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Farscape and Other Sci-Fi: I am not Kirk, Spock, Luke, Buck, Flash, or Arthur frelling Dent


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#1

AnnieF

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Posted Mar 27, 2006 @ 11:21 AM

We were talking about having a comparative sci-fi thread, so I went ahead and started it.

I was prompted to do so because it just occurred to me last night that John Crichton is Buck Rogers! I'm sure this isn't a revelation to most of you smart folks, but I had a "duh!" moment. Farscape is Buck Rogers in the 25th Century on acid! :-D

The revelation was prompted by viewing some of the cheese-tastic Gil Gerard Buck Rogers. Mr F has been watching the DVDs; he has a nostalgic fondness for the show, and he was telling me last night that he was surprised, upon watching it now as an adult, at how progressive some of its themes were, particularly with Wilma Deering, who's a colonel and a competent, kick-ass woman. (In the first season, at any rate. Apparently the show completely changes for the worse in the second season.)

It was the opening narration that really made me sit up and take notice of the similarities:

In the year 1987, at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, NASA launched the last of America's deep space probes. The payload, perched on the nose cone of the massive rocket, was a one-man exploration vessel - Ranger 3. Aboard this compact starship, a lone astronaut - Captain William "Buck" Rogers - was to experience cosmic forces beyond all comprehension. An awesome brush with death: in the blink of an eye, his life support systems were frozen by temperatures beyond imagination. Ranger 3 was blown out of its planned trajectory into an orbit a thousand times more vast, an orbit which was to return the ship full circle to his point of origin - its mother Earth - not in 5 months, but in 500 years.

Not all the details are the same, of course, but it had never struck me before how similar John Crichton's early story is to Buck Rogers'. While flying a one-man vessel for scientific purposes, an astronomical event blasts them into a strange new world: the future, for Buck, and another part of the universe, for Crichton. In their new circumstances, they make pop-culture references that no one understands; they use their unique knowledge to help their ostensibly more-advanced colleagues; they encounter a strong woman with whom they have a sorta, kinda, not really romatic relationship (at first, anyway).

I'm quite sure that the Farscape team were aware of the similarities. I'm just dumb sometimes, so I never picked up on it until now, and I get a kick out of it.

Edited by AnnieF, Mar 27, 2006 @ 11:24 AM.


#2

Firecracker1

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Posted Mar 27, 2006 @ 2:11 PM

I think somewhere we were actually told that TPTB based the concept of Farscape on Buck Rogers. I can't remember where I read it, but I always thought that was a given.

Especially when David Kemper has said that each and every episode of Farscape was an homage to a TV series/episode or movie - which makes "Premiere" an homage to "Buck Rogers"(although I think it is closer to the '40s serialised one), "I, E.T." an homage to "E.T." etc. etc.

I have been tempted to go through all 88 episodes and see which episode is referencing what. But my sci fi film education isn't quite as extensive as TPTB and they lose me every now and then. ;)

Edited by Firecracker1, Mar 27, 2006 @ 2:12 PM.


#3

Betsyb

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Posted Mar 27, 2006 @ 2:41 PM

John is so Buck Rogers and I love it. I always thought of Farscape as looking at other shows and saying "That's interesting but what if we were differant and did this." There have been a couple of straight up rip offs but for the most part they really expand what they touch.

As for homages to other works. They have done 2001: A Space Odysey on several occasions. Pilot's "I'm afraid I can't do that John." Talyn messing with John in GEM. The final goodbye for Harvey. Even the taking early human's and altering them. They must be Kubrick fans because there A Clockwork Nebari as homage to A Clockwork Orane. John writes "Hi There" on his nuclear bomb ala Dr. Strangelove. John does "Here's Johhnnny" as in the shining.

Edited by Betsyb, Mar 27, 2006 @ 2:45 PM.


#4

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Posted Mar 27, 2006 @ 7:09 PM

Cassablanca = A Kiss is But A Kiss
The Maltese Falcon = The Maltese Crichton
Twice Shy = Polymorph from Red Dwarf
Suns and Lovers = The Perfect Storm

There are lots of references. I just want to be able to go to each episode and say - this episode is an homage to this tv series/episode or movie.

Edited by Firecracker1, Apr 25, 2006 @ 11:51 PM.


#5

Luckylyn

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Posted Mar 28, 2006 @ 11:51 AM

Don't forget DRD Pike. That's one of my favorite Star Trek references. My number 1 is John speaking Klingon. The show is just full of fantastic references. So much that I don't always catch them on the first viewing. There are the Star Wars references in The Princess Trilogy. John's nickname for Chiana "Pip" references Great Expectations. Doesn't John mention BTVS at one point. I adored that John was this really cool guy and a scifi geek.

I never watched Buck Rogers, but I kinda saw this parallel between John and Flash Gordon. I even made a music video about it.

#6

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Posted Mar 28, 2006 @ 4:37 PM

Blake's 7 was supposedly a pretty big influence as well.

#7

SpacePPoliceman

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Posted Mar 28, 2006 @ 5:14 PM

Despite his protests otherwise, Crichton totally is Arthur Frelling Dent. I taught Hitchhiker's Guide in an English class, and was considering showing Premiere, and having my students look for traces of HGttG.

#8

Kanel

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Posted Mar 28, 2006 @ 5:22 PM

Don't forget DRD Pike. That's one of my favorite Star Trek references.

My comp is called DVD Pike, because it has a DVD recorder and I was extremely Farscapey when I got it... But I can't place the Pike reference on Star Trek, please remind me?

#9

ProfCrash

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Posted Mar 28, 2006 @ 6:03 PM

Pike was the first Captin of the Enterpise. He appeared in the series premeir and was replaced by Kirk.

#10

AnnieF

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Posted Mar 28, 2006 @ 6:14 PM

The significance of Pike is that he was in an accident that left him paralyzed and unable to speak. He got around in a "futuristic" wheelchair type of conveyance, and he was able to signal "yes" or "no" by causing lights to blink on his chair. One blink for yes, two for no (or vice versa, can't remember). That's how it relates to the DRD :)

#11

Kanel

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Posted Mar 29, 2006 @ 1:56 PM

Oohh! Lightbulb moment.

That's kinda cool, actually. Or, I mean, funny. Cause it's true. "Blink blink." Heh!

I think I'm tired.

#12

iamausername

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Posted Mar 30, 2006 @ 9:38 PM

Especially when David Kemper has said that each and every episode of Farscape was an homage to a TV series/episode or movie - which makes "Premiere" an homage to "Buck Rogers"(although I think it is closer to the '40s serialised one), "I, E.T." an homage to "E.T." etc. etc.

Cassablanca = A Kiss is But A Kiss
The Maltese Falcon = The Maltese Crichton
Twice Shy = Polymorph from Red Dwarf
Trouble with Tribbles = Sons and Lovers


Along these lines, I rewatched A Human Reaction for the nth time earlier and was suddenly struck by how similar the final shot was to that of The Truman Show, which led me to notice the obvious parallels in the whole episode.

I have been tempted to go through all 88 episodes and see which episode is referencing what. But my sci fi film education isn't quite as extensive as TPTB and they lose me every now and then. ;)


Mine certainly isn't, but with the combined knowledge of all the Farscape fans on TWoP, it just might be possible!

#13

nickelgirl

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Posted Apr 5, 2006 @ 10:55 AM

Despite his protests otherwise, Crichton totally is Arthur Frelling Dent. I taught Hitchhiker's Guide in an English class, and was considering showing Premiere, and having my students look for traces of HGttG.


Spreading the good word to a new generation, I see! H2G2 is definitely on my required reading list, especially for anyone into sci-fi. I agree that early Crichton was Arthur Dent, but I think he becomes less Dent-like as the series goes along (maybe he's more Trillian-like?). The uncharted territories, too, became more 'Adamsian" as the series progressed.

That said, I absolutely loved the Arthur Frelling Dent comment. Especially since he makes it standing in the little world Einstein had created to kill him. It was very much like 'Cathedral of Hate" in Life the Universe and Everything, where Agrajag brings Arthur to kill him.... Hmm, nevermind, now I totally see why Crichton is Arthur. It's because everywhere he goes, he inadvertantly mucks up the universe, right?

#14

Kanel

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Posted Apr 5, 2006 @ 4:58 PM

That said, I absolutely loved the Arthur Frelling Dent comment. Especially since he makes it standing in the little world Einstein had created to kill him. It was very much like 'Cathedral of Hate" in Life the Universe and Everything, where Agrajag brings Arthur to kill him

Ha! Really good catch! Why didn't I ever think of that?? :-)

#15

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Posted Apr 5, 2006 @ 6:21 PM

Would any/either or all of you guys be interested in writing an article for the Farscape Podcast on how Farscape and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy are related?

I would be absolutely fascinated to listen to that essay and I know I am not the only one.

If you want to know where to submit your ideas go here.

I think your idea will be very well recieved.

#16

GrimWeeper

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Posted Apr 6, 2006 @ 10:57 PM

Blake's 7 was supposedly a pretty big influence as well.

Er, just to set the record straight, Rockne O'Bannon, the series creator, has said that he's never seen Blake's 7. Now that I've seen one season of that show, I can see there is a strong resemblance.

A Clockwork Nebari = A Clockwork Orange.
(Duh. I just thought I'd state the obvious. You know, to get it out of the way.)
Actually, A Clockwork Nebari is a very clever take on A Clockwork Orange, including the business with the eyes.

#17

Annie B

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Posted Apr 7, 2006 @ 12:39 PM

I've entertained myself before trying to associate Farscape with "Lord of the Rings":

John is Frodo, obviously - the one who has the Ring/Wormhole of Power, although he can't control it

Aeryn is Aragorn, the warrior who is more than a warrior and John's guide through the wilderness that is the Uncharted Territories

Einstein is Gandalf, wise & powerful, only not quite enough . . .

Chiana is Pippin - silly & frivolous most of the time, but comes through when needed

D'Argo is Boromir, basically the brawn and has his own agenda most of the time, but noble and self-sacrificing in the end

Rygel is Gimli - lots of complaining, but surprisingly good in a fight

Zhaan is Legolas, seemingly delicate, but don't get in a fight with her either

Pilot is Sam, always carrying everyone else without complaint (mostly)

Jool is Merry, good with maps & stuff

Harvey is Gollum, natch

Crais I think is Theoden - under the control of the bad guys at first, but is freed from that and turns out to be noble - and dies under his horse -

Which means Moya is Shadowfax and Talyn is Snowmane


#18

Betsyb

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Posted Apr 7, 2006 @ 7:31 PM

Cool comparison Annie.

Although I think it would be funny, given the way things turned out, if you cast Scorpious as Gandalf. Not really more acurate just kind of funny.

Ancient Jack would have worked as well.

#19

Kanel

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Posted Apr 8, 2006 @ 3:19 PM

Annie, I have to say there are several of those characterisations that I don't recognise at all. Either Farscape or LotR must be completely different in my head than in yours! ;-) Or possibly, the Farscape characters just have a lot more levels than the Tolkien ones...

#20

AnnieF

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Posted Apr 8, 2006 @ 4:31 PM

They don't quite line up that way for me either, and I think I have to agree with Kanel: the Farscape characters are a bit richer than the Tolkien ones, IMO. Tolkien tends to be a bit one-dimensional, I find -- the characters are who they are, and even when they're trying to be incognito, they don't do a very good job of hiding their inherent nobility or whatever. I find the Farscape characters to be less emblematic and more realistic.

#21

GrimWeeper

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Posted Apr 9, 2006 @ 3:17 PM

Not to get too far off the subject, I used to like LOtR until I saw the movies, when I realized that the critics were right, the characters are all pretty one-dimensional. Farscape's characters, even the minor ones, couldn't be further from the LOtR characters. (I mean, they PEE in the Maintenance Bay, for pete's sake!! I can't imagine anyone from LOtR doing anything so earthy.)

#22

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Posted Apr 10, 2006 @ 10:16 AM

I think LOTR is what it is. Tolkien wasn't doing a rich character study. He was basically writting a legend. It was about the adventure and comparing that adventure to our own everyday struggles. Like many myths the characters are just a way to advance the story to a degree not that they aren't interesting in their own right.

But Farscape is all about the characters. TPTB don't care about wormholes. Farscpae isn't about wormholes in the way LOTR is about the righ. John could have the power to turn anything he touches to gold. Or have the secret formula to Ice Nine. Its all about how having something that everyone wants and a power he wants effects him. How being tortured and driven mad effects his way of dealing. How his love life in continuely interupted. In Farscape, John, Aeryn and the rest of the Moyans are all that really matters the rest is just something to mess with them.

That being said both stories, all stories like this even if by accident, follow a certain hero path. And I think in relation to the long term arc of the series Annie's character comparisons are very similar. NOt in everyday life but in the grand scheme of things sure.


Anyway, for comparisons we can't forget Taking the Stone, which I love but many people hate. The set up of TTS is very similar to Logan's Run. In that people have to die by the age of thirty. And people who don't have to run and be cast away. Although there they are tracked and killed.

Edited by Betsyb, Apr 16, 2006 @ 10:22 AM.


#23

AnnieF

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Posted May 7, 2006 @ 11:05 AM

Firecracker1 was talking about Babylon 5 on the "Castmembers in Other Roles" thread, so I thought I'd move over here...

Would you recommend B5, Firecracker? I'm figuring you'll say yes, but I wanted to go ahead and just ask. Obviously, I adore Farscape, and I'm always looking for other scifi. But I've seen some B5 and always thought the acting and dialogue were stilted and cardboardy. Mr F watched it fairly religiously in the early seasons, but he got frustrated and gave up on it. I used to kinda sorta half-watch it in the background, so I know some basic stuff (Sinclair, Sheraton, Delenn, big war?) but I'm pretty much unspoiled on plot developments. It's my understanding that the show laid down plot elements in earlier seasons that don't pay off until later, which is the sort of thing I eat up with a spoon. I'm just wondering if my assessment about the acting and writing is unfair?

Edited by AnnieF, May 7, 2006 @ 11:04 AM.


#24

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Posted May 7, 2006 @ 11:37 AM

The first season of B5 was decidedly lacking. So in that respect you are not wrong in your assesment.

I thought Sinclair was badly cast (my opinion only). I have seen Michael O'Hare in other work and he is a fine actor - but B5 just didn't work for him. Perhaps his range is limited? (JMO)

John Michael Straczynski, the writer, creator, executive producer, had a vision and he had the determination to implement his vision.

But the writing in the first season was lacking. So was the acting. So was the directing. And heck - so was the producing. Below par.

The second season things improved. The replacement of Sinclair with Sheridan was a very good move. Bruce Boxleitner was a much better choice for the lead character. He has a great deal of charisma and managed to carry to role of Sheridan most satisfactorily.

Plus the writing improved. JMS got a better handle on what he was doing and the story began to pick up speed.

Season 3 and Season 4 were sublime. Excellent storytelling. There is a reason that the episode "Severed Dreams" won the 1997 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. It earned it. Of course - it is important to watch the whole season to get the full impact. ;)

Season 5... a very long denouement. There were real world production reasons for that, but it did weaken the fifth season.

But...

JMS never did learn how to write female characters consistently. There are some emminently cringe worthy scenes with the female characters that even now - years later - stand out in my mind as "Yikes!" moments. JMS did a better job with his female characters when he wasn't trying to make them female - but occasionally for storytelling reasons he felt it was necessary. And "cringe worthy" is the term.

Babylon 5 is NOT a character driven show. It is a plot driven show. So if you are looking for a lot of character development - there is some, but nothing like the level of Farscape.

However... one heck of a story. With consequences and some excellent acting and writing. Especially between Londo and G'Kar. And Vir.

And Ivanova - when she isn't being "female" has some of the all time best lines in Sci Fi storytelling.

So yes. I recommend B5 - but with some caveats.

1. The first season sucks.
2. The show is plot driven NOT character driven and consequently the actors do not have that much to work with. (Except Londa and G'Kar - they are awesome).
3. JMS has a problem writing female characters consistently - and occasionally it is cringe worthy. Luck of the draw.

edited to add: All of the above is just my opinion. As JMS would say...YMMV (your mileage may vary).

Edited by Firecracker1, May 7, 2006 @ 11:48 AM.


#25

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Posted May 8, 2006 @ 11:05 AM

Thanks for the insight, Firecracker :) You've put into more concrete terms what some of my reservations were; to wit, that the show is more plot-driven than character-driven. That's not going to work for me, unfortunately.

Plus I mentioned renting the series and watching the whole thing to Mr F and his reaction was "Ugh." He says he got extremely frustrated and kinda bored with it somewhere around s3, and he's got no interest in watching it again. So, it's Farscape reruns for us ;)

#26

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Posted May 8, 2006 @ 3:38 PM

Y'know, Firecracker1, I think you just helped me understand why it is that I love both Babylon 5 and Farscape, but why I couldn't get my brother and sister-in-law to really get into Farscape while they adore Stargate. I thought the storytelling and season/series arcs in B5 were, as you say, sublime during the middle years of the show. Just perfect. And that's what B5 and Farscape share. But Stargate and B5 also share being plot-driven as well as lots of world-building - which is what my family members attach to. I was not able to put my finger on the differences before this.

Is this the place to discuss Farscape's influence on current sci-fi, like BSG? Obviously, BSG has the season/series arcs, but I don't think the storytelling is as good as Farscape or B5 at its finest.

#27

Simran

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Posted May 9, 2006 @ 12:26 AM

Is this the place to discuss Farscape's influence on current sci-fi, like BSG? Obviously, BSG has the season/series arcs, but I don't think the storytelling is as good as Farscape or B5 at its finest.


Wow -- I, for one, would love to see such a conversation, because I adore both series (although Farscape has a slight edge, insofar as I got much more emotional about the show, and its characters came to life in my head in a way that BSG's have yet to do).

I was actually thinking the other day that there are definite parallels between Lee and Crichton, and Starbuck and Aeryn. Lee and Crichton both start off as idealists whose naivete is slowly crushed by events beyond their control; Crichton briefly goes insane, and Lee briefly turns suicidal. Both yearn for a female character whose military training and traumatic past make her skeptical of, if not utterly immune to, "soft" emotions, who treats sex casually, and who is cynical and wary when it comes to romantic love. There was more; I can't recall it at present...

But the writing in the first season was lacking. So was the acting. So was the directing. And heck - so was the producing. Below par. The second season things improved.


Firecracker1, I'd like to get into Babylon 5, seeing as BSG is on break and I've worn my Farscape DVDs to bits. Do you have any suggestions about hurrying through the first season so I can get to the second -- ie, episodes that are OK to skip, episodes that I absolutely must see, etc.?

Edited by Simran, May 9, 2006 @ 12:26 AM.


#28

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Posted May 9, 2006 @ 12:41 AM

On Firecracker's advice I skipped the first season entirely, finding it pretty easy to pick up in season 2. It took a little while to remember which alien races were which, but they're all very distinct, so it came into focus quickly. I'm now in season 3 and loving the political intrigue.

I really like your BSG/ Farscape character comparisons Simran. In relation to Farscape, it's taking a lot longer to get to know Lee and Kara, but this season I'm finding my emotional attachment to them developing. Finally. I don't know if Aeryn would have been quite so appealing if she was as self-destructive as Kara.

#29

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Posted May 9, 2006 @ 3:59 PM

On Firecracker's advice I skipped the first season entirely, finding it pretty easy to pick up in season 2. It took a little while to remember which alien races were which, but they're all very distinct, so it came into focus quickly. I'm now in season 3 and loving the political intrigue.


What Kaya said. :D

If you want a quick recap of the various important races and such check here: Season 1: Signs and Portents.

Just one quick caveat - Delenn, the Minbari pictured in the link, undergoes quite the radical transformation during the last few episodes of Season 1. But in this picture Delenn looks very Minbari.

Edited by Firecracker1, May 9, 2006 @ 4:00 PM.


#30

selkie

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Posted May 9, 2006 @ 4:08 PM

For Babylon 5, I'd say to start around episode 16 of the first season because the end of season one does set up a bunch of big stinkin' plot points that are going to be important down the road, and it ends up being more interesting if you know the back story. (What happened to Babylon 4, the Epsilon 3 subplot, Delenn stuff, and some interesting Ivanova bits)