I suspect, judging by comments of friends, there's at least one good show on TV right now--"24"--and if I ever thought to turn my TV on, I might watch it. But I don't. It just works out that way. I have a lot of things I want to do with my time, and scheduling a specific hour and night to watch a TV show never makes the cut. Though I could program my VCR to tape a show....of course, I'd have to buy a blank videotape, first.
In any event, while we don't watch TV programs, we do, on occassion, rent vidoes. Today, we rented the 3-DVD "FarScape" set. We saw an ad for FarScape at the start of some movie or other we rented, and decided to give it a shot. The set lables itself a "Best of the first season" and consists of 6 episodes from the same. We only have one DVD player--the one in Lut's computer. Since a primary reason we rent movies is so we can cuddle on the couch while watching them, watching the FarScape episodes entailed moving Lut's computer--and, for good measure, my 19" monitor--out to the living room.. (I briefly considered moving the couch instead, but, given the layout of our apartment, moving the computer was easier.) As we are doing this, Lut notes, "This will be annoying if we watch the first episode, look at each other, and go 'Euugh, I don't want to watch any more, do you?'"
We didn't have that reaction to the first episode...but by the end of the second, I was almost ready to give up. I'd had hopes for a show in the Babylon 5 style--continuity, and science that didn't involve lines like, "If we just reverse the polarity, we can then ram our way through the event horizon..."
I don't mind hand-wavey science fantasy, like wormholes or hyperspace. Ok, you have X effect that does Y, you're not going to explain how, and I don't need to know. Fine. But Lut cringed through the entire sequence that treated the slingshot effect as some kind of novel idea which would work even better if it was done through the atmosphere. (Friction increases velocity! Yes, that makes sense!) If there is some way in which this 'theory' could be considered reasonable, please, by all means, enlighten me.
The second episode could have been straight out of Voyager. Protagonists search., longingly, for a Way to Go Home. Protagonists make deal to Go Home. Some Bad Things happen. One protagonist undergoes Major Transformation. By the end of the episode, it turns out no one is going home, and the major transformation (which was, naturally, bad) has been reversed. Protagonists are in exactly the same position at the end of episode as they were at the beginning.
The third episode on the set repeats much the same themes, except that they really have you going for a while, thinking .something will have changed by the end of the episode. No, nothing, it's all been the equivalent of one big hallucination. Watch my eyes roll right out of my head.
However, the final three episodes reveal that, contrary to the expectations built up in the first ones, things do change in the storyline, and the events of previous episodes are allowed to affect future ones. Woohoo! Continuity! In fact, there were enough continuity references that just watching the six "best of" episodes meant that we missed a chunk of relevant stuff. ("Shouldn't that character be dead? Or at least imprisoned?" "Who is that person and where did she come from?") They summarize and repeat enough that the gaps are merely inconvenient, and not enough to keep the viewer from following the story clearly enough.
The show, and particularly the DVD quality, is beautifully done, with many pretty special effects. Except that it's all badly lit. For the first 20 mintues or so, Lut kept fussing with the gamma and brightness on the monitor, trying to make the picture clearer. Finally, I said, "Look, the first five minutes looked fine. The rest of it is dark because they made it dark. It's supposed to be that way." After five hours of this, however, I really wanted to run around their ship installing halogen lamps and 300 watt bulbs. "I miss the sun," one protagonist said on the show. "I miss being able to see both halves of a person's face at a time," I retorted.
I am not a good judge of acting ability. No one was so bad they made me cringe; neither was any character or actor so compelling that I wanted to see more of them. I'll say this for the crharacters--in the first few episodes, they are cardboard cutouts of stereotypes...but they do get a bit more nuanced as the show goes on. They're still stereotypes, but at least you can tell some differences between D'Argo and a Klingon by then.
Overall, as science fantasy, it was worth watching. It looked nice, it had continuity, it even surprised me a time or two. Given that most of my initial complaints were with the early episodes, I wouldn't be surprised if it had improved significantly in seasons two and three. I may see more of it...if I find some inexpensive way of doing so. According to Amazon.com, there are 11 episodes released on DVD, but each is only for sale individually, and at $15 a pop, that's way more than I'll pay to keep up. One of the reasons we saw this set was that we were able to rent all six episodes for $5.00--with the added bonus that they were pre-selected as a "coherent sample" of the first season.