Farscape: Character Bios: John Crichton

COMMANDER JOHN CRICHTON is played wonderfully yet humanely by Ben Browder

If you were to meet Crichton in a pub he would seem fairly normal – if a little boring.  He probably wouldn’t be able to hold down a conversation about sex, drugs and rock n’roll.

John Crichton is the son of an ol’ spacedog NASA astronaut (once walked in space).  He has a PhD in Theoretical Sciences and a refreshing lack of machismo. He had a job as a Mission Specialist on a number of NASA Shuttle launches.

Although his father is an accomplished astronaut in his own right, Crichton’s career headed off in a different direction.  John does not have the same ‘gung-ho’ macho spirit of the ol’flyboys of his fathers generation and is quite defensive about this.  I guess he has lived his life in his fathers shadow for a long time and needs to prove his own worth – in his own way. The young John Crichton was a lonely child often having to worry if he would see his father again (because of the dangers of his job). He soon learned the importance of independence and self-reliance.

Crichton theorised that if a ship could be made to use the Earths Atmosphere and gravity to increase acceleration (a sort of slingshot effect), the ship would not only break Earth’s orbit, but increase speed to such an extent that it would be able to reach other planets and even stars.

He was given a chance to prove this – a NASA Mission was developed in which HE would be the pilot (a little unrealistic, if you lose the pilot, you lose the expertise and any future chance at proving the theory).  Unfortunately a freak worm hole appeared as Crichton’s ship neared it’s maximum speed and his little ship flew straight into it. When Crichton emerged from the wormhole he quickly learned that he was a long way from home and had been thrust into a pitch battle between the Peacekeepers and a large but sleek Leviathan spaceship called Moya. .

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To make things worse, some stupid Peacekeeper twerp bumps into his ship (the Farscape) and then crashes into an asteroid, killing the pilot.  Before Crichton could fully comprehend what was happening around him, he was ‘pulled in’ by Moya’s docking beam and had the fortune (or misfortune) to meet up with its crew – a weird looking bunch of misfits (in any galaxy) desperately trying to manoeuvre their ship away from their attackers (Peacekeepers).

By the way, the stupid Peacekeeper twerp was the brother of a Commander Crais, a powerful and particularly nasty leader of the Peacekeeper attack on Moya – he vowed to kill Crichton for the death of his brother and breaks all the rules in pursuing Moya to that end.

Crichton’s reaction to them (and theirs to him) was gritty, realistic and funny.  How would you feel?  What would you do?  Most of us wondered what would happen if we suffered a similar fate and Crichton’s experience was very believable.  His crewmates looked on him as an inconvenience, a troublesome half-wit of no use to them in their struggle to escape the Peacekeepers  He was whipped with D’Argo’s tongue (very kinky that) and imprisoned until he could prove that he was NOT a Peacekeeper.

This he did.  The Moya was freed from her shackles and Crichton told the crew to steer the ship into the local planets’ atmosphere.  He pulled the ‘Farscape trick’ and Moya went whizzing off out of range of the evil Crais and to temporary safety.

Through the adventures that followed in the first and second season, we see Crichton’s temperament and character change as he learns to interact with the crew.  He tends to be the one who doesn’t overreact, and who brings a small amount of sanity to an insane adventure.

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He has a particularly interesting relationship with Aeryn Sun, a Peacekeeper who accidentally found herself on the ‘other side’.  Aeryn has more balls than Crichton (and me…. and you… put together!) and seeing Crichton getting beaten up by his prospective new girlfriend on a couple of occasions was a lot of fun.

This SadGeezer believes that these two fancy each other like mad and desperately want to rip each others underclothes off with their teeth, but writers are funny like that.  You just cant have a relationship develop into something more than ‘professional’ without the love interest overshadowing the sci fi story.  They actually bonked in (“A Human Reaction”) But ever since then,  just as they seem to get close again, something happens and the chance is lost.

Crichton and Zhaan have a strong bond.  Zhaan seems to understand Crichton’s predicament more than the others and often gives him the benefit of doubt.  He also gets on well with Chiana.  Sometimes I wonder if this is because he fancies the very attractive grey girly, most of the time he acts like her uncle (but maybe he’s a bit of an Uncle Ernie’). 

In fact Crichton (with the exception of some erratic behaviour in season 2) seems to get on well with everyone – even D’Argo and Rygel (who spat on him) and I think that is the main flaw to his character.  Realistically you could be nice to the big shaggy dog, but most of us would be less than warm to him.  And yet, most Farscapers tend to like the growing closeness of Crichton and D’Argo (I wonder why?). If you meet and have to work with some of these personalities you would loath them – especially Rygel!

As a scientist, Crichton has an affinity with Moya. He is fascinated by the spaceship and always respectful of Pilot’s abilities.  He doesn’t so much issue instructions to the ship as ask it’s advice which, I guess, is understandable and humane.

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Yep!  Humane, I think that’s how Crichton can best be described.  I guess that’s good, but not really human.  I’d love to see Crichton do something bad, maybe a serious mistake or make a pass at Chiana when he’s drunk and get a good slapping, something to make me warm to the geezer a little more.


He was born in Memphis, and raised in Charlotte in the United States where his family owns and operates a NASCAR Busch racing car. Browder is a graduate of Furman University in Greenville and learned acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

Before Farscape, Browder was best known for his character Sam in the series Party of Five in which he played  Neve Campbell’s boyfriend.  He has also appeared in many other TV series such as Paper Mansions, The Dottie West Story, Danielle Steel’s Secrets, Innocent Victims and A Wing and A Prayer.  His serial TV appearances include Melrose Place, Grace Under Fire, Murder She Wrote and Boys of Twilight.

Ben Browder’s feature film debut was in Memphis Belle but he also appeared in Nevada with Gabrielle Anwar and Kirstie Alley, A Kiss Before Dying with Matt Dillon, and Boogie Boy.

Browder has appeared in theatre most notably in the Broadway production of The Merchant of Venice which starred Dustin Hoffman and has acted in numerous regional theatre productions.

Discuss this character in the Farscape Discussion Forum

This character review is © 1999 – 2019 Tony Fawl
and not for reproduction without the authors express permission

The FARSCAPE names, characters and everything else associated with the series  are the property of The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Entertainment,  Nine Network, and in association with The Sci-Fi Channel and the BBC.

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