?Sandwiched betwixt the waning days of Star Trek and the waxing of the revamped Battlestar Galactica, there was a little show called Farscape, the story of the Earthling astronaut John Crichton who winds up stranded in a distant galaxy aboard the living spaceship Moya after getting shot through a wormhole. While trying to return to Earth, John and the crew — including sexy but disgraced soldier Aeryn Sun, brash warrior D’argo, avaricious exiled royal Rygel, snarky libertine Chiana, vegetable-based mystic Zhaan, deranged soul-ferryman Stark, and the symbiotic, appropriately named Pilot — found themselves the target of both sides of a war between the Peacekeeper empire and the reptilian Scarrans, because of John’s advanced knowledge of wormholes. Meanwhile, John’s dwindling sanity and his rocky romance with Aeryn were stressed to the breaking point.
Running for four seasons and a miniseries, Farscape was the kind of show that could effortless switch between genres ranging from epic war adventure to bleak character pieces to zany comedies. While it wasn’t shy about borrowing, having a lead that was as nerdy as its audience kept things fresh. With its ragtag crew and witty banter, it’s essentially Firefly but with Muppets. In summation, you should watch Farscape because it’s frelling awesome. For those of you who don’t have the time to watch all 88 episodes, I’ve picked out the 10 best (not including “The Peacekeeper Wars” miniseries) for you. Multi-episode arcs count as one episode because ranking the sub-parts of a single story is even too pedantic for me. Be advised: There are HUGE FRELLING SPOILERS below! So it may be best for you to watch the entire series first and then come back to tell me I got the rankings wrong.
This final season episode exists to permanently shame the Emmys for never recognizing the show for its outstanding performances. To find where the Scarrans are taking the pregnant Aeryn, John and the evil Scarran/Sebacean hybrid Scorpius return to the altverse where the cast swapped their roles around (and an excellent job they do of it, too). Then Scorpius kills the almost-but-not-entirely-unlike-Bizarroworlders to get their information and rack up extra bastard points. Meanwhile, the Scarrans are torturing Aeryn Sun for the identity of her babydaddy. They learn not to frell with Aeryn, doubly so when she’s got a bun in her oven, as Claudia Black proves once again that being a great actress and looking stunning in dead cow skin aren’t mutually exclusive.
9) Look at the Princess, Parts I & II
While hoping to lie low and relax on a neutral planet being courted by the Peacekeepers and Scarrans, Crichton finds that he’s the only person genetically compatible with its soon to be coronated princes. The catch to marrying into royalty is that he has to be turned into a statue for 80 years. This royal engagement increases the frequency kidnapping and assassination attempts on John by at least 10%! It features a hunt for a stolen severed head and a clash in an acid refinery. Amidst all the cliffhangers, court intrigue, and hijinks, Moya is sentenced to death, and Aeryn goes on the worst blind date ever.
8) Crackers Don’t Matter
This second season episode highlights how Moya‘s crew barely tolerated each other even on good days, which is problematic for them since they have mostly bad days. After hiring the ironically blind photophile T’raaltix to build cloaking shields for Moya, the crew becomes violently paranoid in hilarious ways. In the end, John is only able to save the day because he’s the most deficient of all the species aboard. Plus, everyone’s favorite hallucination Harvey — the neural clone of Scorpius — makes his surprise debut.
7) Into the Lion’s Den, Parts I & II
Upon learning the Peacekeepers are close to perfecting wormhole weapons, the crews of Moya and Talyn (Moya‘s hybrid progeny) try to sabotage their efforts from the inside by volunteering their aid. It’s a change of pace from their usual strategy of “run away!” and it allows us to see more of Peacekeeper society. While this third season climax could’ve easily been the series finale, it doesn’t feel like a cop-out that the series continues on afterwards. It’s wholly satisfying as the conclusion of Bialar Crais’s character arc from the series’ original antagonist to tragic hero. It’s worth it for the majestic tableaus of property damage alone!
6) Nerve/The Hidden Memory
Farscape was good, but it didn’t become great until this two-parter late in season one. While infiltrating a top secret Peacekeeper base, John meets his arch-nemesis, Scorpius, for the first time. It’s a bold first impression that the show follows through on. It’s revealed that John has the secret to wormholes stuck in his head, which will be the driving plot point for the rest of the series. Not only do we learn proper cellmate etiquette from the guano-mad Stark, Chiana gets bonus points for totally killing a dude with fire.
5) Won’t Get Fooled Again
John finds himself back home on Earth after the failure of the Farscape project’s first mission, apparently never having boarded Moya. He’s still surrounded by the allies and enemies he made since being sucked through the wormhole, but why don’t they acknowledge their past with him? Even stranger, why don’t his fellow humans take notice of the aliens’ lack of context? The more John tries to understand what’s going on, the trippier things get. It’s a far better homage to The Prisoner than AMC’s ill-conceived remake of The Prisoner. Despite its sinister underpinnings, it’s one of the funniest episodes produced. Farscape never fails to bring home the bacon when it blends horror with hilarity.
4) Liars, Guns and Money, Parts I-III
If Ocean’s Eleven got into The Dirty Dozen‘s pants, this tense season two arc is what their bastard child would be (except with a Warren Zevon reference instead of overt numerology). Stark returns from his brief death with a plan to rescue D’argo’s son and rob Scorpius blind. This heist requires the crew to recruit the aid of a variety of foes from season one. Needless to say, there are certain flaws in this plan. Double crosses abound. It’s (unfortunately) also the only place to see Scorpius’s perverse sometimes girlfriend, Natira. At least Dominar Rygel XVI finally gets his revenge in a crowning moment of badassery. In other words, a cantankerous Muppet tosses around a severed head he took as a trophy.
3) Green Eyed Monster
Have you ever thought HAL 9000 just wasn’t Oedipal enough? If you answered yes, seek counseling. Or watch this episode written by series star Ben Browder. It’s only his first script, but he nails all the character and story beats. After being swallowed like electromagnetic candy by a whale-like budong, the emotionally disturbed spaceship Talyn decides to keep John away from his surrogate mother, Aeryn … permanently. It’s up to the odd couple comedy duo of Rygel and Stark to save the day! The relationship between Aeryn and Crichton escalates too. This is how you do a done-in-one episode that’s not filler.
2) Die Me, Dichotomy
Just as things are looking up for Moya‘s crew after “Liars, Guns, & Money,” Murphy’s Law strikes. Chiana responds to D’argo’s marriage proposal by frelling his estranged son. The neural implant overrides John with Harvey’s personality just as he’s about to have it removed. During his escape, John inadvertently kills Aeryn. John can only watch impotently as the woman he loves dies in a senseless accident. In the middle of the operation to finally extract the chip from John’s brain, Scorpius reclaims it and leaves John a vegetable on the operating table. This second season finale doesn’t just sucker punch you in the gut; it also steals your lunch money when you’re down.
1) Revenging Angel
While you need a firm investment in the characters to get the full effect of the previous entry, this one is amazing even if you’ve never seen an episode before. D’argo throws his prized Qualta Blade away in shame after accidentally giving John a concussion. Unfortunately, D’argo needs his it to prevent Moya‘s impending destruction. Meanwhile, Harvey tries to encourage the comatose Crichton to live by urging him to take revenge on D’argo. Rather than tossing away the friendship, John’s subconscious retreats into a personalized Chuck Jones cartoon. The drama of D’argo’s external struggle is juxtaposed with the comedy of John’s inner conflict. This episode poses the existential question of whether death with integrity is preferable survival at the expense of your own ethics. Then it takes what could’ve been depressingly pretentious and makes it awesome by having a third of the episode be animated. That’s why if you only see one episode of Farscape, it better be “Revenging Angel.”