Written by Justin Monjo, directed by Rowan Woods
Season 4, episode 12
1st UK Transmission Date: 30 December 2002
1st US Transmission Date: 10 January 2003
Guest Cast: Raelee Hill (Sikozu), Melissa Jaffer (Noranti), Kent McCord (Jack Crichton), Rebecca Riggs (Commandant Mele-On Grayza), David Franklin (Captain Braca), Carmen Duncan (Leslie Crichton), Jamie Croft (Young John Crichton), Tyler Coppin (Chief McPhearson), Nadia Townsend (Kim), Casey Burgess, Louise Fox, Kosta Doukas, Amy Salas (Skreeth)
Synopsis: John’s arrival in the 80s, before he left, has screwed the timeline, setting it on a new path in which Jack pilots Challenger and dies. Aeryn, Rygel, Noranti, D’Argo and Chiana set up in an abandoned house as John tries to work out how to set things right.
Eventually he hits on a plan to re-stage an accident he remembers from his youth—when he was caught in a fire. Jack will be unable to fly the Challenger if he’s nursing his ill son. The plan works, the timeline is set right.
Meanwhile, Sikozu and Scorpius remain on Moya in Tormented Space. Grayza and Braca board in search of Crichton, but finding him absent, they depart—leaving an alien on board to capture Crichton upon his return.
Moya flies through the wormhole and meets up with the crew in 2003, but John’s dad is already aboard….
Buck Rogers Redux: When he was young John hated the way his father treated his mother. When he got angry, he’d go hang out by the canal. He helped DK cheat on his SATs. His mother was heavily into tarot cards, but he thought it was silly. As a child he was caught in a fire; his dad rescued him, but he was in a coma for a few days.
In ‘That Old Black Magic’ he reveals he lost his virginity to Karen Shaw in the back of a truck, and so he does. The implication is that in the original timeline it was his dad’s four wheel-drive, but this time around it’s in the back of his truck, Betty. In 1985, he was dating a girl called Kim. This means that in the original timeline he lost his virginity later—although he doesn’t give Kim a second thought when Chiana jumps him, so what’s to say he wasn’t still with Kim first time around? Basically, it’s very unclear whether this is the past our John remembers or not… the time mechanics are quite hazy.
You Can Be More: Aeryn loves TV, especially Wheel of Fortune and Sesame Street. She’s a very quick study; her English progresses in leaps and bounds once she’s got some study aids. She actually gets competitive with a pre-school girl on TV. By absorbing so much Earth culture through the TV, Aeryn finally levels the playing field a bit—John’s been learning about her world, now she gets a chance to learn about his, which makes it even appropriate for them to be eventual partners.
I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’Argo is allergic to Earth.
Everyone’s Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana has picked up the lingo—“Yes,” “No,” and “Bite me” are all she thinks D’Argo will need, but she’s also got enough English to have an admittedly monosyllabic conversation with young John. He mishears her name as Karen and then thinks her exclamation at burning herself is her surname and so she becomes Karen Shaw. She deliberately screws up Crichton’s plan by knocking out Kim and taking her place as young John’s distraction ‘no questions asked.’ Did she always intend to jump his bones or does she only decide to when told by Noranti to keep John occupied? It’s unclear, but I think she totally planned it. She never saw her sires (parents) happy.
Buckwheat the Sixteenth: He gets completely strung out on candy, which he then starts stealing from trick or treating kids. He carves the scariest pumpkin he can—Scorpius.
A Ship, A Living Ship!: D’Argo gets Pilot to shut down all systems so that Scorpius and Sikozu can’t get up to any mischief while the others are on Earth. This begs the question—why on earth would he leave those two, who are clearly thick as thieves, alone on the ship in the first place? Moya’s neural clusters can hide a person’s heat signature.
Grandma, We Love You: Noranti also has some English, and doesn’t seem to have any problem lying fluently to Chief McPhearson. She uses him as a guinea pig and tests her coma-inducing soup on him. She accidentally oversdoses young John and kills him, then revives him with some chewed up, um, stuff.
Nosferatu in Leather: So Braca was Scorpius’ spy all along. Not a huge surprise, although I really thought he and Scorpy were going to have a good old snog when they were reunited. Grayza is negotiating a peace accord with the Scarrans. Scorpius is convinced they’ll string her along until their forces are ready to attack. Braca is ordered to stall Grayza. She leaves a Skreeth aboard, primed with Crichton’s DNA, with orders to capture him alive.
Stats: In the previous episode unrealized realities were far screwier than simple alternate timelines, but they did set up that the first mutation, if fixed, allows time to reset to its familiar pattern. In the commentary both Ben Browder and David Kemper are bothered that they travel to Earth and thus screw up the timeline—but in the previous episode Einstein says the misplaced traveller’s very arrival warps reality and causes the changes, so they’re bothered by a non-existent continuity error—the timeline changed the moment John popped out of the wormhole, not the moment he landed on Earth, so it’s logical for him to go down to see what’s changed.
Seen it all before: John vanishing when his younger self dies is straight out of Back To The Future.
Blooper: At the end of the previous episode John turns around to face the Earth, which is impossible because he’s in space and has no means of propulsion. This episode, D’Argo pulls up in Lo’la and asks John to turn around, compounding the error.
Not a blooper as such, but why is Chief McPhearson celebrating Jack’s captaincy at the start of the episode? He’s not family, and there’s no other indication he’s a close friend.
How does Pilot know that Grayza and Braca are aboard the approaching marauders?
Jack knocks himself on a very small lampshade. It’s hilarious. What’s it made out of, lead!?
Backstage: In the opening sequence Rowan Woods, who directed ‘A Human Reaction,’ blocks the scene to reflect the corresponding scene in that previous, fake Earth return episode.
The guy flipping the bird in the photo is Toby Watson, from the camera crew.
David Kemper’s favourite episode of the year, but Ben Browder thinks it was even better on paper and they didn’t quite nail it.
The final line, the Bass/Trout call back to ‘A Human Reaction,’ was Ben’s idea.
The Verdict: Fantastic. I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with this episode, honestly—or at least nothing I can’t forgive because it’s just so much fun.
It has powerful emotional resonance as we get more backstory on John, especially his relationship with his mother; he habitually keeps such stuff very close to his chest. But it’s primarily a barrel of laughs—it even has a comedy sheriff, for heaven’s sake. From Aeryn’s TV addiction, to Rygel on a sugar high, it’s just huge fun.
And then the ending is a blinder because on first viewing, given the show’s history, we’d be expecting him to head back to Tormented Space having had one more not-quite-return-home episode but instead we get the reunion that no one expected would occur until the eventual finale.
Following last week’s game-changer, this is the second winner in a row—it’s taken a while, but Season Four has finally hit its stride.