“Rhapsody In Blue”
Story by David Kemper and Ro Hume, teleplay by David Kemper, directed by Andrew Prowse
Season 1, Episode 12
1st US Transmission Date: 23 July 1999
1st UK Transmission Date: 13 March 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 30 September 2000
Guest Cast: Darlene Vogel (Alexandra/Lorana), Kate Raison (Tahleen), Max Phipps (Tuzak), Michael Beckley (Hasko), Aaron Cash (Pa’u Bitaal), Grant Magee (Jothee), Robert Supple (Young Crichton)
Synopsis: Moya’s crew are experiencing dreams of past sexual encounters when Moya StarBursts in response to a distress call from a Leviathan. The call was a ruse to lure Moya to a planet inhabited by a fugitive Delvian sect who need Zhaan’s help.
The leader of the sect, Tahleen, has powers of mind control and can meddle with people’s memories – it was she who gave Moya’s crew their dreams. Exiled from Delvia, they wish to return and seize power from the Peacekeepers, but in order to do this they will need to master the dark side of their natures. Most Delvians go insane when they release their dark impulses, but Zhaan is unique in her ability to act violently and remain sane.
Zhaan shares unity with Tahleen in order to impart her spiritual control but Tahleen betrays her and takes all her control, leaving Zhaan on the verge of madness. Unfortunately she does not take enough from Zhaan and decides to try again, even though this time it will probably kill Zhaan. Zhaan agrees, intending to kill Tahleen.
Meanwhile, John is distracted by another member of the sect, Lorana, who appears to him as a lost love, Alex. At the same time D’Argo, Aeryn and Rygel are similarly manipulated on Moya to prevent them interfering.
Lorana eventually relents and tells John he can save Zhaan. She distracts Tahleen and John shares unity with Zhaan instead. Zhaan sees herself through John’s eyes and this gives her back her spiritual control. She and John leave Tahleen to her madness.
Buck Rogers Redux: On first viewing I assumed Alex was real, but this time around I think she’s a creation of Lorana’s, mainly because they’re played by the same actress, which implies Alex is a fake entirely. What do you think?
If she were real: John was in love with Alexandra Kimberly O’Connor and was intending to propose, but he had a chance at the space programme and she wouldn’t come with him, choosing instead to take a job in Stanford.
He’s willing to risk death for Zhaan, even though he entirely condemns her killing of Bitaal.
You Can Be More: ‘It amazes me how people mistake theosophy for superiority.’ Aeryn is freaked out by the serenity of the Delvians and unimpressed by either their ship/temple or their food source. She seems jaded and uninterested and brings a gun with her into the Delvian ship/temple even though it was strictly forbidden. To distract her they play on her fear of her rifle breaking and leaving her defenceless.
Big Blue: ‘I am adrift. As the past is sweeping over me, I must rely on the judgment of someone I trust.’ On Delvia, Zhaan studied under a teacher called Bitaal and they became lovers. At the end of his term of office he refused to stand down and, allied with conservative forces on Delvia, called in the Peacekeepers to maintain his rule. All liberal thinkers and dissidents were rounded up. Zhaan’s father was sent to an ‘asteroid camp’ and may still be there.
Zhaan killed Bitaal in revenge for what he had done to her world and people – this is the crime for which she was imprisoned. She then spent 17 cycles struggling to maintain control and prevent her dark impulses sending her mad.
Mad Zhaan is scary!
When she shares unity with Tahleen she takes some of her powers and ascends to the 10th level and is able to extend mental protection to others. She discards her priest’s robes before leaving, because she believes she is no longer worthy of them, although she says she will one day be a Pa-u again.
She now owes John her life and they have shared unity, which will strengthen the bond between them.
I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’Argo refuses to go down to the planet because it would have meant leaving his Qualta blade behind. The Delvians confuse him with images of his son being carried away by Peacekeepers.
Buckwheat the Sixteenth: ‘I like my wives pregnant and my ships cold to the touch. That way my feet stay warm and my slumber is uninterrupted.’ Rygel’s insecurity about his size is exploited by the Delvians and they make him believe that he has shrunk even smaller.
The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: Aeryn still finds John baffling and tells him: ‘you are the most bizarre creature I have ever met’.
Worlds Apart: We do not know the name of the world the Delvians have inhabited, but the surface is toxic. We also don’t get any information about the massive structure hat stands some distance from their landing site, implying the world was once inhabited.
Disney On Acid: Unity is apparently ‘like Disney on acid’.
Alien Encounters: If Delvians give in to their ‘dark impulses’ they succumb to madness and their eyes turn red as ‘tissue burn’ migrates to their brains. They can bond with each other mentally and become one consciousness, which allows the sharing of spiritual strengths and mental powers. After unity the ‘essence’ remain but specific memories fade. The population of Delvia is ‘over a billion’.
Get Frelled: John says that sharing unity is ‘like ten years of really great sex all at the same time.’ I’ll have some of that, please.
Seen It All Before: There’s no avoiding it – Delvian unity is exactly the same as Vulcan mind melds on Star Trek. They even do it the same way, by touching each other’s heads.
Logic Leaps: Aeryn enters wearing John’s Calvin Klein underwear, but John’s got his undies on too, which means that he brought a spare pair of boxers with him in the WDP on his test flight. Wonder why he thought he’d need a spare pair…
Tahleen easily lures Moya using the distress call of a pregnant Leviathan. Why does Crais not use the same ploy?
Tahleen says they have no maps back to Delvia, but they navigated to this world, surely it’s just a matter of checking the flight logs and reversing course.
Stats: Delvian ships land, melt the rock and sink beneath the surface allowing it to cool and harden over the ship. This allows peace and quiet and as well providing excellent defence. The Delvians eat an aquatic plant/animal hybrid that John calls a ‘half squid-calamari-cucumber’ and they let Moya’s crew take as many as they want for food supplies.
Guest Stars: Darlene Vogel has most recently appeared on an episode of House.
Kate Raison has been a regular on Pacific Drive, Outriders, A Country Practice, and Home and Away, which also featured Michael Beckley as Rhys Sutherland.
Max Phipps appeared alongside Virginia Hey in Mad Max II and cropped up in The Cars That Ate Paris and countless TV movies and series. This was the last role he performed before his death in 2002.
Aaron Cash appeared in Titanic and returns to Farscape for the three part ‘Look At The Princess’ story in Season Two.
Backstage: Poor Old Virginia Hey. She spent the best part of three years shaving her head and eyebrows to play Zhaan, but when other members of her race are introduced they have hair, and makeup which conceals eyebrows. Why, when she decided to leave because being hairless was getting her down, did the script writers not have Zhaan simply decide to grow her hair again, since we know Delvians can? It would have kept her on the show and been acceptable within continuity. It took eight makeup artists to handle all the Delvians for this episode.
The Verdict: Zhaan is the most underused character on the show, next to Rygel, and it’s about time she got a shot at carrying an episode. Virginia Hey is excellent, Zhaan gets to evolve, and the Delvian race is given a back story, a wider culture and a lot of depth. Perhaps the lack of any real subplot makes the episode a little too linear, but you could argue it also makes it more focused. Either way it’s an intriguing rather than a thrilling episode and it makes for a nice change of pace.
Verdict redux: This episode kind of fizzles out. Once Zhaan gets back her balance John goes and chops a chunk out of their sanctity root and leaves. Why? The root isn’t entirely severed, we’re not sure what real purpose it serves, and the ship rocks a bit then stops. It’s a meaningless and odd thing to do which feels thrown in to give John some kind of agency in the finale, but isn’t really explained in story terms. Also, I kind of expected more from David Kemper’s first full script, but it felt a bit perfunctory. The obligatory back story episode for a regular which we always get in the first season of any show, it has plenty of good ideas and concepts, but feels less than the sum of its parts, and is dragged down by one or two poor performances.
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.