Look At The Princess I: A Kiss Is But A Kiss
Written by David Kemper, directed by Andrew Prowse and Tony Tilse
Season 2, Episode 11
1st US Transmission Date: 21 July 2000
1st UK Transmission Date: 11 September 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 11 August 2001
Guest Cast (for the whole trilogy): Wayne Pygram (Scorpius), Felicity Price (Princess Katralla), Bianca Chiminello (Jenavian Charto), Matt Day (Counsellor Elka Tyno), Tina Bursill (Empress Novia), Felix Williamson (Prince Clavor), Aaron Cash (Dregon Carzenonva), Gavin Robins (I) and Thomas Holesgrove (II & III)(Cargyn), Francesca Buller (ro-NA), Jonathan Hardy (Kahaynu)
Synopsis: Moya encounters an independent Sebacean colony in the Uncharted Territories and the crew are allowed to visit their Royal Planet to join the celebrations of the impending coronation. Here they become embroiled in political intrigue – pay close attention, this gets complicated….
The law states that the first-born heir, Princess Katralla, must marry a DNA-compatible Sebacean before the anniversary of her birth, otherwise the throne is given to the second in line, her brother, Prince Clavor. Clavor has forged an alliance with the Scarrans, who have sent a delegate, Cargyn. With Cargyn’s help Prince Clavor has poisoned his sister’s DNA to ensure that she is not compatible with any Sebacean male, ensuring the throne will be his.
Unfortunately John is revealed to be compatible, offering Princess Katralla a chance to become Empress if she can persuade him to marry her. The current Empress, Novia, does not want her son to be Emperor because he will ally their worlds with the Scarrans and ensure a PK invasion. She puts pressure on John to marry her daughter. At this point, Scorpius finally catches up with Crichton and his Command Carrier enters orbit.
The Empress tells John that if he does not marry Katralla she will turn him over to Scorpius. John is forced to agree to the marriage. Cargyn believes that John and Aeryn are Peacekeepers working with Scorpius to prevent the colony allying itself with the Scarrans, and promises Clavor that he will have John assassinated before the marriage can take place.
Other pertinent information: the fact that John is not Sebacean is kept a state secret to allow the wedding to go ahead. Katralla secretly loves Counsellor Tyno, but cannot marry him because of her poisoned DNA. Prince Clavor has a fiancée, Jenavian, who appears to be an airhead, and a personal attendant, the meek, blue-skinned ro-NA. A royal cousin, Dregon Carzenonva, is interested in Aeryn.
Immediately after the marriage John and Katralla will be frozen as statues and placed in the senate for 80 cycles, able to hear and see. They will absorb all they need to know about the laws of their world, and then, when the Empress dies, they will be de-frosted and assume the throne.
Meanwhile, Zhaan has remained on Moya to meditate. When the Command Carrier enters orbit, Moya StarBursts to try and lure it away from Crichton and co. Unfortunately Scorpius does not take the bait. Moya is about to return when she picks up a signal that she cannot help but follow. It leads her to the Builders, the mysterious race who built Leviathans, Moya’s Gods.
Buck Rogers Redux: ‘Hope, D’Argo. It’s what keeps you going. You’re gonna see your son, I’m gonna get home. Hope. I have hope or I have nothing.’ John is horrified by the idea of marrying without love, but accepts he has no choice. When a machine shows he and Katralla what their children will look like, he suddenly becomes massively broody and affectionate – he’d obviously make a good dad. He asks D’Argo to be his best man, but D’Argo misinterprets this and reminds John that he’s with Chiana now. He decides that his statue will adopt the British Queen’s royal wave.
That Damn Peacekeeper Bitch: Aeryn lets Cargyn believe that she is working for Scorpius, presumably so as not to tip their hand too early. When he tries to force information out of her she fights, but luckily the Empress interrupts before the scarran can kill her. The Empress warns them both not to fight again.
Big Blue: Zhaan feels she has had too little time to pursue her priestly devotions and chooses to stay on Moya for the solitude it affords her.
I Was A Teenage Luxan: Post-coital D’Argo is amazingly mellow and philosophical with John–the endless aggression and anger he’s displayed all this time was surely due to misdirected sexual frustration.
Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel’s royal lineage is what persuades the colony to allow Moya’s crew to visit. He tells John he’s their best negotiator, but John won’t let him speak which, even though he is a self-serving slug, is a bit unfair because he’s proven time and time again that he is their best negotiator. He wishes he could have seen what his kids would turn out like before they were born: it would have saved him ‘some nasty surprises.’
Your Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana may be with D’Argo, but she’s not averse to grinding herself up against an already distracted Crichton and telling him breathily that he needs to find someone who’s fast with the body and slow with the soul. She also tears a chunk out of Aeryn; when it comes to sexual politics she considers herself the authority.
Nosferatu in Rubber: Scorpius’s father was Scarran, his mother was Sebacean (sidebar: euw!). He tries to talk calmly to D’Argo in the bar and is willing to be patient and play the political game until his opportunity comes. He offers D’Argo a deal: if John surrenders, he will let everyone else go and promises not to destroy John’s brain if he gives him access to the wormhole info.
A Ship, A Living Ship: Leviathans were built by a people known only as The Builders. Moya worships them as Gods, and they summoned her to them for reasons as yet unknown. Every StarBurst completely invalidates all previous navigational data. One of Moya’s eight senses recognises the Builder’s signal.
The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: Aeryn is giving John flying lessons in the WDP. She scents her hair to see if he will notice, willingly kisses him (John: ‘I was lips, you were tongue!’) and finally looks to have given in, when she bolts from the cockpit and shouts ‘no, I will not be a slave to your hormones!’ Poor John is ‘standing to attention,’ but Aeryn bolts.
John tries to talk to her, but she tells him to back off and give her some time, so he goes and hangs out with Chiana to try and make Aeryn jealous. Chiana advises John to put less pressure on Aeryn, and she then gives Aeryn a hard time for not telling John how she feels, and blames her for driving him away. When Aeryn finds out he’s getting married, she refuses to attend the wedding. He tries to get her to talk one last time, but she just says goodbye, and walks out.
The Ballad of Chiana And D’Argo: D’Argo: ‘My life has been one crushing disappointment after the next, but with this girl I have managed to find moments of pleasure.’ They test themselves and find that they are not genetically compatible and cannot have children. That doesn’t stop them rutting their brains out though.
Worlds Apart: The breakaway Sebacean colonies declared independence and ran away from the Sebacean home system 1900 cycles ago. No-one expected them to survive. They found a system with three inhabitable worlds, settled down, and have remained strictly neutral.
Alien Encounters: Scarrans are big, ugly creatures and are immensely strong – one of them demolishes Aeryn in hand-to-hand combat. They can shoot beams of heat from their hands, which immobilise their subject (it is implied that this effect also includes mind reading, but as we discover in the next episode, Janavian lies to Cargyn while he’s zapping her, so it is probably just pain used to coerce truth from the subject, rather than any form of telepathy). The Scarrans and the Peacekeepers form two power blocs, and are in some form of cold war type political and military conflict that has not yet broken into outright war.
Hi, Harvey: John tells Aeryn that Scorpy is ‘in my head. He’s in the back of my mind, the corner of my eye, he scares me, Aeryn, and I can’t shake him.’ This is the first hint that the vision of Scorpy in ‘Crackers Don’t Matter’ was more than just light-induced madness. When he meets Scorpius, John flashes back to his ordeal in the Aurora chair and sees Scorpius wielding a long needle implement and saying ‘something to remember me by,’ which is not something we saw at the time.
Disney On Acid: John bemoans that if he spends 80 cycles as a statue everyone he knows will be dead when he gets back to Earth, including Cameron Diaz and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Hey, he’s a Buffy fan! Assuming he tested his WDP around the time ‘Premiere’ was broadcast, which was March 1999, then he’d have been halfway through Season Three of Buffy when he left and is probably annoyed as all hell that he never got to find out what happened with the Mayor and Faith; I know I would be.
Get Frelled: John walks in on Chiana and D’Argo in flagrante delicto, not once but twice. The first time he’s embarrassed and scurries away, the second time he’s so preoccupied that he just sits down on the bed next to a bare breasted Chi, waits for D’Argo to finish whatever he’s doing, and spills his guts. From the looks of it, D’Argo and Chi are having regular, spectacular sex. Rygel starts groaning and gawping every time he sees anyone snogging – could he be a bit of a voyeur?
Stats: The breakaway colony has a chemical which two people drop on their tongues. If it tastes sweet when they kiss then they are genetically compatible and will have healthy children. Everyone wants to kiss John, who loves it, and Aeryn hates it so much that she snogs Rygel to get everyone to go away and leave her alone. Planets can be protected by Automated PK Satellite Weaponry, which boast self-tracking pulse cannons and will fire at the first sign of attempted escape.
Logic Leaps: Why spend 80 cycles as a statue to learn the law; couldn’t they just attend Law School for a while?
WHAT did you just say? John: ‘Eighty cycles, that is roughly eighty years to you and me and over five hundred years to dogs!’
Guest Stars: Matt Day was Luke Ross on A Country Practice, and played the photographer Hurley in the TV film Shackleton, he’s since appeared in ‘Spooks,’ ‘Tangle’ and ‘Rake.’ Tina Bursill was Sonia Stevens in Prisoner: Cell Block H, Hilary Scheppers in Heartbreak High, and Miss Crawford in Home and Away. Felix Williamson has appeared in such films as Dirty Deeds and Babe: Pig In The City and can soon be seen in The Great Gatsby. Felicity Price has only appeared elsewhere in the film The Sugar Factory. Aaron Cash can be briefly seen in Titanic and previously appeared as Pa’u Bitaal in ‘Rhapsody In Blue.’ Jonathan Hardy provides the voice of Rygel but has also appeared in Mad Max, Moulin Rouge and Mr Reliable. Francesca Buller, Ben Browder’s wife, was M’lee in ‘Bone To Be Wild,’ and will return.
Backstage: Was the little boy John saw in the machine actually played by Ben Browder’s son? At the time of writing he wasn’t saying. This story was originally written as a two-parter, but after it was filmed there was so much good extra footage that David Kemper wrote more material to extend it to three parts. The bulk of the extra stuff is in episode two, hence episodes one and three have the production numbers 10210 and 10211 but the middle episode is given the production number 10221.
The Verdict: The Executive Producer, David Kemper, demonstrates just how well he knows the characters on his show. Both big relationships are seriously addressed; Scorpius crops up again, which always gives the show a lift; we are presented with a believably complex political situation that promises to only become more complicated; and the episode looks gorgeous, with a stunning opening cityscape effect and lovely design work throughout. This opens up the world of Farscape – with the Scarran/PK conflict – and the relationships on Moya, and the show’s ongoing narrative gets a huge boost.
Verdict Re-dux: The character work really shines here. Although the alien civilisation falls into a few hoary traps – a royal planet rather than a city or a palace, and the way that everyone is snogging everyone else at the start really overdoes the point (although it’s very funny). But the political machinations are enjoyably knotty and believable. A different kind of story for Farscape, and a welcome step-change.
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.