When it comes to the Farscape universe, there's just one name that is synonymous with fear:
An alien hybrid of two warring physiologies, the mysterious villain of Farscape has made life miserable for wayward astronaut John Crichton. But what happens when Scorpius is on the defensive? That's the question that BOOM! Studios, writer David Alan Mack, artist Mike Ruiz and series creator Rockne S. O'Bannon are answering in April's Farscape: Scorpius. We caught up with Mack to discuss the history of the series, the differences between writing Star Trek and Farscape, and just what makes him bring on the bad guy.Newsarama: David, for those who aren't familiar with the world of Farscape, can you tell us a little bit about the basic premise?
David Alan Mack: The premise of Farscape is that a human astronaut named John Crichton, while testing a space module called Farscape One, travels through a wormhole to a distant part of the galaxy. There he is forced to go on the run with a group of escaped alien prisoners aboard a living ship named Moya.
During the course of his journeys, Crichton acquires unique insight into the phenomenon of wormholes; this knowledge makes him a target of the reptilian species known as Scarrans and also of a ruthless half-Scarran, half-Sebacean (a species that looks human but isn’t) military officer named Scorpius.
At the end of the television series, Crichton settles into a new life as a father and husband after forcing the Peacekeepers (the military arm of the Sebaceans) into a peace accord with the Scarrans.
The Farscape comic books have picked up the saga’s storyline from that point and carried it forward, establishing that Scorpius left the Peacekeepers after the accord was signed, and he became a military adviser to Dominar Bishan of Hyneria, the usurper of Dominar Rygel XVI’s throne. Following the return of Dominar Rygel XVI to power on Hyneria, Scorpius is banished in disgrace.
That’s where we pick up Scorpius’s story in the new Farscape: Scorpius comic-book series. He is on a contemplative retreat when, as Bogart said in Casablanca, “Destiny takes a hand.” Finding himself in the right place at the right time, Scorpius makes the most of a new opportunity and starts scheming anew.
Nrama: What made this the right time to launch a series about Scorpius, the villain of the series? Can you tell us a little bit about what he'll be going through in this book?
Mack: I think the editors at BOOM! would be in a better position to say why this is the time to launch the Farscape: Scorpius series, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s because the main Farscape comic-book series has been such a robust success.
As for what ol’ Scorpius will be doing in the new series, he’ll be up to his old tricks. Despite the end of the Peacekeeper-Scarran conflict, he still has many old scores to settle. A lot of people throughout the Uncharted Territories are about to rue the day (“Rue the day? Who talks like that?”) they crossed Scorpius instead of killing him when they had the chance.
Nrama: Can you tell us a little bit about Scorpius, who he is, how he's become such a feared entity in the Farscape universe? What is it about him that makes him a compelling character?
Mack: Villains are often the most interesting characters in a story. It’s why audiences loved TV series like The Sopranos, or movies such as Scarface. Tales of powerful people who take what they want through force of will, intellect, or arms allow us to live vicariously, to experience the thrill of success by means we have been conditioned not to pursue.
That said, despite being a villain, Scorpius has many enviable qualities. He’s physically quite powerful; he possesses great stamina; he’s a brilliant scientist and also a cunning, streetwise survivor. His backstory is also one of overcoming adversity, rising from virtual slavery and imprisonment to lofty positions of power in the Peacekeepers. The miseries of his childhood among the Scarrans, and his continuing struggle with his own internally conflicted physiology (his Scarran genes that make him generate and crave heat are at war with his predominantly Sebacean biology, for which excess heat is a death sentence) make it possible to almost sympathize with him and root for him. (Almost, but not quite.)
He has always been a striver and a climber, a cunning and amoral bastard with a knack for amassing power and cultivating beneficial alliances. This is a character with a talent for holding a grudge. He was often a few steps ahead of the heroes on Farscape, laying traps and anticipating their responses. At times, his motivations seemed reasonable, and even bordered on noble. But usually not.
Ultimately, what I find fascinating about his new arc in the comic books is the sheer scale of his ambition. This is not a character who thinks small. He has big dreams, and he’s just the kind of sociopathic supergenius who can achieve them.Nrama: Will we be seeing any crossovers or tie-ins to the other Farscape series that BOOM! has been doing? Will we be seeing any of John Crichton in this series?
Mack: It’s too soon to say what Rockne S. O’Bannon (the creator of Farscape) and the editors at BOOM! have planned. For now, we’re just focusing on telling Scorpius’s story, which is set contemporaneously to the ongoing Farscape series, and keeping any shared details between those stories consistent.
As far as seeing John Crichton in the Farscape: Scorpius series … eagle-eyed readers should be on the lookout when Issue #1, “Grim Intimations,” hits the stands in May 2010. That’s all I can tell you—I’ve said too much already!
Nrama: We've heard you're working with show creator Rockne S. O'Bannon in putting this series together. How has that been for you?
Mack: It’s been great. I’ve been a fan of Rockne’s work since Alien Nation, and I really dug Farscape when it first aired on the Sci Fi Channel (now known as SyFy).
My working relationship with Rockne on Farscape: Scorpius has been the same as the one he developed on the main Farscape comics with my friend Keith R.A. DeCandido. Rockne dreams up the big story arcs and plots the stories. My job is to adapt those short story breaks into structured comic-book formats, add imagery and dialogue when writing the script, and coordinate any revisions with Rockne, our editor, Ian Brill, and the licensor (The Jim Henson Company). I also work with Ian to vet the page layouts, pencils, and lettering as the pages are produced.
Not only am I having a blast contributing to the Farscape universe in collaboration with its creator, I also feel as if I’m getting a master class in story development from one of the industry’s preeminent scriptwriters.
Nrama: You've also got on board newcomer artist Mike Ruiz. What do you think his strengths are for a project like this? What's been the back-and-forth between you guys?
Mack: Mike has done a great job of capturing the primal, aggressive aspects of Scorpius, and also the dark, brooding qualities of Scorpy’s personality. His style is edgy and a bit raw, which makes it a great contrast for the pencils Will Sliney has been doing for the main Farscape comic series.
I haven’t had any direct contact with Mike because he lives in Spain, and English is not his primary language. I give my art-related feedback to editor Ian Brill, who meshes my notes with his own and then sends them to Mike’s agent, who I am told acts as an interpreter when necessary.
So far I’ve been excited to see how accurately Mike’s pencils have captured the images and ideas I have described in my scripts, and I think ’Scapers are in for a real treat when they see his work in Issue #0, “Fire and Ice” (which is Part One of a four-part arc titled Let Seeping Dogs Lie).
Nrama: David, you broke into writing fiction through the Star Trek franchise. For you, what do you think sets apart Farscape as compared to a sci-fi staple like Star Trek?
Mack: Talk about two series that are like night and day! Star Trek has always been clean and bright, futuristic, and allegorical. Its stories often unfold like morality plays with unequivocal heroes and villains. Despite occasional personality clashes in some of the later spinoff series, all the principal characters have generally been on the same side, working together to achieve common goals, often as a military unit.
Farscape, on the other hand, is set on the far side of the galaxy but seen through the eyes of a man from here and now. Its principal characters spent the first half of the series screwing one another over almost as often as they helped one another. So-called good guys did bad things, bad guys changed their stripes, aliens that seemed like monsters sometimes were but sometimes weren’t.
In many ways, I think that Farscape changed the rules for science-fiction drama on television. It embraced moral ambiguity and emotional complexity, and it dared to show us flawed heroes who were not always right and didn’t always win. It also moved beyond Star Trek’s “humans with bumpy foreheads” paradigm for alien-creature design. I think that if Farscape had not paved the way, the Sci Fi Channel’s audience might not have been ready to embrace Ronald D. Moore’s and David Eick’s reimagined Battlestar Galactica, which many have called “the anti-Star Trek.”
Nrama: Finally, for those readers who are still on the fence, are there any hints or teases or fun moments that you can give that would bring them back to the fold?
Mack: Who wouldn’t want watch Scorpius put the hurt on some aliens who deserve it? Or see him weasel his way back to nigh-unlimited power? Or set the stage for a war that will drench the Uncharted Territories in blood?
But there I go again—I’ve said too much.Check back Monday for our conversation with series creator Rockne S. O'Bannon!