|It is always a bad day when your ship disintegrates into glowing green stuff|
"The future? He can barely function in the present." - Aeryn
Short review: Moya's crew rescue a pair of Illanics from a dying ship who turn out to be a lot more than they seem to be.
Crichton nearly goes insane
As he hops through time
Full review: It usually takes a little while for a television show to really find its feet and reveal what the show is going to be like in its maturity. It just takes a little bit of time for the characters to be defined and for their relationships with one another and the wider fictional world they inhabit to take shape. Some shows take six or seven episodes, some take a full season, a precious few hit the ground running. For Farscape, this moment came in Back and Back and Back to the Future. To be sure the characters are still not yet fully formed, and one long-time crew member hasn't even joined the cast yet, but by the time this episode comes up, enough expositional groundwork had been laid in the previous episodes that elements like character development could take a back seat to story telling.
Digressing a bit, this is yet another reason why the decision to air the early episodes of Farscape out of order is simply inexplicable. Without the foundational character development from I, E.T. (read review) and Throne for a Loss (read review), this episode just doesn't work as well. Moving Back and Back and Back to the Future forward to third in the viewing order serves to accelerate the developing relations between the characters so quickly that they make no sense. For example, without the interaction between Zhaan (Virginia Hey) and Crichton (Ben Browder) in I, E.T. and Throne for a Loss, there seems little reason for him to turn to her when he finds himself embroiled in a crisis, or for her to trust him enough to accept his very odd story. Without the character development established in Throne for a Loss, D'Argo's (Anthony Simcoe) rigid and authoritarian streak that dominates much of this episode comes out of left field. Without establishing the poverty of the crew in previous episodes, Rygel's (Jonathan Hardy) demands for payment from their unwilling passengers seems cruel and harsh, rather than desperate. And D'Argo's rebuff of Rygel's attempts to extract compensation serves not to establish him as an ally of the newcomers, but merely makes him out to be a courteous host.
The episode starts in media res, with Rygel, Zhaan, and D'Argo watching an unknown ship seemingly disintegrate before their eyes. We get a little character development as Rygel advocates abandoning the unknown crew to their fates, and Zhaan suggests that they should try to render aid. Interestingly, D'Argo sides with Rygel until an escaping shuttle signals Moya, showing a pair of Illanics, whereupon D'Argo does an immediate about face and insists that the castaways be taken on board. D'Argo explains that the Illanics are genetic cousins and close allies for "over a thousand cycles" of the Luxans and places Moya at their disposal. The interesting (and uncommented upon by the other characters) piece of character development here is that D'Argo immediately asserts authority over Moya, and the other inhabitants of the ship simply accept this. At several points in the episode, D'Argo essentially orders another one of Moya's inhabitants to do something, and they somewhat reluctantly let him get away with it.
|D'Argo loves these two. Esepcially her.|
One thing that is kind of odd throughout the episode is that Hensley, as Matala, speaks in a very affected voice. In addition, when D'Argo offers them food, she refuses more than once to eat, but suggests that Verell should eat. Matala also repeats a couple of times that someone speaking to her should "rest and revitalize", almost using it like a mantra. I suspect that at some point there was a draft of the script in which all of these elements were going to contribute to unraveling the mystery of her true identity, but that was apparently excised from the final version. The result is that Matala has a host of off-putting personality traits that make her seem almost drugged and make D'Argo's apparent fascination with her somewhat perplexing. And D'Argo's fascination with Matala, combined with his intense sense of race loyalty, is necessary for making the plot function.
|My name is D'Argo. I'm a criminal.|
My crime is worse than you think.
Aeryn's suspicions aren't allayed though, and she raises them to Zhaan and Crichton, but during the conversation John is distracted by increasingly violently erotic visions of himself with Matala. This leads to the first example we have of mentally unbalanced Crichton, a sight that will become more and more familiar as the show progresses. To this point in the series, Crichton has been dealing with strange experiences, but nothing that has gotten inside of his head, and we start to see the beginnings of the cracking of the cocky, wise-cracking smart aleck that we've seen before. After a couple visions, Crichton excuses himself to "get some air", prompting Aeryn to complain "We have air in here. What is the matter with him?". To which Zhaan replies simply, "He is Crichton", as it seems she is beginning to accept what is, for her, his strangeness. Interestingly, later in the episode, when Matala begins asking questions about Crichton, Zhaan tells her he is too complex for Matala to understand in the short period she will be on Moya. It seems that Zhaan has developed an understanding of, and appreciation for, the wayward astronaut.
|Sex? Maybe. Assault? Probably.|
Crichton consults with his closest friend on Moya, Zhaan, who also has the most sympathetic ear. And then things really get underway as Crichton experiences repeated replays of the critical events surrounding Verell's impending death and Matala's apparent betrayal of Moya's crew. The sequences become increasingly disturbing, as Cricthton gets killed a couple times, and Moya is completely destroyed once. While the earlier sequences gave us a glimpse of slightly insane Crichton, as he becomes increasingly distraught we get full bore mentally screwed up Crichton, who says that it is about time he started losing his mind. And this is one more reason why shifting the order the episodes were aired in was stupid. If this episode is viewed third in the series (as it originally was aired), then Crichton's statement makes less sense, as he's only been away from home for a short period of time. But airing it a few episodes later, we can feel Crichton's growing loneliness and isolation creeping up on him as he deals with being away from everyone and everything he has ever known.
|Crichton is having a glowing green bad day.|
Again and again and again.
|I will fight you with my stiff armed ballet steps!|
The time shifting is explained when, in one of his jumps forward, Crichton confronts Verell who admits that he was not merely taking deep space measurements, that he had captured a piece of a quantum singularity, or as it is more commonly called, a black hole, which Verell describes as "the ultimate weapon". I don't think the actual physics of a black hole work quite like the writers think they do since a "tiny piece" of a black hole would have only a "tiny amount" of gravity. If its mass was large enough to cause time dilation and crush and entire ship, then it would be too heavy for a shuttle to move it (or for Moya to move it for that matter). But Farscape is space opera, so some suspension of the expected laws of physics is probably in order. This does presage, just a little bit, the developments in the plot arc that comes to dominate the series in later seasons as Crichton actually does figure in the pursuit of technology that everyone acknowledges truly is "the ultimate weapon".
But the core of the episode is not the time shifting, as much fun as that makes the story. It is about loyalty and trust. D'Argo immediately places his trust in Matala, assuming that because he identifies her as an Illanic, that she has a claim on his loyalty that supersedes that he might have to the other crew members of Moya. In one of the future sequences he even sides with Matala and kills Crichton himself. Though he mostly does not appear in the episode, Rygel's primary contribution to the story is to demonstrate how little he trusts D'Argo by greedily eating his share of the food to prevent the possibility of D'Argo offering any of it to the Illanic passengers. In the end, Crichton begins to win over D'Argo by revealing that he knows D'Argo's secret, but keeping it from the rest of the crew. And D'Argo begins to come around to understanding Crichton, after Crichton reassures him that he isn't mocking D'Argo, but rather mocking everyone on Moya. Then he begins to build a rapport with Crichton, sharing with him the fact that he isn't usually so easily affected by a woman, but it has been so very long for him, a point that Crichton agrees with. This is a touching "guy camaraderie: moment, but it does have a little oddness. First, while D'Argo has been "away" for eight cycles (which in Farscape terms seems to translate to eight years), Crichton has only been on Moya for a couple of months at most. Second, one might notice that there are two women on Moya - namely Aeryn and Zhaan. Even if D'Argo regards Aeryn merely as a soldier, she is still female, and theoretically should affect him the same way Matala did (a point that will be especially salient once more of D'Argo's background comes to light). Zhaan, being the overtly sexual priestess that she is definitely should. Even if Crichton is unaware of the rampant interspecies sex that goes on in the Farscape universe, D'Argo should be.
|This is not an Illanic ship.|
As is typical for a Farscape episode, the best the crew can hope for turns out to be mere survival, and for the Illanics, if Verell's claim that the very future of his race rides on the successful completion of his mission, maybe not even that. Even the best outcome Moya's crew are able to come up with still results in Verell dead and the weapon lost to the Illanics (although not in the hands of the Scorvians either). I have to wonder though, if the very future of his race did actually ride on the successful completion of his mission, why was Verell out in the middle of nowhere with a single companion along for the ride? One interesting unresolved question is the outcome of the Illanic-Scorvian war and the impact on the Luxans, which as far as I know is never followed up on. It would have been nice if this had been referenced back to as part of the larger Scarran-Peacekeeper conflict, but that may be asking for too much consistency. In the end, the crew survives, slightly worse off then they were before, but we begin to see the first signs that they may begin to be coalescing as a crew not merely because they are forced to work together, but because they might be beginning to trust one another.
Previous episode reviewed: Throne for a Loss
Subsequent episode reviewed: Thank God It's Friday, Again
Previous episode reviewed (airdate order): Exodus from Genesis
Subsequent episode reviewed (airdate order): Throne for a Loss
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