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Trapped on a Living Ship With Escaped Prisoners

"The SCI FI Channel confirmed that it will not pick up its original series Farscape for a fifth season. 'There are no bigger fans of Farscape than we here at SCI FI Channel,' the network said in a statement. 'It was one of SCI FI's first original series and quickly became a critical and fan favorite. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to reach a broader audience, Farscape has been unable to grow beyond its core fan base. That, coupled with the extreme and growing cost of production, has led to the difficult decision to end the series at the conclusion of season four.'"
from, the official website of the SCI FI channel
frequently uttered curse on Farscape

Farscape I tried to not write about it. Really. I'm not in the habit of complaining about TV show cancellations. Nine times out of ten, the show had already gone downhill, was never any good, or I didn't watch it anyway. This time is different. Farscape was easily the best science fiction show of its generation, and the premiere show on the self-proclaimed official network of the genre: the Sci Fi Channel. But somehow that genre so-called champion allowed this wonderful and important show to be canceled.

This is certainly not the first time in my life that something I like has ended. I'm still recovering from the cancellations of The Planet of The Apes TV series and Quark. And both of those were over 25 years ago! When the original run of the comic book Nova ended at issue 25, I was beside myself. Nova was the first comic book series that I actively collected. Twenty some odd years later and I still have the entire run. Even have duplicates of some of the issues. Yet I would never claim any of these were of great quality or importance. They just struck a nerve with me at a certain point in my life. Farscape is different.

Each episode was lovingly crafted. Well, most episodes. Like all serials, there were stinkers. But even the worst were better than most TV shows. The characters (and yes, some of them were played by puppets) were among the best and most believable in all of science fiction. These characters had real survival concerns such as food, sex, sleep, and even defecation. When was the last time a Star Trek character experienced similar worries? I know that sex has been depicted in the Star Trek universe, but it has always been used as a dramatic or comedic device, and was always a big deal. On Farscape it just was a part of everyday life.

My wife and I discovered the show quite by accident. A few years ago, I was a guest at AggieCon (in College Station, TX). We were relaxing in our hotel room after a hectic day at the convention. While flipping through the channels, we stopped on a show featuring a blue lady and a dude with tentacles on his face. It looked interesting, so we stay tuned. Within two episodes, we were hooked. Luckily for us, this was just after the completion of the first season so within six months we were caught up. We never missed another episode. It became our Sunday afternoon ritual. We routinely taped the episode on Friday night and watched it after lunch on Sunday. We would often discuss it for most of the afternoon.

Save Farscape (online petition)

Among the few complaints about the series I've heard is that the science in Farscape is outdated. (For example, the space shuttle that Crichton uses is old technology.) Who cares? The "science" in science fiction should always be third behind the story and characters. As long as the science is consistent throughout the series, I could care less how out of date it is. The characters and stories are intriguing, consistent, and well thought out.

Now that Farscape is gone, what good is the Sci Fi channel? They just canceled the one show I routinely watched. Ever try Stargate SG-1? It's better than the original movie, but so is a sharp stick to the eye. Their number one show is a joke. (Farscape was routinely number two.) Does anyone really take Crossing Over With John Edward seriously? Perhaps they should change their name to Psi Fi Network? Actually, the Horror Network might be more appropriate. After Crossing Over, Babylon 5, or Stargate, all that's left are horror movies. And not even good ones. Does anyone ever need to see Amityville 2? Sci Fi owes it to the science fiction fans of the world to supply us with quality SF programming. Or they should officially change their name.

Network executives would counter that they have thrown us show after show of what they see as top notch programming and we failed to watch any of them. I'm sorry but Black Scorpion was cheesy even for a Roger Corman property. And GvsE (that would be the code word for Good Versus Evil for you non-fans out there) was a fun show on USA. Somehow when it moved Sci Fi, it lost all the cool bits and became a lame shell of its former self. The Invisible Man had potential, which it failed to fulfill. Lexx was a joke and an embarrassment to most SF fans. I won't even dignify The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne with a comment. Face it, the only truly great original series ever to run on Sci Fi was Farscape. I pay my cable company extra for the privilege of watching Farscape. Or rather I did. Unless something changes quickly with the network, I'll find something better to spend my pennies on.

This leaves me with one science fiction show that I watch regularly. While Enterprise is enjoyable -- better than Voyager and Deep Space Nine but not yet as good as Next Generation -- I do not find myself engaged with the characters as I did on Farscape. For a life long fan of science fiction, this is an intolerable situation, and one I fear will not be corrected any time soon. The last SF showed that I followed as closely as Farscape was ST: Next Generation. Yes, I am what you would dub a passive trekkie. I know a lot about Star Trek, the characters, and its shows, but I won't re-arrange my life to watch episodes nor will you ever catch me dressed as a Klingon. I've enjoyed the movies -- Wrath of Khan ranks among my favorite films. Which is another reason Farscape is different. I never tried to convert friends to Star Trek like I did with Farscape.

There are rumors of a Farscape movie. Fans have organized "Save Farscape" campaigns. I hope the rumors are true and the fans succeed. Until then, when people ask me what science fiction to watch, I will tell them to pick up a book or rent a movie. In the meantime, I'll get some more reading done.

Copyright © 2002 Rick Klaw

Not content with just being a regular columnist for SF Site, Rick Klaw is also the fiction editor for RevolutionSF. As a freelance editor, former book buyer, managing editor, and bookstore manager, Rick has experience with most aspects of the book business. He now wakes up ever morning in a cold sweat: What if HBO decides to cancel The Sopranos?

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