Written by Justin Monjo, directed by Peter Andrikidis
Season 4, episode 18
1st UK Transmission Date: 17 February 2003
1st US Transmission Date: 21 February 2003
Guest Cast: Raelee Hill (Sikozu, Stark), Melissa Jaffer (Noranti, Rygel), Jason Clarke (Jenek), Sandy Gore (Vreena), Sacha Horler (Morrock)
Synopsis: Imprisoned on a Scarran freighter, Aeryn is tortured for the identity of her baby’s father. John and Scorpius travel through the wormhole to the unrealized reality where he heard the name Katrazi.
Buck Rogers Redux: John can navigate through the wormhole by following a hum in his head that tells him where to go, so once again we’re back with wormholes being more mystical that mathematical. He follows the hum, says they’ve arrived safely, but then it turns out they’re in completely the wrong reality and have to try again, so how reliable can the hum be?
He claims to be horrified when Scorpius shoots Bizzaro Rygel, but he is willing to shoot Bizzaro Chiana, even though he eventually can’t go through with it.
You Can Be More: Aeryn is so desperate she actually prays to a god she doesn’t believe in. She remains defiant to the Scarran’s face, but in private she’s as close to hopeless as we’ve ever seen her—she didn’t even pray when Black-T John died. She first tries to claim the fetus is Velorek’s, as seen in ‘The Way We Weren’t.’ Even before she left the Peacekeepers she vowed she would never have a child on a breeding roster.
It’s unclear how much of what she tells Jenek about her time away from Moya is true, but she portrays herself as a ruthless gun for hire, taking contracts for assassination or subversion from a guy named Lechna, who she claims was her lover. She says she knew him before she joined Moya, which is possible, and that she was always spying on Crichton for him, which is not. She then says she made Lechna up. It’s impossible to sort truth from lies in what she tells Jenek, as she mixes them up—which is, of course, the perfect way to deal with interrogation.
When talking about the dreams she had for her child, Aeryn refers to it as ‘she.’ Does she know the gender of the fetus, or is she remembering her daughter from ‘The Locket’? (Spoiler: she eventually has a boy.)
I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’Argo refuses to allow Sikozu’s attempt at fostering mutiny to get hold, but when crunch time comes, he decides to put the decision to a vote.
Everyone’s Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana votes to stay and wait for John.
Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel votes to cut and run.
In The Driving Seat: Pilot votes to wait.
Grandma, we love you: Noranti is nowhere to be seen, and her vote isn’t solicited via comms, which seems a bit rude.
Bobblehead: Sikozu votes to cut and run, which is reasonable, as it was her idea in the first place. She comes dangerously close to trying to incite mutiny against D’Argo’s captaincy.
Nosferatu in leather: Scorpius agrees to help John find Aeryn if he takes the Scarran blood vow. As John points out, this seems a little out of character, since Scorpius hates all things Scarran. He seems scintillated by the idea of using wormholes to change history to create a reality devoid of both Scarans and Peacekeepers, but the fancy passes.
He teases John that he would have used wormholes to enslave the galaxy and destroy Earth, but really he says he’d use them as a deterrent against Scarran attack; kind of surprising that he doesn’t plan to use them to eliminate the Scarran threat, merely to keep them in their place.
He is, as ever, only vicious when it serves an immediate purpose. He shoots Bizarro Rygel, and then Bizarro Chiana, because it is the quickest, simplest means of achieving his objective; morality and sentiment don’t come into it. He telegraphs what he’s going to do pretty effectively the first time, so much so that everyone watching at home must have known what he was about to do—but John is incredibly slow to work it out and react. Did John, deep down, want Scorpy to shoot Rygel? And did Scorpy suspect as much, and decide to test John by making his intentions so obvious?
Alien Encounters: There is an old Sebacean legend that tells of when they worshiped a female deity called Djancaz-Bru (not to be confused with Irn-Bru, which is worshiped by Scots). One day, so the legend goes, their god rose up and struck down the six worlds which worshipped her, just because she could.
Scarrans take a blood vow whereby they each pledge tastes the blood of the other. The males prize virgin females.
The ability to halt fetal development was inculcated to allow female Peacekeepers to remain battle ready, but pregnant Sebaceans are far more vulnerable to heat delirium, even if the fetus is being prevented from developing, so the strategy can hardly be called a total success. The fetus undergoes cellular division only twice before the ovum secretes a fluid that puts the pregnancy in stasis for up to seven cycles.
Bizarro Stark can only cross over the souls of people she loves, and their knowledge comes flooding back to her when she enters the Stykera state to cross other souls over. She once crossed over a Scarran (which might at first glance seem like a Logic leap, but in this universe maybe Scarrans are fluffy love-bunnies), which is how she knows about Katrazi. Though why a Scarran soul would choose their one moment of contact with a person they once loved to shout out the name of a secret military base is anyone’s guess. Maybe it’s where the Scarran and Bizzaro Stark enjoyed their only night of stolen passion before Stark, um, mysteriously forgot all about it… oh, I dunno. Anyway, she doesn’t give a toss where Bizarro Rygel goes to after death.
Katrazi is the seat of Scarran power; small, fortified, disguises itself by mirroring the orbit of one of the moons of Trilask.
WHAT Did You Just Say?: Aeryn: ‘PK tralk girl, that’s what they used to call me.’ Nice call back to the first great episode of Farscape.
Stats: Scarran medlabs can recover all the knowledge of a father from the DNA of their fetal child, which is just… ridiculous.
Logic Leaps: When Aeryn was captured it was presumably by the personal guard of Ahkna, so why is she now in the hands of lowly freighter captain Jenek? And how is a freighter captain so informed about Crichton’s wormhole research, and the bioloid? Surely Aeryn should have been on a Scarran Dreadnaught, being interrogated by Pennoch, Ahkna’s second-in-command. (Spoiler: we will discover that Jenek is in fact one of Ahkna’s gang, but why he’s skulking about in a freighter just makes no sense.) Morrock says the Scarrans transport their breeding test subjects around on freighters so nobody can find them—if true, it explains why an obvious military captain is in charge of a freighter, but surely it’s a lie, because why would they bother with such secrecy? Why not just take them to Katrazi or somewhere similarly secret and fortified?
You have no sense of spinning when in deep space, as there is no up or down.
How does John manage to navigate to Bizarro Moya an hour before the events he witnessed in ‘Unrealized Reality’? How are he and Scorpius able to wander around the ship shooting people for so long without any interference from Pilot, DRDs, the other crewmembers or even the other Crichton (notwithstanding Bizarro Jool’s doomed intervention?)
Morrock’s story about selective breeding is shown to be false, so how did they stage such a convincing in-utero abortion? Hologram, perhaps? It’s a remarkably elaborate, and effective, piece of horrifically gruesome theatre designed to convince Aeryn of Morrock’s innocence (and was cut from the UK version, so it was quite a shock when it happened, as I’d not seen it before and had no idea it was coming). But also, since her story was supposed to make Aeryn trust her, why give her such a feeble lie as palming the pills that are supposed to make her sleep—the nurse prefers injections, and anyway, Morrock’s arms are pinioned at her sides, how exactly is she supposed to have palmed them? (Perhaps they realise her story is so lame, as she later claims to have broken free by watching the sequence codes.)
John made a deal with Scorpius because he thought he’d need his help to get Aeryn back. He then brings him on this mission—but why? There’s nothing he knew in advance that could have indicated Scorpius was a good choice for this mission—surely D’Argo would have been more logical. The only possible explanation is if he knew the mission depended upon innocent people being shot down and he didn’t think he could do it. For that to be the case, he would have needed both impossible foreknowledge and a level of spineless ruthlessness he’s never shown a hint of before.
John claims he’s willing to shoot Bizarro Chiana because she’s going to die in half an arn anyway, and he can’t prevent it. But if he can change the future by shooting her now, then why can’t he change the future by saving her instead? His argument that killing her is not really murder, since she’s doomed, holds no water whatsoever.
In ‘Bringing Home The Beacon’ they specified that the Engine Signature Changer should have multiple possible settings, but now it only appears able to disguise Moya as a Scarran freighter.
The Verdict: When I sat down to type this episode up, I was feeling pretty positive about it, but the longer the Logic Leap category got, the more irritated I got about the fact that so little of it makes any sense when examined in any depth. Both plot points and character beats don’t really stand up to scrutiny and it feels like a lot of things just happen because the story has to get from point A to B.
But let’s accentuate the positive. Aeryn’s story is one of the grimmest and most upsetting the show has yet attempted. We see her defiant but broken, abused, pumped full of drugs, and imprisoned by an enemy that displays staggering cruelty (albeit simulated). The mind games—both those she plays on Jenek and the nurse, and those they play on her—are compelling and creepy, and conjure a real sense that reality and morality are crumbling before our eyes. Perhaps surprisingly, it reminds me of some of the old episodes of cold war spy drama Callan, where the cat and mouse game between interrogator and prisoner, either of whom could be a double or triple agent, could go on for days.
John’s storyline is more problematic, but his descent into real darkness is compelling. He doesn’t kill Chiana or Rygel, and only shoots Jool when shot at, but he’s complicit in the worst way—choosing a course of action and then condemning Scorpius for having the stones to go through with it. In fact, his inability to kill them may make his complicity even more contemptible since, at least in Rygel’s case, his inactivity looks an awful lot like spineless consent.
So despite all the logical annoyances, this is a strong episode, provocative and both psychologically and viscerally disturbing.