May 9 2012 3:00pm

Farscape Rewatch: “The Flax”

“The Flax”
Written by Justin Monjo, directed by Peter Andrikidis
Season 1, Episode 13

1st US Transmission Date: 16 July 1999
1st UK Transmission Date: 6 March 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 23 September 2000

Guest Cast: RhysMuldoon (Staanz), John Bachelor (Kcrackic), David Bower (Goon)

Synopsis: Aeryn is training Crichton to fly one of Moya’s transport pods when they become ensnared in the flax – a huge invisible net used by Zenetan pirates to catch ships which they then loot. They launch a distress buoy, but they have to fix the atmospheric mix in order to buy the time they need to be rescued.

The cabin is full of oxygen so they can’t use the welding torch to fix the problem without blowing up the pod. They decide to jettison the atmosphere, fix the link, and repressurise. However, Crichton’s space suit is broken and he’s the only one who can weld. He teaches Aeryn how to make the repair, teaches her CPR and lets her kill him with an injection, telling her she has four minutes before he’s irretrievable. Aeryn runs out of time before she’s managed the repair, but she stops anyway and revives Crichton. They now have only half an hour of air left.

Meanwhile, Moya is boarded by a drifter called Staanz. She was once one of the pirates who run the flax but now she’s solo and warns ships about it in hope of reward. She tells D’Argo that there’s a Luxan ship in the Flax and D’Argo persuades Staanz to take him there so he can retrieve maps that can lead him home. On the way, they detect Moya’s pod venting atmosphere and D’Argo decides to go rescue John and Aeryn instead.

Meanwhile, Moya is boarded again, this time by Kcrackic, the leader of the Zenetan pirates. Staanz, who’s on the run from Kcrackic, asks Rygel and Zhaan to distract him to give her and D’Argo time. Rygel plays Kcrackic at Tadekand and loses, pretending to give the pirate Staanz’s location. Kcrackic leaves in pursuit. In fact, Rygel deliberately lost, having planted false information in Moya’s computer to send Kcrackic off on a wild goose chase.

Buck Rogers Redux: John was in a head-on crash when he was 19. He’s slow to learn how to fly Moya’s pods, but he’s getting there. After Aeryn revives him he reveals that he didn’t see any light, or afterlife, just blackness.

You Can Be More: ‘Sebaceans believe when you die you die. You go nowhere, you see nothing.’ Aeryn could have finished the repair and saved herself, but at the cost of Crichton’s life. Instead, she chooses to save him. She admits that this is because she doesn’t want to die alone – a very un-PK thing to admit to.

I Was A Teenage Luxan: As a boy, D’Argo dreamed of serving on a Luxan Assault Piercer. He chooses to save Aeryn and John rather than collect the maps that could re-unite him with his son, but he is indecisive and his hesitation nearly costs his crewmates their lives. He cuts himself no slack: ‘a Luxan warrior must never be indecisive in battle. My indecision nearly cost Crichton and Aeryn their lives… and by saving them, I may have given up my only chance at seeing my son again. On every front, I failed.’

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel smokes and is a mean Tadek player. For a time, we think he has sold out Staanz and D’Argo, and while many shows use that tactic – make you think a regular character has sold out his friends – it never works because you know they’re planning something clever. Only on Farscape does that device really create tension, because it’s entirely plausible that they would sell each other out, especially Rygel.

In The Driving Seat: Pilot blasts the crew with a high pitched noise to get them to stop arguing and get their attention, and then blithely shrugs it off and tells the crew his news. He’s getting snide – the crew’s influence must be rubbing off on him.

A Ship, A Living Ship: Kcrackic once tried to seize a pregnant Leviathan. He lost 80 men in the process, so they have some sort of defence mechanism. The walls of D’Argo’s quarters are secreting some kind of resin as part of the pregnancy.

The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: It had to happen. Lock two people who are attracted to each other in a room together and sooner or later they’re going to snap. When Crichton shoves Aeryn out of the way of a falling cable, he lands right on top of her. The Aeryn of a few episodes earlier would have punched him, but now she just smiles and wryly asks: ‘are you comfortable? Shall I get you a pillow?’

Then when all hope seems to be gone, the music swells and before you can say food cubes, the clothes are coming off. When they’re interrupted by D’Argo’s rescue Aeryn cries, in disbelief: ‘Someone’s docking!?’ Back on Moya they both swear it’ll never happen again, but when John playfully asks Aeryn if she is the female of her species, it looks very much like she grabs his hand off screen and puts it somewhere designed to answer his question. ‘I’ll take that as a yes’ he says, with a huge grin.

Disney On Acid: John imagines he’s Tom Cruise while flying the transport pod: ‘this is Top Gun, this is the need for speed!’

What Does This Do? Staanz – who appears male – drops her trousers to show her tattoos and prove to D’Argo that she was a Zenetan pirate. This also reveals a singular lack of expected appendages down below, and Staanz explains: ‘I’m a Yenen by species. We’re not exactly cut from the standard mold’ He later proves this by revealing that he is a she, and declaring her love for D’Argo, much to the Luxan’s discomfort.

Get Frelled: So close… but Aeryn and John’s docking was interrupted by someone else’s. Also, D’Argo was on a promise, had he chosen to take poor lovesick Staanz up on it.

Seen It All Before: Name one sci-fi show that hasn’t had two lead characters facing certain death only to have them rescued at the last minute after some sort of cathartic life lesson has been learnt or feelings revealed… it’s a standard, and it’s practically impossible to mess it up.

Logic Leaps: Would D’Argo really leave poor old Staanz trussed like a chicken for Kcrackic to find?

WHAT did you just say: John’s southern accent surfaces in this episode. Ben Browder explains: ‘the writers did that to me. A decade of trying to lose the accent and they haul it back out for all the world to see. I love my native accent, but I don’t see Crichton as carrying too heavy a Southern Accent. I reckon it’ll come out sometimes... y’all.’

Stats: Staanz’s ship doesn’t come into Moya’s docking port, it actually stays outside and docks the old fashioned way. The flax is a magnadrift mesh, 75 million zakrons long, and you can’t see it till you’re snagged in it. Peacekeepers use kill shots and nerve shots to first kill then revive each other for battle triage. Crichton is continuing to add Moya parts to his WDP.

Guest Stars: Rhys Muldoon went on to star in Grass Roots, an Aussie political drama directed by Peter Andrikidis, who directed this episode of Farscape, and which also featured Tammy Macintosh who plays Jool from Season Three onwards. He went on to star in The Secret Life of Us, Lockie Lenonard.

David Bowers appeared in Stars Wars Episodes 2 and 3, as well as The Matrix Revolutions – that’s a triple of truly terrible sequels.

John Bachelor became a series regular first on Sea Patrol and more recently on Underbelly.

Behind the Scenes: This episode marks the beginning of Justin Monjo’s long association with Farscape. He would go on to write a further 13 episodes, and would rise up the ranks first as Creative Consultant, then Supervising Producer, then Co-Executive Producer. After Farscape he went on to write for The Alice and Rush.

Peter Andrikidis also begins an ongoing association with Farscape – he would go on to direct six more episodes. He’s been very busy since, working on numerous shows including East West 101, Underbelly and most recently The Straits.

The Verdict: A tense episode and funny episode. Rhys Muldoon is hilarious as Staanz, especially at the end, and the flax works well as a plot device. Rygel gets to do something worthwhile, and D’Argo’s burgeoning loyalty to his shipmates is tested and he comes up trumps. But it’s the Aeryn/John near miss that caps things. Farscape could have gone on milking sexual tension between the two forever and fallen into the Moonlighting trap of relying too heavily on it and ruining the show when it finally dissipated. Instead, only 12 episodes in and the writers have cut to the chase, which is both gutsy and risky – typically Farscape.

Verdict Redux: This episode makes so much more sense in it’s new place, bumped to follow ‘Rhapsody in Blue’. The evolution of Moya’s inhabitants into a tight crew takes a major step forward as Rygel earns his keep, D’Argo puts others before himself, and Aeryn, who could have saved herself at John’s expense, refuses to do so. Staanz’s ramshackle ship, and the way he pilots it, finds an echo in Christopher Eccleston’s piloting of the TARDIS when Doctor Who returned in 2005 – influence, perhaps?

Scott K. Andrews has got a new book out to tie-in with a computer game he helped write. He would never be so crass at to use this bio to tell people that ’Sniper Elite: Target Hitler’ is an ebook-only novella available via Amazon, Kobo & Nook. He’s classier than that.

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Melissa Shumake
1. cherie_2137
i remember being so excited for john and aeryn after the end of this episode, and then the next few episodes almost felt like it hadn't happened at all. which was just weird to me.
Rob Rater
2. Quasarmodo
I never noticed the off screen hand placement. I will have to pop that in and rewatch the ending.
Charles Gaston
3. parrothead
I like that they occasionally use Browder's accent. I'm from the South myself, albeit without the accent (usually; football or my mama's cooking will bring it out), so it's always refreshing to see it done well, with an intelligent and likeable character. All too often we get the outrageous Hollywood Southern accent, which I dubbed "Drunken Oklahoma Rodeo Clown", and the person using it is either a) an ignorant if well-meaning hayseed, or b) a nasty smalltime (usually overweight) villain.
4. ChrisG
Many moving parts in this one, all working well together. An enjoyable ep.

I don't remember exactly why D'Argo had to choose one or the other, why the Luxan ship was a limited-time opportunity. But the way they handled the choice and its impact on D'Argo as a character were effective.
5. Joe Ray
I love this episode. I believe it was the first full episode of Farscape I saw, back when it first aired, and it hooked me on the show. And Justin Monjo has been one of my favorite Farscape writers ever since.

The whole steampunk/Terry Gilliam feel to Stannz's ship -- he has to keep a boiler going to keep the ship powered -- seemed to me, at that pre-steampunk time, unique to space opera. Very amusing when they started throwing the dolls in the flames to keep the ship going.

(And by the way, if there were ever a Farscape movie, something not very likely I know, I would love to see what Terry Gilliam would do with it as director, with a script written by Kemper, Monjo and Manning. I can dream can't I?)

Finally, further into Season One Rygel really does sell the others out, I seem to recall, though it doesn't work out as he had planned, so you're right, on Farscape one character selling out the others is not hard to believe.
Kristen Templet
6. SF_Fangirl
I really liked this episode. Stannz's ship was downright silly (steam powered?!?), but it wasn't too much of a drawback. As for John and aeryn wouldn't it be a long wait (and with some outragious soap opera roadblocks) for the ultimate culmination of the "docking" scene?

Still I continue to be shocked that Moya was pregnant so early in the series. My memories are oddly off and skewed about the show and its continuity. I recall Moya's pregnancy and Taylon being part of the heart of the show and Farscape has it in its first season. Farscape hit its stride very early. I also have the recollection that Farscape lasted more like 7 season instead of only 4. There is simply that much story there, I guess.
7. Zenithfleet
When I introduced Farscape to an initially skeptical friend, we skipped eps in the first season to get to 'the good stuff' - including this one. I've often regretted it. Good grief, it's got the first kiss! What were you thinking, strange young version of me?!

About Kcrackic's failed pregnant-Leviathan takeover: presumably those eighty men were offed by a bazillion bad-tempered laser-toting DRDs. The same way Crichton nearly bought it in 'They've Got A Secret'. Hmm, that could've come in handy on a few other occasions...

And speaking of Kcrackic, is there any particular reason many minor Farscape characters have... enthusiastically spelled names... when the audience will only hear their names spoken in the show, rather than reading them as you would in a book? I know it'll show up in the credits, but surely it'd be easier on the actors to spell invented names phonetically in the script? (Except for whatshisname with the apostrophes in 'Crackers Don't Matter', but then, that was played for laughs.)
8. cshenk
Late to the party, I know! But, I'm rewatching now, and I thought that Aeryn put her hand on John's, um, package, indicating that he is the male, so she would be the female. And why John says, "I'll take that as a 'Yes'."
9. Andie M.
Even later to the show.

That was my impression too. It would be a much more in keeping with the characters. Creighton is supposedly a nice chap, Aeryn is decidedly not. It still is a neat and very Farscape way of showing none of them are too convinced by their protestations of "it will never happen".

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