crichton’s journey to his destination in the two-part episode “Into The Lion’s Den” and ultimately the finale. Said Kemper, “From the day I started the season, I knew the two-parter, getting to the Command Carrier – I knew that Crichton had to confront Scorpius. I knew this was a year where Crichton had to confront things. When I realized he was confronting things I said, ‘He’s got to confront Aeryn, and he’s got to then confront himself.’ The year became about those confrontations.”
“SEASON OF DEATH”
To open season three, executive producer and writer Richard (Ricky) Manning had to solve the dilemmas left at the end of season two. The aptly titled “Season of Death.” tackled all of these problems. In “Season of Death,” the Diagnosan was able to restore Crichton’s brain function with a transplant. The Scorpius clone, however, had migrated off the chip and into John’s psyche, where he remained, although John gained a measure of control over him. Scorpius did get the neural chip, and survived, even though Crais (Lani Tupu) thought Talyn had shot him down. When Zhaan discovered that Aeryn’s body has been sustained in a cryopod, she used her own strength to pull Aeryn back to the land of the living. This gift would ultimately kill Zhaan, in the fourth episode of season three “Self-Inflicted Wounds Part Two: Wait For The Wheel.”
“Season Of Death” became the season’s theme, in a way. Said Manning about season three, “It’s gone dark. We don’t sit around and go, ‘We are going to make it dark just because we feel like it.’ We go where the stories take us. We know there are certain things that we want to do, and certain things that we have to do, and certain places we want to go. It’s just a matter of the great ideas that David comes up with, and we say, ‘How do we fit this in?’ and ‘Where will this allow us to go?’ We generally know where we want to wind up at the end of the season, so we do have a destination. Then it’s a question of, what’s the most interesting routes that we can come up with to get there?”
Post-production supervisor Deborah Peart gave her own take on the season. She said, “I think that Ricky Manning jinxed us when he called [episode] 10301, ‘Season of Death.’ It’s been without a doubt our toughest year. Starting production so late with the Olympics, re-creating the main title sequence, doing ‘FARSCAPE Undressed,’ all with no shift in our air date schedule has been tough on everyone.”
Claudia Black said, perhaps prophetically, “‘Season Of Death’ – it’s been outrageous. I want ‘The Season of Life’ next season.”
Once the writer/producers of FARSCAPE reconciled themselves to the fact that Virginia Hey was leaving, they found a way to make it work. O’Bannon saw Zhaan’s death as the most legitimate way to bring Aeryn back. He explained, “One of my concerns about killing off Aeryn at the end of season two, making that a key aspect of the cliffhanger, was we were asking the audience to vest themselves emotionally and really get involved in that funeral for a character who we knew would be back first episode of the next year. I thought, ‘The next time we try to do something like that the audience is going be less willing to give themselves over to us. With Virginia asking to leave the show, we have an opportunity to really pay for her return with something really valuable, which is another character.’ Aeryn returns, but Aeryn’s return was paid for by the death of Zhaan a couple of episodes later. Zhaan wasn’t resurrected. We wanted to make it as clear as possible that she wasn’t going to suddenly reappear.”
Viewers watching the first four episodes of season three saw Zhaan get sick and eventually sacrifice herself for her friends. Fans were angry. They wanted to know why Zhaan was killed and whose fault it was. Did Hey actually want to leave? The actress herself posted a number of answers to this question on Internet sites, as well as speaking at science fiction conventions. Some of her statements seemed somewhat contradictory. However, it became clear that as much as she loved Zhaan, playing the character took a heavy toll on Hey. During the first two seasons, she shaved her hair and eyebrows and was covered in blue makeup. Eventually this became too much of a burden for her.
Ben Browder explained, “Beyond the long makeup time, the two-and-a-half, three hours that Virginia would spend in makeup a day, that is only the beginning of the hardship. Here you have a beautiful woman who no longer has her hair, or her eyebrows. While she is working she is painted blue, so she can’t touch people. Virginia is a very tactile person. When she sees you, she wants to hug you; she wants to touch you. She does the same thing when she acts. Everywhere you go, there are little blue fingerprints everywhere. Then it’s cleanup time.
“The makeup job and the prosthetics in general can be very isolating,” he added. “This is my opinion – I think that may have been the hardest part for her, the isolating nature of it, because she is a very outgoing and tactile person. In the end she had to weigh up whether she wanted to continue being Zhaan or whether she wanted to be Virginia. I don’t think that she felt she could be Virginia while she was being Zhaan, in a way. Now I am getting into psychology, but I think it was harder than people thought. In the end I think she decided she wanted to do other things, so she made a decision.”
After growing her hair out a couple of inches over the summer break, Hey wore a bald cap when season three started filming. Careful viewers could see the change, visible the most in “Season of Death.” Not only did she look different, it became hard to film her because cap was too obvious. Although the scalp wounds that mirrored Zhaan’s decline allowed the use of a drape over her head, the bald cap itself actually took even longer in the makeup chair to apply. Apparently the whole thing was still too hard, and Hey wanted to leave.
David Kemper wrote the two-parter which claimed Zhaan’s life, something very difficult for him to do. He described “Self-Inflicted Wounds,” saying, “I had the whole outline done, and I was into writing the script, and it transpired that Virginia was going to leave. I had to stop and start over. We’d already done two years of FARSCAPE and I was exhausted. So I worked for about four days, and I said, ‘No.’ And I went ‘Zombie’ for about a month, which I needed to do. I just worked on everyone else’s stories, but I didn’t want to work on mine. Part of the reason was Zhaan. I love all the characters. Everyone is special in their own way. There is something really special about Zhaan. Every time I would work out the outline and I’d write a card that says, ‘Zhaan dies,’ it just didn’t work for me. I didn’t have the energy to write her death. I knew I wasn’t going to write it right, until I was comfortable with it. I had to go through realizing that Virginia was going to go, and grief and anger and sorrow and all that. When I finally realized that she was going, and I had come to grips with it, and I had worked on everyone else’s story, then I said, ‘All right. Now I can do it.’ I sat down to write it.”
The fans’ anger with Kemper, the person who wrote her death scene, was misdirected. Recalled Browder, “There was a degree, when she left, where people were very angry, and particularly angry at David Kemper. David Kemper has written the majority of really Zhaan-heavy episodes, and gave her a beautiful farewell, as well, and the setup so that she could leave. You’ve got to remember, she could have died off screen. Those things happen.”
He continued, “People taking it out on David Kemper is a form of absurdity in my mind. They have no way of knowing. They are angry that a character has died. Most often when an actor leaves a show, there is some big, huge public dispute, and the actor is publicly pilloried in the press. There was none of that with this. There was, ‘We understand. Both parties understand. Now let’s see how we figure out how to do it.’ It’s not a happy thing because the writers didn’t want to lose Virginia, and parts of Virginia did not want to leave the show. But the other parts did. The parts that decided to go, went, ‘I’ve got to get on with my life. I can’t be blue and not touch people and shave my head all the time.’ That’s a fair enough call. From our end, the situation was handled very, very amicably by everybody. It becomes the show’s responsibility not to replace her, but to move on and tell stories without her. It’s not necessarily an easy thing to do. It’s sadness, and it’s the kind of sadness like there is in life.”
The character of Zhaan fulfilled a number of rolls, none of which could be replaced by the others on Moya. As Kemper explained, she was the maternal figure, wise, serene, able to resolve conflict. He said, “Knowing from the very early stage that we’d be morally adrift a bit, I decided instead of fighting it, to play it. We consciously knew that we were going to play into the loss of Zhaan. It infused the whole year. Every character’s presence or absence means something. I think that the company, from the writers down to the actors and directors really made a virtue of the fact that we lost a character we didn’t want to lose. We let the ramifications affect our life, even though we didn’t say it. The crew had a rough year, and it would have been nicer had Zhaan been there to comfort them sometimes.”
Added Anthony Simcoe, who plays D’Argo, “I think that the show really misses that mother character there, and the settling attitude that that character had. Since she’s left you can see the child-like natures of the characters come out, which is providing a lot more tension between the characters. I like it to be prickly and difficult, and I like it when the characters don’t get along. I hate happy families, in a dramatic sense. On the ship I think it’s much more interesting if we are at each others’ throats, rather than ‘We band of brothers fighting against the bad guys.’ I think it’s much more interesting if we are fighting amongst ourselves as well. Zhaan leaving has enabled us to explore that a little bit more.”
Co-producer and director Andrew Prowse, noted, “Virginia was a very valuable asset as far as promoting the show. You look at the posters and the publicity for the first season, and there is a great photograph of a billboard in New York with one big, bald, blue [woman]. But then, that’s not the show. You’ve got an ensemble of characters, led by Ben. The show is really about a human who is lost in the Uncharted Territories. So in a sense, using Virginia as an icon was misleading. In one way we lost something, but in another way it gives us an opportunity to expand a lot of other characters and a lot of other people’s roles in the show. The show has to move. It can’t stand still.”
The departure of Zhaan coincided with the introduction of Jool, played by Tammy MacIntosh. Jool was in one of the cryopods brought on board Moya from the ice planet, from a species close enough to human to be used as a transplant for Crichton. When Jool’s chamber defrosted, everyone expected her to die. She didn’t. She stayed alive, causing trouble from her first metal-melting scream to her endless complaining.
Tony Tilse directed the two-part “Self-Inflicted Wounds” in which Jool arrived. He said, “It was hard, especially bringing her in when Zhaan was dying. It’s always hard for any character to come onto this show, because [of] its complexity, and the ensemble nature of the cast. It’s always hard for a new character to fit in, and also just to get used to the style, the way that FARSCAPE shifts and the way it works. The character has had a tough ride, only because I think when someone comes in at a time another character is leaving, there’s always a certain resentment towards that new character somehow. That was the hard balancing act, because she was a very unlikable character. That was the design of it, to be irritating. Trying to balance all that was quite a challenge to get her to fit in. Tammy’s done a great job with that.”
Tammy MacIntosh actually knew a number of the actors and directors working on FARSCAPE, and loves being on the show. But she was taken aback by the initial fan reaction, which she read on a friend’s computer. She recalled, “I went online, I think it was after the first or second episode aired in the States, and there were about seventy percent of the people who watched it that absolutely hated Jool, hated her with a passion. I remember getting off the computer, and I was actually really affected by it. I called Lily Taylor, one of the writers, and I almost in tears, going, ‘Lily, they absolutely hate her.’ Lily was going, ‘That’s fantastic that they hate her.’ I said, ‘But they really hate her. Nobody likes the character.’ I was really quite offended by it, but I can laugh about it now.”
MacIntosh added, “I was actually given directions to try not to be as mean as I was. I thought, ‘You know, she is going to be mean, because she is in a horrible place and she doesn’t like it.’ They said, ‘Yes, we know all that. You just need to be a little bit nicer, because nobody likes you.’ I said, ‘But when you cast me you wanted me to be mean, and be this loose canon.’ They said, ‘You’ve done that, and you’ve done that very well. But now we need you to be a little bit nice.’”
Explained director Ian Watson, “The producers have not tried to bring a character in that we would instantly like. I think Tammy has done a fantastic job of maintaining the character’s integrity, and maintaining her sense of place within the core group.”
TWO CRICHTONS ARE BETTER THAN ONE
Jool was not the only new character introduced early in season three. In the sixth episode, called “Eat Me,” John Crichton was twinned by a mad scientist. He was doubled, not cloned, and both of the two Crichtons were the same at the moment of their doubling. Upset and confused, the two Crichtons stayed together only through the next episode, “Thanks For Sharing.” At the end of that episode, one John stayed on Moya with D’Argo, Chiana, and Jool, and the other joined Crais, Aeryn, Rygel (voiced by Jonathan Hardy) and Stark (Paul Goddard) aboard Talyn. After that, their paths diverged.
David Kemper actually conceived this amazing, science fiction plot device quite some time ago. He explained, “The two Crichtons was an opportunity to give the audience what they wanted, what we wanted, what Crichton wanted, and what Aeryn wanted, which was love. It started with me knowing that you can’t play Crichton and Aeryn never getting together. That’s as much of a cheat as anything. When you put the two people together it changes the dynamics, and sometimes it changes the show. I wanted to take a look at the dynamics, and then be able to go back to the old way if I wanted to. It started from the desire not to be a stagnant show, and then it morphed into something really cool.”
Kemper added, “We were scared. Ben was scared out of his mind. ‘I have to do two characters now? It was hard enough doing one.’ Ben was nuts, because he had to track both characters from script to script. You’ve got five scripts, and he is shooting all five in one day. He’s got a scene from each one to pick up. He has to remember, [episode] 13, 15, 17 is this Crichton, 14, 16 is that Crichton. Where was this Crichton at that time? Ben deserves an Emmy just for that. It was just stunning what the man did during the year. He pulled it off. You’ve got to have an actor who can do it. Ben Browder is incredible. He makes the series go. He is so much a star. We got really lucky. The fans got really lucky. The third year is a tribute to all that.”
How did Browder play the two Crichtons? He explained, “I play them both as John. It’s just the situation is different. There is no original. They were split at the same time. They are both equal and original, that’s always the way I thought of it. I never though of them as any different. The only thing that was different was their circumstance. That’s what made it interesting to play. It’s one of those science fiction what ifs. It’s a really good science fiction what if. What if one doesn’t get the girl, one gets the girl? What if – both for her and for him, and for everybody around them. It allowed us a lot of practical things from a production standpoint. People in prosthetics and heavy makeup got a chance to let their skin and faces recover. It allowed us to make the stories more contained so that we could focus the stories and the story-lines.”
It did give the other actors a little bit more free time, since more or less every other episode took place on Moya, the other on Talyn. The farther away the two groups got from the split, the more different the Crichtons became, because they had different experiences. The Crichton on Moya, the guy with the green shirt, had no really serious problems to solve. But the Crichton on Talyn, who took Winona, John’s gun, was involved in the very difficult task of trying to save Talyn from a Peacekeeper Retrieval Squad led by Aeryn’ s mother Xhalax Sun (Linda Cropper). That Crichton also got Aeryn.
In fact, the two crews had completely different experiences. Noted Anthony Simcoe, “Ben, I think, was the first person to make that observation. If you can make generalizations about what happens in the split between the two ships, Talyn carries the emotional darkness, and Moya carries the irreverent, fun aspect, silly, fun aspect, wonderful outrageous aspects of the show. It’s just the nature of the people that ended up on both ships. They just ended up skewing that way. It’s really interesting, who’s on each ship and why it ended up like that, all the weird aliens on one ship and all the humans on the other one. But it was weird not working with those other cast members for that extended period of time, Claudia and Paul and Lani, and Talyn himself. I’m sure it’s the same for them not being on Moya. Those characters evoke or reveal different aspects of your own character. So it was interesting not having them revealed in the same way, because they were not there.”
Although the John on Talyn dealt with many serious situations, he also enjoyed a glorious love affair with Aeryn. Said Browder about the relationship, “I think that the characters have earned it. I think that the audience has earned it. I think that it’s an appropriate place in the story for it to happen. I don’t think you could really hold it off much longer, to be perfectly honest. There are some couples you sort of force together. [With] Crichton and Aeryn it was never that way. There has always been good chemistry, and past certain points, it became sort of excuses for why aren’t these two together? It’s just obvious that they should be together. It’s sort of joyous to see them that way with one another. I think they make a really good couple.”
Claudia Black, talking about Aeryn and Crichton together said, “For two or three years you can tease an audience, and then when they finally get it, they are sometimes disappointed. For the most part I think they were relieved to see that they hadn’t somehow been tricked again, that they weren’t being fooled, that there was something genuine happening between the characters.”
Browder laughed, “They are really cute together, aren’t they? They go out and they shoot things together. It’s so cool to watch them. They’ve been this way for awhile. You go back to ‘Beware Of Dog,’ even though Crichton was out of his mind, they way they move together, the way they act together, they are a beautiful couple to watch in action.”
But the John on Talyn did not survive. In the two part “Infinite Possibilities,” the group on Talyn discovered that the Scarrans were going to get Crichton’s wormhole knowledge, and use it as a weapon. To stop them, Crichton had to sacrifice himself, as he was exposed to irradiation using a wormhole to destroy a Scarran dreadnought. Recalled Browder, “So John died, and it was a beautiful death. All actors want those scenes. It was great to play a death scene. I was really upset when he died. I was enjoying playing domestic bliss. I thought it was really interesting to see Crichton and Aeryn actually functioning as a couple, and it’s tragic in the sense that now you know what they would be like. They would be all right. They could still go on kicking ass through the universe. They work together. They would eventually have a fight, but just to have that ripped away, just ripped away from the audience, it’s tragic.”
Because two Crichtons went on their separate journeys for enough time, the viewers actually distinguished them as two separate characters. Said Kemper, “What I wanted to do – and it was my idea from the middle of year two on to do this – was to let enough time go by, that the audience would stop thinking it was a gimmick. As they rightfully should have through Ben’s magnificent performance, in the audience’s mind they became two separate people, with separate goals and wants. They had two different sets of experiences. You believed for that time there were two Crichtons. So when this one died, you felt the loss so strongly, because Crichton died. In all actuality, no tricks here, Crichton did die. That was why the twinning was so important. It wasn’t a duplication, it wasn’t a cloning, it was a twinning. You had a lot of time to get to know this guy and like him. You didn’t really know which was the original because they were identical. So, when he died, it was as if Crichton really died. That worked. That defined year three. It allowed us to tell a nice story, and we learned some information. And there are so many repercussions of this going to go on for the rest of the series. I will say that I am proud that the show, including everyone, including the SCI FI Channel, had the balls to do it, to take the risk. What we did by splitting the Crichtons was give people something that they can’t get on another show, the death of a main character in the arms of his lover.”
Because there were two Crichtons, this science fiction concept allowed the whole problem to be viewed from many different angles. Kemper added, “Now you have all these great ramifications of what happened. The lover is still alive, and there is another guy who is identical, sort of. He doesn’t remember having an affair with Aeryn because he didn’t have one. Imagine if you lose somebody who is so beautiful to you, and then you see the same person again. Your first instinct is to say, ‘I love you.’ But your second instinct, because of the situation they are in, is to say, ‘Are you going to die again? I’m Aeryn. I’m someone who doesn’t give my emotions freely. I don’t know if I can do this again.’”
The dying John gives a message to Stark, which is then conveyed to the John on Moya by a hologram from Stark’s mask when the crew is reunited in “Fractures.” One John tells the other John he must complete the work, and make sure that Scorpius and the Peacekeepers don’t have the ability to make wormhole weapons. This propels the group through the last four episodes of season three.
THE COMMAND CARRIER AND SCORPIUS
By the time the people making FARSCAPE got to the last four episodes, they were exhausted. But they knew they were headed to the Command Carrier. Recalled Kemper, “We were like in a life boat and just trying to row to the end of the year. We knew where we were going early. When you get numb and tired, you stop thinking, and you start going on instinct. We did it, and because we knew the last four eps from the beginning of the year, we got there in grand style.”
Anthony Simcoe agreed. “The Command Carrier stuff is really, really great,” he said. “We move lots of the resources to both ends of the season. It’s often when you see the more spectacular episodes, at the start and at the end. They are lots of fun for us to play. Especially when we are so tired at the end of the season, it’s great to move into more elaborate sets, and setups, and effects.”
Episode 19, “I – Yensch, You – Yensch,” started the group on the path to the Command Carrier, as Rygel and D’Argo started negotiations with Scorpius. They got there in the two-part “Into The Lion’s Den.” “Part One: Lambs to the Slaughter” was written by Richard Manning, and directed by Ian Watson. “Part Two: Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing,” directed by Rowan Woods, was written by Rockne S. O’Bannon. Every department gave their maximum contribution in order to produce these episodes.
O’Bannon who also wrote episode 18, “Fractures,” explained that Crichton listened very carefully to the message from the other Crichton delivered by Stark’s mask, that no one should have wormhole-based weapons. O’Bannon said, “At the end of episode 18, Crichton gathers all the people together, everybody aboard the ship, and says, ‘Look, I can’t ask you guys to help me with this, but this is something I must do.’ He has obviously taken very much to heart the mandate by his dying other self, and his last line is ‘We are going to the Command Carrier.’ The two-parter, ‘Into The Lion’s Den,’ is where we go right on board the Command Carrier.”
Director Ian Watson was amazed at the whole journey of Crichton and Scorpius. He said, “It’s been quite a momentous six months for us putting it all together, and just seeing the whole journey story from Scorpius being at the beginning, to doing Scorpius’ backstory [‘Incubator’], to then learning about the Scarrans, and then seeing Scorpius and Crichton team up. I have a shot in ep 20 where Crichton comes on the Command Carrier and actually shakes Scorpius’ hand. That arc, in itself, from the beginning to the end of the season, is just extraordinary.”
Scorpius only thought Crichton was going to help him fight them. In fact, John decided that not even to defeat the Scarrans should anyone have wormhole weapons. O’Bannon said, “Scorpius believes that Crichton is finally saying, ‘I’ll do this to get you off of our backs.’ Crichton knows that the Command Carrier is the heart of the Peacekeeper wormhole experimentation, because it is entirely Scorpius’ project. Crichton says, ‘This entire ship is the experiment.’ Scorpius is using the whole body of the ship as a repository for the information. The ship itself is a big receptor for wormholes. It means if we destroy the Command Carrier, it will totally destroy the Peacekeeper’s experiments.”
Everyone, including Rygel and D’Argo, who appeared to be cooperating with Scorpius got something in return. They needed information to head off on their own personal missions at the end of the season in “Dog With Two Bones.” But finally, it was Crais along with a tormented Talyn who actually destroyed the Command Carrier. Talyn and Crais Starburst from inside the Command Carrier, losing their lives to destroy it. Said Watson, “Crais ultimately is a good man. Human is not the right word, but he has a good soul. In terms of his journey, he reveals yet another aspect of his character, that he too can make sacrifice. Crais makes an ultimate sacrifice.”
In “Dog With Two Bones,” written by Kemper and directed by Andrew Prowse, the group tried to deliver Talyn’s remains to a Leviathan burial ground. Everyone was preparing to leave Moya for their own journeys, but Crichton did not know what to do. Aeryn, too, was leaving, without John. A mysterious old woman (Melissa Jaffer), who was rescued from an escape pod, tried to help Crichton decide what to do by giving him visions of Earth and of Aeryn.
Explained Kemper, “Crichton goes a bit adrift morally, unsure of what to do, reaches out to somebody, and the person that really listens is this old woman. Nobody actually stops and really, really deals with what his problem is except this old woman. Crichton has already utilized her in a way that he probably would have utilized Zhaan had Zhaan been on the ship. Crichton needed somebody to talk to in a way that was deeper and more meaningful than he could have gotten with the other crew members. Fortunately this old woman was there and knew how to listen in a very unique way.”
Ultimately, this old woman, aided by the Scorpie clone, led Crichton to believe that Aeryn is pregnant. As the episode ended, Crichton had decided to go back for her, but she was out of range. He was alone in his module, and Moya was swallowed up by a wormhole. What this all means will not be revealed until fourth season, set to begin in June. Not only is season four guaranteed, but so is season five.
Noted Kemper, “Everything that you see in the last four eps, as well as the whole other sixty-two episodes of FARSCAPE that have been shown so far, is really thought out. We work really hard on the scripts. The actors and the directors and the crew think it out too, so everything you have seen means something. Just like in real life, it doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means. What I am saying is, we do want you to assume some things, and you assume them. Other things we leave a little bit vague, and we think we know how you are going to interpret them. It’s like at the end of ‘Die Me, Dichotomy,’ everybody is thinking Aeryn is dead. The ones that actually were scared, we mislead them. We put her in a grave, so you are supposed to think she is dead. Someone did die at the end of episode 222, but it was Zhaan.”
Kemper added, “We are telling a big story. So the things that people see and think, some of them are true. Some of them are not, and we aren’t telling you which ones. That’s how we are going to surprise you later. Just remember, the story ain’t done. There [are] at least 44 more eps to go. We already know what’s happening at the end of year four. If we know what’s happening at the end of year four, then we have to know what’s happening at the start of year five. I actually even know what’s happening at the end of year five. I always get a smile when people watch like 319 through 322 and go crazy. I want them to, because the fun of watching, of being a fan, is going crazy along the way. But I always say to people, ‘Remember, you are just in the middle of the movie. We haven’t even gotten started yet.’”
Kemper talked about year four, saying, “We are going to be different, and better. People are going to have get used to it. Get ready for year four, because it’s going to take a hard left turn like it’s supposed to, and it’s going to go over bumpy road when you think it should be smooth. It’s going to get smooth when you expect it to be bumpy.”
Kemper added, “This show will have the same writers, producers, directors and actors on it, and creative team. Every department head is the same except one, makeup, and she [Lesley Vanderwalt] went on to do MOULIN ROUGE and STAR WARS. The special effects team are going to be here until the end. People won’t leave because they know something better is coming. People tell me that all the time. I say, ‘You’re back for the fourth year?’ ‘I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I have no idea what’s coming but I am not going to miss it because I know it’s going to be better than last year, and more of a challenge.’ These people want that. That’s our show, and it’s evolving right now, and it’s going to change.”
Animal Logic, who did the visual effects season two and three just kept getting better. Andrew Prowse, who shepherds episodes through post-production, said, “The visual effects we have sorted out. We have a team of fantastic people doing them. Nick Martinelli – he took the show into a stronger visual place. But there is always other places you can go. We’ve got a team of 3-D animators who are totally dedicated to the show. Like everybody else, they are constantly pushing the envelope, trying to break new ground, and trying to do things that you can’t do in television. I think the show is going to be legendary for that. We pull it off more often than we probably deserve to, [because of] the people who are making it, their commitment to it, and the encouragement they are given to do it. When you give people the room to try the things that they want to try, they’ll usually pull them off one way or another. If you stomp on people and say, ‘No, we can’t do that because we don’t have the budget for that, or ‘That’s not this kind of a show,’ they just go, ‘We’re just making stuff. If they just want to make stuff, we’ll make stuff.’ This show has commitment. Commitment is what makes it work.”
Kemper said proudly, “When I look back at year three, I am extraordinarily proud. The show isn’t seen by that many people, in comparison to say, ER. But I sure hope that someday in the future through DVD’s and syndication that a new audience will find the show. Ten years later it will be just as gratifying to me if people see this show and go, ‘Wow, that was good.’ I only care about people looking at it and saying, ‘This is good.’”
Copyright 2002 Anna L. Kaplan. A shorter version of this article originally appeared in the June 2000 issue of Cinefantastique (Volume 34, Number 3-4). You can access other articles from this issue here.
RELATED INTERVIEW: Claudia Black on playing Aeryn Sun