When Farscape was canceled shortly before filming completed on season four in 2003, writer David Prowse, creator Rockne O’Bannon, and director Andrew Prowse had a decision to make. Having thought they would be getting a fifth season for the Jim Henson Company-produced science fiction series, they had ended season four on a cliffhanger. Now, they had to decide: should they do a quick re-write, or air the episode as written and let it stand as the show’s abbreviated finale? They decided not only to continue with the episode as originally conceived, but to end the show on the words, “To Be Continued…”
Unsurprisingly, fan reaction to the show’s cancelation, particularly in light of the cliffhanger ending, was not positive. Following an enthusiastic fan campaign, the Sci-Fi channel commissioned a two-part miniseries to resolve the cliffhanger and give Farscape’s major story arcs some sense of conclusion. Called The Peacekeeper Wars, the mini-series aired in 2004 and, impressively, the creators managed to reunite all the show’s stars and several other significant characters for their send-off.
Whether or not The Peacekeeper Wars was strictly necessary from a storytelling point of view is debatable. Although there were certainly plenty of dangling plot threads needing resolution, from a character point of view, season four finale “Bad Timing” had in fact provided quite a strong sense of closure.
Farscape opened with John Crichton getting shot through a wormhole and trying to get home. In “Bad Timing,” Crichton closes that door forever. He shuts Earth off from the rest of the universe to protect it, while he returns through the closing wormhole to his new life and new family. Aeryn confirms that her unborn baby is Crichton’s and they get engaged, so following D’Argo and Chiana’s reunion in the previous episode (“We’re So Screwed Part 3”) everyone seems to be settling down. Even Scorpius has a girlfriend in Sikozu (poor Braca). That farewell scene, as Crichton talks to his father one last time from Earth’s Moon, closes off Crichton’s story rather beautifully.
But, in addition to the on-going stories of Crichton’s wormhole knowledge and the oncoming war between the Scarrans and the Peacekeepers, the most important unresolved plot development from “Bad Timing” occurs in the last few seconds of the show, when Crichton and Aeryn are unexpectedly shattered into a million tiny pieces.
The episode could have been cut off early, finishing on the high of Crichton and Aeryn’s engagement, but no, the showrunners had a plan and by golly they were going to shoot it. Even so, this ending could also stand as the conclusion of Crichton’s story, albeit a really, really depressing (and unexplained) one. But then those words “To Be Continued” appeared across the screen, assuring viewers that this was not, in fact, the intended end of Crichton and Aeryn’s story, even though it seemed we would never find out exactly how they managed to get out of this one…
And so, to The Peacekeeper Wars. Overall, the miniseries is a pretty satisfying experience. On the most basic level, we see how Crichton and Aeryn are saved from their watery grave and most of the major characters get an ending of some kind, some through resolution, some through death (only Chiana’s story still feels distinctly unfinished; the Nebari would have played a part in season five, but there’s no room for them here).
We also get fairly definitive resolution to the series’ major story arcs concerning wormhole knowledge, wormhole weapons and the threat of war between the Peacekeepers and the Scarrans. Although “Bad Timing” provided a sense of emotional resolution, The Peacekeeper Wars provides actual plot resolution.
Plot-wise, the chief flaws in TPKW relate to the need to cram fifteen hours’ of planned story-telling into three. Chiana had gone blind as a result of her visions at the end of season four, and a single line mentioning that she’s got new eyes now clearly shows that this would have been the focus of at least an episode in the planned season five.
The conclusion to Rygel’s long-running desire to reclaim his throne also has to be covered in a line or two confirming that his cousin, who usurped him, wants him to come back as it’s all gone a bit pear-shaped over on Hyneria without him.
Although Sikozu was never exactly the most trustworthy (or beloved) of characters, her betrayal of Scorpius seems rather to come out of nowhere and doesn’t sit well with her stated aims from the end of season four, and again has to be explained in a few lines.
The planned story arc that gets the most attention is Rygel accidentally ending up pregnant with Crichton and Aeryn’s baby, which forms a substantial section of Part 1 of TPKW, but even this feels like it was probably planned to allow Claudia Black to continue to run around and kick ass without a huge fake pregnancy bump for as much of season five as possible, and it has to be a bit rushed to fit into a single, feature-length episode.
The focus of TPKW is, of course, the wormholes/Scarrans/Peacekeepers story. This has potentially galaxy-destroying consequences, but we know from the start that most of us are probably safe, as the entire mini-series plays out as a flashback from the end-point of Aeryn watching over a comatose Crichton.
Given that this was a series finale and therefore all bets are off and anyone could die, this seems a bit of a shame. Frankly, Farscape was such a daring show, we can imagine a universe where they might really have finished it with the destruction of the entire galaxy, so perhaps Crichton’s game of Extreme Chicken would have been even more tense without that bookending scene of our heroes in a distinctly still-existing universe.
However, the whole thing is well enough filmed and acted that the tension is high anyway, and of course, the series does feature the deaths of one recurring and one regular character, so it’s not without dramatic and shocking plot developments.
Knowing that you’re producing the last ever episode of a series with a reasonably high body count makes it almost obligatory to kill off a regular character, just because you can, and D’Argo was the most logical choice. His story had been largely concluded in season four, with his confrontation of the man who framed him for murder, and his election as captain by Moya’s crew showed how confident and capable he’d become. He’d got back together with Chiana and was happy, he’d acquired a very cool Luxan ship, the mini-series sees him reunite with his son Jothee and begin the process of reconciling with him – D’Argo was doomed, basically.
His death is also the one that would affect Crichton the most without absolutely breaking him (as Aeryn’s would). To kill off Crichton or Aeryn (or the baby) would have been too depressing; to kill off Rygel probably not depressing enough; killing off Pilot and/or Moya would have left everyone with no home and no ship. It had to be D’Argo or Chiana, and D’Argo was both happier in himself and closer to Crichton, so D’Argo it was.
At least now everyone can stop pretending they don’t just do what Crichton says anyway and make Crichton officially their captain.
Although TPKW was made an impressively short amount of time after the end of the series, there are a couple of elements that seem rather strange or out of place for regular viewers. Evil Peacekeeper Grayza’s pregnancy was forced by the fact actress Rebecca Riggs was pregnant, so couldn’t be helped.
Still, given what we know about Peacekeeper procreation (it’s usually done using a breeding program, the fetus can be frozen at an early stage of development for up to seven years and has to be released by a surgeon, and – the final twist necessitated by the short running time of the mini-series – once released the fetus will come to term within a couple of days) Grayza’s decision to release her fetus at this particular point in time, while trying to start a war with the Scarrans, is nonsensical (plus she seems to be pregnant longer than Aeryn is. Chalk it up to human/Sebacean cross-breeding weirdness).
All of that pales, though, in comparison to Jool greeting Crichton by snogging him and looking disappointed to see Aeryn, for which there is no reason whatsoever and which comes absolutely out of nowhere; Jool was mooning over D’Argo the last time we saw her.
But these are minor niggles; overall, TPKW provides an exciting and satisfying end to the series. Even abbreviated resolution is better than no resolution at all, and any minor irritations are more than compensated for by the sheer joy of finally seeing Crichton and Aeryn get married (while she gives birth, under fire, in a city under siege – obviously) and settle down with their spectacularly tough offspring (who has managed to survive Sebacean heat delirium, being shrunk to doll-size, torture, being in very close proximity to a nuclear explosion protected only by an elevator, being shattered into tiny pieces, gestating inside one of Rygel’s stomachs, being transferred back into his mother via a really freaky-looking needle that doesn’t look big enough for a baby and finally being born into a not-especially-clean-looking fountain in the middle of a siege, all before he’s a day old).
Granted, the final few shots are almost painfully cheesy, one of Farscape’s occasional weaknesses when it wasn’t killing off half the cast, but perhaps, after all that death and glory, Farscape has earned a little cheese. If it had to end, this is as good a way as any to do so.