“Till The Blood Runs Clear“
Written by Doug Heyes, Jr, directed by Tony Tilse
Season 1, Episode 11
1st US Transmission Date: 9 July 1999
1st UK Transmission Date: 28 February 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 23 September 2000
Guest Cast: Magda Szubanski (Furlow), Jeremy Sims (Rorf ), Jo Kerrigan (Rorg )
Synopsis: Crichton and Aeryn are in the WDP running tests near a star that has high solar flare activity, trying to recreate the conditions that created the wormhole in ‘Premiere’ by slingshotting around a nearby planet. To John’s surprise, he succeeds in creating a wormhole, but it’s unstable and the WDP is damaged. They land on the planet and give it to a local mechanic, Furlow, to be fixed. In the main square they find a beacon from Crais advertising a reward for D’Argo, Zhaan and Rygel. Aeryn takes the beacon and discovers a personal message for her from Crais, offering honourable retirement if she turns in her shipmates.
Two Vorcarian Bloodtrackers, Rorf and his mate Rorg, are on the planet hunting for the fugitives. John pretends to be another bounty hunter and by acting the Alpha Male, he manoeuvres Rorf into an alliance to buy time. D’Argo comes down to the planet to fetch Aeryn and Crichton and is captured by Rorf. Crichton is only just able to prevent them torturing D’Argo. Zhaan also comes down to the planet and while Rorf and Rorg hunt her, D’Argo escapes. The Bloodtrackers see John and D’Argo together and open fire, realising John’s double-crossed them.
Meanwhile Aeryn has had a fight with someone she found trying to access the WDP’s flight data. During the fight she is exposed to a solar flare and temporarily blinded. She gets Furlow to change Crais’s beacon to say that the hunt is called off. The Bloodtrackers see this and decide to cut their losses and leave. Furlow’s charge for repairing the WDP is exclusive access to the wormhole data John collected and he reluctantly gives it to her.
Buck Rogers Redux: John’s dad had two Dobermans, that’s where John gets the idea of playing Alpha Male to the Bloodtrackers. He’s almost hypnotised by the appearance of the wormhole and only snaps out of it just in time.
This is the first time he asserts his rights over his crewmates, insisting that his desire to get home is just as valid a reason for action as theirs. His adoption of Alpha Male status with the Bloodtrackers inspires him to challenge D’Argo’s own claim to that role on Moya he faces down the Luxan and they reach a sort of truce to stop jockeying for superiority all the time in a key scene for the development of their relationship:
JOHN: This isn’t gonna work, is it? We’re never going be friends.
D’ARGO: Friendship is a lot to ask.
JOHN: Then how about respect? We can be allies.
You Can Be More: Crais’ hidden message allows Aeryn to fantasise one last time about being able to go home, and although she knows it’s a trap, she still feels the pull of PK life.
Aeryn may be blind, but she can still win a battle; her idea of getting Furlow to change the beacon is a masterstroke, and even though she’s blind at the time, she strides out into the middle of a firefight and sets it off. She angrily refuses John’s help even though she can’t see.
Big Blue: According to Pilot: ‘Delvian females are unusually sensitive to ionic radiation’. This means that when they’re exposed to it literally in this case, as Zhaan once again rips her clothes off at the slightest provocation they have what is called a ‘photogasm’.
Rygel’s response upon hearing this: ‘I’ll get a mop and bucket.’ Zhaan blisses out and writhes around a lot with a big smile on her face. Lucky her.
On the planet, when she knows she’s being tracked, Zhaan chants and appears to cloak herself and her scent in some way.
I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’Argo is ready to abandon John and Aeryn at first, then he decides to go get them, then, after he and John have their little talk, he refuses to abandon John during the firefight with the Bloodtrackers because they are ‘comrades’. It seems a large part of his problem with Crichton is that he so closely resembles a Sebacean.
The Insane Military Commander: Crais has placed wanted beacons on many worlds. Crichton is not on them because Crais wants to kill him personally. Aeryn’s not mentioned either because they contain a secret message only she can access using her PK code. His offer of retirement probably means, according to Aeryn, ‘a radiation induced brain fever to bring on the living death’.
A Ship, A Living Ship: The radiation from the solar flares is within Moya’s tolerance, but it may damage her baby.
The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: Aeryn is angry that John didn’t think to ask her opinion or assent before trying the slingshot manoeuvre. She tells him that next time he wants to do tests, he can fly solo. He later tells her that if he does find a way home, she is still welcome to come with him, but she dismisses the idea.
Worlds Apart: The planet is not named, but the module puts down at the ‘Dam-Ba-Da Depot’.
Alien Encounters: Vorcarian Bloodtrackers are pack animals and the females are subservient to the males. They track by scent.
Disney On Acid: Crichton tells the Bloodtrackers that he and Aeryn are Butch and Sundance, the Hole In the Sky Gang; Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid were outlaws in America and ran the Hole In the Wall Gang.
At first he thinks Rorf is called Worf, like the Klingon in Star Trek: The Next Generation. He later calls him Pluto, after Goofy’s dog.
Logic Leaps: It’s a desert planet and it looks very hot indeed, but Aeryn, whose race suffer heat exhaustion in high temperatures, seems unaffected. So, um, it must be a cold radiation-soaked desert planet.
Bloopers: John’s solar goggles vanish when he and D’Argo are attacked by the Bloodtrackers. During the fight in the workshop it’s clearly Claudia Black’s stunt double in long shots.
WHAT did you just say? Rygel is horrified that he may see Zhaan nude: ‘Help! Help! A mad Delvian exhibitionist is forcing herself on me, visually!’ I may be wrong, but I think this is the first episode in which we hear ‘fahrbot’
Stats: No-one has ever created a wormhole in this part of the galaxy (universe?) and they are considered to be only theoretically possible. When John creates one above the planet, Furlow registers Brophase radiation, which is what would theoretically be produced by a proto-wormhole, so she knows what he’s up to.
Strangely, Furlow quotes A Streetcar Named Desire when she says ‘must be hard for someone as invulnerable as you to have to rely on the kindness of strangers’. Is this meant to be a co-incidence, or are we supposed to wonder about her origins given that she, too, has a special interest in wormholes, could she know Earth?
She also states that wormholes allow you to travel through ‘space and time‘ which could indicate that John may not only be on the other side of the galaxy, he may be in the far past or distant future. So if he returns home he may find an Earth very different to the one he left (at the time this episode was broadcast, the producers stated in interviews that John had not travelled in time, but it had yet to be established on screen). His WDP is now a two-seater and has been souped up with Moya parts.
Guest Stars: Magda Szubanski has appeared as Margaret O’Halloran, the dog trainer who solves mysteries in the Dogwoman TV movies, the farmer’s wife in both Babe movies and, most recently, she was a regular in Kath and Kim. Jeremy Sims is still a very in-demand actor on Ausie TV.
Behind the scenes: After providing the story for A Bug’s Life, Doug Heyes Jr. gets to write his first (of two) full Farscape scripts. He is a longstanding TV veteran, having written for such shows as The Fall Guy, Automan (I can’t be the only one who remembers this show, can I?), Cover Up and CHiPs, which makes him royalty as far as I’m concerneed. The second of Tony Tilse’s 19 eps behind the camera.
The Verdict: An action packed episode that makes great use of location filming to conjure a believable desert world, giving the episode an epic feel. The make up for the Bloodtrackers is superb too. The fact that the sun has flare activity every five years is very convenient five years is a good run for a show, and it meant if the writers wanted John to get home at the end, all they had to do was return to the planet and conjure up a wormhole. As it turned out, this option wasn’t needed. A good runaround that begins the show’s arc story regarding wormholes and will have repercussions far down the line.
Verdict Redux: After last week’s bonding moment cause by Moya’s pregnancy, this episode marks another important step in the forging of the ties that bind this crew together, as John and D’Argo finally reach an understanding. It’s cracking episode, with great character work, although the crashing guitar chords make it sound quite low-budget 90s late-night TV at times.
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.