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Farscape box set

Toy Vault
by yo go re

While Trekkies were busy bemoaning the downward spiral that their pet series had been in ever since DS9 ended, another sci-fi series sneaked onto the scene. With action, adventure and more alien species than you could shake a cantina at, Farscape eclipsed Trek in every way possible. Except, apparently, ratings, at least according to SciFi Channel president Bonnie Hammer.

Citing "softening ratings" (the show was moved from 9 to 10 p.m., easily eliminating a chunk of its audience) and increases in production costs (increases created solely by SciFi requesting additional airing rights), Bonnie dropped the hammer on Farscape as production wrapped for fourth season, giving the creators no time to tie up loose ends and leaving fans with one of the most infuriating cliffhangers in television history.

Together by no choice of their own, the inhabitants of Moya can be called a "crew" only by default. Far from home, with no captain, no chain of command, and no reason to stay together other than a common enemy pursuing them, they're forced to trust one another.

Watch Farscape

So, what's the show about? Astronaut John Crichton is pulled into a wormhole and tossed across the universe. Spit out the other side of the universe's cloaca, he finds himself on a prison ship that's just been overrun by the prisoners. Of course, the jailers - a group called the Peacekeepers - are trying to regain control, which puts Crichton right in the crossfire.

Back when Farscape enjoyed the wholehearted support of the SciFi Channel, the show got a line of action figures from Toy Vault. There were individually carded versions of the show's stars (plus plenty of exclusive variants) and a big box set of Series 1's four main figures: John Crichton, Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan, Ka D'Argo and Chiana.

Crichton John Crichton, on an experimental mission aboard his Farscape One module, was accidentally shot through a wormhole and found himself definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Crichton here is our window on the world - he's the normal human guy who's dropped into the wild situation and has to come to terms with everything. He gets to ask the questions that the audience would ask, so that the characters can answer them.

Besides being a NASA astronaut (okay, technically "IASA" astronaut - International Air and Space Association), John's a bit of a geek, which is part of why he's so likeable. He can toss off references to Green Lantern or the Three Stooges as easily as he can plot complex stellar physics - it paints him as a regular guy with normal interests, not some superhuman scientist.

Ben Browder's younger, fatter brother The Crichton figure is okay, but certainly nothing groundbreaking. The likeness is decent but not good, with just a passing resemblance to actor Ben Browder. His clothes are sculpted well, but he moves only at the neck, shoulders, wrists and waist.

baby drak or giant cockroach? John's got a few decent accessories: a cloth jacket, his space helmet, a radio headset and a baby Drak. What's a baby Drak? Well, it seems the Drak are interstellar parasitic insects who decided to set up shop on Moya in the episode "Exodus from Genesis." This is a baby one. The helmet is detailed nicely, and even fits on the figure's head, though the radio does not.

Zhaan Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan, an 812-year-old, tenth-level priest, was imprisoned on Moya for the murder of another Delvian priest - her lover - who she suspected was using his power to lead Delva astray.

Zhaan is the ship's resident spiritualist; "Pa'u" is a designatory title like "Father" or "Pastor." Stately and sedate, she isn't above using violence, misdirection or whatever means she deems necessary to achieve her goals. She's a wonderful caregiver and apothecary, able to mix medicines for almost any ailment.

She's also a plant. Not "a plant" like "spy," but "plant" like "chlorophyll." While she looks and acts human (or at least humanoid), she craves natural light and can heal from even grave wounds if allowed to take root in her planet's native soil.

Virginia Hey The detailing on the Zhaan figure is really good. The sculptors seem to have really put a lot of work into capturing Virginia Hey's complicated makeup. It's just a shame they didn't put as much care into designing articulation: Zhaan moves at the neck, shoulders, wrists and hips, and because she's so unashamed of her body, she's butt naked under the dress.

a 40 for my dead homies That makeup is what eventually led to Virginia Hey leaving the show - it was adversely affecting her health. Shame, really. Zhaan's accessories include a cloth robe, a head scarf and a bottle of the sleep mist from "Throne for a Loss." The shawl can be removed, but the rest of the clothes are stitched on. The bottle fits in her hand easily, which is nice.

D'Argo Ka D'Argo, huge and powerful, was wrongly imprisoned by the Peacekeepers as a scapegoat for the murder of his Sebacean wife, Lo'Lann.

This big burly brute is a Luxan, a race of mighty combatants and warriors - think Klingons without the crippling need to maintain some silly sense of honor. If they were in prison together, Worf'd be walking around holding D'Argo's belt loop. Before he was onboard Moya, D'Argo spent eight years deep in the mines on a maximum security planet. He's a badass, through and through.

beautiful sculpt The sculpt is probably the best in this box set - and while his Planet of the Apes Burton-style costume is detailed well, it's the likeness that really stands out. Anthony Simcoe's buried under a lot of makeup to play D'Argo, and the sculptors seem to have gotten it all: moustache thing, meat dreads [tankas --ed.], eyebrow ridges, crazy beak nose, everything! They even remembered to put the slave rings around his collarbones.

D'Argo's main accessory is his Qualta blade, his ancestral weapon. Though it looks like a sword, it's actually got blunt edges - it's more of a rifle, but can definitely be wielded like a club. There wasn't really any way they could show his main offensive capability, a long, prehensile tongue. The figure's also got an itsy little Takaar knife and some kind of musical instrument called a Shilquen. Because chicks dig sensitive musician types.

His pose is rather dull - he's just standing there, which doesn't really suit the character at all. That wouldn't be a problem, except that his articulation is just as minimal as everyone else's. If you're going to make an immobile toy, at least take a clue from McFarlane and give it a dynamic pose.

Chiana Chiana, a Nebari runaway, was offered asylum aboard Moya after being sentenced to direct mind cleansing by her Nebari jailers.

Chiana was a late addition to the show, not showing up until 15 episodes in. Another reason that Farscape outshines Trek - organic growth of the cast. People are always drifing in and out of the story, and Chiana's drift brought her in as a prisoner in the episode "Durka Returns." In fact, she was supposed to die at the end of it, but the producers liked the character so much that they held onto her.

your roots are showing The detailing on the figure's costume is great. She wears an intricately ridged outfit, and the sculptors really took the time to convey that - there are tons of raised squiggles all over. There are little fur pieces glued on her shoulders, as well. Her expression is great - the sort of wide-eyed wonder Chiana seems to have.

detail Though Chiana doesn't have much movement, her pose works better than D'Argo's. She's standing with a strange, bow-legged stance, but that's just what the character does on the show - Gigi Edgely imparts Chiana with some strange physicality. That wasn't a part of the original intent, but just something the actress thought would work for the character.

There's some confusion over what color Chiana's supposed to be - even in the figures. On the show, she's gray, though she often looks blue due to the odd lighting. Toy Vault sort of split the difference, painting her a bluish-gray. A dry-brush has helped bring the details of her costume out, keeping her from being one dark black mess.

at least they LOOK nice Chiana comes with a bladed weapon of some sort, handcuffs and a neck collar. Cool as the cuffs are, her limited articulation doesn't let her get her wrists close enough together for them to be any good. She can hold the big weapon with no trouble, but more articulation would have served her well.

The box set also includes a pair of DRDs, the diagnostic repair drones that keep Moya running healthily. DRDs They're tiny little beetley things, with two little eyes on the end of stalks. The detailing on these accessories is really outstanding, so it's a shame there were only two of them in the box. The cardboard insert that holds the figures is printed with a photo of a hallway inside Moya, so you can make a nice little diorama.

Cancelling Farscape was a monumental mistake. 'Scapers proved to be even more devoted than Trekkies, and when the cancellation was announced, they leapt into action, many organizing their various efforts through the Save Farscape site: they wrote letters to the network, to its parent company (Vivendi Universal), to advertisers and sponsors, to any outlet that might reasonably have an influence on the show's future.

When Bonnie Hammer tried to speak to news outlets about upcoming projects, all reporters wanted to discuss was the cancellation of Farscape and the fan reaction. She said Children of Dune, they said Crichton. She said Tremors: The Series, they said Aeryn Sun. The show was almost universally praised as a bastion of high-quality television, and its cancellation did nothing but generate bad publicity for the network.

Finally, the fans' message got through to the network: SciFi announced a four-hour miniseries, Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars. Built (loosely) around the outline for Season 5, The Peacekeeper Wars promises to be huge. In order to condense 22 episodes into four, a lot of the slow build has been ditched in favor of complete balls-out action. The entire cast has returned, ready to show SciFi why it was wrong in the first place, and the audience - 'Scapers and novices alike - will do the same.

Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars premieres Sunday, Oct. 17, at 9 p.m., 8 Central, and continues Monday at the same time. Depending on how the miniseries does, there may be more in the future. Big boxed sets of all four full seasons are available on DVD, as well, so if you get hooked, you can catch up.

Season 1 | Season 2 | Season 3 | Season 4

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