I guess "A Town Called Mercy" got me in the mood, so I've watched a couple episodes of Farscape over the past week--the second season episodes "Crackers Don't Matter" and "Picture if You Will". I've also been watching Firefly episodes here and there over the past couple weeks and, of course, the new Doctor Who episodes which provokes comparisons between the shows. First of all, watching Farscape, on a visceral level, felt like a relief, like stepping off a tight rope I'd been walking for months. I think this is because, in terms of sci-fi and fantasy series, few write characters with the kind of natural flow the characters on Farscape have.
Comparing it to Firefly, particularly the early episodes of Firefly, may be unfair--Joss Whedon's writing is often at its most stilted in Firefly and only a couple of the actors--mainly Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk--really make it work. But a lesser actor--especially Morena Baccarin, who's saddled with a particularly poorly conceived character to boot--is totally lost at sea. I watched "Shindig" a couple nights ago, an episode written by Jane Espenson who I felt, with the episode, was making an attempt to work out the female characters a bit more. She gives more power to Inara (Baccarin's character) in dialogue with Mal (Fillion's character) than I felt she had in earlier episodes, satisfyingly checkmating him in exchanges where he disparagingly compares their professions--prostitute and smuggler--but Inara's concept in the episode feels sabotaged slightly by a writer I sense isn't as comfortable with it as Whedon is.
And I thought using "Crackers Don't Matter" for a point of comparison was maybe also unfair because it's widely considered one of the best episodes of Farscape, but even "Picture if You Will" compares favourably. Zhaan managing to strategise through her fear and even use it, Crichton confronting Aeryn about her emotional inaccessibility, all of it just works as naturally as watching fish swim in a pond, no airless, high altitude moments where you sense the writer is proud of how clever he is with words or, as in Doctor Who, the characters feel like they're frantically hitting assigned emotional waypoints.
And I like the new Doctor Who episodes. Maybe it's mainly the Pond fatigue--Oswin did come off much more naturally in "Asylum of the Daleks".
But no-one does it like Farscape. It was also refreshing, too, to watch a show where the characters are all basically children in a moral wilderness. When Crichton tells Aeryn to execute an unarmed merchant over a comm and she does so without the slightest hesitation in "Picture if You Will", it didn't feel cynical or crass. It makes sense for Aeryn, a soldier all her life with immature, undeveloped emotions. You love her, and all the other characters, not because she has an extraordinary personality, but because she's lost and trying to do her best in a bad situation. It's nice to see a show where you're meant to love people not because they're superior beings but because they're messy.