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Farscape Rewatch: “The Flax”

“The Flax”
Written by Justin Monjo, directed by Peter Andrikidis
Season 1, Episode 13

1st US Transmission Date: 16 July 1999
1st UK Transmission Date: 6 March 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 23 September 2000

Guest Cast: RhysMuldoon (Staanz), John Bachelor (Kcrackic), David Bower (Goon)

Synopsis: Aeryn is training Crichton to fly one of Moya’s transport pods when they become ensnared in the flax – a huge invisible net used by Zenetan pirates to catch ships which they then loot. They launch a distress buoy, but they have to fix the atmospheric mix in order to buy the time they need to be rescued.

The cabin is full of oxygen so they can’t use the welding torch to fix the problem without blowing up the pod. They decide to jettison the atmosphere, fix the link, and repressurise. However, Crichton’s space suit is broken and he’s the only one who can weld. He teaches Aeryn how to make the repair, teaches her CPR and lets her kill him with an injection, telling her she has four minutes before he’s irretrievable. Aeryn runs out of time before she’s managed the repair, but she stops anyway and revives Crichton. They now have only half an hour of air left.

Meanwhile, Moya is boarded by a drifter called Staanz. She was once one of the pirates who run the flax but now she’s solo and warns ships about it in hope of reward. She tells D’Argo that there’s a Luxan ship in the Flax and D’Argo persuades Staanz to take him there so he can retrieve maps that can lead him home. On the way, they detect Moya’s pod venting atmosphere and D’Argo decides to go rescue John and Aeryn instead.

Meanwhile, Moya is boarded again, this time by Kcrackic, the leader of the Zenetan pirates. Staanz, who’s on the run from Kcrackic, asks Rygel and Zhaan to distract him to give her and D’Argo time. Rygel plays Kcrackic at Tadekand and loses, pretending to give the pirate Staanz’s location. Kcrackic leaves in pursuit. In fact, Rygel deliberately lost, having planted false information in Moya’s computer to send Kcrackic off on a wild goose chase.

Buck Rogers Redux: John was in a head-on crash when he was 19. He’s slow to learn how to fly Moya’s pods, but he’s getting there. After Aeryn revives him he reveals that he didn’t see any light, or afterlife, just blackness.

You Can Be More: ‘Sebaceans believe when you die you die. You go nowhere, you see nothing.’ Aeryn could have finished the repair and saved herself, but at the cost of Crichton’s life. Instead, she chooses to save him. She admits that this is because she doesn’t want to die alone – a very un-PK thing to admit to.

I Was A Teenage Luxan: As a boy, D’Argo dreamed of serving on a Luxan Assault Piercer. He chooses to save Aeryn and John rather than collect the maps that could re-unite him with his son, but he is indecisive and his hesitation nearly costs his crewmates their lives. He cuts himself no slack: ‘a Luxan warrior must never be indecisive in battle. My indecision nearly cost Crichton and Aeryn their lives… and by saving them, I may have given up my only chance at seeing my son again. On every front, I failed.’

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel smokes and is a mean Tadek player. For a time, we think he has sold out Staanz and D’Argo, and while many shows use that tactic – make you think a regular character has sold out his friends – it never works because you know they’re planning something clever. Only on Farscape does that device really create tension, because it’s entirely plausible that they would sell each other out, especially Rygel.

In The Driving Seat: Pilot blasts the crew with a high pitched noise to get them to stop arguing and get their attention, and then blithely shrugs it off and tells the crew his news. He’s getting snide – the crew’s influence must be rubbing off on him.

A Ship, A Living Ship: Kcrackic once tried to seize a pregnant Leviathan. He lost 80 men in the process, so they have some sort of defence mechanism. The walls of D’Argo’s quarters are secreting some kind of resin as part of the pregnancy.

The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: It had to happen. Lock two people who are attracted to each other in a room together and sooner or later they’re going to snap. When Crichton shoves Aeryn out of the way of a falling cable, he lands right on top of her. The Aeryn of a few episodes earlier would have punched him, but now she just smiles and wryly asks: ‘are you comfortable? Shall I get you a pillow?’

Then when all hope seems to be gone, the music swells and before you can say food cubes, the clothes are coming off. When they’re interrupted by D’Argo’s rescue Aeryn cries, in disbelief: ‘Someone’s docking!?’ Back on Moya they both swear it’ll never happen again, but when John playfully asks Aeryn if she is the female of her species, it looks very much like she grabs his hand off screen and puts it somewhere designed to answer his question. ‘I’ll take that as a yes’ he says, with a huge grin.

Disney On Acid: John imagines he’s Tom Cruise while flying the transport pod: ‘this is Top Gun, this is the need for speed!’

What Does This Do? Staanz – who appears male – drops her trousers to show her tattoos and prove to D’Argo that she was a Zenetan pirate. This also reveals a singular lack of expected appendages down below, and Staanz explains: ‘I’m a Yenen by species. We’re not exactly cut from the standard mold’ He later proves this by revealing that he is a she, and declaring her love for D’Argo, much to the Luxan’s discomfort.

Get Frelled: So close… but Aeryn and John’s docking was interrupted by someone else’s. Also, D’Argo was on a promise, had he chosen to take poor lovesick Staanz up on it.

Seen It All Before: Name one sci-fi show that hasn’t had two lead characters facing certain death only to have them rescued at the last minute after some sort of cathartic life lesson has been learnt or feelings revealed… it’s a standard, and it’s practically impossible to mess it up.

Logic Leaps: Would D’Argo really leave poor old Staanz trussed like a chicken for Kcrackic to find?

WHAT did you just say: John’s southern accent surfaces in this episode. Ben Browder explains: ‘the writers did that to me. A decade of trying to lose the accent and they haul it back out for all the world to see. I love my native accent, but I don’t see Crichton as carrying too heavy a Southern Accent. I reckon it’ll come out sometimes… y’all.’

Stats: Staanz’s ship doesn’t come into Moya’s docking port, it actually stays outside and docks the old fashioned way. The flax is a magnadrift mesh, 75 million zakrons long, and you can’t see it till you’re snagged in it. Peacekeepers use kill shots and nerve shots to first kill then revive each other for battle triage. Crichton is continuing to add Moya parts to his WDP.

Guest Stars: Rhys Muldoon went on to star in Grass Roots, an Aussie political drama directed by Peter Andrikidis, who directed this episode of Farscape, and which also featured Tammy Macintosh who plays Jool from Season Three onwards. He went on to star in The Secret Life of Us, Lockie Lenonard.

David Bowers appeared in Stars Wars Episodes 2 and 3, as well as The Matrix Revolutions – that’s a triple of truly terrible sequels.

John Bachelor became a series regular first on Sea Patrol and more recently on Underbelly.

Behind the Scenes: This episode marks the beginning of Justin Monjo’s long association with Farscape. He would go on to write a further 13 episodes, and would rise up the ranks first as Creative Consultant, then Supervising Producer, then Co-Executive Producer. After Farscape he went on to write for The Alice and Rush.

Peter Andrikidis also begins an ongoing association with Farscape – he would go on to direct six more episodes. He’s been very busy since, working on numerous shows including East West 101, Underbelly and most recently The Straits.

The Verdict: A tense episode and funny episode. Rhys Muldoon is hilarious as Staanz, especially at the end, and the flax works well as a plot device. Rygel gets to do something worthwhile, and D’Argo’s burgeoning loyalty to his shipmates is tested and he comes up trumps. But it’s the Aeryn/John near miss that caps things. Farscape could have gone on milking sexual tension between the two forever and fallen into the Moonlighting trap of relying too heavily on it and ruining the show when it finally dissipated. Instead, only 12 episodes in and the writers have cut to the chase, which is both gutsy and risky – typically Farscape.

Verdict Redux: This episode makes so much more sense in it’s new place, bumped to follow ‘Rhapsody in Blue’. The evolution of Moya’s inhabitants into a tight crew takes a major step forward as Rygel earns his keep, D’Argo puts others before himself, and Aeryn, who could have saved herself at John’s expense, refuses to do so. Staanz’s ramshackle ship, and the way he pilots it, finds an echo in Christopher Eccleston’s piloting of the TARDIS when Doctor Who returned in 2005 – influence, perhaps?

Scott K. Andrews has got a new book out to tie-in with a computer game he helped write. He would never be so crass at to use this bio to tell people that ‘Sniper Elite: Target Hitler‘ is an ebook-only novella available via Amazon, Kobo & Nook. He’s classier than that.


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