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Farscape Rewatch: “A Human Reaction”

“A Human Reaction”
Written by Justin Monjo, directed by Rowan Woods
Season 1, Episode 16

US Transmission Date: 20 August 1999
1st UK Transmission Date: 3 April 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 9 December 2000

Guest Cast: Gigi Edgley (Chiana), Kent McCord (Jack Crichton), Phillip Gordon (Wilson), Richard Sydenham (Cobb)

Synopsis: Moya finds a wormhole that leads to Earth and John takes his module through. He lands in Australia and is locked up, examined and interrogated by the military, led by a man named Wilson. Because of the additions to the module’s technology and John’s translator microbes, they are unsure if he is really Crichton. John’s dad, Jack, arrives and convinces them to let him out.

D’Argo, Aeryn and Rygel follow John in one of Moya’s transport pods and are captured and held. Wilson has Rygel dissected and D’Argo is flown away to another base. Aeryn and John escape and hide in a house Crichton once stayed at with his father.

Next day John discovers that all the magazines and papers are from before he left Earth, and that everywhere he has been, and everyone he has seen are familiar to him. He realises it’s all a trick, runs away from Aeryn, and goes somewhere he’s never been before – the women’s toilet in a bar he once visited – and finds a swirling void. He returns to the military base and confronts ‘Jack’, who turns out to be an alien who has been testing John to find out about humanity. Rygel and D’Argo are still alive, and they, along with John and Aeryn, are released.

Farscape, Season 1, Episode 16

Buck Rogers Redux: Crichton is still recording messages to his dad and still has the lucky charm he was given in ’Premiere.’ He’s just pulled out his first grey hair. The WDP’s engines were tested in Australia on one of John’s three visits there, during one of which he met Cobb and Wilson. On his tenth birthday, when his family was living in Annapolis, his dad was held late at Huston for tests but commandeered a jet and flew home, woke John up and they went fishing at Sawyer’s Mill where John caught a trout. The first thing he does when he’s released is to eat chocolate, referencing a line from ’They’ve Got A Secret.’

You Can Be More: Aeryn likes rain and beer, is unsure about dresses, and breaks out of her confinement with great ease. Once she’s escaped, she determines that she won’t be taken alive. We hear her talk without translation and it makes her seem far more the alien than ever before. According to her ‘Peacekeepers wouldn’t even kill their prisoners to study them’. She speaks to ‘Jack’ in her own tongue before leaving the safe house and he appears to understand her… but what did she say?

Farscape, Season 1, Episode 16

Big Blue: Zhaan cries when John leaves and tells him that there is a piece of her in him (Rhapsody in Blue’) and he must take care of it.

I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’Argo seems quite moved when John leaves, and gives him the pep talk he needs to help him fly through the wormhole. He even calls him John rather than Crichton, which from him is practically as good as a big sloppy kiss.

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel is outraged when Crichton says he won’t leave him his stuff, but he laughs when he realises he’s just being teased. The sight of poor dissected Rygel is really horrifying but when he turns up alive and eating Marjools (which look just like snails) he’s as annoying as ever.

Farscape, Season 1, Episode 16

Your Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana hardly features, but to remind us that she’s on board now we open with Zhaan telling her off for stealing. Chiana puts up a fight and says that although she agreed to play by ship’s rules, she’s now changed her mind.

The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: John asks Aeryn to come to Earth with him but she refuses, even though she cries when he leaves. She later admits she was too scared to follow him. When Moya’s pod follows John, Aeryn is the pilot and she claims that they got caught in the wormhole’s pull and couldn’t escape, but it’s equally possible that she chose to follow him. When they’re alone together, John apologises for entirely changing her life, but she doesn’t seem that bothered about leaving the Peacekeepers any more.

Farscape, Season 1, Episode 16

And then, another kiss and a fade out to next morning, which, in light of the explicitness of future episodes seems remarkably coy for Farscape. In later episodes it is established that they slept together. They’ve gone from first kiss to lovers in a mere four episodes, which shows that the writers are reluctant to milk the ‘will they, won’t they’ dynamic as obviously as many other shows do. So when they get back to Moya, how will things have changed between them?

Alien Encounters: The Ancient Ones are an insect hive species who are homeless and whose energy is depleted. They have enough left to make one more trip, so they need to choose the planet carefully. They do not intend to conquer a world, but to cohabit with its inhabitants. They hang around in space testing races they encounter to see whether they will be welcome on their worlds.

Seen It All Before: Star Trek: Voyager did almost this exact story in ‘Non Sequiter.’

Farscape, Season 1, Episode 16

Logic Leaps: The biggest clue that all is not as it seems is that in all of infinite space, when we know that no-one has ever discovered a wormhole before (‘Till The Blood Runs Clear’), Moya should just stumble across one. And that it should lead, of all the places in infinite space, straight to Earth, is just too much of a stretch. John buys it because he wants to, but if it were real it would be lazy writing and Farscape rarely suffers from that, so the viewer probably assumes that it’s all a trick of some sort immediately.

Farscape, Season 1, Episode 16

Bloopers: If you spray water over a film set to make it look like it’s raining, it is too clear to show up on camera; the standard way of making rain is to mix some milk in with the water so it registers on film. Obviously the Farscape crew got a bit carried away because when John’s opening the door to the safe house it looks like someone’s poured a pint of milk over his head – just look at the drops hanging off the tip of his nose! One of the indications we’re given that John isn’t on Earth is that an Australian guard doesn’t know who won the Superbowl, but what most Americans don’t realise is that practically no-one outside of America knows or cares about American Football, so while it’s intended as a clue, it really isn’t.

Farscape, Season 1, Episode 16

Only on Farscape: Our hero solves the mystery by walking into the ladies loo.

WHAT did you just say?: Having us hear Rygel, D’Argo and Aeryn speak in their native tongues adds real class – how nice to have a show where the language barrier is addressed and everyone doesn’t speak English. It also highlights the translator microbe blunder in ‘I E.T.’

Farscape, Season 1, Episode 16

Backstage: Aeryn’s response to rain – opening her mouth to drink it and saying ‘I like it!’ — was improvised on the spur of the moment by Claudia Black. Claudia speaking Sebacean was also not post-synced, but is in fact her speaking in a self-devised alien tongue, which impresses the hell out of me. Rowan Woods, the director, explains how this episode started a change in the look of the show: ‘That whole concept of where we were with Farscape hit me on ep. 16 last year when we had to shift our emphasis from sunny Australia to dark Australia.’ The two things they used to set the tone of this episode were The X-Files and independent film.

The Verdict: Farscape may be filmed in Australia but most shows would have set the story in California or somewhere in the U.S.; how nice to see a Sci-Fi show actually set outside America for a change, plus it means they can use the locations to their best advantage. Knowing that this is not the final episode, the audience will be expecting Earth to be fake, but the script does a good job of fooling us – by claiming that the wormhole above Earth is still open it offers an entirely new direction for the show that adds plausibility to the scenario and offers us Wilson as a new recurring villain. This double bluff even makes it believable that Rygel has been killed, because after all, a puppet is easier to fire than an actor. The ending is a bit of an anticlimax, but that was inevitable, although the Ancient is a disappointing puppet that doesn’t really work. One of the very best episodes to date.

Farscape, Season 1, Episode 16

Verdict Redux: Ben Browder cites this as his favourite episode of season one, and it’s hard to disagree with him. I love the fact that they do this episode again twice more, each time with a different spin. But the ending is a big problem, a garbled info-dump, a terribly unconvincing alien, and while I followed it, my wife was entirely baffled, not realising that the Aeryn who John slept with was the real thing. In retrospect it might have worked better as a two-parter, extending the John and Aeryn on-the-run sequence into a nice long cat and mouse chase, really exploring the moment they become lovers, and taking a bit more time over the final reveal. Still, it’s a blinder — a  really strong script, very well directed indeed.


Scott K. Andrews‘s Highlander audio play ‘All The King’s Horses‘ has been shortlisted for a Scribe Award for Best Tie-In Audio Drama. He may have done a little jig when he found out.

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