09 June 2017

Steve and Hayley Watch Farscape: Season 1, Episodes 5-8

1x05: “Back and Back and Back to the Future”

  • HAYLEY: Five episodes in, and I’ve yet to be wowed. This one was meh. It could have worked, maybe, if the actress who played Matala didn’t lay it on so thick. And I didn’t like her outfit.
  • STEVE: Yeah, I’ve enjoyed every episode up until now more than I didn’t, but that one was dumb. Both the alien actors were making weird performance choices-- Verell sometimes. Pronounced. Every. Word. As. Its. Own. Sentence.
  • H: So Crichton kept experiencing flashes of the future, but could make different decisions that affected the outcome, à la Groundhog’s Day. Is it weird that what I’m mostly bothered about is that he didn’t end up not breaking Zhaan’s glass mask in the final timeline?
  • S: I don’t even get why he broke it on purpose in the last iteration! Stargate SG-1 did this episode much better. (“Window of Opportunity”)
  • H: I don’t have strong memories of that one, but they also did an episode featuring the effects of a black hole, and that one was definitely way better too.
  • S: Oh, yeah, “A Matter of Time,” where time is slowing down in the SGC due to relativistic effects. Why is the black hole green in this story anyway?
  • H: Good question. Maybe it’s like entropy in ’80s Doctor Who.
  • S: Anyway, the time stuff was about the only interesting thing in this episode, but that didn’t even really add up. I felt like the rules of how Crichton’s flash-forwards worked kept changing-- first they were these sepia-tinted spurts, then they were short jumps, then they seemed to extend naturally from the present moment until he looped back to the beginning. And why were there all the flash-forwards with the weird sex stuff anyway? That was never followed up on except as an incitement to make D’Argo jealous of John.
  • H: Because Matala was supposed to be sexy, I guess? There weren’t even very good character moments in this episode, which have saved previous episodes with mediocre plots. We do get some new information about D’Argo’s past, but all we really learn is that he has secrets. And he doesn’t want to talk about them.
  • S: I actually don’t remember what reason he gave for being on board Moya in the premiere, which sort of undercut the revelation that it was false-- it would have been nice to have that reiterated here.
  • H: Killing his commanding officer, maybe? I don’t want to google it in case of spoilers.
  • S: The Farscape wiki says that’s right. But yeah, this one was almost entirely devoid of little character moments, which had been the saving grace of every episode thus far. Oh, returning to the subject of Matala, why did she attack Aeryn in such a way that revealed her true nature?
  • H: That was incredibly stupid of her!
  • S: And then she left her alive!
  • H: So much for remaining undercover.

1x06: “Thank God It’s Friday… Again”

  • STEVE: Earlier I complained that Moya is always breaking down, but why is D’Argo always coming under the influence of strange things? The wristband in “Throne for a Loss,” the sexy space spy lady in “Back to the Future,” and this episode again almost entirely features a D’Argo under mind control.
  • HAYLEY: Do we ever get an explanation for the Luxan “hyper-rage” he’s experiencing at the beginning of the episode?
  • S: Oh, right! No we don’t, but yeah-- D’Argo is out of his right mind two different ways in one episode! I guess this bugs me because I feel like D’Argo is maybe the main character who’s been fleshed out the least. He’s the Worfesque warrior alien. We know more about everyone else on Moya.
  • H: That’s a good point. But I enjoyed the plot of this one. It’s just as simple (and maybe cliche) as some of the other episode plots so far, but this time I bought into it. Crichton had to largely act alone after D’Argo and Zhaan were under mind control (although why he didn’t communicate with Aeryn to bring her into the loop is kind of a major plot hole), and his actions carried weight-- he had to not only rescue his shipmates, but the entire enslaved race of this planet.
  • S: Meh. This wasn’t as bad as the previous one, but it was otherwise one of the worst ones yet, I thought. You work out what’s going on pretty quick, and then it seems like nothing happens. Why does Crichton hang out on the planet for two days not doing anything? Why doesn’t he take thirty seconds to call Aeryn? Even the alien freedom fighters seem aimless-- there’s a whole day between when they tell Crichton they want something from him and when they tell him what it is, and I don’t know why.
  • H: True-- and they didn’t have a very good plan. Their entire plan was, “Fly away on your ship and find someone who can help us.” And then Crichton still didn’t call the ship.
  • S: And when Aeryn got there, he still didn’t tell her what was going on for no reason I could comprehend. As you pointed out when we were watching, he spent more time not explaining than an explanation would have taken.
  • H: Maybe I’ve just come to expect gaping plot holes in Farscape episodes. But here’s the thing that bothers me. If this is the region of space that the Peacekeepers call “The Uncharted Territories,” why is the planet they get the main source of their weapons fuel from located here?
  • S: Is it the main source? Or just a source?
  • H: The way Aeryn was talking at the end made it sound like the main source, but I guess that’s not necessarily the case.
  • S: But yeah, and in last week’s we see two different alien races known to D’Argo. Not very “uncharted.”
  • H: That at least had an explanation (if not a very convincing one)-- they had to go into deep space to test the black hole weapon they had.
  • S: True. What I did like about this one was the B-plot. The scene where Aeryn and Pilot open up to each other was nicely done, and followed up on what you highlighted in “Exodus from Genesis.” Poor Pilot has to work so hard to seem all-knowing! And no one even appreciates it.
  • H: I did like that, and I liked Aeryn’s comment at the end, that it felt nice to fix something using her mind rather than through force.
  • S: Yeah.
  • H: We did get one tiny glimpse into the real D’Argo at the end as well, when he talks to Zhaan about the two futures he’d envisioned as a child.
  • S: That scene was also very good, and provided some much-needed perspective on D’Argo.
  • H: I liked the regret that D’Argo had-- seemingly both for not being able to stay on the planet where he’d been happy, but also for the falseness that that happiness had been.
  • S: Yeah, Zhaan’s point that D’Argo couldn’t find that happiness, but had to build it was a good counter to his sadness.
  • H: So once again, we have a mediocre plot rescued by a couple of good character moments.
  • S: And, to be fair, any episode whose resolution depends on Rygel emitting a stream of explosive piss can’t be all bad.
  • H: Groan.
  • S: That was so good!
  • H: That was so bad!

    1x07: “PK Tech Girl”

    • HAYLEY: In this episode, the crew comes across a famed, missing Peacekeeper vessel. Onboard, they find a Peacekeeper named Gilina-- not from the original crew of the ship, but from one of Crais’s scouting vessels. A race of scavengers had attacked and killed her crewmates, leaving her the only survivor.
    • STEVE: What I really liked about this one is how everyone has such varied reactions to both the ship and to Gilina. Crichton wants to trust her, D’Argo just wants to know what she can do for them, Aeryn sees a reflection of herself which I think leads to both empathy and distrust. I think it’s a really good example of how to write an ensemble cast: drop something interesting into their world, and explore the different ways they all handle it.
    • H: Aeryn’s response to Gilina is the most interesting. She initially lashes out-- strongly-- making a show of her strength and distaste for her: for her position as a lowly tech, for her loyalty to the Peacekeepers (which, of course, Aeryn envies). This says much more about her than about Gilina.
    • S: We also get Aeryn’s reaction to the ship itself: at the beginning, John is kind of sneery about how inhospitable it is, and the whole idea of being raised on a ship, but then at the end, he realizes that going aboard the derelict carrier was (for Aeryn) like walking through corpses in his dad’s house. I thought that was a really good scene, and showed us stuff about both characters. I was a little less enamored with the revelation that Aeryn was sexually attracted to Crichton, as it was a bit ham-fisted the way she decided to admit it.
    • H: And I don’t completely buy it, either, based on Aeryn’s initial reactions to meeting him (although she does say that she makes a point to suppress those kinds of feelings, especially for an inferior species). I also wasn’t terribly impressed at the scenes that drove Crichton and Gilina’s romance-- I did like that he first fell for their shared interest in astrophysics, but after that, there were too many scenes where something just happened to make them fall into one another or stand with their bodies pressed together. It kind of made it seem like Crichton was falling for the very first alien female who showed an interest in him. (Wait, it’s not even the first one, is it? He kinda had a thing for the woman in “I, E.T.,” too. Is he going to fall for all the ladies?)
    • S: I didn’t have a problem with their romance-- I thought it was very well done, actually. Like, I didn’t feel we were supposed to take this as some True Love thing, but that it was exactly what you described. Gilina is the first human-like female who’s been nice to him; Crichton is the first person Gilina has seen in who knows how long; they both like space and being nice to people; they’re both attractive. Boom!
    • H: It is rather adorable. And I appreciate that Gilina isn’t attractive in a particularly sexy way-- she’s quite normal, very girl-next-door, and I think that’s right for this plot.
    • S: Meanwhile, Rygel remembers being tortured, D’Argo has to learn how to bluff when he has a weapon-less spaceship, and Zhaan provides moral support. (Do you think Catholic priests tell former prisoners to find the corpse of their prison wardens to achieve catharsis?) This episode had something interesting for everyone to do, even though I don’t think the aliens were as imposing as the script indicated they should be. They were kind of like goofy goblins from one of those 1980s Henson fantasy films.
    • H: Rygel’s B-plot was very good, I thought. His experience on the ship was so different from everyone else’s-- while they’re ransacking parts of the ship to rebuild a shield to fight for survival, he’s fighting his own personal demons.
    • S: Yeah, it did feel a little disconnected, but I enjoyed it. It adds to my point above about how each character has their own distinct but meaningful reaction to the events of the episode.
    • H: Plus, when he finally achieves catharsis, it’s a good scene. “No matter what you did to me, I'll always remember one thing: You lose!”
    • S: Overall, I thought this was the best episode thus far. While in earlier episode we had sort of dull stories with nice character moments, in this one the characters were the story.
    • H: I can agree with that.

      1x08: “That Old Black Magic”

      • STEVE: At first I was like, this is a Star Trek episode: a godlike alien forces the crew to fight for his own amusement. (Specifically, in this case, Crichton is forced to fight Crais, who makes his first appearance since the premiere.) Plus the alien feeds on EMOTION. But then as I kept watching, I was like, no, it’s even worse… it’s a Blake’s 7 episode!
      • HAYLEY: I know only enough about Blake’s 7 to know that that is not a good thing.
      • S: On Blake’s 7 the crew is a good of space revolutionaries being chased by, well, “an insane military commander” to coin a phrase, and there’s an episode where godlike aliens notice this and force the main character to fight the evil commander for their own amusement. Like 90% of Blake’s 7 episodes, it’s not very good. And neither was this.
      • H: See, I actually thought the cheesy setup was saved by the fact that both Crichton’s and Zhaan’s actions seemed to have lasting, permanent implications. This was the first real time since the premiere that we’ve had hints of ongoing plot arcs.
      • S: Yeah, I thought that was a clever, unexpected move, as was the fact that the alien wizard thing’s plan turned out to be more complicated than it seemed… but that’s all the last 10 minutes of a 45-minute story which in the meantime has a lot of scenes of this “wacky” guy who is no John DeLancie.
      • H: There are quite a lot of scenes of Crichton and Crais just running around his weird maze of rooms, or of Crichton arguing with Maldis.
      • S: Or with Crais. “Let’s not fight!” “Let’s fight anyway!” “Let’s not!” “Let’s!”
      • H: Meanwhile, the suspicious red alien priest trains Zhaan to be needlessly cruel to innocent animals. I really thought he was going to make her kill that two-headed bird. I’m glad it didn’t end up going there-- I don’t know that I could forgive that!-- but she does end up imposing pain on Rygel, which is also not that great.
      • S: See, I was expecting a revelation that the priest guy was going to be evil, maybe even another incarnation of Maldis. At first he’s like, “No one can stand against Maldis, it’s impossible!” and being very timid. Then one scene later he’s all, “You must do this, Zhaan, to bring down Maldis!” and being very bossy. I was thinking he was making her do terrible things so he could feed off the emotions, but no, it was just a poorly written change of heart.
      • H: Those last ten minutes though. I was impressed that it wasn’t just “hey we beat the space monster-of-the-week, let’s move on.” No-- Crichton had been manipulated into actually attempting to kill Crais, and he grapples with the realization that the consequences of his actions mean that Crais will definitely not stop hunting him now. Meanwhile, Crais kills his lieutenant because she’s the only one who knows he received orders to stop his pursuit-- I was so shocked when he just snapped her neck that I audibly gasped.
      • S: Heh, you jumped too! I didn’t see that coming; in fact when she appeared at the beginning of the episode (she was in the premiere) I was like, “Ah they’re creating a recurring character.” Nope!
      • H: And Zhaan has somehow unleashed the evil that was buried inside her-- and she’s not so sure it can be easily unburied. I thought this was an interesting turn for her character, and it fits with the glimpse of badass-ness that we got in “Throne for a Loss.”
      • S: It’s interesting that it seems like she got religion in prison.
      • H: She mentioned before that she became a priest in prison. I forget which episode.
      • S: Yeah, it was alluded to (I am also not sure when), but got fleshed out here some.
      • H: Is it still as bad as a Blake’s 7 episode?
      • S: Well, I didn’t fall asleep during it, which I’m pretty sure I did during “Duel,” but I do feel like the whole pseudo-magic alien set-up is a little more Star Trekky than Farscape. Sort of weird to aver that only eight episodes in, but it does feel tonally off. (One thing I did like: Aeryn’s eye-roll whenever D’Argo indicated he believed in magic. It felt perfect for both characters, and Claudia Black is great at disdain.)
      All screencaps courtesy FarscapeCaps.com.

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