The kid started this evening with more grumbling. He indeed got the brisket for lunch, and enjoyed it, but after a rousing afternoon of play and comics and Garfield and Cretaceous Camp, wires got crossed and he got rice and beans for supper instead of fries, because we never give this poor underprivileged child anything he wants to eat, and then put Farscape on again. “We watched that this morning,” he protested, expecting the next Doctor Who, and then he remembered. “Oh, wait, it was a two-parter, and I hate two-parters.”
“Could be a three-parter,” I suggested, “then you’d like it even more.” And he gave a heavy sigh and settled in for one of his favorite episodes of the series. He loved this one to pieces, as well he should, because it’s a very exciting hour with a lot of double-dealing and a fine shootout at the end.
Things really turned around for him when Scorpius straps Crichton in for another torture session in his mind-probe flashback chair, and Gilina has programmed it to instead display a false memory implicating the Lt. Gerard dude, Crais, as withholding the secrets of wormhole travel that Scorpius wants. So Crais instead gets strapped in it, and it’s there that the baddies learned that Crais murdered another Peacekeeper officer in episode eight. I can’t guess what’s going to happen to Crais from here.
The story ends, inevitably, with Gilina getting killed and Scorpius getting away. The poor heartbroken girl. It’s a really sad and tragic ending, played very well, and as soon as the credits started rolling, our son had to tell us about this great idea he had. He’d punched the air and laughed all through the hour, both laughing from excitement and laughing from some of the bizarre comedy back on the ship, where we are reminded that Rygel farts helium. But never mind the sad ending, because he figured that what Crichton really should have done in the mind-probe flashback chair was remember old Simpsons episodes.
Funny how our kid never objects at all to two-parters if he’s enjoying the adventure, as he did with the Silurian story on Doctor Who that we watched at the beginning of this week, but if he doesn’t like it, I think it’s the promise that there’s more unhappiness to come that rankles the most. Poor Crichton spends about half of this episode strapped to a mind-probe flashback chair, the prisoner of the sadistic villain Scorpius, played by Wayne Pygram. I didn’t think he showed up until the next year. Glad to see him; regular readers know that I do love a good villain, and Scorpius impressed me hugely when I first looked at this series many years ago.
The story this week is that Crichton and Chiana sneak into a Peacekeeper base to get some medical supplies for the ship. They’re helped by Gilina, Crichton’s one-shot space girlfriend from “PK Tech Girl”, but Scorpius immediately spots Crichton as an imposter somehow. The installment ends with Chiana back safely and the medical supplies delivered – Aeryn had been badly injured in the previous episode – but Crichton’s still a prisoner and Scorpius has even called in the Lt. Gerard character, Crais, just to make everything worse. Our son was so aggravated that he kicked the sofa with a scowl. Then we learned our favorite hot dog place has cut its Saturday hours. How rotten! Hopefully he’ll enjoy some brisket for lunch instead and part two will be an improvement…
A possession episode, this one complicated by the arrival of four heavily-armed Peacekeepers on the ship, and anybody could be host to a nasty, intelligent virus. Our son grudgingly enjoyed this one. He says he didn’t like Aeryn and John pretending to be Peacekeepers and making everybody else pretend to be their prisoners, but agreed that the story required it.
There’s a bit toward the end where Zhaan suggests that maybe Rygel might have learned his lesson about being so greedy. Bet not.
We enjoyed this one, with a very notable caveat. The premise is neat, and the execution is really interesting. The ship’s “starburst” – your typical jump to lightspeed or hyperspace or whatever – goes badly wrong and it is stranded, caught frozen in space across four dimensions. Each is represented by radically different lighting and sound mix. One of them is dominated by an incredibly loud ambient noise; even shouting, the characters can’t hear each other over it.
I like to listen to TV with the volume a little higher – just a hair higher, honest – than perhaps other people might like, but that dimension’s sound was so remarkably, deliberately, unpleasant that I turned the volume way, way down, just above muting it. Since the story demands repeated travel to the version of the ship that is trapped in the blue noise dimension, this meant I had the remote on the arm of the sofa and fiddled with it throughout. One of the other dimensions induces motion sickness and nausea. Just as well we didn’t have a big Thanksgiving meal before sitting down to watch it.
Full marks to the production team for pulling this off. Between the sound and the lights and the camera tricks and the visual effects, it’s incredibly effective, but it sure makes for uncomfortable viewing! The kid summed it up best: “Yeah, I liked it… except for all that noise!”
Anybody with a passing familiarity with this genre has seen this plot before. It’s the one where the hero thinks he’s gone home but he really hasn’t. What kind of sets this one apart is that it’s really, really unpleasant. This takes the idea that if D’Argo and Rygel were to arrive on our paranoid, freaked-out planet, terrible things would happen to them and runs with it. The level of awfulness really turned our son against this one. Ugly, unhappy, and done before? Yeah, it’s not for me, either.
With a title like that, I was asking myself, not unreasonably, “who the devil is Durka?” Turns out he was the dude, a hundred years ago, who had been in command of the old Peacekeeper ship where Rygel was held, and who we saw briefly, in flashbacks, as the man who had cruelly tortured Rygel. This show kind of forces you to pay attention.
So a hundred years of suspended animation and brainwashing later, Durka is back and apparently a peaceful pilgrim. He’s one of three travelers who end up on Moya, one of whom is the splendid new addition to the regular cast Chiana, played by Gigi Edgley. Her people, the Nebari, are obsessed with everybody conforming to the demands of the state. They recapture outcasts, criminals, and possible murderers like Chiana, in order to mentally “correct” them and make sure everyone’s nodding to the same drumbeat.
Well, I enjoyed the heck out of it, but I was the odd one out. Our son thought the hostage situation was far too intense and the criminal far too cruel and in command of the situation. He hid behind the sofa for a little while, and conceded that while it was a better episode than the previous two, he still didn’t like it very much.
So we took a little break and had a little vacation and gave our son time to get caught up with schoolwork and sat down this morning to a really mediocre episode of Farscape, in which D’Argo and Rygel catch up with Crichton after being separated for three months on a planet that just happens to worship some being that looks astonishingly like Rygel as a god, and where technology doesn’t work. One problem is that I enjoy this show because it typically doesn’t look, feel, or sound like any other sci-fi TV series. This is so by-the-numbers and old hat that I can very easily imagine the writer having dusted off a script for darn near any similar program made in the previous thirty years. They found a pretty location for it at least.
Zhaan’s people are called Delvians, and in this episode, one of them wants to learn how Zhaan has been able to control her Dark Side of the Force so she can become a revolutionary leader and free a planet from tyranny. It’s all about mind-melding and memories and it really reminded me of those trippy issues of Man-Thing that Steve Gerber wrote in the early seventies where everybody’s bad dreams came to life. I didn’t enjoy those much, either. The kid got a good giggle when John called a local animal-plant hybrid food source a “Squid calamari cucumber,” and that’s pretty much all we liked.
There’s a heck of a lot happening in this episode, not least of which is John and Aeryn sharing a “we’re about to die” passionate snogging session when they believe they have only minutes to live, but the most amusing part is Rygel being a selfish creep again. It makes for very amusing television when you have somebody so remarkably self-centered that he is perfectly willing to sell everybody else out – see Dandy Jim Buckley in Maverick – but why these desperate people didn’t toss him out an airlock at least six weeks ago, I couldn’t guess.
The great bit is when Rygel reveals that everything he’d done in losing the game and getting a bad guy out of the way to hunt down D’Argo was all planned in advance. Do we believe him? I can’t swear that I entirely do. I like the little jerk, even if I would want to toss him out an airlock if I was actually stuck in the same boat as him.
After several studio-bound episodes, they went out on location to what looks like the middle of the Sahara for this terrific story. They’re stuck on this planet waiting for repairs to Crichton’s ship – he generated another wormhole, but damaged it in the process – but they’re close enough to “charted” space for wanted posters – or talking “beacons,” anyway – to alert any bounty hunters that three of the team have prices on their heads. Crichton and Aeryn quickly pose as hunters themselves to try and con their way out of trouble, while the only mechanic around who can patch this weird little ship from Earth realizes that she’s got something very interesting on her hands.
I liked this one a lot because the situation keeps getting worse. The stakes keep getting higher as more of the crew wanders into trouble. I enjoy stories where I don’t see how the protagonists can possibly get out of it. I also like that Crichton and D’Argo agree to treat each other as allies and stop the constant antagonism. That was probably the best scene in a really entertaining episode, but it’s not as pretty as all that beautiful sand, so you get a picture of Virginia Hey instead.
Three nights ago, I wrote a very, very short post about Farscape, in part because it was a squicky episode and we didn’t enjoy it, but mainly because, after threatening for a year, WordPress has introduced this utterly ghastly new post editor/creator thing called a Block Editor. I’m sure it’s just fine for people who like to type single sentence blog posts or wish that WP was more like Tumblr or something and never look back at or link to old posts, but I fought with it for an hour looking for how to add categories and tags and got so angry that I resolved that this blog of ours will be coming to an end sooner than planned because that just isn’t anything I want to learn. Fortunately – for now – the wp-admin function is still here and I can Add New Post from it. While we’ve got it, I’ll keep writing and hope that we reach the planned conclusion around December 2021. When we lose wp-admin, I’ll bid you readers a fond farewell.
The time I wasted trying to work within the new “designed for phones” block interface kept me from finding time to mention the most notable, and unpleasant, part of “DNA Mad Scientist.” (And who the heck came up with these dopey titles? “DNA Mad Scientist”? “PK Tech Girl”?) It wasn’t that the episode was revoltingly gross body horror, with Aeryn having alien DNA injected into her and transmuting into something else. It was watching our desperate protagonists act so horribly toward one of their own. They were so crazed by the thought of getting to their respective homes that they literally dismembered Pilot, removing one of his four(?) arms in exchange for a chance to get home. I use the phrase “our heroes” a lot in this blog, and this was a bleak and ugly reminder that these people Crichton is stuck with are not heroic. Some of them have good traits most of time, but they’ve done terrible things and continue to do so. I like moral ambiguity as a viewer, but boy, did they ever fail the good guy test there.
So what happens in “They’ve Got a Secret” might be read as these jerks getting what’s coming to them. They’re sailing through uncharted space on a living ship, and the ship gets sick and seems to decide it can do without any passengers. I thought this one was absolutely excellent and was fascinated by the mystery of what the heck is happening. There’s a lovely scene where two of the little mechanical DRDs, which are controlled by the ship, turn on Aeryn and John and spit some solvent at her that “glues” her to the floor. Later, John finds a passageway absolutely choked with the DRDs, dozens of them staring him down with their little light bulb eyes, and compares it to his colleagues as something out of Hitchcock.
The episode reveals that D’Argo, who is of a species called Luxan, fathered a child with a humanoid Sebacean, in violation of the Sebaceans’ / Peacekeepers’ codes of genetic purity. Curious that we’d run into this the night after we saw a bunch of genetically pure buttheads in Stargate SG-1. That prompted our son to ask about interspecies mating. Marie kept her examples kind of broad, because it’s late and he was ready to start getting ready to sleep, but we can talk about them more tomorrow. Ligers and tigons and mules, oh my!