Feb 22 2012 3:00pm

Farscape Rewatch: “I, E.T.”

The Farscape Rewatch on I, E.T.“I, E.T.”
Written by Sally Lapiduss, directed by Pino Amenta
Season 1, Episode 2

1st US Transmission Date: 7 May 1999
1st UK Transmission Date: 20 December 1999
1st Australian Transmission: 10 June 2000

Guest Cast: Mary Mara (Lyneea), Cayde Tasker (Fostro), Boris Brkic (Ryymax)

Synopsis: Moya was fitted with a Paddac Beacon by the Peacekeepers, which goes off when it doesn’t receive its regular signal from the Control Collar. In order to muffle the signal Moya lands on a planet and submerges in a bog.

The beacon is attached to her Primary Neural Nexus, and the operation to remove it could be painful enough to kill her unless they use an anaesthetic substance called Clorium. Crichton, Aeryn and D’Argo leave to search the planet for some.

Hunted by locals, who saw Moya’s descent, they split up. Crichton makes contact with a women, Lyneea, and her son Fostro. Lyneea is funded by the military to search for extra-terrestrials and is staggered to meet a real alien. She hides him from the military, who are using her house as a base while they hunt for the aliens.

D’Argo is captured but Crichton and Fostro are able to free him. Taking some cooking ingredients which can be used to numb Moya, they say goodbye to Lyneea.

Meanwhile Moya, who is not suited to planetary gravity, is being crushed by her own bodyweight. Zhaan decides they have to operate without the Clorium and Rygel, who is the only one small enough to reach the beacon, begins work. Zhaan absorbs as much of Moya’s pain as she can. Rygel performs the operation successfully, Crichton arrives with the Clorium, Moya flies away.

Buck Rogers Redux: “You’ve learned that you’re not alone in the universe, that space travel is possible, that a zillion of your empirical facts about science, religion are wrong or at least completely suspect. I do understand.” The sound from the beacon gives Crichton a nervous tic, or at least that’s his story — I think it’s just the start of him cracking up. He’s fast on his feet, realises what Lyneea’s radio dishes mean and tells her he sought her out specifically to make contact; he later admits he lied. He finds the planet very reminiscent of Earth and is fond of Lyneea, seeing much of himself in her wonder and scientific curiosity. He hopes her star charts will help him get his bearings, but they are no help.

You Can Be More: “Look I’m new to all this escaped prisoner crap, alright?” Aeryn is having trouble adjusting to her life outside the Peacekeepers and even regrets telling her crewmates how to remove the beacon. But although her loyalties are still divided she genuinely cares about Zhaan, no matter how much she tries to hide it. She’s very sensitive to the idea that anyone would laugh at her.

Big Blue: “Come, we’ll face the pain together.” Zhaan puts her life in serious jeopardy to save Moya.

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve always had others to do for me, even in prison. I don’t even know how to hold a tool!” Hynerians are aquatic, which seems a little weird given that we’ve so far not seen Rygel so much as take a shower, let alone go for a swim. He refuses to operate on Moya till there’s absolutely no choice, and even bites a chunk out of Aeryn’s arm to stop her forcing him, which leads her to promise that “your greatest fear will come to pass Hynerian, someday you will die at the hands of a Peacekeeper.” Zhaan realises it’s only because he’s afraid of failing and of killing Moya. He comes good in the end, the first time he does anything vaguely likeable.

In The Driving Seat: This is the first time a member of Moya’s crew goes to visit Pilot in his chamber and we finally get a good, long look at it. Having him there on screen in all his glory interacting with Zhaan adds greatly to the reality of the character.

A Ship, A Living Ship: “When Leviathans are young, they often play with a planet’s gravity, see how close they can come. There’s a tale about an adult male who once touched down on a planet’s surface. Though no one knows if it’s true or not.” Moya emerges as a character in her own right. She is very scared when she lands on the planet, and the pain she experiences is so intense it nearly kills Zhaan. When she’s being operated upon, she bleeds a green liquid. Pilot tells Zhaan what happens to young Leviathans: “when the Peacekeepers capture a leviathan, they immediately administer a sleep agent. Very potent. The weak and the old do not survive, which I suppose is part of its purpose. While the Leviathan sleeps the control collar is set in place, modifications made in propulsion and guidance.” She has an alarm.

The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: D’Argo observes that, by their standards, Crichton is a savage, and seems to think this idea bothers Aeryn. Could she already be finding John attractive?

Worlds Apart: Moya lands on a world where the inhabitants, Deneans (although this may not be the name of the species but only the race that inhabits that particular continent or country), are at approximately the same level of technological development as twentieth century Earth — a well-lit city can be seen below as Moya approaches.

Alien Encounters: The Luxans famously once battled a race called the Grisodians. The Luxans retreated and the Grisodians massacred thousands of women and children. The Luxans responded by killing thousands of Grisodian women and children. When they reach a certain age Luxans circumcise themselves, or whatever approximates to circumcision for a Luxan, with a bone knife called a Tokaar.

Disney On Acid: The bog reminds John of Dagobah, where Yoda lives. When Aeryn asks him who Yoda is he explains “just a little green guy, trains warriors” and she takes this at face value.

Seen It All Before: The “we are the aliens” story has been done in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “First Contact” (not to be confused with the film of the same name).

Bloopers: The beacon won’t let metal anywhere near it and Rygel has to use a non-metal cutting tool to remove it — but he does so wearing his metal comms badge. In 101 Crichton can’t understand D’Argo and Zhaan until he’s injected with translator microbes, which implies that both parties need them to be able to understand each other - but Lyneea can understand John and vice versa, even though her world, as a backward planet with no off-world contact, can’t have translator microbes.

WHAT did you just say? Hezmana = hell: D’Argo says, “Where the Hezmana is that siren coming from?” and John, showing that he can pick up the lingo, replies “what the Hezmana is it?” When Aeryn says “crap” the use of a human swear word jars; in later episodes she would have used dren.

Stats: There are six cargos that Leviathans are forbidden to carry, one of which is Clorium “an atmospherically induced isotope of Twinium,” which anaesthetises them. Distance can be measured in light cycles which, given that a cycle is roughly a year, is analogous to a light year. An Arnay is a subdivision of an Arn, probably analagous to a minute.

Guest Stars: Prior to this episode, Mary Mara was a semi-regular during the second season of ER and did a well received guest shot on Ally McBeal. Subsequently she’s gone on to recurring roles in Star Trek: Enterprise, The Handler, and Dexter.

Backstage: Filmed in the second block of episodes, alongside “Throne For A Loss,” and shown fourth in the U.K., this make way more sense, both in plot and character terms, if viewed as the second episode.

When John is stunned in Lynea’s kitchen, the arm nearest camera is a rubber fake.

At the time she wrote this episode Sally Lapiduss had extensive experience as a producer and writer for shows like Mad About You and The Nanny. She has subsequently gone on to produce and write Hannah Montana and The Tracy Morgan Show. She wrote one more Farscape episode, “110 - They’ve Got A Secret,” another episode which hinges upon PK technology left on Moya, and Moya’s biology; she is also credited as a creative consultant on episodes 102-113.

Pino Amenta is a hugely experienced Australian director, who has worked on every Australian show you can name, and most of the ones you can’t. He directed one other Farscape episode, “104 - Throne For A Loss,” which was shot alongside this episode.

The Verdict: This episode takes a familiar trope — the aliens are coming! — and turns it on its head with such insight, humour and cleverness that it works on every level. Taking Crichton, a guy who is still dealing with the huge paradigm shift that alien contact has caused for him, and placing him in the position of changing someone else’s perceptions and outlook so soon, reflects well the confusions and problems he must be having. Also we get to see the crew start to bond — Aeryn cares for Zhaan, Rygel cares for Moya and Crichton refuses to leave D’Argo behind. It manages to be both a terrific character piece as well as a story of ideas, and it’s enlivened enormously by a nice turn from Mary Mara. Oh, and the special effects of Moya’s landing and take-off are great.

Verdict Redux: I still love this episode to bits. I know it’s formulaic and a bit Star Trek, but the characters really pop and I really like Lyneea. The most jarring thing upon watching it this time was the music, which burbles its way underneath nearly every scene and kind of irritated me. The two-hander scenes  with John and Lyneea are inimate and characterful but are underscored by music that seems determined to remind you that you’re watching a sci-fi show about Weird Alien Stuff rather than just allowing you to enjoy the good writing and acting. Odd choice.

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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Jason Henninger
1. jasonhenninger
I'm with you. It doesn't bug me at all that the plot is familliar. The same can be said of a few other episodes as well. That doesn't stop it from doing a solid job of expanding the characters. And the fact that Moya is a character in her own right, rather than just anthropomorphosized, is one of the cooler elements of the show.
Zayne Forehand
2. ShiningArmor
Do you know if Guy Gross was the composer on the show yet? It just seems interesting to hear a comment about the music being off for the tone of scene when the music of Farscape in the later seasons is one of its strongest qualities. I thought maybe they hadn't found their star in that department yet.

I agree that Moya being turned into a character with opinions and feelings was a stroke of genius. It made it even more impactful when bad thing happen to her in later seasons.

This episode overall was always a little slow for me, especially when compared to the awesome trio of episodes immediately after of Exodus from Genesis, Throne for a Loss (one of my favorites of the season), and Back and Back and Back to the Future.
3. politeruin
Yeah, still very much finding their way with this one and it makes much more sense being the second episode; i'll never understand the reasoning of tv schedulers. But anyway, i remember enjoying the idea of a human as the alien yet the species on the planet are blandly star-trek-like. Yet they rarely did this and the aliens were truly alien, this episode wrong foots you into thinking it'll just be another trek-verse with characters having some prosthetic nose ridges or such like.
4. ArosKai
This is by far the most elegantly written and original sci-fi series i have ever had the priveledge to watch.
Christopher Everett
5. MidwestMedic
I agree with so much of this "review" of the episode that I feel I have to remark at the only thing that stuck out as possibly inacurate to me.

Re: Aeryn's views of John. "D’Argo observes that, by their standards, Crichton is a savage, and seems to think this idea bothers Aeryn. Could she already be finding John attractive?" I think your perspective might be biased by knowing the future story lines. I really took this as more of a subtle racist reaction. John is very peacekeeper-like in appearance and peacekeepers very much consider themselves superior. So, how could someone who looks so PK be savage? Just a thought.

This episode does seem a little predictable in the writing catagory. But, I still enjoy it because it really does help as an early episode to set things up and continue introducing us to this world.

As always, thank you for doing this blog.
6. ChrisG
It's a pleasant enough episode, that's true. And you make a good case for its strengths as a character piece. Still for some reason, this episode always leaves me a bit unsatisfied. Perhaps because it's just a bit more cutesy in town than most of the rest of the season, it feels as though they haven't quite gotten their direction yet. (With the odd film order, maybe that's an illusion, though.)
Damian Dubois
7. ParadoxicalDr??
First and foremost I would like to say thanks to Scott for taking the time to put together a rewatch of Farscape. I noticed it while on the Tor website while visiting the reread of Steven Erikson's Malazan series and thought this was just immaculate timing as I have been wanting to get back into the show for sometime.  I also have to guiltily admit that I haven't seen all the episodes and stopped somewhere mid season three.  It wasn't for lack of interest but for two other reasons... 
1) I was watching the episodes way too quick and knowing there were only four seasons wanted to slow down and savor it a bit more. 
2) At the same time I was really having a rough trot at work and being stressed out continually I felt like I couldn't enjoy myself anymore so put the watching on hold.
And that was 5 or so years ago now... *shakes head in shame*
Anyway, with that little confession out of the way I'd have to say that 'I, ET' isn't really a fave of mind and although not a bad episode isn't anything that spectacular either.  And in a way I guess that was sort of expected with this being only the second installment and early days for the show. The fleshing out of the characters was something that was well done and the background information on Moya and the Leviathan's in general was also a welcome addition. Just a question though in regard to Pilot and his explanation as to how the beacon came aboard. Is his hesitation foreshadowing about what we later learn about him in regards to his role of Pilot?
I wonder if this is just me but did anyone else find the man-child looking Fostro annoying? Something about him just irked me in the extreme!
Scott K. Andrews
8. ScottKAndrews
@ShiningArmor Guy Gross doesn't come aboard til season two, at which point things improve considerably!

@MidwestMedic Yeah, you could cetainly read it that way.

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