“Farscape” Season Three: The Making of “Green-Eyed Monster”

By Anna L. Kaplan

“Green-Eyed Monster” proved to be an exceptional experience for everyone involved. First and foremost, the script was written by Ben Browder. As the series star, he appeared in every episode, but he amazingly found time during breaks, nights and weekends to complete his writing work. Browder was ready for this challenge, creating a memorable, character-driven episode, which the cast and crew enjoyed making. He said, “It was a very interesting experience, to actually go through the process that the writing staff on the show go through, and then to watch the work. It’s a different kind of reality.”

“Stories on FARSCAPE are actually broken with the writing staff together,” explained Browder. “We slap them up on a big board. We’ll sit around a table, and go through the entire story beat-by-beat. You go away, do an outline. It comes back with notes. Once the outline is where David Kemper and the rest of the staff think it should be, then you actually write the story. [This] story was essentially broken in Los Angeles with me, Ricky [Manning], David and Rockne [O’Bannon]. We finished the break in four to five hours of sitting and talking about the story and coming out with the basic beats. I went away and wrote an outline, and came back. We ended up breaking it again, and then breaking it another time, until everybody felt that there was a solid story there to be written. What you have at that point is the bare bones of the story. Then you go away and you refine the outline, and talk about it more. Then you start writing.”

It is not unusual for the writing staff to rewrite new writers. In this case, everything Browder wrote made it into the final script. Browder said, “In the actual writing of the story, I wrote every single word. No one touched the script other than me, the actors when they got their hands on it, and [director] Tony Tilse, when he got his hands on it on the floor. But those were changes that I was there for.”

Browder was writing for a group he knows well. He explained, “Another thing about writing, the most important thing, was something that David Kemper talks about. When you write for people that you know, you try to give them something that is going to excite them, do something to challenge them, and then give them something that is going to interest them. As I’m writing for Lani, for Claudia, and for Paul [Goddard], and I am writing for Tony Tilse, who I knew was directing, I am consciously going, ‘What can I give them that they haven’t done? What can I give them that is going to get them engaged in the piece?’”

Browder added, “The same thing for wardrobe, the special effects guys, and the CGI guys, you give them something which excites them, and they are going to do fantastic work. I have an advantage in that I know everybody and know the show. It’s really very important on a show like this, and difficult to do, to try to find stuff that I felt and hoped would excite them, so that they would turn out better than their usual brilliant work. Therefore the script works and I look smart.”

“Green-Eyed Monster” was a character piece involving the complex relationships between Aeryn, John, and Crais. Claudia Black really appreciated Browder’s work and the time he took to involve the other actors. She recalled, “Ben was delightful. He came to me and said, ‘I want you to read this first and let me know. These particular scenes, I want your advice. Do you think this is appropriate?’ He was just very open and very trusting, and he came to me afterwards and said, ‘You know I wrote this for you.’ I mean, it was an Aeryn episode. I had never really thought of it that way. I thought it was a three-hander, or a four-hander if you include Talyn. I’ve always known the way Ben contributes to the filming of the show on set, and the ways that we affect the storytelling, and are always trying to make it better. But it was just wonderful for the evidence to be out there for everyone, for people to understand that he understands structure and he understands how to tell a story, within this genre, and particularly for this show, because it’s not an easy show to write for.”
Director Tony Tilse also thoroughly enjoyed the experience. He recalled, “Ben really worked hard on it. There is a lot of him in it. As the director, there is a joy when you get a script like that. I just read it and I could visualize it. I knew how I wanted to shoot it. It was nice to work on that sort of collaboration effort with him. Having him on set as the writer as well makes a difference. We both felt that we were at the top, at the peak of what we were doing, even though we were tired. Ben just put so much effort into it that it was an absolute joy to do. It had a good story, a great adventure, a great FARSCAPE story in the sense that there is a really strong emotional core through it. There is a nice action-driven part of it, and yet it’s all about character. That has to do with the overall joy of FARSCAPE. It’s great character-driven show.”

Tilse added, “It was great to see Crichton and Aeryn. They had an argument like a couple, a basic argument about jealousy and who they are and what they were. We got to understand more about Aeryn, about Crichton. Crais, too, you got a bit more of the human side of him. It was a pleasure to have a script that so much centered on their characters and their involvement. They were trapped in this hothouse that just kept brewing and brewing and brewing.”

Although the audience saw a dead Budong in season two’s “Home On The Remains,” this was the first appearance of a live Budong. Said Tilse, “That was Ben’s idea. He wanted them to be eaten by a Budong, and the CG guys came up with some great stuff. That was that old ‘being swallowed by a whale story.’ The Budong is a great beast to having floating out in space.”

Lani Tupu very much enjoyed this episode and where it took Crais, Crichton and Aeryn. He said. “It was phenomenal stuff that we did there. Claudia and I had a great time working on that, and Ben as well. It was really interesting having Ben there, because Ben was wearing two hats. Of course he’d spent months writing this wonderful story. On the set, [he’d say], ‘I just wrote the stuff. You take it and do something with it.’ That was liberating in a way.”

Stark and Rygel were stuck on a transport pod outside the Budong. Browder laughed, “I was the first to pair them up. I knew when I was writing that I had the love triangle thing going on, and I got Rygel and Stark together. That’s perfect. I just want to stick these guys in a room. Paul had talked to me about the fact that he wanted to work with the puppets, because he hadn’t yet. So I stuck them together and basically tried to apply everything that I know about working with puppets. They are foul, disgusting creatures, and you’ve got to fight with them. You’ve got to get physical with them. Paul Goddard and team Rygel’s enjoyment of doing those scenes actually shows on the screen, and it translates into a better show.”

 When the show was finally finished, Browder was pleased. He said, “It was a sense of relief, that I had survived the process, more than anything else. It’s very easy to have an opinion about how things should be done. When you actually have to sit down and put your time and energy to a story, you hang your ass out there. I feel like the story worked, and the story holds together. There a lot of things that I love in it. There are some things that I go, ‘I wish I hadn’t done that.’ But the fact that the story works, and that the episode works fairly well was a huge relief to me. For all of my opinions, I could have been wrong. If Lani and Claudia and team Rygel and Paul hadn’t delivered the performances they did, and if Tony Tilse hasn’t done his usual, masterful job, then I would have looked like an idiot.”

From the post-production point of view, supervisor Deborah Peart said, “From a sound perspective, ‘Green-Eyed Monster’ stands out for me personally. The crew really nailed the immensity of the Budong and the claustrophobic feel when the crew are trapped inside it.”

Black related a story about the finished episode, with John and Aeryn looking at the stars at the end. She said, “I knocked on Gigi Edgley’s door one day. She opened the door and said, ‘I’m sorry. I’m a bit of a mess.’ I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ She said, ‘I’ve just watched that episode…’ I said, ‘What are you talking about, woman?’ She said, ‘Haven’t you seen the finished product?’ I said, ‘No, I haven’t seen the final cut.’ She said, ‘You’ve got to watch it.’ She was talking about the end, the post-production and the image of the clouds, and the stars in the sky, and the little ping with the stars, and we kissed. It was just lovely to see people on the show still affected by the stories.”

Copyright 2002 by Anna L. Kaplan.  An edited version of this article originally appeared in the June 2002 issue of Cinefantastique (Volume 34, Number 3-4). Other articles from this issue can be found in the Archives June 2002.

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