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Farscape Rewatch: “Scratch ‘n’ Sniff”

Scratch ‘n’ Sniff
Written by Lily Taylor, directed by Tony Tilse
Season 3, Episode 13

1st US Transmission Date: 20 July 2001
1st UK Transmission Date: 24 November 2001

Guest Cast: Jool (Tammy MacIntosh), Raxil (Francesca Buller), Fe’Tor (Tamblyn Lord), Theiadh (Laura Keneally), Mitols (Anthony Martin), Sarl (Milan Keyser), Heska Tinaco (Jaye Paul), Blue Girl (Julia Trappe), Green Girl (Rachel Sheriff)

This episode features the crew of Moya. It takes the form of a tale being told by John to Pilot and as such may or may not be a complete lie on John’s part.

Synopsis: Pilot throws John and D’Argo off the ship because they bicker constantly. They and the girls they head to a pleasure planet, LoMo. At a bar, John and D’Argo are picked up by two girls who spike their drinks and steal their money. Jool and Chiana leave with local hotshot Fe’Tor.

The next morning, heavy with hangovers, John and D’Argo meet Raxil, a female alien who was at the bar the previous night. She claims that Fe’Tor is big trouble, and takes them to a creature who can show them pictures of what happened in the bar last night. They see Fe’Tor giving Chi a hit of some smelly drug called Freslin.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Jool, D'Argo

D’Argo goes to Fe’Tor’s house and breaks in but finds Chi and Jool drugged up, blissed out and unwilling to leave. Fe’Tor’s guards throw him out. Raxil reveals that Freslin is a drug milked from the glands of people. Fe’Tor is the local producer and sometimes he milks people till they die. Back at the house, Fe’Tor hooks Jool up to the milking machine and begins to extract Freslin.

It turns out that Raxil paid the two girls to distract John and D’Argo at the bar so that Fe’Tor could capture Jool and Chi—she’s heard of their exploits and is hoping that when they rescue their shipmates they will rescue her mate, who is also being held captive in Fe’Tor’s house.

Fe’Tor calls an auction to sell Chiana, whose Freslin is particularly high quality. John and a disguised D’Argo enter the auction but John is outbid. John shoots out the lights and rescues Chi while D’Argo and Raxil storm the milking room and disconnect Jool. Raxil’s mate is there and he is dead, but she has one more trick up her sleeve—he stole the milking machine from her and she was really using John and D’Argo to get in there so she could remove the program chip from the machine and set up in Freslin production herself. She runs off with the chip, happy that her convoluted plan has worked.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Fe'Tor

Fe’Tor fights John, but Chiana douses him in Freslin and then pours it down his throat, killing him.

Back on Moya, John explains that he and D’Argo can’t return to LoMo because they’d be arrested, but Pilot refuses to believe John’s tale, takes them to an industrial planet, and throws them off the ship for another eight days.

Green T: ‘It’s a weird universe out there, man.’ Is John just making it all up? Who knows, chances are it’s partly true. He and D’Argo bicker almost constantly, like children in a schoolyard. His first worry when he wakes up after being ripped off is that he’s lost his pulse pistol—he’s come to rely on it so much he feels naked without it. We get to see John in thigh-high stockings, which causes women all across the world to swoon, and producers to add Ben Browder to their list of possible actors to play Frank N. Furter in their next production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Crichton, D'Argo

I Was A Teenage Luxan: ‘I am a full-blooded Luxan, and ladies I have so much cash in my pocket that I can assure you that the three of us will be out of here on our hands and knees come sunrise tomorrow morning.’ It was D’Argo’s idea to come to LoMo, implying that he finally persuaded John to accept the need for shore leave. When he’s on Freslin, he dances like crazy and does the funky chicken.

Everyone’s Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana can twirl fire balls on chains so fast that she can render a viewer unconscious. She’s become quite protective of Jool, promising to take her back to Moya if she passes out, and anxiously trying to find her when she suspects something is wrong at Fe’Tor’s house. Her visions of the future are becoming more specific—she removes John’s night vision goggles just before he is punched in the face, but she knew his neck would be fine. She produces particularly fine Freslin. Once again she proves ruthless and vengeful—she kills Fe’Tor and enjoys doing it.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Chiana

Jool In the Crown: Jool can do acrobatics, likes to drink effervescent alcohol, can get drunk, likes to dance (especially with Chiana!), enjoys bubble baths, and is only in the bar for a short time before she’s been pegged by fellow drinkers as ‘annoying.’ Her com badge is melted around the edges from when she screams.

In The Driving Seat: Pilot is so sick and tired of John and D’Argo arguing that he throws them off the ship, refuses to believe John’s explanation of events on LoMo, and then dumps them on an industrial planet as punishment. John asks how long they’ve known each other and Pilot replies ‘approximately two and a half loooooong cycles,’ but he accedes that John has never lied to him before.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Crichton, Pilot

Hi, Harvey: When D’Argo and John are using the Hangi to scope out the Auction Room, Harvey is able to meet and interact with D’Argo. He asks the Luxan to give him five, hands out very useful information indeed on the layout of the complex (how did he know this?), and camps it up for all he’s worth. John calls him a Pooka, which is the type of spirit in the original film Harvey.

A Ship, A Living Ship!: Pilot isn’t the only one sick of John and D’Argo’s bickering—Moya too wants a few days peace and quiet.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Crichton, Chiana

The Ballad of Chiana And D’Argo: Although D’Argo and Chi aren’t together anymore—a point she raises when telling him to leave her alone at Fe’Tor’s house—he gets very jealous indeed when John manhandles Chi on the auction stage (although this is in part due to the Freslin he’s metabolising.)

World’s Apart: LoMo is renowned as a pleasure planet and it boasts lovely beaches. Officially no weapons are allowed on the planet, although Fe’Tor’s men have guns. It is close to an industrial world that has accommodation for visitors.

Alien Encounters: Hangis have removable eyes that continue to send signals back to them which they can record. Stick a Hangi’s tentacle into your eye and you can experience the recording as 3D visions with surround sound.

Disney On Acid: John calls D’Argo Lassie and refers to Raxil and the Hangi as Ren and Stimpy.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Crichton, D'Argo

Get Frelled: You’ve got to reckon that Jool and Chiana got up to all sorts of mischief during their drugged up night at Fe’Tor’s. We don’t know how far John and D’Argo got with the feathered girls but D’Argo claims there were ‘breasts; blue breasts, green breasts, I don’t know.’ Chi and Jool dancing together was not a little suggestive.

What Does This Do?: The senal gland of most sentient creatures produces a chemical called Freslin which is a powerful aphrodisiac, attractant and, um, disguise!

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Raxil, D'Argo

Stats: Brandar tiles are acceptable currency on LoMo. John and D’Argo have plenty of them, presumably from the Shadow Depository raid.

Seen It All Before: This episode riffs on the movie Swingers and stylistically it owes a lot to the marvellous and criminally short-lived series Good Vs Evil. Fe’Tor is reputed to have the finest nose around, and he tells Chi that she ‘smells exotic’; shades of Patrick Susskind’s book Perfume.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Chiana

Logic Leaps: Cunningly, any things which may appear to defy logic are accounted for by the script and in some cases are even specifically mentioned—to wit the amount of liquid drained from Jool; the daft idea that Freslin can also be used to disguise a person etc. Pilot even says: ‘I don’t believe you… too many inconsistencies, too much obfuscation.’ One leap that isn’t addressed though, is the way the Hangi’s eyes work—Raxil says its optic nerves record images and transmit them back to the body, but when John and D’Argo see the recording they hear sound as well, so the Hangi can see sound!?

Bloopers: When Jool screams we can see Tammy MacIntosh’s fillings.

WHAT did you just say?: Raxil on John: ‘You’re not very smart, are you? Now he (D’Argo), he’s got a brain. But you, you’re a bit of an idiot.’

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Crichton

Guest Stars: Welcome back Francesca Buller, for the third time. Tamblyn Lord was a regular on The Law Of The Land. Laura Keneally appeared in Dark City. Richard Carter has appeared in Babe: Pig In the City, and Muriel’s Wedding amongst other film and TV appearances.

Backstage: The BBC in the U.K. realised that if they were to cut this episode to fit the normal Farscape 6:45pm timeslot there’d be nothing left to broadcast, so they showed it at 11:20 pm instead. When Raxil shouts at the guys for bringing ‘two little weapons that wouldn’t kill a Negnec’ there is a split second flash of a squeaking, blobby creature with an eye; this is a shot of the Boolite taken from ‘Fractures’. Gigi Edgley did her own fire twirling, she is also sporting a new wig in this episode.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Crichton, D'Argo

The Verdict: Amazing, it just doesn’t get much better than this. The jump cuts, the insane editing, the music, the colour, the s&m costumes, the drugs, the drink, the sex, the gun fight—this episode oozes style, confidence, class and wit from every pore. All this, plus Fran Buller’s hilarious turn as Raxil, makes this episode as close to perfect as TV gets.

Verdict Redux: If you held Wynonna to my head and made me choose a favourite Farscape episode, this would probably win out because it’s about as extreme as the show can get and is thus the perfect example of how uniquely off-kilter Farscape was. Sure, you can argue it tries a bit too hard,  and I’m sure some people find its gimmicky excess soon becomes tiresome, but for my money, this is the good shit.


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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