A fan asked director James Gunn if he was influenced by space opera series Farscape for Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Gun replied, "People are always bringing up a million films asking me if they're inspirations. Usually the answer is no. In the case of Farscape it is most definitely YES."
To anyone who has watched Farscape, this is not surprising at all. The cult show ran on the SyFy Channel for four seasons from 1999 to 2003. It was one of the most original space opera shows since Star Trek. It embraced big crazy ideas before the revamped Battlestar Galactica scaled back the genre to a low-fi, analogue alien-less mode.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) March 15, 2020
Farscape featured more original alien designs, created with muppet techniques and tactile practical effects rather than CGI. It didn't fall back to the sometimes lazy designs on Star Trek that comedian Eddie Izzard described as "just a bloke with an ashtray glued to his forehead". The show made the effort of creating aliens that didn't always need to be humanoid. They were muppets operated by puppeteers and voiced by actors.
The "Anti-'Star Trek'" of The Early 2000's
The main cast were mostly antiheroes. American Astronaut John Crichton (Ben Browder) goes through a wormhole to find himself the only human in a chaotic warring galaxy. Taken prisoner by a fascistic military dictatorship called the Peacekeepers, Crichton escapes with a crew of prisoners on a living ship called Moya. Now he and his crew of criminals, rebels, and rogues have the entire galaxy gunning for them. Virtually everyone they encountered tried to kill them or screw them over.
Crichton and the crew of the Moya were not heroic representatives of a peaceful military establishment like Star Trek. They were rebels and criminals fleeing and fighting a fascist regime. This ran counter to the conservative politics of most American space opera. The cult 1970s BBC space opera Blake's 7 started this mini-trend. Farscape was really Blake's 7 with muppets.
Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy shares some of the same DNA as Farscape. Starlord and his crew of ne'er do wells are thieves, assassins and criminals. They barely escape the law while trying to make money. Then they have to save the galaxy when no one else will.
The Real Weirdness of "Farscape"
Farscape also contained the most original and hilarious subtext of any Science Fiction show. It was really about a hapless American dude stuck in the Australian BDSM scene where everyone he met wanted to sex him up. This was implicit in the scripts and the performances of all the actors, and it was often hysterically funny. Ben Browder played John Crichton as increasingly freaked out and unhinged by his experiences.
The designs of many of the costumes and uniforms often featured leather and bondage-like straps. The late series villain Scorpius was pretty much a leather dom who played his scenes with Crichton with oodles of homoerotic BDSM subtext. Crichton just attracted both male and female dominatrix-type aliens who wanted to do weird things to him that he didn't want done. He was the most reluctant bottom on TV in any genre. The show carried a heaviest layer of polymorphous perversity outside of a semi-legal leather bar.
Parallels Between "Guardians" and "Farscape"
Gun's Guardians of the Galaxy has only a fraction of Farscape's weird sexiness. But a little already goes a long way. The PG-13 threshold must be upheld, after all. The sadomasochistic love story between Starlord (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) parallels the love story of John Crichton and Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black). The humourless comedy of Drax (Dave Bautista) is very similar to the dry nobility of Ka D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe) from Farscape. Even the weird sensuality of Mantis (Pom Klementieff) has parallels with Farscape's Chiana (Gigi Edgley).
All we can say is, Gunn has impeccable taste.