The Best and Worst of Farscape: Season 2

farscape

For previous installments:

Season Two was overall a very good follow-up to Season One.

The Best:

Crackers Don’t Matter, Picture If You Will, The Locket, and A Clockwork Nebari

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In brief portions:

  • Crackers Don’t Matter is an epic piece on morality and motivation;
  • Picture If You Will is a great tension building episode that is less action-packed and more to the style of the first season;
  • The Locket is a great Aeryn-centric episode with a time travel twist; and,
  • A Clockwork Nebari remains one of the best episodes the series has ever produced.

According to The A.V. Club review of Crackers Don’t Matter:

“Kill her. Then we’ll have pizza. And margarita shooters. Go on, John, kill her. Do it, do it!” “Nobody… has margaritas with pizza!”
In science fiction, there’s a nearly unavoidable assumption that humans are special, and, on some level, that assumption is correct. After all, of all the countless intelligent races that have shown up in sci-fi stories over the centuries, Homo sapiens is the only one that is, well, real. The luxury of existing outside the confines of fiction gives humanity some key advantage over any alien counterparts, and the first benefit is found in the construction of that last phrase—humans stand apart from aliens, and there’s a natural tendency to group all extraterrestrial races together as one giant, exotic other. As such, it’s difficult to delineate individual aliens as well-rounded, nuanced characters, and it’s even more difficult to portray alien races as something other than monolithic populations that embody just one of the many traits human possess, whether that’s militarism, spirituality, or simple greed. We intuitively know the baseline and the extremes of the human experience, so an exceptional human can show up in a science fiction story without any trouble. But each alien must shoulder the burden of being an emissary to the audience for his, her, or its entire race. And, if nothing else, everyone who has ever read, watched, or created science fiction has been human, give or take the occasional unusually attentive cat. It’s understandable that humans enjoy a special status in stories that place them among other intelligent species.

All this only becomes problematic when that natural bias towards human characters transmutes into a belief that humans are somehow innately better than other races. There’s a long history of this in science fiction; Isaac Asimov famously constructed a universe without aliens for his Foundation stories because he wasn’t comfortable with his editor John Campbell’s edict that humans—and, implicitly, that meant white, male, Anglo-Saxon humans—always be shown to be superior to alien characters. But even when stories don’t purposefully intend to make humanity appear superior, this is a common byproduct of the fact that humans are, for all the reasons previously outlined, typically the protagonists. On Farscape, John Crichton has saved his shipmates on countless occasions, and it’s usually he who solves the big mystery or resolves the underlying conflict. That makes perfect sense in narrative terms, because he’s the show’s main character and because he has his fair share of positive, heroic qualities. But there’s a tendency to see Crichton’s individual courage and insight as emblematic of his entire species, and that’s an impulse that “Crackers Don’t Matter” tackles head-on. Crichton himself finally succumbs to the tempting belief that humans are superior, and the episode kind of proves him right—except his victory is entirely rooted in the fact that humans are too stupid and underdeveloped to be properly affected by T’raltixx’s manipulations.

“Crackers Don’t Matter” is often held up as the gold standard of what are known as Farscape’s mindfrell episodes; so much so that, in subsequent episodes, characters will actually name-check these events as a comparison point for the newest insanity they encounter. Ian Watson deserves a ton of credit for his fearlessly, brilliantly off-kilter direction, as he matches a constantly moving camera with purposefully bizarre, theoretically “incorrect” music, acting, and editing choices; even if the story were half as daring as it is, Watson’s approach would still have made this one of the darkest, most subversive stories Farscape ever did. And there are plenty of plot questions that go unanswered, which keeps the audience further off-balance; T’raltixx does ultimately explain his true motivations, but the audience is clearly missing a huge chunk of context necessary to understand what he’s ranting about. The episode doesn’t obscure the really vital information—that T’raltixx is a conman and that he’s trying to keep the crewmembers out of the way so that he can create light—but it’s still anybody’s guess what he was ultimately trying to accomplish in any specific sense.

This episode pushes the shipmates to their absolute breaking point in the first 20 minutes, and then it pushes them several metras further in the second half of the episode. T’raltixx’s influence removes all their virtues and amplifies their vices, which means that all these unspeakably vile actions are things the characters really are theoretically capable of. There’s a reason Crichton recites the first couple of lines of “Humpty-Dumpty” at the end of the episode. “Crackers Don’t Matter” shatters the characters’ collective illusions about their statuses as civilized beings. Worse, it undoes all the hard work that went into building trusting, even loving relationships. The mindfrell of this episode isn’t so much what happens to the characters, but rather what they themselves do when their impulse control is removed. It’s about characters, not plot, and that’s far more disturbing. Plenty of sci-fi shows might try something like this, but very few would push their characters into such dark places, and most would then gloss over the all-important question of how the shipmates can possibly take it all back.

I mentioned the concept of baselines earlier, and that idea is crucial to this episode’s success. While the story is entertaining enough on its own lunatic merits that it could still be entertaining to first-time viewers, the episode works far better when the audience fully understands just how far out of character the shipmates go. And it’s not as though the episode wastes any time in establishing who these people are normally; Zhaan, D’Argo, and Rygel get a handful of lines that reestablish their default personalities, but Chiana starts the episode unusually agitated, Aeryn is in a slightly playful mood, and Pilot may already be feeling the effects of T’raltixx when we first see him, as evinced by his unusually blunt pronouncement that he’s only vaguely concerned about Crichton’s well-being. “Crackers Don’t Matter” trusts the cast to convey the escalation from irritability to paranoia to full-blown psychosis, and all involved are more than up to the challenge.

As Pilot and D’Argo observe at the end of the episode, T’raltixx brings out the worst in everybody, and so as crazily as everyone behaves, they still do so in ways that are recognizably them, and it’s possible to connect the characters’ behaviors here with aspects of their personalities on display in more normal circumstances. Some of these links are fairly straightforward; Chiana is naturally suspicious and selfish, so T’raltixx’s influence simply erases her character growth since she joined the Moya crew and essentially resets her to who she was in “Durka Returns.” Rygel has even fewer positive qualities to strip away—there’s a missed opportunity for a dark joke, which would have been to point out that there’s no real difference between normal and affected Rygel—but the Hynerian probably wouldn’t have so gleefully disregarded instructions and risked Crichton’s life if he were in his right mind. Still, these are only slightly more extreme versions of the characters’ natural selves.

D’Argo is a rather more intriguing case, because the obvious way to depict him at his worst would be to revert him to the ultraviolent, rage-driven beast we have glimpsed on occasion. There are certainly aspects of that in his transformation, most notably when he punishes Rygel for stealing the crackers and stars furiously forcing them down his throat. But D’Argo isn’t mindlessly violent, as he and Chiana temporarily ally themselves and become obsessed with ferreting out just how the others plan to betray them. Indeed, his behavior seems to match Chiana’s, and it’s possible that his actions are partially motivated by some combination of lust and a twisted desire to protect the Nebari. As recently as “Vitas Mortis,” D’Argo demonstrated how his judgment can be temporarily impaired by, for lack of a better term, horniness, but he did the right thing in the end, at great personal cost. Here, his ethical safeguards are removed, and that lack of moral structure doesn’t simply unleash his violent side; it leads him down the sorts of insane, paranoia-fueled chains of thought that end with knocking Zhaan out because she’s working with Crichton.

Aeryn, on the other hand, approaches everything like it’s a sick joke. There’s a certain grim practicality in teaming up with Rygel, but even her reasoning—for all his innate treachery, he’s the only one too cowardly to betray her—is indicative of a certain twisted sense of humor. She’s not exactly amused by what’s unfolding around her, but she does find it all ridiculous, especially anything Crichton says to her. Going back to the whole question of human superiority, Aeryn consistently treats Crichton more like a strategically shaved ape than a fellow intelligent being, and she angrily dismisses his latest efforts to save the day with some big speech. Much like D’Argo, the worst of Aeryn isn’t necessarily rooted in her violent temperament or her militaristic outlook. In her case, her greatest vices go back more to her Peacekeeper-bred arrogance, as she sees nobody else aboard Moya worth taking seriously.

No character has further to fall than Pilot. The mechanics of Farscape’s universe—not to mention the necessities of its narrative—demand that Pilot be the obsequious servant, slavishly devoted to Moya and, by extension, those who travel within her. That’s not a terribly appealing way to describe a main character’s function, and the show has not shied away from exploring its darker implications, most obviously in “DNA Mad Scientist.” What theoretically mitigates this is that Pilot, for all the indignities he suffers, does actually want to be here, and that it is in his nature to accept orders with minimal fuss. But T’raltixx forces Pilot to give into all his latent selfish, haughty impulses. Worse, T’raltixx unlocks this side of Pilot as he simultaneously unleashes everyone else’s monstrous side. Pilot might just have managed to see through T’raltixx’s manipulations if he alone were affected, but after being rudely mistreated by Crichton, Pilot has absolutely no reason to see the people he serves as friends.

This isn’t the first time Pilot has played a key part in an episode, but this is the first time he’s really had his own narrative arc with a range of emotions to play. Notably, his usual role as Moya’s interpreter is downplayed here; even in the beginning, he talks more about his own concerns for Moya rather than what the ship thinks about T’raltixx’s device. Under normal circumstances, Pilot’s symbiotic relationship with Moya likely compensates for his own compromised position, but T’raltixx appears to isolate Pilot from the Leviathan. That means Pilot is able to think more as an individual, and the frankly understandable result is barely suppressed contempt for everyone else on board.

But that still leaves Crichton. It’s left ambiguous just how much T’raltixx really gets to him, because Crichton kicks off the episode in an agitated, unhinged state, and so there’s theoretically a limit to how much worse he can get. Indeed, it’s hard to tell where his preexisting mental problems end and T’raltixx’s outside influence begins. He shows the same pathological distrust of strangers that was on display with M’Lee and Br’Nee in “Bone To Be Wild” and with Nilaam in “Vitas Mortis,” but at least in those instances he mostly interacted with them on their home turf, so he didn’t feel quite so personally under threat. Here, he is forced to allow T’raltixx onto Moya, his one last sanctuary in the entire cosmos, and then he also has to let this stranger mess around with his beloved, irreplaceable module. To add insult to injury, he’s forced to give this interloper the guided tour of Moya, despite the fact that it was Zhaan’s bright idea to bring the stranger onboard. Even if T’raltixx had been completely on the level, this still probably wouldn’t have been one of Crichton’s good days.

Without a clear sense of Crichton’s baseline sanity, it’s nearly impossible to judge whether he should be considered responsible for some or any of his actions in this episode. There’s a weird safety to watching Aeryn or D’Argo try to kill their crewmates, because we have seen them fall under murderous influences before and can feel fairly confident that they will eventually shake it off and apologize. But Crichton’s sanity level varies so wildly from scene to scene, as he swings from ranting lunatic to irascible but essentially lucid peacemaker, that it’s tempting to think he might sometimes be playing up his insanity to match that of his crewmates, as when he announces himself with the traditional, Shining-approved shout, “Here’s Johnny!” Crichton is clearly fighting to stay sane in a way the others don’t appear to be, but what precisely is he fighting? Is it T’raltixx’s influence, or the darkness in his own mind, or perhaps something else entirely?

It only gets more difficult to parse the nature of Crichton’s insanity when Scorpius emerges. Wayne Pygram is a delight as this diabolical incarnation of the character, as he tempts John into murder and rape while sporting leftover wardrobe from the Hawaii Five-0 set. Scorpius externalizes Crichton’s worst impulses, which provides some absolutely vital distance between who we believe Crichton “really” is and who he is based on his actions in this episode. His threatened rape of Chiana is the episode’s most abhorrent moment, and it was only added after the completion of principal photography when Ian Watson felt the episode wasn’t quite dark enough yet. It’s a supremely unnerving sequence, because it plays as a horrifically twisted extension of Crichton and Chiana’s typical, physically intimate interactions. It’s Scorpius who says all of the really unforgiveable things, but it’s John who refers to Chiana as “what a slut,” and it’s John who replies “I like that idea” after Scorpius suggests saving her for “dessert.”

In that moment, Crichton loses all grip on who he is, and it’s only after he finally shoots Scorpius—although not before getting in the immortal one-liner quoted up top—that he begins to repair himself, at least to the extent that he can tie everyone else up and force them to listen to what passes for reason. Again, it’s left up to the viewer to decide what is really going on with Crichton. When he vanquishes Scorpius, is he pushing back against an external force before it entirely overwhelms him, or is he pushing his own worst impulses back into the recesses of his mind? The former is the more comforting interpretation, but that’s no guarantee at all that it’s the correct one. “Crackers Don’t Matter” can turn its protagonist into a homicidal, would-be rapist, and then just a few scenes later into a puke-covered, ludicrously attired, only moderately unhinged avenger. Is the real John Crichton one, both, or neither of these people? Like all the other questions raised in this episode, there are no easy answers, and that disquieting fact is what makes this episode so enduringly brilliant. Well, that and the more simple fact that “Crackers Don’t Matter” is just all kinds of twisted fun, even if you do feel a little grimy afterwards.

According to The A.V. Club review of Picture If You Will:

“Johnny-O, your mind to me is an open book, full of big print and lots of pictures!”
“Then read this. Kiss…”

It’s time to talk about Zhaan, because it sure feels like forever since I’ve had reason to. After her hour in the spotlight with “Rhapsody In Blue,” she has been relegated to minor roles and, at times, glorified cameos. I can think of exactly one subsequent episode—“Bone To Be Wild”—in which Zhaan plays what could reasonably be considered a major role, and apart from providing some auxiliary exposition in “Vitas Mortis,” she’s been close to entirely sidelined so far this season. Her character often seems to vary from episode to episode with little logic beyond providing whatever the episode requires: in “Mind The Baby,” that meant being catatonic from some unknown trauma; in “Taking The Stone,” that meant being the ship’s unofficial science officer; and in “The Way We Weren’t,” that meant being cold and passive-aggressive towards Aeryn. That last descriptor is crucial, as Zhaan just isn’t a character defined by action. It’s far easier to write for Aeryn or D’Argo, because, for all their alien philosophies, they are still passionate characters willing to make strong decisions. In short, they participate. But Zhaan is so distant and her reactions so frequently bizarre that it’s difficult to get a grip on her.

That’s as true for the writers as it is the audience, and there have been times when even Virginia Hey has seemed to struggle with the ever-shifting requirements of her role. Zhaan was a better fit for the show’s early days, when the reams of required exposition meant that stories were necessarily more dialogue-driven. The travelers onboard Moya needed time to understand not only whatever was going on that particular week but also each other, and Zhaan offered a unique perspective as each time Crichton gradually synthesized everyone’s knowledge and perspectives until he figured out a solution. But starting with “Durka Returns,” when the first season hit its stride, Farscape switched to a more plot- and action-heavy format, and the show’s focus tightened further on John Crichton. D’Argo, Chiana, and especially Aeryn still worked as supporting players in this subtly revised formula because they are all characters who are willing to act without much thinking, which is a real advantage when Crichton’s own thought processes are so front and center. As such, Zhaan tended to be marginalized, as her role in episodes were reduced from what might once have been entire subplots to quick, isolated character moments.

It would be an overstatement to say that Zhaan doesn’t work at all in more action-oriented stories, but it’s probably not a coincidence that “Picture If You Will,” the first Zhaan-centric story in nearly an entire season’s worth of episodes, feels like such a throwback to the early days of the first season. This is a talky episode, with multiple scenes given over to exploring the characters. For instance, Aeryn’s conversation with John about who she would throw off the ship could be excised entirely with no particular impact on the episode. Likewise, D’Argo and Chiana’s discussion about the painting really only needs to establish that the former finds the object dangerous, and a more action-heavy episode likely would have economized that scene; however, the scene here expands into a larger conversation about the nature of fate and predestination, not to mention the pair’s latent romantic feelings for each other.

Whereas other season two episodes like “Taking The Stone” and “Crackers Don’t Matter” immediately confronted the audience with a strange, off-kilter atmosphere (the latter rather more successfully than the former), “Picture If You Will” is all about the gradual buildup of tension. Everything initially appears to be fine, and even when everything starts going wrong, the characters don’t understand why or how things are going wrong. The episode can’t adopt a specific mood until the characters know the nature of the threat, and this slow escalation of the episode’s eerie, mystical tone very much recalls early season one.

Zhaan stories need this narrative breathing room, in part because the character herself is so difficult to read. That’s especially true here, because she’s essentially conning the audience for most of the episode; it’s not entirely clear just when she realizes Maldis is after them, but she plays the vulnerable, defeated mystic from the early going. She only reveals her true power for about 15 seconds, and she crumples again once she banishes Maldis. When Crichton later congratulates Zhaan for her performance, she tells him that it was all real, and she has never been so terrified in her entire life. That’s an effective enough way to underscore both Maldis and Zhaan’s awesome powers, and it makes for a perfectly good ending for the episode, but it’s also a reminder that John Crichton, the show’s audience identification figure and one of its more perceptive characters, still fundamentally does not understand the first thing about Zhaan. For all the character complexity of “The Way We Weren’t,” it’s possible to come away with clear insights into Aeryn and Pilot; hell, for all its mediocrity, “Vitas Mortis” provides one or two new pieces of information about D’Argo. But the only real takeaway about Zhaan that “Picture If You Will” offers is that she is basically inscrutable, even to her closest allies.

What Zhaan might just be is the magical equivalent of Crichton. Her demand that everyone trust her implicitly when the time comes is similar to how John saved the day in episodes like “Through The Looking Glass,” and her careful shielding of her true plans recalls Crichton’s play-acting as that ludicrously accented Peacekeeper. Indeed, it’s possible to imagine a version of “Picture If You Will” told primarily from Zhaan’s perspective, and it structurally wouldn’t be all that different from a typical Crichton episode. But it goes deeper than that—Zhaan quite possibly endured her equivalent of the Aurora Chair during the events of “Rhapsody In Blue,” and her subsequent uncertain characterization might actually be indicative of the same sort of instability that now affects Crichton. But because Zhaan isn’t the natural leader—or, perhaps more accurately, the natural meddler—that Crichton is, her arc has faded into the background.

Still, even if one could conceive of an alternate but fundamentally recognizable version of Farscape in which Zhaan is the protagonist, there would be one major difference from the actual, Crichton-focused version: It would be much, much weirder. I realize that’s really saying something, but then we are basing this on an episode that ends with Maldis thrusting his colossal hand through the collapsing portal and attempting to grab the shipmates. Even by Farscape standards, that’s entirely insane—and not especially convincing, it must be said—but this is Zhaan’s wheelhouse. The stories in which she is most naturally the hero are likely those that lie beyond our comprehension and, worse, beyond the show’s budget. In isolation, “Picture If You Will” is an effective episode, a solidly above-average entry that’s considerably better than “Vitas Mortis” and “Taking The Stone” but a step below the young season’s best entries. Yet in going to such lengths to build a story for Zhaan, the episode reveals just why she so easily drifts to the show’s periphery. Farscape isn’t done experimenting with Zhaan’s possibilities, but her character too often represents a problem without an easy solution.

According to The A.V. Club review of The Locket:

“I am getting too old for this shit.”

At first glance, “The Locket” appears to be Farscape’s riff on the granddaddy of all Next Generation episodes, “The Inner Light,” with maybe a pinch of Deep Space Nine’s own all-time classic “The Visitor” thrown in for good measure. Like those two all-time Star Trek classics, this episode deals with main characters living out entire lives while next to no time at all passes for others, and all three play heavily on the idea of whether certain characters can carve out meaningful existences for themselves when cut off from the lives and the people they once knew and cared about. Indeed, this episode closes with what feels like a quintessential latter-day Star Trek ending, as the time anomaly is undone and most of the characters forget all about their past experiences. That seems like an especially strange ending for an episode of Farscape, considering the show is so explicitly focused on forcing its characters to live with the consequences of their own actions. And yet “The Locket” is hardly just a sexier, messier, generally more ornery riff on “The Inner Light.” It’s much, much weirder than that, for good or bad.

The episode starts as late in the story as it possibly can, using Zhaan’s days-long meditation as a convenient excuse to skip over some not strictly necessary setup. The clunkier example of this is the reintroduction of Stark, whose original departure after the “Nerve”/“The Hidden Memory” two-parter was dealt with in a line ultimately deleted from “Bone To Be Wild.” As such, his first words to Zhaan aren’t so much a heartfelt greeting to a kindred soul as they are a transparent attempt to crowbar that bit of deleted exposition back into the show. In fairness, this is more a delayed criticism of “Bone To Be Wild” than a real problem with “The Locket,” because the fact that it’s not clear why Stark is there ultimately proves vitally important when he does reveal just what news he brings. The episode might have benefited from Rygel or Chiana responding to one of Stark’s more bizarre pronouncements with a matter-of-fact “Why are you here?” rejoinder, but that’s a minor thing.

Beyond the shocking news he shares with D’Argo in the closing moments, Stark is here because this episode is going to get even more mystical and borderline incomprehensible than ever before, to the extent that Zhaan won’t be able to carry it off alone. “The Locket” ultimately hinges on the idea that Zhaan and Stark can form a psychic bond so strong that they can tap into time itself, forcing it to flow normally while the anti-temporal mist hardens around them. That’s abstruse, even by Farscape’s standards, and the show benefits by having a second person around to say all these flagrantly crazy things. Making Stark the repository of this bizarre knowledge is also a quick way to build up his own mysterious nature, which in turn allows him to make still wilder claims about the nature of reality later on, something that comes in handy when he’s discussing his survival chances in the next episode.

But all that weirdness takes a backseat for much of the episode to all the years Aeryn spends on the mysterious planet, building a life and a family before ultimately being joined by Crichton. The decision to introduce Aeryn as aged from the start is a wise one both in terms of narrative and the makeup. The Jim Henson Company provides some astonishingly good old-age prosthetics, and Aeryn’s aged look is especially convincing because, outside the opening credits, the audience doesn’t actually see the younger Aeryn until the very end of the episode. This obscures the viewer’s usual reference point for how Aeryn is supposed to look, and the almost total focus on the older Aeryn provides Claudia Black with more time to fully inhabit the character. If that sounds like a roundabout way of saying that Claudia Black and the elderly Aeryn are more convincing than Ben Browder and the older Crichton, then, yes, that’s at least partially where I’m going with this. Black is given more of an opportunity to flesh out her character, and a key idea of “The Locket” is that she really has changed and grown over her 165 cycles on the planet, finding someone she was willing to marry and then building a family with that man. The vast gulf of years separating Aeryn from her crewmates is never clearer than when she breaks down weeping at the sight of John, tearfully observing just how beautiful he is… before also pointing out how wrong he always is. She’s still Aeryn, no matter how many cycles elapse.

It’s fascinating that Aeryn appears to be the only crewmember even theoretically willing to accept a lifetime on the planet. Admittedly, she didn’t have much choice in the matter, but it isn’t until John is trapped alongside her that she appears to put any particular effort into working out a means of undoing this timeline, and even then that all happens off-screen. Aeryn believes that she as a Peacekeeper must return to space to die, but that appears to be little more than one last instinctual drive she can’t quite ignore. The way D’Argo articulates life on that planet is crucial, as he states he is not willing to live without a past. Aeryn is unique in that she had her past irrevocably ripped away from her; unlike the others, it isn’t just supremely difficult for Aeryn to return home, it’s actually impossible. Aeryn’s disciplined military mind long ago forced her to accept that reality, whereas Crichton can never give up his comforting fantasies. In this case, at least, those comforting fantasies allow him to save the day, as his utter obstinacy is what ultimately leads to Moya pulling off the rare reverse starburst.

While there apparently was once a planned sequence featuring a 50-year-old Crichton, the transition from young to old isn’t really necessary; the brief scene in which an only slightly older Crichton stares away into nothing in particular while Aeryn and her granddaughter wonder what to do with him really does say it all. Browder’s interpretation of the elderly Crichton as a horny Southern grandpa verges into caricature territory—honestly, how could it not?—but it does seem like a logical extension of a Crichton who has been tortured for five decades by his own existential uselessness (not to mention Harvey). Justin Monjo’s script gives Crichton two really incisive monologues, and Browder delivers both perfectly. I’ve already touched indirectly on the second one, in which Crichton, mourning the death of Aeryn, tells his reunited friends that it isn’t worth living a life without context, without some meaning that transcends the eternal present. The earlier little speech, in which he explains to Aeryn that he’s an astronaut, not a gardener, is an eloquent, if crotchety, distillation of just why Crichton was able to survive, even thrive, in this universe; for all the pain and suffering he has endured, he was still essentially doing what he always wanted to do.

In the midst of that carping, Aeryn interrupts Crichton, asking whether he regrets spending 50 cycles trapped on this world with her. Crichton’s straightforward answer is that she is the only thing that has kept him sane all these years, and that leads us back to the titular locket. John can’t bring himself to open it until after Aeryn dies, but she’s probably right that he always knew whose face he would find in there. The specific events of this episode are undone and the non-magical characters carry forward no memories of all those years, but “The Locket” makes it clear, in case there was any doubt, that Crichton and Aeryn are each other’s true love. The only hope is that it won’t always take Aeryn two centuries to admit that fact. In the meantime, the two will always have that afternoon stroll through that anonymous, time-lost planet, even if neither could possibly remember it. Not everything important needs to have actually happened.

According to The A.V. Club review of A Clockwork Nebari:

“I’m nobody’s puppet!”

It’s a devilishly fine line between misguided fascism and pure, unadulterated evil, and the Nebari cross that line several times during this episode. In “Durka Returns,” the only other episode thus far to show one of Chiana’s kinsmen, her jailor Salis—or Elvis, as he liked to be called—was an unnerving presence, a true believer in the efficacy of enforced conformity and the subjugation of free will. While Chiana at one point accused Salis of harboring improper, lustful thoughts towards her, that indicated only corruption on an individual level; Elvis might have been rotten, and he might even have been representative of the typical member of the Nebari’s ruling Establishment, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate an underlying, systemic malevolence. Even the Nebari’s policy of forcible mind control could not be wholly condemned, as Salis insisted it was reserved for dangerous criminals like Selto Durka or Chiana, and he successfully rebuked Crichton’s attempt to get on his high horse by asking whether Crichton had the right to act as arbiter of an alien justice system. The Nebari’s practices might be considered morally wrong by most free-thinking species, but their policies weren’t necessarily any more objectively abhorrent than those of the Peacekeepers or Scarrans, or indeed of the Luxans, Delvians, or even humans.

That changes in “A Clockwork Nebari,” although the full extent of the Nebari’s villainy is only gradually revealed. Elvis once intimated Zhaan might benefit from neural realignment, but that played more like a vague threat to regain control of the situation than something he seriously planned on doing. By contrast, Varla and Meelak capture and drug the Moya shipmates into submission because it’s expedient. The Nebari’s treatment of Pilot is particularly cruel, as they essentially punish him for his physiology—with his best friend Aeryn the one actually attaching the control collar, just to add insult to injury—and then Varla has the unmitigated gall to chastise him for resisting, as though it is Pilot’s fault he is in this situation. Like Salis before her, Varla clings to the idea that her invasion of other people’s minds isn’t simply necessary under the circumstances, but it is actually in their best interest. When Crichton offers to be locked up for the duration of the journey as an alternative to mind-cleansing, the standard villain would refuse on the grounds that Crichton is not to be trusted, that he would obviously try to escape at the first opportunity. But Varla instead explains that Crichton will actually thank him once the treatment is completed, and the only other option she is willing to offer is death.

The next part of that exchange, in which the Nebari Debra Harry further justifies her actions by noting these are difficult times, is crucial to understanding just how Chiana’s people think. Exactly why Varla considers these difficult times is unexplained, but the only challenges mentioned in the episode are entirely of the Nebari’s own design. The Establishment’s plan to bring the entire galaxy to heel with a contagion is unequivocally monstrous, especially the revelation that the Nebari used their own rebels as the carriers for a sexually transmitted disease they didn’t even know they were infected with. It takes a special kind of hatefulness for a government to take what it finds most heinous about its own deviants—in this case, the hedonistic promiscuity Chiana so frequently and so proudly displays—and fashion that into a weapon to further its own military ends. Neither Varla nor Meelak (in either of his personae) pretends this is an altruistic if misguided effort to make the galaxy more harmonious. They instead talk of worlds thrown into chaos so that the Nebari emissaries—surely a euphemism for invasion forces and colonial governors—will be met with minimal resistance. Admittedly, it’s early days yet for the Peacekeepers and the Scarrans, but neither has yet hatched any plans so unequivocally evil. At least those two races want to fight a war for control of the galaxy, which gives people the opportunity to fight back. If the Nebari are to be believed, the invasion has already occurred, and now it’s just a question of when the Establishment declares its victory.

A threat of that magnitude lends “A Clockwork Nebari” a scale seldom seen in previous stories, although it does perhaps overwhelm the more story-specific stakes. After all, the contagion is still out there as a threat at episode’s end, and the events on board Moya only indirectly impact the Establishment’s plans. Varla’s mission is only vital inasmuch as retrieving Chiana could lead to locating her brother Nerri, but the fact that Chiana thought her brother was dead means she is likely of minimal use in that respect; theoretically, she could have been used as bait to draw out Nerri, but that ignores the fact that he already has a Nebari on the inside in the form of Meelak. It’s also difficult to know what Nerri actually intends to do about the contagion beyond generally wreaking havoc; perhaps his ultimate goal is to distribute the antibody throughout the galaxy, but it’s all left vague. In and of itself, that doesn’t especially matter, as that isn’t what the episode is about, but the trouble is that, well, the contagion does kind of feel like what the episode should be about. It works brilliantly as a way to establish just how fearsome and uncompromising the Nebari are, but it’s a little too huge to be used strictly as a plot device, especially when the show’s heroes have nothing directly to do with it.

Then again, that does rather reinforce the idea that Farscape’s main characters are, for all their strengths, not the saviors of the universe. Crichton’s goals in “A Clockwork Nebari” don’t extend too far beyond saving his own skin and those of his friends. This sets up one of the more intriguing exchanges in this episode, as Rygel reveals to Crichton he’s perfectly willing to conform to Nebari expectations if it saves him from the mind cleanse. While even Rygel likely wouldn’t have been able to justify such a self-serving compromise if the contagion were a more central element of the episode, here he is able to provide a chilling example of the banality of evil; as long as the Nebari would be willing to leave Rygel alone, the Dominar sees no particular need to resist them. Besides, by keeping the focus just on the crew’s efforts to save themselves, writer Lily Taylor—making her scripting debut after a long tenure as story editor—is able to point out that, again, our heroes do seem to bring these things on themselves.

After all, in both Nebari-centric episodes, it’s suggested the Nebari interlopers only manage to get on board Moya because of some mistake by Crichton and company. Indeed, a major theme of “Durka Returns” is that the shipmates’ predicament is almost entirely of their own making; in particular, it’s only Rygel’s incessant meddling that unlocks Durka’s buried psychopath. While that earlier episode actually showed the near-collision that brought Chiana and her jailors onboard Moya, “A Clockwork Nebari” opens with Crichton and Chiana bickering over their latest botched mission, and then the mind-controlled Aeryn and Rygel show up mere minutes later. By now, Farscape takes it as a given that its heroes are screw-ups, so there’s no particular reason to actually show the mistake that triggered their latest mess.

While Zhaan gets only two lines in the entire episode, we see quite a bit of the mind-cleansed Aeryn and D’Argo. It’s telling that D’Argo’s conditioning reveals an almost childlike interior, as he weeps and apologizes to Crichton for all the horrible things he has done, but Aeryn regresses into a calm fascist, someone Varla can count on to follow her orders unquestioningly. I’d say this indicates an essential difference between Luxans and Peacekeepers—the former may have a warrior culture, but Peacekeepers are literally bred to be soldiers, and that shows once D’Argo and Aeryn’s personalities are essentially stripped away—and also perhaps between D’Argo and Aeryn as individuals. If nothing else, this all ties in well with the idea that D’Argo is still little more than a boy by Luxan standards. Plus, the single scariest moment of the episode is when the voice of the conditioned Aeryn is heard off-screen, calmly but suspiciously asking Crichton and Rygel what all the commotion is about.

There’s a popular argument in fiction that heroes tend to create their own villains; for instance, just about every retelling of the Batman story kicks around this idea, and the current incarnation of Doctor Who returns to this trope in pretty much every season finale. Farscape has made use of this trope in the past—Crais’ mistaken vendetta against Crichton is pretty much a textbook example—but lately it has gone in the opposite direction, suggesting villains create their own heroes. More specifically, the show’s villains tend to unleash whatever version of Crichton is necessary to defeat them. “Unleash” is the right word, as much of Crichton’s recent heroism has depended on using his insanity as a weapon, with the most notable example being his escape from Braca’s clutches in the “Look At The Princess” trilogy. Here, the Nebari may be evil, but they are also resolutely calm, principled, and practical, so the sort of man who can defeat them is an irascible, violent, and lecherous pervert, and Crichton is only too happy to oblige. Crichton proudly declares that all his dirty thoughts and nasty urges are still intact, which he proves by feeling up and slapping Chiana and by beating up Rygel.

It’s worth noting that Crichton—and, by extension, his shipmates, because Rygel definitely wasn’t planning to do anything—would never have escaped Varla’s clutches if not for Scorpius’ neural chip. After all, Meelak was under strict orders not to jeopardize his position, and he makes it clear he wouldn’t have moved to save them. This story could just about have worked without Harvey, but the episode would then need some contrivance for Crichton to shake off his conditioning; there’s the old standby that Nebari conditioning isn’t designed with humans in mind, but that would seem awfully flimsy when it works on everyone even remotely human, although perhaps the show could have used the “Crackers Don’t Matter” explanation that Crichton is too stupid to be mind-cleansed. Still, Harvey neatly sidesteps any such concerns, providing a powerful narrative shortcut that instantly adds a level of irony to the proceedings, as the only reason Crichton is impervious to Nebari mind control is because something else has already claimed the territory. In terms of its storytelling implications, the neural chip might be the best idea Farscape ever had.

The Worst:

Look at the Princess: A Kiss Is But a Kiss, I Do I Think, and The Maltese Crichton

aeryn

The show’s first fully-fledged multi-part story, with the overarching title, Look at the Princess, was not something I found myself particular of.

According to The A.V. Club review of Look at the Princess:

The “Look At The Princess” trilogy feels like something new for Farscape. It’s not the show’s first multi-part episode—last season’s climactic “Nerve” and “The Hidden Memory” hold that honor—although it is the first to feature a single unifying title, which becomes the norm for subsequent multi-part Farscapestories and indicates how the show’s production team intends these three episodes to be seen as a single, epic story. As such, I will first examine the story as a whole before looking at the individual episodes; generally, this will be the approach I plan to take with Farscape’s subsequent multi-part stories. “Look At The Princess” represents what is arguably the show’s biggest experiment to date. Last year’s Scorpius two-parter moved the show forward both narratively and creatively, but it was absolutely a synthesis and the natural extension of all the things the show was already doing. This story, on the other hand, is a radical departure from the typical Farscape story, not just in terms of its scale but also in terms of its structure.

“Look At The Princess” tells three entirely different kinds of story, with each neatly stacked inside each other The apparent core of the story is one of courtly melodrama and political intrigue. It’s in this more rarefied narrative atmosphere that Empress Novia, Princess Katralla, Prince Clavor, Counselor Tyno, and the Scarran envoy Cargn all reside; it’s in this story where Rygel and, rather surprisingly, D’Argo feel right at home; and it’s this story that Crichton and, to a lesser extent, Aeryn are thrown into much against their will. This is frequently preposterous plotline, one that is probably best understood asFarscape’s version of a fairy tale; the whole concept of Katralla and Crichton living for 80 cycles as statues as an essential part of the Breakaway Colonies’ political system is insane on a number of levels, but it has a certain, dreamy logic to it in the context of the story. The incessant political discussion isn’t as terminally stuffy and mannered as the tribal rivalries in “Jeremiah Crichton,” but it isn’t really that interesting on its own merits, especially when the characters tend to repeat the same basic points about dynastic succession over and over.

What saves this potentially inert material is that Farscape never treats it entirely seriously. The trilogy doesn’t mock the political aspects of its own story—Empress Novia really does wield absolute power over all that is within her purview, and she’s arguably the most dangerous character in the story, trumping perhaps even Scorpius—but it never pretends that Crichton or Aeryn would see these discussions as anything other than tedious nattering. Crichton does come to feel some responsibility for the welfare of the millions of people whose lives hang on his decision, but Farscape wisely realizes it isn’t the sort of show that could carry off such abstract stakes. Rather, Crichton changes his mind several times over the course of story, and each time his reasons are achingly personal. He initially refuses because he can’t stomach the prospect of a loveless marriage with a woman he doesn’t know, then he agrees out of a vague sense of duty, then he refuses again because his service as a royal statue means he must give up on all hope of seeing his Earth again, then he relents because he loses the will to fight, then he changes his mind after he gets decapitated (which, fair enough really), and then he finally decides to become a statue because the alternative would mean abandoning his unborn daughter. That last twist is especially brutal, as the show finally gives Crichton the perfect way out—and yet the human cost is almost too much to bear.

That visceral edge provided by the main characters is what elevates “Look At the Princess.” Writer David Kemper recognizes that the political narrative doesn’t readily coexist with a typical Farscape story, and he doesn’t betray the characters attempting to bolt one to the other; instead, he delights in the chaos caused by the collision of the divergent genres. The middle episode, “I Do, I Think,” offers the perfect encapsulation of this, as Princess Katralla and Prince Clavor’s fiancé Jenavian Charto fix up their makeup and snipe at each other about the latest royal intrigue. The scene feels fundamentally wrong onFarscape—their interaction is too straightforwardly catty, even leaving aside the fact that these are two characters we barely know discussing something we barely care about—and so it’s a palpable, even joyous relief when Aeryn Sun shows up, slams their royal heads against the wall, and threatens to kill both of them if John is hurt in any way. Aeryn is the proverbial bull in the proverbial china shop throughout “Look At The Princess,” and she consistently provides a jolt of energy whenever the story threatens to take itself too seriously.

That particular scene is especially interesting, as the audience already knows at that point that Jenavian is really a Peacekeeper disruptor, which brings in the third level of storytelling present in “Look At The Princess,” namely the spy thriller. This is a relatively minor aspect, although Crichton shows off his usual flair for quick-thinking lies when Jenavian demands to know the nature of his mission. As soon as he is saved from the threat posed by the courtly melodrama—namely, Prince Clavor’s assassins—Crichton finds his life again in peril from his would-be savior, and so he has to quickly adopt the false identity of a secretive spy. All this again plays out against the backdrop of the more conventional Farscape narrative, as Crichton makes all his moves in an effort to outmaneuver Scorpius. This abomination, as the Empress charmingly calls to him, is a wild card throughout “Look At The Princess,” as everyone assumes Scorpius is the villain of their own particular story. The royal family sees him as the latest symbol of Peacekeeper bellicosity and a threat to their carefully maintained peace and neutrality, while Cargn assumes Scorpius and his Command Carrier are there to foil the Scarran plot. Through it all, Scorpius only ever has his eyes on Crichton, yet the others’ assumptions about Scorpius’ broader evil help drive the story. In particular, it’s explicitly pointed out that Cargn fails in large part because he assumes the conflict between Scorpius and Crichton has something to do with him.

This trilogy is a fiendishly complicated epic, one that represents a major leap forward in the show’s ambition and willingness to experiment. Its length and its narrative scale give it the feel of a movie, even if the production values don’t always hold up quite as well; this isn’t as impressive visually as “Nerve” and “The Hidden Memory,” although that’s at least partially because it’s much harder to make a brightly lit, stately leisure planet look as good as a dark, naturally atmospheric military base. The Sebacean fashions flatter some actors rather more than others, but the aesthetics of the planet do generally suggest a coherent, carefully conceived society. This story is a dark fairy tale, but it’s hardly a self-contained diversion from the typical Farscape adventure. Crucial seeds for the show’s future are sown here, although we’ll have to wait a little while before those become clear. In the meantime, I’m going to dig a little further into the individual episodes.

Part 1.

“After we’re married, and I mean right after we’re married, they turn us into statues.” “That is… fascinating.” “Excellent. D’Argo discovers science.”

The typical Farscape episode establishes the basic threat before the opening credits roll; even if the exact nature of the peril isn’t made clear until later, it’s generally still possible to identify the underlying contours of the episode’s conflict. The threat established in the pre-credits sequence of “A Kiss Is But A Kiss,” on the other hand, is a complete misdirect; the Breakaway Colonies appear ready to destroy the crew, but this is quickly dismissed as a misunderstanding, thanks partially to Rygel’s oft-neglected skills as a diplomat and negotiator. Nearly a third of the episode elapses before the real problem snaps into place as Princess Katralla fatefully kisses Crichton, which sets into motion everything that follows; this is also roughly the same point at which Scorpius shows up, and Zhaan, Pilot, and Moya are forced to starburst away. Until then, there’s a real feeling that this whole episode might just represent a vacation of sorts for the long-suffering shipmates. Breather episodes aren’t unheard of in science fiction, and there’s more than enough material to be mined in the emerging relationships, as D’Argo and Chiana officially become an item and John and Aeryn drift apart for reasons neither can properly identify. The episode even briefly flirts with a love rectangle, as Crichton seems to take Aeryn’s angry suggestion to heart and decides to pursue Chiana, although he quickly realizes that won’t be possible.

For those first twelve minutes, the Breakaway Colonies seem to represent a real version of the sham paradise glimpsed way back in “Thank God It’s Friday, Again,” as our heroes hang around a bar and gradually get sucked into the hedonistic local customs. When Zhaan starts singing onboard Moya, Farscapeappears to be at peace with itself; that brief moment is probably the show’s happiest since the final celebration back in “Through The Looking Glass.” But all this is just the calm before the storm, and that glimpse of quiet contentment for the crew—except Aeryn, who just doesn’t do quiet contentment—makes the ordeal that follows all the more difficult. From this point on, the shipmates are all strangers in a deeply strange land, and all the survival instincts they developed to deal with what they usually encounter can offer them no help here. Aeryn is a soldier, trained to fight and shoot stuff until the problem is solved, which is all wrong for the subtleties of intergalactic politics. Crichton is used to the possibility of death, but what he encounters here is a pair of fates worse than death—either capture by Scorpius or 80 cycles as a statue. That makes his dilemma even more impossible than usual, as both involve accepting hellish existences.

While Aeryn is quite intentionally out of sorts throughout the trilogy, other characters benefit from the change in setting. Rygel always does better in situations he can talk his way out of, and he proves himself a cunning, immensely capable courtier to Empress Novia; indeed, he is basically her de facto aide-de-camp by midway through the story. Intriguingly, Rygel seems far less duplicitous in this context than he does on Moya, and that’s all because he’s finally in a context he understands. There are rules and codes of ethics to how one royal treats another, and both he and Novia respect those rules, at least until the latter starts threatening to execute all visitors to the planet.  Back on Moya, he has no choice but to lie and cheat when dealing with those he sees as the scum of the universe.

D’Argo too proves surprisingly adept at these larger political matters, even crediting Rygel as an excellent teacher.  The scene in “A Kiss Is But A Kiss” where Crichton interrupts D’Argo and Chiana’s sex to get their advice is a telling sequence. It’s hard to imagine Crichton explaining his future as a statue to a human and being told anything other than to fight and avoid such a horrendous fate—Aeryn’s position, basically. But D’Argo, for all his newfound closeness with John, is still a Luxan, and Luxans are capable of alien perspectives. D’Argo suggests Crichton should become a statue, and that moment isolates Crichton in the worst way. His best friend will ultimately offer more unconditional support, but, for now, Crichton is forced to navigate this impossible situation with no true allies. When the only uncompromising opinion comes from Aeryn, who is quite clearly in the midst of her own emotional crisis, Crichton finds himself sliding toward marriage and life as a statue.

Part 2.

“The bad news is that you’re married, and you must endure as a statue for 80 cycles in a strange world.” “What’s the good news?” “Chiana and I are having fantastic sex.”

The “Look At The Princess” trilogy is a family affair for Ben Browder, as his real-life children portray Crichton’s virtual kids, and his wife Francesca Buller once again takes on heavy prosthetics and bizarre punctuation to play the alien servant ro-NA. The treacherous alien is a good example of Farscape’s flair for subversion. Crichton generally treats her decently, even if he is occasionally a little curt to her when he has other things on his mind. But on their trip to the hidden cargo vessel, he takes an interest in her, answering questions about the nature of property and possessions. The scene plays as the classic example of the noble human teaching the poor alien, except the audience knows ro-NA has already sold Crichton out to Scorpius. While ro-NA suggests infinite naïveté in her discussions with Crichton, she is really playing with him. It feeds back into a recurrent theme of “Look At The Princess,” as characters never seem to respect the rules of the stories they theoretically inhabit. Crichton naturally assumes ro-NA is just the limited, overlooked alien servant, and he takes pity on her, which is well-intentioned if more than a little patronizing. But ro-NA wants and needs no such pity, even if she is in well over her head with respect to Scorpius.

Making his big return after nearly half of the season, Scorpius is a slightly different figure here than he was in the run from “Nerve” to “Mind The Baby.” The last time the show ignored a main villain for so many episodes, it was with Crais, who became progressively more unstable and insane with every reappearance. Scorpius, however, betrays no such frustration with his inability to capture Crichton; rather, he seems almost affable in this new context. Back in my review of “Nerve” and “The Hidden Memory,” I suggested Scorpius was always rational, but he wasn’t yet reasonable; here, he discovers a silver tongue to complement his other fearsome attributes, and this is where Wayne Pygram truly perfects his performance. Admittedly, Scorpius’ appearance is so hideous he has a hard time convincing anyone of his supposedly good intentions, and he shows a cool willingness to switch alliances the moment a given situation changes, but he now does so in a way that indicates he’s keen to help all the idiots around him understand why he’s right.

It was mentioned in an earlier episode that Scorpius is a Scarran half-breed, although it’s only in this trilogy that the true meaning of that phrase becomes clear. The Scarran envoy Cargn is an instantly fearsome adversary, even if his head does stick out just a bit too far to be entirely convincing. Indeed, Cargn is so physically formidable that it seems faintly ridiculous a sniveling toad like Prince Clavor would ever dare talk back to him, so it’s important that he first tortures the young prince’s miniscule mind and ultimately kills him. “Look At The Princess” walks something of a tightrope with Cargn’s character, as it repeatedly comes close to suggest he is actually a bit of an idiot, or at least foolishly paranoid. That somewhat undercuts Cargn’s place as the episode’s ultimate menace, but it also ties back to the basic idea of “Look At The Princess,” which is that all the things the side characters think are most important pale in comparison to the concerns of Farscape’s main characters. Cargn is convinced he is locked in final battle with a deficient half-breed, one who can’t regulate his paradoxical body temperature, but he’s not even a pawn in Scorpius’ larger game with Crichton. The Scarrans emerge from this story as a potentially compelling threat, but it’s really Scorpius who proves he’s even more fearsome than previously suspected.

All that said, Crichton’s escape from Scorpius’ clutches is an all-time greatFarscape moment. Lieutenant Braca, Scorpius’ best man, is on the case, which suggests there’s not going to be an easy way out for Crichton. The solution is so perfectly Farscape, as Crichton essentially uses his insanity as a weapon. Recognizing that Scorpius—and, by extenstion, Braca—can’t possibly kill him, Crichton starts threatening his own life. He wreaks havoc on the ship’s controls, all the while shouting lines from Blazing Saddles. It’s a tour de force of Crichton insanity, and it’s not something he can easily switch off; when Braca ultimately escapes, Crichton’s angry screams are distinctly more unstable than his usual reaction to his latest probably lethal setback. His eventual solution is delightfully insane, as he flings himself into open space without a suit, demonstrating the kind of knack for survival that likely comes in handy when your head gets cut off.

Part 3.

“How Batman was that!?”

I haven’t yet mentioned the big subplot, in part because it’s wholly independent of the main story; indeed, the rest of the Moya crew never actually learns what happened out there to Zhaan and Pilot. Going back to my discussion in “Picture If You Will” of Zhaan’s place in the show, it’s perhaps telling that the show chooses to isolate her entirely from everyone else in the story, but that shouldn’t really be taken as a criticism. As previously suggested, Zhaan offers the show opportunities for a more mystical form of storytelling, and the encounter with Moya’s godlike creator would never work if Crichton, Aeryn, and D’Argo were along for the ride. Zhaan dares to fight back against a god, and that’s more meaningful when she herself has such a well-documented spiritual side.

This part of the story also reaffirms just how big a deal the creation of Tayln truly is, and that his birth will continue to have major ramifications for the show’s universe going forward. If a god is worried enough about Tayln to kill one of his own cherished creations, then the gunship is not something to be taken lightly going forward. But that’s really secondary to what the subplot accomplishes in the moment, which is its exploration of Zhaan. Kahaynu’s ultimate decision to designate Zhaan as Moya’s protector is nice and all, but it’s rather like everything going on back on the royal planet; it’s an abstract, high-minded plot development that doesn’t mean much if the main characters don’t care about it. While Zhaan unquestionably accepts this role, it’s not because Kahaynu deems her worthy; if it’s because of any outside influence at all, it’s because Zhaan is offered the transcendent opportunity to speak directly to Moya. But really, this is about Zhaan working through her own complex feelings toward faith, and she doesn’t need her own personal goddess to be in the room to recognize what’s right and what’s wrong. For all her travels and travails, Zhaan has come to understand one basic, unassailable fact, which is that life is precious and must be defended. She objects to Kahaynu’s decision to kill Moya, and she does not accept for a moment that he has the right to kill Pilot as well. Her attempt to actually destroy Kahaynu doesn’t work, exactly, but it says everything you—and Kahaynu, for that matter—need to know about Zhaan, that she is willing to kill a god to protect those she loves.

I chose a photo of Kahaynu to accompany this review, which I realize might seem like a bit of a strange decision, given all the other, far more important characters who appear in the story. But none of those characters are played by Jonathan Hardy, better known as the voice of Rygel. No particular effort is made to hide his dual role—the eyebrows alone really are an instant giveaway—although Hardy does adopt a wonderfully inexplicable Welsh accent to play Kahaynu. This is the only time Hardy ever appears on-screen throughoutFarscape’s run, and his serenely hard-edged performance is both a remarkable contrast with his style as Rygel and the perfect fit for the character of Kahaynu. Helped along by a grayscale appearance and the bountiful use of a smoke machine, Hardy creates a character that feels instantly godlike, and this adds yet another dimension to a trilogy already bursting with ridiculously ambitious ideas. Hardy died a year ago next week, and it seems appropriate to finish up by remembering just how much he meant to the show. Hardy played one hell of a god and one hell of a Hynerian dominar, and there are very few people you could ever say that about.

pilot

The next in best and worst is Season 1.

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2 thoughts on “The Best and Worst of Farscape: Season 2

  1. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Farscape: Season 1 | The Progressive Democrat

  2. that humans are kinda pathetic was partly what made this show and totally the mindfreelling of altered perspectives – one of the things I most enjoyed was Critchon’s pop culture references that the aliens didn’t get and as a Canadian watching an American lead in an Australian cast was freaking amazing. hercules and xena lead the way !

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