“Moya is invaded by spawning space bugs, which produce clones of the crew. To complicate matters, a Peacekeeper retrieval squad arrives and Aeryn begins to suffer heat delirium.”
I’m glad to see that Netflix is using the airdate order for Farscape instead of the production order, both because the second produced episode, “I, E.T.” works much better slightly later in the season, and because this one is such a good re-entry to the world of Moya and her crew. It introduces several important plot points, relationships, bits of mythology and themes that we’ll be making extensive use of as time goes on.
For instance, and most prominently, we have Sebacean Heat Death, one of the least believable but most plot-important bits of the show’s often plausibility-challenged approach to biology. While I find it hard to swallow that a race with such a huge, glaring weakness (it seems to reach fatal levels at, what, 100 Fahrenheit?) could be as dominant and widespread as Sebaceans and Peacekeepers are, it does have a certain lyricism to it - the ultra-repressed Peacekeepers being portrayed as literally cold-blooded. More importantly, it puts Aeryn in a position of weakness and vulnerability, something the character probably needs at this point in the series.
Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing Aeryn strong - she and Zhann are two of science fiction TV’s strongest, most nuanced females characters - but by putting her in fear of a fate worse than death, it lets her guard drop to the point that relationships with the other characters, and with the viewers, can be forged. It’s easy to see Aeryn as an invincible machine - or would be if Claudia Black wasn’t so amazing at hinting at the character’s inner turmoil from behind her steely resolve - and showing her as she is here, dying and terrified, helps us to not forget how isolated and scared she is, cut off from everything she’s ever known.
And certainly, without the Heat Delirium, we wouldn’t get D’Argo’s beautiful “The part of me that wants Aeryn to live is greater than the part of me that wants all Peacekeepers to die” - about as succinct an encapsulation of the D’Argo-Aeryn relationship as you could hope to get. Other than that scene, we mostly get Shouty D’Argo this week (I am not a big fan of Shouty D’Argo). Although he and Crichton do share their first laugh together (at poor Rygel’s expense).
So, Rygel. Out of all of the characters coming out of the pilot, Rygel seems like the least essential. He is, to use a derogatory slur, “the comic relief.” If he’s going to exist as a real character, and not just some farting nuisance, he’s going to need some rehabilitation. That process starts here (and continues in the next episode). Because, after all, it’s Rygel who saves the day. Sure, there are tricks and plots and science stuff, but the little gray guy is the one who climbs up the monster vagina and negotiates for peace through sheer imperial gravitas. (One of the reasons I love Farscape is that it lets me write that kind of sentence fairly regularly). Farscape is very, very good about keeping its characters from descending into caricature, and while the audience and the characters sometimes forget that His Eminence was Head of State for billions of people, he never does, and his actions - for ill, often, but here, for good - always reflect that.
And Zhaan doesn’t forget, either. Her scene with Rygel and his painting is very sweet (if a bit condescending) - her acknowledgment that the Dominar’s silliness doesn’t stop him from being impressive. And her scene with Crichton, advising him of how to connect with Aeryn and D’Argo, is also sweet, if a lot condescending (sweet and condescending is kind of Zhaan’s thing). Once the Drakh Monarch starts talking through her there’s not much more character stuff for her, but it’s worth noting that this is where it’s established that Zhaan is, for all intents and purposes, Moya’s science officer, which will be important in later episodes.
The Drakh make for an great “intro” Monster of the Week (in the first of the show’s many, MANY “Critter Loose on Moya” plots). Although the basic idea (“Scary monsters are people too”) is straight Star Trek, the focus on biology, what with all the dripping severed heads and eggs sliding out of tubes, is pure Farscape. This is an episode, and a series, about (as Zhaan hamfistedly reminds us at the end) symbiosis. Moya isn’t a tool, she’s a living being who must be communicated with, and treated well, if she and her crew are to survive (note the way D’Argo is reprimanded when he cuts into her bulkhead without permission). The episode opens with the teeth-cleaning dentics, which look like maggots but are apparently “minty.” You put the dentic in your mouth, it cleans, and then you let it go. You NEVER swallow the dentic, or things go badly for you both.
And we have the Drakh, the insectile Other, who cannot be communicated with until they copy us, use our DNA, become us. But the road goes both ways - true peace doesn’t come until Rygel goes in the other direction, climbs into the Matriarch, meets with her on her own terms. Only at that point can Moya’s crew and the Drakh work together to repel the outside threat of the Marauder and its crew.
Strife and discord get you killed, cooperation keeps you alive. It extends all the way to the Peacekeeper commandos and Crichton’s offering of mercy. It’s what binds Moya’s crew together, both to their ship and to each other. Not out of love or friendship (not yet, anyway), but survival. It means having someone who sees you as you truly are. Someone you can lean on when you’re tired. Someone who’ll keep a promise - even if the promise is for your death.
There’s a subtle bit of Peacekeeper racism when the commando team that boards Moya doesn’t notice that they’re killing the same Luxan over and over.
The little klaxon lights that pop out of the top of the DRDs are so cute!
Pilot and Aeryn have a really lovely scene together, when he tells her he’s never been so close to a Peacekeeper he’s not afraid of. Pilot’s one of the show’s least used regular characters, but his relationship with Aeryn is always a highlight of any episode where it’s featured.
Best condescending Zhaan lines: When John discusses the Zhaan doppelganger he fought with, “I was never in the passageway, John,” and, later, telling him to let Aeryn rest, “She needs to recover some strength before she’s aggravated again.”
John Crichton Pop Culture Reference Watch: “Next planet, I’ll rent ya a copy of Animal House.”
Ka D’Argo doesn’t fuck around with evil twin bullshit: “We will cut off the tip of our small finger for identification.”
The Commandos move forward in Advance Pattern “Durka.” Foreshadowing?