Under these circumstances, one might assume that Sci Fi was intentionally trying to bury the show, particularly when one considers that the mid-season cliffhanger episode was touted in advertisements as the season finale. (Less observant viewers might have read that as the close of the fourth of the promised five seasons; whether Sci Fi actually intended the announcement as a willful deception has yet to be proven.) There have been several rumors to that effect, flitting around the Web. Some people speculate that Sci Fi is seeking to neutralize a clause in a contract that would allow the showís producers to opt for syndication after one hundred episodes have been completed. Others are of the opinion that the cancellation was ordered by USA/Vivendi’s top brass; according to scuttlebutt, Barry Diller, the president of USA Network, hates space shows. Still others view Henson owner EM.TV as the culprit, citing its current financial woes and alleged accounting malfeasance as having driven up the production costs for Farscape beyond Sci Fiís asking price. Few if any have yet inquired about Hallmark Entertainment’s role in the decision to cancel the fifth season.
But the show itself, from the perspective of a novice viewer, could be viewed as its own worst enemy. Its initial season took some time before the writers truly found a coherent voice for the show; the earliest episodes had a certain slapdash quality reminiscent of the lower-quality SF television shows filmed in Canada. This may have turned off some viewers (such as myself) early on. Once it found its niche, however, Farscape developed a far more cohesive throughline; but this very strong attribute of the show may also be its most prominent weakness. The cumulative, complex storyline has grown to a point where new viewers have found it nearly impossible to follow, and the current lack of rerun support by Sci Fi only compounds their frustration.
And unfortunately, gaining new viewers is the key to keeping the show alive.
The rally has gone well, [although] to say it has gone well depends largely upon one’s perspective. It seems that, in the hustle to prepare for our meeting at the park, no one has remembered to contact Chicago’s key news outlets. No contact was made to Tribune Broadcasting, home of WGN-TV and the CLTV News station. Inconclusive contacts were made with a couple of area radio stations. No media outfit has come to greet us at the top of our grassy hill, and the sun is beginning to set on the rally.
News will come later from Atlanta that their Fifth of Farscape rally went very well. The Atlanta-area Scapers' march to CNN headquarters, which was partly organized by dark-fantasy author Caitlin R. Kiernan, garnered a small but vital amount of media attention. Cast members Gigi Edgley [sic], Paul Goddard, and Lani Tupu had been flown in from Australia, participated in pre-and post-rally activities, and by all reports had a wonderful time connecting with fans.
The other rallies are reporting successes as well, but in vague terms. The online petitions have seen some activity, including one or two sites where fans have pledged monetary contributions to defray the cost of a new season (reminiscent of funding drives for public television). The Boston Scapers spread their message quickly when they approach crowds at downtown movie theatres. A Scaper from Honolulu claims to know someone with a Neilsen box (but this is more than likely folderol). New York and Washington, D. C. report major successes. The rallies are not limited to America, either -- Scapers report on their rallies in such far-flung cities as Barcelona, Sydney, London, and Toronto. A surprise comes when itís learned that a rally was held by several fans stationed at the 82nd Airborne outpost in Bagram, Afghanistan.
By these standards, Chicago has not done quite as well but we have managed to pull several elements of our campaign together. Our rally turned into a group discussion of what our focus should be, how to pursue our goals, what targets to aim for and methods to employ. A Scaper named Jeff has already set up a Web site for our group, featuring information about the Chicago-area fansí activities and the show itself. The end result is that our small group, which by the end of the day has swollen to thirty-eight members, has resolved to push forward and continue spreading our message. And this makes everyone on the hill feel that weíve accomplished something worthwhile.
But despite the successes of the day, despite meeting fellow fans and organizing our efforts, we have made some errors. And weíve failed to attract the attention of the local news mediaóa major goal of ours from the beginning. I leave the park with a gnawing feeling that the Chicago leg of our shared journey is off to a rocky start.
As if to drive the point home, the following Monday sees Bill Amend's comic strip "Fox Trot" mentioning Farscape in its daily run in newspapers across the country. This day's strip focuses on the efforts of the Fox family's youngest son, Jason, asking his father to sign a petition to protest the cancellation.
"What's 'Farscape'?" is the father's response.
We have some distance yet to cover.
The ChicagoScapers' first meeting on "the grassy knoll" at a park in suburban Chicago. The group is getting to know each other.
The ChicagoScapers discuss their future. The author of this article is seated in the foreground, with his back to us.