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(October 2000) [Printed in "Reality Module No.18."]

Farscape Considered


I have been watching "Farscape" on Channel 9.

It is interesting to compare it with "Star Trek."

The "Star Trek" series suffer somewhat from the legacy of the time when they were first conceived. The 1960s were a more optimistic time that the 1990s. There was little of the cynicism and the dark shadowing that came in the '80s and '90s. The future seemed mostly bright and full of promise - the world was far from perfect but there was a sincere belief that it could be made better. The delays and detours on the road to perfection since have clouded this vision.

A little darkness was allowed into "ST:DS9" but in general the "Star Trek" universe is too happy to be true.

This is why a later series like "Babylon 5" strikes me as more credible - sociologically as well as technologically.

"Star Trek" also suffers from a history of aliens who look too human - a legacy of its origins in an age when masks were crude; face-painting, weird hairdos, and futuristic costumes were the norm for aliens; and animatronics was too expensive to be used in a TV show.

"Farscape" is later even than "Babylon 5" - its strengths are more realistic social dynamics (the characters argue a lot - a sort of "Anti-Trek" - which was done deliberately), marvellously alien aliens (with advanced "Muppet-technology"), some terrific alien vistas, and some genuinely original SF concepts.

Its biggest fault is also a legacy of its time - the 1990s. It is a pure entertainment vehicle and does not tackle any real issues. It has spectacle but lacks profundity. (We live in an age which values entertainment in media-SF, but has an aversion to social messages and thought-experiments. This is deeply disappointing.)

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Last Updated: 11 September 2004