The title of this page is a play on words. November, 2003 saw the fourth of Creation Entertainment's Farscape conventions. That event was also the fourth con I've documented here, although it was actually the fifth I attended. (My seat at my first con was so far back in nosebleed territory that I had to take others' word that I was having a good time.) As for the new hope part of the title, that was engendered by the increasingly resonant rumors of Farscape's return we'd been hearing in the weeks leading up to the con. I'll save you the tension we experienced at Burbank and tell you now that nothing was announced. But what we weren't told, and all the ways we weren't told it, spoke volumes. If you know what I mean.
Oh, and apologies to any Star Wars fans who happen to be dragged here while looking for material about that other space-based epic. Although if you're looking for something imaginative, exciting, heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, maybe you're in the right place after all.
The official festivities began with the introduction of Executive
Producer Richard Manning, better known to the fans as Froonium Ricky.
Or just Froon for people who have trouble with names of more than one
syllable. We'd been told that Ricky had something to tell us,
something that would make us very happy. (Remember what I just told
you a moment ago?) And there was an audible rumble in the auditorium
when he came out; we'd never seen Ricky in a suit before, looking
remarkably like we'd always thought television executives actually
looked. The discontinuity didn't last long. Before any of needed
to gouge our eyes out, Ricky lost the jacket and tie and was
properly attired in his customary
Mambo shirt. Sadly, the only
announcement he had for us involved a blue Toyota with its lights
on. Never before and, God willing, never again, has a joke so
perfectly failed to find favor with an audience. It was the sort of
evil, dastardly stunt we'd have expected of someone mean. Someone
That slight misstep aside, the fourth Burbank con was a lovefest
between the cast of Farscape and its devoted fans. And sometimes
among the cast itself, as we were treated to visits with former
Virginia Hey, absent since
the first con in 2000, and half-masked Banik slave Paul Goddard, a
newcomer to the convention scene. Virginia is a force of nature, a
warm, funny and highly energetic woman who delights in embarrassing
her coworkers at every possible opportunity. Paul looked shell
shocked; I couldn't tell if he was more nervous about the crowd or
about Ginny. Yet somehow he solidered on, keeping that slightly
panicky smile on his face the whole time. And let's face it: if we
have to be terrorized, wouldn't we want our torturer to be someone
just like Ginny? Or am I the only one with dreams like that?
Ginny's entertaining behavior continued that evening, as she and
Lani Tupu hosted a rousing
edition of Farscape Jeopardy. Well, perhaps attempted to
host would be a more accurate description. For one thing,
whoever decided that these two should run a game show might have
considered their lack of knowledge of the rules of that show. Or
might have warned Ginny that picking male and female contestants
based, respectively, on their underwear and body art might not give
us the most knowledgeable panel on things Farscapian. Or that
spanking your cohost isn't traditional on American game shows.
Although there's something to be said for this last practice.
Which, sadly, I can't document for you; my camera chose this
particular moment to demand fresh batteries. Suffice it to say that
Ginny grabbed Lani by both cheeks. And the audience approved.
That was Friday. Saturday began with a reunion of sorts, as the
amazing woman who talked seventy-odd (very odd - I was one of them)
Scapers into attending a Thursday night taping of
in homemade Farscape tee shirts. Sadly, NBC security policy had
kept her from documenting this adventure at the time. So there we
were Saturday morning, back in costume in front of the convention
center so she and we could have a reminder of the event. Not that
we needed one; the combination of seeing Halle Berry and giving Jay
his very own Scaper tee shirt (Leno as Scorpius - inspired!) is
likely to stay with me for a long time to come.
Saturday's official program began with a visit by series creator
Rockne O'Bannon. Having let us down the day before, surely The
Powers That Be would use this opportunity to break the big news.
Alas, it was not to be. Although it was not to be in the funniest
possible way, as Rock came out with his mouth sealed with tape.
tape. Which he removed only to tell us that he couldn't tell us
anything. Except that he couldn't stay long; he had to get on a
conference call with a couple of dozen important people, some of
them in Sydney. And that he should really be back in the office,
working on hour three. (Of what, he wouldn't say.) Gee, for
somebody determined not to tell us anything, he'd actually told us
quite a bit. Including about his determination to be heavily
involved in any revival of Farscape, not that he was suggesting that
such a thing was imminent. (At this point I'll stop with the
non-denial denial talk. I'm sure you get the idea.)
There's a strong connection between the folks who put on Farscape
and those of us who come to conventions. It's almost a family
feeling. And it's not just the way we fans feel about the cast and
crew. Some of it flows the other way as well. Ricky Manning is
probably the best example. He spends every moment of the weekend
with the fans: in the auditorium, out among the vendors, at all the
events. And it's not just Ricky; this is very much a family affair.
The lady at left is Ricky's wife, Cheryl, who's every bit as
involved with the
fans. Here she is during a break in the programming, showing off
her custom purse. On one side is the Sydney neighborhood where they
lived; on this edge the Homebush studios Farscape called home. Nice
souvenir. And so useful when Cheryl and Mr. Cheryl need to find
their way back when production resumes.
The first three Creation cons were one sided, with the cast and crew
presenting to the fans. But since the cancellation, we're a big
part of the story. And this year the agenda acknowledged that new
reality, with one fan panel to discuss the efforts to
Save Farscape and
increase awareness of the show and a second, at right, to talk about
all of the web-based communities and resources that have developed
around it. The women on the panel (funny about that) represented
community sites like
after an Earthbound season four episode and a place I spend way too
much time, reference sites like
The Snurcher's Guide To
Farscape and general news, information and goodies sites like
Karlsweb. The panelists
acquitted themselves well, especially after they begged Ricky to act
as MC. He jumped in, even coming up with some excellent discussion
points for the panel. And earning the undying gratitude of the
participants for not letting them look as terrified as they no doubt
As hard as I might try to think of Farscape as an ensemble show, it
does have its stars. And for a lot of folks the high point of the
weekend, the reason they had come from Europe, Asia, Australia, were
the appearances of Claudia Black and Ben Browder. Claudia was
introduced to thunderous applause, the kind of greeting that would
do a rock star proud. She was all smiles, doing her level best to
say nothing about The Big Secret but telegraphing like mad with her
body language. Taking questions from the throng, she was poised and
relaxed as we had come to expect. She talked about this and that:
some incredibly painful-sounding yoga she'd been studying in her
free time, her impressions of the American star system and how
strange that was to a performance-oriented Australian, the voice
work she'd done on the Lords of Everquest game, a relationship back
in Australia that was clearly going very well indeed.
And then things took a surprising turn. Claudia's costar, some big
lunk named Ben Browder, came out carrying a guitar case. And after
a little bit of chitchat, Claudia pulled out a guitar and told a
long and quietly spellbinding story about a girl who had loved to
sing but had lost her confidence. As she tuned her guitar, she
talked about wanting to give something back to us, as if her
absolutely shattering performances on the screen weren't enough.
She'd taken a little bit of guitar training, learned the three
chords she needed for this song. And as she told this story, we all
watched a beautiful, accomplished and much loved woman pull together
the courage she needed to sing before a few hundred devoted fans.
The song was called Throw Your Arms Around Me by Hunters &
Collectors. I'm told Crowded House also recorded it, although to me
it will always belong to Claudia Black. She has a pure, sweet
voice, seasoned with just a touch of the emotion of the moment. I
think everybody there treasures the memory of that performance.
Fortunately, Ben is a good sport; I'd hate to have to go on after that
performance, and the ovation that followed it. But Ben is a
trouper; he got the audience laughing over the reasons the big
Farscape announcement had been delayed. He'd read each reason off a
card and then flip the card into the audience: about negotiations
with Brad Pitt to play the part of Crichton; negotiations with
Kermit the Frog to play Rygel; the complexities of signing contracts
across the International Date Line without creating disturbances in
the time/space continuum. And one we accepted without question:
because David Kemper is
After that we heard a little about recent projects, like the time
he'd just spent in Canada playing Lee Majors in a telefilm about
the making of
Charlie's Angels. Ben had a few Six Million Dollar Man posters
for special fans, which confused the heck out of us. Was that him in
the poster? Who was he playing again? Eventually the mystery was
sorted out. I think.
Ben's session was followed by a live commentary on his John Quixote
episode, in which he was joined by Ricky Manning, Jonathan Hardy,
Gigi Edgley and Paul Goddard. Not much to say about this one; the
audio from the episode combined with all those microphones made it
difficult for me to follow. But no matter; that was quickly
followed by a group session with Raelee Hill, season four's Sikozu;
David Franklin, the ever loyal Captain Braca; and Jonathan Hardy,
the voice and soul of Dominar Rygel XVI. Appearing on a panel with
Jonathan is a special challenge, as he tends to dominate any
conversation. But David and Raelee held their own, David breaking
into an amazing rendition of Elvis's Heartbreak Hotel and Raelee
expressing childlike glee over an Australian rugby victory over New
Zealand. Raelee also told a funny story about sitting on a bus with
some Farscape fans and praying not to be recognized. She breathed a
sigh of relief when they got off the bus, only to hear a voice
behind her intone: "They didn't recognize you. But I know who
you are, Sikozu Shanu." I can see how that would be kind of
Sunday morning saw the return of the charity breakfast, another
chance to get close to the cast while raising money for a worthy
cause. This year was another cancer charity, this one providing
scholarships to survivors of the disease and children of those who
weren't so fortunate. That grim thought aside, the mood in the room
was as bright and cheerful as is possible after a too late Saturday
night. Cast members came around to chat and to pose for pictures.
At left Raelee is joined by a fan from Taiwan. At right, Ben grabs
some quick refreshment before his morning session and a flight to
Dallas to work on his next project. He's modeling the latest in
fanware, a baseball jersey given him by CAScapers, a bunch of rowdy
Los Angeles women.
I only had a moment with Ben, who was very much in demand that
morning. (Big surprise.) Fortunately, I had a very nice
conversation with Ben's much better half, Francesca Buller.
Ms. Buller has that rare gift of making you feel that she's as
pleased to meet you as you are to meet her. She's either the
warmest, most sincere person I've ever met or a consummate actress.
Or both. At right I have a photo op with Ricky and Cheryl Manning.
These two are the heart and soul of the fan connection to the show.
If Ricky ever stops smiling, that's when we know it's over. After
the picture was taken I asked Ricky if he ever watched the fans'
music videos. When he admitted that he had, I offered him a DVD of
my own videos. He accepted graciously.
God, the things these people do for their fans...
Back in the auditorium, we got a little more time with Ben Browder.
Ben was in a more pensive mood. With wonder in his voice, he told
us about meeting someone involved with the
Fulbright Scholarship Program.
This gentleman has the task of selecting the brightest and most
deserving scholars in the world. He's also a Farscape fan. And
proud of that fact. Which raises that question again: What is it
about Farscape that makes us all so passionate, that gets more from
us than an hour a week in front of the tube? How were we able to
create a public awareness campaign that's still building up steam a
year after the series' cancellation, when everybody knew we were
wasting our time? Ben's at the center of all that attention. And
he's as amazed as the rest of us. Sadly, he had to rush off to the
airport for his
project, so all these deep sociological questions will have to
wait a little longer.
Ben was followed by an informal meet & greet session with David
Franklin and Paul Goddard, a chance for attendees to come up and
chat about whatever. I'd had a chance to talk to both of them
in the autograph line the previous evening. My first stop on that
line had been with Bianca Chiminello, the beautiful assassin from
the Look At The Princess trilogy. I'd met Bianca at Scapercon a few
months earlier, and after we talked about her con experiences, she
wrote something terribly sweet on the script I'd bought for this
purpose. When I got to David, he took one look at what she'd
written and got that devilish gleam in his eye. His inscription
wasn't sweet at all! Downright rude, I'd call it! But to be fair,
he did ask permission first. And it certainly increases the
uniqueness of my
Next onstage was Francesca Buller, Farscape's instant trivia
challenge. True fans can rattle off the names of all four
characters she's played on the show thus far and the episodes where
each appeared: M'Lee in Bone To Be Wild, Ro-Na in Look At The
Princess, Raxil in Scratch n Sniff and the Scarran Minister Ahkna in
the latter half of season four. Ben warned us as he left that if
anybody mistreated his wife, he'd never come back to another
convention. Talk about your empty threats; I'd like to see somebody
not be completely charmed by Francesca. Besides, we'd seen her
characters beat the crap out of John Crichton enough times to
maintain a respectful attitude! Wandering the stage barefoot,
Francesca talked about their history together, her proper English
parents' reaction on meeting this big Suthin boy, the fact that
she's as transfixed by the sight of Crichton's leather pants as
every other woman in the audience. Ben's clearly one lucky guy,
all of Crichton's bruises notwithstanding.
By now the weekend was moving inexorably toward its close. It is
perhaps not a coincidence that we had two more lovely young ladies
to go. First up was Bianca Chiminello, looking every bit the model
she once was and not at all the potent killer and stealer of John
Crichton's... ummm... attentions, yeah, that's it... she played in
the Look At The Princess trilogy. Jenavian was Bianca's first role;
she'd originally auditioned for the part of the princess. But
somebody in the casting process decided she had a look of danger to
her and offered her the meatier role. Good eye; talking to her in
the autograph line the day before, it was all I could do to keep
from swallowing my tongue. You can't tell from these pictures, but
Bianca has eyes that can swallow a man's soul. She could give
a run for his money.
And last but certainly not least, the birthday girl, the lovely and
talented perpetual motion machine that is Gigi Edgley. Each year
Gigi gets a little bit bolder, a bit more confident and more than a
little raunchier. A friend suggested a video to the Mary Tyler
Moore theme. And she's right; "Who can turn the world on with her
smile?" could easily have been written for Ms. Edgley. She
serenaded us with a rap number from her work on The Secret Life Of
Us, demonstrated again her skill throwing around simulated
flaming batons for a
CAScaper who, true to form, managed not to get a single
picture of the performance, and talked about her musical efforts.
And in the process charmed everyone in the room and reminded us how
much we miss seeing her, and all her friends, on our screens. It
had been an amazing weekend. Now all we needed was that miniseries
CNN kept promising. And a pickup of a fifth season. And after that
we'll see. Oh, and of course there's next year's con. Yeah, I
already have my ticket.
|Note: Not satisfied with the Reader's Digest version of the con? You'll find an almost verbatim transcript of the entire weekend at A Snurcher's Guide To Farscape. While I was in the front row, terrorizing the cast with my camera, Thinkum was in the cheap seats, typing madly away on her laptop.|
|Take me home:||
Comments to: Hank Shiffman, Mountain View, California