This is the first release in the Starburst edition of FARSCAPE and while it is unfortunate that they didn't get it right the first time around in releasing the show on DVD, better late than never. Overwhelmingly the biggest problem with the first DVD releases was cost: unless you were an adult with a considerable amount of disposable income, they were simply too expensive. Although I have long been a huge FARSCAPE fan, the price truly was prohibitive, and as a person with a very wide range of interests, I had trouble justifying spending such a large amount of money for only one television series. Fortunately, the Starburst edition is extremely affordable, and contains all the special features available in the original versions. They are also vastly more convenient. I never could understand releasing only two episodes at a time in bulky packaging, and I'm delighted that this new version will take up about as much room as your average TV boxed set. My only complaint is that the episodes are presented on double-sided discs. It isn't clear to me why they couldn't have been singled sided, though there could well be very good reasons. My hope is that they will eventually put out each season in a single box. Although I will own the entire series by then in the individual releases, it will be easier for newcomers to buy them in that format, and this is a show I very much want to play the evangelist with, converting new fans to the considerable charms of the series.
I have a theory about television in the nineties that involves how TWIN PEAKS, THE X-FILES, and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER revolutionized what was possible in the medium. An addendum to this theory is that FARSCAPE was the first show to exploit the potential that these three shows demonstrated was possible. First, TWIN PEAKS showed that it was possible to produce a non-police procedural that maintained continuity from episode to episode while developing a story arc over a long period of time, while at the same time upping the aesthetic standards for what was possible in television. TWIN PEAKS was truly the first American television series that had many of the same values one could find in feature films. A couple of years later, THE X-FILES continued this level of aesthetic while developing an even more satisfying multi-season narrative arc. TWIN PEAKS great flaw--and it was a serious one--was that instead of resolving narrative details, they instead kept introducing new ones, so that by the end of the second season the story was collapsing by the multiplying of mysteries. THE X-FILES has narrative problems of its own, namely its lack of continuity over the course of the years (e.g., it was often precisely clear who the Cigarette Smoking Man was the father of, what the true fate of Mulder's sister was, or whether there was a true alien colonization program, until things were rather artificially summed up at the end), but it for the most part did a masterful job of telling a magnificent story over the course of nine seasons. But even then the show somewhat got things wrong, for the overarching assumption seemed to be that what we really liked was the stories, while in fact what we really loved was that the stories involved the interaction of Mulder and Scully. But the focus in the series was story first, and character development second. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE STORY was the first show to get everything right. The show told a great overall story as well as great season-long arcs, while throughout it all focusing more on character development than plot.
FARSCAPE is arguably the second show after BUFFY to get the formula right. Although the show has some amazing story arcs, in particular in Season Three, which I think one of the boldest seasons in the history of television, not once did the focus ever slip from the central characters to the story. In the midst of all the puppets and sets and CGI effects and aliens and make up and special effects, FARSCAPE is always more about John, Aeryn, D'Argo, Zhaan, Chianna, and the others than it is about the story in which they are involved. (Homage is paid to BUFFY, by the way, in two explicit references to BUFFY over the four seasons, first when John frets that he may be stuck as a statue for so long that not only his family members but even "Buffy the Vampire Slayer!" will be dead and then in Season Four when he asks Scorpio what it takes to stop him, whether silver bullets or "Buffy!")
These first of three sets comprising Season One is stuffed to the gills with special features, more than just about any other TV show I know. Special features have never overly impressed me, though I like good ones. Great special features can never atone for a rotten show, but luckily here we get great features for a great show. Every single episode features its own commentary, and I love the way that you really get to know the principle performers through listening to them. This show was not merely a job for them, but a project to which they were completely committed. The number of additional special features truly is staggering. I know of no other TV series to appear on DVD with anywhere near the same level of special features.
But it mainly comes back to price. Finally we have an edition of FARSCAPE that almost anyone can afford. I heartily recommend this series to anyone who enjoys Sci-fi. I concur with those who consider it the finest Sci-fi series ever to appear on TV, but I would hasten to add that this has the potential to appeal to non-Sci-fi fans. For instance, women usually are not regarded as the target group of a Sci-fi series, but FARSCAPE had a massive female fan base. The reason is the way the show focuses on characters and the interplay between the individuals. But the main reason to see the show is that this is one of the rare ones that got everything right, and this despite the fact that it took more chances than just about any other show in the history of TV. Luckily, even when they took chances, things usually paid off.