Heresy of the Week: A new Farscape film must be true to the show’s spirit

farscape aeryn john little d

Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

The news that The Jim Henson company is considering a big screen return to the world of Farscape is exciting, but Farscape is no run-of-the-mill science-fiction property. The danger is real that a rush to remake an iconic series might see what made the series special lost in translation.

I wager there are few people who will be as happy as I at the news that a new Farscape film is in the works. I grew up watching the Jim Henson Company’s quirky Aussie science-fiction, and it was probably the first piece of science-fiction TV I got properly into which wasn’t Star Trek or Doctor Who. It was funny, engaging, with strong and believable characters, a slow-burning epic story, and as I’ve said before an excellent attitude towards special effects.

Getting on for ten years (yes, I know) have now passed since the airing of The Peacekeeper Wars, the Farscape conclusion which was made as a result of the fan-campaign after the series was cancelled — pre-dating and, in my view, better than Firefly‘s own resurrection, Serenity. Although Farscape remains beloved by myself and many others, it has been off the radar for a long while.

The plot summary which has leaked of the new film sounds very interesting, and is as follows:

…the film would follow John and Aeryn’s son, D’Argo (or Little D, as we will always refer to him). Because their baby was exhibiting a set of interesting powers that made him a magnet for galactic villains, we find that John and Aeryn hide their son on Earth to grow up. Now the kid is 19 and ready to go into space with his parents.

It sounds promising. But I in the back of my mind, behind the joy at he idea of a returned Farscape presence in SF, is concern at the entertainment industry’s current obsession with remakes of old property. In particular, Star Trek.

Now, I enjoyed watching — and gave good reviews to — both of J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek films. They were fun, and have certainly brought a wider audience to the franchise. But rewatching Star Trek: Voyager — as Ash and I have been recently — just serves as a reminder that it is very different in tone and message to what I would class as Star Trek.

Which is less of a problem with Star Trek, as it is a well-known franchise spanning (now) six decades. Farscape is (as fellow SF show Stargate SG-1 parodied) more obscure. So if this film does happen, it will for a lot of people be their introduction to a narrow base of original material. It is important to get it right.

I don’t mean to be a snob about this. I am genuinely excited by the prospect, and I want the new writers to experiment and innovate in the way that the original did. It has to push new boundaries, else it won’t be Farscape. It needs to be character-centric, focusing on a small band of characters amid the rampant chaos of an expansive universe. It needs a big story, but a cunning slight of hand as to its reveal.

I wonder if, as brilliant as The Peacekeeper Wars was, whether a film is even the right format for Farscape: The Next Generation?

It isn’t all doom and gloom, however. Io9 reports that Brian Henson (yes, son of that Henson) is slated to direct, as he did with The Peacekeeper Wars, having produced the series, and the script is claimed to be written by one of the series’ original writers. And if they get the original cast on board — which seems hopeful — then we have a party.

But it is important to remember that this mustn’t be simply a rehash. As Star Trek: The Next Generation discovered, you can’t simply directly remake the old yarns with fresh faces. You have to innovate, to challenge, to breakout of conceptions and assumptions. If it can do that, it stands every chance of being the making of the Farscape name.

But if it doesn’t, it could put a whole wider audience off Farscape in its entirety.

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