Friday, May 18, 2012

Classics: The Peacekeeper Wars (Farscape)

Overall: 8.8

For the most part, this is a nice conclusion for the series. 

Plot Synopsis:

The Farscape Wiki covers parts one and two here and here.

The Skinny:

And here's what I find especially interesting about the structure of the plot: John initially pulls out all the stops to avoid having to construct that wormhole weapon. Indeed, he is adamant that the use of such a horrific device would never bring about a lasting peace. And yet - and yet - it is the threat of mutually assured destruction via that self same weapon that finally brings the Peacekeepers and the Scarrans to the bargaining table. The Purple Light of Peace in which John places his fervent hopes cannot be utilized until John scares the crap out of everybody first.

Further, the aforementioned Purple Light of Peace is itself made available to the modern-day Eidelons through an act of personal violence. Stark does not take on the task of transporting Yondalao's knowledge willingly, remember. He is forced into it -- and if, like yours truly, you read that moment as a sort of rape, you are not crazy or over-sensitive. That is precisely how the writers describe the scene in the original script.

Thus, there is a fascinating tension in this miniseries between the idealistic things the characters say about peace and how it should be achieved and what they do to secure the peace. And isn't that how it often works in the real world? I think we all would rather that our conflicts be settled through reasonable diplomatic discussion -- but in many cases, the opponents we face are so overwhelmingly malevolent that only a show of swift and terrible force - or the threat of such an action - can bring them to heel. Similarly, despite his good intentions, John ultimately feels driven by his circumstances to act aggressively in self-defense. "How am I supposed to protect you from the Peacekeepers and the Scarrans and the Tregans and the lions and tigers and bears?" he asks Aeryn at a critical turning point. "With this? This gun? No gun is big enough!" It's a very human cry of desperation -- and a sign that, at the very least, the writers comprehend the thought process that, for example, drove Truman to drop the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

And as for the other positives? Well:
  • D'Argo's sacrificial death is handled extraordinarily well. Indeed, in terms of the visceral emotional impact, it rivals Zhaan's death at the beginning of season three.
  • We also see the writers pulling away from the sex kitten stereotype in their characterization of Chiana. That she seriously entertains the idea of settling down on Hyneria with D'Argo is quite telling in that regard.
  • Moreover, the humor in the script works about 90% of the time. Rygel's blubbering after the baby is finally removed from his stomach is a bit over the top, but I love the running joke involving the repeated interruptions of John and Aeryn's wedding. ("Dearly beloved... we are gathered here... beneath this magnificent... command carrier..." LOL!) And oh yes -- I also seriously crack up when they bring Stark over in the middle of Aeryn's labor to perform a quick and dirty marriage ceremony and Stark starts reciting the Delvian puberty right. ROTFL!
  • Speaking of Stark, Paul Goddard totally wins the prize for Best Reaction Take Ever for the little eye-pop thing he does when John transfers the baby to Aeryn on Staleek's ship. Hee!      
I'd be lying, though, if I said I didn't have "notes." While the central conflict of the piece is tackled with finesse and nuance, I feel that some of the minor characters get short shrift -- no doubt because the writers had to collapse an entire fifth season into three and a half hours of television. For instance, what the hell happens with Sikozu here? Her "deal" with the Scarrans is revealed without any preceding set-up. Also, I must admit to feeling let down by Stark's miraculous "healing" at the very end. That seems way too easy and trite to me.

Still, despite the above qualifications, this is a satisfying send-off for Farscape overall. In addition to all the strengths mentioned in the discussion above, I also appreciate the almost cinematic feel of the story. The writers and the production team worked hard to reward their fans for their loyalty, and it definitely shows.    

Writing: 8.5

Some mishandling of the supporting characters mars what is otherwise a fantastic script.

Acting: 9.0

The performances, though not flawless, definitely deserve a borderline A.

Message: 9.0

The text seems to argue that violence is often a tragic necessity, and I certainly don't disagree.

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