Sunday, December 19, 2010

Review - Farscape: Exodus from Genesis (Season 1, Episode 3)

Clueless Crichton
"We will cut off the tip of our small finger for identification." - Ka D'Argo
"How about something a little less permanent?" - John Crichton

Short review: An infestation of bugs! Clones! Peacekeeper commandos! Rygel saves the day! Wait, what?

Bugs infest Moya
Aeryn thinks John is useless
Sebacian heat death

Full review: The third episode of Farscape opens with D'Argo thrusting a slug into Crichton's mouth. Okay, that sounds more like soft core porn than it really is. The real effect of this scene is to bring the Farscape universe to life, since the slug is actually a "dentic", a bio engineered creature that various races use to clean their teeth, and D'Argo is responding to Crichton's complaint that he has been unable to get a toothbrush. The dentic apparently climbs around in the user's mouth and eats all of the foreign particles that are found there, answering the question "how do Moya's crew keep their teeth clean". While the stories contained in the episodes of the series are almost always at least good, and often great, it is moments like these where little details about the characters and their lives are filled in that make the series stand out.

The action then moves to the control center with Moya lurking behind a luminous cloud hiding from a strange looking little boxy spacecraft. As John Crichton (Ben Browder) serves as both the protagonist and the clueless new guy, the other characters are able to fill him (and the audience) in on the situation by explaining that the ship is a Peacekeeper Marauder scout ship filled with commandos, and likely hunting for Moya. Crichton then shows he's not completely clueless by asking how fast it is, and actually understanding the answer that Aeryn Soon (Claudia Black) gives him. Leaving aside the strange oddity that Moya is able to see the Peacekeepers while the scout ship's detection equipment is apparently completely befuddled by the luminous cloud, having this episode follow directly after I, E.T. (read review) reinforces the critical necessity of removing the Peacekeeper beacon from Moya. This is yet another reason why moving I, E.T. to later in the season made no sense.

But to get the A plot of the episode going, after the Marauder loses interest in scanning the cloud and heads off, the bulk of the cloud flows into Moya when the crew's back is turned, which leads to one of the huge plot holes in the episode. That a massive volume of particles could infest Moya without Aeryn, Crichton, D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe), Zhaan (Virginia Hey), and Rygel (Jonathan Hardy) noticing is fairly explainable. But it seems almost inexplicable that Moya herself would not notice this, and almost as inexplicable that Pilot (Lani Tupu) would not, since Pilot is directly connected to Moya's neurological system. Like the apparently weak sensor equipment carried by the Marauder, Moya appears to have fairly limited means of detecting outside threats when the plot demands it.

Moya is infested and Crichton is jumpy
A friend of mine has a mental game he plays called "spot the Star Trek: The Next Generation spec script that was repurposed for this other science fiction show". In general, Farscape avoids this, primarily because as the series progresses the quirky and specific personalities of the Farscape characters become such a critical and dominant element of the series, and the series becomes decidedly darker than any Star Trek series would be allowed to get. However, early in the series there were a couple instances where it seems like this happened. The A plot of Exodus from Genesis appears to be one of those instances, and the bizarre limitation of Moya's ability to feel an influx of parasites probably stems from that. The plot proceeds, as the infestation becomes a mysterious problem for the crew that eventually becomes apparent when Crichton captures a very large bug-like creature in his room, and Zhaan discovers that it was carrying his DNA. From there the story proceeds more or less like a typical Star Trek episode as the crew first misunderstands the nature of the problem they are confronting, eventually realizes their error, and finally discovers a more or less satisfactory way to solve it.

One Aeryn is dead. The other isn't doing much better
However, what sets Farscape in general, and this episode specifically, apart from being a mere Star Trek clone is that the A plot dovetails with the B plot and provides for numerous opportunities for character development. Some of these are small, such as D'Argo's reaction when confronted with the need to identify the crew amidst identical copies, or Pilot's outrage when D'Argo cuts into Moya without warning to get through a bulkhead. But this episode reveals one element that will loom large for much of the rest of the series: Sebacians are unable to regulate their body temperature, which becomes a critical element when the ship is invaded by the B plot in the form of the Marauder crew of Peacekeeper commandos. As Aeryn explains, when subjected to high temperatures, Sebaceans become disoriented, begin to lose their short term memory, and eventually lose their long term memory and finally enter an apparently irreversible state they call the "living death". Since one of the elements of the A plot is that the temperature on Moya is being systematically raised despite the crew's efforts to to lower it, when the Peacekeeper commandos board, the crew cranks up the temperature even more.

"We can't regulate our body temperature,
but our eyeshadow is STUNNING!"
This fundamental weakness of the Sebaceans makes me wonder how they are supposed to have become a military powerhouse. Since every crew member aboard Moya other than Crichton seems to regard this little bit of information about Sebacean physiology as common knowledge, one wonders why the standard operating procedure of any ship boarded by Peacekeeper troops isn't to simply pull their people back and crank up the temperature until the Sebaceans pass out from heat exhaustion. Even sillier, the vaunted Peacekeeper commandos don't seem to have any plan for dealing with the rather obvious ploy other than stumble about the ship while their mascara runs. Because while they seem not to have any idea how to respond to an enemy that uses their obvious weakness against them, they apparently made sure to apply their eye make-up before they went out to kill people. As seems to have happened in most of the early episodes of Farscape featuring Peacekeepers other than Aeryn, the costuming choices for these invading Peacekeepers are somewhat unfortunate, making them look goofy rather than menacing. In addition to the aforementioned heavy use of eyeshadow, the commandos are all clad in leather pants that are so bulky they all look like they are wearing adult diapers. On the other hand, this episode appears to be the first one that includes a recognizable pulse pistol, which is something of a milestone given how connected this weapon will become to Crichton's character.

"There are worse ways to end the day" - John Crichton
So, in the end, the somewhat laughable Peacekeeper commandos are sent packing in a fairly upbeat ending in which no one who isn't replaceable dies, everyone pretty much gets everything they want, and everything returns to the status quo ante. As becomes apparent in later episodes, this is just about as good as things get for the crew of Moya. In the meantime, Aeryn has established the beginning of a working relationship with Pilot, Crichton gets to display some snarky humor (especially when fighting himself), Rygel gets his ego stroked and a boost of confidence, and Aeryn begrudgingly recognizes that Crichton, as a lesser species, might possibly have some value. The show also closes by establishing one of my favorite locations on Moya, the observation deck, where by some form of advanced technology that characters can stand seemingly exposed to space on top of the ship with a panoramic view of the outside universe. Despite this, Exodus from Genesis is not a particularly strong episode of the show, which makes the network decision to replace I, E.T. in the airing schedule with this episode even more perplexing. While the character development and world-building are, as usual for Farscape, a strong point, the rest of the episode is pretty forgettable.

Previous episode reviewed: I, E.T.
Subsequent episode reviewed: Throne for a Loss

Previous episode reviewed (airdate order): Premiere
Subsequent episode reviewed (airdate order): Back and Back and Back to the Future

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  1. I came here via the Next Blog button and love your Farscape reviews! I've just started rewatching from the beginning and it's really interesting picking up on things I missed the first time round - and it's great to see your impressions!
    Asha (

  2. Thanks. I'm glad you like them. I plan on working my way through the entire series, but since I don't think I can write more than two or three a week, that will obviously take a while.

    Next up, Throne for a Loss!