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Farscape Rewatch: “Incubator”

Incubator
Written by Richard Manning, directed by Ian Watson
Season 3, Episode 11

1st US Transmission Date: 13 July 2001
1st UK Transmission Date: 12 November 2001

Guest Cast: Jool (Tammy MacIntosh), Lt. Braca (David Franklin), Tauza (Amy Salas), Young Scorpius (Evan Sheaves), Nurse Froy (Stephanie Jacobsen), Plint (Paul Shedlowich), Linfer (Jo Kerrigan), Co-Kura Strappa (Danny Adcock), Wolesh (Thomas Holesgrove), Rylani Jeema Dellos (Sam Healy), Ghebb Dellos (Nicholas Bishop), Captain Molayne (William Zappa)

This episode features the crew of Moya.

Synopsis: On the Command Carrier Scorpius discovers that some of the equations extracted from John’s neural chip are so strongly encrypted that they cannot be accessed. He inserts the chip into his own head and makes contact with a neural clone of John contained within it. He tells this version of John his life story, explains his motivations, and tries to persuade him to unlock the encrypted equations. The neural clone refuses and the chip is destroyed, but not before Scorpy extracts a few of the equations.

Linfer, one of the scientists helping Scorpius research wormholes, is so convinced that she has cracked the liquefaction problem (‘Losing Time’) that she pilots a test herself. She takes some of Scorpius’s data, flies through a nexus of wormholes and defects to Moya. She offers to give John all her research if he will give her Moya. John wants to accept the deal, telling his shipmates he can use wormholes to get them all home. Unfortunately Linfer’s solution is not as good as she thought—she has only delayed the onset of liquefaction, not prevented it. She leaves Moya in her prowler and blows herself up.

Farscape, Incubator, Linfer

Green T: ‘You ever think we’ve been on this boat way too long?’ Separated from Aeryn, stuck on Moya, John is becoming obsessed with wormholes and he’s driving everyone else up the wall. He’s had them flying around for 15 days looking for a wormhole that he thinks is out there. Pilot and D’Argo conspire to get him to sleep for 12 arns because he’s spending all his time pacing on the bridge running scans. When Linfer makes her offer he tries to persuade the others to go for it, and he’s angry when they allow Linfer to leave and kill herself. D’Argo turns on him and accuses him of contributing to Zhaan’s death with his selfishness (and he’s right, of course), and later Jool has a go as well, pointing out that he only supports Pilot when Pilot agrees with him. D’Argo none too subtly hints that it’s sexual frustration that’s really getting to John, and John doesn’t disagree. He’s concerned that Scorpius is ahead in the race for wormhole technology, and he’s worried that if Linfer found Moya, Scorpius can too.

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius

I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’Argo and John are bickering a lot, but D’Argo doesn’t sustain the argument, whereas during the first season he would have tongued everyone unconscious and asserted his command.

Jool In the Crown: Jool takes action, allowing Linfer to leave without telling John, and then giving John a telling off. She also grabs a gun without a hint of complaint and stands with D’Argo and Chiana when Linfer comes aboard. She’s definitely one of the crew now.

Farscape, Incubator, Crichton, Jool

In The Driving Seat: Pilot would never abandon John and Co. but he and Moya both long to voyage into truly uncharted deep space on a mission of pure exploration. If given a free choice, he would probably have chosen to travel with Linfer and leave his current crew behind.

Nosferatu in Rubber: John: ‘Scorpy the teenage hero outwits the Scarrans, makes it look easy. You going for pity or applause?’ This is essentially Scorpy’s episode and we learn the story of his life. A group of Sebacean colonists were travelling in a Leviathan when Scarrans attacked it. Only one couple escaped and made planetfall in a Transport Pod. They were located, whereupon a Scarran killed the male and kidnapped the female, Rylani, who was raped as part of a programme to determine whether Sebacean genetics could be useful to Scarrans. She died giving birth to the only one of 90 such experimental offspring to survive—Scorpius (although this is the name he chose for himself after his escape).

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius

Born with Sebacean heat delirium, Scorpius was a weak and feeble child whose first 12 cycles were a blur of pain. He was raised on a Dreadnought by a female Scarran named Tauza who tortured and humiliated him in an attempt to make him strong. She told him he was the product of a Sebacean breeding programme, but his ability to detect people’s energy signatures told him she was lying. He escaped and went looking for information about his parents. During this time he developed or acquired a cooling system which he carried on his back and plugged into his head; also this is presumably the period in which he first met Natira.

Eventually he surrendered to a PK ship and gave them all his knowledge of the Scarrans in return for information about his parents. This led him to his mother’s abandoned Transport Pod where Tauza had laid a trap. He was recaptured and tortured, but he managed to kill Tauza and escape. He then joined the Peacekeepers and rose through the ranks until he was given permission to begin his wormhole experiments.

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius

He does not want power, he wants revenge, and only by developing a superior weapon to prevent the Scarrans overrunning the universe, can he get it. He sees his actions in pursuit of this goal as necessary and unavoidable—he is a man with a mission and will not be diverted from it. This backstory completely changes our view of Scorpius; his motivations are clear, easy to understand and not hard to sympathise with, and he makes a genuine attempt to win neural clone John over to his side simply by telling him the truth.

He can detect the energy signatures of creatures, and these signatures are different for every species (which finally explains how he knew John was an impostor way back on the Gammak Base); they also change when people are lying (which tells us how he knew John was being less than truthful in the same episode). He is surprisingly sentimental—he keeps a flower from Montok 4 in his quarters and strokes it with a wistful smile on his face—who’d have thought it, the great softie.

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius

A Ship, A Living Ship!: Moya is enjoying scanning for wormholes because it gives her a chance to fly free in space.

World’s Apart: Rylani was born on New Heather and her Transport Pod landed on Montok 4.

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius

Alien Encounters: Linfer is a Ralgarian, a peaceful race of explorers who travel into deep space on Leviathans. Pilot and Moya trust them implicitly. Once the Scarrans discovered that Sebacean genetics were no use to them they decided to destroy Sebaceans forever. Scorpius claims that they will destroy all races, including humans, until they are the only remaining sentient life form. Female Scarrans have different shaped head to males and like wearing skin tight black PVC—so we can see where Scorpy got his fetish for cute PVC-wearing nurses from. According to Scorpy, the Scarrans’ main weakness is hubris. Peacekeepers have Purity Regulations to ensure that no one not of pure Sebacean blood is allowed to join, however Scorpius demonstrates such loyalty that they waive these laws in his case.

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius, Crichton

Disney On Acid: ‘What am I… Holodeck Crichton?’ neural clone John riffs on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Stats: A Flibisk is a small ten-legged creature that’s good to eat but becomes ratty if prevented from mating. Scorpius tells John that a PK Command Carrier destroyed a Scarran Dreadnought, even though we will soon learn that Dreadnoughts are twice their size. Most wormholes are unstable and contain Rantath Flux variation, which is what is liquidising the PK pilots. Linfer has developed a system of Phase Negative Shield Deployment which, when programmed with the right Phase Progression, should protect against this, but it doesn’t work. She claims the wormhole that brought John from Earth was unusual in that it was stable and therefore didn’t liquefy him—this implies that the wormholes they found earlier this season were also unusually stable. The wormhole Scorpius is studying is part of a nexus of wormholes, one of which exits near Moya—so John was right, there was a wormhole nearby.

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius

The Verdict: It’s daring to run the risk of making Scorpius sympathetic, but his story is believable and very well realised—the look of young Scorpy, and the pre-PK young man with his coolant backpack, are especially nicely done. His motivations are entirely explained and nagging questions about his abilities are answered. Green T John, meanwhile, is irritable, restless, now knows for certain that Scorpius is alive and in danger of beating him to wormhole technology, and is far and away less sympathetic than Scorpy. It’s daring to build up the villain and undercut the bad guy’s likeability to such an extent. It’s a difficult balancing act they’re attempting, but it’s lots of fun to watch. There is also a lot of implied and unsettling horror in this episode which is not directly shown, except Tauza’s marvellously grotesque death, which we get to see in all its gruesomeness.

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius, Braca

Verdict redux: In a TV landscape dominated by sympathetic monsters —Hannibal, Dexter and Bates are all the rage—it’s easy to forget how radical Farscape was in making its chief villain so sympathetic. Wayne Pygram is brilliant in this episode, revelling in the opportunity to show the vulnerable side of Scorpy and really selling it.


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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