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Farscape Rewatch: “Throne For A Loss”

Throne For A Loss
Written by Richard Manning, directed by Pino Amenta
Season 1, Episode 4

1st US Transmission Date: 9 April 1999
1st UK Transmission Date: 6 December 1999
1st Australian Transmission: 27 May 2000

Guest Cast: John Adam (Bekesh), Jeremiah Tickell (Kyr), Zoe Dimakis (Hontovek), Api Bavardra (Nonk)

Synopsis: Rygel is kidnapped from Moya by a race called Tavleks, who believe he is still Dominar and can be ransomed. During the kidnapping one Tavlek, Kyr, is wounded and left behind. Like all Tavleks, he wears a gauntlet weapon, which injects the user with an addictive stimulant that heightens aggression. D’Argo puts on the gauntlet and becomes unmanageably violent. John and Aeryn knock him out and go to rescue Rygel. In the process, Aeryn puts on the gauntlet. D’Argo recovers and comes down to help, stunning Aeryn in time to stop her going on a suicidal rampage in the Tavlek camp.

By the time they reach Rygel’s cell he is already being moved elsewhere. John puts on the gauntlet, and runs to catch the Tavlek party and rescue Rygel. He convinces the Tavlek leader — Bekesh — that Rygel is worthless, and he is released.

Meanwhile Zhaan helps Kyr through withdrawal from the gauntlet stimulant. She gives him the choice of staying clean or returning to his drug-addicted ways. He eventually returns home and when Zhaan calls him to see how he’s doing, he reveals that he’s put the gauntlet back on by choice.

Buck Rogers Redux:

Aeryn: ‘Imagine, somewhere out there’s a whole world full of Crichtons. How useless that must be!’

Crichton tries to be calm and reasonable amongst a crew whose first response to any situation is violence (Aeryn), extreme violence (D’Argo), and theft (Rygel). D’Argo and Aeryn concede that he is providing common ground between them, if only by uniting them in their assessment of him as some sort of amusing idiot figure. He calls Jotheb a ‘critter’ and calls Tavleks ‘Tavloids,’ no matter how many times he’s corrected.

You Can Be More: ‘I am going to take out every last Tavlek. No survivors. No mercy.’ Aeryn is bloodthirsty, violent and a very good shot. Her reaction to everything is to try and force a resolution, something that lands her in trouble time and again.

Big Blue: ‘Am I the only species in creation that doesn’t thrive on conflict?’ Zhaan is a Pa’u, a priest of the ninth level. She can share others’ pain and relieve their suffering by a laying on of hands or kissing. Her blood is white and has soothing properties. She’s hard as nails, she just chooses not to resort to violence. She can brew up a sleep mist, which would knock most life forms out, but fails on D’Argo because of the gauntlet. Nudity is definitely not a taboo in her culture. This is the first time we see her skills as an apothecary.

I Was A Teenage Luxan: ‘Enough of this stupid voting; from now on I make the decisions.’ Luxans bleed black when wounded, and the wound has to be beaten to encourage blood flow. Only when the blood runs clear is the wound cleansed and able to heal. His Qualta blade works as a rifle as well as a sword. It was last charged with a crime eight cycles ago, when he was imprisoned by the Peacekeepers.

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: ‘I’m unloved, unwanted, unpopular… unconscious.’ Rygel was deposed 100 cycles ago, so he’s pretty old. He loves playing emperor, and steals one of Moya’s synaptic processors to adorn his sceptre, even though Pilot expressly forbade him to. He is actually killed by Bekesh, but Jotheb — the creature in the cell next to him — revives him, making him the first cast member to die, and the first to be resurrected.

A Ship, A Living Ship: Moya’s synaptic processors are ‘trillions of silicon neurons suspended in a crystalline matrix,’ which is a complicated way of saying they’re big, pretty red crystals. Her sensors are initially blocked by vegetation with a high concentration of ‘chloroferric’ compounds, but Zhaan and D’Argo reconfigure them. She must periodically vent supercoolant or the pressure builds to dangerous levels. Moya doesn’t have a tractor beam, instead she has a Docking Web, which is what was used to bring the WDP aboard in ‘Premiere.’

The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: He annoys her so much that she knocks him out with a Pantak Jab. They bicker, squabble, fight and take it in turns to have plans, which the other always derides.

Worlds Apart: The crew have, prior to this episode, visited Porzin II, where Rygel negotiated for some food cubes that turned out to be stale.

Alien Encounters: Tavleks live on an unnamed planet and are a violent species, living by plunder and kidnapping. But when they realise that Rygel is of no use, they let him go without any hint of revenge, so they have an honour code. They obtain many wounds, presumably in battle, and patch themselves up with staples and metal plates. The gauntlet sustains them. We will meet Bekesh again… (scifi.com’s Lifeform Encounters gave Tavleks an intriguing backstory.)

Jotheb is the ‘next in succession to preside over the Consortium of Trao,’ which is composed of ‘10,000 planets, each averaging some 4 billion Trao.’

Disney On Acid: John trying to talk Aeryn out of carrying a gun to the meeting with the Tavleks by telling her to be less like John Wayne and more like Kung-Fu… but Kung-Fu was the name of the show – the character was called Kane.

When Aeryn tells him her plan to recapture Rygel John says: ‘Wile E. Coyote would come up with a better plan!’ And finally, when he’s being told how to operate the gauntlet: ‘willpower, like the Green Lantern’s ring.’

Get Frelled: Like in ‘Premiere,’ Zhaan has a prisoner, and, for the second time, she strips him while he’s unconscious; this is becoming a compulsion. Kyr flashes Zhaan to try and intimidate her, but she gives him a good look and replies ‘quite respectable for your age,’ before stripping off herself and giving him a good look in return. It took six hours in makeup to prepare for the nude scene.

Bloopers: When John puts on the gauntlet and the shot cuts back to Aeryn and D’Argo, look in the top left hand corner and you can see a footbridge in the park where the scene was shot.

What Does This Do? We get to hear Rygel on the toilet. Lovely.

WHAT did you just say? Kyr tells Zhaan he’s sick of hearing her Plock. Zhaan lets rip with an incomprehensible Delvian curse when she hears that Crichton has a plan to save the day. John definitely says ‘shit’ at one point.

Stats: Geographic position is given thus: ‘Delta 6, Premno 9, Lurg 8.’ Aeryn uses occulars, which are a slim headset that operate as binoculars. Her rifle blows up after Crichton accidentally overloads the pulse chamber. D’Argo’s Qualta blade also operates as a powerful rifle. The Tavleks want ‘Purity 9 Corvinium’ in return for Rygel’s release.

Guest Stars: Before his turn as Bekesh, John Adam was Luke Cunningham in Home And Away and also appeared in five episodes of the cop drama Water Rats. He will return as Bekesh, and will play two other alien races during season four, and two characters in The Peacekeeper Wars. He was most recently a regular on City Homicide.

Backstage: During the scene when D’Argo stuns Aeryn, you get a good look at the green contact lenses that were dropped after Anthony Simcoe got makeup removal fluid in his eyes and had to be rushed to hospital with a damaged cornea; the doctor forbade him to wear lenses for six months afterwards, hence his eyes changing from green to normal during the first four episodes depending on whether a scene was filmed before or after the accident.

The blue vegetation was achieved by grading the film in post production – the plants were not painted. This episode was filmed at the same time as ‘I E.T.’.

By the time he became a producer and writer on Farscape, Richard Manning was a veteran of Fame (FAME!), ST:TNG, ST:DS9, Sliders and TekWar.  One of the key member of the show’s writing and production team, this is the first of ten Farscape eps that he penned. He soon became a consulting producer, then co-exec and finally exec. He left the show halfway through season four.

Pino Amenta is a hugely experienced Australian director, who has worked on every Australian show you can name, and most of the ones you can’t. He directed one other Farscape episode, ‘I E.T.’, which was shot alongside this episode.

The Verdict: The bickering between Aeryn and John is the greatest strength of this episode, and Claudia Black shines. She gets some nice scenes with D’Argo too, as the characters are rounded out and the tensions amongst the crew emerge more clearly. The crunching guitar-chord background music is trying too hard to be edgy and cool though, and shows that Farscape is still trying to find its voice. The production values are excellent, but in the final analysis this is a forgettable tale.

Verdict Redux: Yeah, um, what I said ten years ago. It’s fun, and the character humour between Aeryn and John is a joy, but it feels a bit slight.

Scott K. Andrews has written episode guides, magazine articles, film and book reviews, comics, audio plays for Big Finish, far too many blogs, some poems you will never read, and three novels for Abaddon. He is, patently, absurd.


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