May 16 2012 3:00pm

Farscape Rewatch: “Jeremiah Crichton" (and the Beard of DOOM!)

“Jeremiah Crichton“
Season 1, Episode 14

1st US Transmission Date: 30 July 1999
1st UK Transmission Date: 20 March 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 30 September 2000

Guest Cast: Natalie Mendoza (Lishala), Kevin Copeland (Rokon), John O’Brien (Kato-Re), Deni Gordon (Neera), Tania Mustapic (Maid)

Synopsis: Do I have to? Oh well, here goes… Crichton throws a wobbly and goes for a drive in his module to cool off. While he’s away Moya’s pregnancy causes complications and she has to StarBurst away, stranding John.

Farscape, Jeremiah Crichton

He flies to a conveniently local planet that is, happily, just like Earth and is, luckily, inhabited by Earth-type people. Here he settles down on a beach, does some fishing and grows a beard. The daughter of the local chief, Lishala, falls for John and the chief hunter, Rokon, gets jealous. Rokon is egged on by his scheming mother, who is head Priesten. Rokon is about to kill John when D’Argo and Rygel serendipitously appear at just the right moment and save the day. John thinks his crewmates abandoned him, but they reveal they’ve been looking for him for three months.

John and D’Argo are captured, accused of attacking Rokon and are about to be sent off to a labour camp when Rygel appears and is, wouldn’t you know it, hailed by the tribe as God. The gang would leave, but their ships, weapons and Rygel’s chair are knackered because there’s an energy vortex on the planet that prevents technological devices from working.

Farscape, Jeremiah Crichton

On Moya, Aeryn and Zhaan locate the source of the vortex and fire its co-ordinates in a canister at the settlement. Meanwhile, we discover that there is a prophecy relating to Rygel, that says he will rise up and lead the tribe into the light. Luckily, there’s a book around to explain everything, and happily it’s in Ancient Hynerian, which of course Rygel can read. It turns out that the tribe was sent to the planet from the Hynerian Empire by Rygel 10th to spread his influence and were abandoned. The energy-dampening device was installed to keep them there and the Priestens created a religion based around the Hynerian Dominar. Rygel, of course, can’t rise up, and admits this.

John and D’Argo run, leaving Rygel to be tortured to death for being a false God. Luckily the capsule containing the map fired by Moya lands right next to them and they return to the village and destroy the device. Rygel’s floating chair works again, so he sits in it and rises up before the tribe. The Priesten is discredited, Rokon and Lishala make friends and everyone lives happily ever after. Which is nice.

Farscape, Jeremiah Crichton

Buck Rogers Redux: ‘I’m sick of this whole turd-burb end of the Universe.’ John finally loses his cool, storms off Moya to get some space, and then spends three months thinking he was left behind deliberately. He chooses to live outside the tribe because he doesn’t want to disturb their ways, but he feels comfortable on Acquara and even considers staying once a return to Moya is open to him: since I left my home I’ve been hunted, beaten, locked up, shanghaied, shot at. I’ve had alien creatures in my face, up my nose, inside my brain, down my pants. This is the first time, the first place where I’ve felt peace.

You Can Be More: Although she knows there will come a time when their search for Crichton will have to be abandoned, Aeryn sticks at it longer than Zhaan would have. Her facility with science and engineering is a far cry from the uncertainty of ‘Thank God it’s Friday… Again’.

Farscape, Jeremiah Crichton

Big Blue: Zhaan is pricklier and more threatening now that she has abandoned her spiritual quest, and she is the first of the crew who seems willing to abandon the search for Crichton. She is getting on Aeryn’s nerves and D’Argo thinks she has become ‘cold.’

I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’Argo has changed from being the one who always wanted to abandon his crewmates; obviously he’s taken his little talk with John (Till the Blood Runs Clear’) to heart. He refuses to stop looking for Crichton, partly due to his own sense of guilt at helping drive him loopy in the first place.

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel loves being a regent again and has surprisingly enlightened views: ‘the highest sacrilege is purposely keeping your own people ignorant and subjugated for your own glorification.’

Farscape, Jeremiah Crichton

A Ship, A Living Ship: Moya’s pregnancy is continuing to affect her. The technobabble is all a bit confusing, but basically something builds up which she can’t vent herself, D’Argo and Crichton try to help, but in the end Moya has to StarBurst to prevent some sort of rupture.

Worlds Apart: The earth-type world is referred to as Acquara by the natives.

Disney On Acid: When Rygel rises up Crichton mutters ‘The Slug Who Would Be King’. The Man Who Would Be King was a morality tale by Rudyard Kipling about the dangers of playing god. ‘Well, hakuna matata, Masata’ says John at one point, referencing a song from The Lion King.

Farscape, Jeremiah Crichton

Seen It All Before: So many times… where to begin? Doctor Who specialised in ‘advanced people who now live as savages surrounded by relics of their former glory which they revere’ stories, to wit: ‘Face Of Evil’ (in which the Doctor is also mistaken for a God), ‘Death To The Daleks’ (which also features an energy draining device that has to be destroyed), ‘The Mysterious Planet’… and many more. Star Trek, in all its incarnations, did a few of those too, as did every other Sci-fi show. And they were never any good first time around.

Bloopers: The beard. And the hair — sticking a bit more gel in it and making it spiky does not equal three months growth.

Logic Leaps: If the tribe, who grow hair naturally, have blades sharp enough for Rokon to shave his bonce every morning then surely they could rustle up a razor for poor old John. The canister from Moya lands right next to Crichton who, not knowing what it is, wades into the water and grabs it anyway. What if it had been an unexploded bomb?

Farscape, Jeremiah Crichton

Guest Stars: Natalie Mendoza normally appears in musicals, including Moulin Rouge, but also appears in Beastmaster. Kevin Copeland can be seen in Muriel’s Wedding and The One.

Backstage: John Eccleston, one of the chief puppeteers, appears as a native, running with Rygel over his head. This episode hit trouble when a hailstorm, with hailstones the size of cricket balls, hit the Henson workshop and threatened the sets.

The Verdict: Oh dear, this really is dreadful. ‘Space Tribe’ episodes are always corny and this one crams every happy accident, freaky coincidence and cliché in town into the mix. The characters are stereotypes, the love triangle is predictable and dull, the Priesten might as well have been rubbing her hands and cackling. And as for ‘one of the crew is mistaken for a God’, please, how many times have we seen that hoary old number? For once Farscape takes a familiar theme and fails to put a new spin on it, instead churning out tired old nonsense. And that beard… shudder.

Farscape, Jeremiah Crichton

Verdict Redux: Best. DVD. Commentary. Ever! In fact it’s the only commentary I know that’s given its own title in the menu – ‘When bad things happen to good shows’. Happily, everybody involved in Farscape agrees that this episode is dreadful – the worst they ever did – and the gleeful way they demolish their own episode in the commentary, while acknowledging all the talent and effort that went into it, is brilliant. From all the details of the Great Beard Disaster, to the never-filmed scene in which Aeryn goes skinny dipping and takes out six PK soldiers wet and naked, to the horror that was The Tandoori Chicken, and the truth about the football helmet in the title sequence, it’s the best commentary I’ve heard since Joss Whedon’s amazing philosophical commentary for Firefly’s final episode.

The general consensus seems to be that the main problem is that everybody is playing it way too seriously, and there’s something to that. But the perfectly uniform costumes, the make-up fail, the indigenous tribe protected by white warriors (coz they couldn’t find any indigenous stuntmen) – it’s a perfect storm of Wrong, in which the stars aligned and somehow nothing worked. On other episodes there were some elements that failed, but none on which all of them did.

Farscape, Jeremiah Crichton

One highlight of the commentary is an anecdote from David Kemper. Don Brinkley, TV legend, once told him that if you produce 26 episodes a year then two of them, no matter what, will be A-Grade Emmy worthy. Conversely, two of them will be total E-Grade stinkers. And you can almost never tell which episodes they’ll be ahead of time. The other 22 episodes are what dictate the show’s survival — if they trend more towards D-Grade you’ll not get a second season, if they trend more towards B-Grade then you will.

It’s actually quite an achievement that Farscape, in a turbulent first season, only produced one turkey.

(PS — have you seen the trailer for the episode of Doctor Who that Ben Browder’s going to be guesting in? Yes, you guessed it — FACIAL HAIR ALERT!)

Scott K. Andrews sports a very fine beard, thank you for asking.

Farscape Rewatch on ‹ previous | index | next ›
1. SolarSoul25
Call me crazy, but I really enjoyed this episode. In retrospect it is pretty terrible in all the ways you mention, but at the same time it is terrible in a way Farscape can pull off successfully. Even at its worst, there are so many one liners and great moments on any given Farscape episode that there is still value to be found. Worst episode of season1 and possibly the show? Sure. But still entertaining!
2. Eugene R.
You know, once you name an episode "Jeremiah Crichton" in homage to a bearded Robert Redford character, but only provide the facial hair and not the complexity of said character, it is not likely to turn out to be a good episode. At least this frellwit episode provided a real jilnak of a commentary. Thanks for taking one for the team, Mr. Andrews.
3. RobinM
This is the only episode of season 1 I have never seen. Thanks to this re-watch I'm glad I missed it ,but now I'll have to watch it just for the commentary.
Rob Rater
4. Quasarmodo
When I put on the commentary entitled "When Bad Things Happen to Good Shows", I naturally assumed it was something about the inevitable cancellation conversation. I was not prepared for THE. BEST. COMMENTARY. EVER!
Adrian J.
5. LightningStorm
I hate it when I come from a show thinking "I liked it" and then get online to read a VERY negative review that I can't help but pretty much agree with. This is one of those that I agree with all of the ways it sucks but, like SolarSoul25 still find it entertaining enough to be watchable.
George Brell
6. gbrell
I also found it enjoyable, though on reflection acknowledge its numerous flaws.
7. StrongDreams
I kind of liked the episode when I originally watched it, although I agree with every point in the review. Basically, the worst episode of Farscape is still metras better than the worst episode of Star Trek:TNG.
Kristen Templet
8. SF_Fangirl
Wow! Was this the first episode that you disliked? I agree with you that this episode is bad I found it somewhat entertaining. I found it better than “Thank God it’s Friday… Again” (which annoyed me more with its misses) and “That Old Black Magic" (which was just way to dark and way too mystical).

Yeah, the outfits, utter ridiculiousness. My biggest other complaint is the pacing ; the episode failed to convey any sense of time. John is stranded for 3 months and then boom everything on the planet happens in a day or does it? Because Zhaan's and Aeryn's seem like they would take at least days, maybe weeks. And the tribe is ridicilious too.

Now I have to go look for the commentary though. Usually they're not worth my time, but this sounds better than the episode ... which isn;t saying that much.
Shaka Jamal
9. FaceofYo!
-I'm with SolarSoul25, I enjoyed this episode as well. Perhaps not as much as others, yes, it was pretty predictible, the charachters little bit caricutrized, but still enjoyable. All in all, I enjoyed this episode more than I did most Stargate Atlantis episodes...(just saying)... :)
Scott K. Andrews
10. ScottKAndrews
@shaka-jamal Imagine how much better Stargate Atlantis would have een if Ben Browder had accepted the lead role when he was offered it! But then, we'd not have had PK Wars, so I'm not complaining.

@SF_Fangirl Yeah, pretty much the only one I've found painful to watch so far - so painful that I bailed half way through and went to the commentary. Best decision I could've made!

I'm pretty sure this is the last totally bad review Farscape will get from me... until Season Four, but I'll not pre-empt myself ;-)
Iain Cupples
11. NumberNone
I'm not sure I'd agree this is the worst Farscape ever. I have other candidates for that role (they're yet to come in this rewatch, so I won't elaborate for now). But yeah, it's pretty dire. The look of the whole thing is so awful, for a start. The costume department were clearly given a job lot of surplus curtain material and about 24 hours to throw something together. Kinda embarrassing.Though not the last time the costume department should have been told to go home and think about what they did.

I can't quite hate the notion of Rygel as a god, though, hoary as it is. Partly because he clearly enjoys it so much: it really wouldn't have worked with any other member of the cast, but Rygel being Rygel almost makes it work.
12. TomR(Mac)
Been a long time since I watched the show (and indeed this episode) but I never really disliked the episode as much as everyone else seems to.

Maybe it's rose tinted spectacles, since in a way it was the first Sci-fi show that I dedicated myself to.

Really? No mention of Natalie Mendoza as the kick ass Juno in horror film 'The Descent'.
Kristen Templet
13. SF_Fangirl
Actually “Thank God it’s Friday… Again” also suffered from poor costuming. In that case it was monocromatic and visually striking, but made little sense in the context of the episode. In this case the costumes were two tone and visually striking and made even less sense given the stated lack of machines.

Both episodes also suffered from a lack of background characters. In this case I don't think the tribe was meant to be indigenous by which I assume you mean black. I saw human looking people who appeared to be of white, asian, and african (or african american decent). But if the tribe managed to survive with enough genetic variability to maintain physical distinctions there had to be more than the 40 villagers we saw show up for the big ceremony at the end. With that small of a gene pool, they would not have lasted very long. And they appear to have lasted long enough to completely forget the details of their past and the high tech society they came.
Scott K. Andrews
14. ScottKAndrews
@SF_Fangirl "I don't think the tribe was meant to be indigenous by which I assume you mean black."

The word indigenous was used numerous times in the commentary track by the production team - I should have made it clear that I was simply reporting their words - it's not a word I would have chosen. As they explained it, they were concerned that the portrayal of the tribe might be seen as racist and so made a policy decision to only cast the tribe from 'indigenous' actors. So in fact the tribe was 'meant be indigenous'.

Since the show was shot in Australia I assumed they meant the word to denote Australian Aborigines and possibly Maori actors. Although you're quite correct that the net was cast far wider than those ethnic groups - while John O'Brian is Australian and often plays characters of aboriginal descent, Kevin Copeland is African American and Natalie Mendoza is Filipina/Spanish/German/English. I think the stunt men were the only Caucasian tribespeople we saw, and it was to that they were referring - so perhaps they just used the word (rather dubiously) to denote non-caucasian?

@TomR(Mac) Sorry, this week I neglected to update the bio from the one I used for the book, which was obviously written in 2003, long before The Descent - which is actually one of my favourite films, so it's a doubly annoying blunder :-(
Kristen Templet
15. SF_Fangirl
Scott. Thanks for the clarification. Unfortunately the CDs I borrow from the library did not include the commentary track so I have been unable to listen to it. I wish I could - sounds hilarious. Sadly most commentary tracks are not that entertaining or informative.
16. LovesAeryn
The problem with this episode is that it was too much like an episode of the original Star Trek. It looked cheap and the terrible costumes made the actors look foolish. But the bright side is that we got a good commentary out of it. And that's what I prefer to watch when I rewatch the series.

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