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How We'd Give Farscape a Battlestar-style Reboot, and Make a New Hit

Illustration for article titled How Wed Give Farscape a Battlestar-style Reboot, and Make a New Hit

After chatting briefly with the extremely nice (and still-ultra-hunky) Ben "Farscape" Browder at Comic-Con, I realized what society needs most right now: A reboot of 1990s space opera Farscape. Supposedly the Sci-Fi Channel is airing 10 Farscape webisodes, but those have yet to materialize and besides they are not enough. There are a lot of cool ways this underrated show could return to TV as something darker, less campy, and more socially relevant, just like Battlestar Galactica did. And with all the good alien ensemble dramas evaporating from TV (later days, Star Trek: Enterprise and Stargate), now is the time to strike. Coolness of the old Farscape: What made the original Farscape interesting was its vision of a human stranded among aliens. Unlike your typical ensemble space opera, humans were in the minority and we had a lot of chances to explore weird alien worlds. With Brian Hensen's production house behind its alien creatures, Farscape pretty much always had lovely concept design. We see this world through the eyes of John Crichton (Ben Browder), an astronaut accidentally sucked through a wormhole and deposited on the far side of the universe among warring alien factions. He takes refuge on a sentient ship called Moya, among escaped convicts. How to Reboot: A rebooted show could play up the criminal backgrounds of Moya's crew. Who can be trusted? Have alliances shifted? The tut-tutting little puppet Rygel once ruled 600 billion subjects of the Hynerian empire, but was sold out to the evil Peacekeepers by his cousin. Maybe we could give him a more ambiguous history — perhaps he was a cruel dictator, and we can see his cousin's side of the story. Meanwhile, we know the zen yoga lady Zhaan assassinated her lover because he helped the Peacekeepers take over her home planet. Let's make her more of a ninja assassin type: Let her use those powers of invisibility more, and do more explosives work. And let's make the anarchist thief Chiana into more of a Warren Ellis-style character who spouts political opinions between bursts of ass-kickery. Cooness of the old Farscape: One of the central issues in Farscape was the nature of Crichton's identity. Stranded among aliens, of course he begins to lose his humanness. More importantly, one of the big issues for Crichton throughout seasons two and three was whether he could control his own actions and thoughts after the evil Scorpius puts a chip in his brain. We've got shades of Battlestar here already, since Scorpius would often appear as a vision in his head. Because the old Farscape was often a little goofy, Crichton nicknames his head Scorpius "Harvey" (after the invisible bunny in the movie Harvey). How to reboot: Get rid of the silliness with this plot and make it dark as pitch, with some real gothic horror elements. Crichton is losing his mind and being enslaved by a chip that can't be removed. Also, let's give Scorpius a makeover — no more campy leatherboy zombie guy. Instead of making his wormhole technology into his "take over the universe" technology, make the killer app his mind-control chips. He should be a smooth, scary politician who wants to gain power by "changing people's minds" — literally. That way the Peacekeepers really can keep people peaceful, by chipping them all. The crew of Moya is fighting not just to free Crichton's mind, but to keep everyone's minds free.

Illustration for article titled How Wed Give Farscape a Battlestar-style Reboot, and Make a New Hit

Coolness of the old Farscape: Browder was perfect as Crichton, who is both a himbo and a smartass. He was always getting mixed up in sexytime with various aliens, but not in a Captain Kirk way — Crichton is led astray by sex, and gets his heart broken. When he does swagger, it's always with a bit of irony. As his shipmate and love interest Aeryn Sun, Claudia Black was the perfect pre-Sarah Connor Chronicles beautiful, hard-bitten hero. She's feminine, smart, and tough — and she would never wear high heels to a fight. How to Reboot: Keep Browder and Black together, but give them new roles and a tragic past that's made them bitter. Perhaps their son was killed by the Peacekeepers and they adopted Moya in his place. Now the spaceship is their "child," and the two of them share duties as "pilot." So we have a new dynamic in place right away, one that makes the ship even more of a character than in the original series. And we can bring in a new person to play the Crichton role, plus recreate the original characters while adding some new ones. Since two of the characters in the original series were anarchists, and all of them were rebels, the reboot needs to foreground this cosmo-political side of the series to make for a more sophisticated tale. In Summary: What the original Farscape had going for it was that it was story about how a team of outcasts overcome obstacles that are both political and psychological in order to defeat an oppressive police state. This left a lot of room for space battles, as well as character development. A new, darker show might touch a nerve by delving deeper into the violence caused by political factions and splinter groups. And by focusing on the brain chip technology, instead of the wormhole technology, we open up space for genuinely scary episodes with a texture of conspiracy (who is controlling who? are our minds our own?). Plus, we get a chance to reinvent the cool aliens and sentient spaceships of the old show, using better special effects technology. As long as the new show tweaks the old show's tone by replacing camp with bitter irony, and goofy sex with danger sex, I think we've got a potential hit on our hands. And if that doesn't persuade you, how about a little gratuitous squee . . .

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Annalee Newitz

I hear what you guys are saying about liking the humor of the original, and wanting to leave it be. But I still think it would be really intriguing to take the show in a darker direction, just to see what would happen. Sure, make it a continuation of the original show — or maybe make it a whole different crew in another part of the volume of space where Farscape is set. But I want to see more of the Farscape universe, in a tweaked form. I don't think the tone can be recreated in a way that works because times have changed, but I think the world is still ripe for exploration.

Call it blasphemy if you want, but I loved the old show and I just want to see another side to it.