Bewildering Stories Editorial
by Jerry Wright
Well, part one of the epic miniseries Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars is done, and well-done. All of us who saw Aeryn and John turned into a pile of crystals wondered how they'd get out of THAT one. Well, this is SF, and so the crystallinating of the two turns out to be not as painful as might be thought, even though the boat the two were on evidently dumped, sending the crystals to the bottom, and making it possible for some great CGI shots of the Hynerian Dominar Rygel the 16th swimming along the bottom of the lake and sucking up the parts and pieces.
The fans who would not let this show die have a lot to be proud of, and I just hope that we have more Farscape in the future. I do understand that this mini-series does bring the adventures of Crichton and company to a satisfying end. We also appreciate the drive and talents of Brian Henson, Rockne S. OBannon, David Kemper, as well as Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe, and the others who make Farscape the entertaining and powerful show that it has become.
So what happened? Let us return to an evening last spring -- March 21, 2003 to be precise -- Farscape's faithful viewers, who became known as "Scapers", were on the brink of getting everything they could have possibly wanted out of a Sci Fi Channel finale. John Crichton (Ben Browder) and Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), romantic couple at the center of 88 adventurous episodes, were pregnant and floating in a rowboat.
Having spent four cycles, er, years, hurtling through the galaxy on a living ship named Moya, the pair had braved death, cloning, psychological burglary, death, dismemberment and other hardships in close quarters with a motley crew of other alien fugitives.
John, a human astronaut lost in space, had just sealed a wormhole to Earth, his last best way home, and asked Aeryn, an exiled PeaceKeeper soldier, to marry him. He offered her a ring. She said yes. Happily ever after appeared tantalizingly close.
Then out of nowhere, a ship flew by and shot them, dissolving them into thousands of tiny crystals. Nothing was left behind but the ring and a frustrating "To Be Continued" across the bottom of the screen -- especially frustrating because "Farscape" wasn't to be continued. According to Sci Fi, this was the end of its run. No more, nada, zilch.
Remember the fans rallying and saving Star Trek? Could it be done again? Or would they follow in the tradition of fans who rallied and failed to save shows like "Once and Again" and "Angel," Scapers had one tool that "trekkies" didn't have: the Internet.
"We realized early that everybody said this is a business decision, and we said, OK, we can accept that," said Nina Lumpp, Webmaster for the campaign's hub, www.watchfarscape.com "So how can we, as the audience, if they're selling us these products with this advertising, if we're your audience, how can we affect that with what we do?"
The answer was a multipronged attack, and this time it actually worked. This weekend, Sci Fi Channel premieres "Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars," a four-hour miniseries airing in two parts, at 9 p.m. on Sunday and Monday. (The first half encores at 7 p.m. on Monday.)
"Farscape" executive producer and director Brian Henson says it could lead to a feature film, more miniseries, maybe even a spinoff. And Henson acknowledges the Scapers' vital role in this resurrection. "What they (the Scapers) had was a very loud voice, and they used it."
Lumpp says her site, which began as www.savefarscape.com, was launched the night after the show's cancellation was announced in September 2002. Since then, watchfarscape.com has grown to more than 7,100 members and gets about 11 million to 12 million hits a month, including around 70,000 unique visitors. We'd like that for Bewildering Stories.
Through this website and others, Scapers steadily took their case to television critics and advertisers, tried to find a home for the show on other networks, and purchased ads in the trades. They even got a few corporate sponsors such as KFC to go to bat for them at other networks. There is even a "Farscape Screensaver" available from the KFC homepage.
"We let them know we were a valuable fan base, and we were willing to pay for 'Farscape,' " Lumpp explained.
A darling of both critics and its loyal core, "Farscape" had an intricate mythology that was both its finest asset and a drawback. The series' galaxy of races, each with its own history, talents and enmities, made it difficult for the uninitiated to get on board.
As the seasons passed, the series didn't attract enough regular viewers to justify Sci Fi's continued support. Instead, the cable channel focused more attention on its most successful franchise, "Stargate SG-1." Though Sci Fi had committed to a fourth and fifth season of "Farscape," high license fees led executives to exercise a clause to get out of a fifth season, right around the time the fourth season finale was being shot.
Months later, the fan base's unparalleled devotion perked interest among international financiers. This, and Henson's willingness to shoot the miniseries without knowing where it would air (although Sci Fi's pickup was a no-brainer), brought about "Farscape's" return.
"The Peacekeeper Wars" takes up where the finale's cliffhanger to oblivion left off, with a reconstituted Aeryn and John taking refuge with the aliens who accidentally dissolved them, the Eidelons. Their crewmates Chiana (Gigi Edgley), D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe), Noranti (Melissa Jaffer), Rygel (voiced by Jonathan Hardy) and Stark (Paul Goddard) reunite with them, just in time for John's enemies, The Peacekeepers, and their formidable rivals, the Scarrans, to step up a war that's claimed countless innocent lives.
Their second pressing concern, however, is resuming the hunt for the wormhole technology locked within John's brain.
Desperate to stop the war's spreading destruction, Moya's crew attempts to reunite the Eidelons with their ancestors, beings with the ability to influence peace, and forges an uneasy alliance with John's enemy Scorpius (Wayne Pygram) and their crew's defector Sikozu (Raelee Hill).
As we said, it's a fairly confusing story if you haven't kept up with the show. Extensive explanations are widely available online, starting at www.farscape.com and www.scifi.com/farscape, to assist newcomers in catching up. Even if you don't bother to peruse the synopses, "The Peacekeeper Wars' " elegant special effects, touching interpersonal relationships, engrossing drama and explosive action are nothing short of dazzling.
That's all nice for "Farscape" lovers, but orphans of shows like "Tarzan" and "Freaks and Geeks" may well be wondering, how did these guys succeed where so many other show saving campaigns fail?
First and foremost, they backed a show whose producers and cast wanted to save it. It also helped that "Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars" wasn't owned by a network and therefore, could be shopped around more effectively.
Second, the Scapers campaigned intelligently. They made a list of companies that advertised whenever "Farscape" was on, and not only did they contact them, they conversed in demographics-speak.
"Farscape" also has fared well enough in DVD sales and abroad, given the limited reach it had on Sci Fi, to show that a miniseries or a movie can be economically viable. All four seasons are available on DVD right now.
And -- here's the really important part -- it was an outstanding show that only grew better as time passed.
My thanks to Melanie McFarland of the Seattle PI who wrote most of this article.
Copyright © 2004 by Jerry Wright for Bewildering Stories