Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday Muse -- Old School Style: Ben Browder as John Crichton on Farscape

Going back around fifteen years for today's Monday Muse.
Wow, has it really been fifteen years since Farscape first aired on TV? Now that makes me feel kind of old!
Back in the late 90's and early 2000's, sci-fi shows were actually doing okay. Maybe it was the turn of the new millennium or something, but there were a number of them on TV at the time, with Stargate SG1 leading the pack. Sure, we get new sci-fi shows popping up every year at the moment, but none of them seem to be catching on. Terra Nova only got one season (which I was really disappointed about) and this year, shows like Almost Human and Intelligence (which you could arguably say isn't technically sci-fi at all) haven't gotten very good ratings and don't look to be in contention for a second season. I think one of the only reasons Defiance got passable ratings and a second season was because of the game tie-in.
So the fact that Farscape, as whacky as it could be with all those puppets and what-not, managed to last for four season is pretty remarkable in the current cut-throat, ratings-driven television industry.
On a side note, Farscape was great for the Australian television industry, because despite being an American show, it was shot in Sydney. Similar to Terra Nova, which was filmed somewhere in Queensland, a northern Australian state. Of course, I think the expense of production in Australia was one of the reasons why Terra Nova didn't end up being viable for a second season.
Anyhoo, back to our Monday Muse.
One of the reason I decided on John Crichton today is because quite randomly the other day, I decided it was time for a Farscape re-watch. So far I've only gotten through the first four episodes, but its been so long since I've seen it, that I'm really enjoying seeing it through fresh eyes.
One of the things that really hooked me on this show in the beginning (and a lot of other people, I think) was the relationship between John and the ex-peacekeeper soldier Aeryn Sun. After having seen the first few eps again, now I remember why.
From the first moment these two laid eyes on one another, the chemistry sparked to life. In the first episode, even when they don't know each other, they both put the other first to detriment of their own well being. Aeryn speaks up for John when the villain, Crais, threatens to lock John up and experiment on him. Crais turns on Aeryn, and accuses her of being contaminated. When John realizes this means a death sentence for Aeryn, he risks his own life to take her with them when they escape.
From there the connection only deepened. I don't know if maybe the fact that they were the only two humans on board the ship Moya had anything to do with it or not, but John and Aeryn continually gravitated to one another.
The amount of body-on-body contact these two had in the first four episodes alone was more than some TV couples get in an entire season. They covered everything; when the ship was making an emergency landing on a planet (which structurally it wasn't designed to do), Aeryn and John wedged themselves in a corner and braced against one another. When the ship overheated and Aeryn started deteriorating from heat, because her people can't handle extreme high temperature, John lost it for a moment over the fact that Aeryn may die. When D'Argo put on a cuff that made him more aggressive and started shooting at them, they took cover in a corner, pressed up against one another. And let's not forget stuff blowing up and Aeryn landing on top of John. Yep, they were pretty much all over one another. Its exhausting to keep up with, but also awesome!
The relationship with Aeryn aside, I really loved the character of John Crichton. He started out as a scientist lost in space, who didn't know much about weapons or defending himself. In fact in the fourth episode, he blew up Aeryn's rifle when he tried to fire it. And there's been several times when he's run instead of fighting. But as the seasons progress on, and he has no choice but to fight in order to save himself and Aeryn, John becomes the Alpha male, but still retains that sensitive side, the one which fell in love with Aeryn so easily and could still hold out hope, even when things were looking so dark.
One other thing I loved so much about John, he was one of those tough guys who couldn't stop the tears. A bit like Dean Winchester on Supernatural. Yeah, they're tough guys who'll do anything to protect the ones they love, but if something really gets to them, they're not ashamed when a few manly tears roll down those handsome cheeks. And you always remember the first time. Like with Dean, when he made that desperate phone call to his dad, because he was worried about Sam.
For John, the first time we saw this depth of emotion was toward the end of the first season. Crais had been relentlessly chasing them all over the galaxy to get revenge for John killing his brother in the first episode (though, it was an accident, a collision that happened only moments after he first came through the wormhole).
The gang manage to capture Crais, and while he's locked up, John goes to confront him about why Crais wouldn't listen to reason and just leave them alone. Until that point, no matter what had happened, John had just gone with it, adapting as best he could. But I think in that moment, everything that had happened finally caught up with him, and the knowledge that he may never get home to see his friends and family again, that he was stuck in this deadly galaxy he still didn't quite understand, just trying to survive, overwhelmed him, and the emotion needed to come out.
Yeah, give me a tough guy who cries, and I'm a sucker.
If you happen to be a sci-fi fan and haven't watched Farscape, then you're seriously missing out. Yes, yes, I know the puppets and the hardcore costumes are a little much at first. But if you can manage to get past that, then you're in for some sci-fi romance gold. In fact, I wouldn't hesitate to say that Farscape has been to date the best example of sci-fi romance and how well it can work on TV, and will probably retain that title for a very long time. 
So I will be continuing on with my Farscape re-watch, and enjoying every moment of John, and his complicated relationship with Aeryn.

2 comments:

Juss said...

Hey, Jess, just randomly found your blog because I was looking for Ben Browder news after the announcement of a new Farscape TV movie.

This was a very nice piece on Ben Browder and John Crichton, one of my all-time favorite scifi TV heroes. After due consideration I decided that Farscape is my favorite SF series of all time, narrowly beating out Stargate SG-1 and original Trek.

I loved (love still!) all of the characters; John, a genius, but fascinatingly complex; Aeryn, whose character arc was fantastic; D'Argo, maybe the character in SF I'd most like to have for a best friend (lucky John!)...crazy Chianna and Rigel...

Never liked Battlestar. Once I told my wife, "Dear, this is a "frelling" household, not a "frakking" one." It's always nice to see someone else appreciating the series. Thanks for putting it out there.

Jess Anastasi said...

Hi Juss! I'm glad you liked my post and thanks for commenting.
I also think Farscape is pretty much the best sci-fi TV series of all time, and I think other shows should take a leaf out of their book... or should I say script :)
I've watched all of BSG, but didn't enjoy it anywhere near as much as Farscape. I'm also a huge SG1 fan, but I think you're right -- Farscape always had that extra 'something' that the others didn't.
We're sadly lacking any awesome space sci-fi on TV at the moment, and I think we're long over due for something new. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, sci-fi doesn't seem to be faring too well on TV screens at the moment.