Today is my birthday, which I think means I get to be a little self-indulgent. Also, I only have a few weeks left here with the wonderful people of Grace Church on-the-Hill. I have resisted as long as I could, but my friends the time has come for me to share with you my love of Farscape.
Farscape was a quirky little sci-fi show produced by the Jim Henson company in the late 90s/early 2000s. It tells the story of the All-American Astronaut John Crichton who gets sucked through a wormhole into a distant part of the galaxy. He comes to travel on a living spaceship also inhabited by a strange assortment of alien creatures who would eventually become his friends. Along the way, Crichton makes many enemies, finds himself a fiercely hunted fugitive, and searches for a way back to earth — before ultimately forging a life for himself in his strange new world. There is much that I love about the series. The appearance of products from the Jim Henson Creature Shop. Aeryn Sun, arguably the greatest female science fiction character of all time. Liberal use of scatalogical hunour.
At the end of the day, Farscape is a show about wonder. Predating slightly grittier science fiction shows like Battlestar Galactica, Farscape billed itself as the “anti-Star Trek.” The writers wanted to allow space for the darker, messier parts of human life into the sometimes too-pristine world of space opera. Through the course of the series, John Crichton encounters some truly horrific experiences. It is not going too far to say that by the end of the series’ run, it is a story about a man struggling with PTSD (it doesn’t hurt when your lead actor has a BA in psychology). Crichton is not a hero, in the traditional sense of the word. He is a crazy man in space, just trying to stay alive. While that may not sound particularly uplifting, what keeps him alive is his sense of wonder and, above all, hope. Crichton never loses his sense of AWE at being in another world. Although it is hardly a transition that happens instantaneously, by the conclusion of the series he has basically given up on his attempt to return home to his “normal” life and family. Partially because he is too damaged (“you can’t go home again”, after all). But also because he has found a new life and a sense of belonging in strange, frightening, but still wonderful world on the other end of the galaxy.
Over the course of the years on this blog I have written much on the intersection of faith and science fiction. I think wonderful, fantastical tales challenge us to see wonderful, fantastical things in the world. A show like Farscape captures that sentiment better than most. If a man who is hunted, cut off from his family, and doing his best to maintain a semblance of his sanity can still see the gift of the wondrous creatures and events around him — can we not rise to the challenge of seeing the wondrous in our own lives.
More specifically, stories that fall into the category of “portal fantasy”–whether that means the Pevensie children walking into the doorway to Narnia or John Crichton getting sucked into a wormhole–teach us about what happens when we encounter the transcendent. We cannot step away from such experiences without being changed and transformed in some way. I hardly think it is a coincidence that C.S. Lewis used the story of children setting foot in Narnia as a way of imaginatively framing religious experience. And while I am not making the argument that my bizarre little sci-fi obsession is somehow a metaphor for the spiritual life — it is fair to say Farscape appeals to my love for the wonderful, the quirky, the “something more” that I desire in life. And such longing certainly resonated in my own understanding of God and how I find God’s presence in the world.
So, all I can do is share the words of John Crichton to his own audience: “Look upwards, and share the wonders I’ve seen.”