Written by David Peckinpah, directed by Kate Woods
Season 4, episode 14
1st UK Transmission Date: 13 January 2002
1st US Transmission Date: 24 January 2003
Guest Cast: Raelee Hill (Sikozu), Melissa Jaffer (Noranti), Paula Arundell (Talikaa), Chris Pitman (Nazradu), Walter Grkovic (Outurak)
Synopsis: After negotiating with traders for maps of Tormented Space, Chiana buys what seems to be a slave girl, Talikaa, from the traders in order to free her. Unfortunately Talikaa is a Walaxian Arachnid—a shapeshifting spider who screws with the crew. She finds out what a good idea this was when she gets blown up and turned into a tasty soup.
Alien Encounters: The Walaxian Arachnid can take human or spider forms, changing at will and, apparently, mimicking clothing (even though Chiana gives Talikaa clothes, she remains wearing them before and after her transformations, meaning that she must, at some point, have slipped them off and then mimicked them using her shapeshifting abilities). They first cause their prey’s primary character trait to become exaggerated, then they knock their prey unconscious with a piercing scream and extract that primary character trait. They store it in memory orbs in their nest for later consumption. The consequence of being fed upon, is that the prey loses their primary defining personal characteristic and develops a flesh-eating disease that eventually kills them. If the memory orb is smashed near the victim, they can re-absorb their lost personality trait and the disease is cured. Walaxian Arachnids make very tasty soup.
Buck Rogers Redux: John’s primary trait is his good natured optimism and can-do attitude, his refusal to give in. Acting under Taliskaa’s influence he is chipper and positive to a fault, teasing Aeryn and assuring himself that they’re going to be fine…
You Can Be More: …unfortunately Aeryn’s primary trait is emotional control, so her fury at finding he’s been taking drugs to forget her manifests at first as contempt and then as indifference.
The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: Aeryn’s anger at John is undoubtedly real, but it’s exaggerated by Taliskaa’s influence. When the ‘fluence is removed she’s still furious but more hurt, and even desperate at her inability to do anything that can get John to be with her. She’s done everything he wanted and can’t understand why it’s not worked. But then John drops the big reveal—he’s worried that Scorpy is using the comms to eavesdrop on them; John’s been masking his feeling so Scorpy won’t realise that the key to securing John’s co-operation is threatening Aeryn. Aeryn reckons he’s paranoid, but it’s immediately confirmed. Now that she knows what he’s been doing, she agrees to play along, even as she and John kiss and make up.
I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’Argo’s primary trait is, of course, anger. When it’s taken away, he suddenly finds a deep calm and a belief in the power of negotiation and trust. Even Chiana kicking him in the mivonks can’t get a rise out of him.
Everyone’s Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana is responsible for this week’s mess, but she acts out of the best of intentions. When Taliskaa is offered to them, the rest of the crew are prepared to look the other way, but Chi remembers too well what it’s like to be a prisoner and sex slave. When she can’t persuade her crewmates to stump up the cash she actually threatens to shoot Taliskaa, which is a brilliant move, as the crew won’t let her die. It’s possible Chi may even have made good on her threat, as it would at least have saved Taliskaa any more suffering. Given this, you could make an argument that Chi’s strongest trait is compassion, but no, it’s good old libidinous abandon. Taliskaa takes away Chi’s libido, much to her horror. One wonders exactly how she celebrated getting it back…
Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel doctors a bunch of currency to make it look more valuable and then uses these forgeries to cheat the traders. It’s greedy and stupid, but he’s terribly pleased with himself when he pulls it off. He’s lucky D’Argo doesn’t throw him out an airlock. Naturally, therefore, his primary trait is greed, and when that’s taken away… well, he’s still an arrogant little annoyance, but he’s happy to give all their money away.
Grandma, we love you: Taliskaa does not work her mojo on Noranti because she is ‘old and bitter.’ She is clear-headed and decisive in a crisis; she makes Scorpy safe and outlines the plan that leads to saving the crew.
Bobblehead: Sikozu is also immune, and Taliskaa literally tears her limb from limb, not knowing she can re-attach her limbs. Her attachment to Scorpy remains strong and she restates her willingness to be his ally, but only if he is entirely honest with her.
Nosferatu in leather: With Scorpy, Taliska exaggerates his Scarran side, rendering him almost feral, unable to control his temper and dripping undisguised menace. He tries to play down how much he hated both revealing his Scarran side to the others and being reminded of it himself, but Sikozu doesn’t buy it.
Blooper: So John has been taking the drugs to prevent himself spilling his guts to Aeryn when he could be overheard by Scorpy. But that doesn’t make the slightest iota of sense. More than once he and Aeryn have been off the ship on other worlds, far beyond Scorpy’s ability to overhear them, not least on Earth when he was at the far end of a fracking wormhole. There’s no reason for Crichton to break down and admit things to Aeryn now that didn’t apply then. If all he was waiting for was a moment’s privacy, he’s had countless chances. Also, Pilot says Comms will be down for 30 microts and yet Scorpy immediately asks if something’s wrong with the comms—using the comms! We may be expected to assume Scorpy can override Pilot’s control, but it feels more like a mistake.
Backstage: David Peckinpah was a writer with a long career in episodic television and he would return to contribute an episode to this season’s three-part finale, which would be his final writing credit. Kate Woods did not direct another episode, but was second unit director on PK Wars. She has gone on to be a fixture on US TV, most notably on Bones.
The Verdict: Another episode written and directed by Farscape novices, so another episode relying on the increasingly tired formula of bad guy getting aboard Moya, frelling with the crew and being killed. It’s fun taken on its own merits but it all feels too familiar, the story is old hat, tired, predictable, Farscape by numbers. As always with these episodes, it’s the character stuff that redeems it, but even that isn’t as sparkling as we’ve come to expect. Not bad, not great. After the game-changing brilliance of the preceding three-parter, it’s a bit of a letdown that we’ve so quickly reverted to business as usual.